Roots of Overwatch: Hanbin's defence of a lifetime
Our roots are what ground us. Our roots are our start and the road to our end. Ahead of the 2023 Overwatch League season, we're diving into the roots of Overwatch, examining some of its narratives, and how they're manifesting now.
Overwatch seldom heralds champions that take the established path. Often, they forge their own obscure routes forward. And no one knows that better than Choi "Hanbin" Han-been.
Sprouting as an undiscovered talent in 2018 and finishing the 2022 season not only as an MVP candidate but as a champion, Hanbin is Overwatch's north star. For most, a lifetime isn't enough to climb the rungs, yet time and time again Hanbin has proven to be an exception.
Can he lead the Dallas Fuel in a defence of a lifetime and just how high can one man climb?
Humble is a fair description of Hanbin's beginnings.
As much as he is now associated with dominance and prestige, that was not always the case. Albeit a brief stint, one of his first outings would be abroad in China. Those committed few who would peruse the Overwatch Contenders: China broadcast will remember a young Hanbin on a team that lost to history.
Legend Young Beyond was created by Chinese Overwatch player and streamer Zhao "Pigff" Yichen. This was fairly common in most green esports and especially in the early days of Overwatch.
Originally equipped with a fully Chinese roster, after finishing the bottom two in their group during Overwatch Team Story - Chapter 4, Legend Young Beyond would begin to incorporate South Korean players ahead of their bid for Overwatch Contenders.
This made room for the likes of support player Lee "Agatha" Jung-su formerly known as "elva", tank player Won "WonZ" Ji-seop formerly known as "Jiseubi", as well as Hanbin.
While season one didn't net any meaningful results, neither did his sophomore outing. However, it is a comedic mess of irony and curiosity to remember that alongside Hanbin and WonZ, Legend Young Beyond also had Kim "Mag" Tae-sung on their tank stable as well.
A team that could barely net map wins also housed future Overwatch League stars, one of which would eventually become a champion. Yet, like more experiences in life, this was just a stepping stone on Hanbin's incremental climb.
The next rung would be Element Mystic, a team far ahead of its time.
Before being crowned kings of the modern Overwatch Contenders era, Element Mystic were a team looking to shake the chip on their shoulder. Gaining notoriety after trouncing the 2017 South Korean Overwatch World Cup team in an exhibition, Element Mystic shouldered some extremely high hopes.
Ones that Hanbin would help them achieve.
To say that he was integral to Element Mystic's success would be an understatement. He was like a missing puzzle piece finally fished out from between the couch cushions. After a disappointing entrance into Overwatch Contenders 2018 Season 1, Element Mystic began their own ascent.
2019 would usher in a new era in South Korea and Hanbin was part of, if not the catalyst.
Together they would eventually capture not only an Overwatch Contenders title but, more importantly, The Gauntlet. Heading into the new year and the new Overwatch League season, they were the team to watch.
One of the only true international events at the semi-professional level in Overwatch and Hanbin conquered it. We often talked about how people's names are synonymous with success and perseverance, and Hanbin stands shoulder-to-shoulder with them.
This core of Element Mystic would go on to join the Overwatch League to support the Paris Eternal in their 2020 bid.
And while experts and pundits alike questioned how successful the mixed roster could be, they proved the world wrong.
Not only would they be competitive throughout the year, but they would take home the Summer Showdown title over the Philadelphia Fusion.
Once again, the narrative buds cropped up. Players like Kim "SP9RK1E" Yeong-han, Jung "Xzi" Ki-hyo, and Hanbin were simply on another level. Hanbin was always mentioned in the group of stars that won titles and was successful but as a supporting actor.
Almost like a friend a little too tall for the picture, stuck in the back row with his head out of frame. He was always in the conversation but never the first name you'd list.
That soon would change.
Enter the Dallas Fuel.
It wouldn't be until 2021 that Hanbin would reunite with most of his Element Mystic stablemates on the Dallas Fuel. His tenure in the Lone Star state would help him emerge. Slowly Hanbin came into the frame as not only a world-class tank player but someone who could enforce his will over the game.
And as the story goes, Hanbin and the Fuel would go the distance in 2022. Walking through name after name, ace after ace, they were the ones to capture glory. They were the one's to become Overwatch 2's first champions.
It's been a long time coming for Hanbin.
Starting in obscurity and ending in the light of champions, Hanbin's rise has been nothing short of historic. However now his biggest task stands in front of him; defence.
Within Overwatch League history only one team has managed to defend their title. If we widen that scope to events that pre-date the league, only a few names could even be considered as additions.
Hanbin and the Fuel look to make history in 2023.
Not only are their feet firmly planted but now it's time for the world to see Hanbin shine.
With former tank partner Lee "Fearless" Eui-Seok heading to the Houston Outlaws, Hanbin is left to shoulder the burden alone.
No more room for the doubters to hold up in.
No more excuses to be levied.
This year isn't just a title defence for Hanbin and the Dallas Fuel, it's a defence for Hanbin's legacy.