Roots of Overwatch: Yaki against the world

Roots of Overwatch: Yaki against the world
Images via Blizzard Entertainment

Written by 

Joseph "Volamel" Franco


15th Feb 2023 20:00

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. 

Kings, giants, demons, it doesn't matter to Kim "Yaki" Jun-ki. It never has. Since 2017 Yaki has been battling the best Overwatch had to offer and has consistently found ways to prove the world wrong. This season it's no different. Yet an Overwatch League title has stood just out of reach. Without a doubt, 2023 gives Yaki his best shot at glory, but can he go another round against the world? Can Yaki assist the Los Angeles Gladiators in the pursuit of a lifetime? Is there room for one last upset?



It's the summer of 2017. 

Yaki and MVP Space have just stunned the two-time and defending APEX champions, Lunatic-Hai

The world is awake, questioning reality, and witnessing the birth of new talent.

"And they will silence the crowd!" Overwatch commentator, Christopher "PapaSmithy" Smith shouts.

"Maybe five fans shout in ecstasy, everyone else is sullen!" 

"[...] MVP Space have rewritten the script."


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The young prodigy's emergence from the South Korean ecosystem was that of a priceless antique at a garage sale. Here was this talented player, who was stuck on a team that, while competitive, would rarely make a dent.

This victory wasn't just a statement win for the team, but it catalysed Yaki's potential in the eyes of the public. 

This was someone to keep tabs on.

A story that had yet to be developed.

From start to finish, one of the most significant factors in this historic upheaval was Yaki's use of Pharah. This paired with Kim "OneFact" Jin-heung's Doomfist was a thorn in the side of the defending champions. Stuck without answers their DPS waffled about on Sombra, Tracer and Soldier: 76.

There was no amount of diving or coordinated assaults that could pin Yaki and MVP Space in a corner. After a brief western stint with the New York Excelsior's academy team, Yaki would return home to South Korea to the dawn of a very pink sunrise.


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RunAway would welcome Yaki with open arms. Together they would continue RunAway's legacy as one of the most formidable teams in Overwatch Contenders Korea. It would be here that Yaki would place his crosshairs on another memorable upset. 

The battleground was Overwatch Contenders 2019's second season. O2 Blast led the group stage only dropping a single set. Yaki and RunAway sat well among the competitive chaos that was the mid-table. They were good enough to make playoffs, but not strong enough to put away O2 Blast. 

After dispatching Fusion University, RunAway's playoff chance looked bleak as they starred down the barrel of O2's loaded gun. The same team that took them to school in week five now stood between them and the grand finals.

First seed against fourth, rising stars against a second-generation legacy team, the match seemed all but over before it even started.

However, in vintage Yaki fashion, he and RunAway would dash the hopes of O2 Blast, deny their reverse-sweep, advance and eventually win the grand finals over Element Mystic. 

Just another trophy for the eventual kingslayer to add to his growing trove.


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2020 would see Yaki finally debut alongside the Florida Mayhem in the Overwatch League. Immediately his presence would be felt. Not only did Yaki assist the franchise to their first stage final that May, but he helped turn the entire franchise around.

Prior to this the Florida Mayhem was an incredibly forgettable franchise. 

Two seasons of not being last. That was the extent of the Mayhem's calling card. 

With a relatively weak strength of schedule, Yaki and co. would qualify for the inaugural May Melee to the scrutiny of the world. Not only would they go on to beat both the Atlanta Reign and the Philadelphia Fusion to reach the May Melee finals, but they'd look competitive with the defending champions, the San Francisco Shock. 

Let's paint this picture as clearly as possible.

The Mayhem with Yaki, in the 2020 season alone, scored 17 match wins.

The Mayhem without Yaki, counting the 2018 and 2019 seasons, scored 13 match wins. 

This was a recipe for success and the world knew it.

Yaki and the Mayhem would continue to ride this momentum into 2021, finishing the May Melee in 3rd, but ultimately flamed out before the end of the season. With troubles at main tank, the Mayhem decided to move DPS player Baek "Checkmate" Seung-hun into the role. 

This went as well as you would expect and by well we mean poorly.



Overwatch League's fifth chapter saw the kingslayer enter the Empire State with the hope that he could lead them into their subsequent evolution. 

After being a front-runner in Overwatch League's first season, the New York Excelsior had been divorced from success in recent years. Surely an injection of exciting rookie talent and Yaki as an ace should see them regain their footing, right? 

Sadly not. The season as a whole felt like a non-starter. 

The team's initial roster announcement felt like a great start to a team, but one that needed revision. This rough draft, surprisingly enough, was the final. The team attempted to remedy part way through the season by signing both Jeon "Ho1" Ho-won and An "ANSOONJAE" Soon-jae.

With half a roster and the quite literal embarrassment of riches when it came to support players, what was Yaki to do? With the weight of a prodigy's potential weighing on his shoulders, 2023 will have to become his year of rebirth.


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Even after being the agitator to many of the most memorable upsets in Overwatch history, Yaki still has something to prove. The world has witnessed his track record first-hand and yet still finds holes to poke and excuses that discount his skill. 

In that way, it just feels right that he's now a Gladiator. 

Both are so exhausted with being perennial gate watchers, strong enough to earn the position, but lack the extra spice to take the next step.

They both want more.

The Gladiators were inches short of being 2022's best team. With a domestic stage title and taking gold at the international Midseason Madness tournament, they were a force of nature that felt destined for playoff glory. And, try as they might, the Gladiators rounded into Overwatch League's grand finale with little gas in the tank.

Similarly, it feels like the better part of Yaki's young adulthood has been spent on stage in Overwatch. And while he has accolades, a resounding major stamp of approval from the league itself is missing. He's been a part of great teams, but for whatever reason, their flash was cemented in the pan.

No more lightning in a bottle.

No more being the stepping stone.

No more doubt.

They both want more.

Given the most perfect arsenal, can Yaki put to bed the doubt around his legacy? 

He won't just fight anyone to prove the world wrong.

Yaki will have to fight everyone.


Joseph "Volamel" Franco
About the author
Joseph "Volamel" Franco
Joseph “Volamel” Franco is a Freelance Journalist at GGRecon. Starting with the Major League Gaming events 2006, he started out primarily following Starcraft 2, Halo 3, and Super Smash Bros. Melee, before transitioning from viewer to journalist. Volamel has covered Overwatch for four years and has ventured into VALORANT as the game continues to grow. His work can also be found on sites like Esports Heaven, HTC Esports, and VP Esports.
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