Could this move give NYXL a championship winning roster?
Yesterday the New York Excelsior announced the signing of rising DPS player, Seong-Jun “WhoRU” Lee. WhoRU, who recently played for the NA Contenders team Skyfoxes, is no stranger to the competitive Overwatch stage. Despite being only 18 years old, WhoRU has had an impressive list of accomplishments during his career. Not only was he a core member of the two-time APEX champions Lunatic-Hai, grabbing himself an MVP Award for his performance in the Season 2 finals, but he was also arguably the leading force behind both of Fusion University’s NA Contenders titles.
The announcement of WhoRU comes in the wake of several other roster moves for the XL, including the signings of off-tank players Dong-Wook “BiaNcA” Kim and Hongjun “HOTBA” Choi, and support player Chan-Hee “Mandu” Kim. With already making significantly more versatile pickups than their 2019 off-season and with Assistant Coach Yong-Cheol “imt” Jeong being promoted to the new Head Coach, a question comes to mind. Are these 2020 off-season moves enough to finally give the NYXL a championship winning roster?
Is this a new era for XL?
It is no secret that the NYXL is one of the best teams in the Overwatch League. Two consecutive Atlantic Division Titles, two time-stage champions, and two time top four placements in the playoffs of the previous seasons leave no questions as to whether this team is a dominant force in the league. However, the title of Overwatch League champions has eluded them for their entire franchise history, regardless of whether they were the underdogs or the favorites for either season.
The XL were expected to take the title in the 2017 Inaugural Season, entering the playoffs as top seed of the league and Atlantic Division. However, after arguably being severely unprepared for the meta shift of patch 1.25, they lost 0-2 to the lowest seed Philadelphia Fusion, denying themselves the grand prize and the opportunity to play in their home city of New York.
In 2018, the XL were still considered a top contender for the title but were unable to reach the same heights previously seen. They always fell short of the two juggernauts, the Vancouver Titans and San Francisco Shock. While their playoff run saw more success and caliber than their first attempt at the championship, they were unable to close the gap when it counted, falling short 3-4 and 0-4 to the Titans and Shock respectively.
For the past two years, the XL have only ever made three additional player signings, three additional coach signings, and have always stayed at the helm and vision of Head Coach Hyeon Sang “Pavane” Yu.
However, a new era seems to be dawning for New York. Even if the team remains largely the same from their original Inaugural Season roster, the new pieces and new leadership seem to be unmistakably crucial for their prospect to truly be the best in the world.
Firstly, the addition of HOTBA presents a fresh new face and new playstyle for the squad.
Until recently, the off-tank role had been filled by Tae-hong “MekO” Kim, a player who had been with the team since their LW Blue days and who has always been widely regarded as a strong performer. However, versatility and aggression were not what MekO was known for, and those missing tendencies are easily remedied with the introduction of HOTBA.
HOTBA’s versatility was a key factor in the Philadelphia Fusion’s run in the 2018 Playoffs, providing truly clutch moments on both Tracer, D.Va, and whoever else his team needed him to play. That consistency stayed with him when he moved to the Guangzhou Charge and was always a top performer on D.Va, Roadhog, and Sigma. His prowess on these off-tank heroes will be able to elevate the team’s ability to adapt to new metas.
BiaNcA’s promotion from XL2 is a little more interesting. BiaNcA has been a stable and well performing member for the Contenders squad since the beginning of the year, but he certainly doesn’t have the grand reputation that HOTBA or even WhoRU have. Regardless of whether BiaNcA is immediately at the same level of his counterpart, he provides a critical change in the tank line of the XL. The team can finally have either a rotating off-tank line or a substitute for their starter.
These two factors combined, can have the potential to really elevate the play of the XL. Bring in a player that can perform at the same caliber of MekO on many heroes and then bring a stable substitute for that player from the Academy team.
Moreover, the XL have decided to sign a new main support from the Contenders scene as well. For most of their time, the XL did successfully pull of a solid support rotation between Yeonjun “ArK” Hong and Tae-sung “Anamo” Jung, until they traded ArK to the Washington Justice early in the 2018 season.
Now, with Mandu joining from the considerably successful Contenders Korea team O2_Blast, where he made multiple finals and top four appearances, we can see that dynamic return. Looking at his history it seems Mandu can provide good coverage or competition for Anamo, either complimenting his hero pool or being able to generally perform better.
Finally, we have WhoRU. Although his record was already mentioned, it’s hard to understate how big of a pickup this player is for the league. Since his explosive performances on Lunatic-Hai, WhoRU has been an incredibly hyped and anticipated player for joining the Overwatch League. After Lunatic-Hai moved on to become the Seoul Dynasty, he maintained that same caliber of performance during his time on Fusion University, and his entrance is seen as a long time coming for many fans.
There are questions as to his most recent performances as a loaned player on Meta Athena and Skyfoxes. You’ll recall last year the XL also picked up long-awaited DPS star Yeonoh “Flow3r” Hwang, an explosive player from the 2017 era of Overwatch, but who could not find the same level of success following his World Cup performance. His time on XL did not meet the expectations laid by the team and by fans, which can lead to some speculation about WhoRU’s signing as well.
The key difference, however, comes in the fact that WhoRU is already a proven champion. It isn’t wise to use performances from more than year old in Overwatch, because the meta changes dramatically all the time. Yesterday’s McCree superstars are not the kind of players you see dominate the scene today. However, while WhoRU’s reputation comes from his now obsolete Genji, his ability to pickup Brigitte for the GOATS meta should not be scoffed at, and he transitioned easily on to the Mei for when Orisa began to dominate the scene. WhoRU is not out of practice and was probably one of the best players on the last two teams he was a part of.
Of course, only time will tell how the team will perform in the upcoming season. I, however, am extremely confident in the direction the team is going, more so than for the 2019 season. New pickups in all areas is always important for the stability of any team and with a long travel filled road ahead, the team is certainly looking to have these players be the X factor to finally return to that number 1 spot. Looking over the roster, I think they can do it.
Main Image Credit | OGN