With teams migrating back to Korea, a group of death has revealed itself.
With COVID-19 further dividing Overwatch League regions based on the new online format, there have been many prominent South Korean teams moving home. This bolsters the Asian region immensely, making it that much more difficult to advance with a direct seed into the seasonal playoffs. While this also more equally balances out the number of teams per regional divide at the moment, it also creates a massively lopsided league. This situates the Asian region as the strongest region, and it isn’t close.
To lay out the groundwork for this, let’s look at all the teams that have left to return home to South Korea. The Seoul Dynasty has recently announced its plans to relocate to South Korea after moving to Los Angeles to play with the west coast faction of Overwatch League teams. GGRecon also reported earlier around a week ago that both the Vancouver Titans and the London Spitfire would be relocating as a majority of their teams’ players and staff are South Korean. This report was later confirmed through official channels.
This leaves the Guangzhou Charge, the Hangzhou Spark, the Chengdu Hunters, the Shanghai Dragons, the Vancouver Titans, the Seoul Dynasty, and the London Spitfire all to play in the same effective “group”, with the opportunity to include more teams if the situation allows for it.
There is not another region or group in the world that will match Asia’s level of competition. The only world-class team absent from Asia would arguably be the San Francisco Shock, the Philadelphia Fusion and the Atlanta Reign. Now contrast that to the teams above and you should see a clear separation. With teams like the Seoul Dynasty coasting above and beyond the competition during Week 8, they easily are, in my estimation, leading the pack.
Another way to see this is to view the schedule and ask yourself a simple question; barring any regional bias, which matches look the most interesting? Now, I will admit, the rematch between the Los Angeles Valiant and the San Francisco Shock does feature two compelling teams and a compelling storyline, however, outside of that--it’s a bit of a stinker. Meanwhile, in the Asian region, you’ve got the Vancouver Titans paring off against the Guangzhou Charge and the Shanghai Dragons trading games against most of the Chinese teams. What this does is it presents us with a very compelling set of matches on the horizon and begin to flesh out some promising storylines like the London Spitfire.
The Spitfire entered the league very visibly looking to change how their franchise would be viewed. A team full of mid-table South Korean players with a smattering of relatively unknown rookie talent paired with a veteran coaching staff would take this team from being an all-star title contender to being more of an underdog success story. The latter half of which was set to become their narrative this season with strong performances against some of the top teams at the time. However now that they find themselves in the group of death, do the Spitfire have the mineral to be able to still maintain that underdog status or will they just be consumed by that talent that surrounds them?
More importantly, if Lim "Glister" Gil-seong can lead the Spitfire to a playoff berth in 2020, I feel like you’d have to give him the nod for rookie of the year with how difficult the road would be.
One of the biggest talking points in the pre-season was how to judge the Vancouver Titans, and from the outset, they’ve looked good in their limited number of games. Now that they have a solid base of operations in South Korea, not only will we see them play more games from Week 10 onwards, but we’ll see them tested against some of the best teams in the world.
Identical to Glister, if the Titans were to return to form and avoid their impending implosion, Kim "Haksal" Hyojong would have much more of a platform for the “greatest player of all time” discussion. You’re not a world-class player for that long with that kind of pedigree and are not in the discussion at the very least.
And then you have a team like the Chengdu Hunters who have had a rollercoaster of a year in the Overwatch League. From disobeying the metagame in 2019 to become the truly chaotic team they were always meant to be, the Hunters have solidified themselves as a team that cannot be slept on. They drag you down and force you to fight them at their level. After their execution of the Shanghai Dragons in Week 8, the pressure is on the Hunters. With reports coming out that Chengdu are not performing considerably well in practice, it doesn’t save their peers from the fact that Hero Pool favours chaos, and the Hunters are chaos wizards.
With all of these world-class team travelling back to South Korea, the Asian region is nothing to mess around with. We could easily see two of these teams emerge from the region and end up in the grand final.
That is just how good this region is at the moment.
Images via Blizzard Entertainment