The train no one saw coming has just rolled into the station
While the excitement from Overwatch League’s May Melee tournament has settled, there still is a prominent story to be told and that is of the Florida Mayhem. The team that was best known for not being the Shanghai Dragons, silly walkouts, and having a player drive a bus, is now respected as a competitive threat and is on course to become an actual playoff contender. While the road here wasn’t easy by any means, the Mayhem are currently a force to be reckoned with as the league sets to resume play later this month. The 2020 Mayhem are a story of equal parts redemption and evolution, let’s start with the latter.
In the Florida Mayhem’s last ten games, they’ve have gone 8-2 with a 26-11 map record. To put this in perspective, the 2019 Florida Mayhem ended their regular season with a 6-22 match record with a 36-5-75 map record. The 2018 Mayhem went 7-33 with a 42-5-120 map record. If that doesn’t sway your opinion on how this team and franchise has grown, then I’m not sure what will. This has been a true evolution of the Florida Mayhem organization.
Lee "BQB" Sang-bum beautifully represents this evolution in motion. Tasked to help turn the Mayhem around in 2019, BQB has gone from a standout Sombra specialists on X6-Gaming, to a forgettable Zarya during the GOATS meta, to a serviceable Mei in the glimpse we had into Role Lock in Stage 4, and now has shown a strong proficiency with hitscan heroes like Ashe and McCree. This is a side of him we have not seen. Many people assumed that BQB would play as a rotational DPS behind their star DPS players who likely would take the lion’s share of playtime.
We were wrong.
BQB has shown even before their May Melee run to be an avenue to put resources. You can give him the ball, put players next to him, and he will perform well.
As for redemption, Kim "Yaki" Jun-ki has been a standout since he debuted in Overwatch with MVP Space in 2017. As one of the most talented projectile players coming out of the APEX era, he looked towards the biggest stage in Overwatch to truly realize his potential. Yes, Yaki did play for RunAway during Overwatch Contenders 2019 Season 2, but his resume demands more. It has been 3 years that Yaki has put his nose to the grindstone and waited. Now we get to see the fruits of his labour. What was the sword the put down Lunatic-Hai in APEX Season 4 now was the sword who put away the Philadelphia Fusion. Any further names on that list and Yaki will become the giant killer. Not many people can say they’ve been apart of teams that have toppled great names like that, but Yaki has.
Week 11 of Overwatch League’s 2020 season saw the Mayhem quickly and surgically dispatch what many people were arguing was a top-three team in North America, the Paris Eternal. Inconsistencies aside, the Eternal are far from a bad team. A win against them means something. The Mayhem’s win against the Eternal was the train no one heard coming. And in a weird way, no one could see them coming either.
The Florida Mayhem hid under the guise of their strength of schedule. Leading into the May Melee, the Mayhem laid waste to a slew of teams that were clearly below them. The Boston Uprising were rolled over, twice. Then the defunct Vancouver Titans stepped up to the plate, that match wasn’t close. The Washington Justice took a map off the Mayhem, with the help of former RunAway players, Lee "Stitch" Chung-hee and Choi "JJANU" Hyeon-Woo, but still lost at the end of the day. These last three wins qualified the Mayhem as the second seed in the upcoming May Melee tournament, just under the San Francisco Shock.
Not only did the Florida Mayhem put away the Atlanta Reign in convincing fashion in the quarterfinals, almost more importantly, but they also defeated the Philadelphia Fusion. To add context, the 2020 Fusion were set to coast to the grand finals with their roster stacked to the brim with all-star level talent, and the unsuspecting Florida Mayhem took them down, 3-1 and would advance themselves to the finals. However, that is where the Mayhem would stop, but that isn’t where their fight ended. The Mayhem force the San Francisco Shock to work for their May Melee title, taking two maps off the 2019 defending champions, something that seemed impossible last year.
The Mayhem’s impressive performance at the May Melee isn’t just a victory for the underdogs in all of us, it is a sign that you can teach an old dog new tricks, that you can turn around the worst Overwatch League franchise at the end of 2019 around. Massive upheavals need to happen, sure, but all hope isn’t lost. Even if you’re apathetic towards the Mayhem, there are still lessons to be learned here. There will come a time where your home team is facing a valley or perhaps is in a nosedive, there is a way out.
The credit here goes to people often looked over. The players at the end of the day are the performers, but it is the gatekeepers, decision-makers, and architects that set them up for success. Respect should, therefore, go to general manager Albert "yeHHH" Yeh for his efforts in building the roster as well as head coach Kim "KuKi" Dae-kuk, and assistant coaches Kim "DOX" Min-seok and Oh "INSIGHT" Sang-min for their direct work with, and the continued growth of, the Mayhem roster.
The Florida Mayhem now sits among the top teams in North America. After beating the Philadelphia Fusion and taking the defending Overwatch League champions close in a best of seven, the 2020 Mayhem have made a strong case for being a top-three team in North America. That still feels surreal to write and actually believe, but it’s true. Their performance during the upcoming June tournament will cement their stakes as contenders for a playoff run.
After 2 painful seasons, the Florida Mayhem have arrived and they are a force to be reckoned with.
Images via Blizzard Entertainment