The Team Colours Of The 2021 Overwatch League Playoffs
No, before you ask this is not a nuanced look at what colour’s team choose to make their jerseys.
2017 gave Overwatch a lot. It introduced us to a myriad of players, most of whom many fans of the Overwatch League still recall fondly. However, it would be the former Toronto Defiant head coach, Lee "Bishop" Beom-joon who would popularise a South Korean term that echoes throughout the 2021 Overwatch League season.
Synonymous with style, team colour has been a favourite phrase to describe a team’s particular and unique game plan. Invest all your Nano Boosts into your star Zarya player? Choose to slam Wrecking Ball during the GOATS era? What if you average low team fights and centre your star Zenyatta? Those are strong team identities—or colours.
However, is that something you want? Do you want a bold team colour?
While the regular season might be the marathon, Overwatch League has historically been wrapped up by a race. One final sprint to the finish after a season of consistency can spell disaster for some and championship glory for others. Unsure of our final flourish? Look no further than the 2020 Seoul Dynasty or the 2018 London Spitfire. We may disagree as to why these teams peak at the tail end of the season, but year by year it continues to happen. Bold and stylized will be the name of the game coming into the 2021 Overwatch League playoffs. And roaring out in front is a team with one of the boldest team colours in the league.
Red Is Dead
It feels like since their inception, the Chengdu Hunters have always had a strong team identity.
2019 saw them as arguably one of the most stylised teams in the league and two years out they still hold many of those same attributes. Qiu "GA9A" Jiaxin feels analogous to Ding "Ameng" Menghan in certain ways, but also provides a wider base to catch sparks. GA9A brings a strong Wrecking Ball but is flexible enough to not limit the team too terribly much. Then you’ve got the front running 2021 MVP candidate, Huang "leave" Xin, who is easily one of the league’s best Echo all the while still maintain world-class form on a number of other heroes.
However, it’s Yi "JinMu" Hu that is weirdly the heart of their playoff chances. After dismantling their slower western compositions in the Summer Showdown with a blisteringly fast Pharah, climbing to the league on the back of a number of sink-or-swim Genji performances, and Doomfist that still haunts the dreams of league players worldwide, where will he stand in this particular metagame? The big narrative for the Hunters this season has been their lack of a strong and consistent presence next to Leave—their best chance is JinMu but what does that look like?
At the end of the day, it’s a flaming red that coats the spears of the Chengdu Hunters. They want to be bold, they want to dive in aggressively, they want to play in your face and drag you straight into the chaotic whirlpool of the Chengdu Zone. Anymore red and the Hunters might become Ash Zealots.
Bunkered In Blue
Icey and solid, both the Atlanta Reign and the Philadelphia Fusion share shades of blue.
Now before you take up the pitchforks and keyboards, hear us out.
The Philadelphia Fusion have shown the efficacy of this slower tempo school of Overwatch this season in the faster region. Asia has been all about Dive for years and for all their bumps and bruises, the Fusion have stayed on course with Orisa. Since the play-ins for the May Melee up to know with a return to against their rivals, the Seoul Dynasty, in the playoff qualifiers—Philly are comfortable with Orisa. And to their credit, this works extremely well for them seeing how their flanking DPS picks like Sombra and Tracer have seen better days.
Now, remove the specific name tags and who does that sounds like from North America? Who from the west has double-down on Bunker compositions and has seen massive success for multiple years running? While they seem like strange bedfellows, the Atlanta Reign fits this blue colouring as well. The major dividing factor between the two is Atlanta’s success rate at piloting Dive this season—but what stands to undermine that for the Reign’s star rookie, Oh "Pelican" Se-hyun. If he’s able to play they have a more safe path to Dive. Without him you have to start wondering; is it worth just further investing your last moments of practice in Overwatch 1 refining the style you’re most known for?
We’ve seen Philadelphia’s playbook and with comments like these, combined with their match history, it’s a safe bet to say Atlanta will end Overwatch 1 with what has always been successful for them. Lot’s of Orisa, a fair amount of hitscan threats like Ashe and McCree, and very patient spacing; these are going to be some tough shells to crack.
Mean In Green
First things first, this is not your grandfather’s San Francisco Shock.
Featuring a deep style that leans more on the cool side, the two-time defending Overwatch League champions, the San Francisco Shock, meander into the playoffs as a team late to their style. After starting the season with questionable roster moves, seemingly rotating around the team’s DPS duo and Park "Viol2t" Minki involvement in it, the Shock have flash glimpses of their championship form towards the close of the season—particularly in a recent match against the Countdown Cup champions, the Los Angeles Gladiators.
While traditionally a very flexible team that does it all, the Shock’s reign of dominance has caught up to them. Now that’s not to say they are rigid, more so they’ve found what works for them and, odds are, they’re going to push their colour as much as possible in the playoffs. Namely their affinity for Matthew "super" DeLisi’s Reinhardt.
Splashing it in during their Countdown Cup showing in the face of what felt like a strong Orisa-based metagame and more recently against the Toronto Defiant both on Control and Hybrid to make the 2021 playoffs, it feels like a return to fundamental Overwatch has proven to be a great look for the reigning champions.
This also plays directly into Lee "ANS" Seonchang’s hero pool as a primary hitscan specialist allowing him comfort picks like Ashe and McCreewell. However, that undercuts San Francisco’s depth. The Shock’s Dive performances have been solid overall thanks primarily to Charlie "nero" Zwarg’s impressive Echo showings.
Sure, are the Shock less explosive and a bit slower? 100% but teams cannot discount their verdant power.
A Group Of Gold
Lighting fast, both the Dallas Fuel and the Washington Justice feel like bright and shining yellow teams.
Much like other Dive based teams, the Fuel and the Justice both want to be incredibly proactive and be the first to act—but it’s how they supplement that style that paints them in gold. First, we look towards Washington’s path to playoffs.
Leaning heavily on Dive compositions that feature the support duo of Lucio and Moira, the Washington Justice upset their way past both the Paris Eternal and the Houston Outlaws. Knowing that style of play is open, recall back to the start of the year—specifically the May Melee. Remember how the Dallas Fuel popularised that same support line in dominant fashion to sweep the event and bring Dallas their first tournament victory since their days as EnVyUs? Both the Justice and the Fuel feel like canary brothers with the latter being the favourite child.
We’ve seen how high tempo both teams have been in the past. The Justice more recently have shown a quick engage from Kim "Mag" Tae-sung followed by Jang "Decay" Gui-un who looks in playoff form. And with ample time to look over their performance, they should be approaching playoffs with improving execution and target priority. The only questions come from what else Dallas has up their sleeves. Obviously, their comfort zone is open, but will fan favourite Kim "SP9RK1E" Yeong-han sprinkle in a smattering of Doomfist to charge past the quarterfinals?
Both teams have a fondness for a support duo that only amplifies their aggressive tendencies. Both teams have incredibly punchy lineups that can upset a team at a moment’s notices. The only thing that separates them is the execution and the particular heroes. Outside of that, Washington and Dallas are a blitzing flash of yellow.
There isn’t much to say about the Shanghai Dragons.
They can—and have—done it all. Remember back to their June Joust run against their perennial rivals the Dallas Fuel. The narrative was that the Dragons would have to find an answer for the Fuel’s Moira-Lucio composition that they used in the semi-finals to send the Dragons into the losers’ bracket. Not only did come packed with different looks to test, but they ultimately find an answer in Koo "Fate" Pan-seung’s Wrecking Ball. This would stymie the Fuel’s engages time and time again before throwing them for a loop. This forced Dallas to play from behind the eightball and adapt to what the Dragons were throwing them.
Like a blank sheet of newsprint waiting for a sketch or a story, Shanghai can be whatever you want them to be. That’s why they’re colourless.
The Dragons see your style and raise you adaptations you weren’t sure were possible, looks that you haven’t exactly seen. Shanghai carries all the styles like waves of light before it’s broken down by a prism. However, by definition, that means they do not have a strong sense of self. Their team colour isn’t murky or unsaturated—it’s simply undefined.
What has saved them has been their agile coaching, individual power, and refinement of styles that they are presented with. Again, compare their title tournament showings this season. Not once did it feel like Shanghai approached with a look to uniquely their own. At best you could look at how they’ve tailored and used Lee "LIP" Jae-won’s Sombra more as a weapon than a supporting actor, but an overwhelming style that bleeds through their games just isn’t there. With incredible team play, stars at every role and a strong funnel of information, the Shanghai Dragons see your question and eventually answer it—but they don’t feel like the ones to be asking questions.
Will this hurt them? We doubt it.
Tricky. Deep. Lethal. That’s the Los Angeles Gladiators.
Shrouded in a strong Dive composition but deep enough to splash together some slower, Orisa based compositions, ironically enough the Gladiators fit their home colours well. They feel, for all intents and purposes, like a purple team. Historically being one of the most creative teams, you’re never quite sure how the Gladiators are going to play the metagame. You can count on them approaching their initial fights with compositions that look familiar, but as the match breaks down, you’re able to see how different the Los Angeles front office sees the game. And this attribute sits solely in head coach David "dpei" Pei’s lap. Since the inaugural season of the Overwatch League, dpei has bled purple and his team has been difficult to both count out and pin down.
Past their tricky tendencies and you’ve got a Dive core that can compete at an elite level. European star Kevin "kevster" Persson has been an incredible asset to them this year and veteran Dive star Kim "birdring" Ji-hyeok has had a strong supporting season. Yes, the Los Angeles Gladiators are Dive leaning, but when you’ve got a support like Kim "skewed" Min-seok, who is quietly having one of the most surprising rookie seasons in recent memory, their is no wonder why their so difficult to match if Bunker or Double-Shield composition become frontrunners.
It’s this depth of play, this flexibility that removes them from the primary and mixes two styles together to create something wholly their own. Cloaked in magenta, the Gladiators know exactly what they want to do and more often than not will do it regardless of whatever their opponents assume.