These APAC Contenders could embarrass OWL teams in Spring Knockouts
Teams spanning from Overwatch Contenders Korea, Asia Pacific (APAC), and Australia have coalesced to compete for an opportunity of a lifetime; to beat Overwatch League teams on their own turf. There is gold in these hills and far too few prospectors are looking to APAC as a lifeline of the league.
Of the twelve teams competing in the Spring Open, these are the teams most like to advance to the Spring Knockouts and give Overwatch League teams a run for their money.
Even if you've never watched a day of Overwatch Contenders in your life, you know the legacy of O2 Blast. This spawning pool of talent has produced countless Overwatch League mainstays and this year is no different.
Standing as the number one seed out of South Korea, the reason why O2 stands apart from their peers is due to its tanks. Hwang "Marve1" Min-seo needs no introduction and looks to be the most well-rounded tank at the event. And for the select Escort maps that may be troublesome or potential meta shifts, Kim "Attack" Jun-hwa is waiting in the wings.
DPS-wise, the focal point here is Jeong "TOPDRAGON" Seung-yong. As a player who sat on the shortlist for many Overwatch Contenders experts, TOPDRAGON brings a rare level of flexibility to O2 Blast. Flanking him are players like Jung "Probe" Jun-young and Hong "Proud" Seok-jin, two hitscan players that round out the rotation quite nicely.
Frankly speaking, O2 Blast feels like it has more resources than a handful of Overwatch League teams. It certainly houses more depth, but that should be a given, and even then O2 Blast still manages to court arguably better talent than most Overwatch League teams stuck in the gutter.
Looking unmoveable on Ramattra compositions, dive archetypes and even flexing some Wrecking Ball, this is the team to beat. O2 Blast might have the potential to punch well above their weight and sit on the podium during the Spring Knockouts.
Coming in with branding that echoes an eerily familiarity, Panthera more than lives up to its namesake.
Starting with one of the biggest talents left on the Overwatch League table, Kim "Ir1s" Seung-hyun fans, we're talking to you; the boy has found a good home. Jokes aside, Ir1s still looks in form and is a definite playmaker for Panthera.
Lee "Na1st" Ho-sung and Kim "Becky" Il-ha are two familiar faces at DPS that have proven they can hold their own. However, it is the third young face in this trio that has been turning heads; Han "A1IEN" Yu-bin. If you're looking to get in early on the next big hitscan DPS, A1IEN is more than looks promising.
Hwang "Belosrea" Gyu-tae already was on the rise last year with his Wrecking Ball performance on the Philadelphia Fusion. The worry was that his hero pool limited him from real starting time in Overwatch 2. And with playtime on picks that range from D.Va to Reinhardt, it's clear Panthera trusts in Belosrea to cover most maps, save for Escort. That seems to be where rookie Lee "SeungAn" Seung-an steps in to cover the dedicated flex tank maps.
Panthera is one of the two teams that have a real chance at some major upsets at the Spring Open.
After ending the Spring Series in a fairly surprising fashion, it's only right to put Poker Face in the top three. Packed to the brim with former Overwatch League talent, this squad not only has what it takes to compete but holds some rookies that have been on a few experts' shortlists for a few seasons now.
Not much needs to be said about players like Kim "MuZe" Young-hun, Lim "Finale" Jung-woo, and Kim "Valentine" Byeong-ju. They've recently shown competitive form in the league and should stand as a test to some of the Overwatch League teams racing for the two seeds available at Midseason Madness.
That said; Kim "Simple" Ji-sung is the truth. Without a doubt, he is Overwatch League calibre and could start on a number of teams. Since playing for Boston Uprising's academy team, Uprising Academy, Simple has shown impressive performances on Ana, Kiriko and Zenyatta.
With flex tank specialist Kim "PEPPI" Noah playing behind MuZe, Poker Face should, at the very least, not be caught too off guard when it comes to meta shifts.
The team as a whole has put a strong foot forward and should be considered in the race for the Spring Knockouts.
Sin Prisa Gaming
After earning a respectable silver medal at the 2022 Pacific Showdown, Sin Prisa Gaming should be a lock to advance to the Spring Knockouts. However, a few missing pieces might limit just how high they can climb.
Lim "Toyou" Hyeon-woo could argue as one of the two best Ramattras at the event and a player some pundits expected to see on a league team this year. Toyou is not just the D.Va one-trick you remember from years past. He's worked hard to build out his tank pool and that will be more than evident during the Spring Open.
Overwatch League fans will immediately recognise Jung "ALTHOUGH" Hyun-wook from 2022's Toronto Defiant, but the real promise of this team usually reveals itself when Lee "Ade" Ji-hwan is in form. The pair cover most of the cast well enough, but Sin Prisa can become explosive when Ade is given either Sojourn or Hanzo.
There are nearly no worlds where Sin Prisa doesn't make it to the Spring Knockouts, but they're going to need a metagame that plays well in their wheelhouse and they'll require Ade to consistently be a superstar if they want a chance at toppling Overwatch League teams.
The only team that doesn't hail from Overwatch Contenders Korea is the winner from the Asia Pacific (APAC) region, Rhodes.
Boasting a staggering 25 map wins in a row throughout the WDG Open Tournament and in Overwatch Contenders APAC it is clear that Rhodes is a level above the region. And when you glance at the roster, you begin to understand why.
Housing Chinese stars that were never given a proper chance to compete in the league, Rhodes can stand with most teams in the Spring Open mechanically.
Former Guangzhou Charge DPS Li "Apr1ta" Yuanjinghao looks to have broadened his hero pool quite a bit throughout their colossal run. He's maintained his signature pick in Tracer but has been seen on both Sombra and Sojourn as of late. Whether or not the latter two will hold up against more difficult competition remains to be seen.
Li "Pineapple" Zhuo didn't see much stage time during his rookie debut alongside the Hangzhou Spark, but it's difficult to place much blame. When you're playing behind Zheng "shy" Yangjie and Kim "AlphaYi" Jun, it's hard to stand out. However, with a measurable amount of playtime on Tracer during the 2022 season, Pineapple did look promising statistically.
Let's just get this straight now; teams are going to have to respect Huang-Li "800" Hongding.
Playing through both events under the ID "Odium", 800 has only seemed to grow from his time on Hangzhou Spark's academy team, Bilibili Gaming. Be it on Doomfist or Wrecking Ball, he's going to live up to some of the top teams. Control or Push and 800 is likely going to be in the kill feed scoring some well-timed environmental kills.