Three franchises made the cut, but where does Libero shine brightest?
With flexibility and a resume unmatched, it is a crying shame that Kim "Libero" Hae-seong has not found a home yet, and as the 2021 Overwatch League season continues to approach, it’s becoming more and more likely that he might miss the season opener. However, all is not lost.
As the season progresses and as more information about Overwatch 2 is unveiled, many speculate that 2021 will see an increase in late offseason and mid-season signings. This begs the question; which franchise has to most to gain from one of Overwatch’s true flex DPS stars?
Libero’s resume on its own is a big enough selling point for nearly any franchise in the league to want to think about signing him. He has been a premier level flex DPS since his breakout performance on Meta Athena dating back to 2017. Since then, he’s not only played for the New York Excelsior but has been an integral part of their DPS lineup throughout nearly every meta and change thrown their way. In the 2020 Overwatch League season, Libero had over 30 minutes of playtime on Ashe, Brigitte, Echo, McCree, Mei, and Sombra.
During the 2019 season, Libero played Brigitte through the GOATS metagame, Mei, and had an incredibly impressive performance on Doomfist in the playoffs. And speaking historically, he’s also played Hanzo, Junkrat, Soldier: 76, Genji, D.Va and Roadhog, among others. These are all picks that he’s been trusted to play by some of the best teams in the world for their time, and he has performed well above average on the majority of them.
This is past being a rare occurrence. Almost no one can boast the same career length, experience, and flexibility that Libero has.
Another attractive point, well put by GGRecon’s own Sascha “Yiska” Heinisch, is that 2021 is the time for franchises to get it right. Not only is the tournament format more cut-throat this season but missing an opportunity to play internationally, both could affect a team’s competitive status as well as their finances. And when we look at teams on the bubble in either region, signing top talent that was left on the shelf in the offseason shifts more towards a business perspective.
Without panning the obvious Los Angeles Valiant, a team without an announced roster, let’s begin to narrow down our options and establish some ground rules.
Throughout his career, Libero has never played for a mixed roster, so it would be difficult to buck that trend now. That already starts to rule out western rosters and majority western rosters.
His toolset could be applied to most of the teams in the league and would result in general improvements, especially if the hero pool format makes a come back. That said, both parties in this hypothetical are going to want to see him on the starting lineup, so having the roster space, both in terms of a smaller DPS lineup and general proficiencies, should be taken into account.
Next, we have to start to make some value calls. We have to begin to judge which teams could benefit the most from Libero’s hyper flexibility. Just because a team has a flex DPS doesn’t mean they can play everything. Again, Libero has seen career success on DPS and off-roles when it has been asked of him. In that way, he is the ultimate enabler but remains a threat on his own merit. Perhaps pairing him with a current or future star furthers this supportive attribute and cements him as the John Stockton, the Magic Johnson or the Tetsuya Kuroko of the Overwatch League.
With those criteria in mind, three franchises stand out; however, one amongst them more so than the rest.
The offseason has been both kind and harsh to the Dallas Fuel. They’ve landed with an incredibly strong core from the South Korean team, Element Mystic. Not only have most of these players have played together at some point, but they are all well above average players. However, in early pre-season exhibitions, the Fuel has struggled to live up to expectations and have shown a possible weakness when it comes to wielding a strong Tracer specialist. Adding someone like Libero opens up a lot of possibilities for the DPS rotations.
Not only that, but putting him alongside stars like Jung "Xzi" Ki-hyo and Kim "SP9RK1E" Yeong-han are already exciting. However, this put the Fuel in a situation where they have to then facilitate one of their other DPS learning that dedicated Tracer role that they lack rather than signing one outright. There is also something to be said around disrupting the pre-established synergy the other players have could put Fuel further at a detriment. While exciting and a move that would easily give more depth to an already deep bench, the Dallas Fuel have other problems to address.
2020 saw the Florida Mayhem skyrocket in terms of rankings, but now the league has stepped up once again. This isn’t to discredit or cast ill intentions on them, but perhaps having a back-up for rookie flex Baek "Checkmate" Seung-hun. In that same breath, you also curse yourself with a double-edge sword. If Mayhem doesn’t give Checkmate the opportunity to sink or swim, the gamble is wasted. And if Libero generally ends up a benchwarmer, that only benefits one party.
That said, the Florida Mayhem could benefit from a deeper bench and signing Libero alone could put them in striking distance of a top-three western team, but Checkmate very well could be the young star of the future; there isn’t much reason to hamstring his rookie debut by having him play behind a veteran.
However, Toronto Defiant checks all of the boxes and then some. Not only do they float around that gatekeeper status, but they’ve also recently made moves which hint at either the interest in or the ability to acquire even more players. Past that, Libero pairs well with Andreas "Logix" Berghmans and Jeong "Heesu" Hee-su’s hitscan prowess while also complimenting one of the Overwatch League brightest rookies coming into the 2021 season, Lee "Na1st" Ho-sung. The Defiant are a team that have dodged success at every turn, and this season looks to be their strongest by far. However, adding a piece like Libero puts them one step closer to making that statement as sure as the sky is blue.
To put it simply, Toronto makes the best use of his skills, and they need this kind of bulletproof role player to lock themselves into early playoff contention. Knowing that the Defiant has such a large fan outreach and are top earners in the Overwatch League, this is a prime opportunity for them to strike while the iron is hot and bring Toronto one step closer to a world title.
No matter the format, the metagame, the patch or the hero, Libero is the catalyst the Toronto Defiant have been looking for.
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