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Shy Or Kaan? Who Leads OWL's Rookie Of The Year Race?

Blizzard Entertainment

Written by 

Joseph "Volamel" Franco

Posted 

7th Jul 2021 17:58

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The Overwatch League Rookie of the Year debate is always contentious, but this year’s race feels particularly close. As we breach the equator of the 2021 season, two rising stars stand separated from the remaining freshman class leaders.

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One of the most anticipated DPS stars in the modern Overwatch era, Zheng "Shy" Yangjie has not only attacked the league with a brutal gust of change, he has ridden that tailwind into becoming one of the league’s top statistical performers. And nearly across the globe, Emir "Kaan" Okumus has slowly crept up the Rookie of the Year ballot with his awe-inspiring support play. Both are stars, but only there is only one seat at this particular show. Who, thus far, leads the Overwatch League’s Rookie of the Year debate?

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To quickly establish some sense of parameters, statistics are vital and objective measurements against the field, but due to the nature of comparing two players of different roles, leniency and context is needed. As well, the eye test has to be taken into account as well as overall depth when it comes to the cast of heroes they’ve played or can play. On top of that total playtime has to be weighed to count out any recency bias from late-stage signings or strong player’s missing half the year due to being ineligible. 

Now, statistically speaking, both Kaan and Shy have incredibly strong arguments. On one hand, Kaan has two strong picks in Baptiste and Ana. Through the Paris Eternal’s nine games, Kaan has been ranked ninth in final blows per ten minutes, tenth in eliminations per ten minutes, thirteenth in hero damage per ten minutes, and tenth in healing per ten minutes. While this seems middling, take note of some of the names that frequently rank below him. Players like Kang "Gangnamjin" Nam-jin, Seo "Myunb0ng" Sang-min, and 2018 MVP Bang "JJoNak" Sung-hyeon. When you can consistently manage to compete, statistically, with some of the best and brightest flex supports in the league, recognition will be the fruit of that hard work. However, it doesn’t stop there.

Kaan’s best hero, that he’s showcased, has been his Ana. As of July 5th, Kaan is one of the best statistically performing Ana players in the league. Ranked second in final blows per ten minutes, first in eliminations per ten minutes, and fifth in hero damage done per ten minutes, Kaan’s resume more than makes up what it takes to be considered for the Rookie of the Year ballot. 

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Outside of that, he has been a massive thorn in the side of each team the Eternal have and eventual will play. He’s quickly becoming an un-flankable threat that should be considered a consistent third DPS pick. While fights often turn due to supports facing an untimely death, the Paris Eternal doesn’t have to plan for that due to Kaan’s mechanical prowess—if anything they can count on him participating, either through facilitation or actively gaining early picks for the team. Having that consistency and offensive pressure outside of your DPS duo harkens back to the legendary flex supports of Overwatch history. Now jumpcut to Kaan’s story thus far; this is someone who has just started competing at the highest level and yet looks like they’ve been doing it for ages. That kind of talent does not come often, however, the same can be said about his opponent in this metaphorical bout.

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Debuting in 2016, it has been a long time coming for Shy, which makes his argument incredibly compelling. For nearly four years straight, Shy has competed right outside the apex of Mt. Overwatch and looked incredible. This drew many to assume his debut might not be his own individual peak.

And how wrong we can often be.

Not only has Shy shown more depth than avid pundits thought possible, but his statistics will leave you gobsmacked. Across the season as a whole, his Echo is currently ranked seventh in final blows per ten minutes, ninth in eliminations per ten minutes, and seventh in hero damage per ten minutes. Again, while this looks meagre, we have to remember; Shy is primarily known for his hitscan heroes and his Tracer—no one expected him to perform on projectile DPS. And for the numbers he has managed, he’s produced well above average results. Similarly to his contemporary, Shy has managed to either consistently be ahead of or competitive with of and competitive with players like Kim "Doha" Dong-ha, Charlie "nero" Zwarg, and Kim "Assassin" Sung-won. While his Echo has been what many fans might recall, his Ashe is what still tops the charts. 

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First in final blows per ten minutes, first in eliminations per ten minutes, fifth in hero damage per ten minutes and fourth in solo kills per ten minutes, Shy’s Ashe is a stark reflection from his years spent in Overwatch Contenders. He is one of the best hitscan performers in the league today, and that will only compound as the league ventures forward into the Countdown Cup.

While statistically they seem evenly matched, context included, this begs the question: where does the eye test factor into the discussion? 

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One important distinction is the delta in terms of total time played between each of them. As of July 5th, Shy has approximately five hours and fifty-nine minutes clocked in for official Overwatch League matches. On the other hand, Kaan wields a staggering eight hours and forty-one minutes of game time. 

While at first, you might assume that the difference could be due to the average time of each of their games, but in actuality, the Hangzhou Spark have been experimenting with the DPS rotation. Former Vancouver Titans alumni Seo "SeoMinSoo" Min-soo has seen starting time, most recently in the Spark’s matches against the Los Angeles Valiant and against the Seoul Dynasty. Both matches featured Shy on the bench. Couple that along with his absence at the start of the season, and you’ve built a sizeable gap between the two candidates. 

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At the end of the day, it does seem strange to directly compare two players who operate in two different roles but not only is that the two obvious standout picks, but it also inherently holds the key to the argument of who leads the Rookie of the Year ballot. 

One is a DPS.

The other is a support.

One’s job is to deal damage.

And you’d swear the foil’s was as well.

Strong flex supports not only are able to provide the necessary healing to their team to facilitate their own individual jobs, but they also weave in enough offensive pressure to warrant large amounts of attention. In that way, Kaan is a pillar that the Paris Eternal can lean on. One such instance recently happened in their match against the San Francisco Shock on Hanamura. 

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Reaching well into the first minute of overtime, Kaan kills Nero as he attempts to flank towards the high ground as Bastion. On top of that, he manages to keep Stefan "Onigod" Fiskerstrand alive long enough so that he can use Photon Barrier. This buys the three active Eternal members, Baptiste, Lucio, and Symmetra, enough time to extend the fight long enough that Nikolai "Naga" Dereli is able to return to the objective and drive the final nail in the coffin home. 

Juggling the targets, knowing when to heal and when to damage, the positioning on the high ground, closing the distance late into the fight to improve his accuracy and lessen the travel time of the Biotic Launcher, it all comfortably walks the edge of a sheer cliff. One wrong step and that map winning fight goes belly up, but Kaan manages to effortlessly spin all the proverbial plates you could ever ask of him—all at the same time

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Now, this isn’t to say that Shy doesn’t have his own cavalcade of highlights that we can cherry-pick through and find eureka clips of him reinforcing his position on the Rookie of the Year ballot, but his role is landlocked inherently. DPS does not have many opportunities to be supportive. They do make up for this with their large cast of heroes they’re asked to play, but the roles they operate rarely deviate.

One could argue that Echo inherently has the opportunity to, but that only surfaces when she uses her ultimate. Another argument could centre around Sombra, where Hacking a target could be viewed through a supportive lens, but Shy hasn’t played it. Similarly, Mei could be in that discussion, but Shy hasn’t piloted it. 

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The battle is contentious, but this debate feels hinged on the adaptability at a macro-scale, regarding the number of heroes a position can play, versus the micro-scale, the number of nuanced roles a given position has to play. That, along with the considerable difference in playtime between the two candidates and the intrinsic value of the support role, you start to see Kaan pull ahead. For our money - Kaan of the Paris Eternal is leading the 2021 Rookie of the Year debate. 

However, we cannot forget that we’re only just ahead of mid-way through the season. Shy has ample time to make up the small amount of ground he needs to lead, but his trend can only go up from here. He’ll have to showcase even more of his depth moving into the Countdown Cup, which is feasible due to the nature of the hero pool format, while also managing to keep himself off the bench as to not further increase the playtime discrepancy. 

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The race for Rookie of the Year is far from over, but if we were to end it today, if things continue forward on a similar track, Kaan is the leading contender and fulfilling his former moniker.

He has a fantastic shot at being recognised and crowned 2021’s best freshman star.

And at that point—he will have been the best. 

 

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Is Twilight The Piece To Finally Bring Toronto Defiant Into The Limelight?

Images via Blizzard Entertainment

Written by 

Joseph "Volamel" Franco

Posted 

19th Oct 2021 17:18

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