Why was the Gladiators’ star main tank absent from their season opener?

20:00, 13 Feb 2020

Week 1 of Overwatch League’s 2020 season is in the books and the Los Angeles Gladiators are off to a good start, but after taking the Vancouver Titans to the brink, there was a popular face missing from the starting lineup. After nearly filing a missing persons report, I had my question on where the Gladiators’ new main tank, Son "OGE" Min-seok, was and following some thought, things are not as bad as they seem at first glance.

To add a bit of context, during the preseason, the Gladiators exchanged exciting DPS player Jang "Decay" Gui-un for OGE. On the outset, this spells out that they have plans for the main tank. Now obviously the metagame can change and it has after a few of the preseason patches but there is no chance that they knowingly trade away a superstar caliber DPS player for a main tank they have no interest in using. 

So, what’s the catch? 

The Gladiators are investing in their system and planning for the future.

Throughout the offseason, I’ve been standing atop my, albeit small soapbox, pleading with teams to build out and invest in main tanks, a role that historically has one of the most individual impact on team fights while also maintaining the most shallow player pool out of any role. We, as viewers, saw how much of an impact Baek "Fissure" Chan-hyung had on the team during 2018 and the Gladiators’ head coach, David "dpei" Pei, knows that better than anyone. And that’s not to say there haven’t been other impactful main tanks in Overwatch’s history either.

OWL LA Gladiators

Take for instance how important Gong "Miro" Jin-hyuk was for Lunatic-Hai during their repeat APEX title victories. Not only did he add stopping power to the roster with his fantastic and innovative Winston play, but he guided and became a lynchpin in their style, something they failed to adapt in the Overwatch League era.

On the other hand, you’ve got the Hangzhou Spark taking a chance on someone who was viewed as a World Cup darling. Xu "guxue" Qiulin was a gamble to try and inject into a mostly South Korean team, but it paid off in dividends. With strong overall play and a Winston that rivals the world’s best, guxue will continue to perform and return on the Spark’s investment as the meta changes in 2020.

I believe you can create a soft correlation between the average level of your main tank’s performance and your end of season placing. Take a look back at the previous seasons. Barring a team like Philadelphia in 2018, strong main tank performance leads to a strong season.

With that in mind, we’ve now seen two seasons of the Overwatch League and how chaotic it can become and with Hero Pools coming in March, I think it’s a safe bet to invest into building out a main tank bullpen so that you can field top performers when called upon. This also fits into the Gladiators’ wheelhouse when you look at how interested they’ve been on running set map strategies.

Now, to return to the question at hand; was it a mistake to not play OGE more against the Titans? While we are working with incomplete information, we have seen some of the cards in the Gladiators’ hand. 

The only map we’ve seen him on, so far is Dorado, a map that has a ton of vertical mobility on both Point A and Point B. Gladiators also utilized a Dive defense on Point A that leaned on OGE’s Winston as well as running their DPS duo of Gia Huy "MirroR" Trịnh and Kim "birdring" Ji-hyeok on Pharah and Widowmaker. 

Most of the maps that the Gladiators played against the Vancouver Titans didn’t lend itself to that same style and was more focused on primarily Reinhardt.

I suspect we’ll see much more of both OGE and rookie DPS player MirroR on maps that better utilize their hero pool, something like a Temple Of Anubis, Blizzard World, Oasis, and even on Horizon: Lunar Colony. 

Now, if you’re planning for a longterm double-tank system, is it leaving him out that bad of a move? For instance, if Finnish main tank Roni "LhCloudy" Tiihonen is set to be a Reinhardt specialist, and that’s what you’ve prepared for the Titans given the map pool, why deviate away from what you’ve practiced? That’s like pulling an all-nighter during finals and walking into your class the next day saying “Hey, I do have a 25% chance to get these multiple-choice questions right? Ehhh, I’ll just scribble in B for every question and pass out.”

It’s a tough task to try and keep all of your players bought into your system if they don’t actively feel like they’re contributing or are placed into a position where they understand what they need to do to see playtime in some way. 

At the end of the day, these players are professionals. No, the players don’t want to sit on the bench and collect a check. These people want to prove they are the best. 

This move, to me, seems like an admission of macro planning, something that isn’t found in a lot of teams in the league. I respect the patience shown from the Gladiators coaching staff especially when we’ve got Hero Pools being implemented come next month. Teams are going to need all hands on deck and if you stick to the system given to your players, it shows that you’re committed to the long game. 

Cut the ‘“SADIATORS’” nonsense. 

It’s one match against a team that, on paper, is favored in almost every way conceivable and you took them to game five. Hold your heads high and trust in the vision. You’ve got some of the best minds in western Overwatch leading your team.

It’s a marathon, not a race.


Images via Blizzard Entertainment

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