Sports will always have an MVP. The player with the most impact, whether it be on any given day, month, season, or postseason. OWL is no different. Last week, JJonak of the NYXL, and Zenyatta fame, was elected as the League’s MVP. JJonak won over the likes of Fissure (main tank, Gladiators) [my vote], Fleta (DPS, Dynasty), and a handful of others including, NYXL teammate Saebyeolbe.
MVP discussions will always end in controversy. Look at the NBA this year. James Harden won the award over players like NBA Champion Winner Steph Curry and NBA Champion Loser, LeBron “I broke my own hand during the finals” James. An oft cited issue with MVP awards is whether or not the fan base gets a say. Some would argue that any fan vote becomes unfairly biased and degrades into a popularity contest. The flip side of that is the argument that the analysts may never be fully objective, and that sometimes pure numbers/stats aren’t exactly the way an award should be given out (these people are wrong, that’s why stats exist…)
Blizzard tried to find a middle ground in determining OWL’s inaugural MVP by using both the fan vote and compiling the staff/media votes. Fan vote counted for 25%, while staff/media votes made up the remaining 75%. There was one thing they forgot to take into account though? The postseason. Ask any fan of any sport; “When does it matter”? They will answer you that it’s when the chips are down and all is on the long. That’s why Reggie Jackson is known as Mr. October. No one remembers if a batter hits well in April, it just doesn’t matter. What matters is showing up when a single loss might finish your season.
Video games have another wrinkle to take into account when considering an MVP: meta changes. Sure, during a Zenyatta heavy meta, no one is passing over JJonak as first pick in a draft. What happens when the meta doesn’t favour Zenyatta play, however? JJonak’s stats argue that many players leapfrog him as the most desirable teammate. Profit has the potential to turn a game on it’s head, Poko and/or Space are unreal on D.Va., Fissure is hands down the best main tank in the league (although Gesture has proven that London doesn’t regret letting the most handsome tank in the OWL go), Fleta battled all season 1v11 but wasn’t able to push Seoul Dynasty into the playoffs. Even EQO has stepped up when it mattered most and pulled Philadelphia past the NYXL for a berth in the Grand Finals.
The regular season may have benefited a Zenyatta main; the postseason did anything but. The meta change saw snipers like Hanzo and Widowmaker become regular pick, tank/support hybrid Brigitte garnered some spotlight, and more mobile supports like Moira, Lucio, and even a well positioned Ana on certain map objectives. All this meant that the slow moving Zenyatta wasn’t in a good space.
Now, let’s take a look at JJonak’s Hero Playtime through the regular season.
The times don’t lie. JJonak is good, but he’s probably the most likely pro to be labeled a one-trick. There could be an argument that JJonak’s worth ‘transcends’ stats; but, let’s take a look at the average heals per 10 minutes (an essential stat for measuring Support players).
What about damage or eliminations? JJonak’s Zenyatta turned NYXL into a 2.5 DPS lineup right?. Well, of the top 9 players in eliminations per 10 mins, 8 are on the Grand Finals teams (5 PHI, 3 LON). These numbers, as well as the heals per 10 mins, don’t even take into account the Playoffs.
So, does JJonak deserve the MVP? Sure, why not? He was an integral part of NYXL’s 34-6 season. Through 40 matches, NYXL maintained a +83 map differential, a full 47 maps ahead of the second best team’s differential (LA Valiant, +36). Looking at the numbers though, and considering his far from effective play in NYXL’s two postseason games, perhaps Blizzard should have waited untill the Grand Finals were over (something most traditional sports do with their respective championships) before handing out the award. Maybe Blizzard has intentions of awarding a “Grand Finals MVP” as most traditional sports do as well, or even a “Grand Finals Playoffs MVP”. Either of those awards would surely go to the player most deserving, as it will most likely go to whoever best managed to lead their teammates to victory in Brooklyn. For now, the League and fans will have to live with the knowledge that their MVP played only one hero for over 97% of the season, and after 2 subpar matches in a meta unfriendly to that hero, saw himself out of the Grand Finals.
Remember, no matter who wins MVP, there will always be people who disagree. I am not trying to start an argument as to whether JJonak deserved the award (although I think you can deduce my feelings on it), he cleared garnered the most support in the voting and nothing is wrong with that. Instead I want to explore a question. Should Blizzard have waited until the Grand Finals Playoffs had finished before giving out the MVP award?