This week’s Contenders China recap was completed with the invaluable help of Eren “Kenobi” Erkey — thanks for the assist!
After Week 2 of Contenders China, we’ve started to get a sense of who’s on top and who might be missing out on a playoff spot as we reach the end of the group stages. T1w Esports Club and Team CC are yet to drop a map, as expected, but a dark horse in LinGan e-Sports is keeping pace and has also registered two shutout victories. On the other side of the standings, we have five teams yet to win their first map, although two of these teams are set to play each other on this upcoming Saturday. What else did we learn from Week 2?
Team CC 4 – 0 Zenith of Optimism
Team CC barely had to break a sweat in a dominant dismissal of Zenith of Optimism, who couldn’t even cap a point until Dorado, the final map of the series. Jiqiren continued to show flashes of brilliance, outplaying MccOuO on Reinhardt throughout the series. The highlights of his performance include several great Earthshatters landed on intuition alone, rather than relying on combos with Yakumo’s Brigitte. Time will tell if he’s afforded the same freedoms against tougher opposition, but with a matchup against Laboratory this weekend, it’s hard to bet against Shanghai’s Academy team being 12-0 on map score this time next week.
Zenith of Optimism’s (ZOO) rough start to their debut season has had few bright spots. Off tank Nanhai continues to land some nice D.Va bombs, and introducing Muahorse’s Genji into the lineup for Dorado did provide a clear, if one-dimensional, win condition for ZOO via EMP-Dragonblade combinations. Lazy and Sleep, however, continue to be an uninspiring support duo, and general team cohesion leaves a lot to be desired. ZOO’s schedule doesn’t get much easier yet, either, as they face the high-flying T1w Esports Club in Week 3.
Lucky Future 4 – 0 Alter-Ego
Last week, it looked like Lucky Future’s key to victory would be to enable Blackbean as much as possible. That proved true this week, with his solid Sombra and Widowmaker performances leading LF to a clean sweep over a team that most fans anticipated would would at least be able to challenge them. The introduction of RUFF as a capable DPS partner to Blackbean has taken a world of weight off the latter’s shoulders, and main tank Sowhat and flex support PunkyYager were both massively improved compared to their Week 1 showing. After a slow start, LF might be a playoff contender after all.
On the other side, Alter-Ego came crashing back to reality after showing a lot of potential in Week 1. Main tank KINGKONG attempted to flex more onto Wrecking Ball and Reinhardt, but looked lost compared to his level of confidence on Winston. BABYMU proved to be a better off tank than flex dps, but still struggled to keep pace with the rest of the team and was constantly caught out of position. Meanwhile, the DPS rotation of taRocook1e, X8lack and fenlie was simply no match for Blackbean and RUFF. Week 2 provided more questions than answers for this roster, and things will only get worse with a Week 3 matchup against LGD Gaming on the horizon.
Big Time Regal Gaming 4 – 0 ReStart
Teamwork made the dream work for Big Time Regal Gaming (BTRG), who proved that their fundamentals, not just their funky comps, are what fuel their success. From Gudan and Fengm1an playing in lockstep, to LiGe’s seemingly infinite defense matrix to keep RIVEN’s Pharah alive on Lijiang Tower Gardens, BTRG have been able to quickly gel after their roster upheaval in the offseason and remain slight favourites in a wide open Group B. RIVEN continues to be the most interesting player on the team — after transitioning from off tank to dps between seasons (you may know him as Yixin!) he is posing an intense dual threat with Effort, which other teams are still struggling to find an answer for.
The most notable player on ReStart is B612 (formerly known as Freefeel), who has not seen major success in over a year outside of a couple victories in the recent Warming Cup, effectively a qualifier for a qualifier. After a rough Week 1, he finally started laying down the bricks on his road to redemption against BTRG. He continually found early picks will well timed Volley shots (including a cross-map, mid-air shot on to RIVEN’s otherwise elusive Pharah) to set ReStart up for success, which the rest of the team was ultimately unable to capitalise on. The rest of this season might be painful for B612, but he keeps this up he’ll be a hot commodity again headed into 2019.
LinGan e-Sports 4 – 0 Laboratory
LinGan e-Sports (LGE) pocketed another 4-0 victory against a new team in Chinese Contenders this season. Having yet to be tested this season they are still trying to figure out their style. But some gelling clearly happened between their previous game and this one. KaMi had another strong showing, specifically on Pharah, showing that he can be the star DPS player the team lost in uNdeAD. LGE is about to go into the toughest stretch of their season, facing T1w next week and Team CC the week after. These will be the true tests to see where LGE ranks in Chinese Contenders.
We saw a “new” Laboratory (LAB) this week with the additions of Melo and MIAO. This week they fielded a team that could theoretically run a standard 2-2-2 composition. While they were able to flex a little bit more than they did last week, the same underlying issues are still present in this team. Mainly, LAB is a very rigid team when it comes to their team compositions. They will stay on compositions for long periods of time even if the enemy team counters them. For example, sticking on Hammond against a McCree/Sombra/Brigitte usually means death for Seeds, their main tank. If LAB wants a chance at the 4th spot of their group, they will have to break their self-imposed chains.
T1w Esports Club 4 – 0 Triple Six Legend
T1w Esports Club again showed their dominance against a team they were expected to beat. At this point, it looks like the only team that can ever hope to challenge T1w is going to be Team CC in week 5. Silver3’s rise from being one of the worst main tanks in China to arguably the best this season has been a treat to watch. For a team that seems to have all the answers, there is only one remaining question: can Mijia flex onto something that isn’t Doomfist? While Doomfist is a very strong hero at the moment, there will come a time where the Doomfist doesn’t work. Only time will tell if Mijia has any other tools in his kit.
Triple Six Legend (TSL) have gone through the gauntlet in the last two games, starting off against the two best teams in the region and losing 4-0 each time. These results didn’t really shock anyone, and at this point, TSL is fighting for the 4th playoff spot in their group. Their main tank DPS did show signs of improvement in week 2. However, there still seem to be some kinks that need to be worked out in their dive composition. DPS is very aggressive in his Winston play, but when the rest of the team doesn’t follow up on his dive, he gets popped. If TSL can tighten up of these communication issues and play to their comforts in the 3-3, this team should have no hard time making it to the playoffs.
Flag Gaming 3 – 2 LGD Gaming
The weekend of 4-0verwatch ended with a close series between these teams. It was the closest match we’ve seen since the beginning of the season. Flag Gaming was one of the dark horses last season and could possibly be one in this season as well. In a season full of“redemption arcs” of past Shanghai Dragons members, MG is currently the closest to achieving it. With a stellar D.Va performance, he was pivotal in thiswin, not only in the kill-feed but in his positioning and utility. Whether he was eating three graviton surges in a row or using his mobility and peel to keep the dive off of his backline, MG showed he’s on his way towards perhaps making a return to the big stage. That isn’t to say the rest of Flag Gaming was perfect. They were occasionally caught in rigid compositions that hindered them. They even lost the 4th map by staying on a Pharah composition that wasn’t working out. If they clean that up, look for this team in the semi-finals once we get to playoffs.
LGD Gaming was so very close to taking this win, showing a spark that some of us felt they had lost with the Overwatch League exodus. After losing their main support OnlyWish to Overwatch League, this team is a completely different one than the last two seasons. However, it seems that LGD has at least found a style that fits them well. Using heavy 3-3 compositions is their best bet to take maps and win games. Their main tank, tanqiu, has shown himself to be a capable main tank, specifically on his Reinhardt. The biggest issue with LGD is their hit-or-miss ult management.Sometimes they use them to perfection; at other times, they completely over-commit ults to a single target. Zarya player ShowCheng needs to make his gravitons less telegraphed, after having three eaten in a row. However, new main support hoyoqian showed himself to be a intriguing player after his aggressive Lucio play won them multiple fights. He’s a player to keep an eye on as we go through the season.
What to Expect in Week 3, and Predictions
The most interesting matchups this weekend are Lucky Future vs BTRG, Triple Six Legend vs Zenith of Optimism, and T1w Esports Club vs LinGan e-Sports. After a surprisingly good performance in Week 2, Lucky Future have a chance to cement themselves as playoff contenders against a BTRG side who currently lead Group B, but have not yet established themselves as the premier team in the group by any means. TSL and ZOO are both yet to win a map heading into their matchups, and will be looking to take advantage of a much easier game on their schedule, but TSL have looked more competitive in their losses and will be the favourite headed into this matchup. In contrast, T1w and LGE are yet to lose a map, but LGE’s failure to qualify from their group in the recent LanStory qualifier raises doubts about just how good this team actually is — I have to favour T1w.
- Lucky Future 2 – 3 Big Time Regal Gaming
- Triple Six Legend 4 – 0 Zenith of Optimism
- Flag Gaming 4 – 0 ReStart
- T1w Esports Club 3 – 1 LinGan e-Sports
- LGD Gaming 4 – 0 Alter-Ego
- Team CC 4 – 0 Laboratory