For the fifth article in our Believe The Hype series detailing teams going to Blizzcon, we’ve called in reinforcements. Broadcast.gg’s Ieuan “vowels” Hall, one of the English casters for Contenders China, is arguably Team China’s number one fan. In his guest column this week, he tells us why China should be feared – and why they’re number one.
On the 1st of July this year, I was approached by MooshuBeef, head of Broadcast.gg, about working on the English broadcast of Contenders China Season 2. I knew nothing about the region, beyond the plight of the Shanghai Dragons and the fables of Miraculous Youngster, but thought it would be a great opportunity to develop personally as a caster, and to help bring more attention and respect to the region.
Over the course of the last 3 months, I have well and truly fallen in love with Chinese Overwatch, and am unapologetically cheering for their national team over my own at Blizzcon. I can’t guarantee I’ll convince you to do the same, but at the very least I’m hoping I can shed some light on why I’ve fallen head over heels in love with CNOW.
Chinese Overwatch can be summarised in one word – aggression. There is little time for patient tank rotations or intricate objective play compared to what we see in the west. Teams instead opt to enable their ‘carry’ players – often, but not always, their DPS players. Dive, Deathball, and Triple Support compositions have all been played in equal measure, along with strategies we haven’t seen often in the west such as Reinhardt/D.Va tanklines. This allows the main tank to play aggressively and farm Earthshatters while the offtank has the flexibility to protect their own backline and chase down distant snipers and mobile Genjis. Another unique look we’ve seen in China is their Brigitte/Mercy and Brigitte/Ana support duos, which sacrifice long-term sustainability for the ability to punish enemy dives without losing out on damage. Genji and Widowmaker are the most common DPS heroes, but McCree, Hanzo, Pharah, and most recently Sombra all receive their fair share of love too.
The star of this team is Huang “leave” Xin, a former Miraculous Youngster player who could almost be eponymous with his former team.
Despite being only 16 and spending the first half of this year in retirement before returning to take part in Team China tryouts, he lodged over ten minutes of playtime on no less than thirteen heroes during the Bangkok Qualifier. With a seemingly unlimited hero pool, leave is arguably the hardest player at Blizzcon to plan against and appears to have an answer to every potential counter.
One of two representatives of LGD Gaming, Zheng “Shy” Yangjie was initially a flex Support player for LGD Gaming before transitioning to DPS. He has earned a reputation as one of the most clutch players in Chinese Contenders. His Widowmaker has turned around more lost fights than I can count, and with the recent addition of Sombra to his hero pool it is near-impossible to count China out of a fight while Shy is still alive and kicking.
Rounding out the DPS line-up is my personal favourite player on the team: T1w Esports Club’s Cai “Krystal” Shilong. For T1w, he most notably turned (or more accurately, clicked) heads with one of the most consistent Widowmakers in the region and was an incredibly effective hitscan player across the board. On the global stage, Krystal has been showcasing a talented projectile DPS pool, with great performances on both Genji and Hanzo.
Flexibility is the name of the game for all three DPS players, and it opens up a world of opportunities for China’s strategic depth.
Earlier in this article, I made a point to mention that the ‘carries’ in Contenders China weren’t always DPS players, and that was for one very specific reason. LGD Gaming’s Xu “guxue” Qiulin is an incredibly dominant and aggressive Main Tank. While MTs with his playstyle often suffer from a stark difference in quality between their Reinhardt and Winston gameplay, guxue has no such weakness and is able to put up MVP performances on both heroes. If only one player from the Chinese National team makes it into OWL Season 2, it has to be guxue.
Playing alongside guxue is another former Miraculous Youngster superstar, Ma “Lateyoung” Tianbin. There were some questions about how good Lateyoung actually was after splitting starting time on Team CC with D.Va player ZiJin, but his monster Zarya plays during the Bangkok qualifier silenced any doubters. His innate ability to keep pace with guxue’s aggression proved why Overwatch fans all over the world, even with only the vaguest knowledge of China, know the name Lateyoung.
The only player on this 7 man roster to play in the OWL inaugural season was flex support He “Sky” Junjian, another ex-Miraculous Youngster formerly known as zhufanjun, meaning ‘rice cooker’. While perhaps under-performing during his time in the Overwatch League, he was a victim of coaching and organisational circumstances beyond his control. This led to a revolving door in Shanghai’s support positions and stagnated any potential return to form. Things are looking up for Sky, however, as he is one of a number of flex supports at the World Cup who have flourished with Ana’s return to the meta. His time with the Shanghai Dragons means he won’t be a stranger to playing on the big stage in Los Angeles.
Rounding out the roster is LinGan e-Sports Li “Yveltal” Xianyao. In a region where main support players are often the first casualties of aggressive DPS play and overzealous tank dives, no one is better than Yveltal at staying out of harm’s way on both Mercy and Lucio and providing a lifeline to the rest of his team. His seeming immortality was vital to a LinGan squad that often struggled with consistency and will prove even more important to a World Cup roster more capable of keeping him alive.
Honestly, I could sit here for hours and talk about what I see in China and it’s national team. I see a region that isn’t afraid to experiment more than we see in the West, and come up with new and exciting compositions and strategies. I see a community determined to prove that the 0-40 Shanghai Dragons are not representative of China as a whole and that Chinese Overwatch is worthy of respect. I see players that aren’t afraid to throw caution to the wind and take every single inch they can from their opponents. More than anything, I see some of the most fun Overwatch on display, both as a caster, analyst, and simply as a fan, anywhere in the world.
My blood and birthplace might belong to the UK. My brain might tell me that South Korean dominance can never be discounted, or that the USA might have finally closed the gap. But I have to follow my heart, and in my heart three simple words ring true.
China. Number. One.