In some esports, there is a mindset that South Korean players are the best in the world. They are the most mechanically gifted, they are the smartest, and they come from the birthplace of esports as we know it today. The best of the best usually hail from South Korea, and Overwatch has not been an exception to the rule. With the South Korean talent that we have in Overwatch, they have built themselves quite the reputation since the birth of Overwatch as an esport.
I remember the first time I really sat down and watched Overwatch competitively. It was during the first Overwatch World Cup in 2016. It was the final between South Korea and Russia, and if you go back and look at the VOD it is about 1 hour and 36 minutes long. The time actually spent watching them play equates to about 30 minutes. It was an utter stomp from South Korea, and they were crowned the first Overwatch World Cup (OWWC) champions without dropping a single map throughout the tournament.
The 2017 OWWC also saw Korea continue their dominance throughout the group stages going undefeated again to head to Blizzcon. With a mixture of talent coming from popular teams Lunatic-Hai and LW Blue, South Korea had a team that again looked like world champions. Having to go through the United States, France, and then Canada to win back-to-back Grand Finals was no easy task, but South Korea made it look easy. Buoyed by the emergence of Fl0w3r, they were able to thwart any attempts of the Western teams to stop them. Just when you think that a team is going to grab some momentum after taking a map, South Korea kicks it into another gear. By the time you blink, the Grand Finals are over, and South Korea has their second OWWC trophy.
The Gap Is Closing?
In another esport where Korea has been the dominant region, we use the phrase “the gap is closing”. It has become somewhat of a meme now, to be used when Korean teams annihilate teams from other regions. It’s beginning to creep up in Overwatch as well with the recent qualifiers coming from Incheon, South Korea. Even before this year, people were saying “the gap is closing” because South Korea ended up losing a few maps in their playoff run.
This World Cup has been a lot of the same for South Korea in the group stages. This time the team consists of the core of NYXL (Saebyeolbe, Libero, MekO, JJoNak, ArK, and Coach Pavane) along with the addition of Carpe and Fate. There’s some debate about whether this is the strongest roster South Korea could put out, given that there isn’t a player on this team from the London Spitfire, who ended up winning the OWL Season 1 playoffs. Still, this team is no pushover by any means. On paper, this team can match up with any team in the final 8 player to player and come out ahead.
The three-headed-dragon of DPS at their disposal is unprecedented. You have Carpe and Libero as the starting DPS. Libero can play almost anything at a high level. Then there’s Carpe–you’ve seen clips upon clips on what this guy can do. Widow, Tracer, McCree, even Doomfist with his recent entrance into the meta. Then, waiting in the wings you have Saebyeolbe, the self-proclaimed best Tracer in the world, and I am not one to argue with him.
South Korea’s support play – specifically Zenyatta play from JJoNak – is on another echelon from anyone else in the world. The OWL Season 1 Most Valuable Player (MVP) might as well be added into the DPS slot with some of the numbers he is putting out. Pair him with very consistent play from ArK, and this is a support line any team would dream to have. With Ana’s rise back into the meta, we might even get to see JJoNaK play her, and what a treat that will be.
The tank line from South Korea may not jump off the page like the rest of their lineup, but they still have their worth. Fate and MekO have developed a nice partnership for their group stage. One of the things they play better than anyone else is the D.Va and Hammond combo. If anything, it could be said that these two are the ones who perfected it. Hammond is a hero the rest of the world is still trying to figure out, but South Korea seem to have found the best way to play it at the current moment and it’ll be interesting to see if any teams can match it.
South Korea will be going for back-to-back-to-back World Cup championships at Blizzcon 2018. Still, you can hear whispers and hopes that someone will be able to take them down. With Finland taking them to 5 games in the group stages in Incheon, there’s even more anticipation that we could see the kings of Overwatch finally lose their crown.
But besting South Korea will take a gladiatorial performance from a team, and even then it might not be enough. South Korea are the best for a reason, and talk about how “the gap is closing” will only be validated once someone takes 3 or 4 maps from them. Until then…
Run From It.
Destiny Still Arrives.