February 24, 2019 by coachcarter717
The eight new expansion teams round out the 20 teams competing Overwatch League Season 2 (Overwatch League/Reddit)
By Carter Cotrupi
The Overwatch League is back for its 2nd season and esports fans have eight new reasons to watch this year!
After announcing the intent to bring on new expansion teams shortly into the 2018 offseason, the folks over at Blizzard Inc. worked hard to bring more representation into the league. The eight new teams come from Atlanta, Washington D.C., Toronto, Vancouver, Paris, Chengdu, Guangzhou, and Hangzhou!
The Chengdu Hunters roster looking suave alongside their Head Coach and Assistant Coach (black suits) (Chengdu Hunters/Twitter)
Parent Organization(s): HUYA Inc. and Royal Never Give Up (“RNG”)
Head Coach: Xingrui “RUI” Wang (former HC of Shanghai Dragons)
DPS- Tzu-Heng “Baconjack” Lo, Zhihao “YangXiaoLong” Zhang, Hu “JinMu” Yi
Tanks- Wenjie “Elsa” Luo, Menghan “ameng” Ding, Tianbin “lateyoung” Ma, Yansong “JIQIREN” Wei
Supports- Xianyao “Yvetal” Li, Li “GARRY” Guan, Chunting “Kyo” Kong
The Chengdu Hunters are owned by HUYA Inc., a leading game livestreaming platform based in China. The team itself will be operated by top-tier Chinese esports organization RNG.
The idea of an “all-Chinese” roster has everyone talking about the Hunters as the Shanghai Dragons 2.0. The easiest scapegoat for the Dragons’ record-setting failure last year was Coach RUI, who was released before the season’s end. Now he has a second chance to prove that, with decent resources and a management team focused on improving player conditions, his team will not be the bottom-feeders of the league.
Players to Watch: Baconjack and YangXiaoLong
These two older players have not played Overwatch competitively for over a year. It’s possible the duo was hoping to be picked up by the Dragons in their Season 1 Chinese roster and decided to give it another shot when the Hunters came calling. Both hitscan DPS players may have to shake off the rust in order to be effective for Chengdu. Their stories of revival will be interesting to follow in Season 2.
Parent Organization(s): The Nenking Group (Chinese conglomerate)
Head Coach: Hyo-jin “J1N” Cho (former Meta Bellum HC)
DPS- Jeong “Happy” Woo Lee, Yiliang “Eileen” Ou, Charlie “nero” Zwarg, Finley “Kyb” Adisi
Tanks- Seungpyo “Rio” Oh and Hong-Jun “HOTBA” Choi
Supports- Won “Rise” Jae Lee, Lizhen “Onlywish” Chen, Jin “shu” Seo Kim, Jeong “Chara” Yeon Kim
The Charge were the first Chinese expansion team announce their branding and to physically showcase their talented squad in their showmatch versus the Seoul Dynasty. This young team was expected to lose to the beefed-up veteran Dynasty players, but the Charge made a big splash, forcing a 2-2 draw at the end of the day.
One of the glaring questions for this diverse squad is how the coaches plan to utilize a multilingual roster to it’s full potential. Kyb is from England, nero is from Canada, and Guangzhou’s core is made up of Chinese players and former members of top-tier Contenders: Korea team Meta Bellum. We have yet to see either Cyb or nero play with the Koreans in the starting lineup [in a serious manner].
While we wait to see the international roster in action, Charge fans can take some solace in the mission statement given by general manager Ethan Liu and chief operating officer Eddy Meng:
“Our number one goal is not about the number of wins. Rather, it’s to build the right organization for sustainable success. In addition, we want to set in place an international culture from the start, because this will be our core identity beyond 2019.”
Players to Watch: Happy and HOTBA
Happy has been highly touted as one of the best rising DPS stars to enter the Overwatch League in 2019. Known for his bombastic Widowmaker plays, he’s an early candidate for Rookie of the Year.
HOTBA was secretly one of my favorite players on the Philadelphia Fusion in Season 1. While most of his time was spent as a fill-in flex tank for Poko, he showed flashes of brilliance in his sporadic performances. My personal favorite display of his was late in the season when they played the Boston Uprising. HOTBA stunned fans and analysts alike when he broke out Tracer, putting significant dents into any plays the Uprising tried to set up. I hope his experience translates to more playing time on the Charge.
The Paris Eternal roster soaks in the LA sun while three members do their best Tebow impressions (Paris Eternal/Twitter)
Parent Organization(s): DM-Esports
Head Coach: Julien “Daemon” Ducros
DPS- Terence “SoOn” Tarlier, Georgii “ShaDowBurn” Gushcha, Nicolas “NiCOgdh” Moret, Karol “danye” Szczesniak
Tanks- Roni “LhCloudy” Tiihonen, Benjamin “BenBest” Dieulafait, Finnbjorn “Finnsi” Jonasson
Supports- Luis “Greyy” Perestrelo, Harrison “Kruise” Pond, Damien “HyP” Souville
Simply put, the Paris Eternal are the Houston Outlaws of OWL Season 2. Boasting an all-European player roster, the Eternal are hoping that by growing their continental fanbase they can enjoy success as a new esports franchise.
Players to Watch: SoOn and ShaDowBurn
Some OWL veterans highlight the DPS of the roster with fan-favorites Soon, formerly of the LA Valiant and Shadowburn of the Philadelphia Fusion. Yes, this may be a cop-out on my part, choosing two players who I am very familiar with as players to watch on the Eternal. However, they are now at the forefront of this new team and will be heavily relied upon for their veteran leadership. The success of this expansion team should coincide with the individual performances of these two players.
The 8-man Atlanta Reign roster poses with Player Development Coach Cas “Casores” van Andel (lower right) while out in LA (Atlanta Reign/Twitter)
Parent Organization(s): Atlanta Esports Ventures and Cox Enterprises
Head Coach: Brad “Sephy” Rajani
DPS- Jun “Erster” Jeong, Daniel “dafran” Francesca, Ilya “NLaaeR” Koppalov
Tanks- Blake “Gator” Scott, Donghyung “Daco” Seo, Hyeonjun “Pokpo” Park
Supports- Petja “Masaa” Kantanen and Steven “Kodak” Rosenberger
The big question coming out of this roster announcement: will the Reign face the same “famous Overwatch streamer” obstacles as the Dallas Fuel (Seagull) had by signing dafran onto their roster? There is no denying that dafran is amazing to watch on his signature heroes (Tracer, Soldier 76, McCree). But will he fall victim to the kind of fatigue that famous streamers like Seagull and xQc experienced in Season 1?
On a lighter note, Kodak enters the league as the first German player. Supposedly his Zenyatta play
Player to Watch: dafran
It seems obvious, but in the GOATS meta, dafran’s signature hitscan heroes are not usually favored in high-tiered competitive play. His fans have watched him on his Twitch streams practicing Sombra and Zarya, so it will be interesting to see if he can switch over to these meta-friendly heroes to help bring success to this expansion team.
Team Runaway signs on its roster into the Overwatch League, with Team Runaway Owner “Flowervin” showing off a custom Vancouver Canucks jersey (Vancouver Titans/Twitter)
Parent Organization(s): Aquilini Group and Luminosity Gaming
Head Coach: Yang-won “Yang1” Kwon
DPS- Chunghee “Stich” Lee, Minsoo “SeoMinSoo” Seo, Dong-Eun “Hooreg” Lee, Hyojong “Haksal” Kim
Tanks- Sangbeom “BUMPER” Park and HyunWoo “JJANU” Choi
Supports- Seong “SLIME” jun Kim, Juseok “Twilight” Lee, Jun “RAPEL” Keun Kim
The Vancouver Runaway Titans are up there with the Hangzhou Spark for most recognizable squad out of all the expansion teams. The only difference between this Canucks-funded organization and the Spark is the fugly character skins. I can get behind light pink and powder blue, but you will NEVER sell me on Vancouver’s blue and neon green color scheme.
Uniforms aside, this roster contains almost the entire group from the famous underdog Contenders team, Team Runaway.
Players to Watch: BUMPER and Haksal
BUMPER is considered one of the most aggressive main tanks in competitive Overwatch. What he lacks in highlight-reel plays, he makes up with smart charges and his ability to create space for his DPS players. Haksal is proficient in many heroes, but he will have to adapt his DPS flexing to suit the GOATS meta. We have seen a glimpse of his Pharah and Genji plays, but is there still more to come?
The Toronto Defiant roster poses with official team streamer “KarQ” (front) (Toronto Defiant/Twitter)
Parent Organization(s): OverActive Media and Splyce
Head Coach: Beom-joon “Bishop” Lee (former London Spitfire HC)
DPS- SeunHyung “ivy” Lee, Dohyung “Stellar” Lee, Jun-Sung “Asher” Choi
Tanks- Kyeongmu “Yakpung” Cho, Kang-Jae “Envy” Lee
Supports- Joosung “RoKy” Park, SeHyun “Neko” Park, Jae “Aid” Yoon Ko
I may be biased, but the Toronto Defiant are my darkhorse pick to make the playoffs out of all the new expansion teams.
The Defiant won the branding-rights early in the offseason to the Toronto name over the dumpster fire that was the former Boston Uprising Toronto Academy Contenders team and the rest was history.
Toronto’s roster is comprised of a healthy mix of OWL veterans and up-and-coming talent. Neko from the Boston Uprising, Envy from the LA Valiant, and Asher from the LA Gladiators highlight the Season 1 veterans.
Coach Bishop also brings a history of success in the OWL with him to the Defiant. Having coached the London Spitfire to their Stage 1 Championship, Bishop knows the formula to foster a winning culture. Time will tell whether he can reach that level of success with a completely new team, but I have high hopes for Toronto to be a dark horse candidate to make the playoffs.
Players to Watch: Envy and Neko
Both OWL veterans will have to fight to earn their starting roles in this roster of seemingly equally-talented players. The GOATS meta favors their D.Va and Zenyatta playstyles respectively, but time will tell whether they will fit into the game plan moving forward.
Parent Organization(s): Bilibili (Twitch for China)
Head Coach: Muho “Mask” Lee
DPS- Shilong “KRYSTAL” Cai, Jaehwan “Adora” Kang, JunKi “Bazzi” Park, Kyeong “GodsB” Bo Kim
Tanks- Sungwook “Ria” Park, Da un “NoSmite” Jeong, Qiulin “Guxue” Xu
Supports- Heechang “BEBE” Yoon, Ho jin “iDK” Park, HyungKeun “Revenge” Kim
The Hangzhou Spark had an overwhelmingly positive response upon their brand reveal. With a light pink and sky-blue color palette, the team is recognizable for even the most casual Overwatch fan. This much is to be expected, considering Hangzhou’s logo is a direct reference to the railgun pose Mikoto Mikasa uses in the anime A Certain Scientific Railgun.
Brilliant branding aside, there are some gems on this Spark roster. Guxue and KRYSTAL bring valuable stage experience thanks to their time playing for Team China in the Overwatch World Cup last year. They will be the driving force as this expansion team fights to stand out from the rest of their Chinese counterparts (gameplay-wise).
Players to Watch: Guxue and KRYSTAL
The Spark roster boasts two of the most exciting players from Team China in the 2018 Overwatch World Cup, Guxue and KRYSTAL. Guxue will contest the likes of Fissure and Mano for the Best Main Tank Player in OWL in Season 2. KRYSTAL has a sharp and aggressive playstyle which can be seen from watching his Genji plays from the World Cup. He was a map-specific substitute for Team China throughout the tournament, but he definitely has the skills to compete for the starting DPS role.
The Washington Justice chose the comic-book route when announcing their roster in the off-season (Washington Justice/Twitter)
Parent Organization(s): Washington Esports Ventures
Head Coach: Hyeong-seok “Wizardhyeong” Kim (former Assistant Coach for NYXL)
DPS- Ethan “Stratus” Yankel, Gi “Ado” Hyeon Chon, Corey “Corey” Nigra
Tanks- Junhwa “janus” Song and Hyang “Sansam” Gi Kim
Supports- Riley “Fahzix” Taylor, Hyeon “Hyeonu” Woo Jo, Gido “gido” Moon
The Washington Justice roster is comprised of two OWL veterans in janus and gido. Both played second-fiddle to teammates in their respective positions, but many consider janus to be a solid tank player just waiting to breakout.
Washington’s off-season was plagued with rumors and concerns over team management and budgeting issues. The most prevalent scandal appearing early in December of 2018 when former San Francisco Shock analyst Harsha Bandi left his position at the Shock to take on a similar role for the new Washington expansion team. Supposedly, Bandi did not get an offer from the organization and ended up taking an analyst role for the Vancouver Titans after waiting long into the off-season.
The Justice roster initially looks to be among the weakest of the eight expansion teams in terms of individual talent. Wizardhyeong will have a lot of work in front of him, building team synergy and making this seemingly B-tier roster into a playoff contender.
Player to Watch: janus
janus shined in certain moments while playing for the NYXL. The unfortunate truth was that the team simply had too much talent at that position in Mano and Meko to hold onto unnecessary depth players, especially with budding talent like Fl0w3r and Nenne coming up from XL2 Academy. Look for janus to prove himself as a starting-caliber main tank for the Justice this season.