KongDoomsday: The Strength of Sister Teams
February 7th, 2017, may have marked the beginning of “KongDoomsday”.
Not only a portmanteau, but a succinct phrase when judging South Korea’s KongDoo “sister” team’s (Uncia and Panthera) performances thus far. KongDoo Uncia has been a staple throughout Season 1 and 2 of OGN’s APEX League, demanding the attention and adoration from the crowd. Making it to the semifinals versus a dominant Team Envyus roster, and tragically dropping the set 2-3. Their sister team (KongDoo Panthera) however, did not begin with such a noteworthy performance in Season 1.
Only managing to go 1-2 in the group stage and not qualifying for the playoffs. Yet, under the tutelage and training of their sister team, they roared back in their last game of the season, demolishing Team RunAway in a stunning upset, 3-0.
This leads us into a fledgling Season 2 of the APEX League. Both teams look dominant in their respective groups, with neither team really losing their footing against their opposition. KongDoo Uncia with little effort dispatched their enemies in Group C, and Panthera followed suit in Group D. Panthera however, was speculated to face adversity when it came to rival Team RunAway. The patch they played on was slightly favored towards RunAway, lending favor to RunAway’s star Genji player, Haksal. Even with a patch that favored them, they were snuffed out by the blaze of Panthera, 3-0.
Two Teams to Rule Them All
Having an in house rival to push you to your limits is something that has been very common in Korean esports. Whether it is League of Legends or Starcraft 2, the “sister team” format creates monsters. This theory has held its weight against the test of time.
Two teams with relatively equal skill, training against one another allows player skill to be filtered down, distilling their skill down until they lack impurities. Having so many skilled players in such a compact and dense environment, it creates a pseudo-echo chamber effect, where information is quickly passed around and strategies are derived from. Leaving you with two fantastic teams that consistently challenge, push, and reconstruct players into something more.
A two team system is a spawning pool for talent.
Two teams from the same organization will never be placed in the same bracket for obvious reasons, this creates practice with without consequences. Scrimmages against other teams have the potential to leak information to the enemy, that could be used against you in the future. Keeping that information within the organization, that circumstance can’t possibly happen without someone hearing about it, and appropriate action taken.
Having a sister team with equal skill is a perfect mixture of obscenely good and safe practice. In an interview with Inven Global, Ji-hyuk "birdring" Kim of KongDoo Uncia, echo’s this point; “We sometimes play against each other and none of us is far better than the other. Panthera will not be a team that is easy to defeat.”.
What Does History Tell Us?
Not only in esports, but in many other mediums of competition we have seen two team systems flourish.
Unsurprising to Hockey fans, the Detroit Red Wings of the National Hockey League (NHL) employ this strategy as well. They are affiliated with the Grand Rapids Griffins from the American Hockey League (AHL). The Griffins are technically not directly linked to the Red Wings, but they serve as a “B team”. On numerous occasion, players are brought up from the Griffins to play for the Red Wings.
Contrary to that, the Red Wings utilize the Griffins as a means of proving grounds-- longtime goaltender, Jimmy Howard is returning to the ice after injuring his knee last December. This marks his second AHL starting appearance since 2009.
The sheer impact of “sister teams” should not come as a surprise of veteran esports viewers.
2010 to 2011 were watershed years when it comes to the storied history of Starcraft 2. This marked the beginnings of large organizations from Korea and the west joined forces to better foster up and coming talent. Two of the most notable partnerships were between Team Liquid (TL) with Old Generations (oGs) and SlayerS with Evil Geniuses (EG).
This allowed notable western players to train and bootcamp with some of the world's best Starcraft 2 players, while also bolstering the Korean team’s roster when it came time for GOMeXp’s (formerly GOMTV) team league, the GSTL.
Westerners flocked at the chance to go to South Korea. IdrA, HuK, ThorZaIN, Ret, TLO, Haypro and Jinro all immediately jumped at this chance. All of these players trained alongside tier 1 or Code S level players and reported drastic improvements. Most notably being Liquid Jinro being the first non-korean to place in the semifinal in GSL Code S, Season 3.
A more recent dynasty that has arisen was comes from League of Legends 2014 World Champions, Samsung White. Much of their success could be attributed to the sheer amount of practice that was conducted versus their sister team; Samsung Blue. Samsung Blue were heavily the favorite coming into their Quarter Final match versus Samsung White. Even with a winning record over Samsung White, they lost to the eventual champions.
LoL Esports does a beautiful job of capturing the rivalry and sheer passion that these sister teams have for one another. Playing countless hours of high level League of Legends, this was more than just a storied ending. This was a “coming of age”. The Samsung teams of 2014 fostered titanic names; DanDy, Mata, imp, Looper, Pawn, Spirit, and Deft, just to name a few.
With all of these accounts, you cannot ignore the power the comes from having a sister team.
These are not flukes.
It has happened time and time again. An organization forms sister teams or allies themselves with one specific team and they simply just ramp up at a pace that is not matched by a single team organization. To their defense, it is not that single team organizations cannot succeed or find success, but they tend to do so at a more labored rate.
Coming into phase 2 of OGN’s APEX Season 2, both KongDoo Panthera and Uncia are heavily favored to make it out of their respective groups. They will emerge from the groups on the determinant backs of their brothers.
KongDoo Uncia has produced some amazing talent already. DNCE, birdring, Butcher, Panker, are all literal allstars. DNCE and birdring are fantastic DPS and Flex players. The Tank role, is incredibly undervalued and Butcher is one of the most underrated tank players in Korea, right now. He originally played for Panthera but, was transferred to Uncia in Season 2. Butcher’s Winston is top tier aswell and that is going to be a large part of how well they do in King of the Hill (KotH) and two control point (2 cp) on this patch.
Panker is arguably within the top 3 best Reinhardt’s in the world. With Reinhardt being a huge part of any team composition, the Reinhardt play is the anchor of the team. We are looking at a world class lineup, with world class training partners, in the most competitive region in esports.
KongDoo Panthera has less distributed star power, but higher concentration on a specific few players. First let's tackle Rascal, Panthera’s resident Lurker ace. You can always count on Rascal to shine, especially on this patch. With the prominence of Genji and Tracer, this plays straight into Rascal’s loaded dice. What really sets him apart is that so far he has shown success in each Season of OGN’s APEX league. If it wasn’t on flanking heroes like Tracer, it was with his insanely accurate Ice Walls with Mei. As it stands, he shows a aptitude and dedication to learn and play pretty much anything.
Last but certainly not least, we have EVERMORE, the undisputed Roadhog King. Being the first player to hit 5000 SR with 41 out of 45 games on Roadhog and boasting a 6.20 K/D ratio. It is safe to say that EVERMORE has the star potential to supernova, we may be witnessing the birth of another Korean Superstar. Not only is his Roadhog world class, but tracking with pinpoint accuracy his Zarya is fantastic as well. With the coming PTR changes to Roadhog, the future seems stable for EVERMORE and KongDoo Panthera.
With the track record established for the Korean sister team format and some of the rising star players, Duncan “Thooorin” Shields has an indepth dive down the rabbit hole of; Korean dominance.
The video hinges on two things; it has to become indoctrinated into Korean culture and it has to be accepted by the Korean Esports infrastructure. Statistics reported on by Gangnam Gamers, ranks Overwatch as the most played game at Korean PC bangs, as of January 13, 2017. To add a bit of context; A “PC bang” is a LAN center, or PC cafe. Majority of the youth in Korea and some adults, use PC bangs recreationally, purely for enjoying games with friends. So having Overwatch be so incredibly popular is a fantastic start to the scene.
The second governor to unlocking the full potential in Korea lies within the long awaited Overwatch League coming later this summer. Once the KeSPA teams get involved it is a whole new ball game. Were going to be competing against telecommunication companies, tech companies, and airline companies. Not only do they come with huge spending budgets but they come with a staff that has historical success in a many esports. Given enough time, we are going to have a large elephant in the room.
February 7th, 2017, has marked the beginning of “KongDoomsday”. We are on the event horizon of a growing threat from the east. Gil Scott-Heron said in his famous poem, “The revolution is not going to be televised”. In our case, it is, and we are all watching.
Written by: @Volamel
Image courtesy of Blizzard Entertainment, OGN, KongDoo Company, Riot Games, and LoL Esports.