Time for ArHaN to step up or step down
RadoN’s thousand is a series of articles in which I share my take on an esports topic of my choosing in about a thousand words. This entry focuses on Afreeca Freecs Blue's ArHaN.
Jeong "ArHaN" Weon Hyeop is the focal point and — at least going by the resources he gets — the primary star of Afreeca Freecs Blue, one of the best organizations in Korean Overwatch. During his time in Blizzard's hit FPS, he has experienced success in both online and offline competitions, the peak of his accomplishments being a runner-up in APEX S1 and a first place finish at BlizzCon's World Championship for 2016. Additionally, ArHaN's mechanical capabilities were, and continue to be, some of the more impressive in the scene, as lightning-quick reflexes and pixel-perfect aim characterize his play whenever he's at peak performance. To top it all, the Korean possesses a killer instinct and a star-player mentality, which many talented competitors lack. Whenever AF Blue succeeds, he can often be found leading at the team's forefront with aggressive plays, acting as the head to AF Blue's spear.
Yet, despite the number of accomplishments and obvious talents, the well-known Genji specialist is a core reason for Blue not being as successful as they could have been, and having a monstrous player of the caliber of Jeong "Recry" Taek-hyun on the roster would suggest.
ArHaN emerged on the scene as the star of what would eventually show itself to be the better of the two MiG — soon to be Afreeca — teams. He became known for his excellent play on Genji worldwide and quickly showed himself to be one of, if not the, best on the ninja. Even at this point, many would judge his plays as overly aggressive, but the success he had as the team's primary star made his gameplay hard to argue against. Shortly after, ArHaN and co. qualified for APEX S1, while sister-team Afreeca Freecs Red failed to do so, despite being dubbed as the better of the two. Then, Recry came over from Red and replaced attune to form the now well known DPS duo, and core of Afreeca Freecs Blue. Recry's addition boosted the team's firepower immediately, but within a month of his debut he had also put his impressive mechanics to full use and eclipsed ArHaN in terms of game impact.
Regardless of that, the latter's star-player mentality was unshakable as he continued demanding and receiving the bulk of his teams' resources. The perfect evidence for his self-confidence was the play of South Korea's star-laden lineup at BlizzCon's World Cup event in 2016. Even when accompanied by a number of household names, ArHaN's Genji — just as in Afreeca — was the accent of the squad's gameplay. While team South Korea won the event with little trouble, a clear pattern had emerged. A team with ArHaN on it could play only one way, with ArHaN as its focal point. This was also evident by his heavy focus on outdueling the enemy Genjis whenever a mirror match-up occurred, without regards for the context of the situation.
It is certainly important for a star player to be sure of their own ability, but ArHaN's approach to the game started seeming egocentric to an excessive degree. His unwillingness to play out of his comfort zone pushed AF Blue away from what turned out to be the dominant strategy of the patch and diminished the impact of the other top performers on the team.
He had shown greater level of mastery over more supportive heroes like D.Va and Mei than his teammates, yet kept returning to his signature pick time and again. Recry, who had already distinguished himself as a superior carry at this point of time, was forced to play Mei, a hero that he clearly couldn't utilize to its fullest potential. His ability to hit opponents with icicles was extraordinary, but ArHaN was considerably better with the usage of Ice Wall and Blizzard, which is of higher importance to an impactful Mei performances.
Similarly, the Genji master kept switching away from D.Va at a time when the hero was widely considered overpowered. His stubbornness forced JIN to take over D.Va and lessened his impact as the off-tank player had shown strong performances on Roadhog, but wasn't as effective with the pink mech. While Mek0 and Mickie delivered key performances on D.Va, allowing their teams to pick-up trophies, ArHaN was forcing his team into a style that was neither a counter the other top teams, nor the best for AF Blue as a unit.
It certainly paid off for ArHaN himself as the match against BK Stars saw him deliver a dominant performance, akin to the ones at BlizzCon. However, it was obvious that a serious change needed to happen if AF Blue was to win a tournament, be it roster or playstyle wise.
IEM Gyeonggi and APEX S2 was more of the same for ArHaN and co., but taken to an even further extreme. Recry shifted into a more supportive role and gave up on projectile heroes, the weakest individual performers on the squad were replaced, but the Genji master's play plummeted. His attempts at aggressive plays would fumble one after another and just as often he'd use ultimates poorly, giving up precious seconds on the offense or single-handedly losing the objective control on the defense. If in previous tournaments ArHaN was a greedy business partner who demanded a share larger than what he earned, APEX S2 could be seen as him directly sabotaging Recry's attempts to make a success story out of AF Blue.
For APEX S3, the team upgraded the roster again, but the overall approach to the game has remained unchanged. The team has had more success than the last go around, but it is hard to put it on ArHaN's gameplay, considering the lower level of the opponents in their group. The all but secured Ro8 appearance will be the teller of whether his star-player ego can finally be justified. And if it can't be, after nine months of playing with a super-star secondary DPS and a continuously upgraded roster supporting the Genji specialist and his playstyle, it will be the time for him to change or be changed.
It's time for ArHaN to step up in terms of gameplay and show that he can be the true carry for an elite team,
or step down in the pecking order and allow for Recry to receive the resources his performances would have earned him in any other team.
Photo credits: OGN
About the author:
Hello readers, I go by the ID RadoN! My introduction to esports happened in 2009 and I’ve been following different titles within the industry ever since. Esports that I watch regularly are Overwatch, CS:GO, LoL, QL with the occasional SFV and DOTA2. If you wish to reach out, follow future content, or simply know more about my thoughts on esports, you can find me on twitter at @RadoNonfire.