Lunatic-Hai's upcoming decision
“Meet the Koreans” is a series of articles dedicated to introducing and popularizing Korean Overwatch and its storylines among Western fans. This entry focuses on what the potential superrosters -- at the moment only in rumors but likely soon-to-be a reality -- mean for Korea's favorite team, Lunatic-Hai.
When aficionados of Overwatch's esports scene are asked about Lunatic-Hai, the immediate association with the name is that of success and greatness, regardless of the initial run of second place finishes. The addition of zunba at the start of the year was followed by them winning both APEX tournaments held since. Korea's golden team is also one of the heavy favorites to win the currently ongoing, fourth iteration of Korea's premier tournament and are widely regarded as the best team in the world. With their accomplishments second to none -- arguably worldwide and most definitely within Korea -- it was inarguable that they should be the team to represent their homeland as team Seoul in Overwatch League. KongDoo Panthera comes as a close second in both ability and popularity, but has succeeded at overshadowing Lunatic-Hai in neither aspect on top of lacking the pedigree of success.
To top it off, the roster features an incredible amount of raw talent and a superb ability to play off of each other. When it comes to the impact tobi has on on the game, he is in a tier of his own, even compared to other top Lucio players. ryujehong is regarded by many as the best flex support in the world and adds as much playmaking and fragging from the position as anyone can. zunba and Miro are, similarly, considered by many the best performers within their positions, even though their efficacy is much more situational and dependent on the metagame and their roles within the Lunatic-Hai system. Since zunba's addition, the squad has developed a level of teamplay that can be rivaled only by EnVyUs, a unit famous for its synergy, on their best days. Everyone on the roster, the rotating set of DPS players included, appears to have a pristine clear understanding of what their task is in seemingly any situation.
Yet, regardless of all the accolades and things they have going for them, OWL and the rumors of superrosters are putting Lunatic-Hai, soon-to-be team Seoul, in a peculiar position. ryujehong's boys have been presented with a message and a question. The message is that soon they'll be faced with challenges much harder than anything they've encountered in the last eight months. The question -- what are they going to do about it?
An obvious answer would be that they are simply going to get better. The problem with it is that the squad doesn't have too much room left to 'git gud' with that specific roster of six, particularly with Lunatic-Hai's best damage dealer, the barely sixteen WhoRU, unable to play for team Seoul in OWL. While he isn't an extraordinary player compared to the elite dealers of the world, he has been the best-performing one Lunatic-Hai has played with, at least in official matches. Combined with the young age and the flashes of brilliance, he is a promising talent that could eventually grow to be the squad's best player. The possibility of that happening still exists, but, due to age restrictions, the young Genji master will not be allowed to participate in Blizzard's league for the minimum of one and up to two years, depending on schedule.
As of the current announcements, team Seoul's damage dealers will be Gido and EscA. The latter has fit nicely in a more supportive role and supposedly helps with team morale. Nevertheless, his inability to keep up with the top DPS players -- let alone the elite ones -- on a mechanical level, is more than obvious. As for Gido, outside of his MVP-worthy final against KongDoo Panthera, he has been the definition of average on Tracer and below par in his brief performances off the league's logo. LEETAEJUN, the final damage dealer on the current Lunatic-Hai roster, is not on the Seoul team as of now. And even if he was, his return to the professional scene has been uninspiring, to say the least.
When one considers the number of talented dealers around the globe, players' desire to play in OWL, and the participating teams' resources, it is not at all unreasonable to assume that team Seoul's DPS duo will be one of, if not the, worst in the league. That is of course barring any further additions being made to the team by the end of October, the cutoff for the player signing window.
If all positions had equal capacity for impact on the game, the deficit wouldn't be a hard one to overcome for Lunatic-Hai. However, it isn't the case as, in that respect, the game is biased toward the DPS positions. KongDoo Panthera already gave it a good run for its money, and the only true all-stars on its roster are birdring and Rascal. And while the boys in black and yellow are as good as anyone in terms of tactics, their teamplay is nothing to write home about. Given the resources involved in OWL, it won't be too hard for any of the participating teams to replicate their formula using better pieces. Simply put, the core of tobi, ryujehong, Miro and zunba may very well make almost any team featuring them one of the most skilled in the world. In terms of damage output though, lesser squads with capable star dealers and a solid supportive cast could challenge and even outmatch them. Such teams may have been hard to come by in the scene's current climate, but Blizzard's league will change that.
One of the ways Lunatic-Hai overcame the disparity in the past is by expanding their map pool and playbook, as well as growing more fundamentally sound. As seen by recent matches against other top teams, the squad has become one of the better teams on payload maps. The advancement has come, however, at the expense of their prowess on Control and Assault maps. The team's map pool is now much more balanced, which allows them to contest seemingly any map against anyone. At the same time, however, they've shown vulnerability on what would be considered their 'home maps'. Asking of a team, even one as superb as Lunatic-Hai, to achieve more in that department is unrealistic. Mastering smaller map pool would be a hard task in its own right, but given the number of maps and their size in Overwatch, practicing all maps regularly is impossible even for the most dedicated. A team of Lunatic-Hai's caliber is able to contest most maps due to their intelligent approach, synergy and raw skill. But, as seen in their clashes with RunAway and KongDoo Panthera, they are unable to take convincing wins, let alone sweeps, off of a squad who overmatches them in different aspects of the game.
In the two finals Lunatic-Hai also relied on the intangible 'it' of being 'big game performers' and, to a lesser degree, their opponents not playing at their best on the big stage. Both instances saw the team perform at their best and individuals put up significant overperformances compared to what they had shown previously. As shown by great teams in sports and esports history, being clutch can only take one so far with deficiencies in other areas being present.
A perfect example for a team who became overly dependent on the 'it' is CS:GO's original dynasty, Ninjas in Pyjamas. Similarly to Lunatic-Hai, they were 'the' team in the game's initial period as an esport, going on the famous 87-0 offline map wins. While the Koreans aren't quite up there when it comes to dominance, their core stands as the clear most successful offline competition unit since Overwatch's release. As time went on, NiP started dropping off and this is when the term 'NiP magic' was coined, the intangible 'it' that helped them win against better opponents in unwinnable situations. Refusing to make roster changes and get out of their comfort zone NiP gradually spiraled away from the conversation for best in the world.
Amidst a series of disappointing finishes, they had one last great run to win a major (Counter-Strike's equivalent of world championships) in an inspired fashion, but that's all it was -- a single miraculous event. Eventually they were forced to make a change as one of five, recognized as the worst by the public, retired of his own accord. The replacement reinvigorated the squad, but it wasn't enough for a return to their previous position of glory. The 'NiP magic' kept taking them far into big tournaments and lead them to several titles, but the team refused to cut the obvious weak link. Instead, they kept changing the fifth player. The sequence ended earlier this year with the squad failing to qualify for the qualifier for the latest CS:GO major.
On the completely opposite end of the spectrum stands the original NiP team headlined by HeatoN and Potti for the first time in 2001. As the esports historian, Thorin, often reminds -- the duo were not just willing to, but were straight up ruthless about making changes if it meant securing future wins. The result? Out of the twenty-eight events they attended, according to Liquidpedia, HeatoN and Potti lifted the trophy on fourteen occasions.
Blizzard's Overwatch League is indubitably about to rise the level at which the game is played by the professionals. What is Lunatic-Hai's core of tobi, ryujehong, zunba and Miro going to do about it? Are they going to be ruthless and give themselves the best chance to secure a position all the way left on Overwatch's Mount Rushmore? Or will they stay in their comfort zone and eventually get drowned by the rising tide?
This is the decision they'll have to make. From the outside, it may seem obvious what they 'should' chose. However, it's never this simple when you are the one making the decision.
About the author:
Hello readers, I go by the ID RadoN! I’ve been following different games within the esports industry ever since finding out about it in 2009. The titles that I follow closely for the time being are Overwatch, CS:GO and Quake, while occasionally dabbling in some other games as well. If you wish to reach out, follow future content, or simply know more about my thoughts on esports and gaming, you can find me on twitter at @RadoNonfire.