Scouting in Overwatch has by and large been a pretty resounding success. Many esports fail to really utilize their amateur divisions well and you often see talent reused quite often because the players are known quantities. However, Overwatch has a strange problem not many esports titles face: their competitive player base is flooded with young talent that can compete at a world-class level. And with the patch cycle, as it stands, Overwatch Contenders stands as a fantastic feeder system to lead into the Overwatch League. For example, look how successful some of the expansion teams have done in Overwatch League Season 2. Many of those teams are compiled of rookie talent that just became eligible for play. With these things in mind, here are my top five players to keep an eye on once they are able to compete in the Overwatch League.
Huang "leave" Xin has been tearing up the Chinese Overwatch scene since the winter of 2016. As apart of the legendary team, Miraculous Youngster, he made a name for himself with an aggressive, in your face style, that mimicked Western DPS players at the time. To say leave was carry oriented was an understatement, but over the years he’s grown to be more of a team player and catered more to his team's needs. This segue into a beautiful showcase of just how flexible leave is.Junkrat, Genji, Hanzo, Doomfist, Tracer, McCree, and Pharah are just the handful of heroes that jump into my memory that play into his wheelhouse and I wouldn’t be shocked to see him capable of playing other heroes at a high level. That said, you should remember his name from his 2018 Overwatch World Cup appearance with star main tank player, Xu "guxue" Qiulin. These two oddly enough had a natural synergy and I’d love to see that reunited during future World Cups or even in the Overwatch League. Who knows, maybe we will see him featured on an academy team for one of the Chinese expansion teams?
After singing his praises for what seems like years, it’s so nice to see that Kim "Yaki" Jun-ki will be seeing the recognition he deserves with NYXL’s academy team, XL2 Academy. Yaki first broke into the competitive Overwatch ecosystem during APEX Season 1 with MVP Space. One important piece of content to add about the MVP organization is that it’s a known team in South Korea that prides itself in scouting top talent. The teams themselves are not always amazing, but they always contain talented players.And MVP Space, the team that Yaki played for, was no different. They floundered around a lot in their time together even fighting through relegation multiple times. But Yaki stuck out like a sore thumb. I’ve always been a sucker for flexibility, and after seeing him be a key factor in dismantling Lunatic-Hai in APEX Season 4, I was sold. Much in the same way I’ve talked about Kim "Fleta" Byung-sun and Kim "Libero" Hae-seong in the past, Yaki will be Overwatch League Season 3’s dark horse pick. Well, to be fair, that’s predicated off the fact he doesn’t smash Overwatch Contenders North America first. Either way, invest now and thank me later.
Kim "Mag" Tae-sung broke onto my radar during Overwatch Contenders China when he was sharing playtime on team Legend Young Beyond. When he saw stage time, he was nothing to shake a stick at. You could not have told me in just a few months time he would return home to South Korea, join the fan favorite team, RunAway, and dominate in the fashion he did. Was it a combination of the right team within the right metagame? It’s possible, but that doesn’t take away from the level of play he showed in the Overwatch Contenders Korea grand finals this past season.From the records I can find, Mag has not been playing competitively all that long. He began his journey with Maxtill SomeDay early-to-mid 2018 and played in Contenders China that summer. Three months later he joined RunAway and won Contenders and NeXT Winer. So not only is Mag an amazing main tank, one of the most important roles in the game, he is incredibly young and has so much room to grow. His Reinhardt is good. His Winston is good. And I’m sure he’ll be good at any other tank you put him on. There are a lot of eyes on Mag and it’s only a matter of time before you see him on an academy team somewhere.
A seasoned veteran in the competitive Overwatch space, Kim "Alarm" Kyung-bo is a name everyone familiar with Overwatch Contenders North America will know very well. Easily comparable to players like JjoNak, Shu, Neko, and AimGod, Alarm has been an amazing Zenyatta for his team, Fusion University. But before he was creating a dynasty in North America, he began his career on a South Korean team called BK Starts, where he actually played D.Va and Reinhardt during APEX Season 1 and 2. After the team’s lackluster finishes, Alarm role swapped to flex support for APEX Season 3 and have been a staple ever since. He has peaked in notoriety after winning three repeat Overwatch Contenders titles, as a duo with North American support player, Elijah Hudson "Elk" Gallagher. As long as the metagame doesn’t take a drastic nosedive, Alarm will easily be one of the most sought after support player coming into the 2020 season of the Overwatch League.
We often hear about star players, but very few of them exist in Overwatch. True star players that break the paradigm and will impose dominance are far and few between. On January 24th, 2017 we were introduced to a Genji specialist that would shock the world. We were introduced to Lee "WhoRU" Seung-jun. He entered the scene as a bright-eyed fifteen-year-old on the legendary South Korea team, Lunatic-Hai. His debut was during APEX SEASON 2 against Afreeca Freecs Red. The team won 3-0, but not only that, Lunatic-Hai went undefeated in their group, only dropping a single map. This dominance continued through two APEX titles before being transferred to Fusion University where he would continue to evolve. He entered the scene as a Genji specialist, and he’s easily still one of the best Genji’s in the world, but he can also play Pharah, Doomfist, Hanzo, and Tracer to a very high level. There are very few players who I’d pay top dollar for and give star player treatment, but WhoRU is one of them. You don’t find talent like this every day, and I expect there to be a massive chase after him once he is able to play within the Overwatch League.Joseph “Volamel” Franco has followed esports since the MLGs of 2006. He started out primarily following Starcraft 2, Halo 3, and Super Smash Bros. Melee. He has transitioned from viewer to journalist and writes freelance primarily about Overwatch and League of Legends. If you would like to know more or follow his thoughts on esports you can follow him at@Volamel.Images courtesy of Blizzard Entertainment.