Unsheathed: Revealing the North American Overwatch Armory
With Team Envyus and Rogue traveling to fight on the frontlines in Seoul, South Korea, we are left with an open throne — a metaphorical “scabbard” with no figurative “sword”. A sword with no sheath is as potent as a well of ink with no lid. Within this same sense, what good is it to have a throne, with no royalty to take its seat? Is there any one team that is strong enough to fill the power vacuum of North America Overwatch? Four “swords” of legend and mythology stand staunchly at attention like palace guards as royalty crosses their path. These blades are ejected from the armory to play parody to four teams within Overwatch. These are the four teams that could potentially claim their stake, in the absence of North American Overwatch giants.
Who’s sword will be chosen by the hand of fate to bask in the glory of champions?
Bound by the Wind
We begin with a sword from the east, hailing from the land of the rising sun. The legendary sword “Kusanagi” or “Kusanagi-no-Tsurugi” (Grass-Cutting Sword) share parallels to the team Luminosity Gaming Evil (LG Evil). Legend has it the sword Kusanagi passed down through the lineage of Japanese royalty and ended with the son of Emperor Keiko, the 12th emperor of Japan. The story continues with a vengeful warlord cornering the would-be prince in an open grassy field. The warlord would ignite the field on fire hoping to make quick work of the young prince. In a frantic and panicked response the prince draws his mystical sword, cuts the grass at the stem, and with the sword’s power and magical control over the wind, sends the flames hurling back at his adversaries, narrowly escaping an untimely death.
Up until very recently, LG Evil has been hardened by the flames of some of the strongest teams in North America. With a 3rd place finish at the March Overwatch Monthly Melee, a 2nd place finish at the Overwatch Carbon Series, a 5th place finish in the Overwatch PIT Championship, and finally, their 4th place finish in the Overwatch Rumble. LG Evil has always remained within the highest echelons in North America, but could never seal the deal and take home the win. However, finally coming out of the forge red-hot, they recently triumphed at the Cyberpower PC Extreme Gaming Series 2017. After a nail-biting series, they upset tournament favorites Cloud 9, 3-2. LG Evil would then finally take home a much-deserved gold medal with a 3-1 win over Counter Logic Gaming in the grand final.
LG Evil plays parallel to the legend of Kusanagi and theme of realizing one’s potential. Both show great potential, which only unlocks in the direst straits. As the prince is ambushed by the vengeful warlord, the sword “comes alive” during the 11th hour, just as LG Evil did during their run at the Cyberpower PC Invitational against Cloud 9 and Counter Logic Gaming.
Originally, Kusanagi (Kusanagi-no-Tsurugi in full) was not the original name of the blade. When the Japanese god of the sea collected the sword from the corpse of an eight-headed serpent, he gave it the name “Ama-no-Murakumo-no-Tsurugi” or "Sword of the Gathering Clouds of Heaven". This briefly touches home within the story of LG Evil, as originally they played as team Bird Noises first, and then as Hammers Esports, before being recruited by Luminosity Gaming and playing under the name Luminosity Gaming Evil.
Both stories also are loosely tied to motifs and themes of the color “green.” You can find green within LG Evils logo, their general age in the team could be considered green — young or untested. Especially with the transition from the three-tank metagame into the current “open format” metagame.
In the Shroud of Excalibur
For every light, there must be a shadow. The legend of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table brought us many stories, but today is not another cliched story of the man who pulled the sword from the stone. One tale often overlooked from the colorful cast of the Round Table is the story of Sir Gawain and his sword, Galatine. According to certain legends, once Arthur died at the hands of Mordred, Sir Gawain would have been next in line for the throne. As for Galatine, little more is known about the sword itself other than it’s rivalry with Excalibur, but it’s the story that ties to themes and narratives surrounding the North American Overwatch team, Immortals.
After qualifying for the Overwatch Open, placing 3rd at ESL’s King of Hill weekly tournament and a respectable 3rd place finish at August’s Alienware Monthly Melee, Immortals acquired team Sodipop late into 2016. Immortals would cement themselves as contenders for the North American crown with dominant gold medal performances at December’s Alienware Monthly Melee, NGE’s Overwatch Winter Premiere, and the Overwatch Carbon Series. As we attempt to unravel the strings that tie these two beautiful stories together we see that both stories ties heavily together with the idea of the grace of opportunity and living in the shadow, unable to shine under the glare of others luminescence. Let me elaborate.
The imagery of the Lade of the Lake gifting Sir Gawain with his legendary sword, Galatine, is mimicked by the signing of the original Sodipop roster. This was Sodipop’s ticket to the big leagues, their chance to prove their worth. Once they became Immortals, you could take that as figuratively becoming a Knight of Overwatch’s Round Table, or the gift of opportunity.
When it comes to living in the shadow, it carries a myriad of negative connotations. This is not to say that Immortals is somehow inherently bad or unable to shine within their own merits. But when you are in the same region as Envyus and Rogue, it's hard to really break into the viewfinder of the photograph. This fuses nicely with the story of Galatine and Sir Gawain, both — rivaled but were ultimately masked by the sheer scope and power of King Arthur and Excalibur.
As Galatine was often overlooked in favor of Excalibur, Brady “Agilities” Girardi falls into that same trap. Being surrounded by amazing talent — domestically and abroad, it is difficult for Agilities to muscle his way into the picture — and yet he has managed to do so. Agilities wields quick-wit and deadly control over Genji for Immortals. Recently, he has started to come into his own, but the more we see from him, the more spotlight he is sure to receive. Unlike Galatine and Sir Gawain, Agilities and Immortals will not meet an untimely demise as they plant their feet in defiance of anyone in their path.
With the Fury of Mars
Imagine for a moment a king who ruled with such military might and fervor that he would rather choose a sword than a scepter. Attila of the Huns was one such king. His reign was over his nomad people was tyrant-like and his domination over central and eastern Europe was just as impervious. Legend has it that a shepherd found a blade that mysteriously beheaded one of his cattle and immediately rushed it to the tyrant. Attila took this as a means of the heaven’s surrendering their world to his rule. He not only used the sword in battle but used it as his own personal imperial symbol or signet of divine might. The Sword of Attila or the Sword of Mars lays in tandem with the North American Overwatch team, Selfless Gaming.
The only other team next to team Envyus that consistently challenges and manages to make Rogue look human is Selfless Gaming. Once just mere echoes coming from the amateur scene, Selfless Gaming erupted at the start of 2017 entering and winning every weekly online cup that they could muster. This included the Rivalcade Weekly tournaments, the Academy Gaming Overwatch Weekly, the GoodGame North American Overwatch Series, and the Enter the Arena: Overwatch tournament. Their style centered around their all-out aggressive style that pushes their enemies to the brink. Punishing every minor misstep, which in turn would snowball out of control, was Selfless Gaming’s claim to fame.
Within 35 games, Selfless Gaming trampled across the weekly and minor online cups without losing a set. This lays parallel to how dominant and brutish the Hunnic horde, ruled by The Sword of Attila, was at their peak. They both match each other in terms of aggression and sheer force of will that they both enacted on their opponents. A perfect example of this is how Selfless was even known to perch outside of the opposing team's respawn room, and repeatedly kill them. Again, The Sword of Attila’s mistaken name; “The Sword of Mars” plays upon the idea of war and aggression. Mars being the Roman god of war and destruction. Selfless Gaming plays perfectly into that hands of Mars as an explosive and emotionally charged team, driven by roaring competitive inner-fires and thirst for gold.
Both subjects hold numerous and sizeable claims of power and dominance. Selfless Gaming claiming 35 wins in a row and winning eight tournaments back-to-back, ultimately being halted to second place by Rogue during March’s Overwatch Monthly Melee. To compliment this fact, Selfless Gaming’s Soldier 76 player, Daniel "dafran" Francesca is touted as one of the best. LG Evil’s Jake "JAKE" Lyon had this to say on Dafran’s skill at the character, on a past episode of the Around the Watch Podcast; “Personally, in my opinion, I think Dafran is the best Soldier  player in the entire game — bar none. I don’t think there is even a player who makes me even think twice about that.”  The Sword of Attila matched this in the sheer size of its dominus Empire stretching across central and eastern Eurasia. Selfless Gaming and the followers to the Sword of Attila represent fury, domination, and destruction. With Rogue and Envyus gone, someone will have to check the unbridled rage that Selfless will undoubtedly bring to the North American Overwatch plains.
When storytellers in esports exclaim that someone is otherworldly or somehow inhuman, we take that same literary device from ancient folk stories of legendary proportions. One such tale talks about a great Spanish military leader whose blade, Tizona was so famed, that people would surrender hastefully after the sword was drawn. Known to the Moor’s as El Cid or “The Lord” and to the Christians, he was El Campeador or “Outstanding Warrior.” As told in the Spanish epic poem, “El Cantar de Mio Cid” (The Song of My Lord) El Cid was a military phenom. Tizona’s power came from the wielders faith in themselves, if handled by cowards it would suddenly dull and become nothing more than an oversized toothpick. The most recent iteration of the North American Overwatch team, Cloud 9 is a nice comparison to the legendary Spanish sword.
Cloud 9 is a powerhouse of an organization within esports as a whole, and in the early days of Overwatch, they were amongst the apex of North American teams. With dominance in some of the earliest online weekly and monthly cups, they also claimed victory at the Agents Rising tournament, a respectable 2nd place finish at Operation: Breakout, 2nd at Beyond the Summit’s Overwatch Cup, and a 3-4th place finish at MLG Vegas. As the team started to flounder and crumble with poor performances at OGN’s APEX, Cloud 9 started to rebuild. They started at the top, in March of 2017 they recruited former KongDoo Panthera player, Lee "Bishop" Beom Joon. It is key to note that Bishop is also fluent in English as we move on to the next change. To fill out the Cloud 9 roster, in April they add Jaemo “Xepher” Koo from South Korean team OPPA.Danwa and Jeonghwan “Selly” An from Rhinos Gaming Wings as flex and DPS players respectively.
What ties these two tales together is the invocation of fear that the blade carries and the mystique the new additions to the team carry. With being the first North American team to import South Korean talent, Cloud 9 definitely has a shroud of mystery encompassing it, just Tizona did when it was wielded by the stout of heart. South Korea nationals have been dominant in esports in the past and are known to be incredibly hard workers. This notion could even strike a bit of fear into Cloud 9’s opponents.
Tizona was a well-crafted sword, but a dangerous one at that. It certain legends the blade was to be double-edged, allowing both forward stroke and backhand slices of the blade could inflict serious damage to the enemy. Cloud 9’s double-edge comes from its newest Korean players, Selly and Xepher. While they have their coach that can translate certain complex phrases, communication in-game has to something that the team as a whole, works on day in and day out.
Within that same vein, Selly and Xepher where the sword and Bishop was their wielder. He allows them to succeed and mentors them as coach; without Bishop they would not be as effective as they have been. With reports surfacing that Selly has been removed from the starting roster and will be immediately returning to Korea, this just fuels the fire of Cloud 9’s double-edge theory. 
Keys to the Armory
Now that we’ve met our contenders, which sword will be heaved out of the stone? Will LG Evil realize their own potential in the darkest of hours, just as the sword Kusanagi did? Will Immortals claim their birthright to the throne, just as Galatine ought to have? Will Selfless Gaming continue to ravage the Overwatch landscape, just as the Sword of Attila once did? Or will Cloud 9 strike fear into their enemies, as did Tizona?
The arsenal of blades remain, laid bare on the cusp of greatness. And glory is bound to select a sword, sooner rather than later. A war is brewing in North America and the path remains clear. Four, more than worthy, contenders rush to claim the open throne.
Written by: @Volamel
Images courtesy of Blizzard Entertainment and Abraham Englemark.