An Honest Seoul - Addressing Seoul Dynasty's Question Marks during Overwatch League Stage 1
The Seoul Dynasty we’re slated for early success in Stage 1 of the long awaited start Overwatch League. How could you bet against them? The former Lunatic-Hai corps were set to usher in yet another trophy to accompany their OGN APEX Season 2 and 3 titles. Historically a large portion of their players have been quick to adapt to new formats and have always played with a steely intensity, but somehow Stage 1 something has been different. Their once icy consistency has been traded in for question marks and loose footing.
As the cavalcade of problems marched across Seoul Dynasty’s shoulders, they’ve slowly but surely dipped in the standings. The pace of the once frontrunners has quickly come to a halt as they desperately reach ahead for Stage 2 for a much needed refreshing reset.
To put this into cooking terms, the key to success in Stage 2 for the Seoul Dynasty comes in the form of a dish that is subtle in nature, something that has some creeping heat which adds depth to the “meal” overall. Seoul has the cupboard packed with spice, but knowing where and when to use it is imperative in making a “whole” meal. “Is this dish sweet or a savory one? Is this a bold or more subtle dish?” In their current form, it seems like Seoul struggles from identity issues that stem from an uncomfortability in the current metagame. These questions need to be answered for Seoul to return to its former prominence as leaders in the Overwatch ecosystem.
Stage 1 has been dominated by strong Zenyatta play and Seoul has never had a standout player that can fill that role. Even if we look historically, Ryujehong looked a bit middling once he was forced off of his comfort pick of Ana during APEX Season 3. Ryujehong has ‘played’ Zenyatta, but I think it’s reasonable to say that compared to players like Neko, Shaz, Bbdosin, and JjoNak, Seoul does not have an aggressive DPS centric Zenyatta player.
Mercy has been rotated around from Tobi to Ryujehong and neither one of them look particularly comfortable on the winged angel. Luckily for them, the angel will lose her wings come Stage 2, but this has to be addressed; historically, the support line for Lunatic-Hai, now the Seoul Dynasty, has been their strongest asset. In the whole of Stage 1, it has looked more liable and exploitable than ever.
Within the Seoul support roster, we’ve seen a new member that has been thrust into the role of shoring up the flaws of the Seoul mainstay support duo of Ryujehong and Tobi. Gido has been tested and it’s evident that they’ve invested in him playing flex support and while his playtime is currently under an hour, it’s been anything but inspiring. We’ve only seen him on Zenyatta and a few one-off Ana games, yet none of them particularly stand out as ‘good.’
Seoul has good DPS players, that much is certain. Fleta and Wekeed are some amazing talents, but they tend to not be run as a duo because of their hero pool overlap. Wekeed is a projectile specialist and Seoul has primarily run Fleta as their Pharah and Widowmaker stable. Fleta is still my pick for the best player in the league. His extreme consistency is something to be applauded, but with Fleta being the only threat in Stage 1, he has drawn a lot of attention from his adversaries. When it comes to Munchkin and Bunny, that's where the question marks start to come in. Bunny has his moments but is plagued with inconsistency, whereas Munchkin is more stable but does not have the playing potential Bunny does, while also having a bit more breadth in his hero pool.
In terms of their tank play, Seoul Dynasty has potential. Zunba is overlooked and is one of the best sub-tank players in the league. Yet, where exactly does xepheR fit into the Seoul roster? Everyone on a team has a role, and I don’t think we’ve seen the last of xepheR, but knowing where and when to use his aggressive nature could be key in Seoul’s future success.
That said, when it comes to main tanks, Miro has been a bit of an asterisk for this team. At times Miro looks solid, while during others his ultimate management is horrendous and his positioning is highly questionable. Then, on the other hand, you’ve got Kuki who needs to be vetted a bit more. We’ve seen his play, it’s not bad, but I don’t think Seoul is entirely too keen or comfortable with the former MVP Space player.
What is more interesting is that keeping all of those points in mind, Stage 2 and the patch change the will accompany it will theoretically solve a lot of those problems. A big issue for Seoul has been the breach outside of their comfort zone. Taking Ryujehong off of Ana is one thing, but once you take Tobi off of Lucio then you’ve got a whole new flavor and if we’re to be honest, it’s nothing to write home to mom about. If the Overwatch BEAT Invitational and Overwatch PIT Season 2 are anything to go by, the next metagame should favor tanks a bit more. With tanks returning you need supports with a higher healing output and someone to help correct a tank’s inherent mobility issue.
This plays directly into Seoul Dynasty’s wheelhouse.
Tobi should see a return to Lucio across the board which should be celebrated. Ryujehong has shown to be one of the best Ana players in the world and he’s already shown his hand with Moira during Stage 1. The “meat and potatoes” for the Seoul Dynasty will once again act as an immovable anchor and be able to fully unlock the potential that lies within this roster. Fleta is not going anywhere anytime soon. Zunba follows that same sentiment where he plays an amazing D.Va and an amazing Zarya, so he’s nothing to worry about.
My only issues with going full speed ahead with the Seoul Dynasty revival is the main tank line. I worry that a return to a Reinhardt centric metagame may impact Miro in a way that it could still leave Seoul off-kilter. That said, if you have Ryujehong and Tobi back in form, I think you can afford to have some weaknesses elsewhere. Another thing to note is we haven’t seen how the team works with Kuki on Reinhardt. He could be the sweet accent that the Seoul Dynasty dish needs for it to be pushed forward.
Another concept we cannot ignore is that this the emphasis on the format of the Overwatch League. People tend to forget that a “league” is not a “tournament.” More often than not, a league is a simulated war of information. How much information can we hide against a lesser opponent? How much data can we cut, whilst still winning the game?
In a tournament, you cannot afford to substitute your best players for weaker ones. You have the bring your ‘A’ game at every stage and every match. A league allows you to test how deep your bench goes. It forces you to ‘peak’ at this very moment in time. One underperformance, one minor mistake, and your dreams have been dashed. Inversely, one overperformance and you’ve created an upset.
A league takes place over many, many months and is a culmination of equal parts preparation and adaptation. That being said, in a “league” many different teams are going to be continuously testing and trailing things to a degree. Yes, these teams still need to win to secure a playoffs spot come towards the end of the season, but until then, some teams can, and will, walk the line of experimentation and dominance. And that isn’t to claim that some teams be sandbagging, it’s actually the opposite.
Teams will be investing in the long run by trailing interesting theories and roster changes, much like Seoul has while being on stage. They are attempting to sow the seeds of success. They are taking aim at winning the war of Season 1, not Stage 1.
Allowing players time on the field is incredibly important when it comes to actually gauging whether or not they can handle the pressure and can perform up to expectation. Everything is fine and dandy in the low threat zone that is a team house or a practice facility, but that’s exactly all that it is; “a practice facility.” You cannot simulate an environment like playing on stage, with the crowd cheering for or against you.
Testing concepts in practice compared to actually running through the motions on stage are two completely different things. A League is not a race, it’s marathon. It awards who has the stamina, who has the versatility, who has the flexibility to adapt. Those who can maintain a consistently great level will be the teams that take home the coveted Overwatch League Season 1 trophy.
With Stage 1 closed and their slow decline out of the playoff race complete, Stage 2 awaits them with wide eyes and open arms. Seoul Dynasty’s rebirth will come in slow but steady segments as we approach the next stages. All lights are green for the Seoul Dynasty and a return to form is almost certain. Seoul is set up for success as they enter hell’s kitchen. Stage 2 of the Overwatch League and the upcoming metagame shift that accompanies it will be the crucible that cements the dynasty of Seoul or breaks them down into lunatics.
Joseph “Volamel” Franco has followed esports since the MLG’s 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 and @tempusrob