Letters for the Future Fan - CONBOX
Dear fan of the future,
I am unsure who is dominating the Overwatch esports ecosystem when you read this, or who is quickly climbing the rungs of the competitive ladder, but I write to you today about a team or organization that is long past your time. Something that is timeless in their story and their purpose. Something that unrelentingly dared you to challenge your perception of the current landscape of Overwatch and had the courage to chase their dreams. These are my letters from the past to help educate people on where the community has come from and to act as a Rolodex of info on just who these teams were so that their legacy might continue to live on through you; the reader. Now, sit back and prepare for a brief history lesson or a trip down memory lane.
The APEX era of Overwatch was bright, creative, and curbed the craving of competitive Overwatch enthusiasts that wanted ‘more.’ More drama, more storylines, more prizes to be won or lost, but most importantly, more matches to spectate and appreciate. Today, we highlight a team that, in every sense of the word, struggled during their time in the spotlight, but their saving grace, their one redeeming quality as one of the better talent scouts during this era will continue to march forward as their former players find success elsewhere.
Today, we unlock the many treasures of CONBOX.
Their legend of mediocrity begins early in the autumn of 2016 during the first Online Qualifier. First, it would lie on the shoulders of CONBOX Red as they faced off against team in bee. They would secure their offline qualifier ticket when they defeated Team Ag in the next round. Their sister team, CONBOX Blue, paired off against team GIS21. Emerging victorious, CONBOX Blue was seated directly into the first offline qualifier. This would be their shot. Both teams would have one chance at making a name for themselves.
The Offline Qualifier for OGN’s Overwatch APEX league bore little to no fruit for both CONBOX sister teams. Both CONBOX Red and Blue would fail to qualify for APEX Season 1, but there was one unsigned team that did qualify. Team T6 was one of the four ‘amature’ teams that qualified for season one. This is where CONBOX would make their move and CONBOX T6 would be born.
Their starting six-man roster for APEX Season 1 would be Kim "zunba" Joon-hyuk, former professional League of Legends player Noh "Gamsu" Young-jin, Park "Liz" Seung Min, Park "Oparochi" Hyun-Joon, Lee "TheHell" Dong Sik, and Cho "MyungHoon" Sung Min. With a veteran progamer like Gamsu, the roster quickly gained attention as a team to keep a close eye on. As the groups were seeded, CONBOX T6 was placed in Group C with South Korean favorites Lunatic-Hai, Western hopefuls, Team Envyus, and Mighty Storm. This would prove fatal for CONBOX T6.
CONBOX was outclassed and took the third seed in the group with a 1-2 match record and a fairly respectable 5-6 map record. They didn’t manage to take a win off of any of the top teams, but the one thing of note that they did accomplish was taking Control away from Lunatic-Hai. The team would have to wrap their mice cords and lift their mouse mats as they watched in awe as Team Envyus, a team that they went toe-to-toe with, win the inaugural season of OGN’s APEX Overwatch league. CONBOX T6 would not go down without and fight and began preparation for season two.
Season two quickly churned forward and so did the many roster changes. As one of the more notable standout players, CONBOX T6’s flex tank, zunba, was recruited to the Lunatic-Hai organization. Lee "SleepyBear" Geum-yong would fill in his stead. CONBOX would also say goodbye to support player TheHell and acquire Lee "Twilight" Joo Seok. With a new roster, CONBOX T6 as a brand would die and CONBOX Spirit would take its place. With a new and revitalized roster and a new look, the team awaited their group sentence. They would be placed in Group C again.
This time CONBOX Spirit would test their mettle against KongDoo Uncia, Cloud9, and Afreeca Freecs Blue. Season two sadly would result in a worse result than their first showing in season one. CONBOX ended their second APEX season with a 1-2 match record and a 4-8 map record. CONBOX ended their season two run with a close series with the runners-up from APEX Season 1, Afreeca Freecs Blue. Unfortunately, CONBOX would take the last seed in Group C and would be relegated to play in the promotional tournament.
During their preparation for the promotional tournament dubbed Super Week, CONBOX Spirit underwent even more changes. MyungHoon and Liz were let go and we were introduced to Choi "Asher" Joon-seong and Park "Architect" Min-ho. This DPS duo would breath new life into a team in despair which saved them from elimination and subsequent relegation. What people often forget is that Asher also acted as a secondary coach for the team. Specifics are unknown, but he was listed as a coach for the team. CONBOX managed to thrive in this ecosystem and come out of the tournament with the first seed. With wins over MVP Space and Rhinos Gaming Wings, CONBOX only managed to drop a single map. With their spot in APEX retained, they advanced forward, with more potential than ever before. Their goal was simple but direct: to make playoffs.
Playoffs for CONBOX in the past were out of the question. Each and every season, being placed within a contentious group of talented individuals and teams meant that they always had their work cut out for them. That said, but each season the team had shown signs of life and each new stage of their evolution there was progression, even if the standings didn’t show it. Season three of OGN’s APEX Overwatch league was set to begin in the Spring of 2017. Their group would again be Group C where they would face fairly weak opponents. CONBOX Spirit would face off against Flash Lux, MVP Space, and the formidable LW Blue. With a 2-1 match record and a 7-4 map score CONBOX had finally surpassed their previous standings and achieved their goal; they were playoff bound. A victory was a victory in these trying times, albeit slightly hollow. One of hand you’ve got MVP Space, who was never known to be that strong or a particularly coordinated team. And on the other hands, you’ve got Flash Lux who’s last match win came in season one. But wallowing in the shallowness of their first playoff appearance was not on the docket for CONBOX Spirit; they had opponents to prepare for.
Their playoff group would include LW Blue, whom they faced in the group stage, KongDoo Panthera, and Lunatic-Hai. First, they would pair off against LW Blue for a rematch. They were quickly dispatched, but CONBOX did manage to steal Nepal away at the start of the match. Their next opponent would surprisingly be Lunatic-Hai. The season two champions were fell at the hands of KongDoo Panthera, which meant that CONBOX had the opportunity of a lifetime; stopping the fan favorites from advancing forward in the tournament. Sadly, a victory was not in the cards for CONBOX Spirit. However, the match was fairly close. CONBOX managed to score on Hollywood and pulled out a tie on Temple of Anubis which took them to a best of one series on Oasis which they lost. With their season over, once again, looked ahead. If I had to guess, having Gamsu for the last year, had to be incredibly beneficial for this team. I’d imagine that he was the glue that held the team together for so long. Nonetheless, CONBOX pressed ever onward towards season four with a heavy heart, but their heads held high; at least they made playoffs, right?
Shortly after their playoff run in season three, CONBOX Spirit made some serious changes. Gamsu and Twilight would depart and be replaced with tank players Son "OGE" Min-seok and Seo “Clover” Ji-won. At support, CONBOX would recruit An “Revenge” Hyeong-geun to fill the shoes of their Sombra ace. With their leadership and veteran guidance gone, would CONBOX cope? Could they shoulder the burden alone? Again, with a new team, came a new name. CONBOX Spirit would drop the “spirit” and just would be known as CONBOX. A team full of talent and potential approached the stage to play in what would be the final apex season.
OGN’s APEX Season 4 would always hold an asterisk, but in the same vein be one of the most memorable seasons. Its asterisk would be that one of the top teams in South Korea at the time, LW Blue, had dropped out of the tournament shortly before it began. And the cornucopia of memories would spring up all season long. This is important when we look at exactly where CONBOX would be seated in the group stage.
Group D would be their home for the foreseeable future. Funnily enough, they actually drew the same group the LW Blue would have been placed in. CONBOX would face off against Meta Bellum and X6 Gaming, and handily made playoffs again during season four. Again, it was hollow. With a fairly easy ticket to the playoffs, CONBOX had to break their own paradigm. Their playoff group featured NC Foxes, Cloud9 KongDoo, and LW Red.
CONBOX took two maps in their final APEX appearance.
With a 0-2 match record and a 2-6 map record, CONBOX was out of APEX Season 4. The end of season four marked the end of one era and the beginning of another. Just like the changing of the guard, the APEX era made way for the Overwatch League era and in response, CONBOX released their players that fall. The team itself never achieved much, and in actuality, they never could fit all of the pieces together, but nonetheless, CONBOX had some of the most talent and potential out of many of the mid-tier APEX teams. If you take a look at some of their former players, many of them are actually scattered around the Overwatch League today.
Former projectile player, Architect, was recently signed to the San Fransisco Shock. OGE now resides with the Dallas Fuel. Their former player-coach, Asher now is the Los Angeles Gladiator’s Tracer ace. Zunba has gone on to win two championships with Lunatic-Hai and now plays within the Seoul Dynasty. The anchor and team captain for CONBOX, Gamsu, now plays the same role within the Boston Uprising. Those who did not make it to the Overwatch League of CONBOX’s alumni still play within South Korea in the Contenders scene today. For instance, Twilight now plays support for RunAway. Revenge has found success with Seven. Opparochi and Clover now reside with the Foxes and are doing well.
CONBOX had their time in the sun, and they thrived in their own way. Their struggle up the mountain was an endearing story of a team that was a little more relatable than others. They felt like the everyman's team. CONBOX had their moments, and could actually be a solid Korean Contenders team, but it was the home, like many Korean teams during the APEX era, that fostered talent. They may be scattered now, but their roots tie them all together. It’s this struggle—this hardship—that shaped them into the players they are today.
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 and OGN