With eight new teams entering the fray for Overwatch League’s second season, it’s hard to keep track of all the intriguing backstories, styles of play and narrative development that surrounds the league's rookie players. And while recording all of the new entrants would be pages upon pages of colorless and franklin dull text, there is one region I feel confident giving a succinct take on -- China. With the injection of Chinese talent in somewhat surprising places, having a brief rundown of each of the Chinese players should help to give you a baseline going into season two.
To start us off, we’ll dive into the Chinese darkhorse team, the Chengdu Hunters, and their stacked support lineup.
Former flex support for the Shanghai Dragons’ academy team, Kong "Kyo"
Chunting, is easily one of the leading Zenyatta specialists to come out of China within the last year. China seems to have a knack for producing hitscan talent and Zenyatta specialists and Kyo stands at arguably the second graduating class. Making his debut back during 2016, Kyo played for GodLike and would transition to Invictus Gaming Fire after the Overwatch Premier Series Spring Preseason. He then found his way to Team CC where he’s been for the 13 months. Kyo is a talent, I can’t stress that enough, so much so he’s drawn the attention of even some of the domestic casters. Chinese Commentator, Gai "Alan" Yandahan, spoke about Kyo on social media saying, “[He] is seen as one of the best Zen player in China, but he certainly needs more outcome than just impression.”
What is interesting about the Hunters is that Kyo isn’t the only Zenyatta specialist on the team.
Li is a veteran flex support formerly of both Lucky Future teams as well as Invictus Gaming Ice. After leaving iG.Ice after Overwatch Premier Series Spring, Garry bounced back and forth from the Lucky Future rosters and have had playing time with the main team which housed all South Korean players. While his skill set does mimic Kyo in a way, Garry tends to flex a little more often than Kyo has in the past. Both can and have sporadically played Ana in the past, but Garry has shown to have a few more tricks up his sleeve. I’m a fan of redundancy and flex support has been a role that has historically been a strong indicator of teams, so having some inter-team competition to push one another isn’t a bad thing. Both Kyo and Garry are stellar Chinese Zenyattas, but now is their chance to really test their mettle against some of the best in the world.
Rounding out our support picks for the Chengdu Hunters is Li "Yveltal"
Xianyao. After Team China’s amazing run through the 2018 Overwatch World Cup, I’d guess some of you may be familiar with this talented main support. He began his journey early in 2017 with LinGan e-Sports and had played with the team ever since. Yveltal has been a consistent top performer in both of the Overwatch Contenders seasons he has played in, as well as the third party events that fill the postseason. In a region that is very lavish when it comes to using ultimates and resources, Yveltal has a nice patience about him that keeps him, and his team, very safe. All in all, Yveltal is a fantastic main support and is going to add a strong backbone to the team.
Menghan has been on my radar since I’ve I started covering Chinese Overwatch. Formerly going by the name “vanessa” he took Overwatch Contenders China Season 2 by storm with a flurry of flexibility after being subject to mainly playing Sombra in the season prior. Playing for Moss Seven Club for the first two seasons of Overwatch Contenders, their results varied, but their growth was noticeable, going from a team that could not win a match in season one, to winning their group in season two.
Pinning Ameng down to a role is difficult, which is odd to say, but I’ll explain why. Now, I’ve established that he played Contenders Season 1 as primarily a DPS player, playing Sombra. In Season 2, he had play time on Roadhog, D.Va, Orisa, Winston, Wrecking Ball and Reinhardt. See what I’m saying? His former team, Moss Seven Club, utilized this style well creating oddball strategies and having a color all their own, but before the Hunters made a more concrete main tank signing, it was assumed that Ameng would be the leading candidate.
Now, it’s difficult to picture where exactly he fits in the team. He’s played a decent D.Va in the past and quickly took to Wrecking Ball when he was introduced, but he’s going to be someone to keep an eye on. He might be relegated to a specialist, he might fill in the flex tank position, or he might just start as a DPS because the coaching staff fancy his Wrecking Ball. With Ameng, it’s hard to tell what happens next.
Joining Ameng from Moss Seven Club, Yi "JinMu"
Hu is going to be incredibly fun to watch for a number of reasons. His hero pool is your standard flex DPS picks like Pharah and Genji, but has historically had a pocket Mei at times as well. JinMu embodies a certain style of play that has really come into its own lately in China on picks like Doomfist, but for JinMu to the surface when he’s playing Genji. Let me first try to explain with a quote.
Kobe Bryant once elegantly said, “If you’re afraid to fail, then you probably going to fail.” The strange thing about JinMu is; he took that almost too literally.
He plays like every fight is his last. Sometimes it results in some amazing mechanical displays. While in others he falls flat on his face.
To better explain, the idea is that the highly mobile DPS character, which in this case is Genji, plays so aggressive that it takes the pressure off of their main tank which allows them to make plays they wouldn’t normally be able to take. It’s a mixture of this, pure hubris and a keen eye for some incredibly small windows of opportunity that demand precise mechanical timing that makes JinMu a bit of an enigma. His general style will fit very well with the team as long as the coaching staff can refine them down and work on their coordination. If they can manage that, than I expect JinMu to be a sleeping star player for the Chengdu Hunters.
Filling out the flex tank role is Luo "Elsa"
Wenjie, whom you may better know as “Ninja.” A solid D.Va in his own right, Elsa does his job when he needs to. He can flex between style of aggression and passivity fairly well and can identify threats on the fly. Elsa former played for LinGan e-Sports, a mainstay Chinese team that can consistently make playoffs, but never can seem to make a deep run. Elsa also has quite some history with main support, Yveltal, which cannot be understated. If GOATs is going to consist of the majority of the compositions that we see in Stage 1 of Overwatch League Season 2, than synergy is going to be paramount for everyone. With that said, now we can get to, what I believe is the core of the team, and that starts with a key member of the DPS.
Reuniting with head coach Xingrui "RUI" Wang of the legendary Chinese team Miraculous Youngster, Zhang "YangXiaoLong"
Zhihao has returned to Overwatch. He previously had a brief excursion in PLAYERUNKNOWN’S BATTLEGROUNDS (PUBG), but when the biggest stage in Overwatch comes calling, you answer. Now he finds himself on the Chengdu Hunters as they head into Overwatch League Season 2. Known for heroes like Tracer and Soldier 76, YangXiaoLong brings a very clear skill set to the Chengdu Hunters. YangXiaoLong also featured a Reaper pick in Miraculous Youngster’s anti-dive composition that rose in popularity during the 2017 Overwatch World Cup. After a lackluster final showing at the Nexus Cup 2017 Annual Finals, YangXiaoLong will be hunting for redemption in his first season in the Overwatch League. However, there are two more Miraculous Youngster alumni joining RUI and YangXiaoLong on the Chengdu Hunters.
The former tank duo for Miraculous Youngster, Wei "jiqiren"
Yansong and Ma "LateYoung"
Tianbin, have signed with the Hunters. After Miraculous Youngster disbanded, both jiqiren and LateYoung transitioned onto the Shanghai Dragons’ academy team, Team CC. Sitting at main tank, jiqiren is one of China’s better main tank players. Mechanically gifted at both Winston and Reinhardt, jiqiren does seem to excel with the later half of the two tanks. On the flipside, LateYoung is proficient at D.Va but really shines when it comes to his Zarya play. Reuniting with YangXiaoLong and Coach RUI, the Hunters seem to be working off of a tenured and grizzled core of Chinese players, but that doesn’t exclude them from room to improve.
Jiqiren can be a fantastic spearhead for his team, but his instinctual nature can get the better of him at times. This is most prominent towards the end of Overwatch Contenders Season 3 where Team CC’s overly aggressive nature cost them a number of victories late in their playoff run. It’s not that aggression is the problem its that their style seems aimless and misguided. Pairing someone like LateYoung and JinMu with jiqiren actually makes a lot of sense seeing how their styles -- or colors -- align really well with each other. However, it’s going to come down to the coaching staff to refine this aggressive style of play.
Now that we’ve covered everyone on the Chengdu Hunters, there are just a few more stragglers left on the other Chinese expansion teams.
Lizhen of the Guangzhou Charge played main support for LGD Gaming for later part of 2017 and the majority of 2018 as the team marched through Overwatch Contenders. Due to the meta restrictions at the time, we’ve primarily seen OnlyWish on Mercy with some of his more recent games being played on Lucio. I mean no disrespect, but OnlyWish is a work in progress for the Charge. He shouldn’t be seeing much starting time due to his questionable decision making and a relatively poor use of his resources, namely his ultimates. That said, there could be intangibles that have kept him among the top level in China for so long. Couple OnlyWish with the former Meta Gaming coaching staff and they might be able to shape him up for a late season showing. However, OnlyWish is not the only Chinese representative nor is he the only LGD Gaming representative on the Guangzhou Charge.
Hailing from LGD Gaming as well, is flex DPS star Ou "Eileen"
Yiliang. To World Cup Viewers, this name should ring a bell as Eileen has played on the Chinese World Cup team in 2017. While he’s been able to show his talents on the international stage, Eileen has been a staple domestically since the start of 2017 assisting LGD Gaming to repeat second place finishes in Overwatch Contenders China. Eileen is a star. He can play anything from Junkrat, to Genji, to Pharah, and even Sombra. Yes, he can be a bit aggressive, as many Chinese players tend to be, and he can lose himself in some hectic teamfight, but overall he’s a fantastic flex DPS player that fans of the Guangzhou Charge can look forward to seeing on the starting roster.
While he won’t be joining his former comrades from LGD Gaming on the Guangzhou Charge, Xu "guxue"
Qiulin has made his way into the Overwatch League on the Hangzhou Spark. Breaking out onto the scene early in 2017 for LGD Gaming, but something people may not know is that he was not an immediate starter. Guxue shared play time with another main tank for the roster. Now, with his recent performances, you can guess that this decision was promptly changed and he began to start for his team. Now, I’ll be the first person to discount a World Cup performance, but when you put up the numbers that guxue did during the qualifying stage as well as during BlizzCon. Guxue is a fantastic main tank and, given the right team, I think he has the skills to rival some of the best tank players and compete against the top Overwatch League teams in the world.
Another addition from the 2018 Overwatch World Cup team, Cai "Krystal"
Shilong, bolsters an already stacked Hangzhou Spark roster. The former T1w Esports flex DPS had a quiet but solid performance during the World Cup and domestically he’s been arguably the best flex DPS available in China. Krystal is what I’d call an ambidextrous DPS player, meaning he can play both projectile and hitscan DPS heroes to a very high level. His crowning achievements came during early-to-mid 2018 where he and his team were the only squad able to consistently take the reigning champions, Lucky Future Zenith, to the brink. Both Krystal and guxue are going to be amazing additions to the Spark, but the integration is the only thing I’m concerned with.
Both players have shown they can work well together, but the language barrier in place between South Korean and Chinese cannot be understated. It’s not often that a full Korean team accepts foreign talent within their ranks, so if you are not already familiar with guxue and Krystal, and all of the other talented Chinese players for that matter, it’s time to take notice.
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.