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Chengdu’s Unlikely Hero — Ameng’s Journey from Obscurity to Enigma

Volamel 2019-02-28 05:38:03
  The Chengdu Hunters have started the 2019 Overwatch League season smashing expectations. With an eye for home-grown Chinese talent, the Hunters field some of the best domestic players possible. Incredibly stylized and unique, the Hunters bring a different look to the league. And spearheading that ideal is their main tank player, Ding "Ameng" Menghan. He, along with his signature pick of Wrecking Ball, are quickly emerging from the obscurity of the Chinese scene and are becoming an enigma amongst the league and its fans. But there is some context to his story that needs to be shared. Context that will either have you buying stock in the Hunters and Ameng or, at the very least, have you more interested in Ameng as a player. Ameng debuted late in 2017 under the name “vanessa.” He participated in multiple tournaments in China with the team LaoYinBi, now called Legend Young Beyond. He primarily played flex tank for the team, but occasionally played Orisa and Roadhog on maps like Junkertown, WatchPoint: Gibraltar, Hanamura, and Dorado. Overall the team was young and had plenty of potential. However, they had little to no results to show for it. Striking their first major victory, LaoYinBi won the Overwatch Team Story Chapter 3 and would go on to qualify and compete in the Nexus Cup 2017 Annual Finals during December of 2017. There Ameng and the team would flounder out of the group stage going 1-2 against teams like Team CC, X6-Gaming, and Seven. Unfortunately, the new year didn’t bring improvements as Ameng and LaoYinBi had a lackluster performance during the  Overwatch Team Story Chapter 4, placing 9-12th. Needing a change, Ameng and four other members of the roster migrated to another upcoming Chinese team, Moss Seven Club. This is where fans of Contenders China will start to put things together. Moss Seven Club was this fun and creative teams that seemed to run odd strategies and house quirky players. Ameng was one of these players. But it’s his time with this team in particular that really showcased his major strength; his flexibility. With his tenure at Moss Seven Club, Ameng played in two seasons Overwatch Contenders. His first season with the team was an abysmal one followed by a much more promising second season. During Contenders Season 1, he didn’t see much playtime at all on Moss Seven Club, up until week four where he showcased a fairly decent Sombra for the region. This added another hero to his growing list of characters that he’d play professionally. After being the Sombra specialist for week four, Ameng returned to the roster to fill in as the team's main tank playing Reinhardt and Orisa respectively as well as his D.Va that he was most known for at the time. Ameng and Moss Seven Club would fail to win a single match in Group A and struggle to even win maps going 0-5 and 4-16 respectively. However, Season 2 saw the team reach new heights. Pulling a massive turnaround, actually managed to win their group going into the playoffs. Their group, Group B, was easily the closest in terms of parity and overall strength whereas Group A featured the heavy hitters with some of the bottom teams. Going 3-2 in matches Moss Seven Club toppled over teams like Team CC, LGD Gaming, Hero Taciturn Panther, Lucky Future and Legend Young Beyond. Here, Ameng had playtime on Wrecking Ball, Tracer, Roadhog, Winston, Reinhardt, Orisa and D.Va. Ameng’s demise came at the hands of Flag Gaming during the playoffs in the only five-game set during the quarterfinals. Regardless of the outcome, he and Moss Seven Club were on the map, they were not to be underrated, and they were gaining fans with their strange compositions and aggressive playstyle. The team would then rebrand to Big Time Regal Gaming, but shortly after Ameng left to join Chinese powerhouse, LGD Gaming. It would be with LGD during NeXT Summer and it’s qualifiers that Ameng would showcase his phenomenal Wrecking Ball. His time with LGD Gaming would be short as he and longtime teammate, Yi "JinMu" Hu, were then signed to the Chengdu Hunters for the 2019 Overwatch League season. As we head into week three of Stage 1, Chengdu sits within striking distance of making stage playoffs. This sentiment smashes community expectations and projections on how Chengdu would fair this season. When the roster was first unveiled, there was one key role missing from the roster; a main tank. From Overwatch Contenders, we knew Ameng could be incredibly flexible, and he has a good amount of playtime on heroes that would normally fill the role, but was that experience going to be reliable enough at the top level? It’s fairly hard to argue that it would be. So, it’s understandable that the Hunters’ expectations have been fairly low. Since then, the Hunters have added the former main tank for Miraculous Youngster and Team CC, Wei "jiqiren" Yansong, who brings years of main tank experience to the roster. Unfortunately, jiqiren is currently having issues acquiring his visa to compete in the Overwatch League. Left without a main tank, the Wrecking Ball all-star stepped up to the plate. And strangely enough, it’s working out for them. That said, Ameng does have a considerable amount of playtime at the Contenders level with picks like Reinhardt and Orisa and we’ve seen him break out these heroes from time to time depending on the map. But when your Wrecking Ball is just that good and your teams plays well around it, why conform to a metagame that is slowly being recalled when your niche strategies are working well? Now I can preach about how innovative and niche the Hunters strategies are but there is one statistic that succinctly explains just how different this team is. In the three matches they’ve played so far, the Chengdu Hunters have run Wrecking Ball 83% of the time. The average league rate of running Wrecking Ball is 16%. And all of this stems from Ameng. He’s the focal point of the roster and will be for the foreseeable future -- for good reason. He’s one of an enigma with an effective hero pool that spans across the majority of the cast and multiple roles. Ameng, the one man Wrecking Ball, is the hero that the Chengdu Hunters needed and the one they deserve.
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.

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