Fleta’s Tangled Symphony — Searching for Success in Shanghai

Volamel 2019-12-21 05:03:44 [Sassy_Social_Share]

Kim "Fleta" Byung-sun attempts to play all the right notes, but they never seem to fall in the right order. They often sound beautiful but land off tempo or are a touch too sharp or flat. And while he’s joined a new team for the 2020 Overwatch League season, the Captain of the Red Lantern still searches for the one thing that has eluded him after all these years; success. To understand his tangled symphony, we have to return to his debut and chart the journey of Overwatch’s wunderkind. We first meet our young maestro at the tail end of 2016. Playing for Negative Synergy MAX, Fleta narrowly missed advancing into the VSL Overwatch Korea: Season 1 playoffs and he would be sent home in the group stage. However, it was his next team that would infamously put him on the global radar. 2017 brought many changes to the Overwatch landscape and Fleta’s case was no exception. He joined the middling Overwatch team, Flash Lux, after their poor finish in the group stages of APEX Season 1 and for the majority of 2017, Fleta would be stuck in Flash Lux jail. Season after season, Fleta would perform amongst the stars at the time, but ultimately failed in every major encounter.  In APEX Season 2, Fleta and Flash Lux would go winless. In APEX Season 3, Fleta and Flash Lux would go winless. In APEX Season 4, Fleta and Flash Lux would, again, go winless. Throughout three seasons, Fleta did not win a single APEX main stage match and would end his third and final season with his underachieving band of misfits with an 0-9 match loss streak. This looks healthy in comparison to their 2-27 map record. This made Flash Lux one of the worst consistent competitors in the history of competitive Overwatch. However, Fleta’s overwhelming talents did not go unnoticed.     Embroiled within the crisp winter air is where we next meet Fleta as he graces the stage at OGN’s Seoul Cup - Super Match alongside South Korea’s golden children; Lunatic-Hai. It’s here where he seemingly redeems himself and is finally unshackled. However, it’s here where Fleta enters a cyclical parable.  Cut to 2018 and the inaugural season of the Overwatch League with Lunatic-Hai’s spiritual successor, the Seoul Dynasty, and things return to the flat and out of tune. Fleta and his team look to break ground as the historic dynasty that the team originally was domestically. Yet they barely managed to keep their head above water at 8th place and even played second fiddle to a middling Houston Outlaws. Related: Finding Fleta – A candid interview with Kim “Fleta” Byung-sun The following year was more of the same with small glimmers of hope, but their season ended with a familiar 8th place finish. And throughout Stage 2 of the 2019 season, Seoul sat Fleta in favor of the DPS line of Kim "FITS" Dong-eon and Byeon "Munchkin" Sang-beom. Fleta did return in Stage 3 and would close out the season with the Dynasty, but at the end of the day the team, Fleta included, seemed to breakdown due to mental fatigue and the stress of the playoff bracket.  Now Fleta has found a new home. For the 2020 season, he will be representing the Shanghai Dragons and he’s been met with a familiar start to his time with the team.  During the postseason dry spell, Shanghai played host to an exhibition tournament; the Esports Shanghai Masters Invitational. It’s here where he and his new stable roar through their domestic rivals and win the event without dropping a single map.  It’s hard to argue that the Shanghai Masters Invitational and the Seoul Cup don’t share some parallels.  Both performances look to be a renascence of form within the honeymoon of a new team. Yet, what ends up happening is that he slowly becomes muted and dips in form due to teams not knowing quite what to do with him.  He’s never found the same functionality, he’s never had a clear and rigid role like he did within Flash Lux. And whether it was out of necessity or ignorant apathy, he was very clearly the sole carry of that team.  Yes, we immediately saw Seoul Dynasty in 2018 attempt this same style focused around his Widowmaker and Pharah at the time, but the pieces around him demanded their own resources which clouded the overall concept. On one hand, you have a very supportive Fleta, whose McCree quick zones out and shuts down the enemy Pharah.  And on the other, you’ve got carry Fleta, who has all the eggs in his basket and is ready and able to shoulder the burden.  None of the teams he has played for have had strong guidance or a strong identity. Flash Lux was an abhorrent mish-mash of players that were just good enough to become gatekeepers to the amateur divisions in Korea.     Seoul Dynasty in season one was fairly aimless due to differing ideas from the coaching staff and player moves causing emergency substitutions.  And season two sang from the same hymn sheet. While many can excuse this season for Fleta as being “tank dominant,” I’d review the roster lists. At best, Seoul was attempting to integrate a twelve-man roster but that also could be taken as scrambling to fit the needs of the many — and for whatever reason, Fleta was left behind in Stage 2.  With that in mind, we’ve then got to question if it was Seoul’s discretion that brought him back into the fold in Stage 3 or perhaps he was just a better fit for the changing metagame?  His role in the Overwatch League has never been solidified, thus the “tangled symphony.” In the past, Fleta has put on defining performances. On Flash Lux, an average DPS performance in terms of a player’s percentage of their team’s kills (or PTK) could vary from anywhere between 25% - 30%. Fleta maintained a career average throughout OGN’s Overwatch APEX League of around 31% on three different heroes And to cap off the measure, he has two of the highest PTK averages ever recorded on WinstonsLab.com — 50% on Tracer versus MVP Space and 54% on Genji vs. Afreeca Freecs Red. These performances in particular moved fellow Overwatch journalist Sascha “Yiska” Heinisch to dub the feat; a Fleta Deadlift. With such a beloving accolade, Fleta will always hold a note in the Overwatch zeitgeist, but it serves as a constant reminder of his plight.  His talent and skill are enough to be seen and celebrated, but they never propel him to the one thing that taunts every competitor since the beginning of time; meaningful victory. Perhaps it’s due to the comfort of his situation now. He has traded in a team that struggled to find map victories for teams that have high expectations and demands.  Seoul Dynasty was supposed to be a title contender in 2018 and 2019’s expectations were much more tempered, yet they were still viewed as an upper-middle pack team.  Is it the pressure? The weight of the public eye? It’s hard to say. When we’ve seen Fleta succeed, it’s been when he’s pressured. Overencumbered and without expectation is where we’ve seen Fleta produce his finest symphonies. 2-27 on Flash Lux, and yet he was one of the most exciting players in the APEX era of Overwatch. And now he’s amongst some of the best players in the world on the Shanghai Dragons. His journey from unsuspecting gatekeeper to a star attempting to find its place in the sky is tragic at its core. He knows what he’s capable of, hell, we all know what he’s capable of — yet his psyche contains and limits him like the silk of a spider’s web. His hand’s lock-up as he withdraws inside himself dwelling on missed notes and rigid accents. Throughout the Overwatch League era, Fleta has entangled himself in the quicksand of his mind.  Perhaps head coach of the Shanghai Dragons, Moon "Moon" Byung-chul, holds the metronome to get Fleta back on time — but somehow I’m doubtful. The only person that is able to extinguish that red lantern hung above his shoulder, is the man staring back at him in the mirror. The only person capable of unraveling his cacophony of skill and talent is Fleta.
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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