New York Excelsior’s flex tank, Kim "MekO" Tae-hong, is riding within the tailwind that he has helped to manufacture within his team. He sees these minor changes in the fresh breeze as opportunities to live in the footholds of his idol. An idol who’s titles and achievements double that of the average progamer. An idol so revered he’s looked at like a god amongst men. MekO is in pursuit of the endless glory and prestige of one of the most illustrious progamers of all time, Starcraft: Brood War legend, Lee “Flash” Young-ho.
Flash, during his heyday in 2010, peaked with a 75% win rate going 105-35 in maps. Battling the top competition, for over 10 years, Flash procured 10 titles across numerous different leagues and is widely considered one of the best progamers to have ever graced esports and the greatest Starcraft Brood War player of all time.
The inspiration caused by his feats and titles in Starcraft meant that Flash’s victories were much more far-reaching in terms of the impact they had on people. These grandiose feats of strength touched the young and the old and created a giddy feeling of ingenuity and willpower. Forever an artisan, Flash unintentionally has helped to mold and shape many of today’s modern progamers, and MekO was no different.
Revealed during his episode of NYXL Origins
, one of MekO’s cousins had inadvertently introduced him to the majesty that was Starcraft. The narrative around role models in esports is not one that is often explored and this insight given to us by the NYXL about MekO sheds some light on one of their members who is a bit more reserved.
MekO is quiet and lets his actions do the talking; this is reflected in his social media appearances or lack thereof. He appreciates greatness and what it takes to achieve it, and he isn’t afraid to approach the tedious nature of practice to achieve his own glory. This is just what is shown to us in a simple sub-five minute video. Imagine what other secrets and interesting context MekO has locked behind closed doors.
Paint this picture in your mind's eye: a young man captivated by a small LED screen within arms reach of his person - his dark room held in a stark juxtaposition of the bright white and the faintest blue hues reflecting onto his face. Watching his idol win title after title and accolade after accolade.
From that moment on, almost as if it was ingrained deep within is DNA, MekO set on a course that would lead him halfway across the world, but Starcraft would not be his calling. He ventured into the depths of a figurative ocean, his journey into the unknown with Blizzard Entertainment's’ newest intellectual property (IP) in 17 years.
A bright and colorful styled FPS called “Overwatch.”
MekO made his debut during OGN’s Overwatch APEX league alongside teams and players whom we still talk about to this very day. He emerged on a team called LuxuryWatch Blue (LW Blue) who originally played second fiddle to their sister team, LW Red. After battling through the second day of the offline qualifiers, MekO and LW Blue had secured a seat during the regular season, most notably over their sister team, who were thought to be the better team.
They would be placed within Group D with REUNITED, KongDoo Panthera, and team RunAway. After performing well enough to reach second seed in the group stage LW Blue would slot into the playoffs against a team that gave them troubles, BK Stars. They again would prove troublesome and play spoiler to LW Blue and knock them out of the first round of the playoffs.
Despite their 5-8th placing, LW Blue had shown potential and would continue to compete in the following APEX seasons. Shortly after their middling APEX appearance, MekO and a handful of his teammates, from both of LuxuryWatch’s teams, competed in IEM Gyeonggi and would best the fan favorite team, Lunatic-Hai, in the grand finals, 3-1.
Sadly, LW Blue would never find that same level of success they did during IEM Gyeonggi and MekO’s next appearances during APEX Seasons 2 and 3 never resulted in a coveted APEX title. However, during APEX Season 4, LW Blue dropped out of the tournament and subsequently forfeited their remaining games to prepare for their journey to North America to play in the Overwatch League. LW Blue was being signed to the Overwatch League to represent New York as the New York Excelsior.
And since being signed the New York Excelsior (NYXL) have superseded any and all expectations.
MekO and the NYXL have ended their first season of the Overwatch League far and away in first place, going 34-6 in overall matches and 126-4-43 (win/loss/ties) in maps which gives us roughly a 73% map win rate. The next closest team to them in the overall standings was the Los Angeles Valiant who went 27-13 in matches and 100-64-7 in maps.
While most people had them nearly 3rd or 4th and marked them as the weakest all-Korean lineup, the NYXL have consistently made every single stage playoff throughout the first season. From those playoff berths, they’ve managed to make every single final and managed to take home the Stage 2 and Stage 3 titles. They’ve scouted some of the best prospects by adding Libero, JjoNak, and Anamo to the LW Blue core and they’ve maintained such a high level of strategy that you have to give a nod to the coaches.
This team is the best in the world at the moment and they are leading into the inaugural season of the Overwatch League as the favorites for the title.
“Prolific” is an adjective that can be used to describe both Flash and NYXL in their own right but could MekO, and the NYXL, be directly compared to the “god” of Starcraft? No, at least not yet, but he and his team are on a direct course to perhaps one day be able to share that same prestige.
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.