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LGE.Huya’s road to redemption

Volamel 2019-08-20 12:42:22
  Disappointment was the only emotion that emanated from the Pacific Showdown if you followed the Chengdu Hunter’s academy team, LGE.Huya. The team’s showing at the event was surprisingly disappointing. What was once a vibrant and commanding team now looked washed out and worn. The color they once showcased ran like candle wax as their midseason burned in front of their eyes. Their performance was despondent and flat which resulted in China losing a seed at the Gauntlet, a result no one would have expected after such a dominant regular season.  After going on an 8-0 match win streak and only losing 2 maps throughout the entire season, LGE.Huya were sent limping home from the Pacific Showdown with losses against O2 Blast and the Pacific seed, Talon Esports. Going into the event, LGE.Huya looked like odds on favorite to perform the best out of the two Chinese seeds. That team never showed up. As the team regrouped and approached the second season of the year, LGE.Huya would be hit with another blow. The team’s star player and Sombra ace, Zhong "Haker" Haotian, announced that he would be delaying his retirement to finish out the regular season, but would be leaving before the playoffs began.  After their shocking finish from the Pacific Showdown, the wounded team fared better, but still had mountains of homework to do if they were going to get back to their dominant roots. They finished the group stage with a 3-2 record and advanced out of Group A as the second seed. Their two losses were to surprising opponents, but dwelling on that would only cause more disappointment, planning for the playoffs was now their primary goal. Haker’s departure right before playoffs put LGE.Huya in a strange predicament. With their star player stepping away from professional play and the patch locking the roles to 2-2-2, LGE.Huya were fighting a dealer with a stacked deck. Haker was such a focal point to the team's strategy last season in the GOATS metagame. His fluid movement and aggressive mindset was combined well with the roster around him. Losing such an integral member right before the most important part of your season, has to bring its own stress, but LGE.Huya pressed forward. However, they had a contingency plan. With large shoes to fill Choi "MER1T" Tae-min joined the team early this August, but presumably was trialing with the team during the teams Week 5 loss against Phantom Wizard, the team who finished last in Group A. With a loss to the worst team in their group and Haker’s replacement looking anything but promising, things looked bleak. It looked as if they’d simply go back to being a playoff-caliber team and sit just outside of championship contention.  With such a disappointing end to their group stage, it looked as if playoffs were going to be more of the same sad story for LGE.Huya. However, hope remained alive as they glared at their quarterfinal opponents, T1w Esports, whom they shared history with. While LGE.Huya floundered at the Pacific Showdown, T1w Esports thrived, advancing all the way to the losers’ final--something not many people expected. This was a team that was manhandled by LGE.Huya in their domestic qualifier and frankly looked lost in a tank heavy metagame. And now with the imposed 2-2-2 lock, it looked to be T1w’s time to play spoiler to LGE.Huya’s hopes that perhaps they could redeem themselves at the Gauntlet. After going to game five and coming down to the one final fight on Busan - Downtown, LGE.Huya squeaked out a win in one of the closest matches I’ve seen to date. After their narrow victory over T1w Esports, LGE.Huya faced off against the team that was considered the favorite to reign victorious this season, Bilibili Gaming.  For some context, here is Chinese commentator Gai "Alan" Yandahan sharing what the Chinese scene thought of Bilibili Gaming at the time. The team was a dominant force and a massive obstacle for everyone during the regular season--and no one was able to topple them. They cruised through their group stage going 5-0 in matches and going 17-3 in maps.  Somehow, someway, LGE.Huya was able to not only beat them but did so convincingly. After beating the aircraft carrier that was Bilibili Gaming, there wasn’t much that could stand in LGE.Huya’s way. Even though both teams traded blows, it was LGE.Huya’s Choi "JMAC" Dae-Han and Hong "Sven" Eun-teak that stood out as the small edge that helped the underdogs pull ahead. At the start of every engagement, both tank players seemed to not only find more value on each of their cooldowns respectively but were able to work in tandem to great effect. This victory put them on a collision course with another academy team in the grand finals. After advancing ahead of LGE.Huya, the Shanghai Dragons’ academy team, Team CC looked a little shaky heading into playoffs. Nevertheless, they awaited LGE.Huya in the finals after decimating LGD Gaming, 3-0. Luckily enough for LGE.Huya they held a winning record over Team CC as they defeated them during Week 1 of the group stage, 4-0.  All playoffs long, MER1T had been leading the offensive charge--but this performance was something different. Widowmaker, Hanzo, even showing bits of McCree and Reaper, MER1T took the grand finals by the horns with an MVP level performance. This was a testament to how strong he could be across a number of different teams and styles all the while being in a high stakes environment.  Against the odds, LGE.Huya managed to tackle a shift in the metagame, losing their star player, and adapted to a fundamental change in the game. After clearing each hurdle, no matter how high, LGE.Huya is your Overwatch Contenders 2019 Season 2 champions.  A team that many wrote off nearly three months ago, a team that historically never seemed to do that well in playoff situations, now has two Contenders titles to there name. LGE.Huya now sit alongside Lucky Future Zenith as the only two Chinese teams to have two Overwatch Contenders titles in their trophy case. Now, LGE.Huya stands on the precipice with renewed vitality. They’ve adapted to the changes and found a new star player in MER1T. They’ve gone from disappointing to promising. Now it’s time for them to repair their pride at the biggest stage in amateur Overwatch, the Gauntlet.  One chance, one seed, and nine of the world’s best amateur Overwatch teams. China’s hopes at the Gauntlet now lie on the shoulders of an unlikely, but willing candidate.  LGE.Huya’s road to redemption might not be finished.
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 to follow his thoughts you can follow him at @Volamel. Images courtesy of Blizzard Entertainment.

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