The inaugural Overwatch Contenders Pacific Showdown was a masterclass in just how strong many teams outside of the Overwatch League actually are. At the end of the day, Element Mystic continued their run of brilliance capturing the title and securing South Korea an added seed at the Gauntlet. They marched their way to victory going undefeated and only dropping three total maps throughout the entire event. This statement victory solidifies them as the strongest team in the Pacific region, but there were more than just success driven narratives developed at the Showdown. Here are some of my biggest takeaways from Pacific Showdown.
Instability, lack of preparation, and a poor map draft all spelled disaster for the Chinese favorites, LGE.Huya.In LGE’s match against Talon Esports, the team struggled against Talon’s Mei focused compositions and blundered away a massive lead going into the final fight on Nepal Sanctum. One fight was all they need to retake the point and start the series 1-0, however, the usual spotless student, Tang "KaMi" Yitao, had other plans. To ensure the victory, he positioned a little aggressively on Doomfist and was picked off early leading to Talon’s engage and eventual victory. Now the ball was in LGE’s court. The map one loss gave them the following map pick which should have been an advantage for them. However, they picked King’s Row, a map Talon Esports knows all too well and frequently utilizes Mei both on Attack and Defense. To me, this shows either a lack of preparation and scouting or the team wearing their rigidity on their sleeve. Rigidity both in the sense of only showing success on one composition and failing to adapt to the enemy team’s strategy. Towards the end of LGE’s attack their Sombra ace, Zhong "Haker" Haotian, felt the need to switch to Ashe in desperation. Let it be known that he has not had a significant amount of time off his Sombra pick--ever, so this swap to Ashe was shocking, to say the least. And on the final map, Horizon Lunar Colony, Talon continued to force the Mei on Attack which still caught T1w off guard. The Chinese team showed signs of life with Haker finding some key hacks onto the enemy Mei and Ana player, He "Molly" Chengzhi, finding some clutch Biotic Grenades on Point A. Sadly LGE was unable to secure the win on their final push with their win condition available.Haker went on social media to clarify his position on why he made the swap to Ashe."I think you can tell that EMP is useless when you watched [it] live,” he said. “I thought our damage was not enough to kill [the] enemy, so I switched." Haker also went on the clarify that the team was also having a difficult time bridging the language barrier with their Korean tank line.LGE.Huya not only was the first team eliminated from the event, but they also cost the Chinese region a spot at the Gauntlet. With Haker’s impending retirement and the team's disappointing performance at the Pacific Showdown, I would not be shocked to see LGE.Huya restructures and builds around their Chinese core.
Pacific Shouldn’t Be Overlooked
Talon Esports had a stand out performance at the Pacific Showdown, but it began with some surprising day one calls.Talon Esports opened the event in their first meeting with T1w Esports. This match was a decisive victory for T1w and Talon looked fairly flat. When put up against such a team that is prone to pulling out some strange compositions, there was no flair in return from Talon. None of their comforts picks and unorthodox strategies that we saw from them in their domestic final. Now, this was remedied in their match against LGE.Huya and advancing into the lower bracket where they played a much more interesting rematch against T1w Esports, filled with their signature Mei pick amongst other things.Talon Esports young main tank Kim "MuZe" Young-hun was put on display and held his own against many of Pacifics better Reinhardt players. He and longstanding Thai veteran, Ubon "oPuTo" Dara, were absolute standouts at the event showcasing both flexibility and raw mechanical skill. They managed to retain their regions Gauntlet seed. But out of everything, they showed that the Pacific region should not be overlooked. This small victory and their regional presence at the Gauntlet show help to harbor more fans and respect for a very dangerous region.
T1w Esports Steps Up
Chinese Overwatch is always lovingly pinned as “wacky” and “weird” but no one really embodies the moniker like T1w Esports.T1w’s Contenders playoff performance seemed to signal that things internally were taking a turn for the worse. Despite that, they somehow managed to crawl their way to the Pacific Showdown. I think the claim is very presumptuous, but I think it’s based in a sliver of truth. I don’t think you advance first in your group in dominant fashion and then proceed to nearly lose to the fourth seed from the opposing group and the third seed from your own group without something happening behind the scenes.However, T1w looked jovial on stage and showed a revitalized sense of confidence in their matches against their first few matches Element Mystic and Talon Esports. They returned to their roots on Control playing numerous DPS focused compositions and they leaned on their Doomfist specialist, Tan "Mijia" Xujie to help turn the tide on Assualt and Hybrid. His performance on his signature hero alongside DPS ace and Chinese Overwatch veteran Liao "MoLanran" Yang were paramount in the teams shockingly deep run at the event.This return to form would come into question as the team prepared for the lower bracket finals against O2 Blast. And unfortunately, a lot of those regular season problems began to arise outside of their fairly close Control map. Both Tan "illusion" Li and Han "Silver3" Haibo were mispositioning constantly and were caught out a number of times. As well as the team generally playing on the back foot constantly. When T1w did win a team fight and secured some space, they looked solid, but regaining that space seemed to be a problem.All in all, T1w Esports had an impressive showing at the Showdown. They were a team that no one expected to make such a deep run and for that, you have to give them credit. They had their ups and their downs, but a third-place finish is nothing to scoff at.
Business As Usual
Element Mystic entered the event as the obvious favorite, they showed why they were easily the best team at the event and walked away with the inaugural title. Everything was business as usual for the veteran Korean team. All tournament long, Element Mystic was able to dominate with a style all their own. Imposing their will at every turn. During their domestic run, Element Mystic popularized a composition focused around Doomfist and Sombra piloted by DPS aces, Kim "Sp9rk1e" Yeong-han and Kim "Doha" Dong-ha. These two players have not only continuously been standouts Contenders wide, but they’ve garnered recognition worldwide as some of the most talented players outside of the Overwatch League. With a star-studded support staff around them, Element Mystic trounced over the competition in front of them. With that said, they do have a tendency to kind of goof around and not take every match seriously. I believe that the map they dropped against T1w Esports could be an example of this very phenomenon happening. Element Mystic had a solid defense against T1w on King’s Row, but floundered out and was full held on Point A--which is a rare occurrence for such an outstanding team. This problem would not persist throughout the rest of the event as Element Mystic casually walked past most of their opponents. This leaves us with the question; if Element Mystic continues to dominate Overwatch Contenders Korea, where, if ever, will they find an equal?That question may be answered this October at the freshman showing of the Overwatch Contenders Gauntlet.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.