China, as a region within the wide scope of esports, has a lush history with champions in many competitive titles and Overwatch Contenders has a cornucopia of young talented minds married with tantalizing storylines that are begging to be told. However, China is one of the few regions that has seen extremely little representation in the way of content creation, analysis and narrative discovery.
From the forgotten tales of Miraculous Youngster dueling with Star Horn Royal Club, to LGD searching for the extra edge to propel them to their first title win, Chinese Overwatch has a bright future that should be documented and celebrated.
With two weeks of Overwatch Contenders completed, it’s high time we take a deep dive into how China as a region is progressing and discover a buried world left in the dark for nearly two years.
And it all begins with an exploration of the color and style of Chinese Overwatch.
Each region has their own metagame and one beautiful example of this fact on display happened during the North American and European Contenders showmatch. Europe ran its signature four tank setup where North America tried its hand at different variations of Dive and Widowmaker centric compositions. Now, it’s not about who came out on top, it’s about how vastly different each region looks at the game. Chinese esports tends to follow a certain stigma of aggression and a compulsion to take overly optimistic positions -- and I’m pleased to announce that Chinese Overwatch is no different.
Chinese Overwatch is driven by aggression and momentum.
What I will say is that not every team plays with near reckless abandon. Teams like the reigning champions, Lucky Future Zenith and the Shanghai Dragon’s academy team, Team CC, play with much more patience and less a tendency to pull the trigger and dive when their team finds a kill. This could be due to a number of reasons, but a prevailing cause is that both of these teams have been influenced by other regions.
Take for instance a team like Flag Gaming. This is your tried and true Dive centric team who relies on using heroes with more mobility to create either heavy burst damage windows with surgical precision or they use that same mobility to create a scrappy chaotic fight that leaves the enemy stunned. Even into compositions where you’d question if Dive is the correct choice, they seem to default to it in comfort rather than think it is the strongest standard option given to them. If you see them exit spawn with anything but Dive, you can bet on the fact that if the push is halted in any way, Flag Gaming will just reset and swap to Dive and attempt to start the momentum engine.
Within the Dive skeleton, China has a very distinct way to play Genji that seems to permeate throughout most of the region. Lovingly dubbed “Man Genji,” this style of Genji primarily relies on the fact that your Genji is seemingly more comfortable with taking long flank routes away from any tank or support assistance. This was put on full display during Week 1 with many teams opting to run some variation of Reinhardt, Zarya, Widowmaker and Genji on maps like King’s Row and Rialto.
Additionally, within Week 1 we have seen more Ana than we’ve seen in a long time. And yes, we are playing on patch 1.24 with Ana’s improved Biotic Rifle and increased ammo capacity, but this trend is not replicated too terribly much outside of China. However, Ana isn’t the only large non-meta change that China, as a region, has different about it. During Week 1 we’ve seen teams add a dash of Doomfist to their compositions along with triple DPS setups.
Darkhorse Young Beyond
There is a shark in the murky waters of Overwatch Contenders China and it smells blood.
Legend Young Beyond (LYB) as a team has had a quite extensive history in Chinese Overwatch dating all the way back to 2016, but it’s their recent roster moves that have made things much more interesting. During March of this year, LYB’s full Chinese roster parted ways with the organization and a majority of the players went to a smaller Chinese esports organization called Moss Seven Club. Replacing them is a handful of unknown South Korean players with almost no history between them.
While we don’t have any historical data points, LYB’s new Korean Overwatch stable has seized their own destiny very early with a week one win over last years second place team, LGD Gaming, 3-1. Some of their more notable players after their first two weeks in Contenders China include their main tank Won “Wonz” Ji-seop, whos mid round heroics secured a nearly lost map on Control, and their godly projectile DPS player Lee “WATER” Min-sung who takes both Shimada brothers to another level.
In an absolute barnburner of a match, LYB fell to the creative stylings of Moss Seven Club to round out Week 2. Even with their star DPS player, WATER, playing at full capacity, it still was not enough to topple the flexible giants. LYB don’t have any room to breathe in Group B as next week they face Hero Taciturn Panther who tie them in match record, 1-1. However, LYB takes the map differential with one extra map win.
With some work on their cohesion to shave down their overly aggressive and scrappy elements, LYB could easily be a team that upsets the status quo. Contenders are situated as a platform to continue stories and when you see a team start their journey here, you should pay them some attention. If you're looking for a dark horse pick or you’re just a fan of watching a Genji get Reflect kills on Pharah, Legend Young Beyond is your team.
Luck Not Included
Lucky Future Zenith is your Overwatch Contenders China Season 1 champions and they don’t look like they are slowing down anytime soon. Leading off Week 1 with a convincing 4-0 over Future Group, Lucky Future Zenith is the team to beat in Contenders China.
With bits and bolts from a smattering of South Korean teams, namely Ardeont, Meta Athena, Afreeca Freecs and Mighty AOD, Lucky Future Zenith have some of the best team play coupled with amazingly talented players. Projectile DPS specialist Jeong “Erster” Joon and hitscan star Bae “diem” Min-seong made their names on the South Korean team, Mighty AOD.
While the team never managed to reach the heights of their potential, they managed to surprise many fans during APEX Season 3 with a strong string of performances in Group A alongside the French superstars Rogue, KongDoo Panthera and the reigning champions, Lunatic-Hai. After their victory during Overwatch Contenders Season 1, Lucky Future Zenith shifted their roster as they acquired Meta Athena’s main tank from Contenders Trials, Bong “Marve1” Woo-yeon and moving Bong “Sowhat” Woo-yeon back to their sister team, Lucky Future.
If we double back and remember what some of the new heroes that Chinese Overwatch has made a shift towards, it should terrify you to know that their support line is absolutely bulletproof. Both Yoo "Lucid" Jun-seo and Park “iDK” Ho-jin have played together previously on Afreeca Freecs Blue and their comfort picks in Ana and Lucio are becoming more and more vogue as the metagame widens. Bringing world-class experience to the backline, iDK and Lucid are easily Overwatch League caliber. They might be overlooked for their insanely flashy DPS players, but rest assured - the offense is backed by amazing support players.
Week 2 Power Rankings
1. Lucky Future Zenith
2. Team CC
3. Moss Seven Club
4. Legend Young Beyond
5. LGD Gaming
6. LinGan e-Sports
7. Hero Taciturn Panther
8. T1w Esports Club
9. Lucky Future
10. Triple Six Legend
11. Flag Gaming
12. Future Group
Upcoming Matches (Week 3)
(Team/Match record/Map record)
Legend Young Beyond (1-1) (4-0-4) vs Hero Taciturn Panther (1-1) (3-0-5)
T1w Esports Club (2-0) (7-0-1) vs Future Group (0-2) (0-0-8)
LinGan e-Sports (2-0) (7-0-1) vs Lucky Future Zenith (2-0) (8-0-0)
LGD Gaming (1-1) (4-0-5) vs Moss Seven Club (1-1) (4-1-3)
Flag Gaming (0-2) (1-0-7) vs Triple Six Legend (0-2) (1-0-7)
Team CC (2-0) (6-1-1) vs Lucky Future (0-2) (3-0-6)
Week 3 Predictions
Legend Young Beyond [ 3 - 1 ] Hero Taciturn Panther
T1w Esports Club [ 4 - 0 ] Future Group
LinGan e-Sports [ 1 - 3 ] Lucky Future Zenith
LGD Gaming [ 1 - 3 ] Moss Seven Club
Flag Gaming [ 1 - 3 ] Triple Six Legend
Team CC [ 4 - 0 ] Lucky Future
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 and Banana Culture.