Friday, 6 April 2018

2018 Overwatch League Transfer Window Grades

The signing window is officially over! The players on the roster from April 4th are the players who will be playing for OWL teams from now until the end of the season. With the window now closed, it’s the perfect time to review the current team rosters and evaluate what moves worked, what moves need time and what moves look like they’ll bomb from the get go. The first tests of team management are in, so let’s take a look at the outcomes.

To come up with a fair evaluation system, I’m going to be grading each teams transitions from A-F. I’ll give a description of the moves each teams made and my views on how I feel it will turn out and what alternative moves could possibly have been made. This is the first ever mid-season transfer window closure, so I expect some hits and misses. I’ve written this in alphabetical order by city so let’s get into this review.

Boston Uprising – C

Player Moves: None

Despite all the speculation that the Uprising were going to trade all of their Korean players to other teams due to communication/language barrier issues. Chris “Huk” Loranger, Da-Hee “Crusty” Park and the Uprising have held firm, making no roster moves what so ever and keeping faith in the team that narrowly missed out on the stage one playoffs and finished in a comfortable mid table position in stage two, they currently hold the 6th and final spot for the end of season playoffs and their overall play hasn’t shown any signs that they shouldn’t take the 5th/6th spot, going into the season finale.

To me there’s two clear area’s where they can improve and potentially had the opportunity to make moves. The first is the fact that with how prominent D’Va currently is within the meta, Lucas "Note" Messiner’s play is currently only ranking him as the 15th best D’va according to Winston’s Lab behind back up Woo-yeol "Kalios" Shin. With Kang-Jae “Envy” Lee being released by the LA Valiant and having spent a good amount of time in LA as part of the Immortals roster. Envy would have been an instant upgrade for the Uprising as he’s arguably one of the top three off tanks in the league so far during season one.

The second area where support is needed is within the teams supports. While Se-Hyeon "Neko" Park has been playing well and has a starting spot on lock, his support partners haven’t provided him or the team with the same level of play. Kristian "Kellex" Keller hasn’t played well and is currently ranked 14th as Mercy and 12th best Lucio and both Connor "Avast" Prince and Mikias "Snow" Yohannes have seen little to no play time respectively. 

They require someone who can allow Neko to focus on his Zen play and the Uprising could have their answer by dipping into their academy team. Harrison "Kruise" Pond’s return from DPS to support with Toronto Esport has been a successful one as they are currently atop of NA Contenders Group A and his hero pool in the current meta allows the Uprising versatility in support. This could have been a straight swap, between the two teams for either Avast or Snow. Kruise also has the benefit of knowing basic Korean, allowing him to potentially help Young-Jin "Gamsu" Noh with communication.

Dallas Fuel – C+

Player Moves In: Dylan "aKm" Bignet (FA), Dong-Jun "Rascal" Kim (Transferred from London Spitfire), Min-Seok "OGE" Son (OWL FA from Conbox), Benjamin “Unkoe” Chevasson (Traded from LA Valiant)

Player Moves Out: Feli "xQc" Lengyel (Released), Scott "Custa" Kennady (Traded to LA Valiant)

If you need the epitome or dictionary definition of a clown fiesta, then look no further than the Dallas Fuel of stage one and two. To some that may seem like a harsh summary, but the Fuel have gone from the “Western” hope of being the one team from the west to rival the three Korean teams, to being an absolute shambles with how they’ve played. Currently languishing at 3rd from bottom in the league, there has been no end of drama for the Fuel.

Things came to a head when constant behavioural issues cased two, four game suspensions from main tank Felix “xQc” Lengyel leading to his release from the team. A complete lack of leadership has been evident from the Fuel and this is coming from the top down. This hasn’t changed with the teams new signings either. A miscommunication due to the English/Korean language barrier between Dong-Jun "Rascal" Kim and Kyle "Kyky" Souder & Dylan "aKm" Bignet lead to Rascal missing games, allegations arose around Min-Soek "OGE" Son and him boosting prior to his signing and this resulted in him also receiving a 4 game ban.

There’s also been a lot of backlash towards Kyky due to his lack of openness around the team, the behind the scene’s issues but also the fact that there seemed to be one strategy of pocketing aKm. Finally they traded the team leader and shot caller in Scott "Custa" Kennedy to reunite ex-Rogue player Benjamin "UnKoe" Chevasson with aKm. UnKoe currently has a reputation for being very vocal and being one of the reasons the atmosphere has been so back with in the LA Valiant. Considering the atmosphere within the Fuel themselves hasn’t been the best, it looks like the Fuel are playing a dangerous game with the amount of swapping players in and out.

Florida Mayhem – B-

Player Moves In: Sung-Hoon "aWesomeGuy" Kim (OWL FA from Meta Athena), Jeong-Woo "Sayaplaya" Ha (OWL FA from Meta Athena), Joonas "Zappis" Alakurtti (OWL FA from Gigantti)

Staff Moves In: Hyun-Jin “R2der” Choi (As Assistant Coach From Meta Athena), Matthew Akhavan (Team Manager)

Prior to OWL, things looked good for the Contenders EU: Season one runner’s up and bronze medallists from the OWWC. The Mayhem looked like they were going to be in a good position going into the season. However, the change to the Mercy meta, a struggling tank and support line and no real behind the scene’s coaching support, affected the Mayhem more than people expected it too.

They have re-upped during the transfer window, bringing in a team manager in Akhavan, which should allow TviQ to focus on his game instead of driving the team to the arena, and then three of Meta Athena’s most popular members in coach Hyun-Jin “R2der” Choi, much needed main tank Sung-Hoon "aWesomeGuy" Kim should come into the starting line up shortly and replace a struggling Johan "CWoosH" Klingestedt and star DPS McCree and Tracer player Jeong-Woo "Sayaplaya" Ha has all of the ability to become a star player of the league. The three of these plus the WWE style introduction of Joonas "Zappis" Alakurtti with his Zarya will help a Mayhem that was slowly turning around there horrible start towards the end of stage 2, become a mid-table team at least.

Houston Outlaws – C-

Player Moves In: Russell "FCTFCTN" Campbell (FA), Woon-Hyeop "Arhan" Jeong (OWL FA from Meta Athena)

Despite there being two teams who haven’t made a single change during this transfer window, The Houston have probably had the most underwhelming window out of all twelve teams and especially out of those team’s considered a contender after stage one. While they tried to deny they were a team that was favoured by the Mercy meta, Houston dropped off to start stage two as the changes effected them more than they expected. The signing of Russell "FCTFCTN" Campbell has meant they now have 4 out of the 6 USA OWWC players, making them America’s team. However, it’s not a move that made sense seeing as the Outlaw’s tank line of Coolmatt and Muma is currently a top three combination. FCTFCTN has the skill level to be a starter on any team that’s not Seoul, London, New York or Houston so it kind of feels that his arrival is a bit unnecessary.

While Woon-Hyeop "Arhan" Jeong coming over from Meta Athena is a nice signing for the Outlaws, it doesn't address their one DPS need in a Tracer specialist. Arhan great ability with Genji but his level of play on Tracer, isn't that much diffrerent to Linkzr or any other DPS player already on the team. Arhan will struggle in game with communication as he doesn't speak English at all, so it's going to be a while before he can even be on the same level comms wise to play. While the meta is back in their favour, I'm sceptical about the Outlaw and can see them drop further down the table after this window.

London Spitfire - B-

Player Moves In: Jang-Hyeon "Tizi" Hwang (OWL FA from Runaway)

Player Moves Out: Chan-Hyung "Fissure" Baek (Traded to LA Gladiators), Dong-Jun "Rascal" Kim (Traded To Dallas Fuel)

Staff Moves In: Susie Kim - (General Manager)

Staff Moves Out: Beoum-Jun "Bishop" Lee (Left as Head Coach)

The Spitfire had the biggest challenge coming in to the first OWL season as they had to combine two of Korea’s best teams in GC Busan and Kongdoo Panthera plus adding Jun-Ho “Fury” Kim and Jong-Seok “NUS” Kim into the equation as well. While they have done this well and have made themselves perennial contenders after winning stage one and finishing 3rd in stage two, there was always likely to be a little bit of rumblings about play time. This resulted in two trades that while were unexpected, were likely unavoidable in the long run.

Dong-Jun “Rascal” Kim who was a part of probably the strongest DPS corps in the league requested a trade after not getting the playing time his skill level required and was transferred to the Dallas Fuel. Chan-Hyung “Fissure” Baek, who had only played 3 maps the entirety of stage one. Was transferred to the LA Gladiators despite wanting to stay with his former KDP teammates and fight for his position

These moves left the Spitfire with only 10 players, affecting their ability for internal scrims but also left Gesture as the sole main tank on the roster. To help with this, the Spitfire brought in Jang-Hyeon “Tizi” Hwang the main tank from Korean side Runaway. Tizi comes in knowing that he is likely to be the back up behind Gesture but his aggressive play will likely fit in well with the team and give Gesture some valuable rest. However, despite the rumours of Kongdoo Panthera Flex Jin-Hyeok “DDing” Yang joining the Sptifire, there’s currently been no announcement. Leaving the team with three DPS players and no specialist Pharah player, on a stage where Oasis is the tiebreaker map.

There have also been changes behind the scenes as half way through stage two, the team announced that Head Coach Beoum-Jun “Bishop” Lee had agreed to depart the team. Although there were rumours of there being disquiet between Bishop and the team, the reason was never released leading the team to be in the capable hands of coaches Chang-Geun “Changgoon” Park and Jeong-Min “JFeel” Kim who continue to coach the teams they came over with.

They have however strengthened their back room staff by hiring Susie “Lilsusie” Kim as their General Manager. Susie has a wealth of both knowledge and experience within the esports scene, with a background in Starcraft, League of Legends and now Overwatch that will help push the team further. She’s also go experience in helping foreign players acclimatised to living in America, having previously helped LoL team LMQ so the same a few years ago.

Los Angeles Gladiators – B+

Players In: Chan-Hyung "Fissure" Baek (Transferred From Spitfire), Jun-Woo "Void" Kang (OWL FA From Kongdoo Panthera) Ted "Silkthread" Wong (Transferred from Valiant)

To me the Gladiators have managed to go from near the bottom to playoff contenders with their signings during this window. They filled their biggest need when they acquired Chan-Hyung "Fissure" Baek from the Spitfire, as he’s a top three tank in the world and gives them a huge range of flexibility by being able to play all three main tank roles and while Luiz "iRemiix" Figueroa was adequate as the team’s starting tank. Fissure will give and already has started to change this team’s fortunes as he is now a main targeting focus. 

It’s not just the main tank that has seen an upgrade though, it’s the entire tank line as Jun-Woo "Void" Kang was brought into continue his tank line partnership with Fissure back when they both played for Kongdoo Panthera. Void is a D’Va main who Christopher "Montecristo" Mykles has deemed as being one of the best in the world. The Gladiators will hope that the synergy is still there between the two as they will be relying on them to be able to connect the DPS and Support lines effectively. The down side to this is that Hyeong-Seok "Bishu" Kim, who’s been the teams English/Korean translator will likely head to the bench and this could lead to a communication problem.

Ted "Silkthread" Wong is finally free from Vallhella. After playing in a few games in stage one, Silkthread had little to no play time in Stage two and this has resulted in him being transferred across LA. With the ability to play Tracer, Solider:76, Genji and Pharah. Silkthread gives the Gladiators more depth and flexibility to their DPS corps by being able to play both hitscan and projectile DPS roles. Silkthread is also being paired up with an ex-teammate from Counter Logic Gaming in Joao Pedro Goes "Hydration" Telles.

Los Angeles Valiant – B-

Players In: Jun-Hyeok “Bunny” Chae (Traded From LA Valiant), Scott “Custa” Kennedy (Traded From Dallas Fuel), Kyle “KSF” Frandanisa (OWL FA From Simplicity), Finnbjorn “ Finnsi” Jonasson (OWL FA From Orgless and Hungry), Indy “Space” Halpern (Age Eligible) & Min-Chul "Need" Kim (OWL FA From Foxes)

Players Out: Benjamin “Unkoe” Chevasson (Traded To Dallas Fuel), Kang-Jae “Envy” Lee (Released), Christopher “Grimreality” Schaefer (Moved To Coaching Position) & Ted “Silkthread” Wang (Transferred To Los Angeles Gladiators)

Staff In: Byung-Chul “Mbc” Moon (Head Coach), Mike Schwartz (Coach), Christopher “Grimreality” Schaefer (Player To Coach) & Warsi FARAAZ “Stoop” Waris (Assistant Coach)

Staff Out: Henry “Cuddles” Coxall (Left As Head Coach)

It’s been an In-N-Out situation for the Valiant in more ways that one this transfer window and it’s resulted in a major overhaul amount the roster that started the season. With rumours swirling around that the atmosphere within the Valiant team was toxic to say the least and then the now infamous meeting that Owner Noah Winston with Brady “Agilities” Girardi in regards to his and the team’s attitude, changes were required to turn the tide and the Valiants season.

When Henry “Cuddles” Coxall was released at the end of the first stage, a lot of people myself included didn’t understand why. As the team had just finished outside of the playoffs and stronger than most people had expected, it’s now clear to see that the problem started from the top down and has been slowly rooted out by new Head Coach Byung-Chul “Mbc” Moon.

The first and biggest casualty player was Off-Tank Kang-Jae “Envy” Lee. He was rated as the number one D’Va player in the league and his synergy with Main Tank Pan-Seung “Fate” Koo had allowed the Valiant to be more competitive in stage two than they should have. However, with rumours of Envy and Mbc clashing over the direction of the team, two failed trades offers for Brandon “Seagull” of the Dallas Fuel and Jae-Mo “Xepher” Koo of the Seoul Dynasty and the arrival of North American potential Space. Envy was released from his contract.

The ex Rogue DPS/Support duo of Terence “So0n” Tarlier and Benjamin “Unkoe” Chevasson was separated after reports of Unkoe providing towards the negative energy and Unkoe not playing up to expectations. He was traded for shot caller and in game leader Scott “Custa” Kennedy, whose known positive attitude again helped turn the team into the right direction and gives them a solid voice to lead. 

The two back up DPS player in Christopher “Grimreality and Ted “Silkthread” Wong made their own departures from the active roster. With Silkthread wanting more playing time he was transferred to LA rivals the Gladiators while Grimreality deciding that moving to a coaching role would be more beneficial to him. The Valiant have made great strides to turning the team around. Finally the team have found their Lucio specialist, by picking up NC Foxes main support Min-Chul "Need" Kim. Need will likely be able to come in sooner rather than later thanks to the team already having Fate on the roster.

New York Excelsior – B

Players In: Tae-Sung “Amamo” Jung (OWL FA From Ardent)

Staff In: Se-Cheul “Zet” Son (Assistant Coach)

Currently the best team in the league the New York Excelsior, who finished runners up in stage one and winning stage two, have made one signing to improve the team further. With DPS player Do-Hyeon “Pine” Kim suffering from health issues, Hae-Song “Libero” Kim is likely to be playing more of a DPS than his regular flex role. So while this takes the NYXL up to a total of 9 players, Tae-Sung “Amamo” Jung is a Lucio specialist who will be able to come in most likely control maps and help support the best team in the league further in case of another injury to star support Yeon-Jun “Ark” Hong.

Philadelphia Fusion – C

Players In: Simon “Snillo” Ekstrom (Age Eligible)

While the Fusion is a good team and had a great run to finish 2nd in stage two, I’m still not 100% ready to declare them title contenders. While Simon “Snillo” Ekstrom is now age eligible to play in the league and has proved himself to be a very capable Tracer specialist in certain situations. The Fusions made absolutory no changes to improve the team. While the DPS corps of Jae-Hyeok “Carpe” Lee, Josue “EQO” Corona, Georgii “Shadowburn” Gushcha and Snillo look good, there’s still questions in my mind about the consistency of Main Tank and whether the Support duo of Isaac “Boombox” and Alberto Gonzalez “Neptuno” Molinillo can continue to provide the needed support to progress further.

San Francisco Shock – B+

Players In: Min-Ho “Architect” Park (OWL FA From X6), Grant “Moth” Espe (OWL FA From Toronto Esports), Hyo-Bin “ChioHyoBin” Choi (OWL FA From X6) Jay “Sinatraa” Wong (Age Eligible) & Matthew “Super” DeLisi (Age Eligible)

Staff In: Jae-Won “Junkbuck” Choi (Assistant Coach)

The San Francisco Shock is about to go from the team that you wrote off for the first two stages to the team that everyone needs to watch out for. While they now have a young roster, they also have some of the best up and coming players in the league.

Min-Ho “Architect” Park who has Montecristo well and truly signed up to for fan boy status bring with him the reputation of a fearsome Genji and a Junkrat that is likely to challenge that of Houston Outlaws Jake. Comes into the league with a lot of hype and with fellow Korean player Hyo-Bin “ChioHyoBin” Choi playing at Off Tank and instantly strengthening a clear weakness, the Korean duo should make an imitate impact.

The real buzz however, is around the Shock’s two North American youngsters, Mr 150k Jay “Sinatraa” Wong and Main Tank Matthew “Super” DeLisi. While Dante “Danteh” Cruz went from average to good in the role of Tracer, Sinatraa is a step about his fellow DPS player with the hero. He will come in and likely pair up with Architect on Genji or Andreas “Nevix” Karlsson who’s potentially moving back to a more comfortable DPS role. Super comes in to play as an Main-Tank dispite coming in with a reputation on both D’Va and Roadhog. He should slot straight into the starting line up and has every opportunity to strike up a partnership with ChoiHyoBin instantly. With him playing more main tank he will get to show his well timed aggression. Super will turn heads from the get go.

Touted as the best Mercy player in North America, Grant “Moth” Espe has come in from Toronto Esport and played a vial role on a team that struggled from the support position outside of Zenyatta main Nikola “Sleepy” Andrews. While not holding an overly deep hero pool Moth will be able to provide instant support to both the team and his fellow support with better positioning and decision making that they had previously.

Seoul Dynasty – B-

Players In: Jin-Woo “Gambler” Ho (OWL FA From Busan Blossom) & Min-Soo “Kox” Kim (OWL FA From Runaway)

Players Out: Jun-Hyeok “Bunny” Chae (Traded To LA Valiant)

Staff In: Yoon-Ho “Bubbly” Cho (Assistant Coach)

Seoul Dynasty, the team that was every analyst’s favourite to win the first season of OWL have been anything but the standout many expected. While players such as Byung-Sun “Fleta” Kim who was brought in prior to the season started have shined, both the Tank and Support lines for the Dynasty haven’t been up to the level that was expected of them. To make room to make these moves Jun-Hyeok “Bunny” Chae was traded to the Valiant.

Jin-Woo “Gambler” Ho has been brought in to be pair up with Gi-Do “Gido” Moon in support and give him some much needed guidance while giving the team an aggressive style of Lucio compared to Tobi’s more defensive approach. While having leader and star support Je-Hong “Ryujehong” Ryu, the Dynasty supports have seemed confused at times and not sure what the correct approach to take is. Gambler should provide some reassurance and confidence into a struggling area

Now we all know how much Erik “DOA” Lonnquist likes Kox, we’ll be able to see his love for Kox on a more regular basis now that the Dynasty are rumoured to have picked him up as a free agent. While the Support corps is struggling the tank line for the Dynasty is just straight up lost. Despite having some of the biggest names in the position with Joon-Hyeok “Zunba” Kim, Jin-Hyuk “Miro” Gong and Jae-Mo “Xepher” Koo, the peel or protection for either DPS or Support line isn’t there. Kox will come in and provide instant improvement to that group with his ability to play Ana and Zen and potentially play more off-tank as Xepher who’s not looked good all season and should be able to give the other lines the time they need to put in the results that’s expected of them.

Yoon-Ho “Bubbly” Cho is a highly respected coach coming over from Kongdoo Uncia. As an ex-player, Bubbly will be able to understand the pressures of the game and see the game from both points of view. From a player moral perspective alone, this is a good pick up for the Dynasty. 

Shanghai Dragons – A

Players In: Gi-Hyeon “Ado” Chon (OWL FA From MVP Space),Eui-Seok “ Fearless” Lee (OWL FA From Element Mystic), Se-Yeon “Geguri” Kim (OWL FA From Rox Ocas) Junjian “Sky” He (OWL FA From Miraculous Youngster) & Dae-Min “Daemin” Kim (OWL FA From NRG Esports)

Players Out: Fang “Undead” Chao (Released)

Staff In: Xiao “Creed” Yan (Assistant Coach) & Xingrui “RUI” Wang (Coach)

Staff Out: Chongshan “U4” Chen (Head Coach)

They may not have won a game in the league after two stages, but the Shanghai Dragons did win the transfer window with the moves they made. It will take a while for the five new players to get used to both their teammates and the competition, but the Dragons have made huge steps in the right direction to get that first win, which should appear this split.

Gi-Hyeon “Ado” Chon comes in as the teams Genji specialist and will look to provide pressure to the back lines of the opposition that the team has desperately needed. Brining in Ado also allows skilled DPS player Diya to focus more on his hitscan style of play and be used to the best of his ability. Also at DPS is deadline signing Dae-Min “Daemin” Kim, who will come in and play both short and long range hitscan DPS while also being able to flex into an Off-Tank role to provide a huge amount of flexibility the team didn’t have previously.

The biggest weakness the Dragons have had in the first two weeks outside of their previous coaches was that they had a Tank line that didn’t have any ability to soak up pressure. While the trio of MG, Roshan & Xushu tried their best to compete at this level, they were the clear weakness for their team again and again. Eui-Seok “ Fearless” Lee and Se-Yeon “Geguri” Kim are going to be instant improvements for the Dragons at Main and Off Tank and the supports including Altering will actually be able to get some breathing room to work. While Geguri is the biggest name of the five new signings, it will be her and Fearless’s job to unite a Korean DPS line to a Chinese back line, which will be no small feat.

The famed Chinese Overwatch power house Miraculous Youngster has finally had players and staff being picked up by Shanghai. While some have moved to the Dragons Contenders China team Junjian “Sky” He, previously known as Zhufanjun, comes in at support to provide a viable Ana and Zenyatta, while ex MY Captain Xiao “Creed” Yan comes with former MY Head Coach Xingrui “RUI” Wang into coaching positions behind now Head Coach Jun-Young “ Kong” Son.

Chongshan “U4” Chen who was the teams previous Head Coach was released while looking largely out of his depth at the OWL level and DPS player Fang “Undead” Chao was released after stories of his personal life became major news. The Dragons are now in a great position to make some noise and have the support of the entire community to get that first win


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