Tuesday, 30 July 2019

The Undervaluation of Hyo-Jong "Haksal" Kim

What if I told you that Hyo-Jong "Haksal" Kim of the Vancouver Titans is the most undervalued player in the 2019 season of the Overwatch League? You are likely to think that this is a bad take and usually you would be right. However, despite having a very strong season so far, Haksal is the most undervalued player in the league this season!

After the season the Vancouver Titans have had in their inaugural season, it's hard to believe that a section of analysts, fans, writers and even Overwatch League coaches community that felt that Haksal was the worst player on the Vancouver Titans and that he had been riding his reputation for too long. No player on the Titans roster has received as much scrutiny, both coming in to and during this season as Haksal has. 

When the Titans (then Runaway) won season 2 of 2018's Contenders Korea, there were parts of the community that believed that Haksal may have past his prime. Known for his highlight-reel plays on the likes of Genji, he found it difficult to find a hero that he was able to shine on in the early days of the Goats meta. It gave a perception that he was falling off and not the player he once was. So when the 2019 season came opened its gate, people were still using the thought process that because Haksal was not producing his highlight-reel plays, that Haksal was almost done, despite being one of the Titans most experienced players.

Then, when the games started rolling through the weeks and the Vancouver Titans racked up win after win, Haksal's teammates got the praise for these performances. Sang-Beom "Bumper" Park and Hyeon-Woo "JJANU" Choi were considered the best tank line in the league, Sung-Jun "Slime" Kim and Twilight were constantly receiving praise in the ability to support and output an incredible amount of damage, all the while Haksal, who very clearly worked hard and learn Birgitte as much as he could put in solid performance after solid performance, to little or no acclaim.

It went unnoticed, the same area of the community still called him the Titans weak link, he saw other DPS players such as the San Francisco Shock's Rascal receive continuous praise for how he played Brigitte, yet Haksal went under the radar and this showed with the MVP voting. While Jjanu and Ju-Seok "Twilight" Lee received enough votes from the leagues GM's to be considered as a league MVP, Haksal did not, he got Profited instead. It was only until the league and Ben "CaptainPlanet" Trautman released PIR (Player Impact Rating) that it came to light just how undervalued Haksal had been in the first three stages of the season.

The Player Impact Rating showed how valuable Haksal had been to the Titans by highlighting the impact each player had on team fights and how their performances during these situations affected each one. Using a two-tiered system called impact points to balance out each hero affects on fights it took in several different metrics that produce the same amount of points for each hero over time (you can read more about it here).

After three stages Haksal leads the league with an Impact rating of 123.42 and is over 3 points clear of the next player on the list in DPS partner Seominsoo. Instead of being the over-aggressive one-man army that Brigitte's became throughout Goats, Haksal managed to balance between aggression and healing his teammates with well-timed health packs and perfectly timed Rally ultimates. According to PIR, he ranked in the three for all categories while playing Brigitte and if you look at his per 10 stats alongside this, it’s clear to see the effect he had for the Titans. 

He was 27th in the league for healing with 8,370.62 per 10 minutes, 45th in deaths per 10 minutes with 4.00 and his eliminations (though this will have been inflated after two incredible DPS games on Genji) put him in at 10th with 19.44 per 10 minutes.

While Haksal has been the forgotten hero for the Titans this season, that has already started to change with the introduction of Role Lock. Haksal is back on his favoured projectile heroes and his performances in week 1 of stage 4 showed this for all to see. In the second game of the stage against the Florida Mayhem, Haksal recorded the most Dragonblade kills per 10 minutes in Overwatch League history with a total of 27. The Titans perfectly set up the dive compositions behind his Genji with a pocket Mercy and allowed Haksal to dismantle his opponents, once blade slash at a time. 

This has caused fans and renown analysts to take notice and once again the light is shining on the Vancouver Titans star DPS player. Once again everyone will now say how he is one of the best players in the league, that he will be the driving force behind the wins Vancouver will gain this stage and once more, the team will be his team to push the team forward towards the end of season playoffs.

To many, Haksal has returned to his star DPS billing but this is a friendly reminder that Haksal has been doing it all season, has been the Overwatch Leagues most undervalued player and should be on everyone's radar for rookie of the year.

(You can find more Overwatch League related content on Twitter @haloofthoughts)
(Picture Credit: Robert Paul, Overwatch League & Vancouver Titans)

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