A “wise” caster and analyst for the Overwatch League once said that “Overwatch League is not an anime.” I guess the Shanghai Dragons didn’t get that memo. The franchise that ended with a record of 0-40 in the Inaugural Season has rebuilt itself; it has come into the second season stronger than ever (couldn’t have done worse though); it has completed their redemption arc by defeating the Stage 2 Champions, the San Francisco Shock, in the Stage 3 Playoffs.
As we approach another season of the Overwatch League, I’d like to take a moment to remind everyone the following:
Overwatch League is not an anime.
If someone is bad, then they get cut.
There are no redemption arcs.
Villains can, and often do, win.
— MonteCristo (@MonteCristo) December 26, 2018
It’s true that this Dragons team is not the same one that went on the historic losing streak last year. Nevertheless, this is an impressive turn-around for the franchise and one that should be celebrated! Remember that the Boston Red Sox and the Chicago Cubs organizations were celebrated for ending their championship droughts in 2004 and 2016, respectively, despite the fact that those teams had had roster changes for decades until they found the one that could win.
The sentiment is similar here for the Shanghai Dragons. And while their winless streak may not have been as significant as the two baseball teams mentioned above, it is still an impressive change. Especially for a franchise that couldn’t win a single game in its first season. Look at them now. They’ve become a serious contender for playoff champions.
How it Went Down
The entire stage playoffs were a conflict in play styles between the Dragons and every team they defeated on their way to victory. Their first victims were the New York Excelsior, a team that was favored to win. However, they ultimately choked in the playoffs, as they are prone to doing. They refused to swap off their variations of the GOATS composition in order to combat DDing’s Pharah. In the end, it led them to their demise.
Their next victim were the Vancouver Titans, another team favored to win who also fell to DDing’s Pharah while they stubbornly played their variation of GOATS for the majority of the series. Vancouver were a little more flexible than New York, occasionally swapping to hitscan in an effort to deal with DDing. However, they mostly stuck to GOATS and, just like with New York, it did not work.
This whole playoff run was not just the DDing show, though his impact was the most obvious since he went mostly uncontested for much of it. CoMa and Luffy both played fantastically, rarely dying. This is a difficult feat for Luffy, a support player lacking the extra tank and heal support, due to Shanghai’s tendency to run a Pharah-Mercy combo.
Gamsu’s Orisa and Wrecking Ball managed to hold the front line and cause disruption in opposing compositions. YOUNGJIN flexed his muscles on Doomfist and Roadhog. Lastly, Diem showed once again why he is one of, if not the best, Widowmaker player in the world.
The Grand Finale
All of this together culminated in a nail-biting stage playoff against the San Francisco Shock. It went all the way to 7 maps. Shanghai had a blazing fast start, pushing ahead 3-0, needing only one more map to win. However, the Shock surged back and won their own 3 in a row. The momentum was in San Fran’s favor when Diem put on a clinic with his Widowmaker on Dorado.
He essentially spawn trapped the Shock out of their B spawn for a lengthy duration of time. Shanghai only needed to really push the payload a few meters on the streets phase and they managed to accomplish that task. Thus, they prevented the reverse sweep and claimed the first stage playoff win in Shanghai’s history.
The season playoffs still loom in the distance and represent the ultimate prize for all the eligible teams in the Overwatch League (sorry Florida and Washington). Meanwhile, the Shanghai Dragons Redemption Arc has been completed. This is now a team that has earned back it’s dignity; they’ve become a powerful force within the Overwatch League that no one can take lightly anymore.