With the end of 2017 only days away, Overwatch fans are on the doorstep of OWL but also more than year and a half deep into the game’s time as an esports title with significant offline events. We've seen talents emerge, grow into stardom and some have even already retired. With the game nearing the two-year mark and Blizzard's own league upon us, the discussions for who's the greatest over the course of the game's full history are bound to become more and more popular. Rather than answer this question, however, this articles looks at who, from among of OWL's current players, could come to bear the title of 'Greatest of All Time'.
The considered criteria by which the candidates are selected are current accomplishments, level of performances over time, how important they are to their team's success and versatility, which would help them go through future metagame shifts without skipping a beat.
ryujehong - the front-runner
2x APEX Champion (S2, S3)
Seoul Cup Champion
2x World Cup Champion (2016, 2017)
2nd in APAC Premier 2016
2nd in at IEM Gyeonggi
5th-6th in APEX S4
With all the accolades on their resumes it's hard to argue that Korea's golden boys are the most successful core in Overwatch's brief history as an esport. And of all the players on the team, RJH's is the one who stands out the most. OGN's Season MVPs don't count for too much, as they're decided by fan votes, but the support superstar was still the player with most impact on the team throughout APEX S2 & S3. Additionally, while it was WhoRU who got the final's MVP for APEX S2, the case for it rightfully belonging RJH is more than solid, as he was responsible for a significant portion of the game-changing plays in the series, even if the young Genji specialist had an astounding score line. At times, RJH has been arguably the best player in the world and uNKOE is the only one who's been able to challenge him for the title of 'best flex-support in the world', however, the Frenchman has done a significant portion of his work against weaker competition. What is inarguable though, is the recognition of RJH's ability and impact on the game. In Akshon's interviews with Korean players, he was named as the one they'd start a team with by the vast majority of his peers.
On top of the ability, accolades and recognition, RJH also has the mindset required by one to be the GOAT. Whereas someone like Taimou has been public about burnout issues, what comes through to the English audience from Seoul Dynasty's support is nothing but confidence and aspirations for greatness. In a recent interview for Blizzard he wasn't shy about it with a statement “The strongest team is my team.”. This compliments perfectly an older quote for InvenGlobal: "I want to be a player that people will remember for a long time.". RJH is has poor games and even series and even though more often than not he is the best performer on the server, it is not always the case. RJH has had poor games and even series and it's unlikely he is a robot without dips in motivation and practice time. Nevertheless, when push comes to shove, he's always there for his team, performing at the top of his game.
However, there's also questions about how long he can maintain his current level as, already 26, he's on the older end of esports competitors. He's said himself that he can notice the decline in his reflexes, compared to several years ago. And with young talents like Fleta, Zunba and tobi already on the team, on top of Seoul Dynasty likely being the premier destination for any up-and-coming Korean players, the days of him being 'the man' on the team may very well be numbered, if not already behind him. Even if he continues to amass trophies past that point, the shift would put a soft cap on his greatness -- particularly in a comparison against players of similar ability and accomplishments as their team's first option. Still, for the foreseeable future, no one is close to catching up with RJH and he's the clear front-runner, especially with Seoul Dynasty being the favorite to win OWL S1.
In a position for a potential comeback - Taimou
APEX S1 champion
MLG Vegas champion
4th in APEX S3
Contenders S1 NA champion
2nd in Overwatch Open
3rd-4th at Atlantic Showdown
Part of IDDQD and EnVyUs' winning streaks
This one may come as a slight bit of a surprise to fans who've started following Overwatch's esports scene in more recent times, but Taimou comes as a distant second and not solely by virtue of his accomplishments. After EnVyUs' famed winning streak was snapped in their offline debut by the French-Swedish Rogue, we saw the squad struggle over the course of several events. And while the squad had issues, Taimou himself was performing at an incredible level, as arguably the best player in the world. The level of play carried over to all the tournaments for the remainder of the year and he was the biggest contributor to EnVyUs' wins in APEX and MLG Vegas as far as individual impact goes. With the start of the new year, shift in the metagame and increased level of competition coming from Korean teams, however, Taimou's level started going down. The highs were just as incredible, but his consistency suffered. Whereas previously, he could be depended on to deliver a certain amount of firepower and create plays for the team regularly, APEX S2 and onwards saw him become a much more up-and-down type of player.
The mitigating factors when judging his performances exist, but, in the long run, they are of little value to his potential legacy as an all-time great Overwatch player. He certainly gets recognition for being a 'good teammate' and trying to take on heroes he's not comfortable with, but the attempts didn't amount to many positives. If anything, it is likely him readjusting sensitivity hurt not only his performances and long-term legacy, but also the team's results. The metagame straying away from what's ideal for Taimou and EFFECT joining as the team's primary carry also doesn't help much for the Finn's ranking on potential GOAT lists.
However, with the latest shift of directions allowing for more heroes he is known for -- the best example being Widowmaker due to her prominence in the current metagame and Taimou mastery of the hero -- and seemingly more room for individual improvisation, we may very well see him start closing the gap between him and RJH.
Down but not out: uNKOE and TviQ
Notable finishes for uNKOE:
2x TakeOver champion
Atlantic Showdown champion
APAC Premier 2016 champion
3rd-4th in Overwatch Open
Notable finishes for TviQ:
Atlantic Showdown champion
APAC Premier 2016 champion
3rd-4th in Overwatch Open
2nd in Contenders S1 EU
When it comes to gameplay, the former teammates have the full package -- the raw mechanical ability, versatility and intelligent play -- but both of them lack in terms the tournament results to back up their play. Additionally, since the majority of their best accomplishments are either in 2016, or in the West, they haven't been able to truly prove themselves throughout the last year. Still, it is hard to argue with the level of play each has showcased in the past. Returning to form and doing well in OWL would quickly make up for their 2017 shortcomings and possibly shift the way in which fans will view those results. And even though both have strong teams, heading into the season, they are not nearly stacked as RJH's Seoul Dynasty in terms of talent around them. Should either be the clear-cut best player in the inaugural season, it would quickly put them over the Finn, and in close contention with RJH, depending on how he performs himself.
Author's dark horse: birdring
3rd-4th in APEX S1
5th-6th in APEX S2
2nd in APEX S3
3rd in APEX S4
The 18-year-old Korean's resume lacks in terms of overall achievements as well as a big, or any other sort, event win. Additionally, he is not as versatile as some other elite damage dealers have been. Yet, if I was told that Overwatch will continue its tenure as an esport for at least 7-8 years, I'd have him as one of the favorites in the race for the title of 'The GOAT', right behind RJH and Fl0w3R. Despite the humble beginnings as the secondary threat on a borderline elite team, this year, fans have watched him grow into the primary carry of one of the best teams. Then, Tracer's rise to prominence allowed him to further develop and showcase the proactive side of his game. While he is one of, if not the, best at constantly applying pressure to opponents, his biggest strength is being the best at staying alive and minimizing risks. Whereas other elite Tracers will often utilize the hero's skill set and their mechanical to pull off an unbelievable hero plays, birdring tends to take the safest option.
The young dealer grinds down opponents over time without giving them an opportunity to catch him and open the door to a potential comeback. This may not be the most entertaining style to play, or even watch, but it has allowed him to deliver MVP-worthy performances all year. Furthermore, the mindset got him from being someone who couldn't make it to a professional LoL team due to his age, to one of the best Overwatch players in the world. With him being only 18 years old, it is more than likely we haven't even seen him begun to peak.
The scene features a number players who are either more skilled or successful right now, but if the author had to pick someone who can surprise and be on top of everyone when everything's said and done, it would be birdring. While his mechanical ability is not something special, at least compared to the best of the best, the intelligent approach and winner's mentality more than make up for it.
With new talents coming up over time and Seoul Dynasty's shift in terms of roles, the positions could shift dramatically within the next two years. If other games are any indicator, the player who will be the GOAT when everything is said and done might not even be on viewers' radars right now. For the time being, however, RJH is ahead of everyone else and, despite 2017 being the year in which Korea arrived in full force, the West is still hanging in, at least in this race.
(Photo credits: OGN, DrawingHowToDraw, Activision Blizzard)
Disclaimer: The following article was written freely based on the author's opinion, and it may not necessarily represent Inven Global's editorial stance.
About the author:
Hello readers, I go by the ID RadoN! I’ve been following different games within the esports industry ever since finding out about it in 2009. The titles that I follow closely for the time being are Overwatch, CS:GO and Quake, while occasionally dabbling in some other games as well. If you wish to reach out, follow future content, or simply know more about my thoughts on esports and gaming, you can find me on Twitter at @RadoNonfire.