RadoN's rosters is a series dedicated to thought experiments regarding potential rosters, roster moves and etc. This entry focuses on Korea’s "golden boys", as they’re affectionately referred to, and some potential moves the organization could have tried to pull off after the trade window opened.
Seoul Dynasty's disappointing first stage of the Overwatch League left fans, pundits and analysts alike scratching their heads. After Fleta's talents were added to the team, they won the Seoul Cup event and delivered a dominant performance in the preseason. Appropriately, due to how stacked with talent the roster had become, most fans and analyst expected the squad to be a dominant force right out of the gate for stage 1 and win the league's inaugural season. And while the possibility of the second is still a high one, the poor performance in week 5 -- including an 0-3 loss to a shaky Valiant team, which is yet to figure out things themselves -- left them outside the title matches, with an overall fifth finish of the stage.
This would be an acceptable finish for any other team. For RJH and co. though, as the most successful team in Overwatch history, it was a disappointing performance finish to the points that even fans started turning on them and questioning their commitment among other things.
On 26th February, ten days after denying the reports of him joining the Dynasty, Gambler was announced as the twelfth player of the team. This put Seoul at the league's upper limit, unless another team is interested in the less productive half of Seoul's current twelve or OWL organizations have other ways of freeing up spots. Two obvious example would be having the options to buyout players or trade their contracts to Contenders teams. With how inconsistent or unappealing the team's weaker players have looked and all the available non-OWL talent, the first option seems improbable and the league has not released official information suggesting that the other two are choices available to the organizations.
In other words, Seoul Dynasty is likely stuck with its current, twelve-man roster for the rest of the season and, even though the trade window hasn't closed, the organization has little to no moves available, unless it's willing to part with one of their productive players.
Below, I will explore some interesting paths the team could have tried to take, after the roster lock was lifted as well as the reasoning behind the ideas. But before that, let's go over ...
WHAT WENT WRONG?
The metagame went wrong ... and I'm not saying this only because Mercy's prowess made the game an overall worse viewing experience, compared to the times when Lucio is the predominant pick. Within the system of Lunatic-Hai (the team which became Seoul Dynasty) tobi was far and away the best main support in the world over the course of 2017. At times, others appeared to be close, or even exceeded him in terms of playmaking, statistical output, or the ability to call the shots for their team.
However, when it came to the complete package, tobi was in a tier of his own. The synergy between him, RJH, and zunba made it so their overall output as a unit was -- pardon the cliche -- greater than the sum of their already excellent individual games.
Mercy's dominance, being present for 96.6% of the stage 1 playtime as per Winston's Lab, prevented them from carrying over their -- until this point -- extremely successful approach to the game, which was heavily based upon the superstar support duo's playmaking and ability to secure kills. Considering that, the squad's core has not been among the fastest units to adapt to new metas, it's easy to see how Mercy dominance would be an issue for them. Furthermore, Miro's poor form, the huge disadvantage in the Tracer matchup against any of the elite teams, and RJH's playmaking being limited on Zenyata only exacerbated the problem. Combined with tobi's level of aptitude, or lack thereof, for Mercy, it put them on a downward spiral and a fifth-place finish for stage 1 -- arguably their worst performance since Lunatic-Hai's international debut at APAC 2016.
The team's past successful runs were built upon the players' ability to operate as a unit at a higher level than anybody else, as well as fielding the most talent. Their teamplay and individual ability allowed them to execute strategies better than their opponents and, over time, the coaching staff was able to implement just enough tactical depth.
Yet, even with their stars being far and above anybody else at the same positions, the squad needed different roleplayers to overperform in critical moments so they could end up with two APEX championships to their names. For stage 1, despite the addition of the MVP-worthy Fleta, Dynasty hasn't been the team with the firepower advantage when going up against the other elite squads. Neither have they showcased a superior ability to play off of each other.
THE "WHAT IF" MOVES
Regardless of tobi's underwhelming stage 1 play, he is still one of the players on the team I wouldn't have considered trading under any circumstances, along with zunba and RJH. The trio's play off of each other has been a key to the team's success and a mid-season change of any of them would hurt the team's ability to come back into power more than it can possibly help, especially with Mercy losing popularity. tobi is still a pivotal figure within the team and no one available on the market has the pedigree, the skill set, and the playstyle to fill the same role.
While Gambler has the ability to call, his playstyle is vastly different from tobi's and there's no reason to assume his calling would mesh with the other Dynasty players as well as he did with the team that has since become NYXL. Fitting Gambler in the team, especially within a metagame in which Lucio is a popular pick, would require significant adjustments from the rest of the team. Furthermore, due to tobi's stage 1 performance, Dynasty would have had hard time getting his worth back if they trade him, while giving up a potential superstar.
Idea #1: recruit Sayaplayer. Why Sayaplayer wasn't in Overwatch League, to begin with is a mystery of its own. During his time with Meta Athena he proved to be a capable and versatile threat on every hitscan hero. He was essentially a poor man's Birdring, which is in no way a diss within the context of the latter being one of the best in the world. What makes Sayaplayer an especially good fit for Seoul is that he has experience of playing on a team on which he was the secondary or even tertiary carry, receiving little to no resources. In terms of gameplay, he can fill exactly the role EscA did in his latter days with the team, but do everything at a higher level. Additionally, unlike some of the current Seoul players, Sayaplayer has proven time and again his ability be effective against the best teams in the world and not be a liability against damage dealers who eclipse him individually.
The fact that Dynasty didn't sign him at the beginning of the season is a head-scratcher on its own, considering the team recruited multiple players for his exact position. Letting him slip to a team like Florida -- and there is no question which team Sayaplayer would pick if both Florida and Seoul called -- after the disparity in the Tracer matchup lost them multiple series during stage 1, is mind-boggling.
Idea #2: trade Fleta (and money or another player who isn't zunba, RJH or tobi) for Fissure and Birdring. This one seems shocking at first, but, once the idea settled, it makes sense for both sides ... to a degree. Why would Seoul have been willing to give up what is perhaps best player in the world? For starters, in return for him, they're getting potentially two superstars, who would fit within the mold of what the team has worked well with historically.
Birdring is a damage dealer who can remain extremely effective even when he isn't a team's focal point. He's a spectacular hitscan player, but, unlike Sayaplayer, he can flex on Roadhog and, to a lesser effectiveness, projectile heroes. Fissure would be able to take over the aggressive tank play from Miro, who had a lackluster stage 1. With someone who can challenge for the best main tank in the league, the team will once again have a strength they've been historically successful playing off of. In addition to the higher level of play, Fissure is also able to perform at a high level on both Winston and Reinhardt. Last but not least, the added depth of skill across position would also make them less predictable, tactically as well as strategically.
But why would Spitfire agree to this trade, if it would help Dynasty so many ways? First and foremost, they're getting in return a player who is not only arguably the best in the world right now, but, years down the line, Fleta could very well be one of, if not the, greatest ever. The upside of having a player who can be the best player in any game, no matter who the opponents are, is immense. As much as Overwatch is about teamplay and smarts, individuals can very much carry with the right supporting cast and raw skill is far from worthless. As incredible as it's been watching Birdring's game evolve over time has been, Fleta is still better carry and has wider hero pool.
Idea #3: plead EscA to come back, as a coach. In terms of individual ability, EscA's level was at best slightly above average by the end of his tenure with the team. However, alwaysoov and his players alike have all been outspoken on multiple occasions about how crucial EscA's presence has been to their success. His experience as a veteran competitor within the FPS genre is valuable in its own right, even without accounting for his supposed ability to help some of the players maintain better attitude and mentality. It was surprising that Dynasty didn't try harder to keep him on board for OWL as a coach to begin with. However, assuming his impact is as strong as it's been advertised, sending him a blank check after stage 1 would have been the perfect moment to recruit EscA back. If any of the other players ever had doubts about the importance of what he added, the combination of the poor finish and community pressure would have made them more appreciative of what EscA endured and did for the team in the past.
Idea #4: attempt to get Fissure from Gladiators for a main tank player, XepheR and potentially other players who aren't Fleta, zunba, RJH, and tobi. The reasoning for getting Fissure now would be very much the same as it would have been done after stage 1. Even though Miro has looked better this stage, his last year has been plagued with inconsistency and his current performances are still not at the level of what Fissure offers. That's on top of the question marks of what happens if Reinhard comes back as a must-play hero. And while KuKi has looked good in the few matches he played, he doesn't offer the same firepower.
More importantly, for whatever reason the team has also been reluctant to use him, as evidenced by the fact that the only game he's played in recent times is against Shanghai Dragons. In addition to all the benefits of having Fissure, trading multiple players to the undermanned Gladiators would open more roster spots for Seoul, who're still the premier destination for any Korean player who isn't a starter on NYXL and Spitfire.
What do the Gladiators get from making the trade? Similarly to Seoul in idea #2, they'd be trading what is their best player for a number of lesser players who'd help immediately to plug the holes in L.A.'s sinking boat. The Dynasty players who they'd be able to pick from aren't superstars by any means, but they're already used to practicing and playing in OWL environment and each of them has showed an upside. Additionally, each of Seoul's tanks could provide valuable intangibles for the Gladiators. With XepheR replacing Bischu in this scenario, KuKi would be able to help with any potential communication issues and act as a an older brother figure for the other players due to his age. And if Miro is the one traded to L.A., he'd be able to share with the team his experience and some of the lessons he learned from competing at the highest level during the last eighteen months. As history has shown in esports and traditional sports , this is an important quality to a team aspiring for championships.
Last but not least, the Seoul Dynasty players are already in the U.S., with all the documentation they need to play completed. As soon as the transfer between the team is a done deal, they'd be able to start practicing with the Gladiators. Meanwhile, recruiting players who aren't in the league at the moment, especially non-Americans, would take some time. In the end, the question of whether the Gladiators agree to this trade is about whether they're looking to start rebuilding for long-term success or try to make a push for the OWL S1 playoffs. However, after their recent success, it's doubtful that the Gladiators would ever agree for the trade even if they would have been willing to do it before stage 2 began.
Idea #5: try to recruit Runaway's Stitch. The disparity in the Tracer matchup between Seoul and any other elite team isn’t something new. Stage 1 just brought it on a bigger stage than ever and Stitch is a player who could solve that issue once and for all. A DPS duo of him and Fleta would be able to challenge Spitfire's for the best damage dealer pairing in the league. Reportedly, RunAway wanted to join the league together as a unit and that's why he isn't part of an OWL team right now. However, with others already leaving (https://dotesports.com/overwatch/news/kaiser-optic-academy-overwatch-contenders-team-21280), Runner doing his mandatory in Korea military service, the recent loss to LGD, and the team's future as a unit being uncertain right now, the likelihood of him changing his mind is significantly higher than several months when the squad had just made it.
What you might have noticed by now is that, in all of the suggested trade ideas, I'm looking for Seoul to acquire already-established players who've been tested at the highest level. Even EscA, who hasn't coached previously, is a well-known entity in terms of what he'll be able to provide to the team for their emotional stability. With a team like Dynasty, which already has the talent to be the best in the league, my aim would be to introduce dependable pieces who can support the stars and whose performances won't fluctuate game-to-game.
Do you think those trades would have succeeded in that? What trades would you have made if you were in charge of Seoul Dynasty? Let us know on Twitter at @InvenGlobal and @RadoNonfire!
(Photo credits: Activision Blizzard, OGN)
About the author:
Hello, readers! I go by the ID RadoN and I’ve been watching different esports since I found out about the industry in 2009. The titles 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.