The 2020 Overwatch League has proven to be a wild ride thus far. Between the outbreak of COVID-19 wreaking havoc with scheduling and travel, rotating hero pools creating a meta that is forever in flux and the introduction of the newest hero Echo to the league, there has been a lot to try to grapple with. But the team that has shown they can truly stay on top of all these ever changing elements is the Shanghai Dragons.
The Shanghai Dragons started their Overwatch League history two years ago in the worst possible fashion. Going 0-40 for season one Shanghai literally had no where to go but up. Last season saw them start their upward trend. With several key roster changes and an indomitable will the Shanghai Dragons got their first win against the Boston Uprising in a stage one confrontation. It would be the first of many. Later in the season the the Dragons would even claim a stage three championship from the San Francisco Shock.
Coming into week 13 of this season the Shanghai Dragons we’re arguably in the top two or three teams in the league. Having picked up some key players during the offseason, most notably former Seoul Dynasty Star DPS Fleta, the Dragons we’re poised to claim their spot as the best team in the league. With this morning’s match against the perennial powerhouse the New York Excelsior, they claimed their spot with flying colors.
It didn’t start out smoothly though for the Shanghai Dragons. Map one went to the Excelsior in fairly dominant fashion. With New York opting to ignore the new hero and playing their trusting Reaper/Mei team composition it looked like they might have the Dragons’ number.
While the second map, the hybrid Eichenwalde, it was closer, with the Shanghai Dragons forcing an overtime push, yet New York still managed to take the map. This left Shanghai with their backs to the wall and the possibility of their being swept an excruciatingly real thing. Something had to change. That change was seen as the teams took to the next map Volskaya Industries.
The Shanghai Dragons rolled through New York on their first attack as they banked nearly five minutes on their time clock. While the Excelsior also managed to complete their first attack, they did so with only a minute remaining. The Dragons were then able to full hold New York’s second attack. With plenty of time to prepare their offensive the Dragons set up NewYork for the knock out blow and got themselves back into the match. The tides were beginning to shift.
The biggest change that seemed to take place between maps two and three was the handling of the new hero to the game. The Dragons had struggled to make Echo a strong factor for them in their first two maps, and the Excelsior had opted to virtually ignore hero all together. But for map three the situation changed. New York opted to play the new hero and their unfamiliarity with the character was apparent. Poor use of Echo’s ultimate was the biggest failing on the part of New York’s implementation of the character. With Shanghai winning the Echo match, the odds felt in their favor.
For the fourth map the teams went to Rialto. New York went on the offensive first. While their attack got off to a solid start they were never able to fully break the Dragons defense in a truly decisive way. As the attack ground on the Shanghai defense stiffened. Finally, after a last ditch attempted to break through the Excelsior were stopped for good just short of point b. It was now Shanghai’s chance to tie the game up. They didn’t let it pass them by.
The New York Excelsior almost defeated themselves during this defense. Many sub par decisions, coupled with quick capitalizations from the Dragons soon had the Excelsior suffering another defeat. The momentum had now definitively shifted.
For the match’s deciding map five the teams were headed to Busan, and the first point being Mecha Base. With the Excelsior’s previous dominance of the first control map of the series this seemed like a good opportunity for New York to snatch a win from the jaws of defeat. Coming out with the same Reaper/Mei team composition they ran earlier they had fair reason to be hopeful. But the Dragons also opted to run the same composition this map. This seemed to catch New York by surprise, allowing Shanghai to take the point first with relative ease. After that, the Excelsior struggled to get anything going at all. Point a was in the hands of the Dragons.
For the second point the teams traveled to Busan’s Sanctuary. This time the opening battle wasn’t as one sided, but the result ended up being the same. The Dragons eventually cracked New York’s armour, and managed to capture first point. With the point in enemy hands, and the clock running out, the Excelsior could be seen to grow desperate. With some poor ultimate usage, and a far too clever attempt to back cap the point highlighting how off balance New York had become, the Shanghai Dragons held on to claim the point, map, and match from their opponents.
With Shanghai now sitting at a 9-1 record, they stand as the virtually undisputed team to beat in the Overwatch League. It has been a whirlwind journey of just two short years for this franchise, and I can’t wait to see how much further they have left to go.
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