The Overwatch League was wrapped up in New York much earlier this year, with the London Spitfire taking down the Philadelphia Fusion in front of a sold out Barclays Center crowd to become the first Overwatch League champion. Overwatch League history was set on July 27th, but as 2018 winds down, we took the time to reflect on the best performers of the Overwatch League’s inaugural season.
Emily Rand and Xander Torres broke down the top ten players in Overwatch League this year, favoring consistency, high levels of team contribution, and overall year success. Some players failed to make the cut because they missed part of the season, rarely peaked, or were just less crucial to their team’s success. Feel free to disagree with them, but there’s no doubt that Bang “JJonak” Seong-hyun was the best of the best.
1. Bang “Jjonak” Seong-hyun, New York Excelsior
Could there be any other in the top position? As the inaugural Overwatch League season’s Most Valuable Player, Jjonak’s Zenyatta performances rarely dipped below “good” and frequently bordered on “sublime.” While most expected Lunatic Hai, in their new form as Seoul Dynasty and team captain Ryu “Ryujehong” Je-hong to take the Overwatch League by storm, it was another APEX core in the New York Excelsior, née Luxury Watch Blue, and Jjonak that ran the league for most of the year.
Despite NYXL’s late-season demise, Jjonak stands as the undisputed best support player of Season 1 and went on to further prove his mettle with many of his NYXL teammates in the Overwatch World Cup as Team South Korea, where he won MVP of that even as well. In season, Jjonak’s Zenyatta prowess prompted lengthy discussions, thinkpieces, and social media comments as to whether he made the NYXL a better team for his efforts, or pigeonholed them into a specific strategy. The fact that no other team was able to replicate Jjonak and NYXL’s aggressive Zenyatta positioning suggests the former rather than the latter, and throughout the year, Jjonak dominated Overwatch League discussions and highlight reels. He, like his once-idol Ryujehong, changed support strategy — and perception of the support role — for the better.
2. Baek “Fissure” Chan-hyeong, London Spitfire, Los Angeles Gladiators
Amidst the out-of-game whispers about temperament and whether Fissure was a good teammate — for both the London Spitfire and the Los Angeles Gladiators — is the undeniable fact that he helped turn the Gladiators into a legitimate playoff contender in Stages 3 and 4, leading to the Gladiators’ appearance in the league playoffs.
In a season dominated by DPS players and NYXL’s Jjonak — who is arguably a DPS player but that’s a discussion for another time — Fissure’s control over enemy backlines showcased just how important tank play was for opening up further vantage points to allow those DPS players to shine. Compared to the current GOATs compositions that are all the rage in Contenders right now, Season 1 was considered a DPS-heavy meta. Fissure proved that this assessment was somewhat incorrect. A good tank could make room for his frontline to succeed. A great one, like Fissure, could control the game entirely.
3. Park “Profit” Joon-yeong, London Spitfire
Profit was always recognized as a strong DPS player, but whenever discussions were had about “best DPS player in the league,” he often fell out of favor. As arguably the most flexible, consistent, and highest peaking DPS player in the 2018 season, Profit hits 3rd place on our top ten list.
London Spitfire were the Stage 1 champions, reverse-sweeping the NYXL in the final, but struggled after that. Ultimate economy, support synergy, as well as Kim “Birdring” Ji-hyeok’s health issues, held the team back from being big contenders for the rest of the year. Through that time though, Profit remained an excellent DPS player with an ocean of heroes to work with. Whether it was Junkrat, Genji, Tracer, Hanzo, and later in the season, Brigitte, he could do it all. He carried the team’s weight when they needed it and shined brightly in their playoff run as well. He went under the radar for much of 2018 due to the Spitfire’s underwhelming performances, but he goes into 2019 as the very best DPS player in the league.
4. Lee “Carpe” Jae-hyeok, Philadelphia Fusion
When the Philadelphia Fusion became Stage 2 runners-up, their ascension from marketing meme to legitimate threat was regarded by some as somewhat of a fluke. Those people weren’t paying attention to the DPS duo of Carpe and Josh “Eqo” Corona. Again, at the end of the season, Philadelphia’s playoff run was described as miraculous and and momentous. Yet, the team had always performed best when outside expectations were low and the meta favored DPS talent on heroes that could single-handedly carry a game. In the hands of Carpe, these heroes were deadly.
Philadelphia weren’t known for their consistency as a unit, especially with an over-reliance on certain players’ individual performances. Yet if there’s one word to describe Carpe’s play this year, it’s consistency. One of the reasons why the Fusion could rely on outstanding individual talent is because Carpe’s Widowmaker prowess was just that reliable. Whether you believe that he would take the title of best Widow in the league or not, you can’t have that conversation without mentioning Carpe, and Widow is hardly the only hero on which he excels.
5. Park “Saebyeolbe” Jong-ryeol, New York Excelsior
There is no denying that Jjonak defined the NYXL this year, masquerading as DPS player in the form of Zenyatta, but Saebyeolbe was right there as number two. Saebyeolbe would have ended up higher on this list had the NYXL not fallen apart, but it was only by slim margins that he fell to both Profit and Carpe, who were excellent players in their own right. As the premier Tracer of the 2018 season, Saebyeolbe was the master of Tracer duels and effectively created 6v5 or 5v5 situations for his team with ease.
He was the master of opening holes in opposing backlines and single-handedly won numerous fights with his excellent Pulse Bomb usage. Along with Jjonak, he defined the NYXL’s dominance with unwavering performances and superstar play to boot. Saebyeolbe’s performances might be forgotten because of his team’s end result, but similar to his name, he was one of many shining stars in 2018.
6. Kim “Fury” Jun-ho, London Spitfire
Fury was the best D.Va in the Overwatch League and arguably the Spitfire’s most important player in their championship run. In 2018, Fury struck a perfect balance between offensive and defensive D.Va play that really blossomed in the Overwatch League playoffs. Whether it was using this thrusters to interrupt the opposing tank line or peeling a Genji off his supports, Fury was always there with the perfect play.
Fury’s play wasn’t sexy, but it was at the forefront of the Spitfire’s success late into the season, elevating him to number six on our list. Together with Gesture, he formed a dynamic duo tank like that made all the team’s super plays possible. Fury largely came online the second half of the season so he was rightfully celebrated as one of the best tanks and will hopefully see more of the same in 2019.
7. Hong “Gesture” Jae-hee, London Spitfire
While everyone salivated over London Spitfire teammate Park “Profit” Joon-yeong’s gigantic Hanzo ultimate in the Overwatch League Season 1 Grand Finals, they should have been paying attention to Gesture’s Orisa Halt!
Such is the life of a tank player.
While other tanks frequently fade into the background, Gesture is loud. He is confident. He makes his presence known whether it’s taking down an opposing backline or onstage through his expensive taste in footwear and swagger that would seem out of place on any other Overwatch League pro player. It suits Gesture just fine. When Fissure left the team, many wondered if the former GC Busan main tank could be a similar dominating force. These fears were unfounded. Although I can’t argue against Profit, Gesture was my personal Grand Finals MVP, always setting up his team for success.
8. Kim “Fleta” Byung-sun, Seoul Dynasty
Unlucky. That’s the most appropriate word for Fleta’s experience in the Overwatch League this year. Before, he played on Flash Lux, a team that won a single game in their entire APEX history. On Seoul Dynasty, Fleta failed to make it to the Stage playoffs a single time and struggled to find a perfect role within the team. However, individually, he still flourished as one of the league’s most talented flex DPS players.
Seoul Dynasty was one of the greatest disappointments in the 2018 Overwatch League season, but Fleta was the team’s shining star. In what some fans coined as the “Fleta deadlift” from his Flash Lux days, Fleta carried the team for the majority of their damage, as they tried to find the perfect DPS duo and tank line. Let’s not forget that at one point, Fleta even had to play with Je-hong “Ryujehong” Ryu shotcalling for the team on main tank. Players like the Shock’s Park “Architect” Min-ho rose as players that could be compared to Fleta in flexibility and performance, but there’s no doubt that Fleta performed with the greatest weights upon his ankles. As one of the best players in 2018, we can only hope that Seoul performs optimally in 2019 with a consistent, coherent unit.
9. Josue “Eqo” Corona, Philadelphia Fusion
Eqo breaks into the list as the only Western player to hit the top 10. Players like Lane “Surefour” Roberts or Terence “SoOn” Tarlier were also in hot contention, but Eqo beat them out (and Fate) at 9th place. Eqo didn’t play the whole season, but he was dynamite from the moment he debuted for the Fusion, bringing aboard an insane amount of flexibility and carry potential almost instantly. Eqo benefited from having one of the greatest DPS players at his side in Carpe, but together they formed the true core of the Fusion identity.
Similar in profile to Fleta or Profit, Eqo can play just about any hero at a competitive level, whether they are hitscan or projectile. Once the Hanzo meta came through, he had no problem filling in that role while Carpe took the Widowmaker side of things. He also adapted quickly to the need for Brigitte, being a crucial part of the Fusion’s explosive playoff run. In the end, it’s hard to imagine the Fusion making the finals without Eqo to complement the indomitable Carpe. As one of the newer faces in Overwatch, there are even bigger things to look forward to for Eqo in 2019.
10. Koo “Fate” Pan-seung, Los Angeles Valiant
On a team with few boisterous and loud players, the tank line of the Los Angeles Valiant is still outwardly quiet by comparison. Don’t let this fool you. Main tank Fate and flex tank Indy “SPACE” Halpern were the difference-makers that pushed the Valiant from a middling team to the top spot in the Pacific Division and Stage 4 champions.
A holdover from the original Immortals team before the organization announced their new Overwatch League brand, the Valiant, Fate has been a steady presence for the team, guiding them forward even when it seemed like this hybrid roster was suffering from communication or internal issues. It’s no coincidence that there are a lot of main tanks on this lineup. Tanks ruled the league, even if DPS players were flashier, and Fate, like many other main tanks flew under the radar sometimes because of this. Thankfully, we have the Valiant’s strong season finish and Fate’s incredibly strong performances with Team South Korea, especially in their Incheon Qualifier matches to remind us of just how good Fate can be.