By Joseph “Volamel” Franco
Special to VPEsports
Meta Athena’s charming style and rise through the amateur scene captivated fans the world over and made them one of the most beloved teams in the pre-Overwatch League era. Now, some of their most notable players have graced the Overwatch League stage. Reflecting back on the roster that played through APEX Season 2, the narratives around some of these players compared to their current achievements are completely different then what you might expect at the time. Individually, Meta Athena produced a rookie team full of effervescence and style, but individually, the players became household names and even champions. With that said, the idea of narrative versus expectation perfectly describes Meta Athena’s former support player, NUS.
If two years ago, you asked me — or any pundit in the community — which Meta Athena player had the best chances to win the first Overwatch League title, I don’t think NUS would receive many votes. Now, before we shoot from the hip, let’s remember that NUS was the former flex support for Meta Athena and he wasn’t particularly good at the role either. Looking back at the field of flex supports, who primarily played Ana with a small smattering of Zenyatta, I’d position NUS as slightly above average, but nothing to write home to mom about.
That being said, his transition to main support for the London Spitfire began with some difficulties, but he’s adapted to the role beautifully. His journey to the Overwatch League finals was marred with a rollercoaster ride of ups and downs, but at the end of it all, NUS has had arguably the most success from the original Meta Athena roster, with the lowest expectations.
The only other person that could compete with him in terms of on paper results is Libero who now plays for the NYXL. In the past, he was a player that acted as the catalyst for Meta Athena and did so while still putting up amazing numbers. After he was signed to the NYXL, nothing changed. What people forget is that Libero also was forced to role swap during APEX Season 3 due to the team’s style being rotated out and during that transitionary period the team, as a whole, struggled. But with his extremely wide hero pool and experience in playing flex tanks, he has been a saving grace for the NYXL and they’ve even given him the reigns at times creating strategies that suit his more niche hero picks.
Now, Libero approaches his first season in the Overwatch League with high hopes but was relatively unknown to the general public. And for me, he’s even exceeded the expectations that I put on him specifically when it comes to broadening out his hero pool even further to include some hitscan heroes. He and the NYXL have done extremely well together, but sadly the other half of Meta Athena’s DPS duo didn’t fare so well.
Sayaplayer was an incredible talent and should have been signed immediately as free agency opened during Overwatch League season one. Sadly this was not the case. Sayaplayer was signed to the Flordia Mayhem on February 13th, 2018, just before Stage 2 began. This shocked many APEX fans because he was such a standout on such a solid Korean team. Like I mentioned previously, Meta Athena did struggle as the metagame rotated, but even then he still looked promising on Tracer and his signature picks like McCree and Widowmaker.
His aim was impeccable and he had carry potential. What more could you want from a young DPS player? This was apparent during his time with the Florida Mayhem. Yes, the team did poorly, but it seems like his skill is still intact. He’s still an amazing talent that frankly could be a starter on a better team. Hopefully, the 2019 season smiles fondly on the former Meta Athena DPS player.
This leads nicely into Meta Athena’s staple Zarya player and the lynchpin to their successful strategy during their legendary run through APEX Season 2, Hoon. Before we dive in, I have a to add the caveat that yes, Hoon was not old enough to play during Overwatch League season one. However, he was of age during the beginning of the exclusive signing period for the eight new expansion teams coming into the 2019 season.
For those who don’t know, Hoon played a very aggressive and very carry oriented Zarya for Meta Athena’s tank centric style. This, along with a handful of other oddball compositions, caught the field off guard. This snowball began to slow down late into their season from a combination of the changing landscape and people having the time to tailor their strategy to them. Post APEX Season 2, Hoon was forced to pivot to D.Va and never really looked the same.
However, this last season of South Korean Contenders, he’s looked quite good even earning the praise of commentators and analysts alike. It’s strange but remotely understandable that teams may be a bit gunshy about hiring Hoon, but again, the expectation doesn’t meet the reality. The carry threat for Meta Athena still hasn’t made his way to the Overwatch League but could be an upgrade for some of the lower teams and could add experience and flexibility to some of the middle of the pack teams.
While Kris looked promising during their freshmen run through APEX Season 2, hasn’t had much success since then. Now he reunites with Sayaplayer on the Florida Mayhem to possibly rekindle some of the old Athena magic for the 2019 season. He was always a player that seemed to have a nearly cerebral eye for positioning and had spacing against oncoming Dive attempts with his Lucio play. He and many other players like Alpha and ChangSik have moved on to greener pastures.
For the majority of 2018, Meta Athena did not look like a tenured Overwatch team. As Kris was the only original member remaining, Meta Athena is now in a pickle. They’re currently fighting their way back into Overwatch Contenders Korea and things look bleak. Since their legendary run, not much talent has grown from the roster. They’ve had a good eye for veteran talent, but each iteration of the team seems to be an amalgamation of older professionals who are looking for a home rather than a charming team looking to lay claim to a title. Their lack of color and development seems to really be hindering them from returning to the Meta Athena of old.
While the original team, that people know and love, has splintered, each individual member of Meta Athena has gone on to pursue other ventures. And while some are more successful than others, they’ll always be a team that the community can reflect fondly on.
It will be a long time before we see a team innovate the way Meta Athena did in their hay-day.
And to be frank, that’s okay with me.