The first week of Contenders China has come and gone, and week 2 is almost upon us already. The region is undergoing a huge amount of turnover, as four new teams have come up from Open Division to compete and many of the star players we saw last season have moved on, presumably to the Overwatch League. Who can take up their mantles? How can teams which saw success previously but have had to make sweeping changes keep up with the competition? Here’s a brief rundown of what we learned in the first week.
LGD Gaming 4 – 0 ReStart
In a region full of unorthodox compositions and strategy, LGD Gaming proved they could keep things simple and still succeed. Aside from a brief defense composition featuring Orisa, Soldier and Junkrat on Horizon Lunar Colony (HLC), LGD ran almost entirely triple tank, triple support-based team compositions with either Winston or Reinhardt as main tank,or disruptive dives based around Doomfist and Sombra. The only choice they made all series which could be called “off-meta” was a stint by flex support secret on Tracer during their HLC offense. I still have some doubts about this roster after their recent performances in the LanStory Cup, and it will be interesting to see if they keep to these more basic compositions against more challenging teams moving forward.
ReStart was one of several new teams in Contenders China to have a rude awakening in the first week. Many of its members are veterans of the Chinese Overwatch scene who have struggled to find success recently (most notably flex support B612, formerly known as Freefeel), and are hoping to find a literal restart to their careers. However, Week 1 did little to assuage any of their fans’ doubts. There were a few bright spots, in particular Cloud’s Doomfist and Fengyan’s Zarya, but this team has a long way to go over the next 4 weeks to be considered legitimate.
Alter-Ego 0 – 3 Big Time Ragel Gaming
Alter-Ego had the best showing of any new team, as a draw on Numbani meant they only lost 3-0 in Week 1. Main tank KINGKONG had a standout series, and lived up to his name with a strong Winston performance. I do worry for his flexibility however, as he only pulled out Reinhardt to defend the 3rd point of Numbani and never played Orisa or Wrecking Ball throughout the series. While that may not sound too peculiar, only two other teams (Lucky Future and Flag Gaming) stuck to just Reinhardt and Winston this week, and if Orisa defenses and Wrecking Ball dives continue to move in to the Chinese meta then Alter-Ego is at risk of falling behind.
During Season 2 of Contenders China, Moss Seven Club earned a reputation for taking the region’s unconventional compositional tendencies to the extreme. Despite rebranding, Big Time Ragel Gaming stayed true to their roots and played a total of 17 different compositions during week 1. This included a 3-3 variation with Wrecking Ball as the main tank on Ilios Lighthouse, main support Fengm1an on Torbjörn to defend Numbani, and using Mei to defend the second point of Hanamura. Five out of six players flexed onto at least 3 heroes throughout the series (DPS player RIVEN holds the current team record at 6) and the only one to miss this mark was new player LiGe, who was kept on D.Va duty all day. Off-tanks, it seems, get no fun.
Team CC 4 – 0 Triple Six Legend
After struggling with inconsistent performances from DPS players Yakumo and KHeart last season, Team CC have introduced Australian ieatuup and Korean SonGBoos into the mix and moved towards a full DPS rotation, which means they can account for off days and gaps in hero pools much quicker and easier than they could last season. However, the biggest addition to this roster may be flex support Orchid. His Zenyatta performances throughout Saturday were reminiscent of a certain New York player and adds a whole new dimension to Team CC’s offensive capabilities. Whereas the old roster struggled to produce enough firepower, the modern Team CC has enough for two teams.
Despite what the scoreline may suggest, this might not be the same mediocre Triple Six Legend of old. The introduction of former Skyfoxes main tank DPS has added some much needed stability to the roster, and allowed both flex dps n1ghtg0d and off-tank UMBRA to already have much better showings than we say in any match last season. TSL were at their best when they controlled the pace of the game, either by running 3-3 compositions to enable DPS or by physically impeding their opponents with Mei and Sombra strategies. Group A is tough, but if TSL keeps improving they have a good shot to clinch the 4th playoff spot.
T1w Esports Club 4 – 0 Laboratory
While many top teams in China were completely gutted in the offseason, T1w Esports Club has only lost one player to the Overwatch League: World Cup superstar Krystal. In his place, T1w signed Mijia (formerly known as Shuaiguo), Chinese Doomfist prodigy and streamer turned pro. His first team, Ambitious Immortals, took Open Division and Trials by storm with a Doomfist-Zarya dive which fully utilised Mijia’s mastery of the hero. There were some questions about how flexible a Mijia-MoLanran dps duo would be, but T1w seem to have resolved this by enabling Mijia’s Doomfist as much as they can and by giving hitscan player Assassin a much bigger role in the team after he saw no playtime last season. It’s a long way away, but T1w vs Team CC in Week 5 is going to be the best match we see in the group stages. Book it.
As if their week 1 matchup wasn’t intimidating enough, Laboratory were handicapped by the unavailability of flex support KaguYa on the opening weekend. They adapted by running on a triple dps, solo healer dive composition all series, reliant on Since’s Ana to keep the team alive. It didn’t work out very well. Hashe and Skyshow had some bright moments on Sombra and Genji respectively, but we still aren’t sure what to expect from Laboratory moving forward. With KaguYa returning to the starting lineup next week, Laboratory’s strategies against LinGan e-Sports will be vital to helping us figure out this team.
LinGan e-Sports 4 – 0 Zenith of Optimism
LinGan e-Sports are another roster who have lost a number of their star players and are entering something of a reconstruction phase. uNdeAD, Rapunzel and Yveltal, all standout players for LinGan e-Sports last season have been replaced by xuebi, Duck and Lengsa respectively. Lengsa was the best performer of the three, playing in lockstep with flex support Molly, timing all his cooldowns well on Lucio and seemingly healing everyone at once on Mercy. KaMi was another standout, stepping up in uNdeAD’s absence and providing the horsepower needed to carry LinGan across the finishing line. They aren’t firing on all cylinders yet, but there in a lot of potential in this roster.
The last of our four new teams, Zenith of Optimism don’t have much to be optimistic about. While the backline is one of LinGan’s strengths, the best thing about ZOO’s supports, lazy and sleep, is that they have matching names. The problems don’t stop there either, with dps duo Cloudy and Zelta still clinging on to a bygone dive meta, only running a 3-3 composition once all series, and main tank KChan struggling to keep pace with LinGan’s Aidoudou. Off tank Nanhai found a handful of nice self-destructs through the series, but at their current pace ZOO are likely headed back to Trials with a whimper, not a bang.
Flag Gaming 3 – 1 Lucky Future
Flag Gaming might just be the most improved team from last season. Their playoffs finish in Season 2 had more to do with Triple Six Legend and Future Group’s failings than Flag Gaming’s successes, and despite a strong showing against Moss Seven Club in the quarter finals, they were ultimately exposed in a 3-0 semifinal loss to LGD Gaming. The addition of main tank Over at the end of last season and former Shanghai off-tank MG during the offseason pose a dramatic upgrade over MelonZ and Lie, and combined with evillx’s mastery of Sombra, Flag Gaming are a dangerous team that a lot of people might underestimate over the next few weeks. The biggest issue with their week 1 performance was the puzzling decision to bench Over and MG in favour of their old tank line for the final map, Dorado, which they ultimately lost. Not taking a 4-0 while they could against a struggling Lucky Future team might come back to bite Flag Gaming in tiebreakers.
After dominating last season, Lucky Future have a big legacy to live up to. I don’t think this Lucky Future roster is a team that can live up to them. Sowhat and SleepyBear’s refusal to swap off Winston and D.Va somewhat limited Lucky Future’s options, and the team as a whole struggled to keep up with Flag Gaming’s constant adjustments and rotations. The key for LF moving forward is going to be to keep enabling BLACKBEAN’s performances on Sombra and Widowmaker, and hope that when the Roadhog changes come to Contenders we might see SleepyBear reliving his CONBOX glory days on the hero.
What to Expect in Week 2, and Predictions
Week 2 looks to be slightly less one sided than week 1, but only slightly. Lucky Future have a chance to find their footing against Alter-Ego, but need to get much better at protecting their supports against KINGKONG and taRocook1e’s aggressive dives. Big Time Ragel Gaming will be hoping to take a 4-0 to finish out Saturday, to keep pace with LGD Gaming in Group B, whereas their opponents ReStart will be trying to break ground and find their first map win. The most intriguing match of the week will be our final match: LGD Gaming vs Flag gaming on Sunday could ultimately determine the winner of Group B, and both teams will be playing to prove themselves as the best.
Week 2 Predictions:
Team CC 4 – 0 Zenith of Optimism
Lucky Future 1 – 3 Alter-Ego
Big Time Ragel Gaming 4 – 0 ReStart
LinGan e-Sports 4 – 0 Laboratory
T1w Esports Club 4 – 0 Triple Six Legend
LGD Gaming 3 – 2 Flag Gaming
The first week of Contenders China has come and gone, and week 2 is almost upon us already. The region is undergoing a huge amount of turnover, as four new teams have come up from Open Division to compete and many of the star players we saw last season have moved on, presumably to the […]