In the heart of Beijing is the Imperial city. Its rich history, spanning back all the way to the Ming and Qing dynasties, forms the cultural centre of ancient Beijing. Once protected by thick high walls it encased the Forbidden City – a gorgeous palace complex which was home to the seat of the Dragon Throne and the political and ceremonial centre of the Chinese government for almost 500 hundred years.
In modern-day China, the three-thousand-year-old city houses 25 million people in its wider Metro area. Just recently, its national stadium called “the Bird’s nest” hosted the League of Legends World Championship finals and delivered a breathtaking atmosphere in front of 40.000 fans, proving the place esports has inhabited in the culture.
For its rich history, its openness to technology and its esports craze, Beijing seems like the perfect fit for a much needed second city slot for the people of China.
What better home could there be for the abundance of Chinese Overwatch talent? The Imperials are here to ground an empire.
One of China’s national symbols is the Manchurian crane, often referred to as the red-crowned crane. In art and literature, when a mere mortal attains immortality he is carried off on its majestic wings. For those reasons, the Chinese refer to them as xian he 仙鹤 “Crane of the immortals”. It’s also often connected to Chinese nobility.
Now increasingly rare with approximately less than 5000 remaining in the wild, the unique sighting of those gracious birds in flight is truly an experience to behold. With calming ease, the crane gets to his every destination.
It’s red crested head, white body and black accentuated wings and neck inspire the team colours of the Beijing Imperials, while focusing on the former, to abide by Overwatch League colour regulations for home team skins.
The colouring and composition are also reminiscent of the Taoist symbol Ying and Yang, symbolizing duality. The red crown of the crane, however, breaks the mould and hints at an unknown third component to contrast reality against.
The shape of the left wing also reminds of the leaf of a Ginkgo tree, another national symbol of the People’s Republic.
Design by @Volamel
Grounding principles – The core of four
When building a roster for Overwatch League, I looked for patterns of the championship winning teams first and foremost. Then I tried to conceptualize what the new environment of the Overwatch League would both bring and require of players and teams playing in it.
One concept I am entirely convinced in, have been working on for half a year, but sadly never got to write down in an article (but might still eventually do) is what I call “the core of four“. It refers to the fact that every single championship winning team had a unit of at least four players that had been playing together for a substantial amount of time. I’ve collected the data up to a certain point on this which you can see here.
The elevator explanation of the lessons that applies here is that when you want to maximise your probability of a working team, historical data suggests that you best start with a team of four players, or at the very least three that have build up sufficient synergy. The beauty of the core of four is that once successful cores can start winning again if they transition or if they simply bring in two new members. Those seemingly become plug and play within that framework. Prominent teams where this has worked are Dallas Fuel (formerly Team EnVyUs and Team IDDQD) and Lunatic Hai, which directly before they had their greatest successes abode by the core of four but invited new high performing agents into their team and started winning with very little ramp-up time.
Very few teams who won a big championship kept going and didn’t find success again unless they completely broke the core of four up. Thus the lesson is that cores can win again.
From this follows too that whenever you don’t build your team with an already proven core, it always becomes a gamble to a certain point of whether or not you’ve found that unknown component that seems to make cores of four form. I’ve talked this over with dozens of successful coaches and players who all recognised such a unit within their team when they were winning championships.
Grounding principle – Versatility vs specialisation
With bigger rosters in Overwatch League, there are two ways to go down when team building. You either plan to specialise your players as to bring them in on specific maps that require certain heroes, or you plan to play with a solid roster that only rarely changes its starters but that in turns has players that are much more versatile and can play those required heroes.
I am undecided as to what the best method is, but my model will still abide by the core of four as to not sacrifice synergy. That leaves two flexible slots where I can slot in specialists and even here I’m not sure if this is the way to go as have seen very little data on this concept and with the resources of Overwatch League, this is also the first time in the game’s history where this is even financially, logistically possible as well as allowed in the rules. I expect the Chinese to work with these circumstances more easily than the fragile Western ego though.
Even crazier, London Spitfire could have two cores of four with the four other star players flexing between these cores. Then they could specialise the two cores according to map type, focus practice and could become world beaters that way. This approach sounds logically sound and is the one I will take here, but it isn’t proven for obvious reasons and poses a couple of questions to practice logistics. I believe the available talent pool in China easily allows for this.
Long story short, this is my roster:
creed – Support
jiqiren – Tank
Lateyoung – Flex Tank
YangX1aoLg – DPS
leave – Flex DPS
zhufanjun – Flex Support
Zod – Tank
BBcat – Support
LanDo – Flex Support
S1mpfall – DPS
Eileen – DPS
Shy – Flex DPS
ArHaN – Meme dream
One big obstacle to overcome was to field players which are allowed to play in this season of Overwatch League as the OWL Pellets ruleset requires. There was a lot of star talent especially in Korea I felt confident in being able to build a great roster around with players like Architect, Decay & Yaki. As it turned out, all the aforementioned players were too young to be allowed to participate and this is sadly no different for some extremely talented players in China, some of which I still have decided to include to incorporate a sense of longevity and farsightedness in my roster and to not just beat the other OWL Pellets’ contestants as to create a roster that could realistically be part of OWL.
For the last year, two teams have been battling it out for the most part on Chinese soil who have been left mostly untouched by Shanghai Dragons. Both 1246’s and Miraculous Youngster’s cores have demonstrating lasting power and bounce back potential. Both have an OWPS title under their belt and MY has looked very competitive even in international events and always looked like they were one or two roster changes and a strategical coach away from breaking into the league of world beaters.
Most interestingly, 1246 has carved out a strong profile of success on Control and Eichenwalde as well as King’s Row. Especially Control, the map type that thrives on brawling, could further be improved by bringing extremely strong individual players like Lateyoung and Leave into the mix, who would supplement the core and add strategical range to the Imperials. Let’s be honest here though, against the other contestants at the OWLPellets, MY will be more than enough to handily beat them. We are just trying to style on them.
On the other hand, you have Miraculous Youngster and who other OWL Pellet contestant can really claim that they have a core from a roster that played the new and improved Lunatic Hai, now Seoul Dynasty, so close. MY excels at clear frontline and highly versatile play while throwing curveballs constantly. This can at the same time be their pitfall. A game that greatly showcases this very fact is their recent performance on King’s Row against RunAway in which they took a very quick point A with an aggressive and unconventional Bastion Triple Support composition that completely zoned RunAway, only to fall short in streets phase for almost six minutes. The team tried to break through with three entirely different compositional archetypes to no avail. This is to say that if we shrank down the map pool for them and had them focus on fleshing out those strategies, in my estimation we could see them unlocked.
MY would, therefore, be my Escort and Hybrid core, which also takes over the occasional Control map and would generally be considered starters. These restrictions are in no way hard though and I would go for a fluid exchange between the cores depending on meta requirements and how it works out in terms of team synergy.
While many will cite their very recent bad performances at Nexus Cup, I argue that with the announcement of the organisation stepping back, we are watching a demotivated team which probably doesn’t practice together as much anymore and is furthermore demoralized by the reportedly corrupt circumstances of Chinese Overwatch. With an introduction into the Overwatch League and appropriate ownership vetting by Blizzard, I argue we’d once again see MY blossom. Don’t fall to recency bias either, as I’ve proven above that once successful cores can win again with the right augmentations to the roster.
My team is not lacking star power whatsoever. Leave doesn’t have to hide behind the TviQs, Liberos, Haksals and Birdrings of the world. If you ask just how versatile he is, he played nine different heroes… just against RunAway at APAC Premier.
Another top-tier performer is Lateyoung who has been showing great performances on both D.Va and Zarya and in that sense very much compares to a slightly less skilled Zunba.
On 1246, LanDo has left an impression and should serve as a great placeholder until Shy comes of age. Also Zod is a solid control Winston that seems incredibly aware of his surroundings and seems to have a high ingame IQ. Those two were some of the driving forces behind their two deep runs into the OWPS.
As for my additions which I added to my team to lock down talent to the Imperials, I chose the two obvious Chinese talents in Shy and Eileen who both convinced impressively at the World Cup. Shy might grow into becoming the Chinese equivalent to an uNkoe or a Ryujehong as he has shown proficiency on both Ana and Zenyatta. He’s also has looked incredible on LGD so far.
Eileen next to Leave could easily grow into one of the top tier DPS duos in Overwatch League. Dividing the DPS hero pool between the two would only help leave to make his champion pool more focused and manageable.
Last but not least, I have ArHaN. He has proven to be a Genji who will drag his team wherever he wants and during vod review, I never had the impression that he really communicates his plays to anyone but himself and thus the language barrier wouldn’t matter much. What ArHaN furthermore provides is a punchline and nothing is funnier to me than ArHaN’s continued support as a supposedly “top-tier” performer. He will not be signed onto a pro contract but will function as a team pet and will be paid in meat.