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Dragons, Fuel Lift Summer Showdown Trophies

Bradley Long

Getting to the top in any competitive endeavor never comes without struggle. The climb takes years of dedication and sacrifice. Staying at the summit can be even more challenging. Making it back after you’ve fallen off? Now that’s a true test of greatness. For the Dallas Fuel and Shanghai Dragons, the Summer Showdown was their chance to make that climb once more and reclaim their place atop the Overwatch League.

OWL Summer Showdown

The Dallas Fuel claimed their first title of 2022 at the Summer Showdown in Toronto. (Photo courtesy of Blizzard Entertainment)

Both teams did exactly that with dominant showings in the final regular season tournament of 2022. In a meta defined by Junker Queen, Choi “Hanbin” Han-been and Kang “Void” Jun-woo lead the way. Their play helped elevate Dallas and Shanghai to a level we haven’t seen since last year when the two teams dominated their respective regions. In turning back the clock, both teams have asserted themselves once more as title contenders just in time for playoffs.

Shanghai Finds Their Form

After sweeping the Seoul Dynasty 3-0 during the last week of the Summer Showdown Qualifiers, there was little doubt that the Dragons were the favorite coming into the tournament. They were playing their best Overwatch of the season and started to look like their old selves. The DPS duo of Lee “WhoRU” Seung-jun and Lee “LIP” Jae-won was dismantling their opponents at every opportunity. An 18-1 map record made it clear that the Dragons were back.

Still, tournament performance is a different beast entirely. Just ask the San Francisco Shock. Until the Summer Showdown, the Dragons hadn’t really shown up in the biggest moments this year. They failed to make the Kickoff Clash finals, and a 5th/6th place finish at the Midseason Madness left fans wondering if the reigning OWL champs had lost a step.

Shanghai Dragons

Photo courtesy of Shanghai Dragons.

This event should put those doubts to rest. The Dragons returned to the hectic but hyper-coordinated play style that made them the best team of 2021. They always knew exactly when to go for aggressive engages, when to pull back and kite, and how to best use cooldowns to control the tempo. It was a reminder of what Overwatch can look like at its peak.

Individually, Shanghai was simply on another level from the rest of the competition in the East. It had been a while, but it was a treat to see WhoRU unleashed on his signature Genji again. LIP was playing like the MVP candidate we saw last year, raising the bar on Sojourn and putting his stamp on every match the Dragons played. Together, they were unstoppable. An overwhelming number of fights started with either a LIP Railgun headshot kill or a bodyshot followed immediately by a dashing execution from WhoRU.

In the end, no one really stood a chance against the Dragons. Seoul put up a good fight in the Grand Finals, but even when the series was tied 2-2, it felt firmly in Shanghai’s control. Helplessness is a familiar sensation for many of the Dragons’ opponents. When they’re in form, defeat feels inevitable. For anyone with title aspirations, the thought of Shanghai firing on all cylinders should be terrifying.

Dallas Thrives at LAN

For the second time this season, the West region came together for a tournament in front of a live audience. After the Kickoff Clash in Dallas, it was Toronto’s turn to host the action. The Canadian crowd delivered a high-energy environment as they spurred the Defiant to an impressive 3rd place finish. For the Fuel, the crowd seemed to give them additional life as well. With so many veteran players, Dallas was ready for LAN and only got better as the event went on.

Things started out a little shaky for the Fuel to start the tournament. A 3-2 win over Washington was followed by a 3-1 against London. Neither team wound up looking particularly strong in the lower bracket, so it was somewhat concerning to see the Fuel played close. In the end, they found their footing after a couple matches and made the adjustments needed to take home the Summer Showdown title.

OWL Summer Showdown

Photo courtesy of Blizzard Entertainment.

The Fuel’s ability to adapt was on full display in both of their matches against the Shock. In both games, we saw the Fuel lean more heavily on Sojourn than they had previously. Part of that was the map picks from San Francisco, but this tournament also saw Kim “Edison” Tae-hoon really come into his own as a hitscan player. His Ashe was phenomenal, but he improved dramatically on Sojourn. His growth has filled one of the key gaps in the roster that held the Fuel back at times last year.

Across the entire event, Dallas was also getting great individual showings from their stars. Everyone knows by now what Kim “SP9RK1E” Yeong-han is capable of on Genji, and he delivered once again. Han “ChiYo” Hyeon-seok and Kwon “Fielder” Joon were stalwarts in the Dallas backline. The real gem was Hanbin, though. He was clearly the best Junker Queen in the West, maybe the world, from the jump. Between this and his Zarya performance in the Kickoff Clash, Hanbin is making his case as the MVP of the Fuel, if not the entire league.

Closing in on Playoffs

The Summer Showdown just threw a massive wrench into everything we thought we knew about the 2022 season. The Gladiators, two-time tournament champions, failed to even qualify for the tournament after dominating much of the season. Both the Fuel and Dragons showed they still have their eyes set on the end-of-year trophy. The Shock, despite an all-time-great regular season, once again fell short at the final hurdle.

All of these storylines are reaching their crescendo as teams try to prepare themselves for a dramatic end to the season. Much of the playoff picture is still coming together, and the Countdown Cup Play-Ins will be the final decider.

There’s also still so much yet to come. Overwatch 2 releases to the public on October 4th, bringing a new support hero into the fray. It seems unlikely that she’ll be available in OWL before the playoffs begin, but she could still have a massive impact. We saw in the Summer Showdown what a new hero can mean for a meta, especially if they’re a little overtuned upon release.

Whether Kiriko upends the meta or not, the league will be extremely wide open going into the playoffs. Four teams have already lifted trophies so far in 2022. The Shock and Fusion are always lurking with the potential to punch up. The rest of the league will continue looking for their shot to upset one of the top dogs. All things told, the Overwatch League is as competitive as ever, and everyone wants to be the next to reach the summit.

The Overwatch League returns for the end of the regular season with the Countdown Cup Qualifiers on September 22nd. All matches can be viewed on the OWL Youtube page.