Gladiators, Dynasty Claim Kickoff Clash Titles In Dominant Fashion
The 2022 Kickoff Clash was not peak Overwatch. We will not remember the first tournament of the Overwatch 2 era for exquisite teamplay and flawless execution. It was sloppy. It was chaotic. It was everything that Overwatch should be. Despite all the mess, the Kickoff Clash was a brilliant way to begin the new era of the Overwatch League.
When the dust settled, two third-seeded squads had shaken off their demons to lift the first trophies under Overwatch 2. The Seoul Dynasty and Los Angeles Gladiators took very different paths to their respective Grand Finals, but both secured their titles with convincing 4-0 sweeps. With the Midseason Madness tournament on the horizon, both teams move forward riding high with massive targets on their backs.
Glads Destroy the Competition in Dallas
Going into the Grand Finals on Sunday, the stage was set for a classic Gladiators choke. After falling to LA in the second round, the Dallas Fuel had gone on a tear through the lower bracket. No one seemed to have an answer for Dallas and their mastery of the new-age Zarya rush comps. With the home crowd backing them, the Fuel looked ready to reclaim their spot as the kings of North America.
Instead, the Gladiators thoroughly dismantled Dallas in their backyard. The Fuel were baffled, and the fans were stunned into silence. Where many expected the unproved Glads to crumble under pressure, they rose to the occasion and delivered a masterclass in front of the first LAN crowd these teams have seen in years. They exposed the Fuel’s lack of flexibility and put the rest of the league on notice.
In doing so, they earned redemption for two of their newest members, Daniel “FunnyAstro” Hathaway and Patiphan “Patiphan” Chaiwong. After starting the year 2-2, the criticism leveled at Patiphan, in particular, was relentless, and at times over the top. In the Finals, he was rock-solid, avoiding the same positional mistakes that cost his team in earlier losses. Upon victory, he broke down in tears of joy on stage, the relief evident in his face.
There with him was FunnyAstro, a player who has come up short time and time again in his OWL career. Earlier in the day, his former team, the Philadelphia Fusion, had once again fallen at the final hurdle, finishing second in the APAC tourney. On Sunday, he was brilliant, taking home the Player of the Match for a pitch-perfect Lucio performance and securing his first title in OWL.
The rest of the Gladiators were equally impressive. Jin-seo “Shu” Kim and Kevin “kevster” Persson were their usual unstoppable selves, but the true revelation was Corey “Reiner” Scoda. Thanks to his flexibility, the Glads never locked themselves into a single style of play. Their ability to read opponents and adjust on the fly started with him and ended with LA lifting the trophy.
Seoul Stand Atop APAC
Over in the East region, the Seoul Dynasty didn’t have quite as smooth a ride to the Finals as the Gladiators. A first-round loss to the Shanghai Dragons made it seem like once again they would be playing second fiddle to the team that has dominated APAC for the last two years. Instead, Seoul got their revenge in the lower bracket, reversing their fortunes with an epic 5-map triumph over the Dragons.
That was easily the best match of the entire tournament, with the two squads mostly on the same page in terms of compositions. The classic APAC dive style took center stage, with Seoul largely coming out ahead in those matchups. A tense final map went down to the wire before the Dynasty overcame their greatest foe and moved on to the Finals.
There they faced off against a Philadelphia Fusion squad that was way ahead of schedule. Few expected the team of mostly rookies to make the Finals, but there they were after strong wins against the top two seeds in the East. Unfortunately, their youth shone through on Sunday, and they were unable to put up a fight against a Dynasty team that seemed unburdened following their triumph over Shanghai.
The difference between the two teams was immediately evident. The Fusion were tense and hesitant. Seoul were loose and decisive. They set the pace of the game from the jump, constantly first to engage and find the right targets. In the biggest moment, they stepped up while Philadelphia was unable to find their form from previous days.
Throughout their Kickoff Clash run, there were two things that lifted Seoul to victory. First was the marked improvement in tank play from Myeong-hwan “smurf” Yoo. The two-time champion had struggled to sync up with his new teammates and adjust to the challenge of playing the full cast of tanks. In the Kickoff Clash, that all changed as he leveled up his Zarya play considerably and looked much more coordinated diving enemy targets.
Alongside smurf on those dives was the thrumming heartbeat of the Seoul Dynasty, Joon-yeong “Profit” Park. His performance on Genji and Tracer throughout the tournament was masterful. Every time Seoul needed a huge play, Profit was there, just as he has been for the last five years. With this win, he has lifted Seoul to the OWL mountaintop for the first time and cemented his place as the greatest player in Overwatch history.
The Road Ahead
For the moment, these two teams have separated themselves from the pack in their respective regions. They’ve also painted massive targets on their backs. Teams like Shanghai and Dallas will not take kindly to being overthrown.
For the Dynasty, the road ahead will undoubtedly be strewn with obstacles. They’ve displayed their prowess on dive comps especially and shown that they have the capacity to improve on their weaknesses. Staying on top will mean refining their play and expanding the types of compositions that they can rely on. Head coach Jin-mo “tobi” Yang is off to a great start, but can he keep his team focused on what’s to come?
The Gladiators, on the other hand, have left absolutely no doubt that they are the best team in North America at the moment. They were more versatile and more polished than any of their competition, and they didn’t even reveal their full bag of tricks. Seonchang “ANS” Lee, Indy “SPACE” Halpern, and Min-seok “skewed” Kim barely saw the light of day during the Kickoff Clash, but they all provide additional options for the Gladiators in the future. Even if we see massive meta shifts throughout the 2022 season, no one is better prepared than the Gladiators.
The Overwatch League returns to action on Thursday, June 16th as the Midseason Madness Qualifiers begin. All matches can be viewed on the OWL Youtube page.