How Every May Melee Team Can Win the Title
When the Overwatch League kicks off its May Melee tournament on Thursday, it will be charting new territory. On top of the technical wizardry that made an intercontinental online event possible, it will also be a return to the league’s international vision.
For the first time in over a year, Florida, Dallas, and Chengdu will face opponents who have been sequestered on opposite sides of the Pacific. That alone is cause for celebration. However, there is the matter of deciding a champion, the first of four that will be crowned across 2021’s regular season.
The fact that these teams are largely unfamiliar with each other makes predicting a champion all but impossible. On top of the regional styles that have developed in the past year, the four remaining teams also bring a level of creativity and individuality that generally hasn’t been seen among top-tier teams. Throw in a diverse meta that is far from solved, and there’s no telling who will win. Instead, let’s look at each team and what their hypothetical path to the May Melee title looks like.
In the past, rooting for Chengdu came with a sense of ironic detachment. After all, this was the funny team. Point and laugh as Menghan “ameng” Ding zooms around on Wrecking Ball while Hu “JinMu” Yi feeds in search of his next highlight clip. As long as your favorite team wasn’t on the receiving end of one of its unpredictable pop-off performances, it was fun to root for the OWL’s agents of chaos.
Now, though, it’s finally time to put that version of Chengdu to rest. That team exists only in the past, replaced in the present with a well-oiled machine that looks downright conventional at times. Part of that is simply that the league and the East, in particular, have started adopting the Wrecking Ball, so the Hunters’ signature pick isn’t the wild card it once was.
That being said, Chengdu still leans heavily on Wrecking Ball comps, nearly three times as much as a league-average team. In the past, that limited its possibilities and held them back. Now it could be its greatest strength.
Coming into the May Melee, the team’s opponents – Dallas and Florida specifically – will not have faced a team like Chengdu. They won’t have faced a Wrecking Ball player like Jiaxin “ga9A” Qiu either. His individual play is stellar, but it’s the little bits of coordination that stand out. When he syncs up with diving DPS picks, Sombra especially, your backline can be gone before you can react.
Speaking of DPS, the Hunters has gotten tremendous contributions from their talented trio. JinMu finally has a perfect role as a specialist for certain maps, coming in to play Pharah and Sombra. Yujia “Jimmy” Lei has been a strong addition, giving Chengdu the hitscan specialist it needs. The standout has been Xin “Leave” Huang, who has turned into an absolute superstar in his second OWL season. If he keeps it up, the Hunters just might be the tournament favorites.
Facing off against Chengdu in the first round is the surprise of the May Melee so far. Dallas was one map away from missing the tournament entirely, but it made the most of its opportunity so far. Last week, the team dispatched the Shock and Outlaws with ease.
Certainly, a big part of their success can be attributed to their wholly unique take on the current meta. When the league as a whole is leaning heavily on hitscan threats like McCree and Ashe— one of the two is picked nearly 65% of the time—Dallas has been unable to follow suit. The loss of Gihyo “Xzi” Jung before the season has forced the Fuel to get creative in approaching the game.
The result has been a style of play that no one has ever seen before. The team is leaning into their history, going back to their Element Mystic roots and eschewing the meta entirely. Part of that is the unique hero pools of Yeonghan “SP9RK1E” Kim and Dongha “Doha” Kim, but the Fuel also finds ways to innovate around those picks. The chief example is its use of Symmetra in Brawl comps and how it utilizes her Teleporter to catch opponents flat-footed. Teams will have a week to study the Fuel. But there is no real way to practice whatever plan it comes up with. If no one can figure out Dallas’ style, it’ll be dangerous.
Of course, any discussion of the Fuel’s success would fall flat if it didn’t include Euiseok “FEARLESS” Lee. After a redemptive season in Shanghai, he’s making a serious case for league MVP in 2021. His Winston play and Primal Rage usage, in particular, has been unreal so far. He’s the centerpiece for Dallas right now, and that alone makes the team a serious threat to take the title.
Of all the teams in the May Melee, Florida probably has the most questions around its performance. It’s strange, given its pedigree. It has no rookies playing, and every player is a proven performer to some degree. The team has championship experience in Seong jun “SLIME” Kim, and their returning core has proven they can contend with consistency.
Still, its path to this point has left something to be desired. The team’s qualifier performance was shaky, with a 3-0 drubbing by the Shock last week serving as the low point. To its credit, the Mayhem shook off that embarrassing loss and took care of business in the Knockouts. Sure, the Defiant and Justice turned out to be paper tigers to an extent, but you can’t deny the improvements Florida made.
It made adjustments to its Brawl comps, in particular, playing better around Minseok “OGE” Son’s aggressive Reinhardt and better supporting him to excel. What was once a serious weakness now could be a valuable tool as it goes up against Shanghai and Chengdu, two teams that have shied away from Brawl.
Of course, the Mayhem still excels at its bread and butter. Dive comps with Winston get OGE on his best hero and allow Florida’s talented DPS duo to take over games. It’s flashed some good Wrecking Ball comps as well, playing primarily around Sangbeom “bqb” Lee and his ability to poke from long range on Ashe.
If Florida wants to win its first tournament, it’ll have to rely on its versatility. It needs to keep playing all these comps to a high level and exploit the holes in its opponents’ games. If it can be strategic with its plans and map choices throughout the tournament, it might surprise everyone and silence the doubters.
At this point, how do you doubt the Shanghai Dragons? With Pan Seung “Fate” Koo replacing FEARLESS, it might not have the same peaks as last year, but last week gave us the first glimpse of Shanghai returning to form. The Dragons’ big-game experience and clutch potential were on full display as it weathered a six-map series and pulled off the comeback against a hot Fusion squad.
If it can build on that performance, then every other team should be scared. 2020 showed us what can happen when Shanghai is firing on all cylinders. Even when the team isn’t, it is still a serious threat.
What has brought Shanghai the most success this year has been going back to what worked in 2020. Getting Jun Woo “Void” Kang onto Sigma and ByungSun “Fleta” Kim onto Mei and Echo has helped the team get into a comfort zone to excel and effectively incorporate a new main tank. That’s not to say the team needs to force those picks, but anything that simplifies the game plan could help them. Wrecking Ball comps with Sigma have been working especially well and give Fate a less coordination-intensive role.
If Shanghai is going to win the Maye Melee, it’ll need big contributions from their support duo. Jae Gon “LeeJaeGon” Lee is a proven playmaker, even when he’s put on picks like Mercy and Brigitte. For his part, Min chul “IZaYaKI” Kim has evolved into an elite flex support. His Zenyatta has always had fragging power, but so far this year, his positioning has been excellent, and his Ana has come a long way. If he maintains that level and the team continues to coalesce around Fate, the Dragons could deny the league a new champion to start 2021.
The May Melee gets underway on Thursday, May 6, at 10 PM ET. All matches will be shown live on the Overwatch League Youtube channel.