What is it Going to Take?
Recently the Shanghai Dragons took one of the best, if inconsistent, teams to a map five. Their game near the end of Stage Three against the Philadelphia Fusion featured plenty of times where the Dragons dominated, such as their defense on Junkertown. It also had several close calls for the Dragons, such as their first point assault on Junkertown. The night ended in a 3-2 after Philly took Oasis. The Fusion gained another win on their record and Shanghai had another loss.
With the Dragons still without a win at the end of Stage 3 their record sits at 0-30. This is not only the worst in the league, but the worst in professional esports. In fact, the team now has the unfortunate honor of owning the longest losing streak in professional sports, beating the Philadelphia 76ers. So what’s the deal? They’re not so proud or flawed that they won’t make adjustment because they’ve made changes. They’ve added one of the best Tank players from Korea. They have a full twelve player roster to allow internal skrimages. They bring out new and occasionally effective team compositions. Why isn’t it enough?
Shanghai started off the league with a seven player, all Chinese roster. This roster included Roshan and Freefeel from FTD Club along with Creed from Miraculous Youngster. While this squad wasn’t hyped to the level of New York or Seoul, expectations were high. These were players from some of the best teams of 2017. Then the losses started coming in. On paper the team was solid. Perhaps not playoff level, but solid. Just as no one had predicted Boston’s recent success no one then was prediction three straight stages fo losses for the Dragons. In fact, as of the Stage One finals the Dragons jersey was the best selling piece of OWL merchandise. Sometime around their loss to Florida, giving the Mayhem their first win, people began to suspect something was up.
In what seemed to be a recognition of their shortcomings the Dragons utilized the signing period more and perhaps better than any other team in the league. The players they brought on would all contribute to the team in a big way and enter the vernacular of the league. Now players like Ado and Geguri are as talked about as Coolmatt or JJoNak.
On Valentines day the Shanghai Dragons signed not one, two, but four new players. Sky, Fearless, Geguri, and Ado. Now what’s important to note is that some of these players are Korean. This brings the issue of comms and communication into the mix. This isn’t a unique problem for the Dragons as many teams have international rosters. How does a team that’s already having problems getting wins work around this though?
With more players come new ideas. Watching the Dragons in Stage 3 is watching a far different team than in Stage 1, and not just for whose on the virtual field. The Dragons, more than any other team, seem the least afraid to run the unique compositions. Their defence set up on Volskaya industries is unlike even things I see in quickplay. Often these don’t work, but as I’ve said before the scoreboard doesn’t always show how close some games are. When they do work though the Dragons play amazing.
So, while their coach is stepping down, I don’t think there’s any particular problem with the Shanghai Dragons. They have good players, they fight hard, they are trying different things. It may be that in this league where a complicated game is played on the highest level that there has to be someone on the bottom. They could end the season without a win, but I don’t think that’s going to happen. I don’t think that’s going to happen because of the schedule for this week.
Their Best Chance for a Win is This Week
For a few reasons Shanghai has their best chance at their first win this week. There’s still ten matches left in the season of course. That’s a lot of maps left to play and anything could happen. If the win for the Dragons is going to happen though, I think it’s going to happen this week. Here’s why:
Their Opponent is the Dallas Fuel
It sure doesn’t look like it when you look at the table as the Fuel sit above both the Mayhem and Dragons, but Dallas is the worst team in the league. From Drama, to releasing their coach, to EFFECT leaving to Korea. Dallas is far cry from predictions for the team. Even a perfect stage won’t get them in season playoffs now, and there’s a good change they won’t get any wins. Their best games this season are behind them.
When new stuff comes out its the team that adapts first that wins. Brigitte coming into the game is going to shake up the comp like never before. While probably not the death of the Dive, it’s a whole new meta. With a new meta that is yet to be forged at the highest level there’s a sort of reset for all the teams. Individual skill aside, the playing field is level in a way it really hasn’t been in the OWL before. This isn’t so much an advantage for the Dragons as much as it’s a lack of advantage another team can have over them.
The Public Believes in Them
We’ve talked at great length about the outpouring of public support for the Dragons as they neared this first win. This support isn’t one off though. In fact it’s backed up by something far more substantial; belief. At the time of this writing the global pick rate for Wednesday’s Fuel vs. Dragons showdown on High Noon Pick’em, which hosts some of the most popular Overwatch League weekly pick’em leagues, has 63% of all picks in favor of Shanghai. That’s nearly two-thirds of fans picking the Dragons to win. Not only that, they’re picking them to win with point on the line. While maybe only for bragging rights, 2/3 of OWL fans don’t make a decision like this lightly.
The action for Shanghai kicks off Wednesday at 8 Pm PST. Make sure you turn into the league stream on twitch, the Official website, or the game client to see if Shanghai can do it. And Dragons players, if your reading this, good luck, you can do it!