From last season to this season, the Shanghai Dragons have served as the feel-good story of the Overwatch League. This team had the roughest season of any team in the league last year, and possibly the worst in all sports. The infamous 0-40 hung over them for an entire summer. After that, following a controversial re-haul of the players and almost no changes to the staff, people remained skeptical. Sure, they pulled a lot of great players from Contenders, but would they improve?
The Dragons won their first-ever match in the Overwatch League earlier this year, which was great. But nobody expected the team to do what they have now done. Not only did they achieve greatness, but they beat every great team to get it.
The Shanghai Dragons have won the stage three finals, beating the San Francisco Shock in a close seven-map series.
It doesn’t need to be overstated. The Dragons were terrible last season. Bad coaching and an inconsistent roster led to a win-less season. When that season ended and the Dragons announced that all but two players on their roster would be released, it was expected. The only three members they kept were Chinese player Weida “Diya” Lu and Korean tank players Se-yeon “Geguri” Kim and Eui-Seok “Fearless” Lee. Fans did argue that maybe releasing Gihyeon “Ado” Chon was a bad idea, but the keeps were smart. They had a core of players to build upon.
So, the reinforcements came in. But what was their team of choice to take from? Only one of the best in Korea: Kongdoo Panthera. They acquired every player on that team, besides main tank Chang-hoon “rOar” Gye and DPS Gui-un “Decay” Jang. In also acquiring Korean player Min-seong “diem” Bae from Chinese team Lucky Future Zenith, they had a solid roster with some star players. Season two was going to be different.
But the season started off tough. They faced a lot of teams that ended up being top tier, which probably wasn’t the best judge of skill. But that wasn’t the only reason for their struggles. The infamous GOATs meta and an unfortunate return to Korea for Fearless left the Dragons without a main tank. They played a bunch of matches with random players playing main tank, and it didn’t work. But then, noticing another Korean main tank wanting to leave their team in the league, they capitalized.
Young-jin “Gamsu” Noh was traded to the Shanghai Dragons from the Boston Uprising. This proved to be a great trade, albeit not an instant fix. After a couple of matches, however, the Dragons finally started to play well together, leading to their first win — over Gamsu’s old team, no less. Then, they proved to be at least a mid-tier team, getting a lot of wins together.
But as it turns out, stage three was their time. The change of meta from GOATs to more Sombra and Pharah usage benefited the Dragons. With star players Diem on his Widowmaker, Jin-hyeok “DDing” Yang on Pharah and Sombra, and Seong-hyeon “Luffy” Yang on Ana, they reached the stage playoffs in the eighth seed. Their first opponents: the perfect stage New York Excelsior. A tough opponent to be sure, but a team known for choking in playoffs.
This turned out to be a reputation that held up, with the Dragons dominating the confused Excelsior, winning 3-1. But that win was just a taste of the top tier teams, as their next opponents were the juggernaut Vancouver Titans. Yes, the Titans did look more mortal than in stages one or two, but it wasn’t an easy task to win against them. The Dragons still stomped them 4-1.
Sure, the win was great, but the Titans are just worse this stage, fans said. Winning against the last stage champions would be tough. The San Francisco Shock were no slouches. And after a seven map series, the Shanghai Dragons pulled out the win 4-3. The Dragons have completed the redemption arc and have beaten the three best teams in the league. And with stage four left, the league might end with some of the best Overwatch we’ve seen so far.