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The anatomy of 1-42: how the Shanghai Dragons got their first W

The end of a legendary streak

Robert Paul for Blizzard Entertainment

Overwatch League fans have witnessed history. Against all the odds and mounting pressure, the Shanghai Dragons have finally won a game of competitive Overwatch.

To put this into perspective, seven out of the eight new expansion teams that have played just over one week in OWL have managed to pick up at least one win. The Dragons came dead last in the League’s inaugural season with a 0-40 record. The new, reinvigorated Dragons might cause a few more upsets as we advance through the season.

The Shanghai Dragons’ upward trajectory began last summer as they released all but three players on their roster, essentially starting from scratch once again. The team’s most influential pickups were diem, DDing and latecomer Gamsu. Now with a fearsome tank line and arguably one of the best DPS partnerships in the league, the Shanghai Dragons looked like they could pull significant punches moving into OWL season 2. In the Dragons’ first couple of games this season, they looked like an entirely different team, yet they still fell short of victory.

One of the major improvements displayed was coordination; the Dragons in season one were easily one of the most scattered and incohesive units that took the stage. This is in part due to their mixed Korean and Chinese roster which stunted communication. Picking up Gamsu not only gave them insight on the Boston Uprising, his previous team, but forged a tight tank partnership that could contend with some of the best teams in the league. Gamsu’s debut led to a 4-0 loss to the Vancouver Titans, but he joined the team with short notice, and the Dragons still showed visible improvements.

Robert Paul for Blizzard Entertainment

The Dragons also picked up BluehaS as the Dragons’ head coach. Previously on the Korean Contenders squad Kongdoo Panthera, BluehaS has helped forge the Dragons into a cohesive unit. This is in no small part due to BluehaS carrying over some of his former squad from KongDoo: YOUNGJIN, DDing, Coma and Luffy.

Add in the fact that Boston’s main tank, Fusions, was disqualified only hours before the match, and the difference in coordination became clear. Fusions was not only one of Boston’s best players, but also their main tank — the most crucial role of any Overwatch team.

From the start, the Dragons dominated on Illios. Gamsu’s Primal Rage scored multiple environmental kills, zoning Boston off the Control Point. Shanghai’s cohesion shone in the second map of the series with DDing’s Sombra enabling the Dragons to take King’s Row. Sombra was Shanghai’s secret weapon, as Boston couldn’t answer the hack specialist. Every EMP was devastating, hitting the majority of the Uprising and making them easy pickings.

DDing’s performance on Sombra throughout the series was masterful; he would finish the game with a staggering 152 enemies and hacked and 89 enemies on the receiving end of his EMPs.

Robert Paul for Blizzard Entertainment

Shanghai remained one step ahead of the Uprising. It took seven minutes for Boston’s off tank Note’s flex onto Reaper to provide results, only to have him shut down and Whip Shotted off the map during his Death Blossom. With Boston’s weak attack leading to their round completing in overtime, the Dragons had two and a half minutes to capture one tick of the point in King’s Row. With the help of diem’s quick Graviton Surge and an EMP from DDing for good measure Boston were quickly overcome.

Horizon Lunar Colony was, in comparison, a much tighter affair. Although Boston completed the map with time to spare, they still had no answer for DDing’ Sombra’s EMPs. Both teams were tied at 4-4 with Shanghai needing just over two ticks on the first point to seal a historic win. Despite Boston’s best attempts, the Dragons captured the point giving them their first ever win in the Overwatch league. The final round in the series on Rialto was merely a formality, and although Boston showed some signs of life and took the map, ultimately it was already the Dragons’ series.

It would be nice to chalk the Dragons’ win up to a steady improvement over stages, but it bears more of a resemblance to the Ship of Theseus. Has a team with so many components replaced over time stayed the Shanghai Dragons? Right now, that strategy seems to be working for them. With the new KongDoo Panthera core complimenting standout players such as Geguri, diem and Gamsu, we can anticipate some further upsets ... and maybe even a spot in the playoffs.