The Defiant are back and changing it up, this time with Even More Canadians™. Welcome Surefour, Agilities, Beast, Nevix, KariV, and Kellex – and welcome back Mangachu, Logix, and RoKy! Read on for my take on the new roster.
We’ll start with my favourite pickup: Lane Roberts himself. Am I a little overexcited that my favourite player is now on my favourite team? Heck yeah I am. And I’m sure I’m not the only one: the number of Toronto flairs on Reddit skyrocketed after ex-Gladiator Surefour was announced.
Aside from popularity, Surefour brings a strong veteran presence to the team. He’s capable of picking up new heroes quickly and likes to be involved with strategy-building. No one can forget how he developed from an average Widowmaker player to a great one during the inaugural season of OWL. We’ll stay drama-free and not discuss Fissure here, but regardless of who did or did not influence whom, Surefour was able to grind it out for his team. And we know from season two that he’s far from a Widowmaker one-trick, so regardless of whether snipers make a comeback, he’s a fantastic player to have all-around. Being Canadian is just a nice bonus.
A late-season pickup in 2019, Mr. Logix was a high point for Toronto fans while the team was struggling. He put up some good performances and, more importantly for the Defiant after being eliminated from play-off contention, brought the seeds of a fanbase along with him. It’s good to have some continuity from last year, and depth on a team is important, but it’s still odd for Toronto to have two of their strongest players signed to the same role. Unless double sniper somehow makes a comeback – we keep saying that like it’s ever going to happen – he unfortunately might not get the stage time that a player of his calibre deserves.
Agilities and Mangachu
I worry about the flex DPS on this team. I love these two, I really do, but we have to look at how they stack up against the rest of the league. Architect, Rascal, Haksal, Profit, EQO, legendary newcomer Sp9rk1e…the list goes on and on and on. We don’t know what the meta will be yet, but can you imagine Agilities or Mangachu matching up against Sinatraa’s doomfist? Both of them have shown a great Pharah in the past, but her presence in the meta can be fleeting. I understand that the Defiant is taking a Canadian approach, and I hope they prove me wrong, but Toronto could have done much better in this role. “Average” just isn’t good enough anymore.
And please don’t try to convince me that they’re reliable main tank backups for Beast. My poor Canadian heart is trying desperately to forget Tankachu and AgiliHorse.
Beast and Nevix
This tankline was a gamble, but I think it has potential. Both players are coming off the bench, but with a lot of hype around them anyway. That in itself is impressive. Nevix, in particular, was lauded by coaches and teammates for his work behind the scenes of the Shock’s success. Before Fusion University favoured ChangSik as their starting main tank instead, Beast (formerly BeastHalo) was extremely well-regarded by the community, with many shocked he didn’t make it into the 2019 season of OWL. He had been rumoured to join the Chengdu Hunters, but when that fell through, he was left behind for another year.
With Beast being new to OWL and both tanks possibly a bit rusty, I’m surprised that Toronto hasn’t picked up any backups yet. They might still announce another addition or two before the start of the season, especially since they’re currently operating with the minimum eight, plus RoKy as a ninth on a two-way contract. I’m reserving judgment on the current tankline until we see them play together.
This. I like this. Besides the immediate +10 bonus to roster synergy for keeping KariV with BFF Agilities, this former LA Valiant flex support is an Ana sleep god. He’s no slouch on the Zenyatta either. KariV is a South Korean player who is talented, popular, and has previous experience meshing well with a predominantly Western roster. Considering they got him at a discount for picking up the package deal, he’s really everything Toronto could possibly have wanted.
Before the World Cup, I would have been lukewarm on this pickup. Back in 2018, during Boston’s miracle Stage 3 run, Kellex was sometimes talked about as the one weak point on the roster. The Uprising had a slow crash and burn in 2019 that left almost no one looking decent by the end. However, Kellex’s performance on Team Denmark this year showed promise, with the team reaching the quarterfinals. Of course, World Cup is an oddball of a tournament that is not necessarily indicative of future performances in OWL. But it’s reassuring to see that Kellex still has the potential to be a playmaker and a leader. I’m cautiously optimistic.
I love this kid. All of Toronto loves this kid. If they had dropped him completely, the entire Defiant Discord server would have imploded in a cloud of jerseys, fanart, and homemade stickers. Jokes aside, it makes a lot of sense to keep Toronto’s most popular player from the original 2019 roster as a two-way with Montreal. From his streams we know that he’s highly motivated to work on his English while he plays with the Rebellion. Bonus: He actually showed us some pretty decent Lucio play this past season, before Aid took over in the mixed roster (presumably for communication reasons). He’s a great backup player to have around.
Is this a championship-winning roster? Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem that way. Fan speculation often places them around lower-mid-tier, with a decent chance of making play-ins if they work hard and gel well together. Although many of their new pickups are Overwatch League veterans known to put up skillful performances, it’s clear that this team was built to cultivate a fanbase.
The Defiant were criticized in their inaugural season for initially picking up an all-Korean roster with a lack of identity. I don’t think it’s fair to bash teams for the nationality of their rosters, but the latter aspect was a real concern. Who were the Defiant in 2019? Memes about Toronto Representatives and a smattering of RoKy fans can’t put over 2000 butts in seats in 2020. The immense efforts of Toronto Alpha Flight, the local fan club, can’t reach everyone – although they are trying their best, now working together with “The Defiance,” the new Official Fan Club. While teams can certainly cultivate a passionate Western following for Korean players, Toronto has taken a shortcut to fame by poaching Canadians from other teams. And it’s working.
But that doesn’t mean they’ll be satisfied spending another year at the bottom. Returning staff Jae and Barroi and new coaches Féfé, Albless, and Lilbow have taken the team to South Korea this month for a much-needed boot camp to kickstart the new season. (Click here to read our interview with Head Coach Féfé.) With many other OWL teams doing the same and top Korean Contenders teams also in the area to scrim with, this is a good sign that they’re already moving in the right direction.
To close, I leave you all with an inspiring message from Lane to keep your spirits high while we wait for 2020:
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Featured image courtesy of Ben Pursell for Blizzard Entertainment.