Last week, NYXL announced their first free agent acquisition in former Fusion and Charge off-tank Hong-Joon “Hotba” Choi.
Yesterday, they announced another signing, with their former Academy off-tank, Dong-Wook “Bianca” Kim.
Following the departure of Tae-Hong “Meko” Kim in free agency, the Off-Tank position needed to be filled. The Excelsior have decided to give themselves flexibility in this role by signing 2 different players with varying skill sets. While the meta is yet to be determined, let’s look at how they got to New York, and what they have to offer.
One thing these players have in common is that they started their pro careers in Apex Season 4. They also had connections to current members of NYXL during this tournament. Hotba played alongside future OWL talent on LuxuryWatch Red. Signing with the Excelsior will reunite him with Yeon-Gwan “Nenne” Jeong. Meanwhile, Bianca played for MVP Space, another team with future OWL players. While with MVP, Bianca’s coach was current NYXL General Manager Yo-Han “nuGget” Kim.
LW Red went undefeated in the first group stage, including a win against the eventual champion, GC Busan. However, 2 losses to NC Foxes sent them home in the second group stage. Despite the disappointing loss, they made it farther than MVP, who were eliminated in the first group stage. Despite a 2-1 record, including a win against 2-time defending champions Lunatic Hai, their loss to Runaway couldn’t get them out of groups.
Apex Season 4 marked the start of dive meta, which meant a lot of D.va play. Hotba was not the strongest D.va in this instance, but helped his team where he could. This is more than I could say for Bianca, who spent the entire tournament benched in favor of Sung-Jun “QoQ” Yu, who will most likely enter OWL this season. Shortly after Apex, the Philadelphia Fusion signed Hotba, while Bianca Stayed on MVP Space.
In the start of the OWL/OWC era, Hotba and Bianca, again, find themselves in similar situations. Hotba starts the season on the bench while Sumin “Sado” Kim is suspended and Gael “Poko” Gouzerch becomes a fan favorite. Back in Korea, Bianca and QoQ are still fighting for a starting spot.
KR Contenders Season 1
Despite a few roster changes, MVP spent season 1 of Contenders still with Bianca and QoQ, who split their matches. QoQ lost both matches he played in, while Bianca went 2-1, including giving Seven their only loss of the regular season. Unfortunately, this was not enough to make Playoffs. QoQ would leave the team at the end of the season.
OWL Stage 4 & Playoffs
After spending the first 3 stages on the bench, Hotba has come into the starting roster alongside Sado, who has served his 30 game suspension. In the final stretch, they did enough to secure the 6th and final seed for the playoffs.
In their first match against Boston, for Volskya Industries, Hotba subbed in for Flex-Support Isaac “Boombox” Charles to play… Tracer. Yes, a Tank player came in for a Support to play DPS. And it worked! Fusion would win the first set, and eventually the series. A lot of the Semifinals against NYXL featured the same lineup, with subs between Boombox and Hotba. Hotba would mainly play Roadhog in a single healer comp, and eventually switch to a surprisingly adequate Zenyatta. This got them the upset win and into the Grand Finals, where they lost to the London Spitfire.
KR Contenders Season 2-3
For Season 2, Bianca would solidify the starting spot. Once again, MVP went 2-3 in the regular season, but this time, it was enough to earn a Playoff spot. They would lose to eventual champion Runaway 1-3 in a 5-map Quarterfinal set. A few more roster changes brought the team to season 3. While the regular season saw improvement with a 3-2 record, the Quarterfinals ended again with a 1-3 loss, this time to the less formidable StormQuake.
In October 2018, the Fusion announced that they traded Hotba to the Guangzhou expansion team, later named the Charge. In January 2019, Bianca (now known as Kirby) leaves MVP Space and joins XL2 Academy. Both of these players found better opportunities to prove themselves at around the same time.
OWL Season 2
Hotba solidified himself as a starter for the Guangzhou Charge. However, his subpar D.va and Sombra caused the team to struggle in Goats meta. They averaged 3 wins per stage during this span. After role lock was introduced in stage 4, a new meta came about, and with that, more Roadhog for Hotba. Charge ended the stage 6-1 and earned the 9th overall seed, securing a match against Chengdu in the play-ins. In the very first match with Sigma in OWL, Hotba showed how to flex, and helped Charge win 4-1. Analysts considered him the best Sigma on the first day. The next day, Min Seo “Marve1” Hwang stepped his bare feet into the ring and was able to best Hotba. Marve1’s Seoul Dynasty would beat the Charge 4-1 in 6 maps to make Playoffs. This would end Hotba’s time with Guangzhou.
NA Contenders Season 1 & 2
Kirby left MVP Space along with his DPS teammate Jun-Ki “Yaki” Kim to join XL2. They were the only 2 Korean players on the team, and they struggled into a 2-5 record, just good enough for a playoff spot. They would lose to ATL Academy in the Quarterfinals 3-0 to end a disappointing season.
Bianca would return to XL2 the next season, this time as the sole Korean. Most of the roster was changed, and eventually, revitalized. Season 2 saw a 5-2 regular season record, good enough for a bye into the Semifinals. After beating Triumph 3-0, XL2 qualified for The Gauntlet, where the world would see them compete on LAN. After losing the Final to Envy, the roster prepared to go to Seoul
The Gauntlet saw XL2 place 3rd in the group stage and start in the lower bracket. Their first match of the bracket stage was a rematch of the Contenders finals against Envy, and this time, XL2 emerged victorious, by way of a clean sweep. They lost their next match to NA Powerhouse and eventual Runner-up, ATL Academy, to secure a 5th-6th place finish.
These two are ready for the next chapter in their careers, and it’ll start at the Hammerstein Ballroom in New York. Hotba has a veteran mentality, a flexible hero pool, and the will to experiment. He has seen success in different forms, including at the hands of his new team. Bianca has shown a pattern in his career, that includes the ability to mesh with his team, his coaches, and overall, to keep getting better. He is a young mind, now surrounded by greatness.
Whoever plays will have a big seat to fill, and the city of New York will be counting on them. The starter can easily be replaced by the other. Whoever can handle being an athlete in New York will surely deserve it. Welcome to New York.
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