Earlier this week, my colleague Ghostless previewed what NYXL Main Tank Mano can do for Team South Korea in the World Cup. Here’s how he did.
First, I would like to say,
Now that that’s out of the way, let’s talk about Dong-Gyu “Mano” Kim’s last year prior to the world cup.
Mano’s 2019 with NYXL
In a meta dominated by Orisa since the introduction of role lock, Mano was called to represent his country. The three-time reigning champions chose Mano to return to the World Cup Stage after an outstanding 2019 Overwatch League season. A season that had several analysts and players, including former teammate Yeonjun “ArK” Hong, calling for him to be MVP.
Analysts considered Mano the “least resource-dependent” main tank in the league during 3-3 meta. NYXL still seemed to play around 2018 MVP SeongHyun “JJONAK” Bang. While not ideal, this still led to only 2 match losses in the first 3 stages. Mano mainly played a passive, but strong, and sometimes even cheeky Reinhardt during this stretch. But the League’s 20 GMs weren’t impressed enough, and he was left out of the top 5 for MVP voting.
As Role Lock came in, Mano found himself on Orisa, a less flashy but equally, if not more important hero. While the team struggled in stage 4, he stayed consistent on the hero. Come playoff time, Double Barrier was king and Mano continued to stay consistent on Orisa, with New York seemingly more coordinated than ever. This led to a 3rd place finish for New York, losing to both grand finalists, and defying several expectations given to them.
Several days before Blizzcon, reports suggested that this was a weaker Korean team from years passed. Part of this was due to the clashing styles of Mano, from the passive NYXL, and off-tank Hyobin “Choihyobin” Choi, from the more aggressive San Francisco Shock. Korean head coach Dae-hee “Crusty” Park was also the Shock head coach, and Choi was the MVP of the OWL Grand Finals for his Sigma play. If brought together, seemingly for an aggressive play-style, this could easily be the best of Korea’s 4 World Cup teams. A few things, however, seem to stand in the way.
Joining the Lobby
In a meta where Orisa is on top, Sigma has stood beside her ever since his introduction. For most of the group stage, Choi decided to turn back the clock and play Roadhog to Mano’s Orisa. This, combined with JaeHyeok “carpe” Lee’s odd choices of Hanzo and Widowmaker, made for strange, off-meta comps while the oppositions continued to run double shields. Whether decided by coach Crusty, or just the players shaking things up, it made them look far below their standards.
But this article is about Mano, and his contributions. I used the World Cup Replay Viewer to see what he did right and wrong. Group A was clearly the stronger of the 2 groups. This was brought into attention after Korea went 2-2, losing 2-1 to France and 3-0 to USA.
Overall, Mano did what he always does, hold the line. Most of the matches showed his passive play style on Orisa. At times, he would use aggression to set up for the next fight, after eliminating the rest of the team. Mano’s cooldown usage showed to be his biggest strength. Most impressive was his use of Orisa’s Halt.
Mano used halt, often nicknamed “Mini-grav,” in two ways. The first is to pull enemies above their own shields. This can simply throw the opponents off, or place an enemy for either a Roadhog hook (Oink & Yoink, if you will) or another form of Crowd Control. This gives way for an early pick to give Korea an advantage for the fight. However, a well timed Mei wall can usually counter this. The second, and more noticeably effective way, is to create a more efficient ultimate for his teammates. By pulling several enemies together, he can assist in more elims from Choi’s Whole Hog, Carpe’s Dragonstrike, and Minho “Architect” Park’s Rocket Barrage.
His biggest weakness came with his own ultimate, Supercharger. Throughout the group stage, Mano would be slow to gain ult charge, mainly moving back to his passive play style. When he had it ready, there were quite a few ill-advised and/or poorly placed bongos. Mano often either placed his Superchargers when a team fight was effectively decided, or he simply placed them too far away from the rest of his team. Mano’s ultimate seemed to bring in no effect to the team fight. These decisions and clashes brought Korea to a 2-2 Group stage record, good enough for 3rd place in Group A and a spot in the quarterfinals of the knockout round against Denmark.
On the Playoff Stage, Mano showed traces of an uncharacteristic aggression on Orisa. This was most likely to be more in line with Choi, who went back to Sigma. His aggression caused several moments where he would be first, effectively losing the team fight. His weak ultimates found a new form, being placed in the middle of team fights to easily be shot down. Against Denmark in the Quarterfinals, Korea was brought to their limit. Ultimately, they outskilled the Danes to set up a rematch with USA.
The Americans beat Korea in the group stage 3-0, to the surprise of many. The Semifinals were much closer, but USA finally defeated their demons. Another close match was played, but like Denmark, USA capitalized on Mano’s aggression. The difference was keeping the momentum in their favor enough times to win 3-1, including one draw.
Korea still earned a berth in the Bronze medal match against a worn French team, fresh off of a losing effort against China. After winning the match quite handily, Mano was interviewed by Danny Lim. Instead of celebrating the win against France, he apologized to the fans for not winning their fourth straight gold medal. Korea’s expectations were high, but unfortunately, they were not met.
Looking Forward to 2020
Going into the 2020 Overwatch League season, the NYXL will have high expectations yet again. Whether or not Orisa is as powerful as she is now, Mano will still be an integral part in the team’s success. Despite the current lack of a Head Coach, the main core is still intact and ready to compete. The first matches of the season will be in New York at the Hammerstein Ballroom. Opening weekend could serve as motivation for the Excelsior to shatter any and all expectations. Until then, We’ll have to wait and see what the meta has in store.
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