Shanghai Dragons Overwatch team on stage raise their hands up in the air after winning 2021 championship
Shanghai Dragons Overwatch team on stage raise their hands up in the air after winning 2021 championship

Zero to heroes: Shanghai Dragons are 2021 Overwatch League champions

by Jessica Scharnagle

After four years of ups and downs and a horrible 0-42 losing streak, the Shanghai Dragons took the trophy as the 2021 Overwatch League Grand Finals champions.

The Atlanta Reign made a very impressive run through the lower bracket to get to the grand final match, but they were no challenge for the dominant Dragons, who capped off their impressive regular season with a 4-0 grand finals victory.

Although the Reign suffered a quick 4-0, they put up a good fight on some maps, and head coach Brad “Sephy” Rajani said Shanghai were just better.

“Not only are [the Dragons] playing a very versatile comp, but they've unlocked every sort of way to play it. It felt like this huge hill to climb to try to compete with that. We had different versions of cheesy things that we can bust out compositionally to try to deal with it, but at the end of the day, unfortunately for us, Shanghai are not one-tricks,” Rajani said.

The Shanghai Dragons are now a team that have gone, quite literally, from zero to hero. They hold the record for the team with the longest losing streak in sports and esports history with their losing streak stretching from Jan. 10, 2018, to Feb. 22, 2019. Their record before their first win to break the streak was 0-42.

“My thought process was to make the Shanghai Dragons a team that really could win the tournament, so I tried my best to bring in the best coaches, best staff and the best players and just make a very, very good team. So I am very honored and happy that I am part of the team that made Shanghai Dragons shine,” coach Byungchul “Moon” Moon said in a press conference after the match.

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Here’s a breakdown of how each of the four maps played out.

Map 1 -- Illios

The first map started off the Reign taking control of the point. Jae-won "LIP" Lee wasn’t about to let them have it for long though as he and Byung-sun "Fleta" Kim were able to get in the Reign’s faces and take it back. Se-hyun "Pelican" Oh couldn’t get anything done on the Torbjorn, and the Dragons kept them close to spawn. They denied any further points on the board and took the first point of the map.

On Point 2, Min-chul "IZaYaKI" Kim went down easily, but Fleta and Jun-woo "Void" Kang carried the team on their backs toward the beginning of the round, denying the Reign the point. The Reign finally got control of the point at the 83% mark for the Dragons and were able to keep it for a bit while Kai "Kai" Collins went behind the team and flanked them before they had a chance to get the point.

Once the Dragons flipped the point back, Pan-seung "Fate" Koo dropped his Wrecking Ball ult and LIP denied any progression after dropping his Sombra ult, giving the Dragons the first map.

Map 2 -- Hanamura

IZaYaKI drew blood first on Hanamura after he slept Pelican at a sneaky angle. He continued to wreak havoc and just a few minutes later was able to sleep a flanking Blake "Gator" Scott and then kill him while he was trying to escape.

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The tides started to turn once Pelican used his ult and duplicated Gator’s Orisa. He allowed his team to secure the point in the last second, and he was able to deny Fleta’s flank so they could take Point A. Although it wasn’t an incredibly fast snowball, they were able to get a nice groove going to take Point B, forcing the Dragons to also get both points.

On the Dragons’ attack, they took Point A very early on, but they had a bit of a harder time getting Point B. After a failed shatter from Gator close to the last point, the Dragons completed the round.

The Reign had a little over a minute to take the point, but Fleta had other plans. The strategy was for Kai to put down a teleporter and get the whole team onto the point, but they were unable to get a single tick on Point A. The Dragons looked like they were about to take a page out of their enemies’ book, but LIP faked the turret and the Dragons easily took Hanamura to put them in a great position to win with a score of 2-0.

Map 3 -- Kings Row

The Reign’s best chance to take a map was King’s Row, which was the map they performed best on historically, but it didn’t work out for them.

The Reign gave up the first point to a very new team composition filled with Tracer, Ashe, Wrecking Ball, Sigma, Zenyatta and Baptiste. Throughout the rest of Shanghai’s attack, nothing went right for the Reign. They finished the push in a very quick 3:16.

On their attack, the Reign captured the payload and moved it almost as quickly as the Dragons did. Shanghai stalled them at the first checkpoint, where LIP and Fleta all but deleted the team off of the map.

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The Dragons made it their mission to tick the seconds down on the clock, but the Reign found their groove again after they pushed through the Dragons’ defense. They finished with 1:33 left on the map.

With the shorter time bank, Atlanta started on attack again, and started off by getting Fleta out of their way and then LIP. The Dragons stalled them with 30 seconds left on the map before they took the payload, and the Reign were forced to stay on the payload all the way to the end of the map. Shortly after the first checkpoint, the Dragons pushed them off.

The Dragons had more than enough time to get their payload to the second checkpoint before time ran out, taking the third map and a 3-0 lead.

Map 4 -- Havana

A fight quickly ensued at the beginning of Havana, and the Reign came out on top, with Kai hitting several arrows from Hanzo, but they crumbled shortly after and got pushed all the way back to spawn.

The Dragons came out of their attack with Fate on Winston, a rare sight for the tank player, and Void on Zarya. After making it to the second checkpoint and well on their way to the red box of victory, Fate switched to Reinhardt while the Reign tried to keep them off the payload. Despite their best efforts, the Dragons took the map and the 4-0 win.

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The 2021 grand finals mark the end of the Overwatch League’s fourth season, and teams will be looking to change up rosters and prepare for a fifth season of Overwatch that will be played on a build of Overwatch 2 next year.

Lead photo credit: Shanghai Dragons

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