The year is 2018, amid disastrous internal decisions and a lacklustre level of play, the Shanghai Dragons become infamous for going an entire season winless, accumulating 40 defeats during their debut season. Three years later, the franchise closes out the Overwatch 1 era of the scene by lifting their first OWL trophy, with a total sweep over the Atlanta Reign.
Dominating throughout every map, Shanghai secured their place in Overwatch esports history with a 4-0 annihilation against Reign, a symbolic result that emphasizes how far the franchise has come.
Sure, an entire roster rebuild had to take place, even if last season would've been perfect for main tank Eui-Seok "Fearless" Lee's redemption arc (now playing with Dallas Fuel), but Shanghai has been working towards this level of success for the past three seasons, winning a total of five stage titles since 2019.
Playing a wide variety of compositions at a high level, from bunker to Wrecking Ball based, and even more classic dive ones, Shanghai simply outplayed Atlanta on every map, a team that favours stationary compositions, or going high-tempo with their Reinhardt rush comps.
Hanamura and King's Row, the second and third maps respectively, had Atlanta favoured due to them playing much more into Atlanta's style, with Shanghai faltering in the 2CP map against the Los Angeles Gladiators, however, coach Byungchul Moon had prepped countermeasures, including. a spectacular Symmetra teleporter fakeout strategy on their second attack to close out the map win.
We have officially played the last Assault map ever.— Overwatch League (@overwatchleague) September 26, 2021
See ya ✌️ #OWL2021 pic.twitter.com/7wdkcVLbAH
In the end, no matter the map pick, Atlanta was simply outclassed and outmatched at every possible turn by what could possibly be the greatest Overwatch team of all time.
Despite the tough loss, make no mistake, Atlanta Reign have proven their worth with a base roster that's been playing together since 2019, and it seems their ceiling can be just as high when Overwatch 2 rolls around.
All in all, despite a disappointing grand finals in terms of excitement, it's a fitting end to over four years of competition, a perfect time to revitalise OWL with the upcoming sequel, a fresh canvas for new stories and heroes to rise.
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Feature image courtesy of Blizzard Entertainment.