Ladies and gentlemen—it’s officially halfway through the 2019 season and I have an announcement to make. Please come and sit down. It’s time we had the talk. The player awards talk. By this point last season, Seong-Hyun “Jjonak” Bang had made his mark on the league—doing things on Zenyatta that no one thought were possible. He regularly dealt more damage than he had healing, topped his own team’s damage charts, and sometimes even led the New York Excelsior in final blows for entire matches. This season, not much has changed.

In 2019, this flex-support player has brought new definition to what’s possible within the role. This player used to idolize Je-Hong “Ryujehong” Ryu, loves playing Ana even though he’s better on Zenyatta, and proudly bears the deep blue of his team’s colors on stage. He might not only be the best player on his team, but he's potentially the best player in the league. This player currently holds a trophy case full of eye-popping rankings:

  • 1st in teamfight hero damage/10 mins as Zenyatta (he’s 3rd on Ana)
  • 2nd in teamfight final blows/10 mins as Zenyatta (he’s 1st on Ana)
  • 1st in teamfight win rate as Zenyatta (he’s 3rd on Ana)
  • 1st in lowest first-death rate in teamfights as Zenyatta (he’s 5th on Ana)
  • 1st in first-elimination rate in teamfights as Ana
  • 1st in teamfight win rate after first eliminations as Zenyatta

This flex support has dyed his hair multiple times, owns the longest match win-streak in league history, and… wait a minute... did you think I was talking about Jjonak this whole time?

Sike! This flex support player is not that bespectacled boss. The man with the trophy case is, in fact, Vancouver Titans support Ju-Seok “Twilight” Lee.

This article isn’t even about the most valuable player in the league (Johnny already wrote about that!)... gotcha again! This week, I will be breaking down the frontrunners for my own personal midseason rookies of the year. The fact that Twilight has been indistinguishable from—and maybe even equal to—Jjonak this entire season is all the credit that he needs. Here’s the scary part: He isn’t even the only rookie flex support that’s been Jjonak-level this season. There are three rookie flex supports who have caught my eye and the chart below should give some hint as to why:

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Teamfight hero damage/10 mins plotted against teamfight final blows/10 mins for Zenyattas in the 2019 season. A filter of minimum of 300 teamfights is applied.

If you are a Zenyatta that’s dealing as much or more hero damage as Jjonak in teamfights, you start to raise some eyebrows. Twilight not only exceeds Jjonak’s hero damage, but also sits next to last year’s MVP in the mythical high final blows, high hero damage zone. In doing so, he’s helped lead the Titans to a 19-match win-streak, a Stage 1 title, and a Stage 2 Finals runner-up finish. The second flex support Captain-Planet-Rookie-of-the-Year (CPROTY: It’s a working title!) candidate is Twilight’s rival: Min-Ki “Viol2t” Park.

Viol2t has delivered equally impressive hero damage output this season, and while he lags behind Twilight in raw final blows/10 mins, he does stand out in a different final blow stat: first eliminations in teamfights.

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Teamfight first elimination rate plotted against teamfight win rate after securing first eliminations for Zenyattas in the 2019 season. A filter of minimum 300 teamfights is applied.

Viol2t is second only to the octopus-man himself in this crucial statistic. Claiming first eliminations in teamfights is vital because the average rate of winning teamfights after securing that first pick has hovered around 83% this season, which is 9% higher than the 2018 average—courtesy of the 3-3 meta.

However, Viol2t and Jin-Seo “Shu” Kim (I haven’t forgotten him) also stand out for other reasons. Sometimes, it’s hard to remember that Zenyatta is indeed a support and that he occasionally heals people. Jjonak made waves last season for dealing extraordinary amounts of hero damage on Zenyatta and sacrificing healing to do so. But why not get yourself a Zenyatta that can do both?

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Teamfight hero damage/10 mins plotted against teamfight healing/10 mins for Zenyattas in the 2019 season. A filter of minimum of 300 teamfights is applied.

How do you reach top three of both hero damage and healing output as Zenyatta, simultaneously? Viol2t and Shu seem to have the answer. Both of these players have incredible aim, so the hero damage is no surprise. However, to reach the top echelons of healing output on Zenyatta, you have to use Transcendence wisely and juggle Harmony Orbs efficiently. Some Zenyattas are good at the former but not the latter—like Jae-Yoon “Aid” Ko who’s 6th in Transcendence healing/10 mins, but 15th in Harmony healing/10 mins. Others are good at orb juggling, but not so great at Transcendence usage like Ryujehong, who’s 8th in Harmony healing/10 mins but only 18th in Transcendence healing/10 mins. Viol2t and Shu both rank in the top four in both healing metrics while still maintaining their Jjonak-esque damage output, something I never thought would be possible!

Of course, you can be an excellent rookie without playing Zenyatta. Viol2t is the Shock’s only rookie starter, but Twilight hails from a team that is all rookies except for a certain good luck charm (#ForceOfHooreg). The entire Titans squad has a legitimate claim to the CPROTY throne due to their incredible Stage 1 and 2 performance, but certain players stand out more than others. Sang-Beom “Bumper” Park captivated fans and haters alike with his cocky playstyle and also took on the mantle as the team’s leader. Hyo-Jong “Haksal” Kim deserves immense praise for not only somehow making hype plays as Brigitte, but also for being the Brigitte that other Brigitte players study to improve their own play.

Haksal and Bumper’s antics on Brigitte and Reinhardt are epic, but it is the Zarya players that carry most of the offensive weight in the 3-3 meta. And the Titans may just have the best rookie Zarya in the league in Min-Soo “SeoMinSoo” Seo. Recall that the metric by which I measured flex supports was essentially how close they came to surpassing Jjonak. This season, the same exercise can be applied to rookie Zarya players—and to Jay “Sinatraa” Won:

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Teamfight hero damage/10 mins plotted against teamfight final blows/10 mins for Zaryas in the 2019 season. A filter of minimum of 300 teamfights is applied.

Like Twilight’s and Jjonak’s Zenyattas, SeoMinSoo and Sinatraa stand apart from the rest of the league’s Zarya players in sheer offensive output in teamfights this season. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly how SeoMinSoo is keeping up with Sinatraa—given the difference in the playstyles between the Titans and the Shock—but I can make a guess.

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Teamfight hero damage/10 mins plotted against teamfight damage taken/10 mins for Zaryas in the 2019 season. A filter of minimum of 300 teamfights is applied.

Sinatraa is known for owning the high ground and aggressively chasing down players—but also taking a decent amount of damage while doing so. In the graph above, Sinatraa’s playstyle results in him sitting above average in rate of damage taken as Zarya in teamfights. Luckily for Sinatraa, he has a backline of supports who dump 9,560 healing/10 mins into him alone—the second-highest rate of healing received behind only Byung-Sun “Fleta” Kim this season.

SeoMinSoo on the other hand receives a meager 7,882 healing/10 mins from his supports, probably because he plays alongside a Reinhardt player who plays so aggressively that he once nearly lost a map because he charged another player off the map to teach them a lesson. Rather than soak up team resources—Bumper takes plenty—SeoMinSoo capitalizes on the space that Bumper creates with his blustery play. In doing so, SeoMinSoo outpaces all non-Sinatraa Zaryas while being more deadly, taking less damage, and dying at the same low rate as the Shock phenom. This rookie absolutely belongs in the CPROTY discussion.

Just like the flex supports, I have my eye on more rookies than just SeoMinSoo at the Zarya position this year. Recall how SeoMinSoo needed minimal healing resources and took low amounts of damage in teamfights. There was another rookie that exhibited that same defensive style, although not quite equaling SeoMinsSo’s offensive output: Yeon-Gwan “Nenne” Jeong. Nenne not only kept pace with SeoMinSoo’s defensive rates, he also rarely—if ever—died first in teamfights:

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Teamfight first death rate plotted against teamfight win rate after suffering first deaths for Zaryas in the 2019 season. A filter of minimum 300 teamfights is applied.

First deaths, especially for Zaryas, are just as important as first eliminations in the current meta. In 2019, teams have only won 9.3% of teamfights where when their Zarya died first, which is 6% lower than the average win rate for all heroes. This makes Zarya, by far, the worst hero to lose first. Nenne has done an excellent job as a rookie, keeping his deaths from being a concern on an NYXL team that needs a second superstar to pair with Jjonak. When it comes to first eliminations in teamfights, Nenne is no slouch—but neither is the final rookie I have my eye on: Gui-Un “Decay” Jang.

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Teamfight first elimination rate plotted against teamfight win rate after securing first eliminations for Zaryas in the 2019 season. A filter of minimum 300 teamfights is applied.

Decay’s Zarya might not have the highest hero damage or final blows in the league, but he does excel at one thing—and that thing is getting the first elimination in a teamfight. This kid is a fragger and his aggressive Zarya play gives me hope that we will see him reach new heights when—and if—we ever exit the 3-3 meta. Decay’s Zarya is good but his best case for CPROTY is a statistic that excludes Zarya entirely. The Los Angeles Gladiators have never lost a single teamfight where Decay landed the first elimination on a non-Zarya hero. He’s a perfect 11-for-11, one of only two players in the league to reach that mark at this point in the season (the other being a non-rookie, Dylan “Akm” Bignet).

It’s important to remember that these players have stood out to me specifically in the first half of the season. If the meta changes significantly, we will absolutely have to re-evaluate some of these players like Decay or Haksal, whose talents are much better utilized piloting a Tracer or Genji. However, at the midseason mark, my CPROTY short list looks like this:

1. Twilight
2. Viol2t
3. SeoMinSoo
4. Nenne
5. Decay
6. Shu
7. The rest of the Titans

What does your list look like?

The Overwatch League returns to the big stage for the start of Stage 3 on Thursday, June 6, at 4 p.m. PDT, when the Stage 2 champion Shock (11-3) take on the Reign (7-7). Watch all 2019 season matches live and on demand on overwatchleague.com, the Overwatch League app, our Twitch channel, MLG.com, and the MLG app.