One team that many expected to make wholesale changes in the offseason was the Shanghai Dragons, who had a lot of work to do to ensure that 2019 would not be a repeat of their winless 2018 campaign. Gone were eight players as well as the main coaching staff, and now they’ve unveiled six new signings that they hope will invigorate the team.

“Through the experience accumulated in the [inaugural season], the Shanghai Dragons are confident to show the all-round transformation in the 2019 season,” General Manager Van Yang said.

The organization isn’t necessarily starting from scratch, but it’s close. This technically counts as the organization’s second rebuild, after the midseason changes that ultimately could not produce a win, but this time there’s more time to forge a team identity and get everyone on the same page leading into the mid-February start date.

A New Core

The first announcement Shanghai made in the offseason was the arrival of new head coach Seung-Hwan “Bluehas” Wi, who had spent the past year with Kongdoo Panthera, leading the team to a second-place finish in Contenders Korea Season Two and going undefeated until the final, an eight-map thriller against Runaway.

Bluehas is bringing in four members of that Kongdoo Panthera team. First, there’s the support duo of Kyeong-Woo “Coma” Son and Seong-Hyeon “Luffy” Yang. Luffy, who spent his entire career with the Kongdoo organization, has played mostly Zenyatta and Moira in recent competitions, while Coma has taken on Mercy and Lúcio duties; both are capable Ana players as well. Shanghai will rely on the duo to serve as a steady backline with veteran shotcalling experience.

The other two KDP players to join Shanghai are flex DPS Jin-Hyeok “Dding” Yang and Brigitte specialist Young-Jin “Youngjin” Jin, both of whom have played under Bluehas on both Kongdoo and wNv.kr, a roster that dominated the Chinese scene in early 2017 (it also produced London’s Seung-Tae “Bdosin” Choi). Dding’s hero pool is rather unique: his focus is primarily projectile and he excels on Pharah, but he’s also a capable D.Va player, and his flexibility across roles should be an asset for the Dragons.

Youngjin started his career as a main tank but took on a flex role after joining Kongdoo. Despite struggling out of the gate as a Genji player, Season Two saw him emerge as arguably the best Brigitte player in the world while occasionally dabbling in Roadhog. His virtuoso Brigitte play made him a lynchpin for Kongdoo’s success as they thrived in a tank-heavy meta, and he should continue to be an important piece of the roster.

Diem and Guardian

The Dragons also signed two players with experience in other Contenders regions: Joon-Hwan “Guardian” Cho, who played for Toronto Esports in NA until July 2018, halfway through Season Two, and Min-Seong “Diem” Bae from Lucky Future Zenith in China. With Toronto, Guardian was a mainstay on D.Va, and whether he wins the starting spot over Se-Yeon “Geguri” Kim or serves as her backup, the Dragons will feel secure in the off-tank slot.

Diem—yes, his name is the twin to Philadelphia DPS Jae-Hyeok “Carpe” Lee—was the hitscan star for Lucky Future Zenith, a Korean roster that dominated Contenders China two seasons in a row. His skill on Widowmaker, McCree, and Sombra make him extremely valuable in the current meta, and his championship pedigree is an intangible addition to a team that’s hungry for wins.

The Returning Trio

The three players Shanghai kept from the 2018 roster were Geguri, main tank Eui-Seok “Fearless” Lee, and DPS Weida “Diya” Lu. Fearless is as solid a building block as any team could ask for, but Shanghai could still consider signing a backup for him if they plan on keeping Youngjin on Brigitte. His aggression was a double-edged sword for the Dragons last season, so making sure he gels with his new support line will be key to making this new roster work.

Geguri, as mentioned before, will likely need to compete for her starting position against Guardian, and early scrimmages should shed some light on the team’s off-tank hierarchy for 2019. Diya’s status on the team is a bit of a question mark at this point—his hero pool largely overlaps with Diem’s, and with the team most likely sticking with Korean for in-game communication, he could see less play this season. If the meta swings back toward double-hitscan compositions, though, it’ll be a different story.