This year I was privileged to be given a vote for the end-of-season awards: Role Stars, Rookie of the Year, and MVP. I also may have indirectly shaped other voters’ opinions with the release of Player Impact Rating, as well as my statistics content throughout the year. With these responsibilities weighing on my mind, I felt it was a good idea to reveal my own personal award choices and the reasoning behind them.
There are a couple of things to keep in mind. First, voting closed at the very end of Stage 4—I was actually hurrying to input my selections as I prepared for the last morning of Kit Kat Rivalry Weekend. Second, there were a lot of players who were eligible for awards! This means that I had to stick to some general rules so that I could pare the list down into something more manageable.
The main rule I applied: I only considered players who were starters for the majority of the season. Let’s start with my Role Stars:
Damage: Hyo-Jong “Haksal” Kim (Titans), Dong-Jun “Rascal” Kim (Shock), Jay “Sinatraa” Won (Shock), Jun-Young “Profit” Park (Spitfire)
Haksal and Rascal were both no-brainers for me, especially at the end of Stage 4. The former excelled at every hero he played this season, and I’ll spend more time on him later in this article. The latter, Rascal, was a revelation for both me and the Shock. In the 2018 season, I had watched Rascal perform well, albeit briefly, for the Spitfire before being dumped to the Fuel. On the Fuel, the fit was obviously not good, and Rascal looked as though he would retire after taking half of the season off.
However, Rascal found his way back into the Overwatch League by way of the Shock’s academy team, and then into the starting roster after picking up and dominating on Brigitte. Rascal then surprised us all again by mastering another new hero—Overwatch’s newest healer, Baptiste—to a degree beyond approach. In Stage 4, he also set the standard for yet another hero, Mei, a hero he had (for once) played before.
On Mei this season, Rascal’s rate of hero damage and final blows in teamfights exceeded the next-closest Mei players by 23% and 11%, respectively. On Baptiste, his hero damage output in teamfights was over 33% higher than the next-best Baptiste. It’s frankly insane to be that much better than the second-best player, much less the league average. Having recovered from an uncertain point in his career to reach such heights, if we had a comeback player of the year award, I’d have given it to Rascal.
Sinatraa was next, and he had me breaking my own starters-only rule. However, in hindsight, Stage 4 was only a blip, as he’s played major playoff minutes so far on his deadly Doomfist. His performance on Zarya for three quarters of the season set the standard for the hero and the meta, and his Doomfist (at the time of voting) was second-to-none when the Shock brought him out of his hyperbolic time chamber. Now, with the benefit of playoff data, I can say that Sinatraa’s Doomfist currently ranks first in hero damage/10 mins in teamfights this season—at least so far. In fact, hero damage is essentially the “Sinatraa stat” these days: he has led the league in rate of hero damage across all heroes for the entire season.
The final damage player that I chose was Profit, for a lot of the same reasons that I chose Rascal. Profit has been the Spitfire’s Swiss Army Knife this season: whenever they have a weakness at a specific hero in the meta, they simply had Profit take the wheel. Case in point, Profit’s swap from Brigitte to becoming London’s primary Zarya player helped keep their playoff hopes alive, and his Mei was at least above average statistically in Stage 4. Not a lot of starters have been asked to play as many heroes as Profit has throughout the season, as teams have generally leaned on their roster depth to fill holes. Profit got my last vote for always stepping up when the Spitfire needed him.
Support: Seong-Hyun “Jjonak” Bang (NYXL), Ju-Seok “Twilight” Lee (Titans), Jin-Seo “Shu” Kim (Charge), Grant “Moth” Espe (Shock)
My support Role Stars largely came down to one simple test: how well did they stack up next to Jjonak? As much as we like to hype up players like Twilight, Min-Ki “Viol2t” Park, and Shu, Jjonak still looks like the league’s best flex support from a statistical standpoint, and for that he received my first Role Star vote.
Jjonak was still the deadliest flex player in the regular season, with the highest rate of final blows in teamfights on both Ana and Zenyatta. He also had the highest rate of first eliminations in teamfights as Zenyatta on top of that—the only Zenyatta player with a rate exceeding 10%.
My next two votes went to Twilight and Shu, whose stats were incredibly close to Jjonak’s. Shu ranked first in rate of hero damage in teamfights as Zenyatta while also leading the league in rate of first eliminations as Ana. Twilight ranked second behind Jjonak in final blow rates for both Ana and Zenyatta, and his Zenyatta impact was devastating—the Titans won 57 out of 61 regular-season teamfights where Twilight’s Zenyatta got the opening pick.
I reserved my final vote for a main support, and in doing so snubbed Viol2t for his own teammate: Moth. Viol2t had an excellent year, on par with Twilight, Shu, and Jjonak, but had a minor issue with dying first in teamfights as Zenyatta (a problem he had largely dealt with after Stage 1). Moth, on the other hand, has been an incredible playmaker, patient peeler, and militant floor general for the Shock—some of which are intangibles that don’t come across in the numbers. However, here’s some indirect evidence of Moth’s brilliance: he was the only Lúcio player to post a first elimination rate above 5% while also maintaining a first death rate under 4.5%. Lúcios who go for big plays often get punished, but not Moth.
Tank: Hyo-Bin “Choihyobin” Choi (Shock), Jun-Ho “Fury” Kim (Spitfire), Sang-Beom “Bumper” Park (Titans), Dong-Gyu “Mano” Kim (NXYL)
Tank was an incredibly hard role to choose for, and hindsight tells me I may have jumped the gun with Bumper anyway! Choihyobin was the only automatic lock for me, he was the only tank on a top team that played well for the entire season, no matter the hero. That’s part of the difficulty of being a tank player—many excel on a narrow band of heroes depending on their role, and meta changes tend to hit them incredibly hard. Choihyobin, however, was one of the league’s best D.Va players for three stages, and might have been the league’s best Roadhog in Stage 4. Easy choice.
Fury was next, because he essentially broke everyone’s brains with his rate of ultimate negation in a meta where negating ultimates could win a fight by itself. He also had a streak similar to Profit, where he was more than willing to take on other off-role heroes to help the Spitfire fill roster holes they were not expecting. Recently, we saw this culminate with Fury adapting to Orisa to make way for Jae-Hui “Gesture” Hong’s Sigma in the playoffs.
Bumper, at the time of voting, was one of the few main tanks who had never been subbed out while still playing all main tank heroes at an exceptional level. His Reinhardt was most famous—he led the regular season in rate of hero damage in teamfights on the hero—but it might surprise readers to learn that he also led the regular season in rate of hero damage in teamfights on Orisa as well, and was top three in rate of final blows in teamfights as Winston.
Mano rounded out the tank Role Stars for me for much of the same reasons as Bumper: he played every main tank hero at a high level and was as much NYXL’s rock as Jjonak. As Reinhardt, Mano led the regular season in rate of final blows in teamfights as well as teamfight win rate, eclipsing even Bumper.
Rookie of the Year: Haksal
There could be no other. In the same way that Rascal defined what it meant to be an excellent Baptiste, Haksal defined what it meant to play Brigitte during a meta that so very heavily depended on great Brigitte play. Most Brigitte players excelled at a few areas, but Haksal did it all—healing output, damage output, final blows, positioning, managing cooldowns, you name it. Here is a non-exhaustive, but still lengthy, list of the various regular-season Brigitte teamfight statistics where Haksal ranked in the top three:
- Deaths/10 mins (fewest)
- Final blows/10 mins
- Hero damage/10 mins
- Healing done/10 mins
- Teamfight win rate
- Bash kills/10 mins
- First death rate (lowest)
- First elimination rate
And solo kills per 10 mins, because why not?
As Stage 4 rolled around, those who had not yet heard of his APEX/Contenders Korea performances quickly learned that Haksal was far from a Brigitte one-trick. He could play whatever damage hero he put his mind to: slicing and dicing the competition as Genji, or being that Mei player who was next-closest to Rascal’s inhuman efforts on the hero. Now, with the benefit of some early playoff data, we know that Haksal’s Doomfist is yet another weapon he has in his arsenal, one that’s led the Titans to the winner’s bracket finals.
For all these reasons, Haksal topped the Player Impact Rating rankings for the entire season, and may continue to do so if Sinatraa doesn’t catch him by the end of the playoffs. And that’s why he’s the rightful Rookie of the Year.
Sinatraa has obviously already won the MVP, and I think he is a fine and worthy choice; he’s the only player currently above 119 PIR besides Haksal, and as detailed above, lead the league in many offensive statistics throughout the regular season.
So why choose Twilight? I think it came down to just those two players—Twilight and Sinatraa—but at the time of voting, I valued Twilight’s season-long play time over Sinatraa’s slight lack thereof. I might have made an exception to my self-imposed rule in order to vote for Sinatraa as damage Role Star, but I did not feel comfortable doing so for MVP. At the end of Stage 4, Sinatraa had only played in four maps total, while Twilight had played in nearly 20, and it was unclear when (and if) Sinatraa would return to a starting role.
The lengths I went to in considering my MVP vote shows the agony of ultimately having to pick just one player. Both felt deserving, and in having to choose, neither outcome felt fully right. When it comes time to vote on Grand Finals MVP—if I have a vote—I hope the choice is much clearer.