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    Trying again: The Toronto Defiant rebuild once more to prepare for 2022 Overwatch League season



    Of the two teams in the Overwatch League that represent Canada, the Toronto Defiant have been the most volatile. For years they’ve teetered on the verge of success, falling at inopportune times and requiring re-evaluation of how to bounce to the top of the OWL.

    The organization’s answer was to change everything—twice. At the end of the 2020 season, the Defiant parted ways with 10 of its players after a lackluster season impacted tremendously by the start of the pandemic.

    Like the year prior, the organization sought a massive roster shift in 2021, dropping eight players in one day and only leaving main DPS Heesu. While other teams in the OWL opted for slight roster shifts, the Defiant’s decision for yet another complete reorganization made it clear it was not yet satisfied with its results.

    But compared to last year, this iteration of the Defiant brings together some of the most valuable free agents in the OWL from other teams and Contenders. With DPS Heesu, Finale, and ALTHOUGH, tanks HOTBA and MuZe, and supports Twilight and CH0RONG, the Defiant may have crafted a roster capable of changing the landscape of the OWL.

    During the 2021 season, Heesu stood out as one of the most consistent pieces keeping an unbalanced team afloat. When pitted against teams at the top of the standings, the Defiant appeared to be completely overwhelmed, leading to unorganized teamfights and players picked off before they could make an impact. While the Defiant performed well during the regular season, their tournament performances significantly impacted their league points, plummeting the team to the bottom of the Western standings.

    Yet during the Western Play-Ins, the Defiant stepped up, knowing that if there was any time to prove to fans and the rest of the league that they could compete for the top spot, it would be then. After a surprising sweep of the Boston Uprising, the Defiant moved on to face the San Francisco Shock in the semifinals. 

    With Heesu at the helm, taking heroes like Hanzo and Reaper past their limits, it seemed the Defiant could bounce back from what, on paper, was a clean sweep for the Shock. But like their normal season performances, when the Defiant found a grasp on an upward momentum, miscommunication in the team led to multiple players constantly getting picked off and forced to watch their teammates fall one by one. Without a full team at pivotal moments, the Defiant’s miracle run came to an end through a 3-0 sweep by the Shock.

    Heesu returns to the Defiant heading into the 2022 OWL season in an attempt to once more eye victory, acting as the centerpiece that may lead a new iteration of the team to great success. A plethora of new teammates surround him this year, many of which he has played against during his career. These include tank HOTBA from the Philadelphia Fusion, and tank MuZe from the Los Angeles Gladiators, as well as support Twilight from the San Francisco Shock, who helped crush the Defiant’s playoffs dreams last season. Each player joins the Defiant with exceptional careers lined with plentiful victories.

    Coming along for the ride this year are Finale and CH0R0NG from the Contenders scenes in North America and Korea, debuting in Defiant colors in their first OWL season. ALTHOUGH will also make his return onto the OWL stage after some time away. All three players have cemented themselves as some of the most sought-after free agents of the 2021 postseason, becoming major commodities for teams like the Defiant that sought to restructure from the ground up.

    Joining the Defiant’s DPS lineup are flex players Finale, from the Uprising Academy, and ALTHOUGH, entering from O2 Blast but previously part of the London Spitfire. Finale debuts with the Defiant following two consecutive second-place finishes in Contenders season three, finally grabbing hold of the top of the ladder in his second year of official competition. He’s been known for his exceptional Tracer play, taking the hero’s quick nature to another level by becoming a nuisance most enemies are incapable of dealing with.

    The London Spitfire’s 2020 Overwatch League team consisted of multiple rookies that hoped to make names for themselves on the OWL stage but were brushed aside due to the Spitfire’s struggle to adjust to COVID-19. One of the players placed on the sidelines was ALTHOUGH, who debuted in the OWL with the Spitfire that season. Unfortunately for the DPS player, he was forced to reevaluate his immediate future, stepping back into the Contenders scene after getting just a small taste of what the main OWL stage felt like.

    Since then, this flex DPS player has taken a step back into the Contenders scene as part of Gen.G, Team BM, and more recently, O2 Blast. Regardless of the team he was on, ALTHOUGH remained at the top of the Contenders Korea standings over the past two years. He most recently finished first in the NetEase Esports X invitational tournament alongside his partners in O2 Blast by sweeping the competition—seemingly enough for the Defiant to take interest.

    The team is rounded out by the addition of main support CH0R0NG, finally getting his chance to shine on the OWL stage. CH0R0NG has been an active part of the Contenders Korea scene as one of the region’s premier support players on teams like WGS Armament, GGTC, BATTLICA, and Talon Esports.

    While he’s capable of changing games single-handedly on Mercy or Lúcio, CH0R0NG has recently led his teams into battle as Brigitte, unafraid of heading straight into the enemy team. His experience in Contenders allowed him to play against his new debuting teammates on multiple occasions, though he never had the opportunity to join them on the same team until now.

    Another teamwide reconstruction marks another chance for the Defiant to gain any hold they can get on the top of the OWL ladder. Though the changes seem odd following a promising finish to last season, Toronto Defiant seems set on once more putting its faith in an entirely new roster to carry the team through the upcoming season—and through a new game at that.

    What may keep this iteration of the Defiant afloat is the collective experience these players have. Between Contenders and finishes all across the OWL leaderboard, this mixture of new and veteran talent may be the first to bring the Defiant out of the middle of the pack and into the spotlight.

    The Toronto Defiant will start their 2022 Overwatch League season on May 7 against the Washington Justice.



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