Shanghai Dragons exorcise ghosts of Season 1 against NYXL

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The Shanghai Dragons secure their first-ever playoff win, a 3-1 victory over (0:00)

The Shanghai Dragons secure their first-ever playoff win, a 3-1 victory over the New York Excelsior. Video by Emily Rand (0:00)

BURBANK, Calif. -- Continuing cheers for the Shanghai Dragons reverberated through the walls of the Blizzard Arena. They formed an audible backdrop as Dragons main tank Noh "Gamsu" Young-jin tried to describe his immediate reaction to the team's 3-1 victory over the New York Excelsior in the Stage 3 playoffs on Thursday.

Gamsu took a deep breath and hummed, folding his hands in his lap.

"I. I'm just so happy."

The smile didn't leave Gamsu's face for the entirety of the interview.

This wasn't Gamsu's first playoff win, but it was Shanghai's. Across three stages in Season 2, Shanghai has steadily improved from a team that secured the organization's first-ever win to a playoff team, to now a true playoff contender.

After that first Shanghai victory, Gamsu was calm and collected.

"Everyone is kind of sad because of pressure from the losing streak," he said after helping end Shanghai's 0-42 start to the Overwatch League. "I really wanted to break the mood, so today I was so happy to break that mood. I want to bring this energy to the next match."

After this first playoff victory, he was giddy with excitement, a reflection of the Dragons' improvement since he joined the team in Stage 1.

"In the beginning of the season, we were not sure what we had to play, GOATS, Sombra-GOATS, or DPS," Gamsu said. "We started to play DPS meta way earlier than other teams and it's been the meta right now, and that's been the biggest benefit for Shanghai."

Against the NYXL, Gamsu's Wrecking Ball play proved crucial in disrupting the enemy and covering Shanghai's backline, while also giving the Dragons zone control over key points of the map, especially in their narrow win on Volskaya Industries. Throughout the series, Shanghai stuck to their DPS compositions, even as the NYXL tried to force them into a triple-tank, triple-support setup or a similar setup where NYXL have been a stronger team.

This was not only the first playoff victory for Shanghai; it was the team's first victory against NYXL. In their previous matchups, according to ESPN Stats & Information, Shanghai had only come away with a single map win. The NYXL had also been one of the strongest triple-triple, or GOATS, teams in the league.

"We knew that they want us to play GOATS comps," Gamsu said. "If you go GOATS, it's their strongest part. We just really tried hard to beat them with our DPS comp. We thought, 'If we go GOATS, we lose.' We'll beat them with DPS."

Shanghai adjusted to NYXL's attempts to lure them into a disadvantageous mirror matchup by countering with a specific weapon: Jin "Youngjin" Young-jin's Doomfist. The Dragons alternated between Youngjin on Brigitte and Doomfist with Bae "Diem" Min-seong on Sombra duty when necessary and Yang "DDing" Jin-hyeok on his signature Pharah. This ran counter to some of Shanghai's more recent matches toward the end of Stage 3 with Lee "Envy" Kang-jae on Sombra, leaving Diem on hitscan heroes like Widowmaker.

"Envy is an off-tank player, so we use him when we need a D.Va," Gamsu said, "but our team decided to play only DPS against NYXL. We focused on DPS comps a lot, and I think it worked well against NYXL."

Diem's timely EMPs on Volskaya and Watchpoint: Gibraltar helped secure the win for Shanghai alongside kill streaks from Youngjin's Doomfist and DDing's Pharah. Somewhat surprisingly, NYXL stuck with flex tank Kim "MekO" Tae-hong in the lineup rather than going for a more DPS-heavy look with Park "Saebyeolbe" Jong-ryeol onstage, which the NYXL had practiced for most of Stage 3.

Another key in Shanghai's win was shutting down NYXL main tank Kim "Mano" Dong-gyu, especially with the more tank-heavy lineup that the NYXL decided to run. Gamsu said Shanghai prioritized killing Mano first, especially after Mano wreaked havoc on Dragons flex support Yang "Luffy" Seong-hyeon on Hollywood and parts of Volskaya.

Shanghai's next opponent is another team that has spent time this season testing out Sombra compositions, but whose plan of attack is spearheaded by their main tank: the Vancouver Titans and Park "Bumper" Sang-beom.

"Sometimes Vancouver plays weird comps like us," Gamsu said of their upcoming semifinals match. He laughed. "We just need to find a new weird comp and play it against them."