The quiet success of the NYXL

Overwatch League Stage 1 playoff preview (2:52)

ESPN's Emily Rand breaks down her favorite Overwatch League teams for the Stage 1 playoffs and who she thinks is a dark horse with the new expansion teams on the rise. (2:52)

The NYXL's final push on Dorado against the San Francisco Shock was orchestrated by Jeong "Nenne" Yeong-kwan's Zarya and a timely Self-Destruct from Kim "MekO" Tae-hong's D.Va. Nenne seemed to always have high energy. On Dorado, like Volskaya Industries and Numbani before it, the Shock found themselves just barely outplayed, just barely outpaced. It was the second 4-0 for the NYXL of 2019.

This isn't an NYXL comeback after a sur[rising end to 2018. It's the next evolution of an already phenomenal team. Their individual talent alone makes it so that the NYXL can adjust in the moment and perfect how they want to respond to opponents. And given the stature of their team and the organization's success in the inaugural season, it's surprising how quietly the NYXL have snuck through Stage 1 of Overwatch League 2019. Headlines have included the strength of the Vancouver Titans (formerly RunAway), and what's wrong with the Los Angeles Valiant while the NYXL have had their first undefeated regular stage record at 7-0.

"Before Stage 1 started, I saw that a lot of people were underrating us," NYXL main tank Kim "Mano" Dong-gyu said after sweeping the Shock. "I saw that and I felt like I needed to prove to them, and of course everyone else, that we were still a strong team.

"I wasn't thinking like, 'Oh I'm going to win all of the matches this stage," Mano continued. "I was just focusing on each individual game and when we did that it ended up like this." He laughed and shrugged his shoulders a bit as if to say, "What can you do?"

NYXL entered their inaugural Overwatch League season last year with swagger. Gone was the OGN APEX curse of LW Blue, vanquished by the dominion that the NYXL had over three of the four stages of 2018. They had three 9-1 stages and made every stage finals. Despite faltering in Stage 4, NYXL was fully expected to go far in season playoffs. Even down 0-1 to the Philadelphia Fusion in semifinals, no one doubted the NYXL would bounce back.

They didn't.

This perception cast a lengthy shadow over their initial foray into the second season of the Overwatch League. There were questions of whether the NYXL would be able to fend off the oncoming onslaught of talented expansion lineups while also besting opponents like the Shock, Fusion, or inaugural season champions the London Spitfire. NYXL answered this with an undefeated stage.

Many of NYXL's problems last year were owed to the team's inability to adapt as quickly as other teams during a meta shift in Stage 4. This year, the NYXL have excelled in the current meta, improving with each passing series. A side-by-side comparison with the NYXL's finesse at a triple-tank triple-support composition from their initial series against main tank Cameron "Fusions" Bosworth and the Boston Uprising to their 4-0 sweep of the Shock reveals a more confident and patient team.

Mano believes that this is inherent to the NYXL's playstyle and attitude. Even within the Shock series itself, Mano pointed out key moments on Numbani and Volskaya where he credited quick adjustments between pushes that led to the team's success.

"Both of those maps, the enemy pushed a lot faster than we did so in between the rounds, we communicated with each other how to face it and we got better.

"Our GOATs style is a bit safer," he said. "During teamfights we're always calm and thinking about the next step so if we're losing a tight teamfight we all know, 'Oh, I should save my ult instead of using it right now.' We're all aware of the situation. It feels like we evolve even during our matches. If we play a match and we feel like we're struggling against them, we're able to communicate in between rounds and figure out how to go up against that. We learn as we play against them."

Naturally, last year's league MVP Bang "JJoNak" Sung-hyeon frequently takes center stage, but Mano has had a banner stage in a meta where main tank is the key component of a composition. Nenne's transition onto the lineup has been so seamless that it's almost like he's been with the team throughout their entire season last year. Given their success, it's no wonder that fans and analysts alike are salivating at the thought of the NYXL taking on the undefeated Vancouver Titans in the stage playoffs. First, they'll have to take on the Seoul Dynasty.

As for that hypothetical NYXL-Vancouver matchup, Mano and the members of the NYXL are very familiar with many of the Titans players from their time in OGN APEX.

"In terms of playstyle, our team [has] a sword and a shield," Mano said. He pantomimed this with his hands while reiterating his team's patient playstyle.

"Vancouver has two swords."