The Importance of Being Misfits
Their performance at DreamHack Winter felt almost like a fairytale: facing a tough tournament in a week, the troubled team engaged in an aggressive line of treatment by cutting off conflict and altering the chain of command by bringing in a veteran leader. This sort of shake-up commonly ends with the “new and improved” team losing to an intimidating band of all star players and resolving to take revenge in the following meeting.
For the second time in three tournaments, however, Misfits didn't seem to get the memo.
Their victory in Jönköping was not necessarily surprising, but they were not the expected winners either. Misfits were placed in the toughest group with their BYOC additions being LDLC and Mousesports. Their road through the playoffs led them through a formidable compLexity team and required them to face Ninjas in Pyjamas slayers, Fnatic, in the finals.
Realistically, they could have rested on their laurels, hiding behind their role swaps and roster changes as excuses. But they were different. They chose not to abide by the restrictions and criteria analysts had placed on them. Despite the circumstances, Misfits lifted the trophy high above their heads, pulling up a seat at the discussion of best team in the world.
This is part of their story.
No team likes to admit when they’ve landed on hard times.
Misfits’ performance at ESL gamescom was nothing short of disappointing. To quantify the expectations the team had for Cologne, you need to understand exactly how strong the team had been performing entering the event. They took first at The Battle with victories over Rogue and REUNITED, qualified for the Overwatch Open by beating SG-1, Creation, and ANOX, and finally, made it to the final stage at gamescom with victories over Luminosity and Rogue again. For the most part, they had beaten every single top European team they would be competing against.
Their downfall was the lack of practice against the North American teams. After being dropped into the decider match early by Fnatic, Misfits managed to claw their way into a win-and-go redemption against the North Americans. In the end, they ran out of gas, losing on a close Nepal map.
The defeat was compounded by a few external factors. Support and former DPS player, Zaprey would be taking a step away from esports, leaving Misfits without what had, at one point, been their greatest weapon. At the same time, Skipjack pulled out of participating in the Overwatch Open due to the health of his mother.
With Atlanta fast approaching, Misfits were counting on stand-ins, Hidan and Ryb, to carry their share of the team in a race against time. The first showings of this experimental squad weren’t reassuring. In the Lenovo Cup, they seemed unable to rediscover their old form, losing to REUNITED in a Winner’s Semifinal rematch of the group stage before being silenced decisively by rising stars, NiP. A lull in the competitive scene did little to assuage fears before the Overwatch Open.
Then, against all odds, Misfits did the impossible. Even with two stand-ins, their roster seemed crisp and fearless, dropping only 1 match in the group stages before running rampant in the bracket. On the back of a peak-form SoOn and strong performances from Ryb and Hidan, Misfits stormed through meta-creators, NiP, before redeeming themselves against Rogue in their hardest match of the tournament. The nanoboost beyblade meta seemed to fit them perfectly, as Misfits was able to coordinate strong Ana play with the intelligent play from SoOn, to claim the tightest of 3-2 victories. After emerging from the tougher side of the bracket, Misfits found themselves matched against the statistically best team in Overwatch history, Team EnVyUs.
Their victory was not defined by the scale or magnitude of the achievement, but by the storylines which accompanied it. The Overwatch Open marked the ascension of SoOn into the conversation of best Reaper in the world. With Reaper plays being highlighted on the killfeed, it became almost impossible to ignore the impact of having a skilled role player. Misfits were not the only team to run this “secret strat’ at the tournament, but when you start winning matches, people start to notice. This spotlight may have benefitted them during the Grand Final when it seemed the entirety of the server had forgotten the other DPS on the Misfits roster.
Nevix, at one point, had been the third best Mercy in the world. Zaprey, at one point, had been catalyst for the rise of Graviton Surge into the team we now know. So, when Zaprey swapped roles onto support, Nevix had much to prove. Skill was never a worry; he had always been on the top of the European leaderboard, at one point stacking his accounts at positions 1 and 2. However, his first showing at gamescom left something to be desired. While he did not underperform, Misfits’ poor results overall mired his debut. The ensuing Ana meta shifted the focus away from the hitscan player, overshadowing his potential. He never had his moment in the sun.
So when Talespin attempted to switch onto Pharah to save the EnVyUs push on third map, Gibraltar, it almost felt like everyone had forgotten about Nevix. In a hard read, only eclipsed by Mango in his first EVO victory, Nevix made the switch to McCree simultaneously taking the Rocket Queen out of the sky before she could make any difference. By crippling the last trump card in the EnVy arsenal, Misfits seized the momentum and took a decisive last map on Lijiang Tower. When they finally hoisted the trophy and fruits of their labor above their heads, they had defied the odds and accomplished a feat no team has since replicated: beating Rogue and EnVy at the same event. For all the despair and uncertainty, Misfits had proven they were able to overcome any obstacle to accomplish greatness.
Afterwards, it all seemed to return to normal. Ryb departed to explore other opportunities. Hidan was installed into a permanent role. Skipjack returned to his place at the vanguard of the team.
But, as we know, the peace was never meant to stay. Citing conflict within the team, KryW stepped down from the active lineup to be replaced by Cooller a week before the DreamHack Winter tournament. After yet another long period of inactivity, Misfits would be once again coming into a stacked tournament, facing impressive odds and with a new member out to prove his place. And, once again, they rewrote the storybooks. Following the trend of support talents being mechanically gifted aimers, Zebbosai was freed from the his role to flex into a pocket Widowmaker. Showcasing a triple DPS composition in a tank-dominated meta, Misfits were dynamic and did not shy away from the challenge. They stormed through the bracket, taking down runners-up Fnatic on two separate occasions. Their willingness to adapt offensively and defensively to the new DPS meta was a testament to their ability to stay on the cutting edge. Thus, when Skipjack lifted the Dreamhack trophy into the sky, Misfits became the latest team to insert themselves in the discussion for best team in the world.
Unfortunately, the story may end here.
When I woke up this morning to the news of a possible disbanding of the Misfits roster, I spent some time reflecting on the story they would be leaving. In some sort of poetic justice, this may have been the perfect ending. A team, who had never been scared to explore something different, would be leaving behind the comfort and success of their old dwelling grounds for unfamiliar horizons. A team, who has never won titles with the same roster, would now be poised for yet another try to keep the streak alive. On the cusp of a new year, the announcement of IEM Gyeonggi might be yet be another chapter in an ever-expanding ballad of greatness and competition.
Their victory at Dreamhack had indeed been too storybook. Narratives in the real world don’t always have happy endings. If the rumor proves to be true, the competitive landscape will be missing possibly one of the hardest teams to quantify. In a world where change is frightening and teams cling to the vestiges of the past, Misfits might be the last bastion of hope for players seeking something new. They have been - and will always be - different. And in their disappearance, some of us, for the first time in our competitive lifetimes, will realize the vital importance of being misfits.
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