In 2021, there are few Overwatch fans who don’t know Kim “Fury” Jun-ho’s name.
A league champion who established himself as one of the best flex tanks in the world, the 21-year-old is now leading an all-new iteration of the Washington Justice. But when Fury first joined the Overwatch League in its inaugural season three years ago, there really wasn’t a lot going for him. He was the youngest player on his team, having just turned 18, and he was a relatively unknown tank player with no notable accomplishments. Most people assumed Fury was simply a backup for his more experienced teammates.
As Fury was debuting in the Overwatch League, 15-year-old Kim “Mag” Tae-sung was taking his first steps on the path to professional play. He soon became known for his precise and commanding playstyle, with very little performance drop-off across all main tank heroes. Now, as an 18-year-old rookie for Washington, he’s in a similar position to where Fury was three years ago – with one crucial difference. Mag already has five championships to his name.
It’s the first time that Fury has ever had a tank partner younger than him. He’s gone from a young, unpolished talent to a leader charged with shepherding that player along in their inaugural season. And, according to Fury, Mag has the instincts to make the most of that guidance.
“He’s like an untrained wild dog, running around the woods,” Fury said. “I mean that in a good way.”
In professional Overwatch, a tank line can make or break a team, which is more apparent than ever when you look at the Washington Justice’s trajectory throughout the 2020 Overwatch League season.
At the tail end of the regular season, the Justice were the second-worst team in the league standings. With only two weeks left until playoffs, they picked up Jang “Decay” Gui-un, a top-tier damage player who’d recently parted ways with the Dallas Fuel. To most, it seemed like a last-minute act of desperation for the Justice and a mere pit stop for Decay, who was generally regarded as one of the most coveted players in the league.
However, a meta shift going into the playoffs that favored a double-flex tank setup proved an unexpected windfall for the Justice. By slotting Decay into one of the two tank roles and playing around his monstrous Zarya, the Justice were able to go on an unprecedented tear through regional playoffs. They finished third in North America in one of Overwatch’s most bizarre yet thrilling turnarounds.
Then came the announcement: Decay had signed on for another two years.
The slew of impressive Justice signings that came after Decay’s, including Mag and Fury, was just as surprising. However, league commentator Josh “Sideshow” Wilkinson thinks that the Justice have more going for them than most people might think.
“That’s the power of having someone like Decay locked into your roster, and also the power of showing what you’re capable of in the season playoffs,” Sideshow said. “If they hadn’t performed like they did in the season playoffs, I don’t think they would be getting big names like this in their team.”
The Justice have had a tumultuous history in the Overwatch League. They’ve undergone multiple roster iterations, oscillating between incredible highs and devastating lows in the process. But despite several moments of brilliance, their inconsistency has meant that they’ve never been seriously considered as part of the upper echelon of teams.
Going into 2021, General Manager Aaron “PRE” Heckman’s main goal is to change people’s perception of the Justice by making sure they’ve crafted a team that will last.
Building for the long term starts at the player level, if the Justice’s star-studded 2021 roster is anything to go by. It’s too early to guess how teams will stack up against each other, but Sideshow thinks that the Justice’s front line has the most potential out of any team.
“It’s a ridiculous tank line,” Sideshow said. “I feel pretty confident saying that they should be the flashiest tank line in the league. I think it’s going to feel oppressive to play against Mag and Fury in a way that most teams’ tank lines probably aren’t. They’re both really solid and always making the right decisions at the right times.”
Though he’s never competed at the highest level of Overwatch, Mag has been a rising star since he first stepped onto a Contenders stage. Tier 2 is where he won the first five titles of his career, and he’s fully aware of the reputation that comes with those championships.
“When I was in Contenders, to be honest, I was really great,” Mag said, sounding unaffected by his accomplishments. “So I was always really confident in myself, and all the flex tanks I played with supported me and followed me. But now I’m in the Overwatch League.”
Elevated expectations come with that Tier 1 spotlight, and Mag probably couldn’t carry this team alone. In building out the Washington roster, head coach Han “Sup7eme” Seung-jun specifically looked for players who would work well together and supplement each other’s weaknesses. Mag was the first tank to be signed, despite how hotly contested PRE said his free agency was. Then came Fury, who was also highly sought-after, and fellow flex tank Park “Ria” Sung-wook to round out the tank group.
The Justice stacked experience around raw ability, and in doing so created a good personality fit, too. Mag’s boisterous confidence meshes well with Fury’s level-headed cool, in and out of the game.
“Mag is a rookie player, so when he faces a situation that he’s never experienced before, sometimes he won’t know how to handle it,” Sup7eme said. “But Ria and Fury support Mag really well, and because Fury is a veteran player, he’s always very calm and gives Mag a lot of advice.
“I would say Fury is the leader of the team. He doesn’t talk that much, but he’s calm and considerate. He’s got great mechanics, and he’s very smart, which is why our players respect him a lot.”
This season is an opportunity for Fury to pass on everything he’s learned from his time in the league and to step into the mentor position that his past teammates took for him. It’s an odd transition, though, to go from wide-eyed rookie to worldly veteran in just three years.
“I wouldn’t say I’m a leader,” Fury said. “I’ve never been in charge like that before. Instead, I’m more like an observer. I look at situations, and when problems arise, I’ll try to solve them. So I guess I’m more like the king’s right-hand man.”
“Legend,” Mag muttered in response to this.
The Justice of 2021, from their players to even their staff, bear no resemblance to the roster that the team debuted in 2019. But you can tell there’s still that light-heartedness that made the original Justice so fun to watch. There are star players both old and new on this squad, working in tandem not just to win but to make their mark.
“I think that most people still think that main tanks can’t carry the game,” Mag said. “I want to change that idea. I want to be the best main tank in the league.”
The team’s coach, meanwhile, wants to help the Justice make the most of their considerable firepower. Sup7eme’s goals for the season ahead remain focused on growth and how to get the best out of his players.
“It sounds vague, but I’d like to make a big impact on the scene,” he said. “I want to boost the players’ strengths to the maximum, and I want to change my players and coaching staff in a good way.”
Fury’s goals are a little more grounded. Two years ago, he said that his hope was to simply soak up all the experiences of being in the Overwatch League, and to make the most of his time in it. Today, his answer remains much the same. Fury may not be the same 18-year-old kid just eager to prove himself anymore, but some things never change — including his determination to stand at the top of the Overwatch League again. It was just the start of his journey when he held the trophy for the first time, and if all goes well for the Justice this year, that’s how Mag’s story in the league will begin, too.