JJoNak and the new kids: New York Excelsior 2021 team preview

Leaning into flexibility and raw talent will be critical for the NYXL's rookies to succeed on the biggest stage.

Photo by Stewart Volland via Blizzard Entertainment

Few teams shook up their rosters like the New York Excelsior did during the 2020 Overwatch League offseason. 

The NYXL, long known for being a talented but stubborn team, gutted its entire roster aside from a former MVP. Piece by piece, the team’s management added unexpected players, ranging from rookie DPS out of underwhelming Korean Overwatch Contenders teams to tanks looking for a second chance to perform at the highest level. 

In previous years, the Excelsior were a showcase for veteran players who may have lost their spark. With this massive roster overhaul, though, New York are now looking to show their competitors that talent can be found even in the least likely places.      

Tank 

During the 2020 offseason, the NYXL lost steadfast main tank Kim “Mano” Dong-gyu to the Philadelphia Fusion. Off-tank Kim “BiaNcA” Dong-wook was also an offseason casualty before surprisingly returning to the team’s 2021 roster. BiaNcA has proven to be a consistent tank but was often overshadowed by others in his role. This year is his chance to stand out. 

New main tank Cho “Yakpung” Kyeong-mu previously played for the Toronto Defiant in 2019 and struggled to go toe-to-toe with the best tanks in the league. After a year-long stint with Overwatch Contenders team O2 Blast, he has a chance to come back and complete a serious redemption arc.  

Support 

Legendary flex support and 2018 Overwatch League MVP Bang “JJoNak” Sung-hyeon was the only NYXL player to survive the team’s myriad changes. There isn’t much to say about JJoNak. He’ll once again be asked to provide veteran leadership and absolutely clutch performances when his team needs them. 

His main support partner this year is Jo “Friday” Min-jae, who formerly played for underperforming Contenders team OZ Gaming. Thus far, our only introduction to Friday’s gameplay has been a “public scrim” between the Guangzhou Charge and the NYXL, where he appeared to take a more aggressive approach than his predecessors.   

DPS 

Aside from former Philadelphia Fusion DPS Lee “Ivy” Seung-hyun, the New York Excelsior is banking all of its damage-dealing hopes on relatively unknown rookies. 

Lim “Flora” Young-woo and Kim “Gwangboong” Gwang-won will take on the hitscan duties for the team. Both have already shown impressive skills in the public scrim, but they may need practice to mesh with the rest of the NYXL. 

Lee “FEATH5R” Seung-woo, formerly of Talon Esports, will share flex DPS duties with the ever-consistent Ivy. With Sombra and Mei coming back into the meta, their jobs will be more important than ever.

2021 outlook 

New York Excelsior fans are heading into this season with a mix of cautious optimism and well-placed hesitation. The addition of so many rookies gives the NYXL more passion and raw talent than ever. New players have a hunger and ferocity about them that veterans have often lost. This could put them above technically “better” teams who choose comfort over competition.

The Excelsior’s issue in prior years has never been talent, however. No matter what meta worked, the team has often lacked adaptability and will force a well-practiced idea over spontaneity. While a “let’s see what happens” approach may work with veterans like JJoNak, it’s a serious risk with so many rookies. If the NYXL’s coaching staff can lean into that raw talent and push smart flexibility, they may be able to stand a chance against monsters like the Shanghai Dragons.    


Fans will have to wait a while after opening day to see the New York Excelsior since they have a bye week when the Overwatch League kicks off. They face the Chengdu Hunters on April 24 at 4am CT to start their season.