Kim “Sp9rk1e” Yeong-han and Yoo “Unique” Dong-hyun are two of Korean Overwatch’s brightest stars, but you won’t be seeing them on the Overwatch League stage just yet.
See, both Unique and Sp9rk1e are 17 years old, under the 18 year old age limit for the Overwatch League. However, both of their birthdays will fall just in time for the June 1 cutoff next year, meaning that’s there’s a good chance they’ll be picked up by one of the top 20 teams in the world.
So there’s good reason to keep an eye on these two prodigies at the Gauntlet here in South Korea. This is the biggest stage either of them have played on, and they’ve proven on day one that they’ve got talent and experience way beyond their years.
However, they couldn’t be more different. Unique is reserved, soft-but-well spoken, as the louder personalities of the team take over in shotcalling and leadership. Sp9rk1e is – well, he’s Sp9rk1e. He’s boisterous, slightly cocky, and always looks like he’s having fun. This shows off in his flashy Doomfist play, where he usually lets his work on the battlefield do the talking.
On home turf, Element Mystic will be looking to defend their Pacific Showdown titles from the likes of rivals RunAway, NA champions ATL Academy, and Pacific underdogs Talon Esports. While they got the results they so desired on day one, they weren’t up to their immaculate standards.
“So we are happy with the result, but we aren’t that happy about how we got there,” said Unique. “We showed a lot of mistakes and the bad side of our gameplay, so we will try to fix it and show you our good side in the finals.”
“We weren’t surprised about Talon’s performance, but with our own,” said Sp9rk1e. “We didn’t play up to our expectations on day one.”
“I will show you how perfect I am in the next match. We will not underestimate the opponents.”Kim “Sp9rk1e” Yeong-han
Not underestimating Talon is something other teams might not have taken into consideration. The Pacific representatives blitzed through the lower bracket of Group A, taking down Europe’s HSL and North America’s XL2 Academy to secure second seed in the finals bracket.
“We had to reset our mental heading into the game with XL2, and I’m the one who usually does that,” said Sp9rk1e. “When our morale is going down, I bring everyone back together.”
Although, he’s also usually the first one to point out some faults in his team mates too.
“I think Doha made all the mistakes,” he said, laughing in the press conference, referring to their win against XL2. “There is a position Reaper has to sit in, and during the game, he didn’t accomplish what Reaper had to do. We cannot win 5v6, so that’s why we lost.”
While they might not be happy with their own individual efforts, they’ve got a bevy of fans on the sidelines to keep spirits up. Some teams are usually pressured by the extra home fans looking on your play, but for Element Mystic, it was welcomed after the huge roars for China in Shanghai.
“After going to Shanghai for the Pacific Showdown, we felt a lot more comfortable playing on home soil here in Korea,” said Unique. “We had all the fans cheering for us, and that was nice.”
Sp9rk1e also made an unusual Australian connection over in Shanghai. The Korean DPS prodigy forged a strong relationship with Order support Max “Unter” Unterwurzacher at the Pacific Showdown, with the two getting on like a house on fire.
Their relationship has continued to strengthen after the event, with Sp9rk1e reminscing on the time that Unter came to him as a fan – not a foe.
“During the Showdown, Unter came to my booth and said “I’m a really big fan of you,” so he approached me first,” he laughed. “He was a really funny person, and I’m a funny guy too, and we still keep in touch on Twitter. I wouldn’t mind seeing him again.”
There’s something special about the Gauntlet though that Element Mystic want to capture though. They’ve won Contenders Korea, they’ve won the Pacific Showdown, but this trophy would mean that they can prove to themselves that they are the best Contenders team in the world.
“Winning the Gauntlet would mean winning our third trophy after winning Contenders season one and the Pacific Showdown,” said Unique. “The Gauntlet trophy would be the most precious to us.”
The one foe they’ll like to face in the final? ATL Academy – the North American powerhouse that went through the regular season undefeated and dominated the scene in Fusion University’s absence.
“They didn’t even lose one map in North America,” said Sp9rk1e. “However, we will be in the finals first, and we will wait for any team to challenge us. ATL uses a lot of Bastion, and you will see that in future games. We will try and break their Bastion.”
I asked them whether they’d like to say something to some of their English-speaking fans, and they both gave it a shot. I kept the grammar here, rather than relying on the translator.
“Thanks for cheer our team, we will become champion. I want for more cheers from you,” said Unique.
“Thank you for cheering for me, all the foreign people,” said Sp9rk1e, in pretty good cadence and with decent grammar. But, he also cheated – he used Google Translate to cook up his answer while Unique pushed through.
Element Mystic continue their journey through the Gauntlet when they face ATL Academy in the winner’s bracket semi final today. You can catch the action on the Overwatch Contenders Twitch channel.
You can also follow Sp9rk1e on Twitter.
Translation credit: Brad Park (@Foxting)