Overwatch

Overwatch pro Decay accused of "benching himself" to play Valorant

by Theo Salaun

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Following a Dallas Fuel loss to the worst team in the Overwatch League, rumors have begun circling about their star player Gui-un 'Decay' Jang’s absence, and how it may have been caused by his interest in Valorant.

Building on a 2019 All-Star season with the Los Angeles Gladiators, Decay Jang has spent months carrying the Fuel and emerged as a dark horse 2020 OWL MVP candidate. But he didn’t play at all in the team's June 20 0-3 loss to the Vancouver Titans, igniting the flames of speculation.

While the Fuel’s head coach, Aaron 'Aero' Atkins, certifies that Decay was benched for “rest” and to acclimate newcomer Stefan 'Onigod' Fiskerstrand—the Atlanta Reign’s head coach, Brad Rajani, took to Reddit and conversely claimed the 19-year-old superstar “benched himself,” possibly because he prefers Riot Games’ Valorant. 

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Reddit, u/Selfless_Brad
Brad Rajani stirs rumors about Decay on Reddit and confirms them not to be bait.

Both sides to this story hold plausible weight. Given the retirement of league stars like Jay 'Sinatraa' Won and Corey 'Corey' Nigra to pursue Valorant, Rajani’s claim isn’t far-fetched. Given the recency of Onigod’s signing and how nonthreatening the Titans have felt, Aero’s reasoning is also believable. 

Theoretically, this would have been the perfect opportunity to rest and give a new teammate their chance against a bottom-feeding team. But the concern here rises from Rajani’s emphasis on Valorant, which echoes earlier cases and may suggest Decay’s loss of passion for Overwatch.

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But Decay has been streaming Overwatch in his free time lately. His Twitch clips are all the FPS and, if his reaction to a big B.O.B. play is any indication, he has seemingly not lost his passion for the game.

Still, former Washington Justice head coach and Los Angeles Gladiators assistant coach, Seetoh 'JohnGalt' Jian Qing, chimed in on Twitter that despite not knowing the specifics of Decay’s case, “it’s true but there are a lot of Overwatch players who go straight into Valorant right after scrim ends. Like a lot.”

JohnGalt has coached Decay and expressed on Reddit that he wasn’t the type to bench himself, but his assertion that the OWL will see “a lot of retirement” due to Valorant shouldn’t be dismissed given his proximity to the league.

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Twitter, @JohnGalt
Former OWL coach JohnGalt touches on Decay's situation and how many players are angling toward Valorant.

In response to the controversy, Aero gave a statement to the Dallas Morning News: “Decay definitely wanted to rest. When you’re facing some of the weaker teams in your league, I don’t think it’s a crazy notion.”

He also specified that him playing in the Fuel’s next match against another weak team, the Toronto Defiant, is “definitely possible.” 

It makes sense that a coach would remain coy about their starting lineup to complicate an opposing team’s preparation, but explaining away Decay’s desire to rest as simply not being a “crazy notion” isn’t very comforting. It’s not absurd that a player could want to rest, but it’s also not crazy to think his desire to rest may have been prompted by a transfer of passion to another game.

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Although only Western players have left Overwatch to pursue Valorant thus far, there is a precedent for Korean superstars leaving Dallas. In 2019, prodigal hitscan Hyeon 'EFFECT' Hwang retired from the Fuel because of mental health issues. 

EFFECT’s retirement followed stints where the organization downplayed his absences, painting a familiar picture. This situation is different, given Decay’s energy on stream and the need to acclimate Onigod, but will need to be closely monitored by OWL fans over the coming weeks.