The Decay Factor

The Overwatch League is filled to the brim with stars—players who make a difference for their team each and every match. Many of these players—hard carries, clutch aces—have boisterous personalities to match their status, but a select few have the same impact with a tad more subtlety.

Los Angeles Gladiators DPS Gui-Un “Decay” Jang is the latter—he has arguably been the Gladiators’ MVP and one of the league’s hottest new competitors at just 18 years old, but his modest demeanor would never imply that. Despite making a supernova type introduction into the league, he thinks more of his team performance than his own, seeing himself as an optimal cog in a complex Gladiators machine.

“I feel like the Gladiators were doing fine before I came, and maybe my Zarya just fits better right now,” he explained.

Strength of schedule has to be accounted for, but the Gladiators went from a 3-4 finish in Stage 1 to a 6-1 run in Stage 2; since Decay’s 18th birthday and entrance into the league, the team is an impressive 8-3. Decay may shrink away from the praise and credit his team when discussing this progress, but there’s no doubt that he has made an impact.

Once a key player on South Korean sister teams Kongdoo Panthera and Kongdoo Uncia, Decay’s reputation was well established before he played a single game in the Overwatch League—he was reportedly one of the most sought-after free agents in the last offseason. Still, it was only a little over two years ago that he discovered his love for the game.

“One of my friends suggested that I play Overwatch with him and once I started playing, my rank started going up really fast,” Decay said. “At the time, I was attending school, but I really never liked studying.”

As Decay climbed the ladder, he was approached by Kongdoo and got his first taste of being a true professional. “Before, I would meet professional players in ranked when I was teamless,” he recalled. “After I got onto a team, I started playing with professional players beside me all the time, and it was really fun.”

Names on the ladder became people, daily scrimmages filled his day, and everything started to feel real for Decay. As fun as it was trading in the trials and tribulations of high school for the glitz and glamor of Overwatch, though, he got a taste of the challenges as well. Decay admits that becoming a pro was “pretty exhausting,” but he never looked back.

Decay spent a year and a half with the Kongdoo organization and never quite won a domestic title, coming closest in the 2018 Contenders Korea Season 2 Final, but it was an important experience all the same. Kongdoo predicated itself on a tight-knit team culture that was openly shared with their fans—a perfect environment for a young player like Decay looking for his way in pro gaming.

He had to accept the reality that he couldn’t stick with his Kongdoo teammates forever if he wanted to join the Overwatch League, saying it was “inevitable” that he’d have to be separated from them in order to take a step forward. All the same, eleven Kongdoo players currently make their home in the Overwatch League, and they make time for each other in their busy pro gamer lives.

“[We don’t meet] too much outside of the game, but sometimes we’ll meet in Koreatown to have a meal together,” Decay said, tilting his head with a smile.

On the Gladiators though, Decay still has former Kongdoo teammates Chang-Hoon “Roar” Gye and Jun-Woo “Void” Kang at arm’s length. Their presence has made Decay’s transition to the Overwatch League easier, simplifying the in-game comms as the trio learns English.

Decay initially entered the league with the mindset of wanting to be an incredible individual DPS player—he idolized Philadelphia Fusion superstar Jae-Hyeok “Carpe” Lee and his uncanny cadence for hitting headshots. But the meta changed, and so did Decay.

“When I first came into the league, my role model was Carpe, but now I don’t really have one,” he said. “In the past, it was a Widowmaker meta where Carpe was performing really well, but now it’s a meta where Zarya is doing all the damage… This meta is really not about individual skill. It’s more about teamwork, so I’m trying to improve on that a lot more.”

Other than the language barrier, everything has been normal for Decay coming into the Overwatch League. He can communicate with his teammates and eat the “amazing food” prepared by the team chef, and he’s winning games on the big stage. He has all the headspace in the world to focus on being the best teammate he can be, especially knowing that he has his family supporting him across the world.

“My family has been really supportive,” Decay said with an air of pride. “Coming to the States, I can also learn English, too, so they’re really happy.”

When asked if his family would ever make it to Los Angeles for one of his games, he smiled from ear to ear. “They actually told me that they might come to watch my games, but I told them not to come because the flight tickets are too expensive,” he said with a laugh, gesturing with his hand that it’s too much trouble.

It’s just that kind of reaction that contributes to Decay’s modest charm, but that doesn’t mean he lacks confidence. Entering Stage 3, the Gladiators are fifth in the overall league standings, and Decay doesn’t intend on slowing down.

“I’m really confident in taking first place at the end,” he said. “I also feel like that even if the meta shifts, we can adapt and change our playstyle.

With a great mix of talent and personalities on the roster, and Decay and the other new additions feeling more and more comfortable each day, the Gladiators have all the tools to be one of the best teams in the league. And while Decay is the type to put his head down, work, and let the results come to him, he still has specific goals in mind.

“At first, I just wanted to be the season MVP, but now I want to win the whole thing, season playoffs and all,” he said confidently.

Then, he shrank in his seat again, twiddled his thumbs, and added sheepishly: “Afterwards, I also want to go for the South Korean Overwatch World Cup team.”