Are Atlanta Reign Leading NA With Their OWL 2022 Debut?
The Atlanta Reign have silenced any doubt or suspicion that last year was a fluke with such a statement debut during the 2022 Overwatch League season. Lijiang Tower stands cold and alone as the only map the Reign has gifted away. Past that minor underperformance, they’ve been dominant, only looking vaguely worried on two of the six maps they’ve won.
Can Atlanta continue to collect names as they snowball into the Kickoff Clash playoffs or are there some bumps coming down the stretch perhaps with their schedule or strategical outlook that could stymie their shot at their first major title as a franchise?
With expectations muddied, Atlanta’s 2022 roster should have checked all the boxes this week. If there are any doubters among you, ask them; in a game so individually focused, can you afford to have suspect players? Also did anything about their performance from this week leave any questions?
Starting from the top, when it comes to Doomfist, you cannot find someone better than Xander "Hawk" Domecq right now. Other players have the skills, but Hawk has the magic touch. Jokes aside his measured aggression and adaptation have caught the eye of fans and experts alike.
In a metagame with so much hitscan presence, more on that latter, Kai "Kai" Collins seems more than comfortable on Soldier: 76 and his depth at the role will likely prove to be lethal for the majority of the league as we continue through the Kickoff Clash. Unconvinced? Let’s review the numbers. Per the official Overwatch League Stats Lab, 25 Ashe players were ranked during the 2020 season, Kai ranked third in final blows and eliminations per ten minutes, fourth in hero damage done per ten minutes, and fifth in solo kills per ten minutes.
For two years now, Charlie "nero" Zwarg has been a more than capable flex DPS player. Even last year his Mei and Tracer assisted the San Francisco Shock in a relatively strong performance domestically. Again, we’re not relying solely on the eye test. Per the official Overwatch League Stats Lab, 21 Echo players were ranked during the 2021 season. Of them, nero ranked within the top ten in final blows per ten minutes, third in hero damage done per ten minutes and fifth in solo kills per ten minutes. This prowess now extends to picks like Genji and Reaper as his performance during week one has been quite impressive.
While many fans of the league have questioned if Atlanta’s rookie support duo could hang with the best, it is clear that Christian "Ojee" Han and Benjamin "UltraViolet" David are not only capable, but they’re among the best in the world. The former is aggressive and participates in the team’s dives and the latter has some of the highest value Biotic Grenades in the league thus far. And what’s scarier is that UltraViolet is ultra-consistent in hitting high-value Ana grenades.
This is a team that is going to persist amongst the top tiers throughout the season and who is a far too early favourite for the Kickoff Clash title.
However, to get there, they have three more weeks of matches. Does anyone look like they could provide the Reign with a challenge?
Let’s not mince words here; the Atlanta Reign’s schedule has not been and will not be all that challenging at this stage. That said, whether or not that is a boon or a bramble stands in the eye of the beholder. Neither the Florida Mayhem nor the New York Excelsior made them look uneasy and even in their Control map loss to the former, Atlanta bounced back with a strong adaptation moving Hawk into a more aggressive backline position instead of managing the enemy tank.
Looking ahead, Atlanta is nearly destined for the Kickoff Clash playoffs.
The Washington Justice are their sole opponent heading into week two. With a rather slow start, in more ways than one, the Justice doesn’t seem as lost as they were last year but still comes equipped with some head-scratching decisions.
The Vancouver Titans square off with the Reign in week three. Nothing novel to add there. Vancouver doesn’t look amazing and Atlanta looks to be calibres above.
Week four becomes a bit harder to read as the more colourful London Spitfire and the Los Angeles Gladiators end Atlanta’s qualifying matches. The fact that Atlanta has to prepare for the Spitfire’s more bold style could cause their match against the Gladiators to become closer than one would imagine, even with expectations becoming a bit more questionable after Los Angeles’ opening week. Even if the end of the week goes disastrously wrong, four wins feels like a confident vote for the top eight in the region.
So if their opponents are not going to halt the avalanche, then can the metagame?
Early expectations either from the Scrimbux Stock Exchange or just your general punditry has positioned heroes like Soldier: 76 and Genji as strong picks—and those have paid their dividends. However, as we round out week one, what we are seeing is that the metagame is much more fluid. With teams like London opting for a focus on Reinhardt and Mei while Boston is showing a strong Zarya and Reaper based composition, things feel much more fluid than ever before. This results in changing our focus from rigid questions around heroes and shifting more towards the maps and their own mini-metas.
Take for example one of the newest Escort maps, Circuit Royal. Its long angles of attack and defensive high ground positions makes it a staple pick for long-range hitscan heroes like Widowmaker—and we’ve seen that expressed in week one. As teams find their footing with Push, both Colosseo and New Queen Street seem very open to interpretation with anything from Tracer to Echo being featured as well, but a Dive architecture seems to be the norm. All this to say, teams that aim for the title have a litany of strategic questions to answer. Those that circumvent that with a bold style may end up lacking in the long run as their shallow style gets picked apart by adaptation.
Not only does Atlanta have great options into each of these mini-metas, but they’ve also showcased a very strong base and an early ability to see the game how it is rather than how they wish it to be, again revisit Hawk’s targeting against Florida.
If Circuit Royal comes up, Kai challenges and bests most of the top Widowmakers in the league, nero has already showcased that he’s more than capable of playing Genji or Tracer, and Hawk should be a mainstay as his Doomfist looks to be in a tier of its own and on the flip side traditional flex tanks like Zarya and D.Va have shown to be useful.
No matter what they’re thrown, the Atlanta Reign have the tools to be able to deal with it. Even with their schedule, the Reign seem quite favoured to, at the very least, make a deep run.
While it is not lost on us that we’ve just finished the opening week, the writing feels pretty clear.
With Dallas Fuel looking suspect after a sweep to rivals the Houston Outlaws.
With the aforementioned Los Angeles Gladiators looking rougher around the edges.
That leaves the San Francisco Shock as the only real threat to Atlanta thus far, and arguably they also have had some odd happenings in their match against London.
Atlanta look poised to win its first major title.
Building from pre-season confidence, a nearly perfect start, and a light docket in the coming weeks, the Atlanta Reign may genuinely be snowballing into the Kickoff Clash finals just from their 2022 debut.
And if we can say that now - what does that mean for North America for the remainder of the season?