Five crucial storylines for Overwatch League's Summer Stage
The 2023 Overwatch League (OWL) season has crossed the halfway point and its Summer Stage is set to shift the tone.
The confetti from the Midseason Madness has finished falling. Atlanta Reign stands not only as the best team in the world but as champions with little resistance. New faces begin to integrate into the East as familiar ones in the West begin to close the gap.
The metagame has shifted, power rankings have been set, and the playoffs are in sight. These are the stories you need to know before Overwatch League's Summer Stage begins.
A shocking truth
It's difficult to imagine a worse way to begin a season for the San Francisco Shock.
A team that has only known success now has to fight to escape the gutters.
Burdened with lofty expectations, the greatest player Overwatch has yet seen, and a roster of promising rookie talent, San Francisco exited the Spring Stage wounded.
However, was the weight of the Spring stage the catalyst to thrust the San Francisco Shock back towards the throne?
Is this the stage where the Shock right the wrongs of the Pro-Am and the spring months to flourish in the summer? It's possible, but the answer escapes us.
We've seen teams suffer catastrophic losing streaks, being written off entirely as bye-week teams, only to rise from the ashes as contenders with the largest chips on their shoulders.
But is that how this story goes? Is that the Shock's fate?
Are the gilded walls of San Fransisco falling?
Or will the stress of the spring cause the Shock to bloom?
Is this the new normal for the Bay Area dynasty or has the show just begun?
As if arctic water dropped on your head, the Overwatch League will have to embrace a shocking truth, one way or another.
Forging an empire
The Atlanta Reign look unstoppable.
Even when you begin to nitpick and search for arguments they spit in your face with surprising accuracy. With that in mind, it's funny to think of this franchise as the gatekeeper team, a brand they struggled to escape since its inception.
The gap may close as patches roll in, but they stand on firm ground for now.
Even when looking ahead to the playoffs, something that historically has been something of a period to reset your prior biases, Atlanta looks well prepared. Nearly mirroring the 2022 playoffs, this year Overwatch League will add another support character to their cast alongside a brand new core game mode.
A new character has always seemed to throw a wrench into the works for many teams in the Overwatch League, but can you really be scared when you have Kwon "Fielder" Joon, Han "ChiYo" Hyeon-seok, and Kim "vigilante" Joon in the backfield?
While you can't discredit the intrinsic chaos that a new game mode might bring, everyone has to find their barrings with it. This is to say, the Reign have significantly fewer hurdles to jump when compared to their peers.
And this comes off the back of a 2021 Shanghai Dragons-esque performance in Midseason Madness.
Before the semi-finals were even scheduled, we all knew Shanghai was going to win the world title.
That was the general feeling around Atlanta's first major international victory.
Those kinds of runs with these kinds of players do not come often.
This is a special team and as we advance in the Summer Stage, Atlanta will only look to reinforce that fact.
However, it is difficult to remain at the top in Overwatch.
If there is one law we can trust, it's that the Overwatch League changes. Its rules change, new patches cycle in, and metagames evolve. This creates an unstable foundation for empires to be built on, that's why we've seen so few of them.
So, is the Atlanta Reign up for the task?
Unrestrained and facing little resistance, is this how Atlanta begins their reign?
Are we witnessing a new dynasty being formed?
Or is this all just a flash sale before reality catches up with them?
What dreams are made of
Dreamers was given the mask of the edge-case veterans without home chasing one last glimpse of glory. True to their moniker, there were dreams at stake, how could they give up so easily?
With losses to WildFlame and NT, they narrowly advanced through the WDG Open Tournament to make Overwatch Contenders Spring.
There, Dreamers only scored a single victory over SLT Miracle, a team who lost every match and map they played.
Even a month after their debut, they were still fringe candidates that could easily be written off. It was becoming increasingly clear that this was a team that should accept they washed ashore, couldn't cut it, and should pass the torch.
However, one fateful break would provide the environment needed for growth.
To qualify for the Overwatch League's Spring Opens, Dreamers would have to face a name they were all too familiar with.
Team Diamond was billed to be the archetypical up-and-coming team of amateur prospects.
They casually strolled their way to winning the WDG Open, only dropping a single map along the way.
They were placed in Group A alongside Dreamers and dispatched the former professionals in a narrow game five.
And to add insult to injury, Team Diamond had legendary tank player, Gong "Miro" Jin-hyuk as its head coach.
Their meeting in the Lower Bracket Final of the Spring Series was meant to be a matter of legality rather than a battlefield for fate.
Yet, one name was missing from Team Diamond's starting roster.
In a post-mortem Twitter post, Team Diamond had made a last-minute roster change due to some alleged internal discord. This saw one of their starting DPS, Seo "ssaadd" Kang-min, stand in as a support player.
You couldn't ask for a better chance to advance than this.
Needless to say, Dreamers advanced to pair off with Overwatch League staples like the Seoul Dynasty and the Guangzhou Charge. However, now they face an even greater threat.
With their starting DPS and main support ace leaving for permanent seats at the Overwatch League table, can Dreamers find their glass slipper once more?
The most unlikely team to narrowly miss the Midseason Madness stands on the precipice of history.
Can they push the impossible and step closer to upsetting the world?
Loading the dice
It might actually be an understatement to say the Vegas Eternal has been bad this season.
However, that may quickly change.
Pseudo-arriving as the tailwind to right the ship, South Korean prospects Lee "KNIFE" Seon-woo, Lim "Toyou" Hyeon-woo, and Kim "irony" Hyeong-woo have brought their talents to the Eternal.
Has Las Vegas bet on the right hand to avoid infamy?
Formerly of the Seoul Dynasty, Toyou is looking for another chance to prove to the world that he's not just worthy, but that he's great. Emerging out of the Spring Opens alongside Sin Prisa Gaming, Toyou was easily one of the top two tanks prospects Overwatch League teams could sign.
KNIFE follows a storied lineage of South Korean DPS rookies that graduate from O2 Blast. It's safe to wager that his talents will be better than what the Eternal held before, but just how high can he go?
With a history in Chinese Overwatch alongside the Hangzhou Spark and their academy team, irony has been a player to watch for some time now. And if that doesn't feel secure then his tenure alongside O2 Blast should be a significant confidence boost.
While it was clear that Vegas had trouble in the mechanical department, that should not be the issue anymore. Now they battle the logistics of playing on ping and in a time zone that will likely carry adverse effects on performance, at least to start.
It's quite literally do or die at this point. With no wins to speak of and only one map win, things can only go up from here.
But can they hit their outs to escape being cemented next to some of the worst teams in Overwatch history?