Have a look at who Yiska thinks will finish the OWL in places 10th to 6th!
Overwatch League teams have been working in the offseason to meet their goals for the new challenges awaiting them in season 3. These challenges are by no means equal, as this season will see a spike in systemic inequalities that will inevitably mess with competitive integrity. As such, this end of season prediction serves as my conclusion on multiple factors that will determine the ranking at the end of the season: Roster strength and resilience, flexibility and adaptability, travel schedule and practice partner quality, as well as an opportunity to course correct. Most of all, with the patch schedule set to 6-8 weeks, if rigid metas were to form, it would introduce a huge element of pure luck. However, it is equally possible that we won’t see solidified metas next season at all and that games change in their nature to become more of a pick-up style, in which strategic, on the fly adaptations become vastly more important than deep understandings of meta compositions like we had over the last two years.
You will find that I weigh the complications introduced this season by the above-mentioned circumstances heavily. It is therefore advised to not see this list as a “power ranking” that orders teams according to their team’s strength on any given day or at the start of the season but as a prediction of how these teams may fair in the environments that they will see themselves confronted with. It basically answers the question “Where do you think X team will stand when the regular season is over?
You can see the 20th to 16th spot here and the 15th to 11th place here.
10. Gladiators (14-8)
The Gladiators have an about average travel schedule with four intercontinental flights, three of which are accompanied with a break to alleviate jetlag issues. Only their match in June against the Defiant and the Spitfire in London will have to be played in a travel week and the time zone difference of five hours between the east coast and the UK is unlikely to cause huge issues also because their opponents share those circumstances.
Their tank line has me equally excited and concerned. SPACE was self-admittedly slow to pick up other heroes for the Valiant last season to the point where he told the coaches to consider playing Shax over him on Sombra. Both his Roadhog and D.Va are proven qualities and yet this season we can reasonably expect the role to require much more flexibility than it did in recent years and the entire tank hero pool could potentially be on the menu. OGE has the potential to become one of the best tanks in the world and seemingly only his attitude (and the quality of his teammates) has stood in his way. Their back line of Biggoose and Shaz is ever so solid and is unlikely to cause issues for them.
The real question mark is delivered at the hands of their DPS players. It consists of two Overwatch League rookies who by no means were looked at as transcendental talent during their time in contenders. On top of that, Dpei brought in birdring, a player widely known for his inconsistency, a quality that we can’t exactly expect to be alleviated by being in a hybrid roster for the first time. While we can only look at the rumored internal struggles of London Spitfire from the outside, it should concern us that Birdring didn’t play in the play-ins of last year. The fact that someone as horrendous on Doomfist as Guard was played over him almost certainly reveals intangible reasons why he wasn’t playing, though this doesn’t necessarily point towards birdring being the issue himself. Overall, I’m surprised that this DPS-line is a gamble that the team is willing to take.
The general manager and head coach in personal union, Dpei stated that they are able and willing to become active on the transfer market in the mid-season if required, seeing how their later travel schedule allows them to introduce new players to the roster without too much visa pain. Judging by the size of the contracts that Gladiators players have received this offseason, the team seems to be able to make a serious bid for a top player if the need arose. However, the luxury salary tax might be a concern.
One aspect to highlight is that the coaching staff for the Gladiators is stacked with some of the most highly regarded English speaking coaches in Overwatch League. Faustus, face and Curryshot are all well-known former contenders’ coaches who helped elevate their teams past their inherent talent level, a quality that will be very much required if the Gladiators want to at all participate in the title race.
9. Hangzhou Spark (16-8)
The Spark will have to endure four long-distance flights, with their homecoming tour to China at the end of the season missing a crucial break. Over half of their season will be spent in People’s republic, where they will only have to fly a maximum of three and a half hours to get to the other home stands in Asia.
The Chinese organization had a strange offseason without any official signings known today. We can expect DPS talent Bazzi to join the main team once again and without any other additions, perhaps SASIN would be given more playtime. If the Spark remain as they are, history tells us that a relative decline in comparison to their competitors is likely. Additions during the season would likely either be trades from other Overwatch League teams whose players have visas for China or prospects from Chinese contenders. In the latter case, players like flex support Coldest, projectile DPS Jwj or flex DPS MoLanran could be of interest to them.
I’m concerned that the Spark harbor a potential for a considerable performance drop. This is based on their strange perceived inactivity in the transfer market, their performance at the Shanghai Masters Invitational and the age of their roster, with the career half-life of many of their players putting a question mark on their continued quality. Admittedly, many of my concerns might be based on a lack of information about this team’s internal structure.
8. Seoul Dynasty (14-6)
Strain of the travel schedule is generally the same in the Pacific East division, once again requiring four long-distance flights mostly surrounded by a week break apart from their last travel back to Asia in June. For the Dynasty, the trip from Atlanta to Hangzhou means a full day of travel and a 13-hour time zone difference in a week where they’ll have to play direct competitors in the Charge and the Dragons, who fortunately also travel with them from Atlanta. We may forgive whatever those games turn into given these circumstances.
After the announcement that the championship winning pair of Gesture and Profit would be moving to the Seoul Dynasty, it seemed like the South Korean organization attempted to make a play to form a super team of sorts, potentially assembling elite Korean talent as the only team from the esports mecca, taking their destined throne at the top. Not least yours truly was celebrating the release of those two players from the London Spitfire, a team that had looked like its players were keeping each other hostage in season 2. Promoting their prodigious talent Glister, keeping some of their old roster for solid backup options and internal scrims, as well as having a huge draw through their location for home-loving top tier talent that only loves winning more than their national cuisine. Knowing that all things in esports which appear too good to be true usually fall apart in the most frustrating ways, I shared my concerns on twitter. Arnold Hur, COO of Seoul Dynasty’s parent company Gen.G, responded, either trying to sooth me or, now in hindsight, to share my concern.
Looking at the final result of the Dynasty roster, I can’t help but to ask one question: Why did you have to do me like that, Arnold?
Not only did the team lose its captain and franchise player in Ryujehong presumably for a troublemaking Bdosin, it arguably lost most of its other exciting parts and didn’t follow up on its potential in any considerable way. A DPS duo of Glister and Profit would’ve solved almost all meta concerns in season 3. MekO was obviously available on the market given that he landed with the Outlaws. There were at least three available Korean contenders’ backlines with top tier potential. Money is not an infinite resource, but this roster is the equivalent of spending all your allowance on a 2080TI with only a 5-year-old Walmart prebuild to upgrade on and expecting it to run Overwatch well. No overpaid apple genius will be able to help you with that.
7. Guangzhou Charge (12 - 6)
The Charge have a very similar travel schedule to the other Eastern teams and should therefore run into similar complications. However, there is reason to believe that they will have an infrastructural advantage over other teams in their region based on their organization’s facilities.
A prior that we can work from is that the Charge looked significantly improved in stage 4, achieving a respectable 6-1 score line. They convinced against the Hunters in the play-ins and fell short against the Dynasty in a series that felt closer than its 4-1 score line does justice. The projected starting six of Happy, Nero, Cr0ng, Rio, Shu and neptuNo (though Chara remains an option) has few obvious holes, with the tank line being the most uncertain factor other than perhaps certain projectile heroes. Further transfer moves aren’t out of the question and the Charge may have another few surprises left in store.
From my estimation, Guangzhou is likely to go even in the Pacific Conference and will be able to feed off the Atlantic teams, landing close to a playoff spot at a season score of approximately 16 victories to 12 losses.
6. Vancouver Titans (10-2)
Vancouver Titan’s travel schedule appears fairly straining which might affect this team more than others because of its high potential to implode. They’ll have four international flights with their China trip fortunately embedded in break weeks. Only their arrival in Europe won’t be accompanied by a free weekend in between.
The offseason moves by the Titans are almost as disorientating as Seoul’s. I don’t particularly have a problem with the departure of Bumper, even though I consider him to be one of the five best main tanks in the league. Depending on the circumstances behind the scenes, it might have been a necessary move. I’m convinced that his benching last season wasn’t performance related, so we have to consider internal reason. It’s therefore even more shocking that the Titans would count on Fissure, a player that has now twice left his teams high and dry, to fill in as the only main tank on the roster. The Vancouverites must believe their new signing Ryujehong to be a beacon of tranquillity that will still these woes, because he certainly shouldn’t be starting over Twilight. I don’t think the organization has yet realized the powder keg they are sitting on. Moreover, I’m concerned with their offtank position, as I expect the role to require much more flexibility next season and Jjanu didn’t impress on heroes outside of D.Va.
The quality of the players on this team is undeniable and if they can hold it together, very few teams will be able to put a stop to them. Admittedly, internal conflicts are a common thing in Overwatch League and the public only ever gets to hear of them in the worst of cases. Many hugely successful teams hated each other in the locker room. Titans might be passing the threshold of what is workable though.
This roster’s conception is built on a razor’s edge I wouldn’t bet my money on, especially when the travel schedule and its inevitable complications will mess with player moods. I don’t think the 6th place is the most likely regular season rank for them to finish on; Their placement here is merely an expression of their performance delta between play-in team and title contender. It’s a make or break season for the Titans.
Image courtesy of Tyler Demogenes for Blizzard Entertainment