Is The Overwatch League Destined For A Fuel And Dragons Finale?
Overwatch League's Summer Showdown is over—and is anyone surprised? Reclaiming their positions at the league's helm, the Dallas Fuel and the Shanghai Dragons have trounced their domestic counterparts in a familiar fashion.
With their rivals absent, the metagame about to shift, and the pressure mounting are we destined for a Fuel and Dragons finale?
Two titans, and no, we're not talking Vancouver, have once again pulled ahead in the final stretch of the 2022 Overwatch League season. With the Dallas Fuel's trouncing of the San Francisco Shock and the Shanghai Dragons exiting the fog of war over the Seoul Dynasty, there are once again, familiar frontrunners for the Overwatch League title. Even looking at each of their domestic rivals, the league seems to be stratifying itself much like it did during the 2021 season, but is that because of their own doing or the flames of select rebuilds smouldering out?
If we venture to the west, the Los Angeles Gladiators feel a bit worse for wear coming out of the Summer Showdown. In a metagame where we predicted them to be one of the few teams to improve based on their roster flexibility with Kim "skewed" Min-seok and Daniel "FunnyAstro" Hathaway as early picks for the assumed best backline in the league, the Gladiators seemed like the odds-on favourite for another LAN appearance. Being able to field two all-stars at main support while the league had to pivot, maintaining their stars in Kevin "kevster" Persson and Corey "Reiner" Scoda, and even adding Lee "Happy" Jung-woo from the Washington Justice, expectations only increased for the Gladiators across the Summer Showdown.
Whirling and tearing through their competition, the San Francisco Shock are quickly becoming incredibly tornado-like this season. They loom over the west with rookies that defy the odds, that are likely to sweep the awards, but somehow always sputter out towards the end of the big dance. While Kim "Proper" Dong-hyun continues to impress his counterpart in Jung "Kilo" Jin-woo was not only quiet but was nearly absent from the final. They may be the two-time world champions, and they may also hold an incredibly regular season winning streak, but when it's all on the line, the 2022 Shock just doesn't look the same.
Seoul Dynasty may have found purchase during the Kickoff Clash, however, the gap between them and the Dragons seems only to be widening. They have one of the more exciting rookies that has graduated this season in Jeong "Stalk3r" Hak-yong. They have a legendary main tank that has seen a rebirth this season in Yoo "smurf" Myeong-hwan. They even have the greatest Overwatch player to grace the game in Park "Profit" Joon-yeong, but for every plus you give them Shanghai either rivals them or just flat out beats them. And by the end of the Summer Showdown final, by the end of that nearly incredible Push comeback during map four, it was clear the Seoul Dynasty, at least right now, are playing second fiddle to the defending champions.
This class of "honourable mentions" feel like they are within striking distance of the title, but while the Fuel and Dragons have found their footing in a very tangible way, the likes of the Gladiators, the Shock, and the Dynasty are beginning to crumble.
This is all to say that the balance of the game will be the biggest marker of success for the Countdown Cup. And while that might sound like the understatement of the century it's not in the way you think.
Recall back to the 2019 Overwatch League metagame, Blizzard tried everything in their power to kill the GOATS metagame. Three separate patches were implemented to move the league away from the polarizing triple DPS and support composition that dominated the season. Stage 3 saw the "first" cracks of fluidity in the metagame with the Shanghai Dragons popularising more DPS picks paired with Wrecking Ball.
Just because we get patches to Overwatch 2 doesn't mean the meta is guaranteed to shift. Unless Junker Queen is quite literally removed, there is a non-zero percent chance that she could return for the Countdown Cup and beyond. This places the aforementioned Dallas Fuel and Shanghai Dragons front and centre when it comes to projections for good reasons.
And even if we enter the realm of what-ifs and create a metagame that specifically targets the lead cars' weaknesses, are their liabilities still attack vectors?
Take the Dallas Fuel for example. All year they have been criticised for their lacklustre hitscan DPS performance. However, throughout the Summer Showdown, Kim "Edison" Tae-hoon stepped up in a big way. Another piece of leverage you could take with the Fuel is their rigidity, which is fair, we've only seen them perform well when they find the composition that works for them and they refine it.
We saw this manifest in the Kickoff Clash with Choi "Hanbin" Han-been on Zarya and now with their excellence on Junker Queen, admittedly an incredibly rigid metagame, but even in that sense, how many teams found repeated success with the likes of Mei?
It's not that the Dallas Fuel is inflexible, but they seem to need a strong baseline composition to lean on.
We've seen this with their previous Lucio/Moira stylings and now multiple times this year—this Fuel core thrives in the refinement of an idea and yet they still manage to be successful in environments, much like the Kickoff Clash, where there are so many different schools of thought.
That is not normal.
Standing shoulder to shoulder with them like royal guards to the Overwatch League title are the Shanghai Dragons. With a DPS trio that can take over any metagame of their choosing, a tank core that seems to only be rivalled by their rivals across the pond, and supports that argue for best-in-show, the Dragons have a hoard of riches at their disposal when it comes to talent.
And it shows.
How many times has Lee "LIP" Jae-won found a way to invoke his will on the server?
How many times has Lee "LeeJaeGon" Jae-gon made plays from a position that historically doesn't?
How many times have we counted this roster out for them to battle back and remind us why they are our 2021 Overwatch League champions?
There might be a "zombie" composition, but there is only one undying team in this league and you're looking at them.
Even with head coach Moon "Moon" Byung-chul's remarks on the difficulties of the Dragons roster in adapting to Overwatch 2, they've not only persisted but have improved steadily over the course of the year. And now with another trophy tossed into their treasure trove, the Shanghai Dragons nearly have the APAC region within their clutches.
Can the honourable mentions class graduate top of their class and change their fate or does destiny have a familiar finale for us for the 2022 Overwatch League playoffs?
If we're to place a bet it's on consistency, flexibility, and form.
Throughout the 2022 season, there have been two names that cannot be argued that check most of those boxes, and now their form has allowed them to add to their trophy case over stiff competition.
For our money, for the narrative-rich ecosystem it would foster, and for the historical implications, the Dallas Fuel and the Shanghai Dragons are likely to be and downright should be your 2022 grand finalists.
However, there is one truth that we've learned this year; in Overwatch 2, anything can happen.
How will Lady Luck smile this year?