Careers will be defined this year, and no, we’re not talking Merriam-Webster.
2021 is the year the Overwatch League gets to brass tax. This is the year that participants across the board face their demons and hope to live to see the other end. Some players have flown the coop for greener pastures, but will they find the same success? Others have struggled to find a home - will this year grant them the one they’ve been searching for? Even the game itself sits at a crossroads, waiting in limbo before its long-awaited sequel.
The 2021 Overwatch League season is projected to be an incredible time in the game’s competitive history, but it also will define the look of the league for the foreseeable future.
This is a make or break year.
Shadow Of The Crown
In one of the most surprising moves in the 2020 offseason, Grant "Moth" Espe has left the two-time, reigning Overwatch League champions, the San Francisco Shock and has sailed south to join the Los Angeles Gladiators for the 2021 season. Integral doesn’t begin to define the position Moth held within the Shock’s championship core. As a strategic leader and bulletproof support player, Moth is still a coaches dream pick up. He sits in a calibre of player that only comes around every so often and someone who can easily be the key to unlock David "dpei" Pei’s Gladiators and push them to heights they’ve yet seen. However, there is an elephant in the room, and it is orange and black and carries two world titles on its back.
Getting to the top of the mountain is a journey in and of itself, but doing it a second time can start with good intentions but end with sudden introspection. Psychology can be a cruel mistress; however, if anyone can reinvent themselves and lead a new team to the top, Moth’s name is surely on that shortlist. Can Moth escape the shadow of the crowns he has worn on the San Francisco Shock and find success with the Los Angeles Gladiators or will his past success forever loom over his shoulder?
It is undeniable that Son "OGE" Min-seok has a talent for the game, but his track record doesn’t give off the same confidence that his play does. Debuting for the Dallas Fuel back in 2018, OGE quickly became a fan favourite with his aggressive plays and playful demeanour. However, his stay in Dallas would have a short shelf life. After a disappointing 2019 season, he was traded to the Los Angeles Gladiators for star DPS player Jang "Decay" Gui-un. While the Gladiators were competitive throughout their 2020 run, they never managed to catalyse the potential they had on their roster. Now, OGE has taken his talents to Florida to join a budding Mayhem squad looking to make a push into consistent playoff contention.
As part of a rare breed of veteran players dating back to the APEX era, the Overwatch community has been waiting with bated breath for OGE to finally shine. Can 2021 be that season? After jumping from home to home for what feels like ages, the Florida Mayhem will be OGE’s make or break, but will the rubber meet the road? Will he be able to settle into the team and help them make a play at the title, or will this venture end up like all the rest?
Historically speaking, Texas has been far from the home of competitive Overwatch. The new year brings fresh faces that look to change that narrative for the better. Outside of being the home to the Cowboys, Dallas fans should be elated with how the Fuel look coming into the 2021 Overwatch League season. Reuniting the scattered pieces of his former roster, Fuel head coach Yun "RUSH," Hee-won has Dallas sitting pretty coming into the 2021 debut. Reassembling the former Element Mystic core, the Fuel is now home to the likes of Kim "SP9RK1E" Yeong-han, Choi "Hanbin" Han-been, and Kwon "Fielder" Joon. While their preseason performance has not lived up to expectations, there is no doubt that with the power they have on the starting roster, Dallas is sure to be a highly competitive team in the Western region come April. Will the colourful history of these players be enough to propel Dallas into the limelight or have the Fuel be position behind the eightball once again?
While Houston has had problems in the past, the Outlaws look fresh coming into the 2021 season. Coming out of retirement for one last stab at a title, Outlaws legend Jacob "JAKE" Lyon has returned to the roster. Focused on more than just playing, JAKE has voiced the notion that his role is primarily going to be more about coaching and development with the added bonus of starting if the team needs him to. Outside of the Houston veteran coming home, all eyes are on the coaching staff, especially co-head coach Choi "Junkbuck" Jaewon. After helping the San Francisco Shock to repeat championships, Junkbuck has set his goal on revitalising an Outlaws franchise in need. Can the Outlaws defy the expectations or will they cement themselves outside of playoffs with maybes and what-ifs?
Boston Rising Up
In 2018 the Uprising were a playoff team. That fact stands as a stark contrast to the rain cloud that sits over their heads now. Three years later and their claim to fame is now among the not-so-elite few who make up the worst-performing teams in Overwatch history. However, the silver lining to that distinction is that most of those teams bounce back in a big way.
While the Shanghai Dragons will forever be branded as the team who went 0-40, they now loom as a dominant force in the Eastern region. While in the west, the Florida Mayhem began their Overwatch League tenure on a less-than-stellar footing, but now they are considered playoff locks. The Boston Uprising look to change their fate much in the same way as their peers and, by the looks of things, they might just be able to.
Equipped with a new slew of coach including new head coach, Kim "Lori" Seung-hyun from World Game Star Pheonix fame, veteran assistant coach Dennis "Barroi" Matz from the Toronto Defiant, as well as a new injection of talent, the Uprising field a fairly formidable force. Former Dragons main tank, Seo "Stand1" Ji-won, adds a surprising amount of depth to their front line which cannot be discounted when looking at the possibility of another hero pool format. Alongside Stand1, French legend, Terence "SoOn" Tarlier, has taken his talents to the Uprising. Throughout last year having a sturdy Tracer specialist has proven to be well worth its weight in gold, SoOn brings years of experience at that very hero to the Uprising. With those two moves alone, Boston looks improved, but the league—as it does every year—has evolved. Can the Boston Uprising recapture the same success they had in 2018 or will they unequivocally be crowned the Overwatch League’s least competitive franchise?
Narratives are often just stories we construct ourselves, either to enhance our enjoyment or to explain what we’re watching. However, these challenges pose very real threats. Without a doubt, the 2021 Overwatch League will be the year of definitions. Legacies are on the line in what is set to be the most competitive year to date.
For these teams, players, and organisations, nothing can be left on the table.
It is make or break season.
Images via Blizzard Entertainment