Map Drafts, Visa Hell and More! - 4 Predictions for Overwatch League’s 2020 Season
The 2020 Overwatch League is currently in a chaotic state of affairs. With franchises rebuilding, star players shuffling about, and global travel being added in just a few short months, the competitive Overwatch landscape is going to be tested. It’s time to read the tea leaves and toss out a few of my own fairly general predictions on what could be coming in the 2020 season of the Overwatch League.
The Season of Innovation
With the incredible stress of creating a traveling professional esports league along with the logistics that follow such a feat, the Overwatch League has now created a system that facilitates less effective practice. And that, in my opinion, will make this the season of innovation.
Lowering both the effective practice time and the general practice will back teams into a corner and force them to work with what they have. A litany of different Overwatch League franchises will spend a good portion of the year traveling and teams are going to have to find proper practice accommodations and that may vary and be dependant on the location as well.
I’m of the opinion that in the 2020 season teams will be at an advantage if they let themselves become more creative and lean more heavily into comfort picks. More cases like the Chengdu Hunters dealing with their visa troubles in stride and utilizing main tank ace Ding "Ameng" Menghan’s stellar Wrecking Ball as a substitute for Reinhardt.
A Legacy Will Crumble
I’ll be the bad guy, I’ll be the one to rain on everyone’s parade. For my money, the Vancouver Titan’s core will be further splintered by the end of 2020. The core that led the team to a dominant regular season in 2019, will be further changed by the end of the season.
What reason does Vancouver have to remove Bumper? Overwatch expert and desk analyst, Josh "Sideshow" Wilkinson succinctly hits on a litany of point (most of which I agree with) on his personal stream.
Is Bumper’s sudden departure in the playoffs strictly related to his in-game performance? Why after placing second overall in 2019 would you make a change to the core of the team? Remember, the majority of the Vancouver Titans lineup comes from the legendary RunAway core and Bumper has been with that team in various roles and capacities since 2016. I’m not saying things can’t change, but to say the move is purely performance-related is laughable.
After Bumper departed the team Co-Founder Steve Maida responded to Bumper’s farewell Twitter post and left a fairly cryptic message. “We value team chemistry incredibly high,” Maida wrote. “We will always do everything in our power to maintain it.”
That’s a bit odd to say in wake of a player that seemingly has been a cornerstone of the team’s chemistry since 2016, no?
Again, I’m not saying established cores are conjoined at the hip or are under Faustian pacts to remain together forever, but the whole thing smells sour—either individually or externally.
And top it all off we’ve got the arrival of Baek "Fissure" Chan-hyung. A very skilled player in his own right, there’s no questioning that, but Fissure is someone who has not had the best track record regarding “team chemistry.” It was purported that during the inaugural season Fissure and the Los Angeles Gladiators, the team he reinvigorated and brought back from the brink in 2018, were at their wits end behind the scenes and due to their strife, he was benched going into a key playoff match.
I’ll echo a lot of my points I made when I reviewed the Seoul Dynasty acquisition of Fissure during the 2019 season. Vancouver might want to build out their main tank bullpen before putting all of their eggs in the Fissure basket. While stylistically the two parties are a match, I don’t see a world where this move makes sense. It didn’t make sense for Seoul, for the most part, and it won’t make sense for Vancouver and will lead to further internal hemorrhaging.
Nothing lasts forever and under the internal pressure of the Titan’s dugout on top of the stress of travel, I see a world where many of the players who participated in the Titan’s freshman performance will be gone by the end of the year.
Esports has never had a good relationship with visa applications and travel. Like oil and water, the two just don’t seem to mix and something tells me we won’t be seeing the end of Overwatch’s visa problems.
Look at the 2019 season as a great example. If teams either didn’t prepare enough ahead of time or were just unlucky, the league still had trouble finding visas to get players just to the United States, let alone traveling the world. This will only continue to be a problem but will manifest itself in many different ways.
Weird or off-role substitutions are bound to happen. However, on the more extreme end of things, there is a very real world where a team that is fielding a smaller roster, either in general or just for travel purposes, might not even have enough players to field a full playing roster due to travel delays or cancelations. The absolute worst-case scenario is a match postponement, but perhaps even emergency substitutes loaned from local Contenders teams could be employed.
I wouldn’t put anything past the league as the show does have to go on, but I sincerely hope proper measures have been taken to ensure this doesn’t become the standard throughout the 2020 season.
New Updates on the Horizon
To float interest until more information can be provided for Overwatch 2, I think Blizzard is going to add another large update to the game, one that will impact a more general aspect of the game to assist both it’s casual and competitive communities. And that update could be an official map drafting system.
Now this is purely speculation on my end and my reasoning is admittedly a bit of a stretch, but follow me down the rabbit hole. During a special Watchpoint held at BlizzCon 2019, Overwatch League brass shared with us a slew of announcements. Among them was the revelation that the league would be moving to best of three sets. And last November saw an interesting change role out with patch 1.42: a set map rotation.
With this in mind, I think we can safely say that Blizzard is open to reviewing its stance on maps in general—and could be saving map drafts as a carrot on a stick to bridge the development time they need for Overwatch 2.
And this isn’t the first time we’ve seen Overwatch test a map draft system. All the way back in 2016 a handful of tournaments, including DreamHack Winter and Overwatch TakeOver 1 featured a map draft before each match. Even former journalist and current head coach for the Houston Outlaws, Harsha Bandi, wrote about this very problem in December of 2016.
I for one think it would be a fantastic addition not only to the game but to the Overwatch League broadcast. This would give the pre-game and halftime desk segments something super tangible to talk about and assist the league’s experts in painting a better picture of how a game should play out.
Images via Blizzard Entertainment