Let the power rankings off-season commence.
Someone had to start the madness, and to some, it might seem too early. I get it. A lot can change over the next four months with the projected start date of the Overwatch League in mid-April. For that reason, this pre-pre-season power ranking list is unlikely to hold up till the start of the season, and a new evaluation based on new information will have to be made eventually. However, there is value to be found in discussing where teams appear to be right now based on the best available information of which much, again, is up in the air.
The power ranking will try to answer the question: “Where would Yiska expect teams to end up over the regular season given the current most up to date information on the competitive format and the team’s rosters?” More than just the final placements of where the teams end up, the list will incorporate educated guesses based on behind the scene information with as much transparency as responsibly possible. A notable omission from the factors of this list is a team’s spending potential, therefore not incorporating any future pickups of signings that are currently not in the works. As such the list won’t incorporate the likelihood of a team extending their roster if the need arose deep into the pre-season based on scrim results and their leftover resources.
However, the list will take unannounced and potentially unreported players into consideration if our sources have indicated to a reasonable degree that a signing might happen, even though doesn’t yet meet the reporting threshold we have set for ourselves.
Baseline: An educated guess on the competitive format
In order to accurately evaluate the expected performance of each team, the framework of competition needs to be defined. Here too, I had to make assumptions based on the best available information, and they should therefore be taken with a grain of salt. For the sake of this list, I set the baseline as follows:
- Overwatch 2 will not be part of Overwatch League season 4
- Hero pools will remain a part of the Overwatch League in a similar way to its last two-week long iteration like in season 3, with frequent patches adding about the same amount of volatility as it did last season
- Two divisions will be formed, one in Asia with likely seven teams, and thirteen in North America (as unlikely as that split might be)
- The two European teams will play from their home markets via online play
- The Philadelphia Fusion and the New York Excelsior will play from South Korea and participate in the Asian regions regular season play
- The season will be split into five tournament stages, three regular monthly tournaments happening inter-regionally, one mid-season event between all regions if possible, and the season playoffs
- Each tournament will have a qualifying stage of four games per team, totalling the amount of regular-season matches for each team to 16. This means that North American teams will play each other once to twice only during the “regular season”, while teams in the Asian region will play each other two to three times during the qualification process
- Other factors like the tournament format of twelve matches per tournament in North America and six in Asian and receiving bonus wins from a tournament victory towards the end of season rankings which qualify for playoffs are being assumed to be unchanged
- The incorporation of the proposed Asian Contenders teams in the Asian region’s tournament that GGRecon had reported to be a consideration for the league will not be taken into account, as it appears unlikely at this point
- There is a possibility for travel depending on the state of the world, though if it happens likely only for tournaments. Audiences are only likely to be possible for Asian games
Thoughts and Implications
The implications of the aforementioned factors are that volatility and randomness are here to stay in Overwatch League. Schedules will significantly influence seeding for each tournament, on top of the general volatility of hero pools and patch changes taking charge of the meta.
With most teams having significantly down-sized, these factors will most likely hit even harder. An often-overlooked factor in the perceived redundancies of players that never ended up receiving significant playtime, due to their unique skillsets or playstyles on a different range of heroes then were meta, is that they were by no means useless, but insurances against meta-related unforeseen circumstances. In alternate universes, they solved meta related issues and were of high value. As such, having an excellent Roadhog player paid off big time for some teams, though it is unlikely to have been a major factor for picking up a player. Similarly, having two flex supports might have been useful in season 3, though there is no saying if this is a distinct property of hero pool Overwatch or just one of the random compositional variants that could have been meta. It appears incredibly challenging to cover all eventualities with a seven-man strong roster and therefore I expect performances from meta to meta to differ wildly per team for all but the absolute best.
Despite volatile factors which are hard to plan for, most teams will regularly find themselves in situations where improvisation will be needed to an even greater degree, moving the value of coaching up another notch. Similarly, the expected flexibility of the players on each respective team will provide coaches with the possibility to plug holes to a more effective degree.
Travelling is likely to be a minor concern, but latency could be a moderate obstacle to play through.
Because of the volatility of the system, setting rigid placements would miss a lot of value in the streakiness we could see from teams due to the volatility of the system. For that reason, each team will be assigned a range of placements where they might land, which is likely to provide more insight than the order in which they will be presented. Moreover, I split up the regions as too little interaction between them is expected, making the intra-regional competition a better ruler to measure with.
Think you can do an alright job at ranking the teams in the Overwatch League yourself? Take the aforementioned assumptions and rate the rosters yourself using fishghost's Team Ranker. Enter your username and choose GGRecon as a community to submit your list to! Drag and drop the teams as you see fit and submit them to the database. Under options and info, you can also export your ranking and share them with us on the official GGRecon Discord server in the Overwatch channel. Have fun!
#13 North America - Vancouver Titans (Expected ranking range: 9th - 13th)
After the last season through which the team had arguably outperformed expectations late into the season, the lack of an option on Niclas "sHockWave" Jensen's contract must have hurt significantly, and so replacements had to be found.
Instead, the Titans started out with a baffling strategy coming into the post-season. The notion of “mean and lean” rosters had been in the ether at the management level for a long-time, and the differing market realities resulting from much smaller rosters were apparent. Smaller teams necessarily mean that the level of players outside Overwatch League teams late into the off-season would be significantly higher than in previous years. Even roster-building strategies that came in with heavy disadvantages were likely to be able to pick up A-Tier players at some point in the off-season for relatively cheap prices. Though admittedly the Titans were unlikely to make use of the full remaining talent pool (given that they appear unlikely to want to pick up South Korean players again), the rushed nature of re-signing Randal "Roolf" Stark, Abtin "ShRedLock" Shirvani, and Dalton "Dalton" Bennyhoff is at the very least confusing as it’s unlikely that any of these players would’ve received significant attention in the market, with arguably plenty of better alternatives still available. Even under the belief that these are the best candidates available to you under the restrictions you might be held to, it still doesn’t make sense to move this quickly in their position.
Jiri "LiNkzr" Masalin, Nathan "frd" Goebel, and Anthony "Fire" King were added later on, providing further competitive Overwatch experience though with perceived career trajectories that may be questioned. The flex DPS that has been connected to them is very much a player with a similar profile. Out of all the teams in the bottom part of the table in North America, they have the least growth potential pound for pound in their roster.
If the Titans were to surprise with their team, a likely source of this hidden value would come at the hand of Steven "Flubby" Coronel and his team, who have already proven to be able to create teams that bunch above the weight of their parts.
The most likely projected outcome for this roster leads to a bottom-five placement in the regular-season standings. In most worlds, I see that the fans of the Titans may have to hope that the organisation will make ample use of the new contract structures which allows them to part ways with members of their roster with minimal economic fallout within 30 days.
#12 North America - Paris Eternal (Expected ranking range: 9th - 13th)
The Eternal were another one of the teams which were severely handicapped by the circumstances through which they had to build their roster. They had their work cut out for them, having only General Manager Kyoung Ey "AVALLA" Kim to kick off the off-season, with both coaching and a full new roster having to be figured out, as well as economic restrictions and organisational hurdles to pass.
The result is an exciting mix of seven different European nationalities made up of a wide range of backgrounds and Overwatch League experiences. The team houses hungry rookies as well as seasoned veterans like Alberto "neptuNo" González, who at 28 looks to be the oldest player in the Overwatch League. Moreover, there is no discernable core of four players or more that have played with each other before. Due to an experimental yet interesting approach of coaches and players choosing each other and providing feedback during trials, the coaching staff is another surprise with Zouheir "GetAmazed" Baba as the new head coach. This method, seemingly born out of necessity, is unprecedented in Overwatch League, but could expedite building the necessary team synergy quickly. For the same reason that the experiment is compelling, it is also built on relatively thin ice. Ask yourself if this roster and its projected staff feels closer to season 3 Valiant or season 2 Paris Eternal. One has to wonder how well the line-up will hold up against the stacked North American region, many of which have pre-established core rosters that have proven their value in the field.
The situation Paris Eternal finds itself in reveals an interesting question of value: What do you play for? In a system like Overwatch League season 4 shapes up to be, one has to wonder if gambling on hitting a meta out of the park with players who have high peaks on specific picks like Benjamin "BenBest" Dieulafait on Reinhardt to streak in a tournament but lose more on average in the rest of the season would’ve been the better play for the organisation. Do you want to peak in a tournament situation once or twice and eat crow in the standings or do you want to deliver more consistent performances but get taken out in the first or second round of each knockout stage?
To paint a brighter picture, the long remaining off-season works in this rosters favour as a lack of pre-existing synergies can be worked on until the season start. On an individual level, the team appears much more stacked than one would’ve expected it to be given the market demands for European players this season. Just maybe and due to the pressure the Eternal were under, the team might have found a hidden gold mine of value much like the Valiant in season 3. Until we see this demonstrated, the bottom tier ranks are the most likely destination for them.
#11 North America - London Spitfire (Expected ranking range: 8th - 13th)
General Manager Ysabel "Noukky" Müller was open about their goals to build a team with a European identity and even though none of the players for the London Spitfire have been officially confirmed, a healthy chunk of their Contenders team British Hurricane is expected to find their way into Overwatch League on top of talent from the region.
While the Overwatch League has a lot of great European players with some competing for the top spots in their role, the unfortunate reality is that most of them have been scattered across the League with price tags that are unlikely to work out with the Spitfires strategy and the dream of a European super team evades them. Fortunately, homegrown players like Hadi Daniel "Hadi" Bleinagel and William "SparkR" Andersson have shown to have the potential to get there.
Furthermore, it is likely that the Spitfire will have their players compete from Europe, though it remains to be seen how this might impact their schedule. Even if the distance between their players and the servers is cut in half by smart server selection, having to play West coast teams could be a struggle, though perhaps for both parties involved.
Another major advantage that some teams have over other rosters with small sizes is their academy program, allowing them to keep some players fresh on two-way contracts and call them up when needed, easing the pain of having a small roster. Moreover, it provides a solid scrim partner if the academy team can play up to a respectable level.
The peak potential for this roster has to be considered higher than what the Titans bring to the table at this point, with a deep run to the semi-finals in a tournament depending on the meta not out of the question. At the same time, we have to consider the reality that a lot of North American teams have significantly upgraded and will likely be out of reach for the British team for the majority of the season.
That's it for today. Come back tomorrow for North America's projected tenth to seventh place!
Images via Blizzard Entertainment and Eric Doer