These teams can contest for a tournament victory and if they are lucky enough, might just win the playoffs.
Climbing up the list, we’ve arrived at the top six. Teams in this tear will have the ability to punch up relatively frequently and possibly in tournaments, taking games from the higher-rated teams when it counts. They often have some obvious flaws in their starting line-ups or their bench which either might not cover the full range of heroes the meta might throw at them, or might have some other organisational deficiency that should be acknowledged. Other than that, these rosters are promising to be a great source of joy to their fans, being exciting line-ups boasting incredibly skilled players. They are, however, still at the whims of the meta.
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 receiving bonus wins from a tournament victory towards the end of season rankings which qualify for playoffs and 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
For thoughts and implications of these guesstimates, check out the first article in the pre-pre-season Power Ranking series.
#6 North America - Toronto Defiant (Expected ranking range: 5th - 10th)
23andMe would have an easy time spotting the clear Philadelphia Fusion DNA in the 2021 roster of the Toronto Defiant. As players tend to do, Hee-su "Heesu" Jeong and Su-min "SADO" Kim followed their coach Dong-gun "KDG" Kim to Canada. Moreover, Ho-sung "Na1st" Lee and Adam "Beast" Denton were once part of Fusion’s academy team Fusion University together with coach Chris "Gl1tch" Infante. While that already has plenty of patchwork family feeling, Min-hyuk "Michelle" Choi comes in from KDG’s first marriage, the Seoul Dynasty. Curiously, despite not playing a whole lot on the Dynasty, Michelle had a couple of teams interested in him, making Dynasty’s roster rotation all the more confusing. Funnily enough, it’s another benched offtank player just like last year and last time; it didn’t go quite so well for the Defiant.
Their backline with Soon-jae "ANSOONJAE" An and Jeong-su "Aztac" Park appear to be high risk, high reward pickups and the lack of at least a second flex support is therefore surprising and an apparent source of variance.
Beyond the ability to run a full Korean line-up, I too have to wonder which role Adam "Beast" Denton, and to a lesser degree Andreas "Logix" Berghmans will play, with the latter likely becoming the go-to Tracer for the team, also possibly picking up Widowmaker duties.
The Defiant have assembled at least a starting six of arguably above-average players which should make waves in season 4, powered by a seasoned coaching staff with a proven track record. A major factor of uncertainty comes at the hand of the organisation that has somehow repeatedly managed to field rosters which underperform below their on-paper value and due to the revolving door of coaches and analysts at the Defiant without any continuity; one has to wonder if problems are more entrenched elsewhere. In this theoretical scenario of the season beginning tomorrow, if the Defiant were to finish lower than sixth place this time, one would have to go soul searching at other levels than the player and coaching staff.
#5 North America - Dallas Fuel (Expected ranking range: 2nd - 8th)
This is it, all in. Ejecting everyone but Dong-ha "Doha" Kim, the Dallas Fuel have to do it this year. Re-assembling three different generations of Element Mystic under head coach Hee-won "RUSH" Yun, the team has put together an impressive pound for pound roster. Judging from this point in time, their tank line is competing for the top spot with the best in the League and their DPS are stacked with incredible peaks which have brought their former teams trophies.
However, as with every team, there are some weaknesses to be spotted too. For the Dragons, Eui-Seok "Fearless" Lee was substituted in Orisa metas for Ji-won "Stand1" Seo, and he has not fully demonstrated to be able to stem the load of having to play an entire season, though my concerns about this are relatively mild. For the DPS line, an obvious weakness in the Tracer role is not as easily handwaved as RUSH had expressed before. I don’t believe she is easy to pick up, as the entire Asian region impressively showcased, with virtually only Joon-yeong "Profit" Park and at times Jong-ryeol "Saebyeolbe" Park being able to play her to a top-level, an aspect that remained relatively unpunished in the Sombra heavy meta. This won’t fly in North America, a region that has proven to want to solve meta related-questions with Tracer first and foremost.
The grand coaching debate of who provides how much value to their team has also crept into the evaluation of this team, begging the question how much of the Paris Eternal’s transformation in season 3 especially for the Western players were built on the work of RUSH and not Bumhoon "NineK" Kim. In order to establish himself as a top coach in the Overwatch League, RUSH will need to deliver with this hand-picked roster and will have to prove that he can go deep in several tournaments. Fortunately, in Yeong-han "SP9RK1E" Kim, he has found exactly the type of player that can hit performance peaks like barely anyone else in the Overwatch League, reshaping how the game has to be played around against him, which should allow the team to have breakout performances.
There are no excuses this time. The Fuel have reached deep into their pockets to make this happen and have won out on a lot of their priority picks they had in mind coming into this season. If the Fuel were to fail for another year, the evidence we’ve received so far would have to point towards the fault lying at the head of the organisation. However, I believe this is rather unlikely to happen, with the most likely outcome being that they will reach deep in several of the five tournaments, winning one of them eventually.
#4 North America - Florida Mayhem (Expected ranking range: 2nd - 6th)
As the second wave of ultimate franchise redemption, the Mayhem had a great third season and finally were able to bring the fight to the big teams. For season 4, they are building on a great foundation while arguably upgrading slightly in aggregate.
The loss of a main tank as consistent as Pan-seung "Fate" Koo is severe and the expected average level of play for Min-seok "OGE" Son could be lower, though it is uncertain by how much. The Mayhem’s argument that OGE had never previously played in a full-Korean roster in the Overwatch League which capped his potential as a player is a compelling one, but will need evidence to feel confident in.
In the support role, Sung-jun "SLIME" Kim should be considered a heavy upgrade over Jun-soo "Kris" Choe, especially in the context of the team not needing heavy intangibles due to their calling structure from that specific role but rather grow from mechanical prowess of their Lucio player. Moreover, the team finally has a backup DPS player to field in rotation which was at times missed during the third season. Seung-hun "Checkmate" Baek has been the plan B choice for many teams, which in a role as stacked as DPS, does say something.
During our research for Learning to Win Again, head coach Dae-kuk "KuKi" Kim appeared confident that the winner’s mentality could even be extended further, having the team buy-in even more. If these factors all come together for the Mayhem in 2021, they could gain from the chaos even more.
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!
You can find the other previously released articles in this list here:
- OWL Christmas Snapshot Power Rankings: #11-13 North America
- OWL Christmas Snapshot Power Rankings: #7-10 North America
Images via Blizzard Entertainment and Eric Doer