Yiska predicts who will be in the bottom 5 at the end of season 3!

18:00, 21 Dec 2019

Overwatch League teams have been working in the offseason to meet their goals for the new challenges awaiting them in season 3. These challenges are by no means equal, as this season will see a spike in systemic inequalities that will inevitably mess with competitive integrity. As such, this end of season prediction serves as my conclusion on multiple factors that will determine the ranking at the end of the season: Roster strength and resilience, flexibility and adaptability, travel schedule and estimated quality of practice, as well as an opportunity to course correct. Most of all, with the patch schedule set to 6-8 weeks, if rigid metas were to form each time, it would put a lot of emphasize on coaches being able to either pickup or invent new approaches at this speed. However, it is equally possible that we won’t see solidified metas next season. The game would change in its nature to become more of a pick-up style, in which strategic, on the fly adaptations become vastly more important than deep understandings of meta compositions like we had over the last two years.

You will find that I heavily weigh the complications introduced this season by the above-mentioned circumstances. It is therefore advised to not see this list as a “power ranking” that orders teams according to their team’s strength on any given day or at the start of the season but as a prediction of how these teams may fair in the environments that they will see themselves exposed to. It basically answers the question “Where do you think X team will stand when the regular season is over?” 

20. Boston Uprising (Ranking range: 20-16)

Boston Uprising is the team that will likely have to travel the most out of any team in 2020. While the amount and length of their trips are not easily predicted, what we do know is that they will have three European trips (four if they choose to travel back home in early April) peppered about their season schedule and another extended one towards the end in China. Not only will those travel factors mess with practice directly, but it could also directly impact the quality of practice partners the Uprising can expect. Their frequent travels to other countries will also severely complicate their ability to make mid-season changes and their season seems to be, in many aspects, predetermined by their offseason moves.

From my estimations, the Boston Uprising one of the most disadvantaged teams in season 3 and the only bone the system throws them is that they are in the Atlantic Division, which looks to be the weaker one once again, though not to the same degree of last year.

Boston Uprising 2020 Overwatch League Fixtures
Boston Uprising 2020 Overwatch League Fixtures

On paper, the Uprising also have one of the weakest rosters in the league, tying only with the Valiant. Yes, Myunbong continues the Uprising’s streak of having consistently good to great flex support players. Yes, Colourhex seemed outmaneuvered in his hero pool last season but a hitscan heavy meta could see him become a solid starter for the team. But the rest of the team doesn’t inspire confidence in me to consider them even average talent in the Overwatch League at this point in time. 

The first six match weekends will tell us a lot about the Uprising’s season, as they will be playing teams of all skill levels on North American soil. If the scores states either 0-6 or 1-5, the systemic obstacles of the rest of the season will put the Uprising in pole position for last place.

19. LA Valiant (Ranking range: 20-16)

The Valiant are likely to be among the teams with an average travel schedule, with a long stay in China at the start of the season and a trip to Europe towards the end. Once again, being in the Pacific Conference doesn’t bode well for their season chances and it’s hard to see them not being the worst team in it. 

LA Valiant 2020 Overwatch League Fixtures
LA Valiant 2020 Overwatch League Fixtures

Much like the Uprising, the Valiant managed to sign a stud of a flex support in Lastro. Players like KSF, Shax and another unannounced player show some residual promise for a dark horse performance over the season but especially the tank line should worry Valiant fans. Los Angeles quite clearly has one budget roster.

Last season, the Valiant made a strong comeback due to smart interventions by the management in the early season and turned around to just narrowly miss the play-ins. With their travel schedule and following visa complications this season on top of their unknown financial situation, I’m not sure how feasible a do-over would be in 2020. If the Valiant does indeed surprise, it likely is due to its coaching staff that, except for Promise, stayed together for season 3. Perhaps the Valiant can foster a team culture that shows itself more resilient to the demands of the third season, therefore gaining from the downfall of other teams. Unfortunately, we have to expect the importance of coaching to fall off in the next season.

18. Paris Eternal (Ranking range:18-12)

Most of the year, the Eternal and the Uprising travel together with the one major difference being that the French organization will have to make a fourth trip to Europe. It is unlikely that they will have additions over the season considering that they have already signed 11 players with a rumored 12th on the way. Their ace player sp9rk1e will turn 18 only after half of the season is already finished and it’s easy to see how they would hold out for his debut before making moves like demoting an Overwatch League player to Contenders level to free up a roster slot like for instance the Atlanta Reign did with KodaK last year. Perhaps not an unimportant factor is that the Eternal have 19 active weekends (four less free weekends than the Florida Mayhem), limiting their potential to rally the troops if they had to. They, however, do have one additional homestand event and ever has seen French esports crowds knows that if there is such a thing as home advantage, the Eternal will have it in Paris.

Their roster is a weird mixture of European and Korean talent that are equally divided by the perceived skill difference of those parties. While players like sp9rk1e are among the most anticipated rookies of 2020, some of his European teammates seem like average European Contenders talent and should be considered among the worst players in 2019. Historically, such misalignments have reliably produced explosive social environments in the Overwatch League. Their roster makes little sense and is only explainable by the limitations of their former “European team” concept that now transitioned over to a more success-oriented approach. Let that be a lesson; Teams shouldn’t sign guaranteed two-year contracts on unproven talent. The Eternal are now forced into a transition year.

17. Washington Justice (Ranking range: 18-12)

The Justice are the most advantaged team by their travel schedule. They are one of the teams hosting five homestands and can road trip to most of their match days down the West coast. They have 17 active weeks and therefore more time to react to potential issues with their roster, also having only 8 announced players on their roster. On top of that, they are in the weaker Atlantic Division. This, by all rights, should be their season.

Washington Justice 2020 Overwatch League Fixtures
Washington Justice 2020 Overwatch League Fixtures

And yet, due to the utter weirdness of their roster building, I saw myself forced to put them in the bottom 5. Perhaps there are unannounced roster moves in the works and I’m evaluating the coaching staff’s ability to select talent unfairly because of it, which also impacts my judgement on their ability to change their roster in, to me, sensible ways in the future. In my books, they have one player with star potential in Corey, who has shown an ability to perform on two heroes so far. Their backline was either consistently in an environment that didn’t allow them to shine or, to put it bluntly, they are washed up. They have ELLIVOTE and LullSiSH and the only reason to get them both is because of their synergy and yet your likely most costly acquisition this offseason is rOar, who should start over LullSiSH too. If the goal was not to plan around their duo, why sign both of them in the first place? For a team with their resources and rebuilding opportunities, they formed a highly questionable roster so far.

16. Chengdu Hunters (Ranking Range: 17-10)

The Hunters have a perfectly average travel schedule and number of active weeks. Significant jetlag issues will probably only a occur a handful of times. Interestingly, their last four matches take place at their own homestand, which could make the difference if the Hunters again found themselves fighting for a play-in slot.

Chengdu Hunters 2020 Overwatch League Fixtures
Chengdu Hunters 2020 Overwatch League Fixtures

While the Hunters picked up Leave, who will undoubtfully be an upgrade and will form a scary DPS duo together with JinMu, the strength of this team looks to be greatly diminished by the circumstances. Last season, the Hunters played their own style and managed to throw teams off with their unorthodox style. In a season where we can expect the meta to be wild with everyone flexing to their hearts content, those surprises lose in value significantly. The rumored addition of Coldest could bring a much-required Zen upgrade but has yet to be confirmed. Otherwise, the opportunity for the Hunters to improve through additions throughout the season are scarce due to their already big roster, their visa limitations and the regional talent pool in China. Pound for pound, the roster is better than a measly 16th place but loses out to lesser talented teams because of their systemic disadvantages. 

Perhaps the worst throwback is the loss of master tactician and head coach RUI, who had to leave the Hunters this November. If we give credence to his legacy as a coach, his departure could be a great loss to the Hunters when a frequent reinvention is required every 8 weeks with both the map pool as well as the balance patch changing.

Keep an eye out for our next rankings to find out who is in the top 3!

Images courtesy of Blizzard Entertainment

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