Leading teams should look to save their stars for when it counts.

17:00, 01 Mar 2020

The Overwatch League was always a marathon. This season, that mantra is more important than ever. With all of the global travel and with Hero Pools set to begin this weekend, it’s important for teams to remain fresh, but it’s more important to keep your franchise players healthy and ready for playoffs. Roster depth and finding an actual function for those second-string players is going to be key for these early title contenders to go the distance. 

Defending 2019 champions and early performers the San Francisco Shock and the Philadelphia Fusion need to begin to utilize their bench and keep their stars healthy, both physically and mentally. Load management seems to be a hot button issue in the NBA at the moment and in a strange, fraction of a sense, a lot of the benefits can be applied to some of the strongest teams in the Overwatch League at the moment. 

What is a load and how do I manage it?

Load management is the limitation of the stress (or load) that a team or individual faces. In the NBA, it’s more focused around limiting physical injury, whereas, in theory, for Overwatch, a load management program would be used to stifle the burnout and illnesses. While Overwatch is nowhere near as physical as the NBA, there are other factors and stressors that Overwatch League players face this season in particular. 

These are young adults that have spent the majority of their time getting to this point, in one very comfortable place. The upheaval that the 2020 Overwatch League season brings is two-fold; it’s a massive stress conduit and it’s a lifestyle change. And the latter half of that is almost never is talked about. These players have been playing, on average, 8-10 hours a day, six to seven days a week. That might as well be a full-time job, but the more important aspect is with travel they suddenly have to cut that time spent honing your craft in half. With travel, teams don’t get to sit in their team houses and practice and scrimmage and participate in VOD review.

The lives of players within the 2020 season of the Overwatch League are completely different from any time period in Overwatch’s short history.  

Everything seems fine now in Week 4, let’s wait and see how players feel in Week 24. 

Let’s get this straight; not every team needs to load manage their starters. 

Teams that are not in range for a title need not apply. It’s much more important that your star players and the faces of your franchise appear at your home games. But for those that can reach the apex of Mt. Overwatch, perhaps you rest them up? Maybe it’s more important to win a ring than it is to sell some seats? 

Ultimately, this whole discussion comes down to franchise goals, but for example, both the Houston Outlaws and the Washington Justice have had first-hand experience with attempting to deal with sick players. The former had to field Danteh over Hydration on Mei whereas the Justice are running mean and lean this year, something I’m quite critical of for these very reasons. 

If it wasn’t apparently obvious already, this is a working solution to the age-old question of how to integrate your bench players into the team. If your franchise has already done its homework and built a solid bench like the Atlanta Reign or the two teams we’ve mentioned earlier, then it isn’t rocket science. Sooner or later your stars are going to need a break, and if you’re gunning for extra credit on the quiz, perhaps you rest them up for the playoffs. That is where you start to filter in your second-string, a roster of players that have had practice time with the team and perhaps have had some stage time already. 

Let’s take Shock for example, does famed head coach Crusty really want to burn out the 2019 Season MVP, Sinatraa? Somehow I think he’s pretty integral to their success, and it’s not like they don’t have a bench to pull from. Architect, Stricker, even rookie prospect ANS could see some stage time. Now that’s not to say that they will continue to see play, but with how the metagame might fluctuate with Hero Pools, it would be wise to keep such a potent tool, sharp for the matches that mean the most. 

With their eyes fixed on a 2020 title defense, it would be wise of them to make sure nearly everyone on the 2019 championship roster is healthy for playoffs. Moth again will be called upon to be the coaching staff’s hand within the team. People like Super and Sinatraa will need to be at peak performance. This goes on and on for a number of players on this star-studded roster. However, they are not alone in this.

If the Fusion wants to improve their 4-0 start to the season, they need to think about setting up certain players or, better yet, the team on a load management program. Immediately you can wag your finger and point to main tank with SADO being the sole player at his role, and I’d have to forfeit that point, but that doesn’t stop the Fusion from acting on their final roster slot and signing another tank player for the bullpen. And it certainly doesn’t stop other tank players on the team from picking up new heroes either.

This easily could be another reason why we aren’t seeing 2019 Role Star honoree, Fury, on the starting roster for the Fusion either. Perhaps Fury is already scheduled to come in at a later date? While it is strange not to see him it’s not like Poko is performing poorly, plus he’s shown himself to be quite capable on Orisa.

The Fusion is the team that admittedly got in their own way during 2019’s GOATS metagame. That drop in morale, I believe, was easily the biggest factor in the Fusion’s underperformance. Keeping players bought in and equipped with positive mentalities with such a high caliber roster will return the Fusion to 2018. If they do not get in their own way this year, there is a great chance we see them return to the grand finals.

From reducing stress and burnout to giving your bench players actual roadmaps to seeing playtime, load managing systems are a net positive for a number of top teams. 

The question remains; will they act? 


Images via Blizzard Entertainment

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