The Defiant convinced in their season opener and showed off their flexibility.

19:00, 10 Feb 2020

The first day of Overwatch lies behind us. In six action-packed matches - some more, some less - teams showed off what they had been working on in the off-season. The first day was packed with outstanding individual performances on hitscan heroes, exciting setups with big D.Va bombs and a lot of hero diversity. We broke down the essential lessons from the first day broadcast and recapped the Defiant vs Eternal match with timestamps if any of the descriptions pique your interest. Naturally, you should consider this a heavy spoiler warning.

First production impressions

The initial minutes of tuning into the 2020 season felt a bit like coming home to mom’s to me. Many familiar faces greeted us like the ever-so-charming Soe on the desk. Chris Puckett, hosted the New York homestand and welcomed us into the new season in his usual charismatic ways. As typical is it is seemingly inevitable, Ubershouts’ shirt was as hideous as ever. Overwatch League was finally back. Inviting community figures like Emongg and Pine to the homestand, on top of epic walkouts for the hosts added to the flavour. 

As perhaps expected, the first day of Overwatch League production was off to a rocky start. Overlays looked weirdly distorted by stretched fonts, ill-fitted map indicators and more. The stream quality was mostly not an upgrade on YouTube, becoming quite grainy for a lot of viewers in the team fights. Whether it was an encoding issue or if this is generally the experience that we can expect on YouTube streams, MLG proved to be the better-looking platform with clear visuals even during fights.

The observing at the New York homestand was generally solid, catching most of the action reliably, staying on high priority first-person cameras for arguably more than we were used to from last season. In Dallas, I sometimes felt disoriented and following less vital parts to the action. It made me miss the All-Access pass in which I could be my own director or follow specific players I was interested in. 

Production got obnoxiously in the way when during an engagement at the beginning of King’s Row point C between the Spitfire and the Excelsior, the Cheez-It overlay blocked the entire screen announcing it was crunch time. With about 2 minutes left on the clock in an otherwise hard-fought and surprisingly close match, missing this fight, unfortunately, was a real bummer as the first ultimate rotations on this particular part of the map become important puzzle pieces in order to understand how a map was won or lost. Sadly, due to “CRUNCH TIME” we missed that.

Viewership across the different YouTube channels ranged from 80k to 140k for most of the night, with a distinct drop after production had to switch over to the Dallas homestand when the games were done in New York. Viewers were often redirected to completely different streams on the platform. The Overwatch League lost around 40k concurrent viewers due to this issue. 

Toronto Defiant vs. Paris Eternal (3-1) 

View recommendation: (2.5 out of 5 - “Not close, but educational” )

Players to pay attention to: Defiant - Surefour/Agilities, Eternal - FDGod

With Eternal’s offtank Smex being left at home, the team felt locked in to play Orisa/Reinhardt on the frontline for the entire night, unless veteran NiCOgdh was going to flex to D.Va on occasion.

Eternal evade the grim reaper by thinking with portals

On the first map Lijiang, Defiant surprisingly started without their star player Surefour, opting instead to field Agilities (who primarily played Mei the entire night) and hitscan specialist Logix. The season impressively flexed its first diversity muscles, as Paris rolled out with the core of many comps Orisa, Reinhardt, Lucio, Mei but then with a Moira and Symmetra adaptation. Once Paris entrenched themselves on the point not least with Symmetra turrets, they were hard to get off it also because new comer FDGod kept the Canadians at bay, hitting solid environmental kills and keeping Logix off his teammates. As the match progressed, the French main support would become one of the standout performers for Paris, seamlessly being able to read when either Logix or Surefour going for flank plays often facilitated by Reaper teleports. At least on Lijiang, Eternal managed to slip away from those flanks ultimately having a lot of Defiant’s resources, as well as capture percentage, go to waste in the process such as in the following play:

Surefour is in, but Xzi ain’t no slouch either

On Eichenwalde, we saw slight adaptations from the teams with Eternal giving an outstanding Xzi more playtime on McCree, a hero he had been known for in Korea. The Defiant, once again, playing around deep Nanoboosted Teleports this time on Surefour’s Reaper would often break open the defense of the Eternal, who only occasionally were able to fight back. With a solid 1 minute and 23 seconds in the time bank, the Defiant locked in their attack round. The Eternal once again put Xzi on Symmetra to take the first point in a long drawn out but calculated fight. After another successful fight on Symmetra that allowed the French to push the cart towards the end of bridge, Xzi switched off to first Widowmaker and McCree a fight later in which he showed off his mechanical qualities. Eternal finished the map with just a couple of seconds less than the Defiant. The Eternal’s attack looked to be in a good position until the new main tank for the Defiant, Beasthalo hit a huge Earthshatter shortly before he would’ve been iced out by NiCO’s Blizzard, allowing the Defiant to successfully defend. 

What’s an FDGod to a non-believer?

Toronto rolled out again with Reaper and Surefour was once again bouncing back and forth between being a threat to the front and the backline with FDGod doing an admirable job at keeping him off his targets but with his tanks forced out of position by a crucial Mei wall from Agilities, the frontline falls to the pressure and Defiant won the map.

On Horizon, the Defiant this time counted on Symmetra initially with Surefour going on weird flanks that at least initially didn’t yield any results. In the second fight, Defiant fake out a teleport play towards the right side of point A but actually rotate towards the left site into the back of the point. Blocking off the window with a Mei wall, the Defiant drag out the fight until Agilities gets his Blizzard on which they are able to capitalize. Rolling into B, Kariv is close to his Nano and hits a big sleep dart on Xzi which gives his team enough momentum to cap with a bit more than three minutes left.

On their defense, the Defiant crank out the first Dive composition, playing Ana, Zen, Doomfist, Sombra, D.Va and Winston and get rolled on point A. On point B, Surefour, Agilities and Beast sit on the meta construct high off the ground waiting to pounce on an unsuspecting Xzi. Now forced off Symmetra, he switches to his trusted McCree and while he gets plenty of picks, Surefour is able to keep up with his fragging on Sombra, shutting down Benbest and NiCO repeatedly. The fights the Defiant win are never really clean but they use their respawn advantage well and rely on individual outplays like Agilities’ here, allowing the Eternal to only cap in overtime.

Logix puts an X in these eyes

With the map now guaranteed to at least draw for the Defiant, they have three comfortable minutes to get the first tick and win the Horizon. Once again counting on the Symmetra rollout, Defiant rotate onto point repeatedly, eventually breaking the Eternal with ultimate advantage.

The match moved to Havana, Nevix and especially Logix stepped into the limelight as the two of them put on a smoke show of a performance against Eternal’s hitscan talent Xzi. With plenty of room, Logix hits a bunch of big shots until the Defiant reach the bridge before point C upon which point he pressed record on his frag movie, first putting his name on the scoreboard repeatedly, then hitting an imposing shot on Xzi.

Defense Dive in the year of our Lord Logix, 2020

Beast cleans up the scraps and the Defiant push in with 24 seconds left on the clock. On their attack, the Eternal can not even make it past point A, winning only one fight in four minutes wasting big ultimates into a cleverly-disengaging and time-wasting Defiant that eventually shuts down the last attack on the back of Kariv and Logix hitting their shots. 

Overall, the match proved to be one of the less meta-diverse ones of the day, counting primarily on a core of Lucio, Mei and either Reinhardt, D.Va or Reinhardt, Orisa and often only switching between McCree and Symmetra for Xzi. Defiant showed slightly more variety and impressed with their Dive composition on point B horizon with a solid Surefour and an at times scary Logix. It was an interesting match with fairly discernable game plans from both sides. Defiant showed themselves to be more of a cohesive unit in this match, not giving the admirable effort of Xzi and FDGod any chance to find enough value for the W.

Image courtesy of Ben Pursell for Blizzard Entertainment

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