Talented rosters struggle to find results
Overwatch League fans have had to deal with the stress of reverse sweeps, intense game fives, and sometimes their favourite team simply being swept across all three maps. Specifically, the Excelsior and the Dynasty have developed a reputation for performing below the level expected of them. Hopes were high for these franchises at the season's start, but fans have lost confidence in their team's ability to dominate their opposition. Some of the reasons behind the inconsistency is from the way these teams manage their rosters and the hero pools that have heavily impacted the league.
The New York Excelsior
The New York Excelsior have been a top team since Season One of the Overwatch League as fans got used to seeing them put wins in the record column week after week. Now in their third season, the talent in the rest of the league has caught up yet the talent on this roster commands respect from the entire league. Despite being one of the most talented rosters to come together, the 14-6 record, while impressive, falls short of the elite results expected of one of the most successful regular-season teams in Overwatch League history. Most recently the team's inconsistencies have been displayed as they were swept by the Guangzhou Charge in the Summer Showdown and went on to be reverse swept by the Chengdu Hunters before returning to form by sweeping the Guangzhou Charge, the reigning Summer Showdown champions.
The reason behind this inconsistency can be linked to the team's handling of their lineups, specifically on the DPS line. Sabyeolbe, Haksal, whoRU, nenne, and Libero is a frightening lineup to face but the team hasn't been able to find a consistent combination that enables their peak performance. Flexibility is an important attribute in a DPS line, but for the Excelsior, it has seemed to come at the cost of chemistry. For example, in the Chengdu Hunters game, nenne had a poor performance on Sombra as the team looked to finish out the series. He seemed out of sync with his teammates, which is the same problem Haksal had during the Summer Showdown. Their most recent result, a 3-0 sweep over the Charge, saw Bianca start over Hotba and the DPS line featured nenne and Haksal. The Excelsior didn't make a substitution the entire series and showing faith in the starting lineup should inspire confidence moving forward. Versatility and depth are coveted for any roster, but substituting in players for the sake of it will hurt a team more than it will benefit unless specific hero choices are a major part of the decision making.
The Seoul Dynasty
The Seoul Dynasty are another team that has turned from a force to be reckoned with after adding player Profit this offseason into an expected win for their opponents. Their 8-10 record and -12 map differential put them outside of the top half of the league standings despite adding a pair of wins to their record from placing second in the May Melee. After making it to the finals of the May Melee, fans hopes were raised again, only to fall back into their inconsistent results including two clean sweeps to the Shanghai Dragons and a loss to the Chengdu Hunters in Game 5. This roster has also struggled with lineup decisions lately. Profit has been the only mainstay in the lineup as Illicit and Fits have been swapping for the second DPS slot and support has been a revolving door with bdosin, Slime, Tobi, and Creative all seeing split playtime. Gesture and Michelle on tankline have been a bright spot for the roster after Michelle impressed during the Summer Showdown to take Marvel's spot since then. Although they only made one substitution in their recent game against the Hunters, they failed to win in Game 5. As teams like these and others go forward, their ability to find the right combination of starters and how to handle substitutions will be key. There is no doubt that they have the talent, but they haven't been able to find the results they expect of themselves.
Hero pools are undeniably another way to explain the inconsistency displayed so much this season. It is extremely difficult to play at an Overwatch League level and it is even more so when players have to perform on a variety of heroes that changes every few weeks. In contrast to last year during the Goats meta, although many star players were not playing their favoured heroes, they were able to spend months learning the intricacies of their new kits. This year, although on more comfortable heroes, the meta changing every two weeks has not only changed the heroes to be played but the entire playstyle that dominates the way teams play.
The Valiant and the Dragons are two teams that seemed to struggle heavily in the Summer Showdown meta despite being highly regarded, especially the Dragons as they sit at the top of the league standings. Teams like Mayhem have struggled through this as well. Although bqb and yaki forms a solid DPS line, the lack of solid substitutes has given them trouble as they move through the different hero pools and metas. If hero pools continue to be a part of the Overwatch League, teams will have to carefully balance the way they structure their rosters around either a stable starting lineup or trying to substitute in a variety of players depending on matchups and hero pools.
Although fans are understandably frustrated at their teams for performing below expectations, hopes should remain high as many of these teams have shown they have the talent to succeed. As the season comes closer to ending, teams begin to be more experimental with their lineups as they look to secure a playoff spot. This refinement has provided signs of life for teams like the NYXL, who seem to be narrowing in on a successful starting lineup and the Dynasty who have found Michelle to be the spark they needed to restore a little bit of hope to their team. There is still a lot of Overwatch to be played for all of these teams. Although stressful, the inconsistency has definitely provided some entertaining Overwatch.
Images via Overwatch League