Philly Fusion plays like they made the Grand Finals, London Spitfire Not So Much.

The first match this season of the Overwatch League was a rematch of the Season Grand Finals between Philadelphia and London. In preseason, the pundits and talking heads all placed the Spitfire and the New York Excelsior above the Philly Fusion in the preseason rankings, some even throwing the much-anticipated Vancouver Titans in the top tier mix as well. Well, I don’t know if they took that personally but based on their Week 1 performances, THEY look like the championship caliber team in OWL right now.

In the opening match, they won over London in convincing fashion only dropping one map to the defending champions. In their Sunday match, they narrowly prevailed against the scrappy Atlanta Reign, 3-2. There’s an old sport saying about teams “winning ugly”, pulling W’s out of seemingly poor levels of play and Philly seems to be doing that quite well. None of Philly’s starters, outside of DPS starter Carpe, are sniffing the top 10-15 players in damage, eliminations or healing. Either this team is absurdly balanced, or they are finding ways to make their opponents play significantly worse. If I’m the coaching staff for the Fusion, either works for me.

 Hangzhou Spark are everything we thought they would be.

When we journeyed out to Los Angeles for the Overwatch Insider Preview *coughMediaDaycough* there was ONE team that everyone told us to respect and look out for, The Hangzhou Spark. Week 1 confirmed those words of caution. It’s easy to write off expansion teams sometimes. They are usually filled with cast-offs from other, more established teams or new talent with no experience at the highest level. The Spark, however, not only won their matches they looked incredibly competent in doing it. They were able to dominate the Shanghai Dragons and were taken to the brink by playoff contender, LA Valiant. Anchored by their rising star main tank, Guxue, and his front-line partner, Ria, the Spark seem to have the right balance of support tanking and big play potential to make them truly pose a threat to the upper echelon of the Overwatch League.

 GOATs is still king, but Week 1 was far from stale.

“GOATS” or the “triple-tank, triple-support” or the “3-3” meta is still the dominant composition for play in pro Overwatch, much to the chagrin of the Overwatch community. Large cohorts of the community consider the composition boring and flat to watch. The team fights in the 3-3 are often long and protracted and don’t leave much room for the electrifying skill shots from sniper heroes like Widowmaker or Ashe. But that didn’t change it from being the most played composition in the Week or the excitement from nail biting 3-3 mirror matches like Seoul Dynasty vs LA Gladiators.

The 3-3 saw play in virtually every match over the first week of OWL, however, there were a few saving graces to responses to the GOATS meta. Sombra play was particularly good from the New York Excelsior’s Meko and the Seoul Dynasty’s Michelle. There was also the first ever OWL elimination registered by the high skill hero, Symmetra. And the Atlanta Reign’s Dafran played quite a bit of Torbjorn.

So, while the 3-3 might still be en vogue for at least the remainder of the stage, it’s not the end-all be-all everyone might have thought it was. There is still enough creativity and versatility in the OWL to leave room for off-meta play and counter picks. The sky hasn’t fallen…yet.

Photo: Robert Paul for Blizzard Entertainment

 Paris Eternal are legit.

Continuing the success of their fellow, expansion team in Hangzhou, the Paris Eternal took the stage by storm showing that they were the true masters of the meta in Week 1. No one looked more competent in the 3-3 than Paris did in their match against the London Spitfire. Not only did they win that match they swept the defending champions 4-0.

Paris have the distinction of being the only the second OWL team based in Europe and the only team made up entirely of European players. With a distinct knack for the GOATS, meta which was perfected in European Contenders (EU), Paris has looked to at the very least contend for Stage playoffs. Their mix of OWL veterans like Soon and Finnsi is meshed with the EU contenders freshness and meta knowledge of players like Hyp, LhCloudy and BenBest. While a drastic meta shift could hurt their chances, the Eternal look just as strong as the top teams in the OWL right now.

    Shanghai Dragons WILL win a match this season.

I know that seems like a low bar, but Shanghai STILL haven’t done it yet. Their winless season 1 in Overwatch League set a record for consecutive losses in esports and all American based sports, in general. Now that the streak stands at 42, the Dragons are in dire need of a win and some positive energy.  Through Week 1 there were some positives. New DPS, Diem, looks like a major addition that will add some bite to the lineup. And the acquisition of Gamsu from the Boston Uprising to replace main tank, Fearless, brings experience and shot-calling to Dragons that they so desperately need. With all this said, Shanghai are still a crowd favorite and with the tools that they have they can win some matches in season two. It still won’t be easy for them, but another winless seems highly improbable where both the Florida Mayhem and the Washington Justice look equally as hopeless.

Minor Notes

  • Jjonak is still an MVP caliber player, period.
  • Seoul Dynasty’s Michelle might be the most versatile player of the early goings.
  • Biggoose and Shaz are the best support duo in OWL. It’s a hill I’ll fight…but perhaps not DIE on.

 

Cover Photo: Robert Paul for Blizzard Entertainment

 

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