Overwatch League: First Online Matches Preview
Logo for the Overwatch League, Blizzard Entertainment
The Overwatch League and most of the esports industry are starting to adapt to life amid the Covid-19 crisis. Given the online nature of the video game world they have the ability to adapt to the situation. The Overwatch League was among the first organizations to make cancellations in the early months of the outbreak. Now, they’re starting to get back on track with online matches starting this weekend. Among the matches being played the Chinese teams and the Seoul Dynasty will be playing their first regular season games. Here’s what you can expect from these teams and some matches to watch out for.
Updated as of Friday March 27th
Saturday, March 28th
Guangzhou Charge v Shanghai Dragons @ 4am EST
Chengdu Hunters v Hangzhou Spark @ 6am EST
Toronto Defiant v Boston Uprising @ 4pm EST
Paris Eternal v London Spitfire @ 4pm EST (Cancelled)
New York Excelsior v Atlanta Reign @ 6pm EST (Cancelled)
Florida Mayhem v Washington Justice @ 8pm EST (Cancelled)
San Francisco Shock v Los Angeles Gladiators @ 8pm EST
Sunday, March 29th
Seoul Dynasty v Dallas Fuel @ 12am EST (Cancelled)
Chengdu Hunters v Shanghai Dragons @ 4am EST
Hangzhou Spark v Gaungzhou Charge @ 6am EST
New York Excelsior v Boston Uprising @ 2pm EST (Cancelled)
Toronto Defiant v London Spitfire @ 4pm EST (Cancelled)
Florida Mayhem v Atlanta Reign @ 4pm EST
Seoul Dynasty v Los Angeles Gladiators @ 6pm EST
Los Angeles Valiant v San Francisco Shock @ 8pm EST
Vancouver Titans v Dallas Fuel @ 10pm EST (Cancelled)
Additionally, one new match has been added.
Saturday, March 28th
Los Angeles Valiant v Seoul Dynasty @ 6pm EST
You can checkout the full Schedule in your own time zone by visiting the Overwatch League website.
In 2019 the Chengdu Hunters finished the season in 12th, the lowest of the Chinese teams. Despite that, they were still considered a fan favorite team due to their style of play. In a season dominated by the three tank, three support composition they refused to fall in line with the meta. This didn’t do any favors to their season record, but they were a favorite to watch. Menghan “Ameng” Ding played Wrecking Ball almost exclusively for their dive-centered composition. Baconjack and JinMu where always a crowd-pleaser on their heroes. You would think that being Masters of the Non-Meta might put them in a good position with hero pools keeping the meta in flux. That is a possibility, but depending on the hero bans it could also really hurt them.
Beyond Jinmu, the team doesn’t have players with especially deep hero pools that can be played at high levels. The Hunters shouldn’t expect to be at the bottom of the standings, but they’re still going to have trouble against the league heavy hitters like San Francisco, Vancouver, New York and Philadelphia.
The Dragons are one of the more exciting teams to keep an eye on. Since their infamous 0-40 inaugural season, coupled with success from 2019 they’ve become a darling to the Overwatch League. They finished 11th overall in 2019, but they also win the Stage 3 Championship and put an end to the San Francisco Shock’s winning streak. The switch to 2-2-2 role lock and the meta that follows put them back to the bottom.
In the off-season this roster has seen a lot of change, they released Youngjin “Youngjin” Jin, Youngjin “Gamsu” Noh, Kyungwoo “CoMa” Son and KAngjae “envy” Lee. Gamsu and envy are heavy names in the tank game and Gamsu’s leadership was a major factor in some of their early 2019 success. Losing Youngjin to retirement is a major blow to the team as well. Luckily, they’ve made just as many high profile signings. With pick-ups like Byungsun “Felta” Kim on DPS and Kang “Void” Jun-woo and Euiseok “Fearless” Lee on Tanks, the Dragons may be the best of the eastern teams on paper. They have a deep hero pool among their 5 five DPS players and even with hero bans, should be able to play around any perceived handicap.
Guangzhou finished in the top half at 9th place in last years regular season. They were never in the discussion of the worst teams in the league, but they weren’t able to make anything of themselves either. Instead they stewed in mediocrity. In the off-season they released Hongjun “HOTBA” Choi, Finley “Kyb” Adisi and Wonjae “Rise” Lee. Their pick-ups consisted of one Overwatch League veteran support in Alberto “neptuNo” González Molinillo and two contenders players Qi “Wya” Haomiao on support and Nam “Cr0ng” Ki-cheol on tank.
Guangzhou seems like a mixed back to me, they have some promising talent on the team, especially in the damage department with Yiliang “Eileen” Ou, Jungwoo “Happy” Lee and Charlie “nero” Zwarg. They also have a deep support roster to pull from, but Seungpyo “rio” Oh and Cr0ng are the only tanks and the later is currently an unknown factor compared to the rest of the teams pedigree. Jake Lyons theorized on the OWLs Nest that the Guangzhou Charge could be one of the best eastern teams. We’ll find out for sure this weekend.
The Spark are a team that I believe was severely under-appreciated last season. They came in 4th overall with only a 4-5 game difference compared to the New York Excelsior and San Francisco Shock. A gap that does separate them from them from the top, but one that is easily closed given the right improvements. The core of this team still remains and that is a big advantage coming into the season.
They have a deep and talented dps player roster pull from with the likes Jaehwan “Adora” Kang, Junki “Bazzi” Park, Kyeongbo “GodsB” Kim and further stacked with Gi-hyeon “Ado” Chon. The flexibility to bring any number of dps to play whatever is needed in the uncertain world of hero pools and bans will be their biggest asset. They have a deep support pool as well, though two of the newest additions have mixed success coming out of contenders. The only potential weakness is their tank line, which consists of two great players in Sunwook “Ria” Park and Qiulin “Guxue” Xu, but there are no back-ups on the bench. A week of exhaustion or a bad hero pool ban could easily knock this team off center for a week.
The Dynasty has always been a team that on paper should be perform very well, but despite that they came in at 8th place overall in 2019. The moves they’ve made over the off-season look good and bad. They released a lot of their top talent and big names. Sangbeom “Muchkin” Byun, Joonhyeok “Zunba” Kim, Seungsoo “Jecse” Kim, Byungsum “Fleta” Kim, Sunghyeok “Highly” Lee and veteran player and team leader Jehong “Ryujehong” Lee. Despite their massive roster departure, this seems more like a reorder of house than a mass exodus. They released six players but picked up four, three of which are the former 2018 London Spitfire Champions.
With Jaehui “Gesture” Hong, Junyoung “Profit” Park and Seungtae “Bdosin” Choi on the roster the Dynasty should be able to bypass any of the downfalls that comes with bringing in new players. Merging two existing rosters together should alleviate some of the pressures of creating new team cohesion. Their final pick-up, Youngwan “Creative” Kim should have no problem finding a place among these heavy hitters. The Seoul Dynasty shouldn’t be any worse than what we’ve seen in the past, but these changes may be enough to gain some ground in the standings this year.
Matches to Watch
Whatever questions fans and analysts still have about the overall ecosystem of the league will be answered this weekend. The performances of the Chinese Teams and the Seoul Dynasty will give us a final, completed puzzle to look at for the overall strength of teams as well as the full parity of the league.
Any matches that have the Spark, Charge, Dragons, Dynasty or Hunters in them are must watch. Specifically, I’d pay close attention to the Dragons v Charge on the Saturday. If the Charge are going to be a force this season an early win over the Dragons will be crucial. If they carry that momentum through the weekend and also beat the Spark on Sunday, it’ll be a great start to their season. The Dragons are going to be looking to do the same thing, even though they’ve gone through a roster re-work the past two season the stigma of the 0-40 is intrinsically linked to their brand. They need a strong start to cement themselves as one of the best not just from the east, but in the league.
The Spark and Seoul Dynasty are both looking to put their names in contention for the top teams. They’ve both had mixed results near the top of the league. They often get forgotten when teams like San Francisco, New York and Vancouver come into the conversation. They need convincing wins in order to remain relevant in those conversations. So keep a close eye on Spark’s matches against the Hunters on Saturday and the Charge on Sunday. The Seoul Dynasty played the Dallas Fuel on Saturday and the Los Angeles Gladiators on Sunday.
As for the western teams, we get more of the San Francisco Shock as they face both Los Angeles Teams. The Shock have only played one game so far against the Fuel. They took the win, but not in the convincing fashion that most expected. Both LA teams are out for blood and a win over the Shock will go a long way. This is especially true for the rookie roster of the Los Angeles Valiant.
Finally, the Vancouver Titans face Dallas Fuel on Sunday. This will be the Titans second match and it shouldn’t be a hard win for them. If the Fuel can take that away from the Titans it won’t be a good look. Luckily for the Titans I don’t think the hero pools or bans will impact their play style at all.
Update (Friday, March 27th at 3:43pm EST)
The Overwatch League announced via Twitter further changes to the Schedule. 6 matches have been removed from the 16 match schedule.