Five takeaways from the Overwatch League Preseason

Entering the first week of preseason, the competitive Overwatch landscape changed as the balance of power shifted to new teams and players. The 12 initial matchups gave fans a serious look at their new home teams and what to expect for this upcoming season. Here are five takeaways from the preseason:

Pine. Photo via Overwatch League

1. The Widowmaker meta is here to stay

Widowmaker is becoming a standard pick in the Overwatch League, based off the preseason compositions. Pick-off potential and burst damage make her such a threat on the back-line. Clearly, the way in which teams positioned their Widow and how much emphasis attacking teams put on shutting her down shows her importance.

On nearly every hybrid, payload, assault and some control points, Widowmaker has good enough sight lines to be a nuisance. If teams don’t focus her down, each push will be staggered by a respawning support player that’s a quick one-shot.

It also helps that the players in the Overwatch League have unbelievable aim. Kim “Pine” Hyuk-do, Fleta, Taimou, Babybay, Tviq and many other players are too lethal to be left unaccounted for on the Widowmaker. It looks like she’ll be a mainstay in the meta game for the start of the regular season.

2. Korean teams aren’t unstoppable

Seoul Dynasty. Photo via Overwatch League

Los Angeles Gladiators quickly thumped the myth with the first major upset over the London Spitfire. In a grueling 3-2 match, Lane “Surefour” and the DPS-heavy Gladiators lineup featuring both Asher and Hydration, held off the consensus favorite heading into week one.

In the end, they not only held them off, but won in rather impressive fashion. Gladiators were heavy underdogs in this fight, and despite not having as deep of a roster, still managed to take advantage of a Spitfire team still trying to find its bearings. A loss on Junkertown and Numbani sealed their fate with strong Genji and Tracer play.

However, the Korean-filled rosters still ended up victorious in every other match during the preseason. The important thing to remember is that these juggernaut Korean teams are mortal and these games proved it this weekend. As fans watched at the Overwatch World Cup, the rest of the world is catching up. It’ll take time but the foreign talent is there to be developed.

3. London Spitfire and Seoul Dynasty still the favorites

London Spitfire. Photo via Overwatch League

At the end of the day, the two uber-talented rosters of the former Apex champion GC Busan and Lunatic-Hai will be tough to beat in season one. Despite one measly loss, the Spitefire went on to put a beating on the San Francisco Shock in their second game. The Dynasty struggled through a win over the Excelsior, but still flashed moments of brilliance throughout and won.

Each team has that building block player, who will be the centerpiece moving forward. Only the Dynasty and Spitfire have that at nearly every position. So, while the skill gap is closing, the Korean teams will start this season as heavy favorites to win it all. The preseason showed that it’s not going to be a walkover to the finals.

4. Uprising, Dragons and Mayhem need roster help

Shanghai’s dragons. Photo via Overwatch League

It’s hard to gather anything from the best teams during the preseason because they may not have been playing their hardest. The Dynasty looked suspect at times, but there’s instances where they’re forced to play Kuki over Miro or Weeked over Munchkin that muck up our understanding of this team. With the bottom three teams, it’s much more plain to see.

Continuity for the Mayhem roster seemed to be a strength, but just being familiar with your teammates doesn’t guarantee success. Mayhem ended the weekend with a 1-6 record, and despite strong play from Tviq and Logix, this team looked severely outmatched. The lack of real depth also reared its head as they had no answer for the Dallas Fuel’s conflicting styles or the Shock’s versatility.

As for the Uprising and Dragons, two teams that have flashes of strong play, didn’t play their best through the entire two preseason matches. Diya gave us a show against the Dynasty, but the support and tank lines were badly outplayed. Uprising had zero answers for NYXL’s Pine on Widowmaker and diving on Genji.

It’s too early to say these teams can’t turn it around, but the lack of big names on the bottom three rosters gives fans reason to question the roster decisions. If things stay this way, look for these teams to tryout new players.

5. Lesser known players showing talent

The most promising aspect of the preseason was the fact that it wasn’t just the superstar players impressing the crowd. It was a variety of lesser known players implementing lesser known strategies.

Los Angeles Valiant’s Silkthread was a player that showed plenty of explosive play capabilities. Hydration, of the Gladiators, out-dueled one of the world’s best Pharah’s in Rascal. Uprising’s Note showed his aggressive D.Va play to matchup with the rest of the league’s tank lines. The list goes on-and-on of lesser known players that showed up big this past week that could be a factor moving forward.

 

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Featured photo from OverwatchLeague.com

Overwatch League Roster Breakdown: Los Angeles Gladiators

In this edition of roster breakdown, the Los Angeles Gladiators get the spotlight. One of two Los Angeles, California based teams sporting the flashy purple and white jersey’s for the inaugural season of the Overwatch League. The talented Gladiators squad will house players from all across the globe, and will focus on two things in this upcoming season: having fun and playing aggressive, according to Rob Moore of Kroenke Sports and Entertainment (KSE).

Ownership
Stan Kroenke, owner of the newly acquired Los Angeles Gladiators, is constantly being discussed in sports media. He recently moved the St. Louis Rams franchise out of Missouri and back to Los Angeles where the franchise previously resided in the 1980’s. It’s been a point of contention around NFL circles, and since then the Kroenke name has been vilified by the people of St. Louis.

Regardless of the public perception of Kroenke, one thing’s clear and that’s the fact that he understands how to run a franchise. Consider this, Stan Kroenke owns KSE, a parent company for all his sports holdings. That same company has become a multi-media conglomerate with television and radio stations. On top of that, KSE expanded its holdings to five different franchises major sport franchises (MLB, NBA, MLS, NHL, and NFL) and finally seized the opportunity in the esports space.

Now, along with Boston Uprising owner Robert Kraft, Stan Kroenke adds legitimacy and national media attention to a new, burgeoning league. As someone actively cheering for the Overwatch League to succeed, it can’t go understated how important it is to have the backing of names like the Kroenke’s. KSE is planning to build an arena for the Gladiators, and could be big players in free agency.

Coaching
Team Kungarna was one of the surprising North America teams throughout the last year of Overwatch. The Kungarana roster had talented pieces, but the interchanging roster made it difficult to obtain any team synergy. Current Gladiators’ head coach and former Kungarna coach, David “dpei” Pei, was a big reason for Kungarna’s Overwatch Contenders run and meshing a moving roster. His coaching was key in bringing together a jumbled group of players and making them into one of the best North American teams.

Players

Photo via LA Gladiators Twitter

The LA Gladiators are one the few daring teams to only stick with seven players on the roster. The one backup spot will most likely be filled by one of the teams three-DPS (damage per second) mains. Gladiators decision to stick with seven players limits their ability to counter certain match ups. It puts extra pressure on the tank and support line.

Looking at how this roster was constructed, it’s not trying anything innovative or new, like San Francisco Shock essentially going with a team filled with DPS/Flex players. Gladiators roster will be more straight forward: 3 DPS, 1 Flex, 1 Tank, and 2 support.

Lane “Surefour” Roberts
Role: DPS/Hit-scan
Region: North America (Canada)
Former teams: Cloud 9
Favorite Heroes: Soldier 76, McCree

Surefour, as I’m sure this is the case with most people, was the first player to ever grab my attention in high-level Overwatch. Arguably the best North American Overwatch player, and one of the premier hit-scan players in the world. If there was a player to build around on this team, Surefour would be that player.

Recently, we saw Surefour and the talented Canadian team push Korea in the World Cup final. A strong showing showcased that he’s still improving. He’s certainly good enough to compete with the best players in the OWL, and should be a star in the making in Los Angeles. One of the most accurate players in Overwatch.

Jung Sung “Asher” Choi
Role: DPS/hit-scan
Region: South Korea
Former teams: CONBOX Spirit
Favorite Heroes: Tracer, McCree

Asher is a rather interesting name. Obviously starting off in Korea and getting plenty of Apex experience gives him a leg up, but there’s still some questions regarding his effectiveness heading into this season. His play was often overshadowed by former teammate Park “Architect” Min-ho, and he’s not considered one of the best Korean Tracer’s.

As a Tracer main, his duty will be to be disrupt the enemy back line, but his aggressive play can put himself into bad situations. Luckily, Asher will be playing alongside Surefour which will open up lanes for Tracer. Asher’s Tracer heavy play can be substituted for Hydration’s projectile focus on Genji and Pharah. Asher provides explosiveness, experience, and will be a key starting piece for the Gladiators in season one.

Joao Pedro “Hydration” Goes Telles
Role: DPS/Projectile
Region: South America (Brazil)
Former Teams: CLG
Favorite Heroes: Genji, Pharah

Hydration is going to be the first player off the bench. He’s known for his Pharah, but Hydration has a good enough hero pool to go Junkrat or switch onto Genji when needed. He’s one of the few Brazilian born players in the OWL.

 

Gladiators cheering for Surefour. Photo via LA Gladiators twitter

 

Tanks

Aaron “Bischu” Kim
Role: Flex
Region: South Korea
Former teams: Kungarna, Team SoloMid, Ronin
Favorite Heroes: D.va, Zarya

Bischu is a must-watch player and a fantastic pickup for a team looking to play aggressively. The former League of Legends star now switches his focus to Overwatch, and he’s proved in a short amount of time that his Zarya is one of the best.

On top of his efficient play in the flex slot, he brings continuity with his head coach and former Kungarana teammate iRemix. The fact that the Gladiators tank line will have some synergy coming in is a big advantage and is the reason these three guys were brought in over potentially more skilled players. It’s possible this is one of the better tank lines in season one.

Luis Galarza “iRemix” Figueroa
Role: Tank
Region: Puerto Rico
Former Teams: Kungarana, Splyce
Favorite Heroes: Winston, Reinhardt

iRemix’s tank play in Overwatch Contenders was always extremely impressive. His Reinhardt during season two was one of my favorites in North America, and he’s made the necessary adjustments when Reinhardt with Winston when Reinhardt was fazed out of the meta. In his role, iRemix might be the most important player on the team. He’ll be the defensive linchpin.

Supportsional
Jonas “Shaz” Suovaara

Role: Support/Flex
Region: Finland
Former teams: Reason Gaming, Hammers Esports, Team Gigantti
Favorite Heroes: Ana, Zenyatta, Sombra

It’s apparent that Kevin “Kez” Jeon, the Gladiators manager, did his homework. While the decision to go with Asher and Hydration as their DPS-mains is somewhat questionable, bringing in the two Finns is no mistake. Gigantti, which both Shaz and BigGoose played for, overwhelmingly over-succeeded and it’s the play of these two that sprung that success.

Shaz can plug and play any number of heroes, but his primary role in season one will be on Mercy. Look for this team to switch Shaz to get advantageous composition. There’s a reason why they didn’t bring in any other support mains. It’s because this duo is versatile and skilled.

Benjamin “BigG00se” Isohanni
Role
: Support
Region: Europe (Finland)
Former Teams: Rest in Pajamas, Team Gigantti
Favorite Heroes: Lucio

Similarly to the tank line, the Gladiators supports will have plenty of familiarity of how they want to play. It’s a great move to target players that have experience playing with each other. On top of all this, BigGoose’s Lucio is ridiculously good and will play into how this team wants to play on paper.

Expectations?

When I first glanced at the roster, I gave a loud sigh. Another team missing out on Carpe, Saebyeol, and Stitch. After examining it further, this could be a surprise team this season. Yes, they’re lacking the Korean talent, but outside of Miami, Seoul, and London, this is probably the most familiar team in the OWL. A team built around familiarity with each other.

However, it’s tough seeing this squad make a push for the postseason. While Surefour is a game-changer, the two other DPS-mains don’t stack up as well on paper. This team will need more firepower to come out on top.

 

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Overwatch League Roster Breakdown: San Francisco Shock

Starting over to the pacific league, the San Francisco Shock, owned by NRG Esports owner Andy Miller, will sport one of the few non-Korean teams in the Overwatch League. The Shock virtually have a North American all star team with the addition of two talented Swedish players.

SF Shock in a limo. Photo courtesy of Nomy

The decision to keep only seven players on the roster with Jay “sinatraa” Won and Matthew “Super“ DeLisi inactive due to age constraints, could be detrimental. Most of the teams in the Overwatch League are keeping eight or nine players, and although it’s a talented North American roster, there’s no clear superstar.

In terms of perception, the Shock will undoubtedly be an underdog in year one. South Korea is the central Overwatch hub of the world, and building a team that consist entirely of Korean foreigners is a gamble. It’s not a bad idea in theory. Trying to grab all the talent outside Korea could payoff, as most teams will focus their energy and money on Korean players.

The few teams in the Overwatch League who built their roster similarly to the Shock will be an interesting experience. Seoul Dynasty’s head coach, Lee “Hocury” Ho-cheol, believes the non-Korean teams are underrated, according to an interview with ESPN Esport. Shanghai Dragons, Florida Mayhem, Dallas Fuel and San Francisco Shock will go down this path.

Here’s the San Francisco Shock organization:

Ownership
NRG Esports is a prominent organization within esports that has had success in many different popular titles: Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, League of Legends, and Rocket League. Andy Miller, NRG’s CEO, and Brett Lautenbach, NRG president, Bowl throw their hat into the Overwatch League and will bring some ownership experience to the OWL.

Management
Andrew “Zwei” Baker takes on the responsibility of building the Shock roster, and on top of bringing on a team of non-Korean players, he signed on Brad Rajani and Dillion “LegitRc” Odeneal to be coaches. Two American born coaches that have familiarity with the players on the roster, and come in with plenty of coaching experience.

However, the front office had some turnover recently when former manager Maxwell “Hoturaz” Bateman was fired for sexual assault allegations. The organization quickly brought in LegitRc to help bring stability to the front office.

Roster
In the hope that the talented Shock roster will individually improve during the season, and surprise the Overwatch world while going through  a more strict training and practice regiment. It’s imperative that this team focuses less on winning and more on improving their game.

Unfortunately, two of the more talented players on the roster (Sinatraa and Super) will be inactive. As Overwatch fans saw at Blizzcon, Sinatraa is clearly the key piece to this franchise. Nurture his ability now and he could be a star down the line. The outlook for this team to contend for a title is to focus on winning in year two.

Photo via San Francisco Shock will

Andre “iddqd” Dahlstrom, DPS/Hit-scan
Favorite heroes:
McCree, Tracer, Soldier: 76
Iddqd, the 25-year old, Swedish born, hit-scan main, has proved over and over he’s one of the best McCree’s in the world. His 40% accuracy and damage output is the third highest of any other player on the team.

Furthermore, his aggressive play style and big play potential pairs perfectly with how the rest of the roster looks to play. Iddqd is a lock to be a starter this season. He will more than likely play the long range hit-scan role.

Andrej “Baybay” Francisty, Flex/DPS/ Hit-scan
Favorite heroes:
Soldier: 76, Genji, McCree
Baybay was always a player I believed to have the talent to contend with Koreans. While on Kungarna, Baybay was a major part of their success in the Winter Premiere and other major events. Dogman, Baybay’s former teammate agreed

“Baybay was really aggressive, and Kungarna was a team built around Baybay,” Dogman, on the Overwatch podcast.

In any case, Baybay showed plenty of promise, but getting the chance to face the world’s best competition should continue to improve his impressive gameplay. Baybay maintains the most damage on the team, and the second best accuracy. He’s the Shock’s bet Soldier: 76.

David “Nomy” Ramirez, Tank
Favorite Heroes:
Reinhardt, Winston
Nomy has consistently been one of North America’s best tanks throughout all of 2017. Nomy was instrumental behind some of the most memorable Immortals run. During the time when triple-Tank was popular, Nomy essentially carried Immortals to many Immortal victories, as the best North American team.

For this reason, Nomy should be one of the leaders of this team and a member of the Shock’s player core moving forward. On top of excellent blocking and positioning, his ultimate effectiveness is incredible. His success rate with earth shatter and ability to turn entire fights is unreal. His bet trait is his survivability with primal rage. Even at a number disadvantage, Nomy consistently keep fight alive with his ultimates.

Daniel “dhaK” Martinez, Support
Favorite Heroes:
Lucio
On the negative side, the Shock will run with only two true support mains. Both supports are also hero specialist, and there’s no Mercy-main. dhaK almost exclusively plays Lucio and will be the most crucial player on the backline got San Francisco.

Keep in mind, dhaK is a nice fit alongside a squad that likes to push forward. His Lucio is known to keep the speed boost up while having some of the best wall skating abilities of any Lucio-main. The decision to not run with a consistent Mercy, at this juncture, seems as if it’s a big mistake. Luckily, the two supports might be the perfect match for the tanks and DPS.

Andreas “Nevix” Karlsson, Flex
Favorite Heroes:
Genji, Soldier: 76, Ana
Generally speaking, Nevix was always a secret weapon for Misfits. Yes, it helps playing alongside Tviq, but Nevix was the player that pushed them over the top. The potential for triple-DPS compositions with Iddqd, Baybay, and Nevix on the backend could be deadly.

In terms of experience, no other player matches the number of high-level matches played than Nevix. He’s won the most money playing Overwatch on the team, and will be big part of this team’s success heading forward. He will fill into the open flex spot.

Sleepy’s Jersey. Photo courtesy of the San Francisco Shock

Nikola “Sleepy” Andrews, Support
Favorite Heroes
: Zenyatta
Sleepy is somewhat of a mystery. He has little to no major experience and is basically exclusively a Zenyatta main. Based on stats, he has low healing and low damage output as well. If there’s one player who could be considered a liability, it’s Sleepy.

Dante “Danteh” Cruz, DPS/Flex
Favorite Heroes
: Tracer, Sombra, Genji
The 18-year old, American born Danteh is an intriguing prospect. It’s clear he has talent, but is commitment going to be an issue? No, it’s not, Danteh is focused on Overwatch and becoming the best player possible. Even off the bench, he can have a major impact as a backline disruptor.

As a Tracer, Sombra, and Genji main, he’ll play a big role in changing the momentum of matches. Off the bench, Danteh can make it more difficult on a teams supports and give tanks troubles from behind enemy lines. This will be Danteh’s role this season.

Outlook on the season
It’s a developmental year for the San Francisco Shock. No Sinatraa or Super will force them to focus their contention intentions on season two. The key is develop players like Iddqd, Baybay, and Nomy. It’s important those guys catch up to the Korean level quickly.

After analyzing the roster, it’s clear there’s potential to have a surprise season, but at this juncture it seems unlikely. Players who have never carried teams are now placed into that position. The supports of danK and Sleepy also feel under-researched as the Shock will head I to season one with the worst supports on paper.

Finally, playoffs are in all likelihood out of the question. It has the look of one of the worst roster in the OWL, but don’t be discouraged because certain players could develop into stars. It’s a process and one the fans of San Francisco have to embrace.

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Featured image courtesy of the San Francisco Shock

Read Boston Uprising preview 

Overwatch League roster breakdown: Boston Uprising

The Overwatch League is fast-approaching. The rosters have been revealed and the dates for preseason and the regular season are set. The world is ready for the league to start in January 2018. In this series of articles, I look to give new fans a valuable and in-depth look at all the franchises and players to prepare for opening week.

Image via Boston Uprising

In the inaugural season, the twelve teams will compete in a six-month long season and crown the eventual champion in July. The entirety of season one will be played at the Blizzard Stadium located in California. The OWL will not only be a pioneer league in the esports scene, but a centralizing force in creating the best player pool imaginable.

I wanted to start with the consensus worst team in season one of the OWL: Boston Uprising. And it’s not that this team can’t succeed, it’s that the roster is filled with unlikely heroes. A team of relatively unknown players, in a league this stacked with talent, isn’t tough. But, Overwatch is a team game. Individual names don’t win championships, teams do.

Let’s talk about the Boston Uprising

Ownership

Robert Kraft, chairman and CEO of the Kraft Group, and owner of the exceedingly successful New England Patriots franchise, was one of the first big names to show interest in the Overwatch League. Alongside some of sports’ most venturous owners, Kraft being attached gave the league some pomp and stability.

Obviously, the league is filled with sports ownership groups buying up franchises, but Kraft was undoubtedly one of the biggest names to sign on. If anything, his involvement made other potential investors seriously consider joining in. It also helped raise awareness and will continue to do so as more potential fans find the OWL.

Coaching staff

Yes, believe it or not, the OWL has coaching. It’s like any old sport; there’s a head coach and an assistant coach, and they make all the important roster and strategy decisions. It’s been proven how effective a good head coach can be in Overwatch, as teams in Korea’s Apex league have had make-or-break seasons with different head coaches.

Luckily, Boston’s lack of roster talent doesn’t transfer over to the coaching staff. Da-hee “Crusty” Park has plenty of experience coaching inexperienced (NC Foxes) teams. The original head coach, who was demoted back to assistant coach, is Jason “Shake” Kaplan. Shake spent his early playing days on Gale Force, Code 7, Complexity Gaming and eventually found his way to CLG.

It’s imperative that this coaching staff finds the right combination to make this all work. Shake and Crusty are both extremely capable of taking this team to another level this season.

Image via Boston Uprising

Boston Uprising Roster

Noh “Gamsu” Yeong-Jin; Tank
One of the more recognizable names and leaders on this roster. A former League of Legends player turned FPS-star, and is now the main-tank on Boston Uprising. Gamsu has spent the majority of his Overwatch career playing on the Korean team CONBOX Spirit, and moving back and forth from Apex Premiere to challengers because of relegation.

However, Gamsu was a brilliant choice for this new team. A player whose experience in the esports space dates back to an entirely different game. Gamsu will help new players transition into this league. He’s also valuable for his play style. He’s known to not take bad engagements and usually has a pretty low death total.

Kwam “Striker” Nam-Joo; DPS
The best hit scan player on the team, and similar to Gamsu, a recognizable and interesting player to watch heading into the season. The former ROX Orcas player will now have to help carry the Uprising franchise with his big play potential from Soldier:76 and McCree.

Stanislov “Mistake” Danilo; DPS
In a world of good Tracer mains, Mistake will have to step up and become a reliable back-line Tracer to compete. The Russian born player, and one of the more recognizable players on the team, will have to continue to play that disruptive Tracer style we’ve seen in the past. There’s a growing consensus that Mistake is much better than people realize. He’s a player to watch this season.

Kristian “Kellex” Keller; Support
In terms of production, it’s hard to say another player on this Uprising team has done more than Kellex. He’s consistently been one of the best Lucio’s in Europe. Despite not being on any successful Overwatch teams, Kellex has found a way to stick out among the crowd of good Lucios. He’s a name that could surprise some people in season one.

Shin “Kalios” Woo-yeol; Flex
Now here’s an interesting player, one that sat on RunAway’s bench for a season and played on Afreeca Freecs Blue for a season. Most likely the Uprising’s starting D.Va player, and could be used as a flex player with his variety of hero choices.

Joseph “DreamKazper” Sanchez; DPS
The third and final DPS-main and only player with a quality pocket Genji. DreamKazper is also one of the few American-born players in the OWL. He leaves Tempo Storm to (presumably) play a backup role to Mistake and Striker, but will be handy as a projectile player with Genji for certain matchups.

Park “Neko” Se-hyeon; Support
One of the few players to play in Apex, and the only player to experience the Apex playoffs. The upstart NC Foxes, who almost took the royal road to a title, lost 4-0 to a more experienced and talented Kongdoo Panthera team (London Spitfire). Neko on Support was a big reason for their success.

Mikias “Snow” Yohannes; Support
Enter one of the two Toronto Esports signings. Snow was a Support player for Toronto Esports, which was ran by the current Uprising president, Chris “HuK” Loranger, who is mostly responsible for bringing the support main over. Snow is undoubtedly a questionable roster decision, but he’s one of the few Uprising players with plenty of Mercy experience. He should slot in as a nice bench player.

Lucas “NotE” Messier; Flex
Similarly, NotE signed from the Toronto Esports organization. NotE will be behind Kalios as the team’s flex. It’s tough for NotE, having a smaller role on this team with the D.Va slot being filled. He’s one of the bubble players, and will have to work to get some recognition and an extension moving forward.

Connor “Avast” Prince; Support
Avast is a candidate to surprise some people in year one. His ability to stay alive and turn fights was a staple on the Luminosity Gaming Evil roster. For now, Avast will have to earn his roster spot as a Lucio main over Kellex.

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Featured image courtesy of Boston Uprising

South Korea Maintains Overwatch World Cup Dominance; Zunba wins MVP

South Korea wins their second consecutive Overwatch World Cup, taking out team Canada 4-1 at Blizzcon. Korea took out the United States, France and Canada en route to another title, only dropping four games in the process. Korea displayed the same mark of skill that’s been unbeatable in international competition since the start of Overwatch.

Photo courtesy of twitch.tv/playoverwatch

Let’s break down how they methodically dismantled Canada, even with strong performances from the opposition. Despite close games throughout the set, South Korea still managed to pull out a 4-1 victory. At times, Canada would push them, but similarly to France and the US, it’s tough to contend with Korea through an entire seven game set.

Coupled with the questionable composition decision making from Canada, and the constant matchup advantage they had to overcome. It made for a tough afternoon for Canada and put them constantly on the back foot. It wasn’t as easy as the previous year, but Korea once again proved why they’re the best gaming country in the world.

Oasis
On University, Canada jumped out to a hot start. Randal “Roolf” Stark got early hits with charge on Zenyatta, spraying the small choke points. Roolf cutting entrance ways took Korea by surprise, and allowed Canada’s heavy-hitters to get ultimate charge. Brady “Agilities” Girardi using dragon blade to swing the fight and Lane “Surefour” Roberts finishing kills with every Tracer, closed out university with with an impressive 100-0 victory.

However, the challenge against Korea is sustaining that level of play. Instead, Canada switched to triple-DPS on Gardens and left themselves open to some of the worlds best tank play. Kim “Mano” Dong-Yu recognizes their lack of tanks, and took advantage. Even with Liam “Mangachu” Campbell owning the Pharah matchup, the two Korean tanks dominated the ground game.

On city center, it came down to some sneaky plays from Mano and Tracer player Park “Saebyeolbe” Jong-yeol, who got an early pick on Canada’s Mercy and carried that all the way into a defensive full-hold. Korea kept up an aggressive style, and had Kim “Zunba” Joon-hyuk continue to push them back with his excellent D.Va play. It was clear that the positioning, and team targeting favored Korea. A 100-0 on City Center gave Korea the ever so important 1-0 lead.

Photo via twitch.tv/playoverwatch

Kings Row
Now, game one didn’t provide a lot of the flashiest player in Overwatch. The incredibly talented Yeon-oh “Flow3r” Hwang got to show, not only his versatility, but his creativity on Kings Row. He carried Korea with a few tire kills on Junkrat and a four-kill off Mano’s earth shatter on first point.

It was the snowball effect. After taking game three on control point, the momentum unmistakably shifted towards the winner. Korea clearly had the edge and Flow3r broke out because of it. Zunba getting to play his patented Zarya also helped out. Canada was held to one capture and 107 meters, which isn’t good.

Clearly, a hold for Canada seemed like a difficult proposition and a mistake on the character select screen left them vulnerable. Flow3r having the luxury of Pharah against Agilities on Junkrat left Canada having zero answers for korea’s air-attack. It took Korea essentially no-time to perverse the map as they traveled to an easy victory.

Hanamura
Kings Row was trouble for Canada. The utility of Flow3r, with his catalogue of effective heroes, makes for tough decisions. The failure to adjust to his picks got Canada in an 0-2 hole. On Hanamura, it was imperative that Canada wins. A loss and the dream completely dies. Hanamura, with second point defense being so strong, gave Canada a chance .

Fortunately, Canadarealized their mistakes from Kings Row and adjusted. After a few engagement losses on first point attack, a subtle switch off Genji to Roadhog and substituting in Soldier 76 on the second point made the difference.

On the other side, Korea’s first point defense utulized the lower ledge of the Hanamura gate. Orisa’s shield and Flow3r peppering the DPS angels with McCree nearly stopped the Canadian attack.

It took an inspired effort from Mangachu on D.va to even push it to a second point. From there, Canada snowballed and took it with 32 seconds remaining. Now it was going to take all Canada had to prevent a Korean win.

Korea has a secret weapon on Hanamura: Flow3r’s widow maker. Canada did attempt the triple-tank composition to counter the Widow-composition, but it back fired against them. Saebyeolbe’s Tracer did all the ground work. Zunba, in a similar role to Mangachu, kept pressure on high-activity areas with D.va. Korea now had strangle hold on the World Cup.

Junkertown
Junkertown was win or go-home for Canada. In that situation, Canada decided to bring out the unorthodox compositions. Using Orisa and Bastion on attack took Korea by surprise. Korea threw out triple defense, and weren’t prepared to face such a strong cart offense-to-defense. It forced Korea off that composition.

The real leg-work had to be done on defense. Korea had been basically perfect on offense up until Junkertown. It even started out great as Ryu “Ryujehong” Je-hong continually landed sleep darts and Zunba got constant self-destruct kills. It wasn’t until Surefour got his Tracer going and Agilities his junkrat.

The two of them being able to work in tandem to target fire the same opponent was a spectacle. It earned Canada another game in this tournament. Korea wasn’t going to clean sweep like they did against Russia in 2016.

Numbani
Flow3r’s talented in many different areas, but when Korea gets to throw him out on Pharah that’s when the matchup feels most disadvantageous. Numbani’s sight lines give Pharah free reign to attack and hide behind corners. Canada had no early counter, going with the Roadhog.

South Korea ended with a 2:46 and three points heading into a defense for the World Cup. The desperation was clear from Canada. Mangachu switched to Torbjörn for an second point offense. It got that weird and desperate for Canada. Luckily, Surefour finally got a chance to play his best character in Soldier 76 and that carried Canada to another round.

The overtime period ended swiftly. Korea had a much bigger time bank and Saebyeolbe wasn’t going to be denied on his Tracer.

MVP: Zunba
Surprised it’s not Flow3r? Well, Zunba absolutely earned this with just constant damage, blocking, and positioning. He was on fire a majority of the set. His aggressive D.va play made it incredibly difficult on Canada’s offense. He came through clutch on every character.

Flow3r had the explosive plays, but Zunba was hot all afternoon long. Overwatch fans in New York should have a big smile on their face.

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USA-South Korea Lives Up to the hype in Overwatch World Cup Classic

It had the look of a historic upset until South Korea predictably took control narrowly escaping out of a decisive game three orb a draw. The American Overwatch squad accrued three quarters of the Hanamura’s first point before a brilliant stall that led into a Korean hold and draw. Korea avoiding a 3-2 deficit was the main factor behind the win.

Overwatch World Cup. Photo via twitch.tv/playOverwatch

The game itself was historic because it’s the first time a Korean team has ever dropped a singular game at Blizzcon. The perception (and reality) is that Korea is far and away the best region in Overwatch. Results back this claim up. Heading into this matchup, an American victory seemed like a pipe dream.

The explosive DPS plays from young and talented Hyan “Flow3r” Yeon-Oh, intelligent Tracer play out of Park “Saebyeolbe” Jong-yeol and consistency from the supports is unmatched. That’s why up until this point they hadn’t dropped a single game. The US pushed them to their limits, and nearly had them on the brink of elimination. A late game rally on Hamaura was the difference.

The play from the United States team was superb, even in a losing effort. With the help of a raucous Southern California crowd, Jake “JAKE” Lyons, Adam “Adam” Eckel, and Jay “Sinatraaa” Won competed closely with the best players in the world. At no point did the US ever looked outclassed. It was the first blemish on an otherwise perfect record for the South Korean squad.

It could be a sign of things to come or a result of the US having better talent than most realize. Any progress made towards matching the dominance Korea has shown early on in Overwatch is promising. Even with a first round exit, the underdog American team showed they’re no walk over.

American fans will recognize this team as the same familiar names with an influx of new talent. Matt “Coolmatt69” Lorio has bounced around from club to club, but has consistently been the best flex player in the US. Fans of the Houston Outlaws will get a chance to see Coolmatt69, Jake “JAKE” Lyons, and Shane “Rawkus” Laherty on a regular basis.

One of the few players not picked up in the Overwatch League was Adam “Adam” Eckel, who took it personally, and ended up outplaying Yang “tobi” Jin-mo’s Mercy for a majority of the game. The premier Lucio and Mercy main in Korea got surpassingly out-resurrected by quite a bit. Adam elevating his game, along with the rest of the US, made for some of the most exciting and heart throbbing Overwatch matches yet.

It was apparent that they belong in this game. Another year of play and development has partially closed the gap between the World and Korea. Most of these player competed in the contenders series, which improved the overall play of each region. Now the United States, with its vast player pool, gets a chance to try and tap into that.

An Overwatch World Cup Classic

The same sentiment kept being passed around.

The intensity, back-and-Forth action, and adrenaline from an American team pushing the best country in the world to their limits made it feel like a finals match. USA proved there’s areas to exploit on the Korean roster. Korea struggled on the back-line and made questionable character choices throughout the first few games. The US capitalize Korea switching off their base composition.

All in all, it was one of the most entertaining and hard-fought Overwatch matches in history. Completely unexpected which makes it even more compelling. Homegrown talent stacks up well and this performance is something the US can build on. Korea on the other hand will look to take home their second consecutive Overwatch World Cup against France.

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New York Annouces Team Name and Roster for the Overwatch League

In a formal announcement to the world, the New York ownership group of the Overwatch League revealed their new name, logo and roster, according to Jacob Wolf of ESPN. Without further ado, I present the New York…Excelsior?

This can’t be right. Excelsior? The word to describe superior quality at hotels and newspapers? Ok, I’ll give them a pass on the name. Finding a catchy, marketable and familiar name is hard. That’s fine. I’m sure their logo will make up for the team name.

Photo via https://blizzard.gamespress.com/Esports-Overwatch

…what happened? The last thing I remembered before passing out was some blue wavy lines that…oh no, oh god no, it can’t be…

Yes, the decision on the logo and team name are, uh, interesting, but the decision makers got one thing right: the roster. It won’t be the most talented roster, but it will be good enough to compete against the best teams. New York will have a high-powered Korean team that should generate some excitement.

Let’s make it clear, the Overwatch League is going to be chalk full of talent on the player end, but an ownership group filled with inexperience on the esports end might not be fully prepared for what’s to come. I’m not here to criticize a new, innovative league that is trying to build the scene, but there seems to be a disconnect between the fan base and the owners.

The New York Excelsior join the Shanghai Dragons, Seoul Dynasty, Boston Uprising, Dallas Fuel and last but not least the Las Angeles Valiant, for the inaugural season. London’s team announcement will be soon along with the six remaining cities.

Luckily, despite the disconnect, the league will be highly competitive. Overwatch, as a competitive entity, is still a mess in terms of the structure of the scene. The Overwatch League will be a remedy to fix that with all the talent available in the pool. At the very least, it will centralize everything and is guaranteed to capture the interest of potential fans.

Is the Overwatch League out of touch with h fans?
Now, this has little to do with silly names and ridiculous looking logos. It has more to do with a league that has invested millions of dollars into a game that’s still building a following. The 30 million player base is clouding the minds of executives making the competitive Overwatch scene feel bigger than it actually is.

Photo courtesy of twitch.tv/ogn

Approximately, OGN’s Apex gets 23,000 views on Twitch per broadcast (courtesy of esc.watch). Now Apex might not be the bet control to get an accurate number for how many Americans are tuning into Overwatch broadcast. From what I’ve seen, most Overwatch streams don’t get over 30k viewers. It’s dramatically smaller than the biggest games in esports currently.

Important to realize, there’s a major difference between a casual and hardcore player. 30 million players might sound sexy to potential investors, but that’s no guarantee of a successful league. Popular games have failed in the past to gain a competitive audience, as the game has to be exciting to watch more than anything.

Thankfully, the majority of fans are outside of the United States. Even if the American population doesn’t take to it, Asia and Europe have plenty of fans to fall back on. It’s the job of the league to take that player base and turn it into fans. First time in esports history, fans can cheer for their hometown team. It’s a great opportunity to really build something sustaining in esports.

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Header image courtesy of Blizzard

Deja Vu for RunAway in Game 7 of the Apex Final

Game 7. One game away from realizing a dream or living a nightmare. In RunAway’s case, it’s more like reliving a nightmare. The second heartbreaking Apex finals loss in the last three seasons comes at the hands of a team who had a similar uprising to the story of RunAway’s initial Apex run: GC Busan.

GC Busan after winning Game 7 over RunAway. Photo courtesy of twitch.tv/ogn

GC Busan completes the royal road

GC Busan is the first team to run the gauntlet, or as they say in Korea, complete the “royal road,” to win their first Apex title. What that means is GC Busan entered the season as a brand new team that qualified through OGN’s challenger series and took the berth all the way to a championship. It’s remarkable what GC Busan and the City of Busan were able to accomplish in their first season. However, the success of the upstart GC Busan left one of the biggest Overwatch fan bases in disarray. RunAway started as a team of ringers back in season one. They also qualified through the challenger league. In a similar fashion to GC Busan, they seemingly came out of nowhere to be considered one of the best teams in Overwatch.

Now flashback to season two, a RunAway team still consisting of Stitch, Haksol and Kaiser, who at the time was one of the best Reindhart mains in Korea, took it to the established number one team in the world: Lunatic-Hai. In the finals, RunAway grabbed a 3-1 lead over Lunatic-Hai, a team they’d beaten in group stage two, only to drop the next three and lose on Eichenwald.

Photo courtesy of twitch.tv/ogn

Sound familiar? That’s because it is. It’s deja vu for the talented Korean squad, and it’s going to be a hard pill to swallow moving forward. A dominating 3-1 lead over Lunatic-Hai and a 3-2 lead over GC Busan. Both end in complete heartbreak. Two game 7 losses on Eichenwald is the only thing separating RunAway from being considered the worlds best.

RunAway’s Game 7 losses match up to history’s great choke jobs

So, is this the new version of the Buffalo Bills of the early 90’s? Or the Cleveland Indians surrendering seemingly insurmountable leads to lose in the most depressing way imaginable? It’s similar, but this is a team that’s story is just beginning. If anything, these two losses felt like flukes, but it’s something RunAway will have to focus on moving forward: closing matches.

Photo courtesy of twitch.tv/ogn

Nevertheless, I’m not here to diminish the accomplishments of both GC Busan or Lunatic-Hai, as both are well respected and talented teams, but something has to be said about RunAway squandering leads. Is it a lack of discipline when nearing the finish line? In my eyes, it’s their opponents finding another gear or a strategy that counter-acts everything RunAway is trying to accomplish.

In the case of GC Busan, that’s exactly what happened. The moment Hooreg and Profit switched over to the Tracer and Genji, RunAway had no answer. A team known for its strength in those two characters was surprisingly outplayed in every aspect. It was a complete 180-degree turn and something completely unexpected.

The main focus should be on the excellent team play of GC Busan and they’re decision making. It might feel like a fluke considering where this team started the season, but it was made clear early on that they were a serious contender.

Lastly, the future of Apex is uncertain. The Overwatch League is guaranteed to steal most of the talent, and the world of Overwatch’s focus will shift to North America. As for RunAway, it just a blip in the road. For RunAway players, two losses at the brink of a championship can change a person psychologically. It shakes a players confidence to the core and puts doubt in their minds, but the players on this team will continue to make an impact on the scene and over time the pain of these losses will fade.


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featured image courtesy of twitch.tv/ogn

Matchup Breakdown: GC Busan and RunAway even as it gets for Apex Season 4 Final

The long, arduous Apex season is drawing to a close with the best possible matchup remaining in the Grand Finals. Thirty-two teams have been leveled down to the upstart GC Busan, who’s having a coming out party in Season Four versus a team that was once in their position: RunAway, who’s now in a role reversal as the experienced team.

GC Busan over C9 Kongdoo. Photo courtesy of twitch.tv/ogn

In terms of talent, no one is surprised to see either of these teams reach the final. GC Busan qualified as a challenger team heading into this season, but it was clear early on that this team belonged in Apex. After a clean 4-0 sweep of Cloud9 Kongdoo (formerly Kongdoo Panthera), this team has arrived. It wasn’t just a sweep, but a complete and total annihilation of a more experienced and favored team.

Flip to RunAway, a team who had their hearts broken against the juggernaut Lunatic-Hai in the Season Two finals. RunAway got out to a 3-1 lead only to blow three straight games in a gut wrenching loss that stuck with them heading into Season Three. Amid that loss and a losing Kaiser midway through the season made it tough for the team to adjust. A season later, RunAway is back to their perch and once again four wins away from an Apex title.

It’s a fantastic matchup for Overwatch fans, and after both teams pummeled their opponents in the Apex semifinals, both teams enter these finals playing at their best. It’s also a chance to see a Lunatic-Hai-less Apex Finals for the first time since Season One. Let’s break down each aspect of the matchup.

DPS: RunAway

DPS is where this series is going to be won and lost. No question about it, both these teams thrive in their playmakers. On one side, GC Busan can rely on Park “Profit” Joon-Yeong on Tracer and Lee “Hooreg”Dong-Eun picking heroes based on matchups (as he did against Kongdoo). Those two make up maybe the second best DPS duo in all of Apex.

However, RunAway sports the best DPS-duo with Lee “Sitch” Choong-Hui on Tracer and Kim “Haksal” Hyo-Jong as the best Genji main in the world. It’s not a good reason RunAway has managed to get this far but it is the main reason. Stitch’s ability to get to the back line on offense and Haksal’s constant ultimate charge for endless Dragon Blades makes them this effective.

Whilst, on paper it might favor RunAway’s dynamic combination and use of the dive-heavy compositions with Genji. GC Busan has some of the most effective game planning, and as we saw against C9 Kongdoo, Hooreg has the ability to shut them down. Neutralizing Haksal’s Dragon Blade damage and capitalizing on better ultimate economy is key.

RunAway vs NC Foxes. Photo courtesy of twitch.tv/ogn

Tank: RunAway

The tank line in this matchup doesn’t feel as important as the DPS-matchup, but in some ways, players like RunAway’s Hwang “TiZi” Jang-Hyeon and GC Busan’s Hong “Gesture” Jae-Hee have helped decide some matchups this year. In my eyes, it’s extra important for GC Busan to outplay RunAway in this area as a dive-counter.

In a sense, this area of the game should be a push. TiZi and Gesture separated themselves as two of the best Winston mains. It’s a big reason why these two teams find each other here. The advantage for RunAway is in Choo “JJANU” Hyeon-Woo on D.Va. In the semifinals, he displayed the ability to play a support D.Va and was a big reason the two DPS-mains were able to live forever and take chances.

Essentially, the two Winston’s will cancel each other out. Sung “WOOHYAL” Seung-Hyun is the wildcard here. In a flex position, he’s been playing more tank and has come on at the end of the season. He’s a major reason this team has even made it to this point and could spoil Ruxaway’s day if he plays his best.

Support: RunAway

Despite RunAway having the advantage in all three areas, the margins here are razor thin. But unlike the other two, RunAway has the biggest matchup advantage at support. Kim “KoX” Min-Soo is the main reason for that. Park “Bumper” Sang-Beom has been unbelievably reliable as the RunAway Lucio, but there aren’t many players with the sort of game changing effectiveness that KoX has on all his characters.

For GC Busan, it was a revolving door for their supports to start the season. The addition of Jun “Closer” Won-Sik gave them some stability with a Lucio-main. However, the ultimate coordination has not been as strong as RunAway’s this season. That could be the difference for GC Busan when trying to defend against Haksal’s Sound Barrier-Dragon Blade.

Back to KoX, RunAway is not afraid to flex him out toReaper or another tank. The moving compositions make it really tough for opposing teams to game plan against. That’s why KoX will be such a major factor in this matchup. Other than that, KoX has a great sense of when to use Transcendence with Zenyatta.

In the one time they faced off this season, it was as close as it gets. GC Busan not only won on control point and the escort map Route 66, but fairly dominated. Unfortunately for them, RunAway’s strongest on hybrid maps and has a pension for assault maps. As it stands now, the set winner is most likely going to come down to who wins the two escort maps (games four and six).

Whatever the result, it should be a great show and a great preview of the worlds best players before the Overwatch League kicks off. If I had to make a pick, it feels as if RunAway is due for a title. GC Busan will do whatever necessary to make sure that doesn’t happen. Series should go six or seven games.


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EnvyUs and Misfits heavy Favorites to win Overwatch Contenders Season One

As the Overwatch League creeps closer, and before the preseason starts, the leagues worldwide, including the Contenders series, Korea’s Apex, and OPC in Taiwan will conclude. Five major event champions will be crowned in October, and a world champion will take the Apex crown.

Notably, another team will be crowned before the start of the preseaon giving teams and fans a taste of what’s to come in the Overwatch league. The events I will be focusing on in this piece will be the regional contender series: North America and Europe specifically. On October 8th, these regionals leagues will conclude their season and crown two champions.

Let’s take a look at the Contender playoffs

Overwatch Contenders Season One: North America

It’s clear who the favorites are in North America. EnvyUs had a perfect 7-0 record, going +21 in individual games, and only four game losses on the season. FaZe Clan is the only other team to even compete with EnvyUs, going 6-1 in the group with the only loss coming from EnvyUs.

Team EnvyUs. Photo courtesy of twitch.tv/ogn

In the bottom two of the playoffs, Envision eSports and FNRGE will look to pull the upsets. Against EnvyUs, NRG was one of the few teams to take a game and give them any sort of trouble (EnvyUs finished 25-4 on the season). NRG played them tight on escort maps, but ultimately fell 3-1. In the other matchup, Faze has the season advantage over Envision with a 4-1 regular season win. The only game Envision won was a draw on Hanamura. Both EnvyUs and FaZe are heavily favored to reach the finals.

It’s likely that the two uber-talented North American rosters will play in the title game. EnvyUs is a well established team with a world title under their belt. Taimou, Harryhook, and most of the roster have the experience. FaZe doesn’t have quite the same level of experience, but in terms of talent they matchup well.

Unfortunately, FaZe doesn’t have the continuity on the roster that EnvyUs has. The additions of Spree, Joemeister, and especially the addition of South Korean DPS-main: Carpe show that it’s clear they’re much improved and should give EnvyUs all they can handle.

Overwatch Contenders Season One: Europe

Similarly to North America, Europe was dominated by one of the more established and experienced teams in Overwatch. Mistfits only dropped two games in the regular season and finished at a staggering 27-2 (+25, best of any contender team). The only other teams to compete were the talented up-and-coming Team Gigantti, out of Finland, and 123. The two teams will matchup in the semifinals and have a chance to face (presumably) Misfits in the title match.

TviQ and the Misfits squad. Photo courtesy of twitch.tv/ogn

In terms of dominance, Misfits didn’t drop a single game to any of the playoff teams. And similarly to EnvyUs and Rogue, Misfits is one of the few foreign teams to get a chance to gain Apex experience. They still have one of the most talented DPS players, TviQ, and a strong roster to follow. It will take a great effort for any team to take out the top seeded Misfits in these playoffs.

Lastly, the second overall seed Gigantti will have the mismatches in the semifinals. After a 3-1 regular season victory over 123, they looked primed at another face-off with Misfits. The regular season matchup wasn’t close, though. A 4-0 with a number of convincing victories.

Whatever the case, it should be a good glimpse into which teams are primed to take the next step as we move closer to the start of the Overwatch League.


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