The “Poko Bomb” is tearing up the Overwatch League

Teams in the Overwatch League will now have to prioritize the ultimate status of Gael “Poko” Gouzerch’s self-destructs after sheer domination with it through the first two weeks. Throughout the entire league, no other player is even within striking distance of total ultimate kills and after a huge performance against the San Francisco Shock, it’s not looking like anyone will catch him.

In fact, the team twitter account is actually looking to change the name of D.va’s ultimate to the “Poko bomb.” If this keeps up, I think Blizzard will have no choice, but to change it. Here’s a stat to illustrate Poko’s self-destruct dominance.

That stat says it all. Poko’s success rate is at an incredibly high-percentage right now and that’s proven by the gigantic lead in ultimate kills league-wide. The overall number is impressive, but it’s not the volume of ultimate kills, it’s the consistency. 

During the Philadelphia Fusion’s 2-1 victory over the Shock, an overwhelming amount of fights were won simply off self-destructs. Poko’s not only consistently getting kills, but finding quick ways to build his ultimate. Following his aggressive tank partner, Joona “Fragi”  Laine, who helps clear out space allowing for the DPS-mains and an ultimate building minded Poko to farm ult-charge.

Once it’s ready, it’s just a matter of time before D.Va’s mech comes crashing down on you because it’s not only the angles he throws the self-destructs at, it’s the timing. Waiting for the moment the opposition uses their ultimates or decides to fall-back to strike. It’s also the creative heights in which he flies and the targets he picks out. It’s all calculated.

From here on out, tracking Poko’s ultimate usage is going to be a priority. On the final game on Eichenwalde, three straight self-destructs led to double-kills while taking out Mercy. This was the case all afternoon for the Shock. Expecting a George “ShaDowBurn” Gushcha, the constant aggressive self-destructs kept catching the backline off guard.

In only three games, Poko has established himself as a specialist with that ultimate. Moving forward, it’s going to be in the back of teams’ minds. Teams will be forced to make adjustments if he continues to find kills at this high of a success rate.

Additionally, Poko’s style of play is very much aligned with how his Fusion teammates approach the game.This bodes well for them as they develop and hone their strategy. Poko fits in this role behind two capable DPS-mains and Fragi on the Winston. Those three distract as Poko positions himself for an end of the fight self-destruct. 

However, a team that is focused on flanking could be hard-countered. In their loss on Dorado, the Shock committed heavily to anti-dive and waited for ShaDowBurn to flank. It was the only time the Shock had success against the Fusion dive composition. 

However, is this sustainable for Poko? He’s landing two-kills on basically every self-destruct attempt. The 2.38 ult kills per 10 minutes is not sustainable but don’t expect to see anything less from Poko. He’s logged plenty of practice time into perfecting the timing and distance of D.va’s explosion. Even if he lands fewer kills, Poko is still a threat to turn every team fight when he has full-charge. 

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Featured photos via Overwatch Wiki

Players to Watch on Every Overwatch League Team

The era of franchised esports leagues begins with the opening of the Overwatch League at Blizzard’s Arena in Burbank, California. The team-based, first-person shooter, with millions of players and fans worldwide, throws its hat into the competitive arena, but I’m not here to talk the business side anymore.

It’s finally time for the players to suit up and actually find out who the best is on the battlefield. 120 of the top Overwatch players from across the globe are competing for that title at the end of the season. Each team is crammed with firepower, but here are THE players to watch on each Overwatch team.

Shanghai Dragons: Diya, Hitscan main

Lu “Diya” Weida, a Chinese DPS-main, took the preseason by storm. The Dragons, while talented, had a relatively unknown roster for Western Overwatch fans heading into season one. Diya quickly made an impression with incredible precision on McCree. On a Dragons team lacking solid supports, Diya will have to carry the offense. He’s certainly talented enough to do so.

Boston Uprising: Gamsu, Tank

See? It’s not all damage-mains. The bulk of talent actually seems to bleed into the tank line. Yeong-jin “Gamsu” Noh, the famous League of Legends player, now headlines on the Uprising as their consistent tank. In the preseason, Gamsu played a major role in the attack. He sets up for the Uprising damage-duo to do work on the backend.

Photo Courtesy of Overwatch League

San Francisco Shock: Babybay, Hitscan/Flex

The Shock will be getting much-needed reinforcements with Jay “Sinatraa” Won, but in the meantime, Andrej “Babybay” Francisty will be carrying the Shock offense. This is similar to what he had to do in the preseason. A strong force as a hitscan player that can also flex onto tank roles. Babybay’s damage output could decide games.

Florida Mayhem: Manneten, Tank

Throwing out a curveball here. Everyone knows Kevyn “TviQ” Lindstrom can ball, but analyzing this team, Tim “Manneten” Bylund comes away as the most important player on the roster. In a rather lackluster preseason showing from the Mayhem, Manneten was the only player putting up any sort of fight. His hero pool, as a tank main, is more versatile than most.

Houston Outlaws: LiNkzr, Damage

The Outlaws are a team stacked with DPS-depth, but one player looks on the verge of a breakthrough: Jiri “LiNkzr” Masalin. Sure, Matt “Coolmatt” Lorio might set the tone for this team, but LiNkzr is the player who’s going to separate the Outlaws. If Widowmaker is as popular in the meta as it was in the preseason, LiNkzr could be even more dangerous.

London Spitfire: Fissure, Tank

The most stupidly, ridiculously stacked team in the Overwatch League is the combination of two of the best Korean teams. Every position is filled with 2-3 players that would be possibly the best player on another team. So, who stands above as the essential personnel? Well, that would be arguably the best tank main in Korea, Baek “Fissure” Chan-hyung. He will spearhead the entire Spitfire attack.

New York Excelsior: Saebyeolbe, Hitscan

Possibly the most exciting team to watch in the preseason, a combination of explosiveness and solid team-fighting. Until Hwang “Flow3r” Yeon-oh arrives, Park “Saebyeolbe” Jong-yeol will have to carry the reigns of this spectacular DPS-duo. His Tracer play is near the top for one of the most talented characters in all of Overwatch.

Dallas Fuel: Taimou, Damage/Flex

It’s simple for the Dallas Fuel, get Timo “Taimou”  Kettunen sightlines or pave the way for this player. Yes, Félix “xQc Lengyel and Christian “Cocco” Jonsson are a phenomenal tank-line, but Taimou will make or break maps. In terms of aim, Taimou can destroy pushes with Widowmaker. His hero pool allows plenty of versatility as well, I mean did you see that Roadhog?

Los Angeles Gladiators: Shaz, Support

A support main? What?

Yes, Jonas “Shaz” Suovaara will be the key to the Gladiators success this season. Only a few other players impressed me more in the preseason than Shaz. He was involved in every situation and worked in tandem with Benjamin “iBigG00se” Isohanni. Shaz finds a way to stay alive and gives the Gladiators DPS-mains the push needed to take points. The support main to watch this season? Shaz.

Los Angeles Valiant: uNKoe, Flex-Support

Benjamin “uNKoe” Chevasson isn’t the most talented player on this team, but a player who can switch off Ana, Zenyatta, and Mercy is invaluable in any meta-game. Valiant have a load of work to do before this team is a real contender, based on the preseason, uNKoe will be one of the few consistencies on this team. The French player has the most experience on this team.

Photo Courtesy of Overwatch League

Seoul Dynasty: Zunba, Flex-Tank

For my money, Kim “Zunba” Joon-hyuk is going to be the player that pushes this team over the top. The Dynasty have 10 players to keep an eye on, but it feels as if their biggest advantage is in the Flex-Tank spot, and Zunba being a versatile and strong option in that regard.

Philadelphia Fusion: Carpe, Damage

The remains of the FaZe clan team of Lee “Carpe” Jae-hyeok, George “ShaDowBurn” Gushcha, and Joe “Joemeister” Gramano will be the core of the Fusion. The experience from these three will be important, but the dynamic DPS-duo of Carpe and Shadowburn will be what this team will lean on.

With the Overwatch League going on this week you can decide who you think the player to watch on each team will be. Let us know on Facebook or Twitter!

 

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Why Overwatch League Matters

How Blizzard can change the Esports scene in North America

Courtesy of Blizzard Ent.

 

I feel as though I’ve had to explain to multiple friends and family members what exactly Esports is. I have several friends who understand the basic concept of it but don’t understand how fun and entertaining it is. This is where the Overwatch League steps in.

After being announced over a year ago, January 10th was opening night. Twitch viewership peaked at just over 400,000. 400,000 people tuned in to watch a video game competition. In the grand scheme of things people gather to watch this number is relatively small, but also very big. Let me explain why Overwatch League matters.

Why does it matter?

The United States is known for a mulititude of things but Esports prowess is not one of them. In Korea they’ve been showing Esports on television since the days of Starcraft Brood War. TBS signed a deal with ESL to broadcast CS:GO on their station and I made sure I tuned in.

On January 9th Blizzard Entertainment held their first ever media day for the OWL and announced that they signed a deal with Twitch for a two year broadcasting agreement. It’s been reported but not confirmed that Twitch spent in the area of 90 million dollars to obtain exclusive broadcasting rights.

If you’re like me you tuned in to the games opening night and saw one of the best Overwatch matches I’ve ever seen played between the Dallas Fuel and the Seoul Dynasty. Seoul ended up winning the match but it was as close as they could be. Nearly to half a million people watched that game. It’s very early into the first year for OWL but from what I’ve seen online they’re living up to expectations. They loaded the booths with experts on the broadcast team. The analysts, shout casters, and production teams are insanely talented and above all engaging.

So why does any of this matter? Personally I think that it matters because this is giving the kids who were picked on for being a “nerd” or what have you a safe place to gather. The word nerd has lost its sting and gamer culture has become celebrated and cool thanks to sites like Twitch. Streaming has exploded over the past years resulting in communities of kids and now adults having a place to embrace our passion, gaming. The average age of an Esports fan in the US is 28 years old. Right on the nose for me and my friends.

Overwatch League can bring people together

Another reason OWL is important is it gives kids and parents something to bond over. Several of my friends have kids of their own and are always looking for a way to connect with them. This offers them that opportunity as well as a way to see if their passion will grow into something more than just a fan. Overwatch League is important because it’s helping to legitimize Esports as a whole throughout more of North America. If you told me 5 years ago that Robert Kraft was going to own an Esports franchise I would looked at you upside down.

I haven’t been covering Esports actively very long in the grand scheme of Esports itself but even in the “short” amount of time I’ve been around, the scene has flourished. There are major companies/sports franchises buying teams for video game competitions! Is this a business move? Yeah, probably. But even so it helps to legitimize this crazy thing we call Esports. While we’re only a couple days into season one of Overwatch League look for it to continue to do well and if things go the way they’re projected to, expand exponentially.

What do you think of the Overwatch League so far? Do you think it’s going to sustain viewership or will it die it over the season? Let us know and be sure to stay tuned to The Game Haus for more Esports news!

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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 

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

Trevor May: “Follow the money, it’s where the masses will look”

Trevor May

Courtesy of Twitch.tv

The sports and esports worlds are becoming more intertwined by the week. It was announced that Minnesota Twins pitcher Trevor May and his company Esports Lab were investing time and money to help relaunch Winstonslab.com.

This is just one of the latest examples of traditional sports individuals getting involved with esports. While many of these individuals are only investing because they see business opportunities, May, while also seeing similar opportunities, is following one of his lifelong passions.

As a child May grew up playing on a Super Nintendo with his older brother. They would play games like Super Mario and once the Nintendo 64 came out, games like “Ken Griffey Jr. Major League Baseball”. While he had his passions for traditional sports like baseball, his go to after a long day was video games.

One of his best friends growing up had a dad who built computers just for fun. May, always being a console man at this time, went over and saw the room full of computers.

“This was my first true lan experience, and I loved it,” May said in an interview with The Game Haus.

With this, May was shown another side of gaming, online gaming. He went over to his friends house to play until he finally was able to get his own laptop. Once that happened, he started playing games like the “Total War Series”, “League of Legends”, “Warcraft 3” and “World of Warcraft”. These games allowed him to immerse himself into the world of online gaming and he’s never looked back.

Competition

The one thing that intersects for May between sports and esports is the competition associated with it. As one may expect, he is a high-level competitor and always has been. Whether he is pitching for the Twins or trying to get that Chicken Dinner in PUBG, May is out there to win.

“If you are going to put any real time into something then you want to be good,” May said. “Otherwise you’re just wasting your time and I hate to waste time”.

May is dealing with an elbow injury that required Tommy John surgery. This is a surgery that normally requires anywhere from 10-18 months to come back from. It is much quicker nowadays but that is still a long time to be off the field. For a competitor like May, it is especially hard to be off the field and since he is unable to pitch competitively, he has taken his time to jump into video games and streaming.

A few months back when May started to gain a following on Twitch, he was contacted by the esports organization Luminosity. He quickly joined their streaming team and has felt welcomed since day one. Luminosity and May are working together on a gentleman’s agreement, which means no contract is involved. This is due to May’s contract with the Minnesota Twins.

The Business Side

While he is sidelined, May hasn’t only been playing games. He is also getting involved on the business side of esports.

“I knew from a business standpoint that I wanted to get involved,” May said.

For someone who does not like to waste time, he felt that furthering himself in the business world would be a good thing to focus on. May believes that jumping into the esports scene while it is young is a great business decision.

Trevor May

Courtesy of wwg.com

During this time, he has also been working on his company Esports Lab. One of the company’s first moves was getting involved with Winstonslab.com in order to bring it back.

They had a good following but did not have the means needed to continue on. When May was contacted about the company, he realized that this website was very similar to the analytics in baseball.

He said the world is data-driven and that like advanced metrics in baseball, esports such as Overwatch should use them too. This will allow for people to have a better understanding of what is going on in the game.

He compared this to World of Warcraft. This was a game May had played for many years and spent a long time playing competitively.

“The best way to get advantages was to look for the small ones,” May said. “Whether it was slightly better armor or a better weapon you needed any advantage you could get”.

With this comes his belief in Winstonslab. Franchising for Overwatch is coming with the new OWL and teams will be doing whatever they have to in order to get that slight advantage.

Now that he is more involved with the esports scene, May realizes what esports franchising really means. There will be a lot more money put into the scene and it will continue to attract big time names and playmakers. He also believes that once players become more well-known and esports becomes mainstream, then more people will continue to watch it.

A Newer Generation of Two-Sport Athlete

Trevor May

Courtesy of twincities.com

When asked about people who either don’t understand how people could like both sports and esports, May said if you’re prestigious at something, you warrant respect.

“If you are in the top percentage of people at anything then you deserve respect,” May said.

He continued by pointing out that people who are amazing at anything deserve a chance at making a living off of it. Esports may not be there yet, but they will be. May believes that someday soon they will get their due.

 

Trevor May is showing the world that sports and esports can be interconnected and he is a big advocate for just that. You can watch his stream and hear him talking about this. While he has had the time off he has put a lot of effort into playing games consistently and yet is still able to balance his baseball life. Sadly he knows that his time streaming will decrease once he is healthy and the next season starts.

What May is doing is something that people will hear about more. The esports world is in its infancy but, it’s growing fast. More important people will continue to get involved from both worlds and the message of understanding and respect will hopefully grow along with it.


Featured image courtesy of the New York Post.

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Overwatch League should allow hero bans

Overwatch should allow hero bans in the OWL. I know this is controversial and I am not 100% convinced of it myself, but the pros outweigh the cons. This is the most effective way of reducing one trick heroes and giving the game another strategic element, raising the skill level and allowing teams to innovate more.

However, they need to wait until the release of at least two more heroes and then, and only then, they should allow one hero ban per map. Not per stage.

This would give them time to get every important role filled with at least one replacement. There are however cons, but I firmly believe that in a couple of months the pros will outweigh the cons. An argument could be made for implementing this now. Yet, Blizzard should wait until season two of Contenders.

Waiting until they filled some more roles would help alleviate role banning. First, we need another speed hero before we can ban heroes. Lucio is the only hero that doesn’t have a contemporary.

Pros

Strategies

Every esport has several aspects that facilitate strategic thinking, separating the great from the merely good. Teams can use strategic thinking to separate themselves from the herd; both in other esports and Ovewatch. In Season 2 of OGN Apex you had two teams use strategies to advance themselves farther than anyone thought possible. MetaAthena used the wackiest, and some of the smartest, set plays to overwhelm otherwise superior opponents. On the other hand, you had RunAway using other more fluid strategies to propel themselves to the final of OGN Apex where they pushed Lunatic-Hai to the brink.

Photo: Robert Paul

 

However, this is not typical of Overwatch. Throughout Overwatch, there has typically been one dominate strategy, or meta, that nearly every team has run. And the team that plays that specific meta will win everything. In the western scene’s case at this moment, this is Rogue. They were strong before dive comp and now they are dominating the scene, but that gap is closing. Slowly.

The gap is closing only because other teams are learning how to play dive. But, what if you could ban Soon’s Tracer? You just handicapped Rogue and forced them to pull out one of the other strategies that they are always mentioning. This would force teams to innovate and come up with strategies while allowing the meta to be more open and broad.

Teams would be forced to come up with counter strategies for other teams and specific maps. You could ban out Ryujehong’s Ana or ban AKM’s Soldier. There are enough other heroes that fill those roles to allow you to still-hit scan or to get heals or even main tank.

Eliminating one tricks

 

While I love seeing players play their best hero and seeing the level of skill that these players bring to the game, I hate to see players get away with playing only one hero. It drives the meta issue and doesn’t facilitate innovation. Which is one of the reasons that we are stuck with a meta for several months.

Players who can play multiple heroes at that high level should be more praised than someone who can play only one hero. Albeit at a slightly higher level.

There aren’t many players who can play 5 or more heroes at a high level. Only a few such as Flow3r, Surefour, and Tviq can do this. We haven’t even seen Soon play that many heroes in a professional setting. Let alone be good at them. This is not to diminish the skill level of Soon, he is incredibly good at what he does. But, variety is the spice of life.There are almost no players with this natural skill and they deserve to be highlighted and depth of roster to be rewarded.

Forcing these players on to other heroes would mix up the strategies and force innovation. Because it is hard to push players to innovate when they are winning everything. Nor should we. The losers need a little more chance to innovate and come up with new ideas.

This is a better method of getting them to do this than adding and balancing heroes. Because if you constantly update heroes you get what LoL has. The team that can adapt to the new meta fastest wins.

The winning team should do so through superior skill and strategy; not whoever runs the current meta the best.

Another solution to the innovation problem is releasing heroes. Blizzard doesn’t seem likely to increase the hero release rate too much and we don’t want them releasing poorly designed and made heroes.

Allowing hero bans is the easiest, most fluid solution.

Cons

Not seeing the best possible players

Hero bans

In my mind this is the only con. We wouldn’t get to see top players playing their best heroes as often. We wouldn’t get to see WhoRu destroying teams with Genji because teams would ban him out. Nor would we get to see a lot of Soon on Tracer. This is my biggest issue with a banning system. However, the pros of forcing these players to learn other heroes outweigh this con. Forcing players to learn other heroes improves the professional scene as a whole.

I would miss seeing some of these players pop off on their favourite hero,  but at the end of the day this isn’t even that big of a con. The meta will determine what needs to be banned out and what doesn’t; so having such a star player playing on a sub optimal might be better than having him play a slightly worse on a slightly better hero.

At the beginning of this system, each team would be allowed to ban out one hero. A total of two heroes would be banned and neither team would be allowed to use said team. I could see a problem when both teams ban out Orisa and Reinhardt, or something similar. Then you aren’t battling with any anchor tanks and forced to play dive. As soon as there are more heroes, this won’t be a problem anymore.

This is a risk that needs to be taken as the pros outweigh the cons. The potential for more strategies and the reduction of one tricks would be awesome and nearly immediate.


OWL Contenders Week 5: Finals preview

The finality of finals finally. We made it. Back to the bracket (no more group stages!), eyes on the prize, $25,000 to first place plus an invitation to Season One of Contenders, $10,000 to second and so on. But we don’t know who’s going to be featured on the weekend streams and there are only three matches to be shown nightly. The catch? They’ll be the best teams in those games so it’ll be a good series regardless. Capping it off, every match is a best of five which gives teams a lot more time to feel each other out.

Who’s ready?!

Europe Predictions

Eight teams are ready to annihilate one another for the top spot. Forged in the fire of groups, these eight are eUnited, Movistar Riders, Singulairty, Laser Kittenz, 123, Rest in Pyjamas (NiP), Misfits and Bazooka Puppiez.

eUnited vs Movistar Riders and 123 vs Rest in Pyjamas would be my two must see matches. eUnited has been a force of nature within the European portion of the tournament but Movistar Riders has been resilient, to say the least. Their records combined are nearly identical in groups with only Movistars sporting a loss. Add in that they supplemented their team with Destro and replaced Finnsi, and this would be a show match for sure. At the same time, eUnited losing seems farfetched but they had a rather easy group stage.

eUnited beats Movistar but it will go the distance. Five matches played out to the tune a jumping Winston slamming carts, points, backlines, jams, hoops. Counting out Logix, Cwoosh and Destro for Movistar is harsh but seeing Vallutaja’s Tracer chew up teams match after match begs to temper such enthusiasm.

As for the 123 vs Rest in Pyjamas match, it may be upset city. Pyjamas have been on the major stage a long time. High-risk games where mistakes cost matches, they’ve shown their composure. Remember they were a pro-team until a week ago. They gutted out their matches and fought through groups despite the possible blow to their confidence. The problem is that 123 makes matches look as easy as their name. They play aggressive but have their hand on the shifter, knowing when to reverse when necessary. In the matches that were streamed they showed incredible poise in group fights, a mastery of good dive mechanics. The match may go in 123’s favor but Pyjamas likely wins out in a best of five. For 123 to win out over Pyjamas it will hinge on if Pyjamas runs out of steam. They went the distance getting into the final bracket but maintaining such a push? That’ll be harder than getting there. Sprinting is difficult but there’s a reason tournaments can be called marathons. Well managed tempo for Pyjamas and stifling 123’s Snillo and Mistakes will be the keys to the match.

Laser Kittenz takes out Singularity in a roll because they want to rematch with Misfits. Destiny and magnets are the two strongest forces in the universe and that will win out eventually. Singularity is an amazing team and their matches deserve a real look into.

Misfits handles Bazooka Puppiez and this one is not going to be close by any means. Puppiez is staring down the barrel of Misfits who only want to fight Laser Kittens to the death. Puppiez tied eUnited but ultimately had to make a tiebreaker to win out over Team expert.

That leaves us with eUnited vs Laser Kittens and 123 vs Misfits. That’ll be a hell of a lot of good matches till the end of the evening for the Euro crowd. Everyone gets to see eUnited (with Boombox playing out of his mind hopefully) going ham against the rest of the bracket. 123 surprising the world with their out of the woodwork storyline. I’m sure deep down a rematch between Misfits vs Laser Kittens would arguably be the best possible outcome for their fanbases.

North America Predictions

(Quietly hopes the matches don’t go late. Yep, WOOO!)

Half the teams are breathing a silent relieving sigh. Immortals aren’t in their bracket. FaZe will likely fall to Immortals in a rout but discounting ShaDowBurn, the best Genji in the tournament, seems cruel. FaZe clutched out wins in a ridiculous stacked group. The thing is that meta feels a bit tilted after the Reaper buff and Sombra has been rearing her head in the matches, especially on defensive holds. If FaZe play smart they may take a match off Immortals but their chances are slim.

In the meantime, LG Evil with (Big) Jake who’s Soldier is the stuff of true fear, is matched against Kungarna. You’ll remember Kungarna for robbing every one of their good night’s rest and flipping the table against Cloud9 in the wee hours of a Monday morning street fight. Are upsets on the horizon for Kungarna? LG Evil is an amazing team and deserves their credit but Kungarna showed they talk smack and back it up, which means they deserve the respect as well.

I’d take FNRGFE over Renegades simply over the fact that they survived a group of death for two weeks. They lost three games in a group with Immortals who were nearly perfect. They beat Arc 6 (Yikes) so handily Twitch might have to submit the VOD to the police for abuse. Renegades post a similar record as Immortals but lack the same fatalistic feeling. This would be the match of the day for sure with upsets as a high serving.

Team Liquid vs Envision may not look like much on paper and to be fair, it may be the best match. These two teams will take it to overtime in a battle but I feel Liquid got a pass. They’re not as great as their record and Envision’s isn’t much better in the scope of things. Their group performances look eerily the same, winning close to the same number of maps. The difference is that Envision dealt with LG Evil and Liquid dealt with FaZe who’s not in the same bracket as far as teams go. Liquid wins but it’ll be a coin flip.

That leaves the winners with Immortals, LG Evil (despite Kungarna putting up a hell of a fight), FNRGFE and Liquid. Immortals for LG Evil becomes a ridiculous topic of discussion which deserves an article better written than this author can produce. FNRGFE may well cruise into the finals and get routed but it falls essentially on their ability to beat Renegades and maintain momentum in the win.

Conclusion

This should make for a great weekend of European and North American Overwatch. The tournament thus far faced criticism for some of the wild things that have occurred but has shown tremendous potential to highlight the non-Korean scene. This may be in part to Alex “Gillfrost” Gill and the Carbon series he ran months prior that featured many of these teams. All the same, it’s about the games and the players more than anything. A tournament is just a marquee hanging over a bunch of people doing their best to be the best


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Ninjas in Pyjamas released, Cyclowns disband and Finnsi leaves Movistar Riders

Well that was incredibly pointed. As mentioned in our OWL takeaway, Blizzard has fallen flat on its face in terms of presentation. NiP’s announcement only lends more credit to the idea. If Blizzard hopes to run a successful league, they’re going about this in the wrong way. Right now CS:GO is getting more viewers, more money, and more players. More everything is good for a scene while Overwatch has quietly slipped farther in viewership.

In other news, Finnsi left the Spanish team of Movistar Riders with very little explanation. At the worst Google translation, it has something concerning discipline. Upon some digging into the Reddit threads, I was linked to this.  That is Logix talking about it at length. Personal issues are not uncommon with players in any sport and if the team suffers for that, there has to be comeuppance.

Besides NiP leaving the scene, Cyclowns disbanded hours after going down with two losses and a draw in Overwatch League. The team lasted five months. Two major players, Meowzassa, the main tank for them joined Laser Kittens in late May, and Boombox, who played Support, is on eUnited. While Meowzassa and Boombox were receiving offers, the remaining teammates did not. This reads that the five of them really wanted to stick together and play. That having been said, it leaves open the potential for the remaining players to fill some gaps in other teams immediately.

Player movement seems to be a lot more chaotic when the talent pool for a game is so vast. I still refer to the quote from my superior editor, Jared MacAdam, “a scene with more talent than teams”. The base sentiment, however, is that a league like this is in flux still. There are a lot of incredible players. The same cannot be said in terms of teams with available spots. It’s a buyers’ market and the easier a player is to get along with, the less of a problem it will be to pick them up for a team. The issue is they’re behind the eight ball to stay in line or they’ll be on the street in months. Finnsi will crop up again without a doubt and the rest of Cyclowns will likely find teams willing to pay them and give them a roster spot.

Call it luck that Cyclowns suddenly dissolves. With Finnsi gone, you can swap in anyone on Cyclowns and lose almost nothing. It is fantasy sports teams in real time with real players. There’s not even a commissioner saying you can’t do it either. In this case, Movistar played a match with former Cyclowns player Destro taking Finnsi’s spot. Is it a try out, a possible roster move?

I just wonder how this continues when Overwatch League is still mid-way through the season. At some point Blizzard has to ask themselves if starting a league when the entire scene has monumental shifts with teams forming and disbanding, players switching teams in mid-season is viable. A perceived lack of steadiness in North America and Europe and that leads to having questions about solvency for a league. Teams are questioning the game’s ability to remain within the public eye and be a pillar for their organization. One only has to look at APEX to get an idea of how a league keeps its teams and players in line, so why is Blizzard struggling? It’ll be something to watch in the future as Overwatch continues barreling forward toward an uncertain future. Especially now with a major team that influenced the meta suddenly being yanked out of contention.

More as this develops.


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