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NA Contenders Preview: So Many Changes!

If you thought my EU Contenders preview had a lot of action, you’ll be blown away by all the news NA is bringing to bear for this season of Contenders. New Academy teams are popping up, old Academy teams are sort-of imploding, but not really, and rosters are shuffling like a deck of cards at an LMFAO concert. That means lots of news! I’ve condensed it all here, and will update as more rosters lock in. Read on.


ATL Academy


Tank: Blake “Gator” Scott, Xander “Hawk” Domecq (former Phase 2)
DPS: Kamden “Sugarfree” Hijada, Garrett “Saucy” Roland (former Second Wind)
Support: Alex “Ajax” Jackson, Dusttin “Dogman Bowerman

This roster might look familiar to you if you’ve followed a little team called Last Night’s Leftovers. The core of this squad is formed from the ashes of NA’s favorite underdogs, and like their OWL mascot, this team is ready to rise from those ashes.

Gator is under a 2-way contract with the Reign, but will most likely play at the academy level more with Hyn-jun “Pokpo” Park leading the charge in Atlanta. Hawk has become one of the brightest stars in this new generation of Overwatch players, and his performance on a variety of teams make it easy to see how he ended up here. Also, his D.Va bombs are huge.  

At DPS, Sugarfree will continue his reign of terror over the T2 scene – seriously, this kid is ridiculous, and he’s turning 14 in a month. Yes, really. If you haven’t seen him do his thing, you’d better start. He’ll be OWL’s biggest star in 2023.

Joining him is Saucy, a player who’s worked his way up the path to pro to a well deserved spot on ATL Academy. He’s flexible, he’s mechanically skilled, he follows me on Twitter… he’s basically the perfect player. The Overwatch League needs more like him.

Speaking of OWL-ready players, ATL’s support duo are a seasoned pair, and will definitely be contenders for the mid-season signing window next year. Ajax has been around since the dinosaurs, and Dogman is so good that he has teams with his name and branding on them. (The Dogmen are pretty entertaining Open Division squads, while we’re mentioning them – keep an eye out, OD starts up again soon.) These two players will hopefully provide the poise and experience this team needs to keep things running smoothly. I like what I see so far.



First Generation

I’ve covered First Gen’s new(ish) roster pretty well already, so I won’t repeat myself too much. Suffice to say, I like this roster a lot, and they have solid players in each role – which is generally what you want when putting together a successful Overwatch team. High-level analysis, I know. You’re welcome.



Fusion University


Tank: Chang-sik “ChangSik” Moon (former Kongdoo Panthera), Se-won “BERNAR” Shin
DPS: Ho-sung “Na1st” Lee, (former Meta Bellum,) Zachary “ZachaREEE” Lombardo, Simon “snillo” Ekström
Support: Kyung-ho “Alarm” Kim, Elijah “Elk” Gallagher

The two-time Contenders champs will do their best to hold onto their winning momentum this season, and it sure looks like they have the tools to do it. Sure, they’ve lost Adam “Beasthalo” Denton (who’s reportedly joined the Chengdu Hunters) and Seung-jun “WhoRU” Lee (who’s reportedly joined Gen.G, the Seoul Dynasty academy team,) but they’ve replaced them with some equally good pieces. ChangSik can, well, do this, and Na1st is no slouch either. Put those pieces together with Elk and Alarm in the back, BERNAR helping out up front, and ya boi ZachaREEE doin’ his thing, and you’ve got quite the team.

That’s not even mentioning Snillo, who joins FU as a two-way player this season. What a move. Snillo was one of the most dominant Tracers of Season 1 (don’t @ me), and he’ll be able to stay warmed up and ready for the Fusion by playing more actively in Contenders. When Tracer inevitably resumes her reign of dominance and terror over the Overwatch League once more, Snillo will be ready. His opponents will not be.



Gladiators Legion

Roster Changes

DPS: Blase–> BOS, Corey released (rumored to DC), Dalton signed (ex-TO), Far signed (former Phase 2)

This roster, this roster. I’m a little disappointed that more of these players weren’t noticed by OWL squads (Panker seemed a sure thing, and Pookz is one of my favorite old names in this region.)

The DPS corps got its due, though, and blase and Corey are both on their way to bigger and better things. In their place sit Dalton (one of the scariest hitscan mains out there) and Far (who’s turned his performance in a Jayne Widowmaker tournament into serious T2 potential.) This will be an interesting roster, but I’m curious to see if they can step up from their fourth-place finish. The competition in this region is stiff, so let’s hope the Legion is ready.




Roster Changes

Tank: Pika signed
DPS: itsOnyx signed as a substitute

Kungarna, historically, has been an… interesting org. They’ve turned out OWL stars like BABYBAY, Bischu and iRemiix, but have also been responsible for some of the most spectacular flubs and misplays in Contenders history. We’ll see more of at least one of those things this season. Potentially both.v

Formed from the core of Phase 2, a solid Open Division roster with a lot to prove, Kungarna enters Contenders as a bit of an underdog. I don’t think that’s necessarily deserved, but hey, people like underdogs, right?

Keep an eye on Wub, Mohr, and Duplicate, which are some of Kungarna’s oldest names at this point. Mohr is a personal favorite of mine – in a meta designed to make life miserable for Ana players, he’s managed to sleep dozens of rampaging Doomfists before they can tear his face off. There will be plenty of those waiting for him in Contenders…



Mayhem Academy

Roster Changes

Tank: crems–> We Have Org, Alined released, FCTFCTN (former Outlaws) and Manneten (former Mayhem) signed
Support: HaGoPeun–> Mayhem, Epzz (former Orgless and Hungry) signed

After a middle-of-the-pack finish last season, Mayhem Academy have added a little more star power to their roster -signing former Outlaws main tank FCTFCTN and former Mayhem flex tank Manneten. Both had some great moments, but also struggled on the big stage. It remains to be seen if they can turn that around in Contenders, but I’m fairly confident. They have a great team behind them – Shax and Apply are scary together, and Epzz joins from Orgless and Hungry as one of its strongest performers. Put ’em all together, and you have a potential towards-the-top finisher.




Roster Changes

Tank: Swon–> Mayhem, Stand1 signed
DPS: Rascal–> Shock, Stratus released, kevster (former Orgless and Hungry) signed, Ezire (former Second Wind) signed
Support: robdab–> First Generation, Fahzix released (rumored to DC,) Byrem and HelloImHalo signed

You won’t recognize this new NRG roster unless you watched them play in the BEAT Invitational, and if you did tune in to watch this team, you probably wish you didn’t. A dead-last finish in a fairly informal tournament isn’t the end of the world, but it sure made people wonder how well this team will be able to do in Contenders (especially considering all their opponents in BEAT are now set to play against them in the coming weeks.)

I’m fairly sure that that NRG is not the NRG we’ll see in Contenders. They’ve had some time to come together as a unit – the new roster had just been announced when BEAT started – and the team will be playing together in a team house on decent ping. The benefits of the academy system at work. Keep an eye on these guys, for better or for worse.



Second Wind

Roster Changes

Tank: Coluge (former GOATS) signed, Janitor released
DPS: Ezire–> NRG, Saucy–> ATL Academy, MirroR (former BP/One.PoinT) signed, Tsunerella (RinaVX, former GGEA) signed

After being relegated, Second Wind started from scratch and kept pushing on, becoming one of the strongest up-and-coming teams in NA.Their Trials run was spectacular, but since then they’ve lost two of their strongest – Ezire and Saucy. MirroR and Rina have big shoes to fill, but I think they can do it – their support staff is strong, and the team has consistent talent to back up their… confident art style. A personal favorite of mine this season.




Roster Changes

Please don’t make me write them all…

The Skyfoxes have become a bit of a meme lately, but there’s a method to their madness. Their combined 28 players and staff might seem gluttonously excessive, but Head Coach Marcus “Bosco” Crusan assured fans that these were just “Contenders-proofing” measures. It’s well known that players and coaches are often snatched away by bigger rosters – often when you need them most. Why not have a few dozen waiting in the wings to pick up the slack?

I won’t comment on the extensive staff listing – we’ve yet to see if it becomes helpful, or a massive hindrance – but I will say the roster expansion seems pretty smart. Not to mention, all the players the Foxes grabbed are huge. Kalios from the Boston Uprising, iRemiix from the Gladiators, Verbo from the Valiant, zombs from the Shock(‘s reveal video)… the list, quite literally, goes on and on. I’ve always thought this roster has been worth watching, and they’ve turned that up by a factor of 28. Wait, 29. No, 30…



Team Envy

Roster Changes

Tank: iShiny released, Trill (Team Australia) signed
DPS: Buds released, Talespin–> coaching position, fischer (former GGEA), Jaru (former Skyfoxes/EnVision) and SharP (former GGEA) signed

Now these are some changes. EnVyUs has always been an org willing to take risks and mix things up, and they’re holding true to that philosophy here in Contenders. They’re the first NA team (besides the Boston Uprising) to sign an Australian player, and boy did they pick a good one. Trill was a madman at BlizzCon, and kept things close against South Korea, even when he and Team Australia had no real right to. His Wrecking Ball is particularly impressive – a claim few tanks can make right now.

He’s joined by fischer and SharP, pulled from the wreckage of GGEA, and a familiar face to many on this roster. Jaru was on EnVision eSports with McGravy, Fire and Crimzo, but missed his connection when the team was acquired by EnVyUs last season. Now he’s back, and I’m sure he’s more than ready to get down to business with (some of) his former squad.



 “Toronto Esports”


Tank: Cameron “Fusions” Bosworth, Hasan “crakinlakin” Alfardi
DPS: Charlie “nero” Zwarg, William “Asking” Vetter
Support: Jin-seo “Shu” Kim, Gabriel “Swimmer” Levy, Hunter “Dino” Traupe

I’ve talked a lot about Toronto Esports lately, so I’ll keep this one short. While their acting title is now “Boston Academy” until we get a real name, the team itself is unchanged after the branding implosion of early November. Well, mostly unchanged. Fusions’s addition (after Axxiom was moved up to the Uprising roster) is a huge boon for BA, if his World Cup performance is anything to go off of. This team won’t miss a step this season, and that means we’re in for some good Overwatch.




Roster Changes

DPS: Nenne and Fl0w3r–> NYXL, Logix (ex-Mayhem) signed
Support: Adam–> Coach, Jer (ex-Skyfoxes) signed

Small changes for XL2, but impactful ones all the same. Jer has been around since the Overwatch Open in 2016, and Logix was insane in Florida. I’m really not sure why he was dropped, even, but hey. I don’t make those decisions.

Mayhem’s loss is XL2’s gain, though, and I have no doubt that they’ll make quick and efficient use of Logix’s talents when he touches down at XL2 HQ – if he hasn’t already. Whenever he gets there, he’ll have a great coach behind him – namely Adam, a newly minted XL2 alum and all-time North American great. Let’s hope they can avoid being swept by Fusion Uni in the Grand Finals this time.



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Featured Image Courtesy of Blizzard Entertainment

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