As the year comes to an end, Overwatch League fans are starting to look towards season two. February is just around the corner, and between official jersey reveals and road game preparations, teams and fans alike are ready to get back into the action.
Naturally, the bulk of the preseason conversation surrounds the new expansion teams. The Vancouver Titans’ powerhouse roster and the resurfacing of Season One talent on the Paris Eternal and Toronto Defiant attracted plenty of attention. Meanwhile, Overwatch League fans in Washington and Atlanta are especially excited to be represented. However, season one teams have been making moves, and many of their changes have largely flown under the radar with all the other excitement.
Here are some returning teams with the potential to surprise the league when they hit the stage. Whether they’ve made some notable roster changes or simply built on last season’s synergy, these teams have put in work over the past few months, even if they’ve been a bit quieter about it.
The Dynasty had a distinctly average showing last season, falling just short of stage playoffs twice before plummeting in the rankings. Many early power rankings for the season expected the team to impress, and their failure to perform left fans more interested in better-faring Korean squads on the London Spitfire and New York Excelsior.
Seoul began improving their lineup almost immediately after the season ended. A little over a month after their playoffs run, the Los Angeles Gladiators finalized the transfer of Chan-hyung “Fissure” Baek to the Dynasty. Picking up one of the league’s most talented main tanks is a massive move for Seoul. Fissure himself seems happy to be there, which will hopefully eliminate synergy problems like he had with the Gladiators.
Though Fissure is definitely Seoul’s most notable pickup, he’s not the only exciting new talent. Min-hyuk “Michelle” Choi and Min-seo “Marve1” Hwang both made names for themselves on Lucky Future Zenith, which dominated two seasons of Chinese Contenders. These powerful new additions surround a solid core of returning players, including Je-hong “ryujehong” Ryu and Byung-sun “Fleta” Kim. Seoul has done well bolstering the best of their season one roster with some fresh faces, and soon we’ll see if their work has paid off.
With the Shanghai Dragons’ 0-40 record and subsequent rebuilding, many fans have overlooked a similar narrative unfolding in Florida. After finishing the season with an unfortunate 7-33 record, Florida gutted their team, leaving only Kevyn “TviQ” Lindström, Jeong-woo “Sayaplayer” Ha, and Sung-hoon “SNT” Kim (formerly known as “aWesomeGuy”). The team has since filled its roster with new talent from a variety of sources. Off-tank Jae-mo “xepheR” Koo last played for the Seoul Dynasty, while support players Hyeon-Woo “HaGoPeun” Jo and Jun-soo “Kris” Choi were brought in from Mayhem Academy and Meta Athena, respectively.
Where fans largely met Shanghai’s overhaul with enthusiasm, the reaction to Mayhem 2.0 has been more lukewarm. This might simply be related to unfamiliarity with the new faces, coupled with lingering questions regarding the release of Andreas “Logix” Berghmans and the re-signing of Tim “Manneten” Bylund to Florida’s academy team. Alternately, fans may be excited about the possibility of Shanghai finally breaking their losing streak – Florida may not have performed well last season, but at least they won something. Whatever the reason, a very different Mayhem will take the stage in February, and the possibility of redemption makes them a team to keep an eye on.
New York Excelsior
The New York Excelsior may seem out of place on this list, with how few changes they made this season. Only Jun-hwa “Janus” Song left the squad, while Yeon-oh “Fl0w3r” Hwang and Yeon-kwan “Nenne” Jeong came up from XL2 Academy. Early power rankings nearly unanimously rank the Excelsior among the top of the pack. Why wouldn’t they? This is the same team that powered through season one, breezing into stage playoffs over and over, and headed into season playoffs as the clear favorite to take home the championship.
It’s also the same team that got firmly booted out of playoffs by the Philadelphia Fusion.
Even after such a commanding season, the loss remains a defining moment for NYXL. Keeping in mind that the Fusion have also barely adjusted their roster for season two, the question surrounding the Excelsior now is whether they’ve learned from their playoffs run. They have the benefit of established synergy on their side; while roster upheavals through the league undoubtedly have teams learning to mesh, NYXL can continue building on the relationships they created last season. Fl0w3r and Nenne are powerful additions, as well, and Fl0w3r’s versatility in particular will prove useful when the meta changes. Undoubtedly, the team is working hard in the offseason, but as with many established teams before them, they run the risk of becoming complacent. This season gives the Excelsior the opportunity to prove that they’ve kept working hard, and that they won’t allow what happened at playoffs to happen again.
San Francisco Shock
The Shock finished season one with a consistently middle-of-the-road performance, going 17-23 overall. Their underwhelming performance, combined with few roster changes, has generally resulted in the team going unnoticed during the offseason. They did turn heads, however, during the California Cup, where they pulled off a 3-0 victory over the Los Angeles Valiant in Oakland. Though it might be easy to brush this victory off as a simple showmatch, a commanding win over a team as consistently successful as the Valiant bodes well for the Shock’s future. San Francisco may not have altered their roster much, but the changes they have made hint at their plan for the future.
Some teams have picked up more players during the offseason, but few seem as committed to collecting DPS specialists as the Shock. The team currently boasts five DPS players, including new arrivals Dong-jun “Rascal” Kim and Nam-joo “Striker” Kwon. At first glance, this doesn’t seem to matter much, considering the continued dominance of the GOATS meta. However, it’s likely that the meta will look entirely different by February. San Francisco’s DPS-heavy roster, backed up by talented tank and support players such as Matthew “super” DeLisi and Grant “moth” Espe, allows for flexibility that other teams lack going into the new season. With such a broad hero pool among them, the San Francisco Shock could prove a team that’s ready for anything.
Big personalities and an enthusiastic fan base unfortunately couldn’t save the Fuel from ranking tenth overall in the league, going 12-28 for the season. Despite this, the team retained most of its original roster for Season Two; they only released one player, Sebastian “chipshajen” Widlund, while Christian “cocco” Jonsson moved to a coaching role and Brandon “Seagull” Larned retired. On the flip side, Dallas has made three major pickups during the offseason. Support player Won-sik “Closer” Jung joins the Fuel after a season with the London Spitfire, while off-tank Richard ‘rCk’ Kanerva made a name for himself on Team Gigantti and Zachary “ZachaREEE” Lombardo is best known for his time with Fusion University.
— Dallas Fuel (@DallasFuel) December 3, 2018
The combination of existing teamwork and powerful pickups could prove a turning point for Dallas this season. Closer is a welcome addition to an already potent support line, while rCk and ZachaREEE expand the team’s hero pool further. Additionally, Dallas now has a powerhouse of a coaching staff, led by Aaron “Aero” Atkins and Justin “Jayne” Conroy. Combining the on-stage talent with Aero and Jayne’s expertise can only be a good omen for the Fuel’s future, and the team will soon be able to demonstrate as much.
The Overwatch League returns on February 14, 2019. The teams described here will have a chance to show off the effort they’ve put in during the offseason. In a season that’s shaping up to be vastly different from Season One, it’s as important as ever for teams to prove themselves again.
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Featured image courtesy of Robert Paul for Blizzard Entertainment.
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