We’re just a few weeks away from kicking off the new Overwatch League Season. We’re also just a couple weeks into the new year, and with that comes the “new year, new me” promises. Following these well known words, many teams are going to try and re-write their history and strive for better results than previously acquired.
The Houston Outlaws finished last year in 7th place overall, which meant a middle-of-the-pack placement; they also managed to get into the Stage 1 playoffs, but lost against a very dominant London Spitfire, who eventually won the season championship. This year, 20 teams are going to go against each other for the right to be called champions and take the title from the Spitfire’s wings.
The Outlaws will be facing a very tough crowd, but every game will be a step towards the season playoffs. Every game will matter as teams are playing only 27, compared to last year’s 40. So we’re going to take a look at Houston’s Stage 1, the first step towards becoming champions.
Week 1 – Toronto Defiant
The first and probably most important game of the season when it comes to setting expectations. Houston will be going against the newcomers, the Toronto Defiant, in what will also be the Defiant’s most important game.
The team, even though new, will be no easy challenge for anyone. Some familiar faces will be coming back, like former LA Gladiators DPS, Joon-seong “Asher” Choi, former Boston Uprising support, Se-hyeon “Neko” Park and former LA Valiant flex tank, Kang-jae “envy” Lee.
We also have to keep in mind that Beom-joon “Bishop” Lee, the team’s coach and London Spitfire’s former coach for Stage 1 and part of Stage 2, was the one Houston was up against when they played in Stage 1 playoffs. He might have some insight into how the roster plays. This could help in preparation.
Week 1 – Boston Uprising
The only team that managed to achieve an undefeated stage will be one of the rivals Houston faces on their first week. The Boston Uprising, even though they hold that record, have had a pretty bumpy offseason and some really big changes happened within.
There were big controversial changes like Nam-Ju “Striker” Gwon being transferred to the San Francisco Shock; or, on the contrary, big eye-opening signings happening with Renan “Alemao” Moretto.
What does this mean for the Boston Uprising though? If we’re talking about team synergy, Houston has the upper hand, without a doubt. Their roster did have some very strong additions which could even make a whole year of team synergy feel like little advantage. The Toronto Esports tank duo, Cameron “Fusions” Bosworth and Min-Seob “Axxiom” Park, and Alemao working with Kristian “Kellex” Keller, could be something out of anyone’s nightmares. Even though the Striker transfer has many people doubting what the DPS department will be able to deliver, it is something that only time will tell.
Week 2 – Hangzhou Spark
The team that made everyone lose their minds on social media on reveal. The Hangzhou Spark will be in the group that faces Houston in the first stage. The pink and light blue will face the green and black on the second week of Stage 1.
This is a team that is really hard to predict. They have a lot of potential between their players, but their two main stars have a problem, the language barrier.
We suspect that this is something that is going to be visible for the first few weeks or stages. Their two star players and World Cup 2018’s Team China crowd favourites, main tank Qiulin “Guxue” Xu and DPS Shilong “Krystal” Cai, are being placed in the middle of an all Korean roster. We do believe that if this isn’t a problem, this team can bring a lot to the table. If this problem is something that needs work, it could be a slower start for the new squad.
Week 2 – New York Excelsior
The biggest and scariest team of the Overwatch League is facing off against the Outlaws as their final fight of Week 2. And as part of the Atlantic Division, they’ll have to face off twice too, which is something not many teams want.
NYXL looked very strong during last season, but they’re looking even stronger for this one. Their only changes to the lineup come from the additions of Yeon-Oh “Fl0w3R” Hwang and Yeon-Kwan “Nenne” Jeong. These players, even though very good, make their place on the team as the fourth and fifth DPS.
The rest of the lineup they’ve kept the same. Team synergy will be at an all time high too, because their roster additions were previously members of Overwatch Apex team LW Blue, where they played with most of the current New York team.
People are saying that this is going to be New York Excelsior’s chance of winning it all. Will it be only a dream, or will their championship become a reality?
Week 3 – Florida Mayhem
The team from the Sunshine State will be Houston’s only challenge during week 3.
Out of this roster, nothing is really clear. They went through a complete roster overhaul during the offseason. Only three players from the original team managed to keep their place within the ranks; these were Sung-hoon “aWsomeGuy” Kim, Jeong-woo “Sayaplayer” Ha and Kevyn “TviQ” Lindström.
It has previously been discussed, and no one really has an answer, as to what is going to be TviQ’s role within the team. After the Korean overhaul, with the exception of Damon “Apply” Conti who is on a two-way contract, it is believed that they are keeping him with the hopes of transferring him to another team in the future. He could have been signed in a two-way contract for the time being as he is a player that will want to have play time. People are still placing the Mayhem at the bottom of the leaderboards, and it’s honestly not very hard to see why.
Week 4 – Los Angeles Valiant
The Los Angeles Valiant will be facing off against the Houston Outlaws as their sole opposition in Week 4.
Doubt has surrounded the fans of this team due to some of the changes that happened. The first of these changes was the transfer of DPS Terence “Soon” Tarlier to the Paris Eternal. Despite this, most of the fans have the confidence that the Valiant will be able to maintain their top spot on the leaderboards.
Some of their very good players, who previously weren’t able to play much due to team decisions on starting lineups, like Min-chul “Izayaki” Kim and Kyle “KSF” Frandanisa, will be having more stage time this season. Their roster already was something any team should fear, and even though they released a big portion of their players, they still can’t be taken lightly.
Week 5 – Atlanta Reign
Finally, as a closing game for the stage before the playoffs kick off, the Atlanta Reign will try to score the last few possible points on week 5.
The new boys in town will be a challenge as well, and this deep into the season they’re going to have each other’s play styles figured out as well. With players like Daniel “dafran” Francesca, Park “Pokpo” Hyun-jun and Steven “Kodak” Rosenberger, this cannot be considered an easy match.
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