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Overwatch League: Opening Week’s Must-See Matchups

This week’s special episode of Watchpoint previewed the 2019 Overwatch League season, giving us a taste of what to expect. Big names in the scene gave us a lot of information, and we’ll be getting even more as February 14th draws near. Most notably, the Watchpoint crew announced the first matches of the season.

Social media immediately caught fire, with old rivalries reviving and teams firing shots at each other. This bodes well for an exciting start to the season, but there’s a lot of Overwatch to check out. Here is the list narrowed down to the top two matches for each day. If you can’t watch everything that the Overwatch League has to offer in its opening week, make sure you check out these matchups.

February 14: The Finals Rematch and the Grudge Match

The Overwatch League certainly knows how to take advantage of rivalries. The 2019 season kicks off with a match between the Philadelphia Fusion and the London Spitfire, who last faced each other in the Grand Finals. The Fusion will hit the stage hungry to prove themselves; despite losing 3-2 in their recent showmatch against the New York Excelsior, they still appear organized and focused as a team. The beginning of the season gives them the opportunity to prove that they still belong among the League’s top contenders. The Spitfire, meanwhile, have the opportunity to defend their title as Overwatch League champions. Despite some significant roster changes, the team still has most of its Grand Finals core. Early power rankings have high expectations for London, and their match against the Fusion marks the first time they can meet those expectations.

Later in the day, the Los Angeles Gladiators take on the Seoul Dynasty. Main tank player Chan-Hyung “Fissure” Baek makes his debut with Dynasty against his former team, and fans of both teams are buzzing over the matchup. The Gladiators quickly threw down the gauntlet with a sly jab at the situation.

The matchup has potential to become a potent rivalry for the season, especially if the score ends up close. This first match also gives both the Dynasty and the Gladiators a chance to show off their significant roster changes beyond Fissure’s transfer. In particular, Los Angeles’ new main tank Chang-hoon “rOar” Gye gets the chance to prove that he can fill the shoes Fissure left behind. All in all, both teams take the stage with something to prove, and that’s bound to show.

February 15: The Old, the New, and the Reformed

Four of the League’s eight new teams debut on the second day of matches. The Toronto Defiant kick off the day, taking on the Houston Outlaws. In this case, the Defiant faces off against one of the more unchanged rosters in the League. The Outlaws dropped three players that spent little time on stage and picked up one player in return, meaning that their starting roster will likely look very similar to the way it did in season one. In this matchup, the Outlaws have the chance to demonstrate that they kept their roster for a reason, while the Defiant can prove that they can stand up to a team that already knows the ropes.

Later in the day, the Atlanta Reign debut against the Florida Mayhem. Unlike the Toronto-Houston match, this expansion team takes on an existing team that has radically changed during the off-season. The Mayhem gutted their season one roster, keeping only Jeong-Woo “Sayaplayer” Ha, Kevin “TviQ” Lindström, and Sung-Hoon “aWesomeGuy” Kim from the original lineup. Their match against Atlanta gives them their first opportunity to show off their new roster and to change expectations that they’ll fall flat again this season. The Reign take the stage with similarly high stakes, as the match marks their first chance to prove themselves in the Overwatch League. If the team’s received the same training as their academy team, they’re in good hands.

February 16: The Friendship Match (?) and the Contenders Showdown

Shortly after Watchpoint announced the opening week schedule, teams took to Twitter for some quality banter with their first opponents. In the midst of it all, the Hangzhou Spark let their Saturday opponents, the Los Angeles Valiant, know that they still have plenty of love for them. The Valiant responded in kind.

In a season shaping up to be ripe with rivalries, the affection between the two teams is both surprising and refreshing. The Valiant faces the Spark for their first match of the season, while the Spark debuts on opening day in a match against the Shanghai Dragons. We’ll see if this blossoming love affair lasts through the season, but for now, we can enjoy the polar opposite of a grudge match.

With that bit of wholesomeness out of the way, the Vancouver Titans finish out the day with their Overwatch League debut against the Shanghai Dragons. Inadvertently, the League’s set up a second finals rematch – the Titans, made up of the RunAway roster, takes on the Dragons, made up largely of the season two roster for Team KongDoo Panthera. RunAway and KongDoo Panthera faced off in the season two finals of Contenders Korea, where RunAway took a 4-3 victory. The chance to settle that score, combined with the desire to prove that they have a better performance in them, will no doubt fuel the Dragons in this match.

February 17: Fresh Faces and New Jerseys

All of the teams playing on Sunday will have played already by then, so we’ll have a better idea of what we’re dealing with by these last matches of the week. With that said, a lot of Sunday’s excitement stems not just from the teams, but from individual players. When the San Francisco Shock take on the Los Angeles Gladiators, Dong-jun “Rascal” Kim will join them, marking his return to the stage after an unceremonious departure from the Overwatch League during season one. Rascal has the chance to flex his muscles against the Gladiators and show just how much he’s improved since the last time we saw him, and with the rest of the Shock at his back, he’s sure to take advantage of the opportunity.

Similarly, Won-sik “Closer” Jung makes his debut on the Dallas Fuel during opening week, and the match against the Seoul Dynasty gives us the chance to see what that means. Closer played on the London Spitfire in their championship run, making him a huge pickup for the Fuel. He combines with Jonathan “HarryHook” Tejedor Rua and Benjamin “uNKOE” Chevasson to create a powerful backline, and the Fuel have the chance to show that off in full when they take on the Dynasty.

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Featured image courtesy of Bryan Bedder/Getty Images for Blizzard Entertainment. 

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