The 2022 Overwatch League is, at long last, finally here. After a 7 month offseason, fans of the league will once again be able to fill their weekends with high-octane Overwatch action. And for new viewers, the deal is even sweeter. The start of the new season is the perfect chance to get into the 2022 Overwatch League if you haven’t watched it before, or haven’t laid eyes on it since season 1. You won’t have to learn about game-defining moments on twitter, or through Youtube. You’ll be able to see them as they happen, alongside thousands of other Overwatch League fans worldwide.
But a new season doesn’t wipe away four seasons and hundreds of matches worth of history. After all, the Overwatch League is nearly five years old. Each and every one of the League’s 20 teams have had countless opportunities to forge their own mythos and identities. This makes picking a team to root for incredibly difficult, especially for 2022 Overwatch League newbies. So which team should you be rooting for? What is there to know about them? And what can you expect their performance to look like throughout the 2022 season?
The Los Angeles Gladiators
Heading into Overwatch 2, there’s a few factors that have become increasingly pertinent for teams. Firepower. Flexibility. And, most importantly, an ability to fit into unusual compositions, like double flex support. The LA Gladiators (heroes of NA and LA, and candidates to win it all) hit all these points and more.
Coming off of a strong 2021 season, the Gladiators, with a Countdown Cup title under their belt, are looking to finish in an even higher position than they did last year. For many teams, this might be a challenge. But for the Gladiators, such a feat may come with relative ease. This is a team with both ROTY and MVP caliber talent in every single position. Returning from last year, Swedish DPS Kevin “Kevster” Persson seeks to solidify himself as a top 3 DPS player in the League, as does Jin-seo “Shu” Kim, an MVP candidate and flex support who brings incredible mechanics to a sequel in which pure gamer skills will surely make the man.
But returning veterans aren’t the only things the LA Gladiators have- the team will be heading into the 2022 season with brand new rookie signings, such as Corey “Reiner” Scoda, the incredibly versatile American main tank for the former American Tornado team, which dominated Overwatch’s minor league, as well as Patiphan Chaiwong, a notable world cup champion and Valorant pro who dominated both Blizzcon and Reykjavik alike. While questions surrounding these players ability to perform at a League level still remain, they’re both incredibly flexible players who will undoubtedly bring a surge of talent to this championship roster.
Alongside these rookies, the LA Gladiators have picked up some incredible Overwatch royalty, too. 2020 champion Seongchang “ANS” Lee seeks to bounce back after a muted 2021 performance. And incredible British main support Daniel “FunnyAstro” Hathaway returns to play season-spanning top-tier Overwatch after a 2021 season spent in visa hell.
New 2022 Overwatch League fans who love diverse rosters- both in nationality and history- will adore the Los Angeles Gladiators.
The New York Excelsior
Suffering from severe “Outlaws Syndrome”, the NYXL are a team that possesses both major star power and a high chance of completely falling apart.
Consistently ranked near the bottom of 2022 Overwatch League power rankings, the New York Excelsior are a weird team. They’re a team that could dominate, or a team that could fall flat. They’re a team that could take home a trophy, or take home a league of disappointed fans. And they’re a team that could ride a dynamic winning streak, or get stuck in a quagmire of inconsistencies and failure.
But why? Well, it’s simple- for the most part, the 2022 NYXL are the 2021 Florida Mayhem 2.0. They have the same star DPS player in the form of Jun-ki “Yaki” Kim. They have the same brilliant veteran flex support player, Nam-jin “Gangnamjin” Kang. They’ve got the same head coach- ex pro player Dae-kuk “Kuki” Kim. And, for all these same players and coaches, the NYXL seem to, on paper, potentially suffer from the same problems, too.
Their main problem? A lack of flexibility. This team will live and die by meta shifts. The whole roster screams it. Their reliance on an unusual double flex support backline of Gangnamjin and Sang-min “Myungbong” Seo. Their belief in their strong but specialized DPS line of Yaki and Young-woo “Flora” Lim. And a tankline that contains a strong rookie pickup, Min-jae “Kellan” Kim, but also a single American rookie on a fully Korean team, Jack “Vulcan” McArthur.
This team is going to have monstrous highs. It is going to have pathetic lows. It’ll make its fans cheer. It’ll make its fans cry. It is going to kick an emotional rollercoaster into motion that’ll last until November. So if there’s anybody out there who’s a fan of both Overwatch and soap operas- this is your team.
The Paris Eternal
Despite heading into the second year of their all EU rebuild, the Paris Eternal still feel like scrappy rookies. Maybe it’s because the team hasn’t changed much. Or maybe it’s because they have a lot to prove. But no matter your interpretation, one thing’s for certain. The Paris Eternal are underdogs. But that doesn’t mean they can’t bite back.
Heading into the 2021 season, very few people had high hopes for the Paris Eternal. Every single member of their potent 2020 roster had been released. In their place? A team of nobodies, who had either gotten trashed in the Overwatch League or trashed in EU contenders. Red and gold littered the bottom of many fans power rankings. And throughout the early weeks of the season, it seemed as if this interpretation of their skills would be true. That is, until the Summer Showdown.
A 3-1 stage and a win against a prospering Los Angeles Gladiators allowed the Eternal to showcase their true talent, namely from Danish Flex DPS Dereli “Naga” Nicolai, French main support Arthur “Dridro” Szanto, German flex support Emir “Kaan” Kaan, and Finnish tank Ilari “Vestola” Vestola. Soon after, the Eternal would go on to beat the Dallas Fuel, an exciting victory that would sign their scrappy, half-and-half season off as a success.
This year, the Eternal will be playing from Texas. This location allows them to perform on far lower ping, and thus have potentially better performances than in 2021. This positive doesn’t outweigh the clear negatives this team will face, though. The Eternal made only one pickup this offseason: Gil-seong “Glister” Lim. Though Glister is an extremely strong player, this pickup is unlikely to come without baggage. First of all, Glister is the only Korean player on a fully EU team. And, on top of this, he’s the sixth man in a roster that only barely meets the league minimum number of players needed to compete. Though this small roster size likely has to do with Paris’s hamstrung budget more than anything else (the 2021 Paris team was notoriously poorly funded), it still greatly impacts their flexibility, and means that this team will be fighting an uphill battle in 2022.
For players that like scrappy, underdog teams made out of popsicle sticks and glue with everything against them, the Paris Eternal is the team for them.
The San Francisco Shock
The greats. Two-time champions. Elite changemakers who can play the game at the highest level. The kings of Overwatch. The team that can fight the world and win. A team of MVPs. Of role-stars. Of hall of famers and legendary talent. That’s the San Francisco Shock. Or, at least, that’s the San Francisco Shock of last year. Over the offseason, the Shock cut every single member of their legendary roster, save for their top tier Korean flex support, Minki “Viol2t” Park. Every single new member of the Shock is a rookie. Every single new member of the shock has an incredible legacy to live up to. And despite their brand new look and possible hardships, it’s entirely possible that this new team could carry the Shock’s banner into a new era of Overwatch, and prove themselves worthy of their franchise’s name.
But how could a roster nearly entirely made up of rookies perform so well? Simple- they didn’t just pick up any rookies. They picked up the best rookies on the market. They’ve smashed together two of the best minor league teams of all time- American Tornado from North America, and O2 Blast from South Korea- to make a green superteam of unparalleled potential. Of these players, three stand out. Colin “Coluge” Arai is an extremely flexible tank that has been on 9 elite minor league teams since 2018. He’s an experienced, meta defining tank superstar. He’ll be supported by Se-jinn “FiNN” Oh, O2 Blast’s reliable flex support who brought the team to victory on many an occasion. And though these two pickups are exciting, there’s a final rookie they don’t even hold a candle to. And that player is Pong-hyun “Proper” Kim.
Proper is, to put it simply, elite. He’s a hyperflex Korean DPS player who’s run rampant in the Korean minor leagues for years. He’s this year’s clear frontrunner for ROTY. Why? Simple- Proper carried LAST years rookie of the year. Even incredible talent like Se-hyun “Pelican” Oh pales in comparison to him. If Proper can keep up his form in 2021, he may not just be rookie of the year. He may go even further, and become 2022’s MVP.
Fans that love incredible rookies, legendary lineages, and the feeling of seeing something amazing through from the very start, the San Francisco Shock is the team for them.
The Toronto Defiant
For years, the Toronto Defiant have been sentenced to seemingly never ending mediocrity. They’ve never been horrible, per say. But they’ve also never been interesting. They’ve consistently brought up the middle of the pack, separating the champs from the chumps. But this year, things could be different. This year, the Defiant could be champs themselves. This year, the Defiant have built a superteam. Kind of. Sort of. Not really. You see, heading into 2022, the Defiant signed a mass of players from champion-caliber rosters. The problem being, they’ve signed arguably the least interesting players from these rosters. This puts Toronto in a very strange spot. Will this attempted superteam be the dark horse Canada needs? Or will their dull star power simply not be enough?
These important signings come from three different winning teams- the 2021 Los Angeles Gladiators, the 2020 San Francisco Shock, and the 2018/2021 Philly Fusion. Young-hun “MuZe” Kim, the main tank for the Los Angeles Gladiators in 2021, when they won their Countdown Cup trophy, was solid. The problem is, that’s all he was. He led his team to victory, but he didn’t make waves. The same could be said for the Philly Fusion’s Hong-boon “HOTBA” Choi, an off-tank player who, despite pushing the Fusion to the grand finals in 2018 and playoffs in 2021, never stood out from the rest of Philly’s roster when it comes to playstyle or skill.
The San Francisco Shock’s Joo-seok “Twilight” Lee fares far better than Hotba and Muze in this regard. Twilight is an incredibly mechanically skilled player. He allowed the Shock to excel in Ana metas (especially in 2020), and helped to bring the iconic 2019 Vancouver Titans roster to the Grand Finals with his incredible coordination and teamwork in season 2. Joined by Yoo-min “CH0R0NG” Sung, a top main support prospect and clear ROTY nominee coming out of Korea this year, Twilight will help to make up Toronto’s backline, which is incredibly solid, and arguably the best part of this team.
Prospective fans who are middle children are perfect fits for the Toronto Defiant, as are prospective Canadian fans who want to have a little light and hope left in them by the time November rolls around.
The Vancouver Titans
The Vancouver Titans are a weird team. They’re flexible. They’re stable. They’ve managed to sign some all-star, playoff proven talent during the offseason. And despite all this, the team seems muted. What would be a top team in 2020, and arguably a playoff team in 2021, seems to be slipping to the bottom of the pack in North America. And I believe that no other team stands out more as representations for how much the Overwatch League has leveled up in one offseason. Though the Titans are unlikely to repeat their 1-15 2021 season record, it’s clear that this team has lots to be desired. But what’re they missing? And when the dust of the regular season settles, how will they have performed?
Now, the Titans aren’t bad. They aren’t bad at all. In fact, there’s a lot to like about this team. No two players are from the same country, for one. With a 7 man, well distributed roster, they’re extremely versatile, for another. And finally, they’ve made some pretty substantial signings. Petja “Masaa” Kantanen, an incredible main support and an Atlanta Reign staple who brought the team to the grand finals last year, will be increasingly important as Lucio becomes more and more in vogue. Nick “False” Wiseman is an iconic American Tornado tank who has gone toe to toe with many other potential ROTY candidates. And Niclas “sHockWave” Jensen, who played for the team in 2020, had a particularly successful year on Philly in season 4, where his presence allowed the team to advance to playoffs.
So what’s bad about this team? Nothing, really. Every single thing about this is good. But that’s the problem. They’re good. They’re just not great. And in a season where AI-like mechanics and legendary skill is required to succeed, the Titans could find themselves left in the 2022 Overwatch League dust.
Prospective fans who love Italian food will adore the Vancouver Titans. Trust me, it’ll all make sense later.
The Washington Justice
Prospective fans of the Washington Justice should know two very, very important things about this team heading into the 2022 Overwatch League. First of all, the Washington Justice are the best team in the League. Second, the Washington Justice are also the worst team in the League. This team is versatile. They’re also incredibly rigid and slow to adapt. This team is chock-full of star power. They also have a weak backline full of nobodies that will only come to form in June. This team will lose half of their regular season matches. They’ll also likely make, and possibly have a strong run through, playoffs. Sure, each and every one of these statements are oxymoronic. But the Justice are an oxymoronic team. They’re fantastic. They suck. You’ll come to understand why.
To talk about why the Justice are great, it’s also vital to talk about why they’re terrible. Their superstar player, Gui-un “Decay” Jang, is arguably one of the greatest talents to ever touch the game. He’s electric. He’s a lethal DPS that will dominate every single game he touches. That is, when he touches the game. For roughly two weeks out of every year, Decay will disappear from the League. When this happens, he’s filled in for by Sung-won “Assassin” Kim, a high-octane, dynamic flex DPS who plays up to par with Decay and also routinely misses the easiest to hit ult in the game, and Jung-woo “Happy” Lee, a Houston Outlaws hitscan DPS favorite who has the potential to hit every shot and turn an entire game around when he isn’t missing every shot.
The Justice’s tankline is similar. Tae-sung “Mag” Kim is an incredibly smart main tank player. He’s a quick decision maker, and will sometimes make decisions so quickly that he’ll loop back around and begin making decisions extremely slowly. He’s joined in the 2022 Overwatch League by Shin “Kalios’ Woo-yeol, a veteran talent who simply shows up and plays- the highest level of honor you can give to a player on the Washington Justice.
The backline, meanwhile, deviates from the pack by simply being pretty bad. Gi-beom “Opener” An is a rookie main support player who played in Korean Contenders for one season, didn’t win a single match, and then began playing in Australian contenders, where he played one season and placed third. He’ll be playing alongside Young-hoon “Krillin” Jeong, whose notable achievements include being one of two notable Overwatch players named after Dragon Ball characters, playing a muted season on the London Spitfire in 2020, and having the League’s greatest hair. They’ll thankfully be joined by Jun “vigilante” Kim, a top flex support prospect and potential ROTY winner, partway through the season.
For prospective fans of the 2022 Overwatch League that love the lowest lows as much as the highest highs, adore the concept of having an in-person team store, or love that empty feeling in your stomach, the Washington Justice are the team for them.