If there was one lesson taught by the first season of the Overwatch League, it was that predictions are a fool’s errand. Look at the Dallas Fuel and Seoul Dynasty – two teams that were pegged as frontrunners coming into 2018, both struggled mightily and failed to live up to lofty expectations.
On the other hand, the Boston Uprising were supposed to be bottom of the barrel. Absolutely no one would have predicted them to post the league’s first undefeated stage. OWL is still young, and with eight new teams joining for 2019, nothing is certain. With that in mind, here are ten predictions that are 100% guaranteed to happen this season.
1. NYXL Will Not Finish with the League’s Best Record
In 2018, NYXL stood head and shoulders above the competition. They finished with seven wins more than any other team and more than doubled the map differential of the Valiant. A shaky end to the season and an unceremonious playoff exit do not diminish their accomplishment over 40 games.
Now, however, the league is better positioned than ever to contest the Excelsior. New challengers await them in the Hangzhou Spark and Vancouver Titans. Their toughest foes from last season – the London Spitfire and Philadelphia Fusion – are returning with their inconsistency issues, hopefully, solved. Teams like the San Francisco Shock and Dallas Fuel have leveled up considerably.
New York will inevitably have a massive target on their backs, and every team will give their best shot to take down the favorites. As New York manages a tricky DPS rotation, they will need to be at the top of their game to avoid slipping up in 2019.
2. Stage 1 Will See a New Champion
Last season, three teams – NYXL, the London Spitfire, and the LA Valiant – claimed stage trophies. The Spitfire and Excelsior are expected to once again set the pace early in 2019. The league, however, will be a chaotic place to start the season, and that creates an opportunity for someone to sneak in a surprising victory.
No one can say exactly what the meta will be in Stage 1, though it will likely be heavy on GOATs compositions. Furthermore, it is impossible to predict how teams will fare in that meta. Combine that with an expanded stage playoff pool – up to eight teams from four during most of Season 1 – and it creates a volatile cocktail. It would be very easy for a team like the Fusion, Gladiators, or Shock to pull off the upset.
3. Dafran Will Play the Whole Season
Daniel “dafran” Francesca is undeniably one of the most mechanically skilled players in the world. That has never been the issue with him. His problems are almost always self-created. He spent six months dominating the NA Overwatch scene before flaming out spectacularly.
Now he’s back, but the questions remain about his mental state and his ability to hold it together for a full season. The difference here is that he will benefit from the support structure of an Overwatch League team. He will be surrounded by the best competition in the world, which should bring out the best in Dafran. He has also taken a small step back from streaming and seems to be in a good mindset going into the season.
My bad my dudes, way too hard to stream on a schedule and play pro.. Just gonna stream whenever I can
— dafran (@dafran) February 5, 2019
4. The Outlaws’ Improvements Will be Enough to Make Playoffs
Analysts across the league are down on the Outlaws. They didn’t make splashy changes, instead opting to hold onto the core from last year and betting on internal improvement. They will need their support line, in particular, to level up if they want to rise in the standings.
Still, this team has as much continuity as any team in the league. They only have to integrate a single newcomer – Dante “Danteh” Cruz – into their roster. The value of that carried over synergy is impossible to quantify, but it should give Houston the juice it needs to start the season strong. With a shortened season, that should be enough to sneak into the top twelve and potentially the final eight.
5. The Dallas Fuel Miss Out on Playoffs
Dallas had a shaky first season right up until Stage 4. Then Aaron “Aero” Atkins took the reins as head coach and the team finally lived up to lofty preseason expectations. Fans of the Fuel are expecting that success to beget more success in 2019, but that might not be the case.
One stage does not mean the Fuel’s fundamental problems are gone. Their Stage 4 run was powered in large part by Brandon “Seagull” Lanard’s stellar D.Va play and Pongphop “Mickie” Rattanasangchod being ahead of the curve on Brigitte. Seagull is gone and the rest of the Overwatch world has caught up on Brig. This team still has issues on the DPS side of things that could be their undoing.
6. Chengdu Will Not be the Worst Team in the League
0-40. That is the track record of Chinese teams in the Overwatch League. After Shanghai’s disastrous first season, the three Chinese expansion teams are carrying an albatross around their necks. Chengdu especially is taking up the mantle of the region as a whole – they are the only team nearly composed of only Chinese players.
There will certainly be immense pressure on this team to represent China, but they should be up to the task. At the very least, they will not be what Shanghai was last year. There is too much talent on this team for them to fall into that same slump. That is not to say they will contend or even make playoffs, but they will not be a laughingstock.
7. An Expansion Team Will Win a Stage Championship
The expectations are low for most of the newcomers in 2019. Zero of these teams cracked the top 5 in The Game Haus’ preseason rankings. There are, however, a few expansion teams that have the talent to make some noise in 2019.
The Vancouver Titans and Hangzhou Spark are the two best candidates. Vancouver enters the season with a veteran roster that could contend right away. Hangzhou is more likely to peak later in the season once players like Xu “Guxue” Qiulin and Cai “Krystal” Shilong are fully integrated into the team.
Both teams have the talent to compete with the best in the league, but they aren’t the only expansion teams with that kind of ceiling. The Toronto Defiant and Atlanta Reign have both assembled rosters that could peak high enough to claim a stage title. All it takes is a single great weekend, and the hierarchy of the league can be upended.
8. Architect Will Win MVP
San Francisco spent much of the 2018 season waiting for their full team to be unlocked. Their tumultuous season had a few bright spots though, Architect chief among them. He was a revelation last year, even on an underachieving squad. He was a huge part of their improvement in the last two stages, and now he is poised for a breakout 2019.
Architect’s hero pool rivals any player in the league – he played nearly every relevant DPS Hero at some point last year. He was known as a projectile player with a sick Genji, but over the course of the year, he developed one of the best Widowmakers on the planet. Now that his team has caught up to his level, he will have the chance to shine even more in 2019.
9. There Will Be at Least Two Perfect Stages
Last year only Boston was able to pull off the feat. During their magical stage 3 run, everything came together for the Uprising as they took the league by storm. What was a remarkable achievement in 2018 could become a relatively common occurrence in 2019.
With the change to a 28 game season, there are now three fewer opportunities per stage for the best teams to falter. Add in a more imbalanced schedule, and teams could find themselves with a much easier path to perfection.
10. The Spitfire Will Repeat as Champions
London last season was a team that peaked higher than anyone else in the league, NYXL included. It was true in the Stage 1 Finals, and in the season playoffs. After losing their first match of the postseason to the LA Gladiators, London found another gear that made them the best team in the league. When they are popping off, they can field a top three player at every position.
That has not changed in the off-season. London returns their championship roster, and none of their competition has improved enough to match their potential. They were plagued by inconsistency in Season 1 until they settled on the ideal roster construction. That will not be an issue in 2019. For that reason, they should be the favorites.
Featured image courtesy of the Overwatch League.
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