2019 is just around the corner. This, of course, means that OWL Season 2 isn’t far behind. S2 has eight new teams that will attempt to knock the original twelve down a peg or two. This will most likely be easier said than done. Expansion teams tend to have growing pains in every sport, although it remains to be seen if OWL follows that general rule. And the Las Vegas Golden Knights (NHL) have proven that this pattern can be broken. Some expansion teams definitely have a better chance of making a splash. This ranking will attempt to determine which ones can challenge for the top spot and which ones still have some work to do.
#1: Vancouver Titans
This squad honestly needs no introduction. Runaway is one of the most iconic teams in the history of professional Overwatch. They even took home the Korean Contenders championship in season 2. It was common sense that they were going to get picked up by someone. One could argue that a lack of OWL experience on the team could bring them down, but Korean Contenders isn’t exactly a cakewalk. Besides, there is absolutely no denying the sheer amount of talent that this roster has. Where they stack up against the rest of the league remains to be seen, as OWL is obviously a level above Contenders. This doesn’t change the fact that Vancouver looks incredibly fearsome when compared to the other expansion teams, and could be one of the few that can compete from the start.
#2: Paris Eternal
The EU super team that is the Paris Eternal has one huge advantage over most other expansion teams: player experience. Most expansion teams may have 1 player who played in OWL Season 1. A few have no OWL S1 players at all. The Eternal come in brandishing 3 players who played in the inaugural season, Terence “Soon” Tarlier, George “Shadowburn” Gushcha and Finnbjörn “Finnsi” Jónasson, and good ones at that. Experience has proven to be important time and time again, and Paris has the most OWL experience of any expansion team.
The team has a lot of talent on it as well, sporting several players who represented their countries in the World Cup. They also acquired many seasoned Contenders EU veterans. They may not have the storied history of Runaway, and some of the players have fallen off a bit in recent times, but this is a very solid team that looks like they could compete with the rest of the league come February.
#3: Hangzhou Spark
Hangzhou has what is probably the greatest uniform in the history of esports, but this alone doesn’t take them to the upper half of this list. The headliner for the Pink n’ Blue is definitely Xu “guxue“ Qiulin. The main tank player garnered mass attention after his excellent performance at the 2018 World Cup, where he led China to a second place finish behind powerhouse South Korea.
Speaking of South Korea, the Spark dipped into the Korean Contenders player pool to help round out their roster. They came away from the talent buffet with large parts of X6-Gaming and Team Seven. Having a top tier Main Tank player is extremely important for any team, and there aren’t any super obvious holes in the rest of the roster either.
#4: Guangzhou Charge
Rounding out the top half are the Guangzhou Charge. This team sports a similar structure to the Spark, grabbing two players from Chinese Contenders and then raiding KR to beef up the roster. Ou “Eileen“ Yiliang and Chen “OnlyWish“ Lizhen previously played for LGD Gaming, which was a force in Chinese Contenders. The Charge also inked a large chunk of Meta Bellum, who were decent in the incredibly difficult environment of Korean Contenders. Other players came from teams such as Toronto eSports and the British Hurricane. Ex-Fusion player Hong-joon “HOTBA” Choi rounds out the roster.
Once again, we find a team without any super obvious holes, although they lack a standout player. Star power can be absolutely huge in Overwatch. Someone could very well emerge during the season and become a standout player, but for right now the Charge look like a solid, if unspectacular, addition to the Overwatch League.
#5: Toronto Defiant
The bottom half kicks off with the Toronto Defiant. The Defiant are the only team who can challenge Paris for the “Most Experienced” title. They wield 3 previous OWL players. The problem is that the previous OWL players, Kang-jae “envy” Lee, Se-hyeon “Neko” Park, and Joon-seong “Asher” Choi, weren’t exactly as praised as the Paris players. However, this doesn’t change the fact that they are good players to build a roster around.
Toronto is once again a well built team (gee, it’s almost like the GMs know how to do their jobs or something), but their 8 player roster comes with a slight lack of flexibility. All 8 player teams are going to have this issue, and the Defiant are no exception. We saw how a lack of flexibility can ruin a team in Season One, where Houston was essentially doomed by their lack of a good Tracer player. Toronto was also a patron of the “KR Talent Smorgasbord Event”, but their haul is a little less impressive than the teams above them.
#6: Atlanta Reign
The Reign definitely have a default monopoly over the meme game (seriously, just look at this roster), but that in no way translates to competitive success. This is the first expansion team with some gaping holes in the roster. The team is mostly made up of Contenders players, although most of the Contenders teams in question aren’t exactly the most successful teams to have ever hit the Path to Pro. There are also some serious conundrums on the roster. Blake “Gator” Scott and Joon “Erster” Jeong have had very successful careers, and EMG (the team that Dong-hyeong “DACO” Seo and Hyun-jun “Pokpo” Park previously played on) has been a staple of KR Contenders for a little while.
But most of these players are far from a sure thing. Daniel “dafran” Francesca is the big headliner of the team, but he hasn’t played professionally for a little while, and he is infamously streaky when it comes to his attitude. Steven “Kodak” Rosenberger and Petja “Masaa” Kantanen have been around for a while, but it remains to be seen if they can hold up at the highest level. Ilya “NLaaeR” Koppalov is in the same boat. This team could definitely surprise the league if they start firing at all cylinders, but for now there are just too many question marks.
#7: Washington Justice
The Justice are another 8-player squad, and they have the same issues as the previously mentioned ones. These issues are actually exacerbated by a roster that looks to have a relatively low ceiling compared to the other expansion teams. The obvious headliners of the team are Joon-hwa “Janus” Song and coach Hyeong-seok “WizardHyeong” Kim. The New York Excelsior need no introduction, and these two were both a huge part of the team’s success. Gi-hyeon “Ado” Chon also did decently well in his stint with the Dragons.
The rest of the team, however, consist of somewhat unproven contenders players. It is unclear as to whether most of these players can compete on the big stage. The Justice are definitely the underdogs of this season, and they appear to lack the raw potential that some of these other teams have. They seem destined for the depths of the standings for at least the first bit of the league unless the players show potential on par with the rest of the league.
#8: Chengdu Hunters
If someone made a documentary about the Hunters, it would probably be called “The Question Mark”. Ma “LateYoung” Tianbin played for the Chinese World Cup team, and a few of their players have previously played on Team CC in contenders. Chengdu made what were arguably the riskiest signings of the offseason, inking both Zhang “YangXiaoLong” Zhizao and Lo “Baconjack” Tzu-Heng. Both of them were great players back in 2017.
The problem is that after 2017 they both switched to PUBG.
This is new territory for the OWL, and no one is quite sure how these players will readjust to Overwatch after a year of playing PUBG, which is a wildly different game. The rest of the team seems to follow the “hit or miss” vein that Baconjack and YangXiaoLong embody. This team could end up being either surprisingly good or extremely bad. There are far too many questions here to rank them any higher.
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