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OWL 2019-2020 Offseason Trends

owl 2019

As the beginning of the 2020 Season arrives, teams are finishing up their rosters. With this conclusion, certain trends become evident. Some are natural and others questionable, some are positive, others not so much. There is a reason, of course, for all the OWL offseason trends, but some are not obvious.

OWL Offseason Trends
Returning and Newcomer Main Tank Starters

Proven Main Tanks…

One thing that you can see in most teams is how they rebuilt their tank line. Few teams took a big chance in this department, as most opted to pick up a player with experience in the League, if they changed their starter at all.

The notable exceptions are the Spitfire, the Valiant, the Dragons, the Defiant, and arguably the Paris Eternal. They did, however, get players that performed in Contenders, but to varying degrees of success.

If a player didn’t have a particularly impressive performance last season, for whatever reason that may have been, it is likely that they will not find themselves in the League in 2020.

It is evident that teams now respect the role as a cornerstone for team synergy, but others also want to take an opportunity. They recognize that the role can be one of the places where the “x factor” is most obvious, but they can also take the risk in the current meta.

One curious thing, is the lack of truly big pickups from Contenders. Highly respected talent, such as Ryu “Kaiser” Sang-Hoon, Ham “Oberon” Eun-Sang, Kim “Mag” Tae-Sung, Deng “Over” Sifan, James “Cloneman16” D’Arcangelo, and more are missing from the 2020 rosters. Could it be that the relatively disappointing newcomers in 2019 hurt the concept of an OWL ready Contenders tank?

…But New Flex/Projectile DPS

The role is stacked Teams want results.

Where teams do want to experiment, it seems, is the flex DPS role. Almost every team either upgraded or acquired talent here. With Kim “Sp9rk1e” Yeong-Han, Kim “Yaki” Jun-Ki, Huang “Leave” Xin, Lim “Glister” Gil-Seong, Kim “Edison” Tae-Hoon, and Kim “Doha” Dong-Ha emerging, this move was inevitable for around six teams.

This trait, however, happened all across the League. Teams opted to pickup dropped players, re-sign their great players, or get less known talent for the role. An injection of explosive players in the role occurred in 13 teams, and the rest were content with their current state (with good reason).

In various tournaments following the 2-2-2 role lock, it was those teams with great flex DPS that excelled. Look towards the Gauntlet, Contenders Korea, NeXT Autumn, the World Cup, OWL Stage 4 and Playoffs. It is no coincidence that the same handful of players were at the top of them, and teams noticed that.

With the rise of Doomfist and return of projectile heroes, a flex player could make or break the team. In recent tournaments, however, the meta has not been as stable for damage players. Thus, a player that a) is mechanically proficient and b) boasts a vast hero pool is incredibly valuable in 2020. The specific role also brings with it a correlated clause, c) flashiness, which makes investment here all the more attractive.


OWL Offseason Trends
A few player signings came out of literally nowhere, leaving fans baffled.


Those ten letters together were one of the most common comments in various Twitter and Reddit announcement threads. Notably the Boston Uprising, the Los Angeles Valiant, and the London Spitfire were on the receiving end of these. For whichever reason this may be, a lot of the new players are more than their name recognition (or lack thereof).

The three teams all wanted to rebuild, and looked to lesser watched tournaments and teams for their players. A number of other teams also picked up relatively unknown players, but none to the extent of the aforementioned.

Some fans were disillusioned with the new direction, as it cost the spot of a decent amount of popular players. Additionally, most of these players lack the name recognition that a more established T2 player would have.

There appears to be a general sentiment with team owners that younger, less established talent is the way to move forward. This experiment represents much less stability for the scene, but such a gamble also involves less risk, in a way.

OWL Offseason Trends
Teams seem to be looking for great sniper players

What’s an Aimbot?

An interesting development in the offseason is how many great Widowmakers arrived. Whether it is merely a correlation of recent metas or being a good sniper player was a significant factor in joining the League is a tough question to tackle.

The recent significance of sniper heroes (primarily Hanzo) certainly caught the eyes of many Overwatch League organizations. Musings of a meta that includes Hanzo as a cornerstone and features Widowmaker as a pocket pick certainly assisted this mindset’s development.

The most curious aspect, however, is how many of these teams already had a more than competent sniper player. One would think that Toronto, Shanghai, the Valiant, Paris, Atlanta, the Shock, or the Fusion should be more than satisfied with their current sniper players.

Like with flex DPS, it is evident that teams want to add more firepower in the role, but such a big influx of hitscan leaning players could result in a big gamble.

The End of an Era

With the 2020 Season it is safe to say that the days of the old APEX tournament are in the past. Most of the current recognizable duos come from the post OWL epoch, or feel like a desperate attempt to hold on. Some groups come from the occasional World Cup team, but by now most of the League is unrecognizable for 2016-2017 fans.

Everyone’s favorite Lunatic-Hai is dead. The perennial chokers, Luxury Watch Blue, are separated. The Vancouver Titans were Runaway’s savior, but that ship is a the docks, finishing preparations to set sail. Kongdoo Panthera and GC Busan are shadows of their former selves. Rogue and EnVyUs are at the ledge, desperate to not fall off. Meta Athena, X6 Gaming, and Miraculous Youngsters? 2017’s biggest surprises are 2019-2020’s biggest losers.

Nostalgia is a cruel mistress, allowing us a smile on our face with our memories, but always reminding us of what cannot be.

Try telling your past self that Kungarna, Rox Orcas and BK Stars have as much, if not more, representation in OWL than almost any top four Major/Premiere finisher in 2017.

The End of Another Era

See also: Path to Pro Player Highlight: Europe

And yes. Not only is 2020 the end of the APEX scene as we knew it, it is also shaping up to be the end of European Overwatch.

Its last hope in the Paris Eternal vanished, as it opted for a mixed roster this time around. Philadelphia’s Koreanization is close to completion, picking up some of the best players to replace serviceable ones.

A meager handful of newcomers arrived this offseason. Only Hugo “SharP” Sahlberg, Thomas “Brussen” Brussen, Eoghan “Smex” O’Neill, Philip “ChipSa” Graham, Owen “Slur” Warner, and allegedly Kai “KSP” Collins joined the ranks. Gia Huy “MirroR” Trinh as well, given he is half Latvian, half Vietnamese.

Stars of old, still up to snuff (especially in the new metas) were given up on.

Players in Contenders do the impossible to get eyes on them, but, in this day and age, it is all for naught. Retirements are at what feels like an all time high, some players more than qualified left to rot.

Rumors of a Pharah/Hanzo/Mei/Doomfist meta, while Georgii “ShaDowBurn” Gushcha, Lucas “Leaf” Loison, Jeffrey “Vizility” de Vries and Mads “Fischer” Jehg are absent. Teams opting for Widow stars, yet William “Asking” Vetter stays in Contenders. Ilya “Txao” Makarov and Finnbjörn “Finnsi” Jónasson are ignored when flexible, playmaking off tanks are crucial. Adaptability and Reinhardt are crucial, but Normunds “Sharyk” Faterins was dropped and Otto “Milkyman” Saren is in Contenders.

It seems that fans of the region must either blindly persist or give up entirely. The same thing is being asked of the professional players.


Find me on Twitter (@Thoth_OW) on Reddit (u/Jcbarona23), or on Discord (Thoth#7858) for any questions or discussion regarding my posts (or any topic in general).

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