The 2021 Overwatch League (OWL) regular season went by in a flash. For some teams, the last 20 weeks saw more success than they ever could have asked for. For others, the season could not have gone by any slower. With Play-Ins just around the corner, it’s time to hand out OWL regular season report cards for all 12 teams residing in the Western Region.
The regular season turned out to be a roaring success for the Reign. They did more than enough to impress by finishing top 3 in the West. The explosive play of rookie DPS Se-hyun ‘Pelican’ Oh along with improvements from some established veterans led to three separate appearances in Hawaii. Their top 3 finishes in the June Joust and Countdown Cup Tournaments helped them lock up a spot in the 2021 playoffs and the title of top tier status.
While a 7-9 record is nothing spectacular, it is still the best showing from this franchise in three years, from a win percentage standpoint. Boston’s performance should be considered a job well done considering that this was supposed to be a building year. The fact that they qualified for Play-Ins and had multiple 3-1 tournament qualifiers is worthy of praise. While progress needs to be made still, Boston fans should feel optimistic about the future.
The Dallas Fuel put out a top-notch effort during the regular season. While the first few weeks of their year started off shaky, the Fuel found their rhythm soon after and never looked back. The Dallas Fuel’s multiple MVP nominees and top record in the West are two of many factors which demonstrated their dominance. The risk of going all out on the 2020 Paris Eternal core alongside Dong-ha ‘Doha’ Kim and Seung-soo ‘Jecse’ Lee was well worth it.
The Florida Mayhem’s bottom three record in the West and failure to qualify for the Play-Ins came as a shock. A team that had finally found their footing just one year prior saw a big setback. Major struggles at the main tank position and general consistency issues resulted in them playing far below their potential.
The Mayhem’s May Melee tournament run gave their fans hope. In spite of this, they never came anywhere near that level of success again for the rest of the season. It’s back to the drawing board for a franchise that had only just started to turn the corner.
Even some of the biggest Houston supporters did not foresee their team playing at this level. The Outlaws destroyed their pre-season expectations. The addition of veteran talent, new coaches and rookies alike have propelled the Outlaws back into relevance.
A top 5 finish in the West means they are just one victory away from clinching a playoff berth. On the other hand, their performance issues in major games and failing to make Hawaii a single time are a point of concern. In short, it kept the Outlaws from being considered a true threat during the regular season.
Los Angeles Gladiators
It took the Gladiators a bit longer than anticipated to get into a groove. The first half of their season left much to be desired as the coordination felt off in the first few months. There were clearly teams who were multiple steps ahead of them.
However, the second half of their season was a completely different story. They racked up wins more frequently and were putting up better fights in their losses. The Gladiators appeared more confident each time they took the virtual stage. In addition, a Countdown Cup championship victory and a guaranteed spot in the playoffs means they met their high preseason expectations.
Coming into 2021, London Spitfire decided it was time for an identity change. London’s Management put their stock into their successful academy team, British Hurricane. While not anticipated to be a dominant team in the West, the Spitfire still found a way to play below expectations. A 1-15 record is tough to swallow.
This included a 15 game losing streak before getting their ever-so elusive first win in a five map thriller against the Vancouver Titans. The Spitfire rarely gave out a true competitive effort. They couldn’t seem to catch up to the competition until it was far too late.
This roster was widely expected to be one of the worst in the Overwatch League. And yet they found a way to qualify for the Play-Ins as one of the League’s most intriguing underdogs to date. Excellent coaching, veteran leadership and rookie talent have propelled this team into Darkhorse contender status. A job well done by a franchise with little to no expectations coming into season four.
San Francisco Shock
The Shock by no means had a terrible regular season. The problem that fans and analysts had was the noticeable step back with their clutch factor. There was a clear inability to win the crucial games they were almost always taking back in 2020.
They seemed to miss the leadership of former Main Support Grant ‘Moth’ Espe who left for the Los Angeles Gladiators in free agency. The Shock’s experimentation with new support combinations to compensate just didn’t work out the way they hoped it would.
Above all, the Shock’s campaign didn’t feel the same as the previous two years. Their threat level was a step below what fans are accustomed to. Thus they took a noticeable decline.
The Toronto Defiant had their best regular season to date. Two 3-1 qualifying rounds and their first-ever above .500 win percentage are respectable. They hung around middle of the pack status thanks to the veteran leadership of Su-min ‘Sado’ Kim and Hee-su ‘Heesu’ Jeong.
Toronto were never a top-tier threat, but they demanded the respect of their opposition. Those who slipped up against them usually suffered the consequences. That very well could carry over into the Play-Ins and beyond as they slip into Darkhorse status.
Free breadsticks. That is the first thing that comes to mind when thinking about how Vancouver’s season transpired. The genius marketing strategy won the hearts of fans around the globe. Despite finishing 1-15 on the year, fans still cheered them on every single week in hopes that they’d get some carbohydrates free of charge.
While their meme game was strong, the same can’t be said for Vancouver’s general performances in-game. It was a weak showing from start to finish. Getting dominated by the opposition was a common occurrence for a team still trying to ride the waves of a tough rebuild.
The regular season did not go the way Justice fans hoped it would. A strong offseason rebuild was supposed to result in a dominant showing from this group. Instead, the Justice barely did enough to qualify for the knockouts.
Led by superstars Gui-un ‘Decay’ Jang and Jun-ho ‘Fury’ Kim, the Justice possessed a promising roster on paper. However, they mostly did not live up to the hype during the regular season. Extreme inconsistencies and indecisiveness saw them output multiple weak qualifying stages. In addition to their regular season woes, there are concerns over if this team can make a playoff run due to their lack of success in high-stakes matchups so far.
“From Our Haus to Yours”