As we have seen, Overwatch League expansion teams have already begun to make their initial hires and first moves towards player signings. Now that the signing period is officially open for them, we should expect to continue seeing these teams begin to fill out and make offers on free agents. As this happens, each team will have to answer an important question for themselves:
“What about a player or coach makes them valuable to an organization?”
Watch and Learn
The 12 teams from OWL Season 1 had to ask themselves the same question as they were forming. For NYXL, value came in the form of an all-Korean roster that had experience playing with one another. For Houston, value seemed to be placed in a high-level game awareness through a team that genuinely cares for one another. As for the Fusion, it’s hard to say exactly what their plan was at the outset. But whatever it was, it worked!
The point here is that teams have chosen to place value on a variety of different things and have had various levels of success in light of those choices. There isn’t one clear key to success, especially considering how fundamentally different Philadelphia and London are.
Expansion teams have had the benefit of being able to watch the league for a year on the outside to form their own assessments on what’s valuable. While each team will inevitably form unique opinions, there are a few trends that we will likely see across the board. Some of these may be subject to limited availability, which may drive their premium up in a big way.
A Star DPS Player
This may be the one with the highest premium. Think of Philly, London, and New York. Each of these teams has a DPS player (or four, NYXL) that can carry the team through matches, sometimes single-handedly winning them the fights. Jun-Young “Profit” Park, Jae-Hyeok “Carpe” Lee, and Jong-Ryeol “Saebyeolbe” Park are three of the most valuable players in the league and are integral parts of their team’s success. Without this play from Profit, the Spitfire would have lost this Volskaya map and maybe the entire Grand Finals. It’s a play that none of us will ever forget.
This is why up-and-coming players like Liam “Mangachu” Campbell and Yeon-Kwan “Nenne” Jeong have been so hyped up throughout free agency. Players like this can join a team and potentially have an instant impact. This, perhaps above all else, ought to be valued by new teams as well as current teams like Houston, L.A. Valiant, Shanghai, and Dallas.
This one is harder to track but has shown itself in extremes. On one end of the spectrum, we have the Dallas Fuel and the Shanghai Dragons. With players getting suspended and taking mental health leave, Dallas was clearly a toxic team throughout the first three quarters of Season 1. However, once they turned it around and rallied around the happy soul of Pongphop “Mickie” Rattanasangchod, everything seemed to change for the better. For Shanghai, it seemed like the players were overworked and finding themselves exhausted when it came time to play on stage. This yielded less than satisfactory results and zero wins.
The Fusion has, at least from the outside, set the standard for top-notch player health. The team’s secret weapon, Chef Heidi, keeps the players well nourished through long weeks of practice. They also share an extravagant mansion and seem to have a genuine comradery despite being a very diverse team. This emphasis on player wellness allowed the Fusion to peak at the right time and avoid burnout in the postseason.
New teams will have to figure out how to do this themselves, but it must be done nonetheless. League structure changes and shortening the season may do some of the work for them, but things must be done in-house to take care of the players mentally and physically. Chef Heidi and the Fusion have taught us that much.
Players With a Large Hero Pool
Finally, look for teams to search out players that can flex to multiple heroes. If we look at the meta at the beginning of Stage 1, versus now, this need becomes abundantly clear for nearly every position. Teams have to have a roster that can run “GOATS” on one map and Doomfist/Sombra on another. Flexing to different heroes is a must.
The only exception might be off-tank. D.Va one-tricks like Matt “coolmatt” Iorio and Indy “SPACE” Halpern have been key in each of their team’s success without flexing at all. Teams need good substitutes for any player like coolmatt and SPACE who can’t flex as well, but they are still valuable. At the end of the day, if teams can lock down a D.Va main with flex at DPS and Healer, they should be in a generally good position to succeed. Look for players like Kevyn “TviQ” Lindström, Hae-Seong “Libero” Kim and Jay “sinatraa” Won to have a lot of value in the trade market heading into next season.
A lot goes into making a team in the Overwatch League. Things behind the scenes are often just as important as what we see on the outside, if not more so. Despite all of the moving parts, these three things will, at the very least, give teams a chance in the coming year. How teams ultimately define value, however, will ultimately be up to them.
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