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The unpredictability of Overwatch League

New York are one of the favourites for 2019. (Photo: Robert Paul/Blizzard Entertainment)
Expert
28th March, 2018
2

Season 2 of the Overwatch League has come to a close after Season 1 runner ups New York Excelsior toppled Philadelphia Fusion to take the win. The final match came with an impressive reverse sweep after the Fusion took the first two games coming straight off their win over last seasons victors, the London Spitfire.

It was a surprise for many to see Philly in the playoffs, as they were generally considered an upper-middle team coming in 7th last stage, rather than a group with the ability to almost take out the season.

They pipped the likes of Seoul Dynasty – who beat them in their week three matchup – on map differential to make the final three and nearly took the whole thing. What this proves is we can still expect many surprises in the seasons to come.

The other team who nearly made the top three were the Los Angeles Gladiators, who took Fissure from the London Spitfire to be their main tank. This was another team no-one expected much from, but the addition of the new team member has turned them into genuine League contenders sitting at 5th in the stage standings.

Florida Mayhem brought in a new player and coach and have climbed out of their second last rut to be replaced by the star-studded team Dallas Fuel.

While not managing to win, they stole maps from the top five teams in Seoul, LA Gladiators, London and New York in their matchups. All these little victories add up when it comes to league standings and, if they can keep it up, may eventually help them climb even higher.

On the flip side, we have the Houston Outlaws who came in third last stage, losing to London Spitfire who went on to become the champions.

They’ve been seen as favourites due to not having any Korean members and potentially due to being made up primarily of Americans. This time they didn’t even get a look in the finals and have fallen from 2nd to 7th in the overall standings with map differentials.

The playscape is changing and while teams like New York and London are still staples in the top three, it’s becoming harder and harder to predict what the next stage of Overwatch is going to look like.

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Stage 3 begins in a week, on April 5, and will start off seeing the Shanghai Dragons, who’ve sat at the bottom of the league, face off against the Dallas Fuel.

During a broadcast they revealed that at least one of their new Korean players Kim “Geguri” Se-yeon is already in America so we may see a significant increase in their abilities for this next stage.

The Fuel have also continued to fall short, now sitting second last in the standings. If Shanghai have a chance of beating anyone, Dallas would easily be their best bet.

Members of the Shanghai Dragons Overwatch League team take the stage

Can the Shanghai Dragons finally claim their first win? (Photo: Robert Paul/Blizzard Entertainemnt)

What’s more is map rotations will come into play again with a new lineup for Stage 3.

The most interesting addition is Overwatch’s newest map, Blizzard World, which players will be the least familiar with.

As a player, Blizzard World feels quite different to the other maps, with buildings lining the sides of a fairly straightforward path that the payload follows.

You’ll likely see players still finding their feet with the map changing up heroes and strategies until something fits. Other notable changes are the return of Temple of Anubis and Numbani to the roster – both of which are famous for increasing the length of matches.

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The changes to Sombra will also come into effect. The hacking hero no longer builds her debilitating ultimate by having teammates use her health packs and this may mean a big change for how often we see her.

Previously, she was chosen for defence on maps like Volskaya and Route 66 so she could build her ultimate quickly and stop an enemy push before it could even start. A large part of that was the positioning of health packs around the point, especially the larger mega health packs.

Instead, tweaks to her weapon have occurred to make her more offensive and cause her ultimate to build in order with the damage she causes. Her hacks on other enemies have also been made faster and much harder to defend against, which is good when one-on-one, but not so useful to a Sombra in a larger group.

Her ability to hack health packs will still be valuable due to providing more healing for her team, but as we stopped seeing Mercy anywhere near as much after her nerf, I don’t know if we will be seeing this hero anywhere near as much after these changes.

The Overwatch League has been a beautiful unpredictable mess since it started. That’s part of the excitement of watching something develop. It doesn’t have the history of years of one team consistently being the best and another being the loser.

Every matchup has the potential to change the results and, while some trends are developing, it’s still too early to crown champions or even proclaim losers.

Stage 3 is going to bring us closer to having an understanding of what the Overwatch League actually is, but there’s still another stage after it and then the playoffs before we see the grand final.

I don’t think even then we’ll be able to predict exactly how it’s going to go down.

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