In its inaugural season, the Overwatch League has been home to the highest level of Overwatch action since available. The tournament is unique in its approach to pro play in comparison to other prominent esport titles. The OWL was aimed at following traditional North American sports with its franchised teams that cannot be relegated. While the format is surely set to change in its second season, this year has seen 12 teams competing for the ultimate prize of a $3.5 million dollar prize pool over the five stages of the season, with a stage playoff taking place every fifth week for a $125,000 prize.
Overwatch League: Developing rivalries
Although every game in the OWL currently takes place in Los Angeles, the teams represented in the OWL each represent their own region of the world. Since its debut, Blizzard has attempted to grab every kind of gamer from all backgrounds and that philosophy has extended into their professional scene as well. Whether you’re a fan of the black and gold mystique of Seoul Dynasty, or a fanatic of the unlikely group of phenoms in Boston Uprising, the storylines each and every week are as compelling as they are competitive.
As the stages have progressed in the Overwatch League, the top flight of teams have stayed busy as ongoing patches and their meta changes have never made winning a simple formula. In the older days of Overwatch Contenders and APEX Champions in Korea, the amount of film and useful study on your opponent’s was limited due to how little exposure each team was getting at the highest level. Since the start of the OWL, the rapid acceleration of winning strategies and adequate counter play has been impressive to see as different coaching staffs work to beat one anothers philosophy.
The only team that has truly seemed untouchable since the start of the OWL is the New York Excelsior. While other teams have only found wins as a temporary matter, their continuity at the top of the standings has been refreshing to see as the former LW Blue and Red rosters have joined together to dominate the league. Their run in the OWL has transcended patches, as each member of their roster is as vital as the last. Whether its healers, tanks or DPS threats, NYXL have their bases covered on all fronts, and their success in the league is showing their true potential.
Fighting for respect at OWL
While NYXL sustains their hold at the top, there is no void of contenders looking to dethrone the New York Excelsior from their primed position. At the start of the league, London Spitfire and Seoul Dynasty rivaled NYXL as London even went on to beat them in the Stage Playoffs to secure their first bonus prize of the season.
Since then, London Spitfire and Seoul Dynasty have lagged behind and grown complacent as other teams slowly started to improve. When it comes to Western juggernauts looking to bring a title to the Atlantic side of the division, Philadelphia Fusion Boston Uprising have risen to the occasion. Boston Uprising was considered the ‘sleeper team’ coming into the tournament, but no one could quite have predicted just how powerful they’d be this early on. Even without their star DPS player, Boston continue to surpass expectations as they keep winning games over the perceived ‘Big Three’ Korean teams and dominating opponents lower in the standings. Their consistency and balance across all roles have kept them ahead as they solidified their place as the only Western team truly able to eclipse Seoul and London with regularity.
Philadelphia Fusion have made a name for themselves by winning with their team of one-trick specialists that have completely changed the way fans and foes alike have viewed them as a squad. The once hopeful playoff squad is now pushing for new heights as they’ve been anchored by Carpe and Snillo as Carpe has been murmured to be the dark horse for MVP of the league.
Houston Outlaws find themselves trailing Philadelphia as they sit one game behind. With all the early success Houston found in Stage One, it’s been hard to replicate that level of performance with no serious Tracer player amongst their ranks. Players like Jake and Muma have done well to find success in rather unorthodox fashion, but when all variables are equal and the level of opponent cannot be simply outfoxed through strategy, Houston has looked rather average against the best of the best. It seems like the Outlaws are still missing that ingredient that can take them over the edge as a top four team.
Another team on the rise since the start of Stage Three has been LA Valiant as they seem completely renewed with their additions of Custa and Bunny during the season. With the difficulties they’ve faced from the community for their ‘transparency first’ approach to PR relations, the results have been massively in favor for the Valiant as of late as their streak of 4-0 map wins has taken many teams by surprise at this point of the season.
LA Valiant’s ability to overcome significant team synergy problems has been impressive to watch as they took a potentially disastrous team environment before Stage Three into the top four finish they’ve achieved thus far.