Viewers were treated to a host of thrilling clashes as a new Overwatch League season began at the weekend. We saw huge upsets, chaotic compositions and a few pieces of dazzling individual brilliance from the world’s best players. It promises to be another fascinating season as the teams battle it out for the $1.5 million first prize. This is what we learned during Week 1:
Expect the Unexpected
The San Francisco Shock and Shanghai Dragons went into opening weekend as the big favorites in the Overwatch betting. That was understandable, as the Shock became the first back-to-back OWL champions by beating the Seoul Dynasty 4-2 in last year’s Grand Finals. The Shanghai Dragons are the veritable raid bosses in the East after finishing top of the Asia region standings last year, winning May Melee and the Countdown Cup, and emerging as the most consistent team in the world.
However, both teams slumped to shock defeats in Week 1. San Francisco opened their campaign with a routine 3-1 victory over Los Angeles Gladiators, but then suffered a 3-2 defeat at the hands of Houston Outlaws. The Shock simply could not deal with Houston’s synchronized attacks, and their air of invincibility has already dissipated. Some might write it off as a mere blip, potentially owing to rustiness among the players, but Houston have laid out a blueprint for toppling the reigning world champions.
Shanghai also sent out a major statement of intent by beating Guangzhou Charge – the team that finished second in the Asia standings last year – 3-0 in their opening match. However, they then fell to a 3-0 defeat to Chengdu Hunters. They looked sloppy and erratic throughout the contest, and Chengdu punished them in ruthless fashion. Seoul Dynasty also lost 3-1 to Philadelphia Fusion, while Florida Mayhem pulled off an upset against Atlanta Reign, suggesting that we should expect many more surprises in the weeks ahead.
Viol2t is Still the World’s Best Player
Minki “Viol2t” Park made a barnstorming start to the new season. IBM Watson’s Power Rankings had him as the league’s best player last year, and he cemented that status in Week 1.
San Francisco’s support superstar showed off his superb versatility when he moved over to the hitscan damage role. He was seriously impressive as McCree, racking up 15 final blows on Gibraltar to put Los Angeles Gladiators to the sword.
He was much quieter against Houston on Sunday, as San Francisco found itself overwhelmed by the Outlaws’ coordinated attacks, but we should expect great things from this bloodthirsty competitor during 2021.
Teams are Unafraid of Variety
OWL introduced Hero Pools last year in order to ensure teams could not simply run identical compositions on a weekly basis in pursuit of glory. The Hero Pools shook up the league and resulted in greater levels of variety, but analysts still expected to see a distinct approach among contenders in the East and West.
The Western teams are said to favor the rush compositions spearheaded by Lúcio and Reinhardt, whereas the Eastern teams have tended to prefer rapid dive heroes and Winston. However, most teams ripped up the rulebook in Week 1, as many American teams opted for a double bubble set up.
We also saw the teams using a far greater variety of heroes than the experts anticipated. All 32 heroes saw some game time. We witnessed Sigma and Orisa in action on Havana as part of a double shield meta, while Los Angeles surprised everyone by unleashing Bastion on Hanamura’s defense.
It suggests that Hero Pools may not actually be needed, as efficient balance patches could have a better opportunity to ensure a balance range of hero choices while giving the teams a greater level of flexibility when making selections.
Texas is a New Regional Powerhouse
Houston Outlaws and Dallas Fuel both made a strong start to the new season. They began against one another, and it proved to be a thrilling spectacle, which the Outlaws ultimately won 3-2.
Houston’s subsequent victory over San Francisco sent shockwaves through the league, and established the Outlaws as genuine contenders for silverware this season.
Dallas went on to face Los Angeles Gladiators – hailed as a potential top five team before the season began – and ruthlessly dismantled them in a 3-1 victory. The Lone Star State can be proud of its teams’ efforts on opening weekend.
Battle for Supremacy is Wide Open
May Melee is now shaping up to be a chaotic and unpredictable tournament. Teams are unafraid to experiment, shifting hero picks and wider compositions on the go, and that should lead to many more upsets.
The battle to win major prizes this year looks wide open, with no clear favorites following the defeats for San Francisco and Shanghai. That is great news for the fans and for the organizers, as this unpredictability makes for an intriguing spectacle.