Week three of OWL is behind us and here comes another load of my rhetoric dedicated to its happenings. This week's twist is that it takes the form of predictions for what may or may not happen by the end of the season.
In the current standings, atop of everyone else sit three teams made up of thirty one Korean players and that isn't going to be any different at the end of the season for my money. The squads are still experimenting, figuring out their rosters and teamplay, as well as committing some fairly basic and easily-fixable mistakes. As they grow older and more accustomed to each other, many of those issues will get at the very least tempered. While the same is true for some of the Western lineups and they'll be looking to improve and adapt as well, historically, the latter are rarely as good at it.
Coming into the season, out of the three fully-Korean teams, the question marks were mainly about New York Excelsior and how they'll handle the new additions. The LuxuryWatch Blue lineup, part of which formed the core of the squad, had been an elite team, but the only remnants of the IEM Gyeonggi champions in NYXL playing the positions we've seen them perform in before are Saebyeolbe, Janus, and MekO. Fans, pundits and analysts alike had little idea what to make of the team as JJoNaK had no stage experience, the team had gotten rid of its two leaders and it wasn't even absolutely clear what the starting lineup would look like as Libero had shown an elite level as an off-tank on top of his versatility as a damage dealer.
Now that we've seen them in 26 maps against six different opponents, viewers have a decent idea of what the team's style and capabilities are and it's relatively safe to say that NYXL won't be getting knocked out of the top3. Saebyeolbe has distinguished himself as the current top dog when it comes to Tracers. His ability to shut down enemy Tracers -- as well as win isolated one-on-ones against any opponent -- have been invaluable to the team. As it was pinpointed on the latest Oversight episode, on top of often giving the team a numbers advantage, his ability to do that has created space for JJoNaK to go wild, deliver obscene amounts of damage and have an incredible debut on the big stage.
The benefits of having Saebyeolbe were clearly showcased in the meeting between Dynasty and Excelsior when his team won and he was selected as 'player of the game'. And while the loss to a surging Philadelphia Fusion was an eyebrow-raiser, it's relatively easy to brush it off as a game the boys in blue didn't prepare for as hard as possible, due to their focus on RJH’s boys.
Seoul have had a relatively soft schedule so far, which, combined with their experimentation and loss to NYXL, has made some question their overall strength. They might be down to a second in the power ranking, but my prediction is that this is a temporary state of things. When everything's said and done, Seoul Dynasty will be the champions in Overwatch League's inaugural season. Their roster is simply too good to bet on anyone else, barring any extenuating circumstances. They have players who're excellent individually, extremely versatile and fit their roles within the team's system. One can still make an argument that the roster has contenders for the best player in four of the positions. The importance of Tracer within the current metagame has put them in a difficult position, but they've overcome significantly worse deficits in the past.
In OWL, the team finally has a superstar damage dealer in Fleta -- in addition to all the previously established talent -- and they match up against other top teams even better. RJH and co. might fall and stumble upon the way, and they've not been the fastest team to adopt new concepts, strategies, and tactics in the past, but they always develop just enough of those to allow their superb teamplay and skills win. Thanks to the added versatility, playmaking and ability to deliver damage from Fleta -- who's looking like the most effective player in the league -- they'll be able to adapt and get to the point of rolling over competition faster than ever.
And while the superstar dealer has been dubbed by many as the best player in the world and a potential MVP, the author doesn’t anticipate him to get the award. In fact, no member of Seoul Dynasty winning the MVP is what I'd bet on as a more likely possibility. As formidable as Fleta has looked, we've already seen RJH take away several of the 'player of the match' awards and the roster features tobi and zunba, who could be the best on a number of other OWL teams. Between others sharing the spotlight and the amount of talent in the various positions, no single member of the team will be able to stand out enough. When compared to star players with much less help -- for example Capre who's gotten all the available player of the match awards so far and even Saebyeolbe who's been getting much more credit now that the initial wave of hype about JJoNaK has passed -- Dynasty players' individual impact on the team's success will be much lower.
At the start of the season, many assumed London Spitfire will be able to challenge and potentially overcome Seoul, due to the depth created by recruiting two championship-level teams. However, as Dynasty made power moves of their own before the league's start and London has been looking to mesh together the previously two separate rosters, that hasn't been the case. In fact, birdring and co. have been the shakiest of the three fully-Korean teams. Their attempts to form a new, stronger starting lineup and use the rest of the players to supplement it will result in more long-term success. Still, the team has to experience some growing pains before they figure out which combination of players works together the best and the appropriate moment to sub-in specific players.
Fans saw KongDoo Panthera, whose core became one of the two separate Korean lineups to join Spitfire, go through a similar process over the course of several seasons of APEX. The concerns that the team will drop down the rankings in the following two weeks are valid, as they've had the easiest schedule so far and in their next four matches they'll be meeting what's perceived as the three strongest team at the moment: NYXL, Seoul Dynasty, and Houston Outlaws.
Come playoff time though, London Spitfire will be back in the top3 with legitimate chances to challenge RJH and co. for the title. There's too much talent on the roster for them not to do that. This has played a part of the issues they’ve had of figuring out the starting six -- as Bishop, the team's head coach, said himself -- but that's a nice problem to have.
And speaking of playoffs, two teams out of whom wasn't generally expected to do this well, yet find themselves in the upper half of the standings right now, are the Houston Outlaws and the Philadelphia Fusion. While I, among others, suspected Fusion would become a strong team eventually, reaching the playoffs seemed highly unlikely due to the variety in players background, combined with their late arrival in the states. However, even though they've left something to be desired in terms of teamplay, the individual skill of the players has come through for them and the squad has surged early.
They've got several tough matches ahead, having to go up against Valiant and a Boston team who's exceeded expectations in its own right. Regardless, their schedule so far has been harder as they've faced off three of the current top4 and won't be facing RJH and co. during this stage, so it’s possible for them not only to hold on to the sixth place but also to finish the stage even higher.
Similarly, the Houston Outlaws was seen as a middle of the pack team with a decent chance at the playoffs, but no one expected them to look like the third best team in the league; even less so only three weeks in. After a shaky first week, which highlighted the strengths of their tanks, the team has made changes in their practice regiment, as they mentioned during their conferences, and the result has been spectacular. With LiNkzr as a permanent starter and Jake's performance on non-Junkrat heroes getting better, they've surged -- admittedly against a weaker competition -- and climbed to fourth place in the standings. Last week, they even looked better than the team immediately ahead of them, London Spitfire. While Outlaws still have matches against birdring and co. and Seoul Dynasty ahead of them, it isn’t out of the realms of possibilities for fans to see them in the stage 1 title matches.
Will either of Outlaws or Fusion be able to maintain their current level, compared to the rest of the field, for the full season? It's hard to have a read on that at this point, as they haven’t been truly proven, likes of Shanghai, Dallas, and Florida are already rumored to be planning roster changes and the rest of teams in the bottom half of the standings will be looking to do the same most likely. What I can say with confidence is that at the very least one of Houston Outlaws and Philadelphia Fusion will be in direct contention for a playoff spot during the final weeks of the season, thanks to their strong starts.
Having taken a gander at the top and middle of the standings, it's time for the league's bottom tier teams and specifically the two Western ones. Dallas Fuel and Florida Mayhem are both sitting at a 1-5 record with respectively seven and six map wins each isn't something many, if anyone, expected to be saying several weeks into stage 1. Both squads have shown signs of life, but things are looking bleak, especially for Florida. Still, if someone is looking to 'buy low' into a team who will definitely improve, these two are the ones to go for. Both Fuel and Florida will improve their standings over the course of the season, one way or another.
Mercy's prevalence -- which has caused some of the issues both teams have right now -- is undoubtedly going to wind down on the new patch, coming into effect with stage 2. Additionally, both teams have a number of roster spots available. Florida could even pick up a full six-man roster if they want to, as unlikely as that seems, and Dallas has already expressed interest in contracting aKm. Both cores still have strong individual performers and have showcased the ability to improve off through roster changes, even if it's ones neither fans nor pundits know what to make of beforehand. Whether it's due to a shift in the metagame or due to adding the new player, neither will be a bottom of the barrel team come playoff time.
Do you agree with RadoN’s predictions? What is something you think will happen in the end of the season and who do you think will win the whole thing? Let us know on Twitter at @InvenGlobal and @RadoNonfire!
(Photo credits: Activision Blizzard)
About the author:
Hello, readers! I go by the ID RadoN and I’ve been watching different esports since I found out about the industry in 2009. The titles I follow closely for the time being are Overwatch, CS:GO and Quake, while occasionally dabbling in some other games as well. If you wish to reach out, follow future content, or simply know more about my thoughts on esports and gaming, you can find me on Twitter at @RadoNonfire.