One day before the final stage of the inaugural season kicks off, Overwatch League players still do not know what patch they will be competing on. At the end of Stage 3, teams were told that they would be playing on a modified version of the May 3rd patch, one which introduces Brigitte but excludes, most significantly, nerfs to her Shield Bash and an overhaul of Hanzo’s kit.
This announcement was met with backlash internally and externally as players and fans vied for the May 3rd patch to be used in its entirety (or for Brigitte nerfs to be included, at least), and Blizzard has since expressed that a patch different than the one initially promised could potentially be used for Stage 4. However, a decision as yet to be made.
Purportedly, teams were told that they would be notified of the League’s official ruling by noon on Monday, May 14, but the deadline has since passed without any new information. Per screenshots acquired by this author, a team owner who inquired about the patch late Monday was told by an Overwatch League representative to “hang tight” and that information was “coming.”
Close to 1 a.m. Pacific last night, Ted “silkthread” Wang confirmed on his stream that teams are still unsure of what patch they will be playing on Wednesday, saying “I wish the players knew, but we don’t, so.” The DPS for the Los Angeles Gladiators will be playing tomorrow in the first match of Stage 4 versus the San Francisco Shock.
Despite some conflicting reports throughout the week, silkthread’s account reflects that of several other Overwatch League players. Late Monday, Austin “Muma” Wilmot, a main tank for the Houston Outlaws, mimicked silkthread’s uncertainty, saying on his personal stream “if the patch that we are planning to play right now is the patch that we actually play on for OWL, it will be the most versatile meta … that Overwatch League has seen.”
Most teams have chosen to scrim on the patch they were initially told by Blizzard would be played (i.e. with Brigitte but without revamped Hanzo) but are hesitant to commit to it given the mixed signals being sent from League representatives. Regardless, even the full eleven days allotted between Stage 3 and Stage 4 is insufficient time to adapt to and prepare for a new hero and changed meta, much less a single day should the patch be changed.
The teams playing on the first day of Stage 4 – the Gladiators and the Shock; the Los Angeles Valiant and the Seoul Dynasty; the Dallas Fuel and the Shanghai Dragons – will be at a significant disadvantage compared to the remaining six teams who play the following day. They are the guinea pigs for whatever patch is ultimately decided upon, whether that be with or without Hanzo, at a time when map differentials can make or break any team’s playoffs eligibility.
There are no two ways about it: Blizzard has completely dropped the ball when it comes to legitimizing Stage 4 competition and communicating effectively with organizations. Even if players and fans ultimately disagree(d) with the decision to lock Stage 4 in on a patch that was live for a mere two days, the Overwatch League had a responsibility to make and communicate a final decision swiftly in order to allow teams time to become familiar with whichever new meta they were handed.
Instead, the League has toyed for over a week with the possibility of changing the Stage 4 patch and consequentially plunged the entire competition into an avoidable world of uncertainty. The competition that debuts in Stage 4 will only be cheapened by the knowledge that teams were left with little to no time to settle into a brand-new style of Overwatch.
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