Luggin with Huginn – Wading Through OWL’s First Week

This weekend marked Overwatch League’s debut in 2020, finally giving us all some hard data when it comes to how teams stack up against one another. It was finally time to see how the pre-season rumors and supposed scrim results would pan out. Was LA Valiant really the dark horse contender we were led to believe? Would the Vancouver Titans implode with Fissure leading the charge? Were the San Francisco Shock still the team to beat?

With all the matches for the week wrapped up, there’s a lot to take in. Now that we’ve had a look at what these teams have to offer, let’s take a look at what stands out about the teams we’ve seen so far and what they might want to work on as the season progresses.

London Spitfire

London had a lot to prove coming into 2020. After dropping their entire roster, London opted to keep with their all-Korean lineup by signing a team of rookies. Without their previous championship players, a lot of analysts had London trending toward the bottom in terms of the standings. Had the team managed to scrape together a team of capable rookies? Well… sort of.

JMAC vs. D.Va

London managed to take on New York Excelsior in their first series of 2020, even scoring a map off of them. It wasn’t a match that anyone expected London to win, but first impressions made London looked like a stronger team than you might think. If there’s one thing they clearly need to learn, though, it’s that Reinhardt’s giant white rectangle blocks Self-Destruct. I mean really, London, you hate to see it.

Dae-Han “JMAC” Choi seems to consistently either be in positions where he’s unable to block Self-Destruct, or just doesn’t seem to realize he isn’t defending his teammates. Is this entirely JMAC’s fault? It really depends on which instance you’re referring to. London have displayed that they’re at least mechanically proficient, but the team’s positional awareness seems fairly poor all around. To be blunt, London looks like they’re a random team the matchmaker put together from ranked and threw into an Overwatch League game. They don’t look coordinated.

That coordination only comes with time and practice, both of which are at a premium this coming season. If this team wants to climb in the rankings, they’ll need to focus on developing that synergy as quickly as possible.

The Glister Show

You know what? Gil-seong “Glister” Lim showed that he is, in fact, pretty good at Overwatch. London managed to take a map off the NYXL off the back of Glister’s incredible DPS play. He seems to be living up to the hype of being a hyper-flexible DPS carry. The only problem is, he seems to be the only person on London willing to flex at all when their composition isn’t working.

London seems incredibly beholden to the Mei/Reaper composition, and that isn’t going to cut it this season. Teams are running multiple compositions right now, before the League has even introduced hero pools. Is this a coaching issue? Did the team only practice with Me/Reaper and now they don’t feel comfortable on anything else? I don’t know, but if London wants to succeed we need to see more adaptability out of them moving forward.

Dallas Fuel

Dallas Fuel fans have been looking for a team they can be proud of since Season 1. The Fuel unfortunately went 0-2 at their first homestand of the year, losing out to both LA Valiant and San Francisco Shock. However, this incarnation of the Dallas Fuel certainly has some bright spots that should have fans hopeful as the season continues. Dallas has threatened to become a competent team before, but did they finally assemble the roster to do it?

Decay? More like Deca(rr)y

I think it’s fair to say that Gui-un “Decay” Jang is the nuttiest DPS player Dallas have ever had on their roster. Decay squared up against the League’s defending champions and looked determined to make them bleed. Dallas still lost the match, but Decay—along with Dong-ha “Doha” Kim, his DPS partner—made the Shock look mortal after their nearly clean sweep of last year’s playoffs. His McCree and Genji were both incredibly impressive, and his Reaper didn’t look half bad either. In the end, Dallas still lost to San Francisco, but no one was expecting them to win. A lot of people weren’t even expecting them to be a bump in the road. Dallas fans should be ecstatic that their team put up a good fight.

Tank Line Troubles

On the other end of things, what’s up with Dallas’s tank line? The Fuel don’t seem to be comfortable settling on what they want to play for their front-line. They’re one of three teams that have run double main tanks during the inaugural weekend; unlike Boston and Paris, however, the Fuel actually have an off-tank player available to play. Lucas “NotE” Meissner was in Dallas this weekend, but the team wasn’t sure they wanted him in the line-up. Note is often criticized for being a D.Va one-trick, but this is a D.Va meta, right? So it makes sense that he’d be playing.

Please explain this one, Dallas. Seriously. If you’re really so beholden to double shield, why not just leave Note out until you need him? That’s what you did against San Francisco, and it looked better! It’s still unclear why you’re favoring double shield so heavily when other teams are playing Reinhardt/D.Va, though.

Plagued by Inconsistency

Dallas looked like they were the odd ones out this weekend. They looked like a better team against San Francisco Shock than the LA Valiant, which is certainly shocking. It’s reasonable to assume Dallas practiced more in preparation for San Francisco, but to look that much better? Why are they the only team that isn’t running Reinhardt/D.Va that actually has an off-tank ready to play? Did they misjudge the meta? If that’s the case, that could be worrying with hero pools on the horizon. Teams will need to accurately gauge what compositions will be strongest from week to week. Can Dallas manage that?

William “Crimzo” Hernandez is another interesting addition. Will he be taking the starting flex support role? He had some impressive plays this weekend, but also died first in a lot of fights. Crimzo could be another important piece for Dallas this year, but the team will need to adapt to his more aggressive support play-style if they want a chance for playoffs.

Toronto Defiant

After a mediocre—and let’s be honest, incredibly forgettable—first season, Toronto cleaned house. Toronto effectively rebuilt their roster from the ground up for 2020. While their old roster wasn’t incredibly impressive, Toronto Defiant also had an identity crisis. Who were Toronto, really? A team largely made up of second-string Koreans? Win or lose, the Toronto Defiant were dead set on being fan favorites in their second Overwatch League season.

Beast is a Beast

All eyes were on Adam “Beast” Denton as the team’s only main tank. Beast played for Philadelphia Fusion’s incredibly dominant Contenders team, but many felt that he was the team’s weakest link. He hadn’t played competitively for quite a while coming into the League. To say that people thought Beast’s signing was questionable was an understatement.

Beast looked impressive in his match against Paris Eternal. One match isn’t enough to be definitive, but Toronto looked fairly dominant with him serving as the tip of their spear. At the very least, Beast is not the bottom-tier main tank that some were afraid he’d turn out to be.

Mr. Logix & The Canadian Tag-Team

One of the most popular moves the Toronto Defiant made was the acquisition of their Canadian DPS duo. Lane “Surefour” Roberts and Brady “Agilities” Girardi are not only skilled players, but ones with personality. Toronto fielded both Surefour and Agilities along with Andreas “Logix” Berghmans during their first game of the year, and Toronto’s DPS players are looking fearsome.

I expect Toronto will be swapping their DPS players on a rotation as the season continues, but the team looked most impressive with Surefour in the lineup. Neither Agilities or Logix looked poor during their time on the stage, but when paired together the team didn’t look as solid as when either of them played with Surefour. We’ll see how it pans out as the season continues, but I expect crowds to see a lot of Surefour this year.

Vancouver Titans

Vancouver’s decision to drop their long-time main tank and sign Chan-hyung “Fissure” Baek was contentious, to say the least. Fissure might be in contention for the best main tank in the world, but he’s also in contention for the most divisive player in the League. Vancouver is Fissure’s 4th Overwatch League team; he’s previously played for London Spitfire, Los Angeles Gladiators, and Seoul Dynasty before he retired part of the way through Season 2. With Fissure’s return to professional Overwatch, everyone had an opinion on whether or not he’d be able to keep it together.

Playing With Their Food

Vancouver looked a little too confident in their game against the Gladiators, and it cost them. On paper, the Titans are an upgraded team; Fissure is an incredibly skilled main tank and leader. However, they looked too ready to dominate their opposition and weren’t playing to their highest standard. When Gladiators were more formidable than the Titans expected, all of a sudden the game turned into a real series. Vancouver tightened up their play almost instantly, abusing their ultimate economy far more heavily. This trend continued against the Valiant on the second day, in particular on Blizzard World; Vancouver looked like they were trying to toy with the Valiant until they put on their own excellent offensive push.

This is, unfortunately, the continuation of a pattern from last season. The Titans liked to toy with weaker opponents instead of crushing them. They play down to their opposition until they’re shown that they need to rise to the occasion, and it’s a habit I’d like to see them ditch.

Old Enemies, New Allies

For those who got into competitive Overwatch with the beginning of Overwatch League, they might not understand this point. Watching Jehong “ryujehong” Ryu and Hyojong “Haksal” Kim play on the same team is really something special. Jehong and Haksal (really, the whole original Runaway squad) have a long and storied rivalry in the Korean scene. They competed against each other on top teams for years, and back then it would be unheard of to see the two of them playing together.

It brings up questions of how often, exactly, Ryujehong will be on the stage for the Vancouver Titans. Since his glory days, Jehong has been outpaced by other top flex supports but has shown he’s still a capable playmaker. With Ana, his signature hero, being in the meta it’s possible we see Jehong more often than many thought before the start of the season.

New York Excelsior

Season 3 has marked the most significant change to NYXL’s roster since the beginning of the Overwatch League. After losing Tae-hong “MekO” Kim to the Houston Outlaws, New York opted to pick up Hong-joon “HOTBA” Choi. Hotba was looked at as a bright spot on Guangzhou Charge in the previous season, but his aggressive style was at odds with New York’s passive strategies. They also signed Seung-jun “WhoRU” Lee, a legendary projectile DPS player who had been plagued with attitude issues since APEX.

Flexible New Style

Even if New York largely played Reinhardt/D.Va, they were one of several teams that opted to be more flexible. NYXL was willing to match and overpower Boston on Dive when playing Oasis, and then again pulled it out to win Temple of Anubis. The team seems ready to adapt to the demands of specific maps or whatever is needed to dismantle an enemy composition. Unlike some teams this weekend, New York seems very ready to square off with other teams once hero pools are in play. They have the pieces in their lineup to swap around for whatever composition they think will secure them the win.

It also doesn’t hurt that New York still has one of the strongest support line-ups in the League. A more aggressive style for this team only serves to enable Sung-hyeon “JJoNak” Bang in his quest to make the other team’s DPS feel bad for dying.

Surprisingly Shaky

The other thing about New York Excelsior in their first match is that they didn’t look as dominant as you’d expect. There weren’t that many new pieces, and London didn’t look like a top-tier team on paper. Despite that, New York looked uncertain. Dong-gyu “Mano” Kim was not the normal, steady presence on main tank against Boston or London. After only two games, it’s hard to say what the issue is. It’s easily possible that there’s just some synergy issues with Mano and Hotba; NYXL’s previous tank line played together since 2017, and adjusting to someone new takes time. It could be Mano just adjusting to a more aggressive style. Maybe London is just a stronger opponent than we thought? Regardless of the reason, the NYXL seem strong, but mortal. Other teams ought to strike while the iron is hot.

Paris Eternal

After a disappointing first year, Paris Eternal (rightfully) dropped their dream of an EU super-team. It only took a few weeks for their original roster to go from being in contention for the best GOATS roster to a laughing stock. So what do you do? You sign half of Element Mystic’s roster from Korean Contenders, apparently. Paris signed Ki-hyo “Xzi” Jung, Han-been “Hanbin” Choi, and Yeong-han “Sp9rk1e” Kim from Element Mystic along with Hee-won “RUSH” Yun, their head coach.

Multiply Xzi By Three

A recurring theme this weekend was watching some utterly insane hitscan DPS play, and Xzi was no exception. Before their matches, people were wondering if Paris could hold on until Sp9rk1e could join the team. Now, it’s a question of if they’ll even need to. Hanbin is able to play in their next matches, and Xzi is crazy enough on his own. Hanbin will allow Paris to move away from double main tank compositions. Without him (and with their other off-tank not available either), Paris was forced to run two main tanks. They still 3-0’d London and looked impressive against a rising Toronto Defiant. Hanbin and Xzi look strong enough to carry the Eternal against weaker opponents in the League all on their own. It’s very possible that instead of scraping for a spot in the play-ins, Paris Eternal can comfortably secure a post-season position.

Triple the Mediocrity

It’s not all sunshine and rainbows for the Eternal, though. Their decision to sign Da-un “NoSmite” Jeong still looks questionable after their first outing. NoSmite doesn’t look like much of an upgrade over Benjamin “BenBest”  Dieulafait, and the latter is at least French. Paris made it a point to keep their French core on the roster, but every other signing looked like an upgrade. Why would you bother signing the Korean version of your already struggling main tank? Strong main tank players are at a premium, obviously, but Vancouver just released two of them that still don’t have a team. Maybe you should’ve looked a little harder, Paris.

The fact that the Eternal need to play Nicolas “NiCOgdh” Moret for most of their season isn’t a great sign either. He did show some flashes of greatness during their matches this weekend, but overall he looked adequate at best. Maybe that’s all you need next to Xzi, but it’s worrying to say the least. I would’ve rather seen Paris buy NiCOgdh out and sign some stronger French talent, like Lucas “Leaf” Loison from the French World Cup team. Right now, NiCOgdh seems like dead weight on a team that might have too much of that already.

Los Angeles Valiant

The Valiant were not looking good for most of the off-season. After dropping most of their star talent, Valiant opted to sign rookies and keep things on a tight budget for the 2020 season. After keeping on some of their previous mid-season signings, Valiant also signed Rick “GiG” Salazar, Jung-won  “Lastro” Mun, and Kai “KSP” Collins. Prior to the opening weekend, there were plentiful rumors that Valiant was doing surprisingly well in scrims for a team full of rookies. Teams always hype up their scrim results, but Valiant seemed confident they were being underestimated.

The Dark Horse

The Valiant weren’t about to let everyone doubt them for long. In their first match, KSP in particular took hold of the reins and forced his team toward a victory. Out of all the phenomenal hitscan players who made their 2020 debut, KSP was perhaps the most impressive. You know you’re a threat when the Vancouver Titans are trying to send you back to spawn at the start of every fight. GiG was another impressive player for Valiant in both their games, and looks to continue his upward trajectory in professional Overwatch over the course of the season. He seemed ready to match both Vancouver and Dallas blow-for-blow in the main tank battle, and had surprising synergy with the rest of his team so soon after being signed.

Overall, the Valiant look to be serious contenders. To beat Dallas in front of their home crowd (even with Dallas’s odd choices) is impressive, and their 0-3 match against Vancouver was much closer than the score implies. With coaching and more team synergy, Valiant could be looking just as dangerous as they were in Season 1.

Keeping It Spicy

More important than Valiant’s skill was their overall attitude. They walked out to a booing crowd in Dallas, and they reveled in it. McGravy in his post-game interview seemed very happy to talk about how Dallas hadn’t promoted him from their academy team and that it was their loss. People have often complained that Overwatch League lacks a ‘villain’ or any trash talk, and I think Valiant have shown from their gameplay and their attitude that they’re willing to provide that.

Boston Uprising

For the third year in a row, the Boston Uprising have opted to assemble a roster full of rookies. They held on to a few pieces from last year, but mostly opted to acquire another round of new talent. Most notably, the team acquired flex support player Sang-min “Myunbong” Seo from O2 Blast. Myunbong was one of the hottest rookies going into 2020, but most doubted that Boston would be able to capitalize on their roster’s potential.

Well-Rehearsed

If nothing else, Boston looked like they had been practicing quite a bit when it came to their first matches. In particular, Boston looked as though they had a lot of rehearsed plays. Boston attempted to engage in very particular ways throughout their match against NYXL, usually in order to suit their forced double shield play-style. They knew their composition needed to brawl on the point and avoid being poked out. As such, Boston would avoid sight lines as much as possible to collapse onto New York in close quarters. They also had some interesting ultimate combos, most notable being their desire to combine McCree’s ultimate with Baptiste’s during their time on Blizzard World.

This is a good thing and a bad thing for Boston. On one hand, the team looked coordinated and ready to perform. On the other, when Boston’s plans failed, they just… kept trying them. Over and over again, Boston refused to adapt when they were countered and unable to make their plans work. Mid-match adaptability is something that teams like NYXL have been known for since the League’s inception, and lacking this is only going to make Boston’s life harder.

Missing Pieces

Much like Paris Eternal, the Uprising went into this weekend missing their starting off-tank. Thomas “brussen” Brussen was notably absent from the lineup this weekend, and his absence seems to have forced Boston away from the current meta composition. While Park “Axxiom” Min-seob has filled in on off-tank in the past, evidently the Uprising decided against it. Also missing was Tae-hee “Jerry Min, who was rumored to be the team’s new hitscan star. These missing players make judging the Uprising’s debut that much harder, as it’s unclear how much better the team might look once they have everyone in place.

Los Angeles Gladiators

The Gladiators are another team that opted to rebuild their roster heading into Season 3. However, the Gladiators opted to rely more on purchasing proven talent than building up a team of newer players. They opted to hold onto their solid support line and acquired top tank players from other teams, but many thought their DPS players seemed out of place. Ji-hyeok “birdring” Kim was the biggest example of this; Birdring was a star player for the London Spitfire before a wrist injury had him out for most of the inaugural season, and has been seen as inconsistent ever since.

Do Some Damage

Birdring wasted no time this weekend showing off exactly how consistent he could be. While he had looked off in previous seasons, the old Birdring was playing in their match-up against the Vancouver Titans. His DPS counterparts Jason “Jaru” White and Gia Huy “Chris” “MirroR” Trịnh didn’t look half bad either during their Overwatch League debut. The Gladiators did end up losing their match in the end, but the Gladiators looked competitive against the 2nd place team from 2019. The team looked flexible and willing to venture away from the standard Mei/McCree composition.

Finnish Trio

The most surprising thing when the match started up was who Gladiators had as their main tank. Everyone assumed Roni “LhCloudy” Tiihonen would be the backup, but there he was in the starting lineup. Cloudy looked new and improved on the Gladiators compared to his time on Paris Eternal, but the decision to have him starting over Min-seok “OGE” Son is an odd on. Setting aside the money and talent that exchanged hands for the Gladiators to pick up OGE, he’s also an incredibly talented player. Multiple teams tried to acquire OGE over the off-season, and the fact that the Gladiators did so only to bring him in for one map turned some heads.

Is Cloudy serving as the team’s communicator? The Gladiators didn’t seem to rely on their previous main tanks for comms, but it’s possible that he’s taken that role now. Was OGE experiencing off-stage issues?OGE was rumored to have attitude issues with Dallas’s previous coaching staff. Is the team simply experimenting with their tank line? The coming weeks should hopefully shed some light on this.

San Francisco Shock

The San Francisco Shock are a super-team. They have star players on every role, and they’re the team that everyone needs to beat if they want a shot at this year’s title. The Shock didn’t change very much coming into Season 3. They didn’t need to. Their only new addition was Seonchang “ANS” Lee, a Korean sniper specialist. If it isn’t broken, why fix it?

Role Swapping

It wasn’t unheard of that the Shock had one of their players on an off-role. Dong-jun “Rascal” Kim made a name for himself as a Baptiste player last year despite being known for his DPS play, after all. After the League introduced role lock, though, this kind of move seemed less likely. Minho “Architect” Park came out on the support role for San Francisco, running Ana. To his credit, Architect played incredibly well.

Architect has played Ana before, most notably in Korean Contenders. He’s certainly not bad at the hero, but after just one match it’s a question of whether this was a one-off strategy or how the Shock intend to play moving forward. Architect didn’t play any other heroes during the match. What about Zenyatta or Moira? Is he making a permanent move to the Support role, or is this just one strategy among many?

Not Quite Invincible

Despite still looking as impressive as they did during the Season 2 finals, other teams might well be closing the gap. The Dallas Fuel took one map off of the Shock and almost took a second—they only didn’t because of Architect’s heroics—which made the Shock’s position at the top look a little precarious. The Valiant certainly looked stronger than Dallas after their win. How would a team like the Valiant stack up against the defending champions? What about their rivals, the Vancouver Titans?

Most of the teams coming into 2020 have leveled up, and the Shock have remained almost entirely the same. That isn’t to say they’re destined to lose. San Francisco have one of the most stacked rosters in the Overwatch League. What it does mean is that the Shock need to be on their toes if they want to collect another trophy.

Stay Connected

Jonathan “Huginn” Phippin provides all his hottest and spiciest Overwatch League takes on his Twitter, and streams his mediocre gameplay (Overwatch and otherwise) on Twitch every weekday.

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Twitter: @WatchpointLobby
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“By the common OWL fan, for the common OWL fan”

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