The Most Important Things We Learned About OWL 2020 From Week One

– Mano looks out over an enthusiastic home crowd –
Photo by Stewart-Volland via Blizzard Entertainment

It’s a New New York

One of the biggest losses NYXL faced this offseason aside from Meko was the loss of coach Pavane. Instrumental in their success during both the 2018 and 2019 regular season, Pavane was the architect behind NYXL’s slow and surgical style. Unable to find playoff success however, the organization turned to IMT to lead them to 3rd place last season. Now that Pavane is gone, IMT has full leadership of this team. With this new coach comes a new playstyle. One of the defining factors in the NYXL’s 2019 playoff success under IMT was their change to an aggressive playstyle. That trend has continued in 2020, as the Excelsior showed aggressiveness in both their matches this homestand. It was a little sloppy at times, but it brings with it an apparent higher ceiling that the team hopes to reach this season.

Familiar Faces Have Returned to Glory.

If you told Overwatch fans in 2017 that Birdring and Fissure were set to be the biggest question marks on their respective teams, they would have laughed at you. Both these players have displayed such incredible dominance at the peak of their careers, it’s sad to think that many analysts saw them as potential weak links coming into the 2020 season. Luckily for Gladiators and Titans fans, that no longer seems to be a worry. Granted, it’s still too early to say for sure, but both players put on promising performances this weekend. Birdring absolutely popped off, while Fissure did Fissure things. The initial assessment seems to be that both players have found new life from a change in environment. Fissure gets to start for an all-Korean team and Birdring no longer has to play second fiddle to Profit.

The Rumors Surrounding the Valiant Seem To Be Legitimate.

Coming into the opening weekend, there were a lot of players speaking high praises of a Valiant team most people originally wrote off. While it may be too soon to know exactly how good they are, they definitely impressed this weekend. Gig and McGravy exceeded expectations with a signature style of hyper aggression that seemed to pay off against Dallas Fuel, although struggled against a more elite Titans roster.

KSP and KSF were both impressive, and quite clearly are the stars of the team. Lastro and Rain were good too, but Rain was especially surprising, showing new life since moving on from the Mayhem. Even though they were 3-0’d by the Titans on Sunday, the team still put up a good fight. Valiant fans can be proud of this team’s performance.

We Might Have Criminally Underestimated the Eternal Players

Prior to this week, the narrative surrounding the Eternal was, “can they hold on until Sp9rkle comes of age?” Now things are very different. Both Xzi and FDGod put on such a show that it’s clear that Eternal will have enough firepower to at least remain competitive until then, if not be outright great. Benbest and NoSmite look much better than last season, and Hyp seems to be no slouch either. With coaches with championship experience like Rush and NineK, Eternal fans have a lot to look forward to this year.

The Shock Have a Contingency Plan For Their Supports.

One of the biggest anticipations for the San Francisco Shock during the offseason was the acquisition of backup supports for Viol2t or Moth in case they got sick during the brutal travel schedule. When the Shock only picked up ANS during the off season, the anticipation turned to concern. What was the Shock’s plan going to be if Viol2t or Moth couldn’t play?

Crusty decided to answer that question by flexing on other teams with a disgusting display of riches and flexibility. While Architect’s Ana surprised many, astute fans will remember that he also played Ana at the beginning of Season 2. With Rascal’s experience on Brigitte and Baptiste, he also seems like a candidate to play support if need be. One of the biggest strengths of the SF Shock seems to be the system Crusty has set in place. Every player knows their own role as well as the role of others within that system. Therefore, it is no surprise that players would be able to transcend the roles they are traditionally known for.

The Meta Is Incredibly Diverse.

Dive is back on the menu boys. At least for now. While the beginning of every patch typically brings forth a variety of strategies, the past weekend showcased an unprecedented amount of heroes with significant playtime.

While Zarya and Roadhog were notably absent from play, every other tank saw decent use. Reinhardt seemed to be the staple in these compositions, although Winston and his companions made some appearances on assault points. To the dismay of some fans, Mei still remains the anchor in the DPS line, although this week saw the emergence of McCree to rival Reaper with many players highlighting his play making capabilities. Genji, Sombra, Tracer, and Doomfist also saw playtime, although not always paired with their typical dive tanks. Although Ana and Lucio were the most common support duo, perhaps for the first time in Overwatch history nearly every support seems to have a niche in the meta.

On a couple occasions, no hero was shared between teams in their strategies and compositions. With Hero pools incoming, the future looks bright for fans wishing to see diversity in the meta.

Youtube Gaming Still Has Quite A Ways To Go, But Changes Are Coming.

I doubt anyone who wants Overwatch League to succeed is satisfied with the viewership numbers put up on opening weekend. That being said, at least Overwatch League did not see an 85% drop in viewership like Hearthstone did. It is clear that the switch to Youtube from Twitch is resulting in less viewers across the board. It remains to be seen whether that is because of poor marketing, viewer brand loyalty to Twitch, or simply a growing disinterest in the league. Whatever it is, it is obvious that Youtube Gaming gives an inferior product compared to Twitch at the moment. Many viewers miss the all-access pass, the drops, and the video-clipping that came with Twitch. Keep in mind though that some of these functions were not available from the start on Twitch either. It may just be a matter of time before Youtube can implement the features.

The head of Youtube Gaming also has stated that viewing rewards may be on the way, as well as other features too. It makes sense that Google would want to do their part to ensure the league’s success as well, since it is a big part of their strategy to rival Twitch.

Localization Seems To Be Working.

While the viewership numbers seem to be disheartening, there are some positive takeaways. For example, the New York and Dallas crowds proved once again that esports fans can come out in droves to support their local team. Hearing the crowd boo after Colourhex teabagged Anamo was surreal – and just like traditional sports. Both Dallas and New York were able to fill the venue successfully. The crowds were loud and it gave me goosebumps to hear the energy in the arena at times. While it is no coincidence that the first two homestands were for the two most popular NA teams, it makes me excited to see how other teams like Seoul, Paris, and San Francisco can match up.

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