The Preseason is behind us and there was no shortage of eyebrow raising performances. There were consensus opinions that have been called into question and we got our first look at some unknown quantities. While our community power rankings held up pretty well (~75% success rate if used to pick preseason match results), we can use the results to make some adjustments for the start of the regular season. Afterall, Santa didn’t just make a list. He checked it. TWICE. So let’s look at how my personal rankings have changed as a result of the preseason:
- Seoul Dynasty (Previous rank: 3)
Seoul was dominant in the preseason. We expected it from their Matchup vs Shanghai but after Houston played so well vs Dallas, it was apparent they would be tested in their second match. And they were. But even with the tough opponent, they handled themselves very well. I wanted to know who would get slotted into the spots formerly held by Esca and Whoru and while I am not entirely sure we got a definitive answer, I am also not sure I really care anymore. Wekeed, Fleta, Bunny and Munchkin all had big plays and acquitted themselves well on this roster and there will likely be a little bit of rotation for how these two DPS spots are used. And I think that will be one of the strengths of this team.
- Dallas Fuel (Previous rank: 2)
Dallas squeaked by Houston in the headline matchup of the preseason. It was an incredible match that everyone should watch before the regular season begins, so make sure to check it out if you missed it. There were positives and negatives throughout for this team. On the positive side; they used their substitutions well and brought out some different comps thanks to their added flexibility, which was good to see. On the flipside, the core six members of the EnVyUs roster dropped Eichenwalde to a Houston lineup that was missing both Coolmatt and Linkzr. And it wasn’t particularly close. Dallas was also able to dispatch the Florida Mayhem, with relative ease, in their second match. The bottom line here is that they won both matches. They did appear to be hiding their compositions at times, which is to be expected, so there was nothing to make me worried or alter my rankings in any way, as far as they are concerned.
- London Spitfire (Previous rank: 1)
Going into the preseason, many community analysts (myself included) had this roster listed at the top. It’s easy to be excited about a team that combined the flash success of GC Busan and the sustained success of the KongDoo Panthera squad. How would they use them? Who would perform better? How often will they switch it up? We learned the answers to all these questions when GC Busan went out and found a way to lose the first match vs the LA Gladiators. It was close at 3-2, but the KongDoo side of this team bailed them out on a map that could have made this more one-sided. If this team wants to get off to a fast start, I expect the KDP squad to lead the way. They WILL be a powerhouse in this league, but without the ability to keep people guessing and swap out individual players (or even the entire roster) and maintain a top tier level of play, I can’t list them at the top anymore.
- Houston Outlaws (Previous rank: 5)
Despite finishing with an 0-2 record on the weekend, I think you would be hard-pressed to find many people who weren’t very impressed with the performance of the Outlaws. They had by far the most difficult two-matches on the weekend, with both opponents already listed on these rankings. We’ve talked about how close the Dallas matchup was and against Seoul, the score was 2-1 with the final map being a draw. According to the coach of Seoul, it was harder to win that match than even the close scoreboard indicated. They were in contention until the final second of both matchups and I question whether or not they were hiding a player from us, with Mendokusaii only playing one map and playing off-role in that map. I had them at 5 initially and I think they played well enough to move up… the problem is, there isn’t a lot of room between them and the teams that beat them… I found room for them to bump up one spot, but I mainly did this to demonstrate that what I believe was previously a “fantastic four” is now a “fabulous five”. This looks like a playoff-bound team to me and specifically, Linkzr looks like he will be a star for the foreseeable future. #GREENWALL
- New York Excelsior (Previous rank: 4)
They move down a spot, but my expectations haven’t really changed. I prefer to think of this as a 4b spot, as opposed to #5, but that’s not how numbers work. NYXL is going to be a top performer this season. They seem to be a safe bet for a playoff appearance and from there, it’s anyone’s game. They were playing without their flex support player in this preseason, as JJonak was not eligible to play. He’ll be old enough by the time the regular season rolls around, but for these two matches, Libero filled in. He did well, but Libero is a swiss army knife kind of player who is expected to have a big impact for this team in a DPS role. We didn’t get to see that. I won’t penalize them for it, they didn’t have much choice. But before I can move them any higher up, I need to see it. It’s worth noting that Pine had a standout performance and if Libero is able to bring a similar level of play to what we saw from Pine, their DPS combo can match up with anyone in the league. With Houston as the first opponent in the regular season, it may not take long for them to take back the #4 spot here. That should be one hell of a matchup and while I will be rooting for Houston, I don’t have a strong feeling either way about who is likely to win it.
- Los Angeles Valiant (Previous rank: 10)
This team was hard to pin down. Historically, Immortals had been a quality team but in season 1 of Contenders, they laid an egg. It was bad. So which team would we get in OWL? It didn’t help that they were without Agilities in their matches (another guy who will turn 18 before the regular season kicks off), but apparently it didn’t really hurt them either. Silkthread had a hell of a performance on the genji role and I do think Agilities will be an upgrade there. Curiously, Grimreality appears to be behind Soon on the depth chart and while that might be the right decision when they want a Tracer, Grim is better at some other hitscan heroes in my opinion. So they should be able to use this to their benefit from rotating and subbing mid-match. I can’t elevate them too high up the list after their 2-0 preseason, but I view them as at the top of the pack for the middle-tier teams… for now. They could level up and match the big five, but until we see it, they have to sit behind them on this list. I worry that consistency might be an issue here, but they have 11 players on the roster, so they should be able to minimize the impact of this with substitutions and rest days for their players.
- Los Angeles Gladiators (Previous rank: 9)
I’ve talked already about the disappointing performance of the GC Busan roster but what I didn’t mention was how good the Gladiators looked upsetting them. This is a shallow roster and I think it will hinder them some. But they used their one substitute to great effect as they rotated into and out of a triple DPS lineup a few times. If they can utilize Asher and Surefour on the stage at the same time, they will be a dangerous opponent for everyone in the league. Hopefully they can add some talent during the signing window. I think it could improve their chances a bit.
- San Francisco Shock (Previous rank: 11)
This aptly named team was the surprise of the preseason. With Sinatraa and Super sidelined for the first half of the inaugural season, there were a lot of questions to ask about this team. For starters, we weren’t sure who was going to play the off tank position. Nevix proved why he is known for his versatility as he picked up his THIRD role in his time in Overwatch. All things considered, he performed pretty well. There were some inconsistencies but if he is already this far along, he will be more than an adequate stand-in for Super. By all appearances, this team signed nothing but hitscan players, but apparently Babybay is just absurd on projectile heroes as well as hitscan. He looked like the carry on this team, so he single handedly flipped this team from a basement dweller to a long-shot playoff contender in my mind. Lastly, Sleepy performed very well and was a major question mark going into the season. The support synergy may take some time to perform optimally, but I feel confident Dhak and Sleepy can put in work and not be a liability for this team. If they are within striking distance when they get access to all their players mid-season, we could see them make a serious run for the postseason.
- Florida Mayhem (Previous rank: 8)
This one is hard to wrap my head around. They haven’t even dropped far, but I had a relatively pessimistic view of this team already and they found a way to fail to meet my low expectations. Tviq is a hard carry. He’ll be a quality player in this league, but who is going to help him out? How does a team that got second in EU Contenders Season 1 fall so far, so fast? They’re known to struggle on LAN, but this is MISFITS we are talking about and the LAN experience is going to increase exponentially once the season starts. So why am I so worried? The lack of depth on this roster is the answer. It sounds like at least one or two full stages will be played out before these teams can add players to their roster and Florida is already struggling. Logix is often invisible in the kill feed and Cwoosh has had some questionable moments. Florida opted not to hold a single reserve player, to relieve a tired or struggling roster member and they started struggling on map 1 of match 1. They NEED a fast start to be a playoff consideration and after what we just watched, I don’t have high hopes.
- Philadelphia Fusion (Previous rank: 6)
Philly couldn’t be bothered to field a team in time to play in the preseason so I am not going to bother trying too hard to fit them into a respectable ranking. I like the looks of the roster, but are they even in the US yet? Are they scrimming? Are they going to even be READY for the regular season? Poor Philly fans… they deserve their team to do the bare minimum and show up. Do I hear a shame bell? Does that work in written content? It should.
- Boston Uprising (Previous rank: 12)
Alright you have my attention. You won a map off of a handcuffed NYXL team, which was better than I expected. Unfortunately, it’s not all good news. They squeaked out a win vs Shanghai, whose plane landed after a 14 hour flight, the night before the preseason matches. The match felt like it was the worst two teams facing each other, after such an otherwise stellar weekend of matches. Don’t get me wrong, it was entertaining. It was professional overwatch. But it wasn’t Houston vs Dallas, either. Note performed well and won the battle of playtime over Kalios. Striker was a solid performer. He made plays and combo’d well with DPS his counterpart, Dreamkazper. This team has room to grow and I expect them to. But they are starting near the bottom and have one of the overall weakest rosters in the league. Thankfully, they might be good enough to level up once they can sign players and show some growth before the season ends. It may not be too long before Boston can seriously compete, but I don’t see it happening in season 1.
- Shanghai Dragons (Previous rank: 7)
Didya see Diya? Didya? Is that even a pun? I don’t know, but I like it, so you should get used to it. He was the star of this team and I’m excited to see him play this year. I’m not sure Shanghai even rostered the best Chinese talent available, but considering their late arrival to the US, I could be wrong about them. They will be better by week 1, but until I see it, I’m going to choose to see the loss to Boston as a relevant indication of where they stand. I can understand a Chinese team not wanting to sign Western talent. I think it’s silly and a handicap to any team, to region lock themselves, but go get some Korean players or something. This team may be a perennial basement dweller if they forever limit themselves to chinese players. And unfortunately, I think that’s exactly what they are going to do. Could be big trouble in little China.