Stage one of Overwatch League was full of tremendous matches that showcased the best talent in the world. It gave us many pleasant surprises, such as the Boston Uprising's unassuming roster finishing sixth, and the Houston Outlaws narrowly securing second place. But it also showed us why a variety of factors can prevent talented rosters from meeting expectations. Let's take a look at why certain teams struggled with insights from OverwatchScore analyst, Brandon Padilla.
The winless Shanghai Dragons
A dubious cloud formed over the Shanghai Dragons when China's best professional Overwatch team, Miraculous Youngster, announced in November that their roster would be moving on to other games. Other than Boston, Shanghai fielded some of the most unknown talent to begin the inaugural season. As it turned out, their roster wouldn't even be able to muster up a single win in their first ten matches, and only salvaged six total maps.
It all starts with tanking and healing. Without good tanks creating space for their DPS or support players capable of keeping those tanks alive, fights are often over before they start. That's exactly where Shanghai fell short more often than not.
"Roshan [Wenhao Jing] is one of the fastest-dying tanks in the league, and other teams know it," says Padilla. Combine that with poor Mercy play from Yage "Altering" Cheng, and you have a recipe for failure. Time and again, Roshan's dives with Winston were poorly timed and easily read by the opposition. Even when things should have gone more smoothly, Altering established a pattern of being unable to keep key players alive, creating unwinnable conditions for Shanghai over and over again.
Another area where Shanghai came up short was in the Genji department. Simply put, they don't have a world class Genji player. While it's true that many teams are executing complicated Genji-less strategies right now, "if you can't pull him out, things get a lot harder," Padilla says. Consider how often a single Dragonblade from players like Georgii "ShaDowBurn" Guscha of the Philadelphia Fusion turned hopeless situations into victorious teamfights. Shanghai couldn't even play that card if they wanted to.
Problems for the Florida Mayhem
It was tough watching the Florida Mayhem crash so hard in stage one. Player for player, they usually matched up pretty well against other teams, and their energy was second to none. Most of them have been playing together since well before Overwatch League as the former roster of Misfits, even coming in second at the first season of Overwatch Contenders. However, many fans and analysts cite their loss to Finland's Team Gigantti at Contenders as one of the biggest reasons why Florida struggled so much in stage one, as they were only able to win one match—and that was against Shanghai.
"Losing to Gigantti, then having most of that roster scouted to other OWL teams while Misfits stayed together, told us everything we needed to know," says Padilla. As the esports expression goes, they were "downloaded." Two of Gigantti's players went to the Los Angeles Gladiators (Benjamin "BigGoose" Isohanni and Jonas "Shaz" Suovaara), one went to the Houston Outlaws (Jiri "LiNkzr" Masalin), and one went to the Philadelphia Fusion (Joona "Fragi" Laine). Players have been very vocal that knowledge of their former teammates' tendencies have helped win fights, and the same goes for those that they've played against. Since Florida didn't sign any new talent heading into stage one, they were undoubtedly easier to read than other teams.
The Dallas Fuel turned in a disappointing performance
When Overwatch League first started, the Dallas Fuel were the unanimous "Saviors of the West." If there was one mixed roster that was going to fight for a top spot in the standings, it was going to be Dallas. Three wins and seven losses later, they're sitting in tenth place with a -11 map differential (wins minus losses).
Perhaps the Dallas core, made up of the former Team Envy roster, was just heavily romanticized coming into it. They were the only non-Korean team to win an Apex tournament in Seoul, and they remained strong through Overwatch Contenders season one. Additions such as fan-favorite tank, Félix "xQc" Lengyel, star support player, Scott "Custa" Kennedy, and DPS legend, Brandon "Seagull" Larned made Dallas look even more formidable on paper. Something just wasn't clicking.
Padilla and others say that although there's a wealth of talent on the Dallas roster, many of their players have had significant mental barriers that have interfered with their play. xQc has a long history of getting in his own head, and Padilla suggests that his vocality in regards to his own struggles might have impacted the rest of the team, which is why they looked better after his suspension. Hyeon "EFFECT" Hwang and Timo "Taimou" Kettunen have also battled with the mental game, as evidenced by the fluctuation in quality of their play. If Dallas can't break these issues down in the dugout and in scrims, they're in for a very long season.
A new meta might help
Now that Mercy will likely see much more bench time in professional play, we very well might see some of these struggling teams step up their game. Many teams are already hinting at impending tank-heavy compositions, which means our beloved Lúcio will find his way back into the meta. There's also a good chance that Moira and Ana will be called up since their heals shine with high-HP, clustered teammates.
Shanghai in particular should at least get a few wins this stage now that Roshan and Altering's styles will fit better with the meta. They also made headlines by hiring the first female player, Kim "Geguri" Se-yeon, to fill a much-needed Zarya role for triple and quad-tank compositions. Another tank they added was Euiseok "Fearless" Lee, who Padilla says is able to do what Roshan can't—"He gets in there, slams faces into the ground, and gets out."
Florida will finally be able to unleash Sebastian "Zebbosai" Olsson on Lúcio, which alone is a huge step in the right direction. The addition of Joonas "Zappis" Alakurtti will offer more flexibility in the tank meta, and bringing on Ha Jung "Sayaplayer" Woo should lock Florida in for one of the best Tracers in the league. All around, a new meta and new players should make Florida a much more competitive team.
Team Envy thrived in the old tank meta, so there's no reason to think Dallas won't be able to do it again. Taimou can stay in the starting six as Roadhog, and Jonathan "Harryhook" Rua is a phenomenal Lúcio and shot-caller. Expect Dallas to convert some of those close matches to wins in stage two.