After a dramatic year since it was publicly announced at BlizzCon 2016, Overwatch League is finally set to begin with preseason matches scheduled for Wednesday, December 6 through Saturday, December 9. With 12 teams from North America, Europe, and Asia set to fight it out in Overwatch League's inaugural season in January, this preseason will give everyone a sense of what we can expect in 2018. Let's take a look at what each team brings to the table, and how strong they look going into the preseason.
12. Philadelphia Fusion
The Fusion have a pretty stacked roster both in size and talent. With 12 players from international teams such as Faze, Team Gigantti, eUnited, Cloud9, GamersOrigin and more, it's going to be very interesting to see how they bring it all together over the course of the season. There is a lot of individual skill on the Fusion, but we won't know how well they play together until the season starts. If nothing else, the DPS team of Jae-hyeok "Carpe" Lee and George "ShaDowBurn" Gushcha are looking to keep on raking in the kills from their time together on Faze. Despite their talent, the Fusion take the bottom spot here for pulling out of the entire preseason due to "player logistics issues." We look forward seeing how they perform once the season starts in earnest.
11. Boston Uprising
The Kraft Group's Overwatch League team has some talent, but they have a whole lot to prove. They hired esports veteran Chris "HuK' Loranger as the President of Gaming, but many view the roster Boston has assembled as questionable at best. The Boston Uprising have players from South Korea's Conbox, Canada's Toronto Esports, Connor "Avast" Prince, previously of Luminosity Gaming, and others heading into season one. Don't expect them to climb too far out of the gutter, but they might pull off a few upsets.
10. San Francisco Shock
The Shock will probably climb in power rankings around the second half of season one. The reason they're starting out rather low on many people's lists is because Jay "Sinatraa" Won and Matthew "Super" DeLisi, two of their best players, won't be able to start due to age restrictions. Even though the rest of the roster includes talented players from Arc6, Cloud9, Kungarna, and other former professional rosters, the fact remains that NRG, the esports organization that owns the Shock, didn't see much success in the past even though they had a lot of individual talent. We'll see if they can turn that around.
9. Los Angeles Gladiators
Player to watch: Surefour
Dominating the opposition as McCree during his time with Cloud9, Surefour has also developed a very serviceable Tracer and Pharah in 2017. Look for Surefour to come up clutch in do-or-die situations, paving the way to many Gladiators victories.
Owned by Stan and Josh Kroenke, owners of the Los Angeles Rams, the Gladiators are starting at the bottom end of the middle of the pack. Canadian DPS superstar, Lane "Surefour" Roberts, is probably the most well known player on the team, having just played for Canada in the Overwatch World Cup grand finals. The Gladiators also have some excellent support players in Benjamin "BigGoose" Isohanni and Jonas "Shaz" Suovaara, previous members of Overwatch Contenders season one champions, Team Gigantti. Expect them to be spoilers throughout season one.
8. Shanghai Dragons
Not having any members of Miraculous Youngster, China's most well known Overwatch roster, is expected to hurt the Dragons during season one. They have some players from teams that have performed well in big tournaments that had some monstrous South Korean talent, giving them a slight edge over some of the other teams on the bottom of the list. Until they have some games under their belt, the Dragons are considered a sleeper that might come up much bigger than expected.
7. Florida Mayhem
The only team with six players, the Mayhem are the entirety of the former Misfits roster. Since they won't have any niche substitutes to pull into specific situations, each member of the Florida Mayhem are going to have to be playing at the top of their game at all times. Of the six Misfits players, three have been playing together since 2016, giving them quite a bit of chemistry to lean on. They're also all Swedish, meaning they won't have to worry about any breakdowns in communication during stressful team fights.
6. Los Angeles Valiant
Player to watch: Agilities
Ever since the NGE Winter Premiere at the beginning of the year, Brady "Agilities" Girardi has been wowing fans with insane plays on Genji and Roadhog.
Owned by the Los Angeles-based esports organization, Immortals, the Valiant are expected to perform well in the middle of the pack. They made some moves right before Overwatch Contenders to acquire South Korean players Envy, Fate, and Kariv, which have yielded very mixed results to this point. However, with the addition of former Rogue players Benjamin "Unkoe" Chevasson and Terence "Soon" Tarlier, along with some depth in the tanking department, the Valiant are looking like a much more formidable roster than ever before.
Player-to-watch Agilities shared some of his thoughts on Overwatch League and the opposition:
"It feels amazing to be able to play DPS in the Overwatch League," Agilities said. "I played DPS for Team Canada and the crowd and experience of playing up there during Blizzcon has me incredibly excited for the League and everything to come. I can't wait to play against teams like NYXL, Seoul Dynasty, and London Spitfire because they're the best of the best. You can honestly learn and improve so much just by playing against teams like these. It felt the same playing versus South Korea in the World Cup because they were just so unbelievably coordinated in everything they did."
Here's Agilities in action during the Overwatch World Cup:
5. Houston Outlaws
Player to watch: Coolmatt (#69)
Matt "Coolmatt" Iorio is a tank vet that has played for Fnatic and, most recently, FNRGFE. He's one of the best D.Va players in the world, bringing a lot of stability and consistency to his role.
OpTic Gaming was one of the last organizations to announce that they acquired an Overwatch League spot, though they never had an active Overwatch roster prior to now. The "Green Wall" put together quite an impressive team for Overwatch League, including many stars from the Overwatch World Cup. Even though they aren't necessarily projected to take it all, the Houston Outlaws have a lot of chemistry and history having played with and against each other for some time, and are very strong in all roles.
"Being in Overwatch League is a dream come true," Coolmatt said. "It's incredibly humbling to have been one of the few chosen amongst a sea of extremely talented players. I first heard the rumors of OWL over two years ago during closed beta. Since then, my only goal has been to become worthy of a spot in the league. When I joined the Houston Outlaws, I achieved that goal and the next step for us is taking home a trophy."
He also had some words for the Dallas Fuel:
"As a Houston Outlaw, our rival is the also Texas-based Dallas Fuel. Texas is a big state, but not big enough for the two of us. One of us has to go."
4. New York Excelsior (NYXL)
LW Blue was a South Korean team best known for their stellar tank and DPS play at Apex, perhaps the world's most competitive Overwatch tournament. Though they were set to play last season, the team forfeited their slot and left for the United States after it was announced that they would be New York's roster for the inaugural season of Overwatch League. Now on a global stage, they're expected to finish near the top of the standings at season one's conclusion.
3. Dallas Fuel
Player to watch: Taimou
When it comes to Overwatch superstars, Timo "Taimou" Kettunen is already a living legend. Whether it's terrorizing people on Widowmaker or carrying on McCree, Taimou's aim and reflexes are inhuman.
Team Envy have been taking down top international teams since very early on in Overwatch esports. After the acquisition of Pongphop "Mickie" Rattanasangchod late last year, they seemed unstoppable, even winning an Apex tournament as foreign invitees. Their most recent additions of Felix "xQc" Lengyel, Brandon "Seagull" Larned, and Scott "Custa" Kennedy will add some depth to every role, making the Fuel one of the best rosters in Overwatch League. It's not unrealistic to say they have a shot at winning it all.
2. London Spitfire
Cloud9 came under scrutiny after acquiring Laser Kittenz as its European Overwatch roster. It seemed as though that would be their team for the Spitfire, but C9 had other plans. Shortly after the Laser Kittenz acquisition, Cloud9 announced that they had bought out the roster of KongDoo Panthera, a South Korean Apex team. To add to the drama, they then acquired players from GC Busan, another South Korean Apex team. Soon, members of Laser Kittenz began announcing their status as free agents, making it clear that London's team was taking advantage of region-free recruiting. Since C9 KongDoo and GC Busan were both powerhouses in the South Korean scene, expect London to finish at or near the very top of the standings.
1. Seoul Dynasty
Player to watch: Ryujehong
Je-Hong "ryujehong" Ryu is an anomaly. The things he can do with Ana are nothing short of godlike. From 180 Sleep Darts to ridiculous grenade tosses, ryujehong's presence of mind in all situations is absolutely incredible.
When it comes to consistent results, you can't really ask for more than Lunatic-Hai, South Korea's most intimidating roster with an unbelievably huge following. It came as no surprise when they were announced as Seoul's team for Overwatch League. Additionally, Joon-hyuk "zunba" Kim, Jin-mo "tobi" Yang, and Je-hong "ryujehong" Ryu all featured on South Korea's Overwatch World Cup team, which as we all know took home gold at BlizzCon in both 2016 and 2017.
If anything, first place is the Dynasty's to lose. They're going in as the favorites in the inaugural season, forcing every single team to give it everything they've got. Expect matches with Seoul to pull in the largest viewer numbers, and feature some of the best plays of the season.
This play from ryujehong is just a small taste of what to expect when Seoul is up to bat. Look for many Dragonblades to be shut down in the near future.