One of the leading topics in Overwatch League season 2 has been the perceived parity of teams. Many pundits will only confidently commit to outcomes of matches from New York Excelsior and Vancouver Titans or on the other side of the spectrum Washington Justice and Los Angeles Valiant. As the hierarchy at the extremes materializes, the question marks in the midfield are arguably bigger than ever before. Why are the other 16 teams so close?
A lot of players with short term ineligibility issues
Late last year the league released their player discipline tracker, revealing all suspended players for the start of the season. Last year competitors like Philadelphia Fusion’s Sado had been banned from competing for three whole stages and punishments across the board had generally longer durations. In comparison, the one to five game durations of this season are much more short term. Perhaps counterintuitively, in short ineligibility issues lies a significant source for the variance we can observe in stage 1.
While the Fusion had a predictably long time frame where they could only use Fragi, no scrim time had to be split and investing in the Finnish main tank was easy enough to justify in order to reach the season playoffs. Synergy was worth developing and building at least a solid core line up has historically been paramount to a functioning team.
Looking at the length of not just suspensions but general ineligibility issues such as age restrictions, visa troubles
It is likely that some teams have split scrim time in these circumstances and have valued the first two weeks of matches less in order to have better longterm results by forming a core roster early.
GOATS don’t look at the same stars
The meta is GOATS and goats don’t care much about your former career achievements. The triple tank, triple support meta composition doesn’t seem to select for the same expressed talents in players. Instead, those teams who were quickest to absorb the mycelium like flow chart of decisions to take in any given situation are those who seem the fittest.
Carry performances come from different positions on the roster. Main tanks and supports gained a disproportionate amount of importance in this meta, with tanks like Fusions and supports like Masaa being able to transform teams overnight. Perhaps teams themselves were reluctant to accept those new realities or tried to weigh the short term success of establishing a dominant GOATS roster against the long term benefits of creating a roster that is more robust for metas that are likely to follow in stage 2 and onward.
Teams like San Francisco Shock still seem to be in a state of roster uncertainty and malleability in which they are still trying to decide with which frontline the team will start as well as which DPS players will establish themselves. With an embarrassment of riches at their disposal and a title as their goal, teams like the Shock but also the L.A. Gladiators will have to go through a similar selection process as last years champion’s London Spitfire. Therefore, in a meta very unlike the ones we had before and are even less likely to continue to see over the rest of the season, teams in their positions couldn’t have been expected to be powerhouses from the get-go.
A lot of of rust, a lot of green behind the ears
Overwatch League players from season one who weren’t either called up for the post season All-Star event or didn’t participate in the World Cup or worse yet didn’t make it to the season playoffs, had more than half a year of competitive void to bridge over. While they were certainly practicing also against other Overwatch League teams for months before the start of the season, it doesn’t appear to be quite the same as having the metaphorical spear of real competition in their backs to drive them forward.
Likewise, a lot of new players have entered the league from contenders regions all over the world and most of them haven’t played on a stage as intimidating as the one in Overwatch League. With hundreds of thousands of eyes on them, the pressure is high. Allegedly a couple of players had to use the facilities from falling sick of stage fright in the first two weeks. While many rookies have the advantage of having played GOATS for the last 6 months in their respective
As a result, some voices have come forward, criticizing the overall level of play. According to some pundits, only a handful of teams have internalized the ins and outs of GOATS and the others are learning as they compete. According to contenders coaches, it isn’t that the GOATS composition does inherently invite for upsets or more randomness in match outcomes. Very much to the contrary, GOATS is said to be one of the most consistent compositions for top performing teams to outplay their lesser opposition on. Coaches disclosed that the meta couldn’t be blamed for the volatility we are seeing.
Given that improvements are generally quicker the lower one’s skill is at a task and with the issues of stage fright and rust still relevant, rapid improvements are to be expected over the first couple of weeks and some teams will do so more efficiently. This results in vast differences in performance from one week to another.
The quality of players significantly increased and is more spread out
The first season of the Overwatch League was a lesson to many. Too late last year, some general managers and head coaches had
Half spurred by the desire to be London Spitfire, half by the fear of becoming the next Shanghai Dragons, teams set out to scout the best talent Overwatch had to offer. Last season there had been plenty of examples to point to of OWL-calibre talent outside the league. The prime example to name here
Other key cores who have been picked up for season 2 were players from the successful
Conclusions and outlook
If the aforementioned arguments for the
Featured image courtesy of Robert Paul for Blizzard Entertainment