From the horizon to the forefront of most Overwatch discussion, the 2019 Overwatch League Season is just around the corner. And while I’ve given context on how I expect teams to do throughout the entire season, each individual stage will have drastically different results. As we head into Stage 1, I believe things are going to look very different from what you might expect. To help parse through all of the noise, I’ve created a small series of power rankings for the first stage that will help to not only measure expectations but to create discussion. But before we dive into my thoughts about the teams, here are my criteria on how I measured the teams as well as a brief explanation of how I’ve graded the teams.
Taking my own estimates and comparing to other experts opinions on the metagame, I’ve estimated that around 60-65% of most compositions seen will be some variation of team fight oriented deathball compositions such as GOATs. Branching from that I’ve also tried to weigh how much experience the team has with compositions of this nature as well as the familiarity that the coaching staff has with it. I also believe that having a strong sense of synergy within your team is incredibly beneficial to this style of play and will be accentuated throughout this stage in particular.That said, I don’t expect the metagame to be completely dictated by traditional GOATs compositions. However, it’s important to keep in mind that your team is going to have to run GOATs at some point. I will add that overall player skill at these specific heroes does hold some weight within my power rankings. With the recent change to D.Va, I also expect her pick rate to be impacted a fair amount. So having a flex tank that can either rotate to one of the many DPS heroes or to Zarya is going to be important for maps and points where GOATs is not as favored. Also, it’s important to note why the D.Va, out of all the heroes, will swap. Generally, D.Va is the least valuable hero in GOATs and has been for some time. She tends to take off angles and can pressure the enemies collective health pool and her ultimate can combo nicely with Zarya’s Graviton Surge. However, her ultimate is a little too dependent.In theory, it can deny space and split the enemy team, but you don’t want to sacrifice the ultimate charge on either your Brigitte or Zarya, so by default, your D.Va player will have to swap. And with D.Va missing from certain compositions, this adds a lot of value to heroes like Moira, Pharah, Sombra, Junkrat, and Ana -- just to name a few that come to mind.We also have to keep in mind the strength of a teams schedule will be a big factor in their success in Stage 1. A strong team might have a rough schedule that makes it difficult to rate them highly whereas a team people could consider a dark horse may have an easier schedule with an inverse effect.And last but not least, we also have to add some weight to how much chaos a team could muster. To expand, how often will a team throw in curveball strategies to keep their opponents on their toes or how different is their hypothetical style compared to the metagame? I personally weigh flexibility very high but don’t see a major meta shift during Stage 1 that is going to make this trait super desirable.Now, as for the grading process, I’ve divided the teams into four different tiers; S Tier for the Championship Teams, A Tier for teams that are Playoff Caliber, B Tier are the Middle of the Pack, and C Tier are my Bottom Teams. I’ve tried to stick to my own system as much as possible and assess that the higher rated the team, the more of my criteria they meet. So ideally, S Tier teams should show strong evidence from my criteria over an A Tier team and so on. With that in mind, here are my Overwatch League Season 2 power rankings.
The team that checks off the most boxes for me is the Vancouver Titans. They are incredibly familiar with many of the meta compositions and are a team that exudes synergy and teamwork, from their past as RunAway. I believe that is going to propel them head and shoulders above a lot of teams. Yes, I now tend to agree with other experts that the transition to Los Angeles could be difficult along with the departure of Runner and Flowervin, but Stage 1 should be fairly easy for them seeing how they have a very easy schedule. A litmus test depending on the metagame could be when they play against Paris. Europe has incredible tank centric teams and I expect Paris to be around that same caliber, so seeing how the Titans handle that will be telling.
New York Excelsior
The NYXL have a bit more questions I need answers too before I can return them to the top of the table. What lineup will they run on maps that can be a little more creative, but will force teams to return to GOATs and how strong is that lineup comparatively? I will say they don’t have a ton of experience with the composition, but their overall skill level masks that fact well enough that I’m not concerned.I have high expectations from this team and with their schedule, I don’t have too many worries. Their last match during week five against the Shock could be interesting and could be their first big test. Overall, a very solid team that is going to do well in the long run, whereas in Stage 1, they’re going to be faced with some questions of restructuring and that could cause some issues, especially at the flex tank position.
The team that everyone is talking about, the Hangzhou Spark are coming in with a lot of experience playing with and against GOATs which will seriously help them. The big question mark for me is how well do they integrate their Chinese members, namely guxue and Krystal. Even without their prowess, this team is comprised of season veterans from Overwatch Contenders Korea and pack a serious punch. This sentiment surrounds their coaching staff as well. The Spark are a team that to a degree is more than the sum of their parts, but their parts are also top shelf. I do have questions around their flex tank Ria and his flexibility, but the signing period is not over yet and we could see some late additions be made that solve this issue. All in all, very good team, not too rough of a schedule, should -- and will -- do well.
San Francisco Shock
Where to start with the Shock... There are so many things that could go right with this roster and I have a feeling that they will. With how much weight I’ve put on the flex tank role, in general, this stage, Nevix is going to look like an all-star. Being able to not only fill in as Zarya, but he can also flex to DPS heroes if needed, and that trait looks like it’s going to be nice to have. Not to mention they have Sinatraa, who can return to a comfort pick in Zarya. They’ve got a stellar DPS line if they want to run some shenanigans on a map like Route 66. And that’s not to gloss over their support line either. The team is hurt by having Viol2t be benched for two games, but they should still be fine. Moth is an incredible main support and brings a lot of intangibles to the team. I will say the Shock could run into issues late into Stage 1 as they widdle down the roster and solidify play time. This all-star, super team-esque line up is capped off with Coach Crusty who has been heralded as one of the finest coaches in the Overwatch League.
The team that could carry a lot of variance out of the top teams is the London Spitfire. They're not a team that has seen much success when the metagame has asked them to play coordinated. Think back to how they leveled up during the Season 1 Playoffs - it was in a metagame that allowed them to play a more loose style and rely a lot more heavily on their stellar mechanics. That said, I do think they still can brute force their way into a playoff spot. Guard is slept on quite a bit as I hear people talk about London. He’s easily one of the best Sombra players I’ve ever seen and this should see some use as the metagame is still slightly up in the air. I’d expect to see him share a good portion of playtime with birdring this season. I will say that Gesture and Profit are going to need to return to playing very coordinated with each other. The issue lies with having the team follow up on their calls. When it comes to flexibility, this is where London shines above most teams barring the Shock. Both Fury and Bdosin can flex to DPS and I expect them to do so fairly often. London is going to have a rough time early and I’ll be interested to see how they play against Paris.
The Philadelphia Fusion sit right on the heels of the London Spitfir;. I’ve grown on them as the offseason slowly has come to a close. The addition of Elk could add a strong leading voice that is incredibly familiar with tank compositions and how they work. I think we could see Poko return to his Zarya pick. I just don’t want to see the same Sado I saw during the Season 1 playoffs. We know he is incredibly talented, but over aggression is going to be punished extremely hard in this metagame. I also still have doubts about their inconsistency. Hero swaps and a slight lack of overall flexibility at key roles could dig them a small hole in games, but like a lot of top teams, they can overcompensate with pure mechanical skill. Also, it doesn’t hurt that they have a fairly easy schedule.
Europe’s hope, the Paris Eternal have wide eyes as they approach their first season of the Overwatch League. This metagame should be an amazing showcase of their skill and can easily create high morale for the later stages. Their coaching staff is world class. The team overall is incredibly experienced at GOATs, but their schedule is not very forgiving. However, I do expect them to actually beat London in their season opener due to how slow London seems to adapt to new shifts in the metagame. This puts them on pace to make the playoffs. Kruise surprised me a lot with how vocal he is and the team overall was built with a clear style in mind. BenBest, Kruise, and NiCO are going to be very aggressive and I don’t think teams are ready for how abrasive Paris is going to be in-game.
The Toronto Defiant is going to be a dark horse team - mark my words. It is a shame that Neko is going to be benched for their starting three games, which could cost them some maps, but they should be okay overall. The schedule for Defiant isn’t horrible, but they have to bring their best if they want to make playoffs, which is within the realm of possibility. Again, this is a Contenders team that has a lot of experience playing GOATs. Now, was it the most competitive region for the tank metagame? No, but they’re familiar enough with it that their offseason practice should have been more about refining and less about learning. Keep your eyes on Yakpung and Ivy to really carry the team to some surprising results.
Los Angeles Gladiators
Los Angeles Gladiators are going to need some time to ramp up. They're going to have to make some shifts that could cause some them hiccups along with the addition of r0ar and Decay, things might be shaky from the Gladiators. Their schedule is pretty rough Stage 1, but it isn’t impossible to see them make a playoff run. Decay and Surefour are going to be serious threats for the team. Their lack of general experience at GOATs does bug me, but they have a good amount of flexibility that if something isn’t working they can swap to another composition. R0ar having an more aggressive playstyle shouldn’t be all that jarring for the team that just parted ways with Fissure. We could also see Decay return to his comfort pick in Pharah, which should be something that excites you. He’s very strong on Pharah. All in all, the Gladiators should ideally start to ramp up after their match against Paris. This should give them ample time to gel and really get comfortable with each other.
Seoul Dynasty, where do I begin? I don’t think the offseason was all that bad for Seoul, I just still have questions around their main tank position. If Fissure does not see play, I think this in general will result in a much more cohesive, but --on paper-- weaker team. Allowing Jecse to make the calls and guide the team to success could see them take full advantage of their fairly easy schedule. Now if Fissure is playing, that’s where things could go south. He’s an incredible talent, but he is a big personality that you need to consider when adding him to your team, and I don’t think Seoul really thought that through. Expectations are tempered with Seoul and for good reason, but I can see them actually doing well with having Zunba able to flex to a decent degree as well as having a solid main tank in Marvel1. They also could break out Fleta’s Pharah which rivals for best in the league.
Los Angeles Valiant
The Los Angeles Valiant have some identity issues that they’re going to have to sort out before Stage 2. Constantly moving KariV around is not ideal even if he, in the short term, is a fix for the team. They didn’t make any moves in the offseason that really impress me. The addition of KuKi doesn’t make much sense when you have Fate and his English is good. SPACE not being able to flex off of D.Va could be an issue, but they do have a solid coaching staff that can mitigate any losses they may face. Not to quickly pass judgment, but they do have a rough schedule and are only going to catch a break late into the stage. The team doesn’t jump off the paper and neither do very many of their players, outside of Fate, for this metagame in particular.
The Atlanta Reign are one of the more variance based teams coming into the league. Dafran and Erster are both incredible talents but the question remains; can they work together along with their strong tank and support line. One late addition to this team has been Dogman, who bring a considerable amount of experience and leadership within the tank-centric metagame. While I’m more fond of Kodak, I think Dogman does bring some intangibles that might help the team in the short term. There is a fairly strong language barrier on the team and I do think that limits them to a certain extent. I also have questions around DACO’s flexibility when it comes to playing DPS heroes. With that said, the Reign does have some potential, that much is clear, but how impactful are some of these extenuating factors on them? Can Dafran keep his head in the game and commit? These are all questions that drop the Reign for me when it comes to power.
While the Dallas Fuel did make changes, I’m left almost wanting more. I don’t think they have a strong projectile player, but that they not affect them as much as I expect it to. I think Closer and rCk compliment uNKOE and OGE very well, but this team feels like it needs more time to percolate. With that in mind, the Fuel may struggle, oddly enough, within a metagame that could have benefited them. But a saving grace comes from the flex tank position where rCk is quietly one of the more flexible players at the role. Their schedule starts a little strong but ends well, so they might be able to actually make some moves higher than what I’ve judged them at, but as it stands, they just don’t check off a lot of the boxes compared to the field.
I will admit that the Guangzhou Charge are coming into the 2019 Overwatch League season slightly underrated, but I believe that’s due to the fact that this metagame doesn’t seem to suit them. Yes, they have some experience playing with the composition, but I still believe that the language barrier, as well as the lack of team culture, could seriously harm them. For me, it’s just a matter of when it happens. The Charge have not received any favors from the Overwatch League front office when it comes to their schedule. I expect their season opener against Chengdu to be a strong litmus test for the team, but outside of the Hunters and Florida, the Charge have their work cut out for them. The team overall has very skilled players, namely Kyb and Happy, but I just don’t see them succeeding in this metagame. As for flex tanks, HOTBA is alright and has been able to flex to other DPS in the past. If they’re able to muster a composition with Happy on a dedicated hitscan role, they could do extremely well, but I just don’t see that happening.
Coming off of an abysmal first season, the Shanghai Dragons were supposed to be alright. With recent event putting Fearless on the bench and reports of Gamsu replacing him leave me with more questions than I had last season. I’d love to put them higher, but it’s so difficult to know how they’ll perform with such a late addition. Geguri and GuardiaN both don’t seem to have any pocket DPS heroes, so I do think that limits them considerably. That said, we may see Geguri back on her signature Zarya. I don’t expect this roster to do well in Stage 1, seeing how their schedule is not kind. If the rumors are true and Gamsu is signing with this team, they might be able to come back in Stage 2 and have a solid performance, but I don’t expect much. The one saving grace is that a majority of their team is well tested on the GOATs metagame.
The Chengdu Hunters are China’s golden children. That said, Stage 1 is going to be a little rough for them when you look at their schedule. They’ve recently added jiqiren to their starting lineup which solves a lot of issues I had with the team. They do lack experience when it comes to competing with strong GOATs teams, but they do have a surprising amount of flexibility. Both JinMu and Ameng both have considerably large hero pools and Chinese flex supports have historically been asked to play DPS heroes quite frequently. I still believe that out of all of the teams, Chengdu has some of the highest potentials to unveil some oddball composition that may give teams a hard time. One thing I do appreciate is that the team seems to be built with an aggressive style in mind. Both JinMu and jiqiren are incredibly aggressive and if they can fit LateYoung into the roster, they’ve got a very similar lineup -- stylistically -- to Paris.
The one things the Houston Outlaws have going for them is their synergy. How much that acts as a multiplier for their GOATs composition, remains to be seen. The Outlaws schedule is not great and is going to be hard on them. They play Spark, NYXL, and Toronto, all of whom have a good amount of experience with GOATs between them. Their flex tank situation still leaves me scratching my head. While SPREE is the better Zarya, Coolmatt has the D.Va experience and could possibly break out some DPS picks here and there. People tend to forget that he actually started off on the DPS role. Funnily enough, their DPS roster has grown with the addition of Danteh, but they all still seem to be very specialized and don’t offer too much flexibility. I expect to see JAKE quite a bit as well as LiNkzr as I believe they are the most suited to the heroes that are going to be meta.
With how the last few teams are slated to resolve, the Florida Mayhem may be saved once again. I don’t see this roster doing all that well in a tank centric metagame. The Mayhem just added new coaches who are going to help in the long run, but I’d imagine that some restructuring has them taking a few steps back. I still don’t see where TviQ fits in this lineup. They don’t have very much experience on the compositions at all and, not to mention, their schedule is very difficult. A shining light on the team is either going to be Sayaplayer or BQB. If they can lean on the Sombra hard enough, they might be able to sneak a map win here and there, but I would not expect much from this team.
Narrowly missing the bottom spot is the Washington Justice, who have arguably the hardest Stage 1 schedule out of all the teams. Their team overall does not jump off the page, specifically when it comes to this metagame. They do have some experience and their coaching staff is quite large, but I just don’t see it coming together for them. If they can manage to keep their mental state above the tide for Stage 1, they have a good chance to make some impact during Stage 2, but the deck is stacked against them. This seems to be another team that doesn’t have a ton of flexibility when it comes to flex tank, but if they do decide to run Gido as flex support, he may be able to break out a Sombra at some point. I don’t believe the skill, the experience, the flexibility, nor coordination is there just yet for the Justice.
With one of their DPS banned for two games and reports coming out that their main tank has left them, I don’t know how the Boston Uprising can have a good Stage 1. They seemed hard locked into playing traditional GOATs, which isn’t terrible, but it severely limits them and makes their macro strategy very predictable. Ideally, they could sack the first two stages and really lean of the development of Fusions while drafting someone like Asking from their academy team up to the main roster. I expect some additions to be made at some point, but Stage 1 seems to be a wash for the Uprising. Joseph “Volamel” Franco has followed esports since the MLGs of 2006. He started out primarily following Starcraft 2, Halo 3, and Super Smash Bros. Melee. He has transitioned from viewer to journalist and writes freelance primarily about Overwatch and League of Legends. If you would like to know more or follow his thoughts on esports you can follow him at@Volamel.Images courtesy of Blizzard Entertainment.