OverWrite: Stage 1 Week 4 news blitz

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February 7, 2018 by coachcarter717

(Courtesy of Activision Blizzard Inc.)

Written by Carter Cotrupi

In this first edition of “OverWrite”, I cover the Dallas Fuel’s continuing struggle to find footing in the OWL standings, introduce two new players being signed to the league, and give a preview of the Stage 1 recap.

Dallas Fuel’s Problems Continue

 

Jonathan “HarryHook” Tejedor Rua leads his team onto the stage in the Blizzard Arena. (Courtesy of Robert Paul for Blizzard Entertainment)

There is just one week left before the start of Stage 2 and the return of xQc from suspension, which should provide a positive note in a sea of troubles for the Dallas Fuel, who currently sit in 10th place at 1-7. The Fuel’s core roster of former “Team Envy” players has met a multitude of complications in OWL. The team that was picked to be one of the frontrunners for the playoffs has not been in-sync after going undefeated in the inaugural preseason.

In a recent episode of “On the Watch”, the Dallas Fuel’s official YouTube series documenting the team’s experience in OWL, players noted the difficulty maintaining open and clear communication during their matches. With a roster containing pros from nine different countries, the language barrier was expected to be a challenge for the Fuel. But it sounds like the communication problem stems from each player’s inability to execute their part of the general game plan.

Brandon “Seagull” Larned, DPS player for the Fuel noted in the video, “…essentially what ends up happening is everyone ends up talking too much and you don’t have an effective leader to follow.”

He went on to clarify, “It’s not necessarily team comms as in people not talking as much as it is people not listening or having a very clear structure on who to talk to.”

This interview occurred the week before Dallas’ infamous loss to Houston and the events that led to xQc’s suspension. Since then, the Fuel have only one win (3-0) against the San Francisco Shock (3-5). Dallas has played noticeably better since re-inserting Timo “Taimou” Kettunen into the starting lineup, although the man himself admitted on his Twitch stream that his level of play has not been up to his usual world-class standard.  Taimou recently revealed in an interview with Blitz Esports that fan engagement, especially the negative kind, in the Blizzard Arena on stage can be very distracting, but the Fuel seem to get the worst of it having so many prominent Twitch personalities on the team.

Dallas Fuel has a very winnable matchup against the last place Shanghai Dragons (0-8) tonight and will end Stage 1 facing off against the teetering LA Gladiators (3-5).

Overwatch League Signing Period Begins

Monday, January 22nd marked the first day of the free-agent signing period in OWL in which teams can sign any eligible player who is not currently signed to an Overwatch League contract. This signing period comes at a convenient time with the recent changes to Mercy and Junkrat going live to the league servers at the start of Stage 2. The nerf to Mercy will lead to many teams running much different comps than we’ve seen in Stage 1. As such, some teams will be scrambling to find new players who are better equipped to play heroes like Moira and Lucio in the support role.

Only two teams so far have announced their free agent signings: Dallas Fuel and Florida Mayhem.

The Dallas Fuel have announced that they are finalizing contract negotiations to sign free agent DPS Dylan “aKm” Bignet. The 22-year-old French pro most recently played for team “Rogue” in the Overwatch Contenders league in 2017 alongside current LA Valiant players “SoOn” and “uNKOE”. Many Overwatch fans were surprised when aKm was not among the initial OWL team rosters because of his stellar DPS play, namely with Soldier 76 and McCree.

aKm represents Team Rogue in the early days of Overwatch Apex. (Courtesy of Redbull Esports)

As great as aKm will perform on any OWL roster, I have doubts as to what exactly his role will be on a Dallas Fuel team loaded with DPS talent. If anything, I would have thought that the Fuel needed a change of pace at the support role, especially with the Mercy nerf right on the horizon. Chipshajen and Harryhook are both solid support players at the pro level, but I would like to see if there are any free agents who might be better suited for the non-Mercy meta approaching in Stage 2.

Next is the Florida Mayhem. At 11th place and sitting on a team of just six players (the minimum number required to compete in OWL), there is a lot to be desired from this talented roster. Fortunately, the Mayhem recently announced the signing of Tank player Joonas “Zappis” Alakurtti, who will operate in the flex Tank role. The Finnish player is already familiar with the Mayhem roster. Zappis was a part of Team Gigantti since its creation in August 2017, where they beat the Misfits squad that makes up the Mayhem roster during the Overwatch Contenders season one finals. This joining of two rival parties should be mutually beneficial. Zappis should be able to provide some veteran leadership and valuable insight into the strategies and weak points Team Gigantti used to beat the Misfits back in Contenders.

For the last place Shanghai Dragons, who are currently operating with eight players, free agent signings would allow the team the chance to start experimenting with strategies utilizing more substitutions for certain map types and different team chemistry. After watching the Dragons win a map against the dominant Seoul Dynasty, fans understand that this team can compete at the pro level. But what this team needs are the tools to build around star DPS player Chao “Undead” Fang. The main problem the team has faced in trying to sign new players is that a lot of the top-tier talent in China is under 18 which is the minimum age required for league eligibility.

Yang Van, team manager of the Shanghai Dragons understands the pressure his players face to be the pinnacle of Chinese pro Overwatch players but plans to draw from Chinese military experience to help shape the team into a cohesive unit. “In training, strictness and discreetness will be the two important disciplines,” says Van. “We will ask players to be strict themselves and be discreet with their attitudes.” Van is aware of how Chinese esports pros typically operate. Everyone plays to their highest ability but lacking a rigid game plan to follow, and that is something that he wants to steer the Dragons away from.

Alongside free agency is the chance for teams to trade for players. That period will start Feb. 11, though it is unlikely that any of the 12 teams will give up any of their core talent, especially with so much of the regular season left to play.

The deadline for teams to sign or trade for new players is April 3rd.

A Look Ahead

Stage 1 of the Overwatch League’s inaugural season is nearing its end, with the London Spitfire and Seoul Dynasty leading the Atlantic and Pacific divisions respectively. As I’ve come to find out, leading your division in OWL does not guarantee you the $100,000 first place finish in each Stage.

No, on Feb. 10th (Saturday), the 2nd and 3rd place teams (currently Seoul Dynasty and New York Excelsior) will compete for a chance to take on the 1st place team (currently London Spitfire) for the $100,000 performance bonus for winning that Stage. The second-place team will also receive a $25,000 performance bonus as well for each Stage.

If you’re a visual learner like me, then the video below should help clear things up.

Look out for my Stage 1 Recap in near future as well as a breakdown of the Overwatch Contenders League, which is set to start March 5th.

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