March 30, 2018 by coachcarter717
The Florida Mayhem enjoy a more successful Stage 2 as they continue to improve (Courtesy of Activision Blizzard Inc.)
Written by Carter Cotrupi
The Stage 2 playoffs concluded this past Sunday, with the Philadelphia Fusion upsetting the reigning stage champs, London Spitfire, only to go and narrowly miss pulling off the upset of the year in a 3-2 loss to the New York Excelsior. Ladies and gentlemen, this is why I cover the Overwatch League. Every team possesses the talent to win against any opponent under the right conditions. The skill gap is so small, and players and coaches continue to evolve as we move forward in the inaugural season.
It’s time for another round of “Team Notes”, where I go over all twelve OWL teams with a metaphorical fine-tooth comb. I share my general observations and thoughts on what improvements each team can make to become more competitive heading into Stage 3.
Note: these articles will be divided by the final standings of Stage 2, not the overall standings.
- Shanghai Dragons
Newly signed Shanghai Dragons coaches RUI and Creed, and new support player Sky arrived in the US on Thursday (Courtesy of Shanghai Dragons on Twitter)
For about a month now, Shanghai fans were giddy with excitement over the news of four new players signing with the now 0-20 team. These four signees include the Zarya sensation Seyeon “Geguri Kim”, flex player Gihyeon “Ado” Chon, support specialist Junjian “Sky” He, and main tank player Eui-seok “Fearless” Lee.
Ado and Fearless received their visas first and both landed in the United States in time to start both games in Week 5 for Shanghai. Later that week, the team checked in with Geguri as she arrived in LA, while the Dragons announced the arrivals of Sky and new Coaches Yan “Creed” Xiao and Wang “RUI” Xingrui to the states a couple days ago.
Even with the new players arriving, the lineup is going to require some experimentation. Both Diya and Undead returned to China earlier in March due to family emergencies and missed the rest of Stage 2. Both players are required to go through a visa re-examination as they attempt to travel into the U.S. Although, it appears only one of them will be returning to the Overwatch League stage as the Dragons announced the mutual release of Undead earlier this week.
The consensus from various reporters is that Undead was dealing with ‘personal issues’ involving his now ex-girlfriend, and there is no clear explanation for what that entails. Some people in the community assume it has to with his history of relationships and some details that have risen to the surface about his character.
One thing to note about esports players is that these kids (because most of them are in their late-teens/early 20s) rely heavily on personal relationships with the people around them. Yes, there is plenty of love and admiration that comes from their fanbases and communities. But when these players step away from the computer screen and go back to being normal young adults, they need a good support system to endure the high amount of stress and pressure that is put on them day-in and day-out. I hope Undead can find resources to sort out his relationships and has a support system to help him make the right decisions from here on out.
Originally, I thought the new additions would build around Undead’s superb DPS play, but it looks like Shanghai will have to go back to the drawing board.
Stage 3 will debut a fresh new Dragons roster with the four signees and a new coach at the forefront. I would expect to see both Roshan and MG replaced by Geguri and Fearless right out of the gates. It will be interesting to see how the new Dragons coaching staff decides to fit Sky and Ado into the rotation, but either way a complete team rework is in order.
- Dallas Fuel
(Courtesy of Robert Paul, Photographer for Blizzard Inc.)
I was going to save this section for an article on its own since there is so much to cover, but all the highlights of the Dallas Fuel are based around their dilapidated state. So here it is!
At the start of Stage 2, the Dallas Fuel looked like a different team thanks to the additions of aKm and Rascal to their starting lineup. aKm brought a level of Soldier 76 play that we had never seen in OWL and Rascal was the crucial utility player that Dallas lacked in its previous role-specific roster. The team surprised everyone in Week 1 as they swept the Dragons 4-0 and put up an impressive 3-1 victory over the improved LA Gladiators squad. Although Team Envy captain Taimou was downgraded from his starting DPS spot, the return of main tank xQc from suspension meant that we were looking at the lineup that Dallas fans had been longing to see since Stage 1.
Fast forward to the end of Stage 2 and the Fuel are facing a serious identity crisis.
On March 9th (Week 3), the league made an official announcement taking disciplinary action against multiple OWL players and one coach. Two of the players highlighted in that report were Dallas’ own Felix “xQc” Lengyl and Timo “Taimou” Kettunen. For Felix’ second infraction of the player code of conduct, he was fined $4,000 and suspended for four matches. The offenses listed included “repeatedly using an emote in a racially disparaging manner” on the official league stream and on social media, as well as using harsh language that targeted Overwatch League casters and fellow players on his personal Twitch stream and on social media.
Fuel captain Taimou was fined $1,000 for using anti-gay slurs on his personal stream but was not suspended. Kettunen expressed serious regret after the incident occurred on stream and his immediate thoughts on the situation were summarized in the tweet below.
Like with xQc’s first suspension in Stage 1, Dallas fans were in an uproar blaming the league for intentionally dolling out more severe punishment to the Fuel players. Some of this backlash is supported because of Blizzard’s inability to compile a full Code of Conduct report. However, the fact remains that players like xQc, who are largely confused with what type of conduct is expected of them in their position, will not enjoy a long tenure in the Overwatch League.
Not long after the suspension was handed out to xQc, the Dallas Fuel announced his mutual departure from the team.
Perhaps the most telling signs that Felix was not going to make it in OWL was the response from his teammates following the news of his release. Scott “Custa” Kennedy, support player for Dallas explained his thoughts on the release on his personal Twitch stream. His response primarily focused on how difficult it was for the team to plan around xQc’s suspension from league play, specifically in trying to fill the main tank role that Felix left open during his absence. Simply put, no matter how good of a player xQc is, he wasn’t there to help the Fuel succeed.
The Struggle Continues…
(Courtesy of Dallas Fuel on Twitter)
Early in Week 5, Dallas fans rejoiced with the news of Korean main tank player Minseok “OGE” Son signing with the Fuel to fill the gap left by xQc’s departure. But before we could see OGE in action on the Blizzard Arena stage, the league announced a four-match suspension for Son due to his participation in account-boosting schemes last summer (2017).
Blizzard’s swift response to this type of player conduct violation is to be expected. Before the OWL preseason began this year, Philadelphia Fusion tank player Kim “Sado” Su-min was suspended for 30 matches for account boosting. He won’t start in league play until Stage 4. The big difference to note between these two cases is that Sado was found to be more active (a more prolonged record) in his account-boosting schemes than OGE was. As Overwatch League commissioner Nate Nanzer explained, the league officials take the amount of account-boosting into consideration when taking disciplinary action.
The good news coming out of all this drama is that the Dallas Fuel are in the process of hitting a hard-reset on their team development and chemistry. With xQc gone and new players being pushed to the front, it appears Team Envy will no longer be the core of the Fuel roster.
- Florida Mayhem
(Courtesy of Florida Mayhem on Twitter)
One of the biggest surprises coming out of Stage 2 was the improved performance of the Florida Mayhem. What impresses me the most about their 3-7 record in Stage 2 was the individual development displayed by players like Logix and TviQ. The execution of their plays and game strategies has grown to be more balanced and crisp. The veteran presence of Zappis certainly played a hand in the Mayhem becoming a more disciplined team overall. The team known for their hilarious social media presence and wacky entrances in Stage 1 is starting to migrate that unbridled confidence into their playstyle.
Besides adding Zappis in the off-tank role, this is the same roster of the players that sunk to 11th place in Stage 1. Ending at 9th place in the Stage 2 standings is no small feat for a team that everyone (myself included) assumed would stay at the bottom of the barrel. While they remain at 11th in the overall standings, the Mayhem are quickly becoming a team that the rest of the league must take seriously. Not reflected in their 3-6 Stage 2 record is how fiercely the Florida Mayhem contended with the likes of NYXL, Houston Outlaws, and the LA Gladiators during Stage 2.
The one concern I still have about this Mayhem roster is exactly how Zappis fits into the rotation. Sure, we saw the former Team Giganti captain play Zarya on maps like King’s Row and Lijiang Control Center but the improved consistency of Chwoosh on the Winston and Manateen on DVA makes it hard to see what role Zappis will have going into Stage 3.
Overall, I think the Mayhem unofficially showed the greatest improvement in team development. Closing out games and avoided 0-4 sweeps will continue to be the biggest obstacles for this team as they look ahead towards their toughest schedule yet in Stage 3. Florida can make a huge impact early on by upsetting teams like NYXL, Philadelphia, or London.
- San Francisco Shock
The Shock had a hand in Houston missing the Stage 2 playoffs, but their performance overall was subpar from what many analysts expected. Their 3-7 record could be perceived as 1-7 if you consider their other wins were against the 0-20 Shanghai Dragons and the Dallas Fuel at the peak of their xQc nightmare. Switching to a non-Mercy meta should have favored a support line that is better known for wrecking as Lucio and Zenyatta.
I like the addition of Moth to the support group. He came in and looked sharp as Ana with smart Mercy play to fallback on. It was also a welcome sight seeing Nomy working on his survivability as the main tank. Unlike his performance in Stage 1, this Nomy knew when to peel back to help disrupt enemy flankers and avoided taking unnecessary risks when the fight was unwinnable.
Sinatraa may have just turned 18, but he has already won the lottery with a nice $150,000 player contract thanks to his heroics in Team USA’s World Cup run last year. However, his performance in the last week of Stage 2 has many San Francisco fans feeling a bit underwhelmed. Understandably, Sinatraa has not had that crucial experience playing with his team on stage at the Blizzard Arena. I have no doubt we will see his best play once Stage 3 kicks off, but the big question surrounding the debut of Sinatraa in the main Tracer slot alongside Babybay is where that leaves Danteh. As we’ve seen throughout both stages this season, Danteh has led the Shock as the primary DPS player, playing everything from Tracer to Genji when needed. But once Sinatraa gets caught up, there will be little room for him with Babybay continuing to be a consistent threat in the main DPS slot.
One interesting theory about Danteh’s future in the league comes from Your Overwatch over on YouTube and their interview with Overwatch League caster, “Crumbz”. In his interview, Crumbz and Freedo discuss the patchy state of the Houston Outlaws and how Danteh could be the missing piece to the team making a comeback in Stage 3. Houston appears to have a desperate need for someone who can play Tracer at a competitive level.
Overall, it looks like San Francisco needs to make some moves before the end of the trade deadline (April 3rd). Their current lineup just doesn’t seem to have that high-impact capability that many other OWL team rosters possess. We’ll see if they keep Danteh around to provide some extra motivation for Sinatraa to stay on top of his game.