Sunday, 20 January 2019

Halo's 2019 Pre-Season Power Rankings

As many power rankings showed last year it can be hard to hit the nail on the head with a dead certainty for title contender and who may languish around at the bottom of the league but the countdown is on and with the season starting in less than a month, it's pre-season power rankings time with every analyst and fan having their own opinions of which teams are the best and looking likely to get win the entire season. With this I've dropped my power rankings into the masses and see where we end up once the season has played out. There are now Twenty teams in the league and all twenty have locked in their rosters for the opening games for the season, which provides the chance to take a look at the teams and evaluate their chances.

#1 Philadelphia Fusion

When visa issues caused the Fusion to miss season ones preseason games, the perception around the league was that they wouldn't be a team to worry about. However, the Fusion came on leaps and bound on their way to a second place finish at the end of the season. With the leagues best DPS duo in Carpe and EQO who will be looking to cause havoc against the best and worst teams alike, the Fusion will have another deep run if Main Tank Sado can show the promise he came into the league with. It's very tight between them, London and New York but Philadelphia will have a chip on their shoulders after a very underwhelming finals performance.

#2 London Spitfire

The reigning and defending champion London Spitfire, come into season 2 after a roller coaster ride last year. After a strong start in winning stage one and a third place finish in stage two, the team fell of the face of the earth until stage four when strategic coach Agape joined the team full time. This move and a meta change led the Spitfire to barrel roll the opposition in the playoffs on their way to beating the Fusion in the finals. The some how underrated Finals MVP Profit and Main Tank Gesture will need to be the on form focal points to allow the Spitfire to contend again and Bdosin's shot calling is going be need to be on point now the Spitfire have the target on their backs.

#3 New York Excelsior

Being the only team to have played in every stage final, the Excelsior were the best team when it came to the regular season. However, the age old LW Blue playoff curse struck once more when they were surprisingly and unceremoniously dumped out of the playoffs by the Fusion after their round one bye. The Excelsior have the strongest squad in the league led by flex support and regular season MVP Jjonak, but the questions around the team’s consistency when the games matter and the fact they may have too many pieces for the puzzle may end up causing more problems than answers.

#4 Los Angeles Gladiators

It turned out that the Gladiators were only missing a Main Tank for them to go from a mid table side to potential contenders as they were able to beat the top sides on a consistent basis once they picked up Fissure from London. That all came crumbling down when the Gladiators benched Fissure prior to their playoff match with London and ended up losing to London for the first time all season. With Fissure joining Seoul this off season the Gladiators picked up a solid replacement in ex Kongdoo Panthera Main Tank Roar, whilst also improving their DPS core with Decay and one of Europe’s best Supports in Ripa. The Gladiators have every opportunity to rival the top three going into the season.

#5 Los Angeles Valiant

As the best team from the Pacific Division last season, the Valiant didn't so themselves justice when getting eliminated in convincing fashion by the Spitfire after earning a round one bye. Head Coach Moon has had a full off season to implement the the team he wants, as DPS player Soon was transferred to Paris, with KSF being given more game time in his place and Kariv likely moving from flex support to DPS as well. Despite keeping Custa at support and the progression of Space in becoming one of the leagues best Off Tanks. Questions are out as to whether the stage four champions are still the kings of LA.

#6 San Francisco Shock

The Shock were average at best during the 2018 season and it resulted in Crusty becoming head coach from stage four onward. Crusty worked his magic in leading the Boston Uprising to the stage three playoff final and becoming the only team to go 10-0 in the regular season. With the shock he's made his mark this off season and targeted both DPS and support as area's to upgrade, when he signed former Uprising DPS player Striker, promoted DPS Rascal from academy team NRG and then signed support Violet from O2 Ardeont. This line up is stacked and with Architect leading from the front could very well surprise a few teams.

#7 Vancouver Titans

The first of expansion team of the 2019 season, the Titans made waves when picking up Korean Contenders Season 6 champions and fan favourites in RunAway. With the hype and expectation around RunAway and many fans believing that they have been one of the best teams to ever play the game, the Titans will need to live up to their name from the start. Rapel and the RunAway's have the talent level to compete with the best teams in the league but with their being holes in their DPS players pools, a tank line that are very streaky and the fact that RunAway were good one year and struggled the next (This would be a struggle season in Contenders) it will be interesting to see if they live up to the high standards.

#8 Dallas Fuel

The Fuel came into 2018 as a title contenders and many peoples hope that the west was best when it came to professional Overwatch. That dream shattered early and it was only in stage four under new Head Coach Aero that the promise from the season's start returned. In 2019 they come in as a huge underdog which will work to their benefit. Picking up Jayne as a coach was a big move in the right direction and the team picking up a good off tank in RcK, a DPS player with an immensly deep hero pool in Zachareee and probably the most underrated pick up in Support player Closer from London. The Fuel will return with something to prove in 2019 and with their return come that of one of the leagues best players in DPS Effect.

#9 Shanghai Dragons

When you look at last seasons standings, you wouldn't expect to see the team that went 0-40 being anywhere near to playoff contention. However, the Dragons have learnt from the atrocity that was 2018 have some big upgrades. Having picked up the core of Korean Contenders Season 6 runner in Coma, Dding, Luffy & Youngjin from Kongdoo Panthera to build around and the Dragons signing ex LFZ DPS Diem (Yes his name relates to Fusion DPS Carpe) means that they will be able to not only be competitve but win more than just their first ever league game. Finally they have a coaching support structure outside of Creed this season with BlueHas from KDP and Element Mystic strategic mastermind in Levi both joining. Expect to see Main Tank Fearless show his best teaming up with Levi once more.

#10 Hangzhou Spark

The Pink, Blue and White Hangzhou Spark are the second expansion team from this off season and they have picked up a very solid roster combining X6 & Team Seven from Korean Contenders. Led by former X6 Head Coach Mask and supported by ex Team Seven coach Supreme, the Spark haven't forgotten their Chinese roots however, picking up two of China's best players and 2018 Overwatch World Cup representatives in Main Tank Guxue and DPS player Krystal. The Spark have quickly become one of the fan favourites and could easily become a playoff contender despite the fact that they have a Chinese/Korean language barrier right now.

#11 Seoul Dynasty

Before the 2018 season started, Seoul were the unanimous favourite to win the entire league and start their Dynasty from the start. They had a strong first stage but then having no direction from the coaching staff, non-existent form and injuries to some key players. Seoul crashed and burned in season one not even making it to a single stage playoffs. This cause the team to have a complete rebuild within their coaching hierarchy with Hocury being moved to GM and the additions of former 6nakes Coach KGD to Head Coach and signing ex Spitfire coach Changgoon.

They also picked up a much needed upgrade in two key area's of Main Tank with Fissure from the Gladiators and Element Mystic Support and shot caller Jecse, meaning that DPS player Fleta could have the needed support to push Seoul to where they were expected to be. However, if things don't go well from the start, the Dynasty could explode and it won't be a pretty sight to see.

#12 Guangzhou Charge

When the Chinese expansion teams were announced, the Charge decided that they were going to be an international team from the start and showed this early by picking up Chara, Happy, Rio & Rise the core of Korean Contenders team Meta Bellum. As Sideshow states in his Charge Team Preview, Meta Bellum were the most active Korean team when it came to learning English, meaning that any potential language barrier was broken down before the Charge was even formed. From here the Charge have obtained OWL experience in Off Tank Hotba from the Fusion, picked up the exciting DPS player Eileen from China, reunited Support player Shu from Uprising Academy and the United Kingdoms Notorious Kyb after a stellar World Cup performance. It will take time for the international team to become one but when they do, don't be surprised to see Guangzhou go on a Charge and take a few scalps along the way. 

#13 Toronto Defiant

Canada's second expansion team, the Defiant have gone down the Korean route to build their roster and have picked up a range of experience for this season. Their first port of call was to pick up former Spitfire Head Coach Bishop who has a record of 12-3 including playoffs to build their roster and started with picking up Off Tank Envy and Support Neko from the Valiant and Uprising respectively. They then went with Contenders Korea Season 4 runners up O2 Ardeont trio of Ivy, Stellar and Yakpung, then rounding off their roster with Aid, Asher & Roky. Their's questions around whether this line up is strong enough but Bishop has a good record in building rosters after London which could allow them to end up higher than this.  

#14 Boston Uprising

This off season has been tough on Boston, with the turbulence around their first season. There a team that's without a recognised Head Coach and lost some of their star players in the likes of Striker. They've have made some moves that fits their mantra of picking up coach able players and the likes New Zealand's Colourhex at DPS and Brazil's Alemao from Contenders Australia and South America but it's hard to see them recreate their form from last season. The addition of Gunba should help avoid the instability they had last year.

#15 Atlanta Reign

When you've built a mixed roster of China, Europe, Korea and North American Contenders players, you can usually expect there to be one position of the team that stands out more than the others. However, Atlanta have signed the best tankline from Korea in former Element Mystic Main Tank Popko and Off Tank Daco, the best DPS player in all of Contenders from China's Luck Future Zenith in Erster who's going to need to use his ability to flex now more than ever. One of the most underrated Flex Supports in the professional scene in Kodak who's Zenyatta is one to rival the best of them, the best Main Support from the European Contenders scene in Maasa. They also had the biggest surprise signing in European enigma Dafran after he repeatedly said that he wasn't going to go professional again. The Reign are going to have a few problems with communications early and have a lack of experienced coaching at this level that will effect them early but a mid table finish would be respectable for them. 

#16 Paris Eternal

European fans rejoiced when the Paris Eternal were a announced as they were likely to get the European team that they wanted with London in the first place. With Daemon from the Valiant taking the Head Coaching job after a successful world cup and the likes of former Team Gigantti coach Seita  and Eagle Gaming analyst and coach Fefe supporting, they have picked up the best coaching staff they could have from Europe. From a playing point of few having the experienced Soon at DPS was a big coupe and two of Europe's best contenders players in Main Tank LHCloudy and Support Kruise who probably both should have been in the 2018 season. Outside of this there are a few questions in regards to their roster and it may be down to the coaching staff to get the best out of them and pull off a few surprises, otherwise it could be a long season for Paris fans. 

#17 Houston Outlaws

Houston's record of 22-18 in 2018 wasn't as bad as people made out, however the Outlaws decision to only add former Shock DPS Danteh when they had pressing needs at DPS, Off Tank and more evidently their supports will mean come back and bite them. Most of the original 12 teams have upgraded or passed the Outlaws and the majority of expansion teams have acquired players that would have been an asset for them. It's hard to see how the Outlaws can contend with their current line up.  

#18 Chengdu Hunters

The last of the three Chinese expansion teams, the Hunters are the only team from China that has gone with a national team for their majority. Rui returns to OWL after his tenure with Shanghai and brings with him a reunion of Miraculous Youngster in signing Lateyoung, Jiqiren, and YangXiaoLong. Yvetal joining from LinGan e-Sport gives the Hunters a star player and everyone's favourite Taiwanese player BaconJack  has returned to the professional scene. With questions over their depth and whether or not they are able to contend is the biggest question but if anyone is going to get the best out of a Chinese team it's Rui.

#19 Washington Justice

The Typical Genius has spread his wings from NYXL and is now the leading the justice system in Washington. He's brought Main Tank Janus along with him to be the foundation block to build the team around, using his now famous scouting/statistics system to create his team. Washington have picked up other players with some OWL experience in Support Gido and DPS Ado from Seoul and Shanghai respectively. However, this is where the experience stops and the Justice have picked up some talented but raw players that will need to take time to develop. Most noticeable of this raw talent is former NRG DPS Stratus and former Gladiator Legion Corey. Both are highly rated coming out of the North American scene but along with the majority of this team, they are extremely inexperienced and that could be there downfall this season.  

#20 Florida Mayhem

I think it's time for a state of emergency to be put into place in Florida because the organisation is in a complete state of Mayhem. The 2018 season was a huge disappointment for a team that had one of Europe's best Contenders teams representing them but the support structure failed the team as much as the team failed the fans. After completely gutting their mainly European roster outside of Tviq, Sayaplaya and SNT (formerly AwesomeGuy) will lead a Korean roster that includes BQB from X6, a promoted HaGoPuen from their academy team and Swon from NRG. They would have had a shot to at least be better than last season. However, the rest of the team have a lot of questions about their ability to perform at the highest level and the support structure seems to be awful once again This has been shown once again with rumours of Coach R2der being released from the organisation with under a month of the pre-season remaining.  

(You can find more Overwatch League and London Spitfire related content on Twitter @haloofthoughts)
(Picture Credit: Blizzard Ent0

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