Thursday, 6 February 2020

Halo's 2020 Overwatch League Power Rankings

By Arran "Halo" Brown

The 2020 Overwatch League is finally just a few days away, after what seemed to be an eternity of an offseason. We have had the United States of America win their first Overwatch World Cup and the busiest offseason with teams looking to buy, sell and trade to either stay within their parameters or go all out into win or bust mode. While it has been exciting to see all of this unfold, nothing quite beats seeing the leagues 20 teams battle it out every week to show which teams are the predators ready to strut and implement their dominance and which are the prey, trying to scramble to stay alive any way they possibly can. As power ranking season comes to a close and the League begins its world tour, where every team will host homestand games in front of their loyal supporters, it is time for me to drop my power rankings based off the moves made this offseason and how teams have faired during scrims leading up to this point. 

For 2020, I will be doing one list that I will ride or die with throughout this season as we did last year. Giving my opinions on teams and where I feel they have either failed or succeeded during this offseason. It is a long road ahead of us before the 2020 Grand Finals but let's take a look at where I believe each team is at the current time and my thoughts behind these placings.

20. Dallas Fuel

There are three things you can expect in life, death, taxes and the Dallas Fuel not making the required roster moves to improve. While they made upgrades in their coaching staff in moving Jayne to Envy content creation and bringing in former EM assistant coach Yong there just is not enough top-level talent throughout this roster to consistently perform.

While trading Oge for Decay gave the Fuel the star DPS player they desired. It cost them a lot mechanically in signing stage winner Gamsu as his replacement. While Gamsu's leadership is going to be vital to Dallas, it weakened the team at the tank position as well as the already struggling Supports the team did not need. The addition of Doha also from Element Mystic should take some of the unnecessary pressure ZachaREE receives from the Fuel fan base, it still leaves the team without a true Flex DPS and this could add to the woes I expect them to face this season.

Aero may have won the World Cup with the United States but he comes into the 2020 season in the hottest of seats as a 1-13 record after the 2019 all-star break would have cost over Head coaches their jobs. I don't feel that even with their vastly improved DPS corps, they will be saved from their dire performances that we have now grown accustomed to.

19. Boston Uprising 

The Boston Uprising is the worst team in the league when you look at current talent levels and although I do believe this roster is better than last years, they have also for the most part seen their rivals acquire bigger and deeper rosters this year. That said, this is a team in my mind that screams potential and what Huk has constantly tried to build coming into his third year of President of Gaming. They started this offseason with one of the best signings when they snuck in early and got O2 Blast Flex Support Myunbong for a steal. Myunbong was in my mind the best support in all of  Overwatch Contenders last year and despite playing on this current roster, is still my pick for rookie of the year. Boston promoted highly rated Off-Tank Mouffin on a 2-way contract and Main Support Swimmer from Uprising Academy, while also signing Netherlands Off-Tank Brussen after a fantastic Worl Cup Performance. Bringing in a veteran presence with DPS player Munchkin, should help Fusion in pressure situations but also help keep Colourhex and Jerry focused. 

If Huk has managed to get it right like he did in 2018, then he is going to look like a Moneyball Millionaire who will be able to shut up the people who have hated on his team-building preference over the last few years. If not and this fails as it did in 2019, then there could be a lot of questions heading towards Huk's direction.  

18. Paris Eternal 

After going with the ideology that the Paris Eternal was going to be Europe's hope in the Overwatch League, they have quickly moved away from this after a below-average first season, the Eternal decided on going with a mixed roster and signed former San Francisco Shock coach Ninek, then quickly picked Element Mystic's Headcoach Rush and brought over star DPS paring Sp9rk1e and Xzi, plus Off-Tank Hanbin. Paris didn't stop there in trading for former Hangzhou Spark Main and NoSmite and continuing to commit to the European fan base in signing Off-Tank Smex and French World Cup star FDGod.

This is a talented roster that will take time to completely gel and during this time, Sp9rk1e is ineligible to play as he turns 18 at the End of May. This is a roster that is going to need the coaching expertise of both Rush, Ninek and former EM and Shanghai Dragons strategic coach Levi to work around this roster and make them as competitive as they can. While I have Paris at 18 right now, they could very easily be around the 10th -15th places at the end of the season. 

17. Chengdu Hunters 

Out of the leagues 20 teams, the Hunters are by far the hardest to place. There charismatic we play what they hell we want, off-meta compositions have brought them a lot of fans and it worked well enough for them to finish in a surprising 12th place and earn the spot in the play-in tournament. While they were eliminated by the Charge, they showed that they have potential as a roster.

This offseason has seen the team change their roster up and once again I am unsure of it. They lost Head Coach Rui due to the need to manage his health concerns and promoted former assistant coach Ray and brought in Dokkaebi to be Co-Head Coaches. Former Hunters support Garry retired and moved to the assistant coach role to free up space, giving the team's fairly experienced coaching staff and former players Jiqiren and YangXiaoLong were both released.

The big move every OWL gang was waiting for has now come into effect with star DPS player Leave now being age-eligible to play and the Support player Molly, who Chinese fans believe is the best support coming from Chinese Contenders also joins the Hunters 2020 roster alongside fellow Support Lengsa and Main Tank ATing. Leave and the Gigachad Ameng will continue to be the stars of this roster and could very well push them to a mid-table position this season but I am currently struggling to place them any higher just because of the improvements other teams have made.

16. Washington Justice 

There is a lot of similarities between the Washington Justice and Dallas Fuel is surprisingly scary. Both were horrible for the first three stages of their inaugural season and then same to live in stage 4 to give their fans false hope. While Dallas kept the same roster then following year, Washington made a few moves in an attempt to be at least competitive in 2020 but I'm not sure the moves they made have improved the team greatly.

This is still Corey and the gang as scrims have shown, he's the standout player on this roster. While Ellivote and Lullsish come in as the team's new tank line to provide him with a decent amount of support that has the potential to greatly improve. The additions of an average Roar and a player who was a publicly known distraction in Aimgod does not fill me with confidence that they will turn their fortunes around.

15. Florida Mayhem

It has taken 2 full rebuilds, 15 former players and 11 former staff to get to a point where the Florida Mayhem look like they will be competitive but we are finally here. The Mayhem has kept the roster that showed signs of life in stage 4 of 2019 and new GM Yehhh filled the two biggest needs the team had, in picking up Flex DPS player Yaki and Flex Support Gangnamjin from Korean Contenders team RunAway. Joining them will be their former Headcoach Kuki, who returns to the league after playing for the Seoul Dynasty and Los Angeles Valiant.

While the Mayhem was average at best as last season ended, there is a ton of talent on this roster that should push forward now they have the depth of talent they have been missing. While the RunAway acquisitions are the big names this offseason, watch out for Karayan and Gargoyle as they enter their first full season, as they were once touted the best tank line in Korea and should be able to show this in 2020, allowing more freedom for the rest of the team.

14. Los Angeles Valiant 

To many, the Los Angeles Valiant have had the most underwhelming off-seasons out of all 20 teams. They lost Custa to retirement and the OWL analyst desk and traded Space to rivals the Los Angeles Gladiators, as well as trading the dynamic duo Agilities and Kariv. Many felt that this roster was going to be the worst team in the league but the Valiant has quietly picked up an underrated roster that will surprise a few people. Two of the big keepers was re-signing Head Coach Packing10 after doing a spectacular job turning the team around last season and keeping DPS duo KSF and Shax. They also signed promising Support player Lastro from Skyfoxes, former XL2 DPS KSP after a great showing in both Contenders and the Overwatch World Cup, finally giving both McGravy and Apply an opportunity and signing another former XL2 player in Main Tank Gig.

Packing10 has shown that he prefers a western roster and can get the most out of the talent he is working with and so far the Valiant has been one of the teams performing the best after a slow and choppy start. If and this is a big if, they can translate this form on to the stage, the Valiant will be a nice surprise to watch.

13. London Spitfire

The 2018 World Champions have hit the ejector seats. After a disappointing 2019 that saw an Incredible regression where they only made the stage 2 playoffs and barely made the Play-In tournament. London made the move to part with their winning roster and move towards a more cohesive unit. Profit and Gesture were traded to the Seoul Dynasty for cash considerations, Fury was traded to the Philadelphia Fusion for Bernar, Fuse and cash considerations and the remainder of the roster was released apart from Krillin. It caused London fans to worry about the direction of the team and whether they would be competitive.

However, the moves they have made are about potential star power and wanting to work with players with high PMA. London signed a player with the potential to become one of the best DPS players in the game from Gen.G when picking up Glister in the first few weeks of the offseason, they then quickly snatched up highly rated LGE.Huya Main Tank JMac to pair well another potential star player in Bernar and finally traded for Seoul Dynasty player Highly, who did well in his 2019 appearances.

While the remainder of the roster includes highly rated players such as Main Support Sanguinar and Main Tank Wrecking Ball specialist Jihun, who is dubbed the Korean Ameng, has left fans wondering where the Spitfire will land this year. The team have progressed quickly in scrims and are performing to a level that nobody expected right now. While there are a lot of unknown factors to this roster, placing them at 14 may actually be a little low and they have so far this Preseason made a case to be in the Play-In tournament at the least.

12. Hangzhou Spark 

The Hangzhou Spark had an impressive 2019 which they should have used to springboard off, having finished 4th overall in their first year was impressive. However, their moves this offseason have been underwhelming at best in the grand scheme of things. Yes, they promoted Coldest from their Contenders team Bilibili Gaming who will be an upgrade at Flex Support and Mika should be a solid back up behind IDK but they have so far at least, completely ignored their biggest problem which is at the DPS position. I expected a few big moves from the Spark but have been left feeling like they are going to follow the London and Philadelphia blueprint of 2019, where they get left behind by other teams making big improvements.

11. Houston Outlaws

The first two years of the Outlaws existence are years that everyone wishes they could forget about. However, with Infinite gone and Beasley Media in. The Outlaws made a splash this off-season. Signing Headcoach Harsha may be the most underrated moves that the team will have made this off-season as he is highly regarded by both western and Korean players alike, which is near on unheard of. They followed this up with the signing of the off-season when they convinced Off Tank Mek0 to join the team as well as signing Jesce and Rapel. These are three massive upgrades in positions the team have struggled in the first two years and they should allow both DPS player Danteh and Main Tank Muma the opportunity to have some space from opposition pressure but show they have been two good players a lacking team.

I expect that the Outlaws will be greatly improved in 2020, picking up their first winning season. However, I have concerns that the leadership that Jake brought could be lost after his retirement and the inexperience of their assistant coaching staff with Hooreg who is in his first coaching role and Dream who went 2 - 4 in his previous coaching role with the Montreal Rebellion, may damper their progress somewhat.

10. Toronto Defiant 

The 2019 season started out so well for the Toronto Defiant, they went 5-2 in stage 1 and looked pretty confident going into the stage playoffs. Then they got beat convincingly and seemingly continued to decline to the point they switched from an all Korean roster to a mixed roster by stage 3, all but wiping down their inaugural season. If the teams moves in the 2020 off-season are anything to go off, they have learnt their lesson and have picked up a strong mixed roster going into the year. DPS player Logix was the only player to stay on a full OWL contract from 2019 and it's allowed the Defiant to go pretty big.

They traded for Los Angeles Gladiators DPS Surefour, then went across town to the Valiant to pick up BFFs Agilities and Kariv. They didn't stop there when they traded DPS player Ivy to the Fusion for highly admired Main Tank Beast(halo) before multiple other teams and then rounded off their roster with flex god Off Tank Nevix and former Uprising Support Kellex. Not only has Toronto picked up a lot of highly skilled players who are underrated by most, but they have also signed players all known for their dedication to the team. It may take them a few weeks to really get rolling but they should be a lock for the Play-In tournament at the worst and show why Jae is known as a GM who is constantly able to improve 

9. Guangzhou Charge

The Guangzhou Charge were the youngest team in the 2019 season and it showed in their play in the first two inconsistent stages as they could not find a consistent rhythm or cohesion to win games. They missed not only leadership but struggled in the Goats meta to take the pressure off Happy. They solved part one by bringing in Fragi from the Fusion and Bischu from the Gladiators, but this team really got going when Nero became of age, Curryshot came in as their strategic coach and the meta finally switched to 2-2-2 and brought back DPS heroes. 

While Nero is the only addition still on the roster from those made during last season. The Charge has made some positive moves this off-season. The biggest may have been in signing former O2 Blast Off-Tank Cr0ng to replace Hotba as Cr0ng was the best available OT in a stacked position across all the Contenders regions. They also brought in Neptuno as a free agent to keep the international feel and the leadership he will bring, as well as promoting Support player Wya from T1W.GZC the Charge's academy team. With Hero Pool coming in, the Charge may actually benefit from this the most as they have such depth in a majority of positions, I just hope that the rescheduled games and the week 5 late start for them at this time, does not affect them too much. As this is a team that could make a deep dark horse run.

8. Seoul Dynasty

After a disappointing 2018 and 2019 that showed great improvement but still failed to live up to the Seoul Dynasty's own expectations, 2020 is now going to be a win or bust after their offseason acquisitions. They started by pulling off the biggest trade this off-season, with the signings of London Spitfire DPS Profit and Main Tank Gesture to become their new star players. They then somewhat surprisingly released Support Jesce after resigning Tobi, traded Highly and star prospect Glister from Gen.G to the London Spitfire lost their captain Jehong, who followed the unretired Fissure to the Vancouver Titans and then signed Free Agent Flex Support Bdosin from London.

It's been an eventful rollercoaster of emotions for Dynasty fans but one that they should be happy with the upgrades they have brought in. Profit and Gesture are the stars of this team and if they can find the form that propelled them to Apex Royal Roaders and OWL Season 1 Champions the Dynasty's Gamble may well payout. 

7. Vancouver Titans

'Runaway now is not OWL level, as fanboy triggering as that sounds'... we all know the rest of this copypasta but the 2019 Vancouver showed why they were OWL level in their first season by being the stage 1 runner up, stage 2 winners and then Grand Finals runners up. Despite this, the Vancouver hierarchy decided that they needed to make changes to make that final push on 2020. Team leader and star Main Tank Bumper and back up Main Tank Tizi were both released this off, to the displeasure of the former RunAway members of the team and Hooreg retired to become an assistant coach for the Houston Outlaws. Enter one of the most interesting story's of 2020, the return of Main Tank Fissure to the Overwatch League.

Despite Fissure retiring during the middle of last season, his contract with the Seoul Dynasty ended this off-season, meaning he became a free agent when he returned. While the fan opinion on Fissure is divided, he does provide more flexibility at Main Tank that should benefit the Titans, especially when it comes to playing Winston. The Titans second addition this off-season was just as surprising in former Seoul Dynasty Support Jehong. After a few years with Lunatic Hai/Seoul Dynasty, Jehong moves as a free agent to the Titans. At this stage of his career, Jehong deserves the opportunity to join the team that will give him the best chance to win and that's the Titans. Whether he starts over Twilight is questionable but he will bring a respected and veteran presence this team may need.

6. Los Angeles Gladiators

For two straight years, the Gladiators showed that they were good enough to contend but not to go any further than a short run in the playoffs. The off-season saw huge changes in the backroom staff with the Gladiators partnership with Sentinels ending and a major reshuffle that saw Dpie become GM and HC, along with former Guangzhou Charge strategic coach Curryshot joining the team. Their playing roster has seen a lot of change this off-season as well, popular Support duo Shaz and Biggoose have stayed but the remainder of the Gladiators roster has changed for the better. They traded DPS player Decay to the Dallas Fuel for Main Tank OGE and pulled off an incredible trade for cash considerations with cross-town rivals the Los Angeles Valiant for star Off Tank Space.

Add that they have picked up former Spitfire DPS and star player in 2018 Birdring and paired him with probably the most flexible DPS in Overwatch Contenders in Mirror. There is a lot to like about this rosters starting six that should keep them in the title hunt all year.

5. Philadelphia Fusion 

After being the 2018 runners up, the Philadelphia Fusion decided to stick with the same roster with the thoughts they would be able to replicate their first-year success. Despite a promising start with a stage 1 playoff appearance, the team never found any form and barely made it into the Play-In tournament where their season ended. In the 2020 offseason, the Fusion decided to go all in. Trading potential future star player in Fusion University Off Tank, Support player Fuze and cash considerations, they traded for Carpe's friend and player widely considered one of the best Off Tanks in the league in Fury, formerly of the London Spitfire. They then promoted top prospect in Flex Support player Alarm, signed Main Support Funnyastro and also resigned Flex DPS EQO in their attempts to go all the way in 2020.

With a belief that Main Tank Sado's performances will see an improvement with a better support line and Carpe's preference for him to stay. There is no doubt that this is Carpe's team and there is a strong feeling from within the Fusion that this roster will not only see Carpe return to his star performances of 2018 but that the Fusion themselves will contend again.

4. Shanghai Dragons 

In statements I did not think I would make so early in the Overwatch Leagues life span, the Shanghai Dragons look a problem. After breaking their curse and winning 2019's stage 3, the Dragons form dipped and resulted in them having to make the postseason via the play-in tournament, which they were respectively removed from by London. The Dragons decided to retool again this offseason. Moving Diya to a 2-way contract and replacing Youngjin Gamsu, CoMa and Envy, by pulling off one of the biggest moves in trading for former Dynasty DPS Fleta and signing DPS player Lip from Blossom, Stand1 from Gladiators Legion, Void form the Los Angeles Gladiators and highly rated LeeJaeGon from RunAway, under new HC Moon who was formerly with the Los Angeles Valiant.

Chinese Dragons fans were not happy with these announcements when they were first reported but if the Shanghai Esports Open victory and the fact that the Dragons have dominated the Asian region in scrims are anything to go by. The Dragons are a legitimate playoff content this season.

3. Atlanta Reign 

In 2019 the Atlanta Reign was probably the most underrated of the expansion teams to come into the league. While Dafran was the big name that everyone wanted to see and did for one stage before he retired, former LZF DPS Erster is the player that has become the star of this roster. Despite being on Brig for the majority of the season, he was finally unleashed when role lock was added and helped the Reign not only go undefeated in Stage 4 but knocked the Shock to the lower bracket in the playoffs. 

The majority of the Reign roster stayed, including Frd who is now the team's starting Off Tank after a string of impressive performances since replacing Daco and the teams voice Dogman. They have added some serious firepower in highly rated DPS players Edison from GC Busan Wave and Sharp from Envy, who paired with Erster will cause teams to have nightmares and will definitely be a contender again this season.

2. New York Excelsior 

The New York Excelsior come into 2020 with a roster overhaul and a new identity. Former Head Coach Pavane is now an assistant coach with the London Spitfire, star Off-Tank Mek0 has left to join the Houston Outlaws and the Big Boss Pine has retired. The more passive and reactive Excelsior we once knew is dead and it's a move that will benefit them greatly. Now steps forward a New York team that looks like the will have aggression for days. IMT is now the team's Head Coach after an impressive postseason and his aggressive mentality has come to the forefront with the Excelsior promoting Off Tank Bianca from XL2, picking up Off Tank Hotba from the Charge, DPS WhoRU from the Philadelphia Fusion and Support Mandu from Korean Contenders O2 Blast. 

The Excelsior is still a top tier team who seemed not only more comfortable with the change in play style but determined to show that this is going to be the year they win the league. The big factor will be whether they can adapt to new metas quicker than they have before.

1. San Francisco Shock

The reigning and defending Overwatch League champions have so much talent, that it made sense they only made 2 changes to their roster this offseason. With Choihobin becoming a top three Off-Tank while playing virtually every game last year, trading Nevix to the Toronto Defiant made sense to allow him to play. The pick up of ANS who came out of retirement after playing with Blossom gives the Shock the one thing they were missing in a very good Widowmaker. 

Shock still has the best DPS corps and Tank line in the league, while also having a top tier support line. I would like to see them pick up one more Tank or Support but Crusty is the best coach in the league right now and it's hard to go against what thinks. Therefore I am expecting another dominant season where this team will not only be hard to beat but will be setting the pace and potentially template that most teams will look to follow.

The 2020 season begins on Saturday 8th February when the New York Excelsior host the Toronto Defiant, Paris Eternal, London Spitfire and the Boston Uprising at the Hammersmith Ballroom. While the Dallas Fuel follows this with their first homestand of the season when they entertain the Los Angeles Gladiators, Los Angeles Valiant Vancouver Titans and the San Francisco Shock.

(You can find more Overwatch League related content on Twitter @haloofthoughts
(Picture Credit: Overwatch League & Rob Tempest)

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