Things in the Overwatch League are starting to heat up in a huge way. The league is set to return this Wednesday after a week and a bit off, ready to start the fourth and final stage of the competition before playoffs.
There are six spots open for the final playoffs, with all 12 teams having 10 more games to stake their claim. While the likes of New York Excelsior seem like a shoe-in for the top spot and it’s mathematically impossible for Dallas Fuel, Florida Mayhem and Shanghai Dragons to make it, the middle of the table is incredibly close. Any team feels like they can beat any team and it’s all so closely matched, whoever ends up booking their tickets to the play-offs will likely do so with a few strokes of luck on their side.
As we are about to hop in and see what happens, I thought I’d put five predictions out there for you to mull over. While theory-crafting is always a dangerous business and I’m only setting myself up to be laughed at when this all goes horribly wrong, I truly believe this is going to be one of the most unpredictable and wild stages thus far. With that in mind, here we go.
Brigitte Will Be Prevalent
It’s hard to know what a new character will bring to top-level Overwatch play. Most of the time, even when a character is strong, they struggle to find their spot for a long while if ever in organised play. Moira is exceptionally powerful at lower levels and solo-Q competitive games for most players, but unless a team goes exceptionally tank heavy or are trying to contest a wavering point, she doesn’t see a lot of professional play.
I don’t think that is the case with Brigitte. Her utility, ease of use and ability to counter some of the most prevalent strategies in the league will make her an important part of most teams. The character is very strong right now, which is always going to help a cause but her creation was made with the purpose of countering dive gameplay. She’s particularly strong against Tracer and Genji, two characters that define teams thus far in the competition. She will change the way the league is played and that is potentially exciting.
If Hanzo’s Changes Come Through, He Will See a Lot of Play
Hanzo is a weird one right now. The inclusion of his rework in this stage has been really unclear. It began with the comments from players saying the recently reworked Hanzo wouldn’t be making the cut but messaging from players and broadcast teams since then have been flip-flopping all over the place as discussions are apparently still ongoing. (As a side note, it’s pretty wild that teams don’t know what patch they will be playing on just two days away from starting play.)
However, if Hanzo’s rework does make it to the league (and I’m currently leaning towards that it will, thanks to news that teams have been scrimming with him), expect him to be a huge part of team’s repertoire. The rework of Scatter Arrow into Storm Arrow has seen a huge shift at the top end of play. Hanzo has skyrocketed from 1.36% to 11.48% pick rate at Grandmasters and reports by those in the know say that teams are utilising him to terrifying effect behind closed doors. It’s hard to say exactly if he’d become a must-pick, but I fully expect we’d see him a whole lot.
The Meta Shift Will Cause Havoc with Everything We Know
With those first two predictions pertaining to specifics, on a more general note, I think this new meta is going to cause mayhem with everything we’ve learnt about these teams thus far. This is probably going to be the biggest meta-change in the league since it started all the way back in January. While the move away from the Mercy meta between Stage 1 and Stage 2 was a big shift, I think the introduction of Brigitte (and possible Nu-Hanzo) is going to cause something even bigger.
Tracer will not be as necessary, teams will move towards deathball and even possibly triple support. On top of that, dive will not be as powerful as it has been. Dive has underlined almost all of Overwatch League thus far, so if it subsides I expect our understanding of who the best teams are will change wildly. The top teams could struggle if they can’t leave behind their old playstyles and teams who have languished but have more diverse and eccentric hero pools could run riot. To get more specific…
Boston Uprising and Other Dive-Focused Teams Will Struggle
Boston Uprising were a revelation in Stage 3 of the Overwatch League. They became the first team to win every game in the stage, going from somewhat obscurity to a 10-0 team, even despite losing one of their best DPS to misconduct with a minor.
However, I worry for Boston. The team specialise in dive composition, their player Nam-joo “Striker” Kwon being one of, if not the best Tracers in the league. As previously stated, the introduction of Brigitte could really hurt both Tracer and dive and I’m not sure that the team has enough flexibility to adapt to another play style. While I think teams like New York Excelsior and Los Angeles Valiant could have a little trouble adapting too, no one is in more danger than Boston. I don’t think the team will get anywhere near the results of last stage, and more than that, I can see a world in which they go below .500.
Houston Outlaws and Strong Tank Teams Will Rise
The Outlaws are a tricky team. They went from one of the very best in Stage 1 to lower mid-tier in both 2 and 3. They can beat anyone on their day, but their ‘days’ have felt a little few and far between over the last 20 games. Many have placed the blame of that on the team’s refusal to bow and get a defined Tracer player. With all the best teams in the league having a god-tier Tracer, Houston has felt lost in the dust due to the gap in their roster. While Jake ‘Jake’ Lyons improved tenfold on the character throughout the season, he’s certainly not a Striker or Jong-yeol “Saebyeolbe” Park.
With the likely diminished importance of the character, as well as the possible rise of Zarya, Reinhardt, Widowmaker and Junkrat, Houston has the stage set as well as it could ever hope to spark a comeback. I think teams with very strong tanks are going to excel in this meta, with Los Angeles Gladiators and London Spitfire having great shouts of doing very well. That said, if I was to put my money down on the most improved team this stage, it would be the Outlaws.
Oh, you’re not satisfied with just the five. Fine. Have one more:
Shanghai Dragons Will Get a Win This Stage
… or at least, in my heart of hearts, I hope so. Dreagons take my energy.
I’m excited about this stage and since the table is so close right now, seeing just how it plays out is going to be fascinating. Every map win is going to be incredibly important here for most teams, so this change in meta to something potentially so different is really going to through the league into chaos. Lovely, juicy chaos.
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