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Overwatch League Season 2 Pre-Season Power Rankings (#10 – 1)

February 14, 2019 | Posted by Jeremy Thomas
Overwatch League Genji Hangzhou Spark

Welcome back, Overwatch fans, to part two of our 2019 Overwatch League pre-season power rankings! I covered the bottom ten teams of stage one in my first part, which you can read here. And now, with only six hours to go until the first game at the time of this writing, it’s time to look at the best.

There’s a lot of variety in the Overwatch League this season, which finds the twenty teams coming into a meta in flux. GOATS (triple tank, triple support) is still prevalent but looks to be in the process of fading out, and there have been plenty of moves in the off-season. But without further ado, a reminder of how the power rankings will work and then we can launch right into the top ten.

How this will work: These power rankings, it must be clear, are not an attempt to see where teams will stand in terms of winning the whole thing. With several months of play ahead of us, new patches sure to come and a host of other factors that will come into play, that would be impossible to tell. Rather, the power rankings are exactly what the name implies: a ranking of how strong the teams look just before the season starts. I’m looking at how these teams are likely to perform in stage one only.

The pre-season rankings are a lot more detailed than future rankings will be, as there is a lot more to cover in terms of new teams, lots of off-season changes and such. Rankings to follow will be much more straight-forward (and, most likely, far less speculative).

10. Paris Eternal

2018 Record: New Team

I have to give the Paris Eternal credit for being willing to take some serious risks for the sake of their vision. The European pro scene is not one of the strongest, and yet for the Eternal’s roster they went with an all-EU team. There’s a lot of value in that from a branding standpoint, particularly for a team branded out of Paris. But just referring to this team as the EU team is selling them short. The Eternal picked up a couple of Overwatch League season DPS one veterans in George “ShaDowBurn” Gushcha and Terence “SoOn” Tarlier. SoOn was the star DPS player on the Valiant, and ShaDowBurn was a contributor in Philadelphia. They’ll help anchor a team with a strong shot-caller in British Hurricane alum Harrison “Kruise” Pond. Kruise will be an essential part of the team, particularly in the triple tank/triple support meta where great shot-calling is the difference between winning and losing.

Speaking of GOATS, that’s another advantage that the Eternal have. The European scene are undoubtedly the master of this composition and Paris will have a big edge over other teams in their comfort level playing it. There’s every expectation that the Eternal could overperform in stage one and get off to the right start. There are things to overcome, to be sure. Their tankline is not the absolute best — an odd thing to say about a team from such a tank-heavy region, but there you have it. The DPS outside of SoOn and SDB are unproven as well. But communication will help these guys a lot and they could surprise a lot of people in the first stage of the season.

9. Dallas Fuel

2018 Record: 12 – 28 (10th Place)

Placing the fuel as far down as #9 kind of hurts. As much as the team’s personnel problems made them represent a blue garbage fire in season one, they’ve cleaned up a lot and are a team that you really want to get behind. The Fuel were held back in 2018 by the constant unreliability at main tank, with Felix “xQc” Lengyel getting suspended twice in two stages before leaving the team and Timo “Taimou” Kettunen having to play a role he wasn’t comfortable in while they awaited new signee Min-seok “OGE” Son to come off his own suspension for account boosting. The arrival of OGE and the sudden emergence of Brandon “Seagull” Larned as a great D.Va player fixed those problems, but by then it was too little, too late and the team could only look forward to season two.

While things looked bright for the team in the last stage of season one, this is a very different team even from that one. Notably, Seagull chose to retire from the League and tank Christian “cocco” Jonsson moved into an Assistant Coach position. That left the team with a shallow tank line once again, a vulnerability that led to the signing of Finnish standout Richard “RCK” Kanerva. That said, there’s still a lot of question here. As wonderful of a person as flex tank Pongphop “Mickie” Rattanasangchod is, he was a very spotty tank player and only excelled in the final stage because he picked up Brigitte quicker than anyone. That disparity has been closed by most teams now. The DPS line-up looks solid between Taimou, Dylan “AKM” Bignet, Hyeon “EFFECT” Hwang, and new flex DPS Zachary “ZachaREEE” Lombardo. The support line got an upgrade in Spitfire alum Won-sik “Closer” Jung, and most importantly the coaching staff looks great. But one of the big things holding them back are the, for lack of a better phrasing, EFFECT effect. EFFECT left the Fuel for an extended hiatus throughout stage four, and there is question about whether the team can lean too hard on him. The Fuel will be a better team than last year, but if they make a play for the top five it probably won’t be until a later stage.

8. Seoul Dynasty

2018 Record: 22 – 18 (8th Place)

Was there a team that was more disappointing than the Seoul Dynasty in season one of the Overwatch League? There were certainly worse teams. There were also teams that were bigger messes. But few teams just rampantly failed to deliver on expectations like the team representing South Korea. Coming in with incredibly high expectations, the team was depressingly middle-pack and failed to make the finals after initial predictions were that they would win the whole thing. Following that sort of a season, the team revamped things and brought on players to fix the two big holes in their roster in main tank and main support. That kind of change, plus a revamp of their coaching staff that seemed to contribute to the problem, should provide a real boost to the team, right?

Well…perhaps a bit of a boost, but not too much. Don’t get me wrong; this Dynasty looks much stronger in direct comparison to the season one Dynasty. Whatever his personality conflicts with other teams, Fissure is the king of main tank players. And Element Mystic alum Seung-soo “Jesce” Lee will be a major boon in the healer role. But how will the Dynasty adapt to the GOATS meta in stage one? Fissure’s tank play would seem to suggest good things, but his conflicts with other teams has always been an issue. He joined and left two separate teams — both playoff teams — in season one, and GOATS requires everyone to be on the same page. His backup in Min-seo “Marve1” Hwang is not sufficient to be able to carry a team, but at least they won’t have to have star player Je-hong “ryujehong” Ryu switch from support to tank, as he did in the most head-scratching move from a team in the first season. The Dynasty’s success will have to depend on how well their coaching staff comes together and whether Fissure finally has a team he can work with. They should be able to hang in the top ten of stage one, but I won’t even be a little bit surprised if they start to fall apart the second something starts to go wrong.

7. Vancouver Titans

2018 Record: New Team

When the Vancouver Titans announced their initial roster, the hype around them was tremendous. The reason for this was simple: with the exception of ELement Mystic alum Jung-geun “Rapel” Kim, the entire team came from RunAway. RunAway is the team that run roughshod through Korean Contenders on their way to a season two win in August. With an entire team imported over — and one from the best Contenders division in the world — there’s no wonder why people expected big things from the Titans. Add to that the fact that they can play GOATS incredibly well, and you have all the elements for a dominant first season.

That said, we do have to point out that dominant in the Tier 2 scene — even the Korean Tier 2 scene — is not necessarily dominant in Tier 1. The Dynasty was almost completely made up of members of Lunatic-Hai, who dominated the Korean scene during the APEX era, and look how season one worked for them. That’s not to say that the Titans are going to fall apart, but they will have to adjust to playing on a different stage and in a different country — and in a short amount of time. Mental state has a huge effect on performance in the Overwatch league, and the team only arrived in Los Angeles a short while ago. Runaway is in a very good spot skill-wise and synergy-wise, and they will be competitive in stage one. They just won’t likely be a competing for the top spot in the standings, at least until stage two or later.

6. Philadelphia Fusion

2018 Record: 24 – 16 (6th Place; Lost in Playoff Finals)

The Philadelphia Fusion very nearly won the big prize last season, making it to the Grand Finals and even upending the almighty New York Excelsior before they fell short against the London Spitfire. That should have a lot of eyes on them as season two begins. And yet, they don’t seem to be one of the more talked-about teams. That’s not necessarily a bad thing; in fact, it could be quite the contrary. If people are focusing on the Titans, the Spark, the NYXL and the Spitfire, the Fusion could easily have free reign to knock a lot of people back on their heels the way the team did last year. And with their core lineup essentially the same as their previous one, there’s every possibility that this will be the case.

Other than letting a few players players go incluing ShaDowBurn (who went to the Eternal), HOTBA (now on the Charge), and Support players Jeong-Hwan “Dayfly” Park and Joe “Joemeister” Gramano, the Fusion only made one off-season move. That was the pick-up of Elijah “Elk” Gallagher. Elk is under a two-way contract that allows the Fusion to switch him between the team and their Academy team to a degree; otherwise, they are unchanged from the playoffs. In a game where information is so important, that could seem like a detriment. But this is a team that is ready to go. They have great synergy together and main tank Kim “SADO” Su-min won’t be out for over half the season this time due to suspension. They also have some flexibility, as they have a very good substitute main tank in Joona “Fragi” Laine, while the DPS lineup is terrifying. Jae-hyeok “Carpe” Lee was in the conversation for MVP last year and Josue “Eqo” Corona was nearly as good. Gael “Poko” Gouzerch’s D.Va play is something special, making GOATS very viable. If anything is a concern with this team, it’s that they were overperformers in season one. Can they overperform again in season two? Maybe, maybe not. But it’s hard to imagine they won’t be competing at a very high level from the opening match.

5. Los Angeles Valiant

2018 Record: 27 – 13 (2nd Place; Lost in Playoff Semifinals)

It seems weird to say this of a team that went 9 – 1 in 2018’s stage four and topped the Pacific Division for the season, but people seem to be sleeping on the Valiant just a bit this season. Perhaps it’s because the way their season ended, with a upset loss to the Spitfire in the season semifinals. It could also be because they lost several players, such as SoOn and Finnsi to the Paris Eternal, but didn’t pick many up. Whatever the reason, the Valiant have been somewhat overlooked and while their full season future isn’t set, stage one should be a very good one for them.

One of the biggest problems the Valiant had in season one was in their DPS lineup, where they had to rely on So0n and the Tracer play of Jun-hyeok “Bunny” Chae to keep them going strong. Tracer will likely not be a big part of stage one outside of specialized situations, because she’s ineffective against GOATS. But Brady “Agilities” Girardi has had plenty of room to grow and has developed into a reliable spot for them, and in addition to Bunny there is Kyle “KSF” Frandanisa and Young-seo “KariV” Park. That’s enough flexibility for now. And their tank and support lines are very good. I’m excited in particular to see how Scott “Custa” Kennedy plays with Min-chul “Iyazaki” Kim. Main tank Pan-seung “Fate” Koo works well with flex tank Indy “SPACE” Halpern. Basically, all the pieces are there for a strong stage, especially if they can find a rotation of DPS players to work when it’s time to switch off GOATS.

4. San Francisco Shock

2018 Record: 17 – 23 (9th Place)

The San Francisco Shock were never going to be the season one Overwatch League champions. Everyone knew this going into the season. NRG Esports put together a team that was intended to build toward the future, with two of their stars — DPS player Jay “sinatraa” Won and tank Matthew “Super” DeLisi — not eligible to play until stage two due to their age. And thus, stage one was a disaster for them in terms of win-loss. It took some time for the team to find their groove together, but in stages three and four they looked competitive. And in the off-season, they’ve turned a legitimate team to fear.

The big joke about the Shock during the offseason was that they were treating DPS players like Pokemon, trying to rack up as many as possible. And sure, there’s truth to that. But it also means that the DPS lineup is ridiculously deep. After trading Danteh to the Houston Outlaws for a new tank in Myeong-hwan “smurf” Yoo, they snagged the Boston Uprising’s best DPS player — and one of the best in the league — in Striker. Striker joins sinatraa, Min-ho “Architect” Park, Dong-jun “Rascal” Kim and Andrej “babybay” Francisty in an almost overly-stacked lineup. Their support team is solid in Grant “moth” Espe and Nikola “sleepy” Andrews, who will hold down the fort until new player Min-ki “Viol2t” Park comes in from a two-game suspension. This team can handle heavy DPS lineups, but will also be good in GOATS thanks to sinatraa’s outstanding Zarya play. The sky is the limit for the Shock as long as they don’t become their own worst enemy. And with coach Da-hee “Crusty” Park guiding them, that seems unlikely.

3. Hangzhou Spark

2018 Record: New Team

They came in like a stealth missile, but the Hangzhou Spark have quickly come to be regarded as one of the most formidable teams coming into the season. There were always signs that the Chinese team with the best skins in the league would be good, of course. The team’s tank line features one of the best new players in the league in Xu “guxue” Qiulin, who was the breakout star of the 2018 Overwatch World Cup for his play on Team China. And the DPS lineup was strong led by Kyeong-bo “GodsB” Kim and Cai “Krystal” Shilong. But there were questions of how well this team would communicate between its two Chinese players and the rest of the roster, which is Korean. A lot of individual skill won’t cover you at the pro level if you don’t have the familiarity to back it up.

Since then, the teams have had a chance to scrim against each other and the consensus, as revealed by caster Christopher “MonteCristo” Mykles, is that everyone considers the Spark the new team to beat. They appear to have shown that their one weakness is a hurdle they’re overcoming. ANd some of the initially lesser-talked-about players like main support Ho-jin “iDK” Park, are quickly becoming some of the most hyped new players in the league. Saying that a team has a lot of potential can be a bit of a curse sometimes, as it implies that potential hasn’t been realized. But by all accounts, that’s not the case with the Spark. The synergy comes from the fact that four members of the team are from X6-Gaming in China, with the rest of the team being pretty seamlessly folded in thus far. They have that combination of flexibility, roster depth and pure talent that will make then an exciting team to watch. They may not make it this high throughout the entire season — adjusting to the Overwatch League level of play can be a grind — but at the very least stage one will be a time they can make an immediate impact in the league.

2. New York Excelsior

2018 Record: 34 – 6 (1st Place; Lost in Playoff Semifinals)

It feels strange to have the most dominant team of Overwatch League season one (by a wide margin) in the #2 spot. But here we are. The NYXL were the kings of the league throughout the regular season as a whole, up to the point where they infamously “sandbagged” to rest up the final few games. Then they fell short in the semifinals against the Fusion, and that was that. New York is coming into the new season with a fire to prove they’re still the biggest dogs in the league, and while they’re entering a meta that may not quite suit them they should be able to perform well.

Part of that is because they have a weak schedule, to be fair. The NYXL are facing some fairly easy opponents for them in stage one, including the Uprising, the Justice, the Outlaws, and the Defiant. That only leaves the Dynasty, the Valiant, and the Shock as teams they will seriously have to worry about. But another part of it is that the team made a couple significant changes in the offseason. Specifically, they added Yeon-oh “Fl0w3R” Hwang and Yeon-kwan “Nenne” Jeong to round out what was already the scariest DPS lineup in the league. Fl0w3R is one of the most versatile players in Overwatch, who was simply waiting to turn eighteen so he could play in the league. And Nenne is no slouch himself. The tank linup of Tae-hong “MekO” Kim and Dong-gyu “Mano” Kim are strong and while they lost their head coach in WizardHyeong, coach Hyeon-sang “Pavane” Yu is no slouch. 2018 MVP Sung-hyeon “JJoNak” Bang remains a constant threat, with the only potential concern being how he carries himself if they need to switch him to DPS for a triple- or quad-DPS composition. They aren’t necessarily a GOATS-focused team but with as few changes as they made, they should easily be prepared for a new meta. The team has something to prove early on and expect them to do just that.

1. London Spitfire

2018 Record: 24 – 16 (5th Place; Won Grand Finals)

The London Spitfire were the 2018 Overwatch League champions, but that alone wouldn’t give them the top spot in the Power Rankings. A lot has changed from the Grand Finals to now — patches, roster moves and so on. And yet, the Spitfire have essentially the same roster that they had at the end of the season. That’s in part because they made all their changes during season one, so after their league championship win they just had to make a couple tweaks. That involved letting Closer go to the Dallas Fuel and picking up Yung-hoon “Krillin” Park to fill that support slot, in addition to the signing of DPS player Hee-dong “Guard” Lee.

This leaves the Spitfire with a relatively small roster, but an incredibly strong one. Gesture is a fine tank (even if his Reinhart is sometimes a touch shaky) and he’s teamed up well with Fury. Guard will provide some help to the DPS roster, which was occasionally streaky, and Krillin will help the team fit into their GOATS composition. Often, a team that overperforms to win it all starts to get complacent, but the Spitfire have had time in scrims to get that out of their system. Being a fifth-place team during the regular season who won the finals, they have the fire to prove that they’re more than a strong playoff team. And with only the Fusion, the Spark, and the Gladiators as super-tough matchups, they should be able to stay strong — at least, until their streaky performances undo them in the later stages. For stage one though, I can’t really pick against them.

The 2019 Overwatch League season kicks off today at 7 PM ET/4 PM PT. You can tune in at Twitch.tv/OverwatchLeague for all the matches today, or watch the Hangzou Spark vs. Shanghai Dragons match starting at 11:30 PM ET/8:30 PM PT on Disney XD.

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Overwatch League, Jeremy Thomas