When the first season of Overwatch League came to a close, there was a compelling argument to be made that Los Angeles Valiant could have made the finals and even won the whole dang thing if things had just gone a little more their way in key matches. This season, they’ve yet to win a single match.
It’s been a topsy-turvy first three weeks for Overwatch League’s second season, with nearly every team both pulling off, and falling victim to, at least one stunning upset. Philadelphia Fusion started the season by running roughshod over the London Spitfire, who stole their lunch money and dunked them in a toilet in the season one grand finals. The next week, however, Philly wilted under the typically lukewarm sun of the Florida Mayhem, season one’s second-worst team. Boston Uprising came out looking strong with a win over the Houston Outlaws and a competitive losing effort against the reinvigorated titans of New York Excelsior, only to become the first team ever to lose to Shanghai Dragons, who’ll go down in sporting history for their 0-40 first season.
Then there’s the aforementioned Los Angeles Valiant, who’ve lost all five games they’ve played so far this season despite announcing their presence as a top team last season. Admittedly, they haven’t drawn the most favourable hand, with their losses coming to the number-one-ranked New York Excelsior and the cream of this season’s crop of new teams in number-two-ranked Vancouver Titans, number-five-ranked Guangzhou Charge, number-seven-ranked Toronto Defiant, and—perhaps a bit less creamily—number-eleven-ranked Hangzhou Spark.
While LA is currently dwelling in the sobering darkness of rock bottom as the 20th ranked team out of 20, they’ve at least got familiar company. Season-one standouts Boston Uprising, Houston Outlaws, and LA Gladiators all currently sit near the bottom of the rankings in 15th, 16th, and 17th, respectively. Even Shanghai is ahead of them in 14th.
Each Overwatch League season is broken up into stages complete with their own mini-playoffs and finals, and during season two’s first couple weeks, it seemed like anybody could elbow their way onto the winner’s podium. Now we’re seeing the beginnings of a pecking order, with new teams ruling the roost just as much as old teams. NYXL is, as ever, the team to beat, but Vancouver Titans have proven nearly as dominant. Season one dud San Francisco Shock is in the top five, but so is wily up-and-comer Atlanta Reign, who’s become a team to watch thanks to their penchant for wacky plays they learned from Reddit.
That’s not to say there isn’t hope for the deposed class of 2018. Some, like Boston Uprising and LA Gladiators, are still adjusting to roster changes, while others like Houston Outlaws haven’t quite found a sweet spot in the current tank-and-healer-centric meta. Rankings don’t tell the full story, either; nobody has beaten LA Valiant 4-0, and their match against New York Excelsior was relatively close. On the whole, this season has seen very few 4-0 victories, which is a big turnaround from season one’s early goings. That’s a good thing. It means only a handful of matches have truly been blowouts, with even some games between high-and-low-ranked teams remaining competitive.
It’s been fun to watch. Even though the general flow of the meta can be predictable at times, teams are still pulling off upsets and clever plays. We’ve seen bonkers dive-bomb attacks from Zarya, multiple appearances from Symmetra, and a lot of tricky Sombra moments. There’s still two more weeks left in stage one, and only New York Excelsior has punched their way to the stage playoffs. Anything is possible. Well, except for my Houston Outlaws making the stage one playoffs, but there’s always next time, I guess.
Featured image: Robert Paul (Blizzard Entertainment)