The debut of the Overwatch League gave viewers a taste of what's to come, with viewership peaking at over 415,000 viewers on the opening night. It rarely dipped below 150,000 at any point in the opening week. The league's 12th franchise, the Philadelphia Fusion, finally made its debut after missing the preseason, splitting its matches with a 3-2 win over Houston and a 0-4 loss to London.
As many might have expected based on rosters and preseason performance, Seoul Dynasty is one of four teams (LA Valiant, London and New York) to start the season 2-0. Including the preseason, the Dynasty is 5-0 in the league and has out-scored its opponents by 21 points (plus-9 in the regular season).
But this week was not about Seoul meeting expectations. It was about a pair of notable unexpected results.
The Los Angeles Valiant announces its presence
Only one team in Overwatch League's first week walked away without losing a single map: Los Angeles Valiant. The best anyone could manage against the Valiant was the Fuel's 5-5 draw on Horizon Lunar Colony. In the preseason, the Valiant was strong, but not dominant. It matched two other teams (Fuel, Spitfire) for most map wins and map differential in the preseason, trailing only the Dynasty (9 map wins, plus-7 map differential).
It's easy to look at the Valiant's two sweeps and think of them as a favorite going forward, but Los Angeles didn't exactly dominate. It took each map against the Shock by one point, then did the same in its first map against Dallas, which was followed by a draw.
Where the Valiant showed its greatest potential was in shutting out the Fuel on its control and hybrid maps (Ilios and Numbani). The key to the match was Envy's work with D.Va. According to Winston's Lab, Envy played the hero for 42 minutes and 53 seconds and had a 1,422 Impact Rating (measure of overall contribution to map objectives). The next-best Impact Rating by a player's hero that was played for at least 25 minutes during the match was Terence "SoOn" Tarlier's Tracer (1,162).
Comparatively, the Fuel's Pongphop "Mickie" Rattanasangchod played 43 minutes and 20 seconds on D.Va and played about half as well, according to Winston's Lab. Mickie's Impact Rating was 871 (61 percent of what Envy's was), and his overall Player Rating (505) was less than half of Envy's (1,171).
The Dallas Fuel may have problems
Dallas came into the season as one of the league's favorites. With a loaded EnVyUs roster and a strong preseason performance (tied for second in total map wins and map differential), the Fuel was expected to dominate.
That didn't happen, as the Fuel dropped its opening match to Seoul 2-1 and was swept 3-0 by the Valiant, managing a draw on Horizon Lunar Colony. Aside from the Fuel's poor performance on Control maps, its main concern from Week 1 was failing to put away winnable maps.
In what may have been the map of the week, Dallas took a 6-5 loss to Seoul on Temple of Anubis following its opening-map win (3-2) on Junkertown. Dallas entered the last stage of the map trailing 6-4, but failed to secure the final point in overtime after pulling within one.
Dallas then found itself with two draws (Numbani vs. Seoul and Horizon Lunar Colony vs. LA Valiant) and a one-point loss (Junkertown vs. Dallas) in its next four maps before falling apart on Ilios and Numbani against the Valiant.
The most concerning item for the Fuel might be its inability to score any points on Ilios (control map), suffering 2-0 losses to both the Dynasty and Valiant. A popular strategy on Ilios has been to send Pharah to the sky and rain down missiles. The Fuel did not do that, as Pharah was played for just two minutes in its match against Seoul and just under three minutes against the Valiant, according to Winston's Lab.
Another option is to utilize Widowmaker and take advantage of the map's size and her burst damage to nullify the opponent support (Mercy/Zenyatta). Hyeon "EFFECT" Hwang, Dallas' primary Widowmaker player, performed poorly in both matches, failing to post a 1,000 player rating (or better) in either match. Compare that to the two teams that did best on control maps in Week 1 (Dynasty, plus-5 and Spitfire, plus-4). Byung-sun "Fleta" Kim posted a 1,476 and 1,156 player rating in his first two matches, respectively, with the hero. Ji-hyuk "birdring" Kim had a 1,306 and 948 player rating in his two matches with the hero.
Without an effective Pharah or Widowmaker to play, Dallas seems to be at a disadvantage on control maps.
The week ahead
Dallas sets on the road to redemption with a Thursday match against the Outlaws, a team that posted the fourth-worst point differential (minus-7) in Week 1. As far as Stage 1 standings goes, that almost feels like a must-win with a meeting with the Spitfire looming Friday night. London tied the Valiant with seven map wins in Week 1 and led the Overwatch League with a plus-13 point differential.