The first week of the Overwatch League has come to a close and the foundation for the rest of Stage 1 has been set. Last week, the only lower-ranked team to pull off an upset was the Philadelphia Fusion sneaking by the Houston Outlaws in a full five-game series.
Outside of that, the preseason rankings weren't so bad. The South Korean teams dominated, the Valiant took a hold of the Los Angeles audience with a perfect Round 1, and the Shanghai Dragons ... at least it took a map!
Here's how things shake up after the first week of games.
1. Seoul Dynasty
Fleta. Fleta. Fleta. Seoul Dynasty's ace Kim "Fleta" Byung-sun is far and away the front=runner for MVP after the first week of games. Anytime the Dynasty was in a panic during its games against the Dallas Fuel and Los Angeles Gladiators, a series of headshots and clutch kills from Fleta knocked the wind out of their opponents. Though Seoul shook up most of its lineup through the first two games, trying out all three of its other DPS players over the course of the week, Fleta didn't budge. Lunatic-Hai was the greatest South Korean team of all time in the pre-OWL era due to its strong tank and support lineup and in spite of its somewhat lackluster mechanical talent at the DPS role. Now, with Fleta in front of the very same tank and support structure, the Dynasty have its DPS ace who can pilot the stout defense to a possible Stage 1 championship.
2. London Spitfire
The London Spitfire sputtered out of the gate. It dropped its first map to Florida Mayhem, a team expected to have little to no chance against the Spitfire going into the series. After that embarrassing first map loss, though, the Spitfire shook off its nerves and didn't slow down for the rest of the first round, taking seven straight maps in a row and finishing off its weekend by blanking the Philadelphia Fusion in three straight maps. The team, as many expected, has an embarrassment of riches at every position, especially the DPS lineup, where former GC Busan ace Park "Profit" Joon-yeong and former Kongdoo Panthera ace Kim "Birdring" Ji-hyuk linked up to create the most fearsome attack duo. Dong-jun "Rascal" Kim and Lee "Hooreg" Dong-eun are two of the top 10 DPS players in the world, and they were on the bench for the entirety of the first round. That's just unfair, London.
3. Los Angeles Valiant
If Fleta was the top attacking performer in Round 1, it would be hard to argue Los Angeles Valiant's Terence "SoOn" Tarlier wasn't the second best. The former Rogue standout joined Valiant late, and he turned out to be one of the better decisions of any club in the offseason.
The Valiant was considered by many pundits to be a team on the edge of the playoffs coming into the regular season, but LA took care of the Dallas Fuel in a sweep to make a statement, not dropping a single map in the week. The San Francisco Shock was no match for LAV in the inaugural match of the Overwatch League and the momentum carried on into the Fuel matchup. Lee "Envy" Kang-jae and Koo "Fate" Pan-seung, the Valiant's South Korean tank tandem, would be my pick for the best tank core in the opening round of the OWL.
4. New York Excelsior
It wasn't the cleanest round for XL, dropping a single map each to both the Houston Outlaws and Boston Uprising, but it was certainly the most stylish. New York came out and put on a show in both of its games, wowing the crowd with its flexible core of players. At the front, DPS/Support flex Kim "Pine" Do-hyeon starred in his limited role, coming out twice on control map Illios to get the crowd off their feet before getting subbed out once more after getting his team a one-sided victory. While Pine and team captain Park "Saebyeolbe" Jong-yeol stole the show with their antics in-game and on stage with their celebrations, rookie support Bang "JJoNak" Sung-hyeon was my standout pick for top support in Round 1, his Zenyatta out-damaging even the opposing DPS players on certain maps.
5. Boston Uprising
Who expected this? After getting kicked around in the offseason for having a roster full of unknowns and "random" South Korean players without much prestige, Boston shushed critics during the preseason with a win over the Shanghai Dragons. Coming into Round 1, expectations from fans was to see if the team could scratch its way out of one of the two bottom spots. That's all changed following the first week of the season. Uprising was competitive with one of the better teams in the league (NYXL), and even though many teams would have taken a close 3-1 loss as a "moral victory," the Uprising took its opening game loss harder than any other club. The team was visibly upset following the loss to the XL, believing it could have won the series, and the frustration turned into a blowout of the Florida Mayhem in one of the most one-sided series of the first round.
When asked which DPS players he was looking out for, London's star DPS player Birdring said that the two on the top his list were Boston's Kwon "Striker" Nam-joo and Jonathan "DreaKazper" Sanchez. It's not a question if Boston can save itself from being the worst team in the league -- it's whether or not this team can make the playoffs. Right now, with a full season ahead of the hybrid roster, I'd have to say Boston is a legitimate playoff threat.
6. Dallas Fuel
I'm not giving up on the Fuel just yet. Sure, the team is 0-2 and got swept by the LA Valiant, but the series up to halftime was close, and when the series fell out of its hands at 0-3, I couldn't fault Dallas too much for rolling over on the fourth map. Valiant and Dynasty are almost as hard of an opening first round you could ask for, and Dallas narrowly lost to the Dynasty on the first night of the season before its loss to the Valiant. The team needs work when it comes to which players should play at what time, but like London, I think there is too much talent on this squad to be anything less than a fringe playoff team. Even at 0-2, Fuel fans should feel confident in their team's resilience to bounce back in the upcoming weeks. The only downside? The schedule doesn't get any easier in Round 2. Dallas plays the London Spitfire and Houston Outlaws, with the latter being an all-Texan battle between two 0-2 teams that will do everything in their power not to fall to 0-3.
7. Los Angeles Gladiators
It's hard to rank the Gladiators after Round 1. It 4-0'ed the worst team in the league (Shanghai Dragons) and then got 4-0'ed by the best team in the league (Seoul Dynasty). The team is good and shouldn't be considered the bottom of the table, and yet, I still need to see more against non-Dragons competition before I can say this team can contend in the playoffs. We'll know next week after it plays the Philadelphia Fusion and NYXL.
8. Philadelphia Fusion
Everything seemed great for the Fusion up until the London Spitfire turned on the afterburners in its series last Saturday. Philadelphia got off to a good start with a 3-2 win over Houston in the only five-game series, and it was competitive in the opening match against the Spitfire. Following the game one loss, however, it all fell apart. The team couldn't muster a single map objective for the rest of the series. This team has a lot of mechanical talent, but it has the least amount of practice time of any team and it's going to take a while for everyone to be synchronized.
9. San Francisco Shock
Like the Gladiators, it's really hard to rank the Shock since its one victory was up against the Dragons. San Francisco had a hard time keeping up with the Valiant, but as the Valiant proved against Dallas, it's a team with much loftier goals than just getting into the playoffs. Unlike the three teams below it, though, at least the Shock has won a game in the Overwatch League, be it in the preseason or regular season. For that, at least for this week, the Shock can sit above the winless trio.
10. Houston Outlaws
Yes, it was a close loss to the Fusion, but how many times can we reward a team for losing close games before it becomes a problem? Houston lost all of its preseason games, dropped to the Fusion, and then got out-muscled by XL. The team is a lot more talented than 10th in the rankings, yet we've gotten to a point where I can't just grade the team on potential alone. The team's constant substitutions haven't been working, and with the Dallas Fuel on the docket up next, there can be no more moral victory. The Outlaws need to stand and take a win versus its in-state rival.
11. Florida Mayhem
Did you know the Florida Mayhem only have six players on its roster? Did you? Did you? Well, if you didn't, let me tell you: The Florida Mayhem only have six players on its roster. And the team got blown out by the Boston Uprising. And although it took a map off of the London Spitfire, the rest of the series wasn't much to talk about for the former Misfits squad. Florida is good enough to take games and even matches from the playoff contending teams, but right now, after seeing the Mayhem in the preseason and Round 1, it's going to take an amazing turnaround to get into the playoffs. Luckily, it gets to play the worst team in the league in Round 2.
12. Shanghai Dragons
The Dragons are not a good team. China is not the biggest country when it comes to Overwatch popularity, but you can't tell me this is the best team the Dragons could have built coming into the season. China, one of the greatest esports countries in the world, deserves a team that's more than the laughingstock of the league, and I hope come mid-season transactions, moves are made to make the team more competitive. The players, outside of a few, just aren't good enough for the Overwatch League, and adding in the effect of moving to an entirely new country, learning a new culture, and missing home, this team might become the Cleveland Browns of the Overwatch League if drastic changes don't happen. Is it too early to start discussing a parade if the Dragons go 0-40?