It's Overwatch League preseason power ranking time! With the second season about to kick off, we need to scratch that itch and rank the teams.
With the majority of preseason talk focused on the Pacific Division, especially the three new Chinese expansion team lineups, the Atlantic Division takes the top three spots. Naturally, the defending Overwatch League champion, the London Spitfire, take the top spot. Let's get into it.
1. London Spitfire
The London Spitfire not only retained its star-studded championship roster but made a few key additions in former Element Mystic DPS player Lee "Guard" Heedong and relative unknown flex support player Jeong "Krillin" Yung-hoon. Given the flexibility of Choi "Bdosin" Seung-tae, we don't know how often Krillin will start, but his inclusion does give London even more options should it decide to run a pure triple-tank, triple-support composition. Even during London's struggles last year in Stages 3 and 4, the problem was never its roster on paper but its coordination. Since the players seem to have figured that out in the playoffs last year, there's little reason that this roster won't be at or near the top of the league.
2. New York Excelsior
For 3½ stages in the inaugural season of the Overwatch League, the New York Excelsior was the best team by a significant margin. It appeared untouchable, even as it experimented and faltered in Stage 4, giving rise to the league's first sandbagging joke. The talent alone on the NYXL makes the team worthy competition for London's title, and we fully expect to see both of these teams fighting over first place in the Atlantic Division.
Like London, the NYXL held on to its all-star lineup outside of substitute main tank Song "Janus" Joon-hwa. It added two up-and-coming DPS players from its XL2 Academy lineup in Jeong "Nenne" Yeon-gwan and Hwang "Fl0w3r" Yeon-oh. Fl0w3r's debut has been highly anticipated since his LW days and 2017 Overwatch World Cup appearance. The two of them should only add to the NYXL's already impressive DPS flexibility.
3. Philadelphia Fusion
Coming in third before a block of Pacific Division teams is the Philadelphia Fusion. There's a trend in our top three teams in that they all retained their successful lineups from last year, albeit with a few tweaks. This means, theoretically, that these teams should all retain the experience they had playing together last year and carry it into the new season. Philadelphia is no exception to this. It released players who did not start frequently like George "ShaDowBurn" Gushcha, retaining the powerhouse DPS duo of Lee "Carpe" Jae-hyeok and Josue "Eqo" Corona. Philadelphia succeeded on the backs of its star DPS players, and keeping that back line should give it more success in 2019 in the Overwatch League.
The most notable addition for Philadelphia is in its Fusion University support Elijah Hudson "Elk" Gallagher, who along with DPS Simon "snillo" Ekström, is a two-way player between Fusion University and the Overwatch League lineup. We don't know how much Elk will play, but he and Snillo give the team more options should it need them.
4. San Francisco Shock
The first Pacific team to land in our preseason power rankings didn't even make the postseason last year. In the offseason, the San Francisco Shock went out and opened its wallet to build the best team it could in free agency. By the end of it, it acquired Kwon "Striker" Nam-joo from the Boston Uprising and highly touted Contenders prospect Park "Viol2t" Min-ki from South Korea's O2 Ardeont. The Shock has a large discrepancy in its results ceiling and floor depending on how all the pieces mesh together, but head coach Park "Crusty" Da-hee, considered one of the best the league has to offer, is up to the task in turning the Shock into a legitimate contender in 2019.
5. Hangzhou Spark
At media day for the Overwatch League, players couldn't stop talking about the strength of the expansion Hangzhou Spark. The rumors appear to be true, and with World Cup breakout star Xu "Guxue" Qiulin at the center of the roster as the main tank, the Spark could be more substance than flash. While a language barrier between Hangzhou's two Chinese stars and the otherwise all-South Korean roster could cause a hiccup or two along the way, the team appears to already be gelling, and should only grow closer as the year progresses.
6. Los Angeles Gladiators
Last year, it felt as if the Gladiators were always on the edge of greatness. When they made a deal to bring over Baek "Fissure" Chan-hyung from the London Spitfire, the Gladiators shifted from the "other Los Angeles team" to possibly the city's best chance at a championship. Unfortunately for them, Fissure, one of the front-runners for the MVP award, didn't even see the stage in the playoffs, the team lost in the quarterfinals, and the Gladiators traded him away to the Seoul Dynasty in the offseason. This go-around, they hope their big free-agency signing, DPS standout Jang "Decay" Gui-un, can be the franchise player they thought they had in Fissure Also, don't sleep on Fissure's replacement, Gye "rOar" Chang-hoon, as the Kongdoo Panthera prospect is believed to be not so much of a downgrade at the main tank position.
7. Los Angeles Valiant
Gone is Terence "SoOn" Tarlier, and in his place stands ... Park "Kariv" Young-seo? Kariv has transitioned into the DPS role with SoOn's departure, and the Valiant is left with a roster that on paper might lack the firepower needed to withstand the other contending teams in the competition. That's not how Valiant play the game, however. While other teams have pushed all their chips into the center of the table in a flashy, all-in move, the Valiant played the long game. It has always been more about creating a long lasting culture and identity than trying to cash in on the singular superstar. As long as the team's backbone, the tank line, stays intact, the Valiant should be up there challenging for another Pacific title.
8. Vancouver Titans
While Hangzhou Spark received a lot of hype during media day, the Vancouver Titans weren't too far behind in the excitement department. Where the Spark has been in Los Angeles longer than the Titans, the Vancouver side is a known quantity and the rest of the league knows how strong it can be right out of the gate. The former RunAway squad is coming off a Contenders championship in its most
recent public appearance, and the creator of the team itself, Yoon "Runner" Dae-hoon, assured the Titans before they jetted off to Los Angeles that they could become the champions of the Overwatch League.
9. Seoul Dynasty
What a fall from grace it has been for the Seoul Dynasty. When the roster was first announced (the legendary Lunatic-Hai squad from OGN APEX fame) a championship -- at least a finals appearance -- seemed to be assured. This team was too good to be anything other than a world-beater. Well, no worlds were beaten, no postseason appearances were achieved, and the Dynasty is back at square one, trying to recapture some of its initial swagger. The acquisition of Fissure should do the trick for the swagger side of things, and Lee "Jecse" Seung-soo is expected to be one of the better primary supports throughout the league. The roster is talented enough to compete for the overall crown, but we need to see the players actually perform consistently on stage before we start buying Dynasty stock once more.
10. Dallas Fuel
We move from one team that was expected to compete for a title in 2018 and failed to another. The Dallas Fuel, built from the Team Envy core that dominated the western scene pre-Overwatch League, was a mess for a majority of the inaugural season before making the stage playoffs at the end of the year and salvaging what appeared to be what a lost season. Entering 2019, there is an upswing of optimism in the Fuel franchise. The team has top-tier coaching and a solid roster, and has acquired much-needed depth at the tank and DPS position. Still, as with most teams, the main tank position could make the difference between playoffs and sitting home watching the playoffs on the television, and Son "OGE" Min-seok is well positioned to become the team's star player.
11. Shanghai Dragons
At this point, the No. 11 spot seems perfect for the Shanghai Dragons. The team has a ton of upside, bringing over a talented bunch from the Kongdoo Panthera lineup that took second in a recent Contenders tournament. Bae "Diem" Min-seong has a lot of buzz around him and could be a candidate for Rookie of the Year if the DPS player gets enough time to lay down the damage. The issue for Diem and the Dragons could be that lack of time, however. The team seemed set with Lee "Fearless" Eui-seok at the starting tank position, but health issues have sidelined him in his home country of South Korea for at least the beginning of the season. Regardless of how much they upgraded their DPS and support lines, all might be for naught if they can't find a steady main tank to disrupt the enemy team and open up space for potential stars like Diem.
12. Houston Outlaws
In comparison to a lot of other power rankings out there, this is a very high position for the Houston Outlaws. They did not make many roster changes this offseason, releasing players on their lineup who didn't start frequently like Russell "FCTFCTN" Campbell, Matthew "Clockwork" Dias, and Lucas "Mendokusaii" Håkansson to free agency or other roles within the organization. Houston has always relied on its teamwork as a unit, and the Outlaws will be relying on it again going into this season, with only one roster addition to the starting lineup in former San Francisco Shock DPS player Dante "Danteh" Cruz. Danteh should give the Outlaws' DPS line some much-needed flexibility that will hopefully help the team through meta shifts -- something that tripped it up in the middle of last season.
If there's going to be a time for the Outlaws to do well, it's likely going to be now in Stage 1. As other rosters are still coming together, especially the eight new expansion teams, Houston should have a coordination advantage.
13 Paris Eternal
We'll be honest, the 13 through 17 slots are interchangeable. We're not particularly certain about any of these lineups, all of which are expansion teams with brand-new Overwatch League lineups. They could do really well, or they could take a while to come together. This all-European lineup squeezes by its expansion counterparts for now, but could easily fall after Week 1 given how well it performs. There are a lot of players with the dreaded "p-word" (potential) on this lineup, and many Contenders. Europe fans will be eagerly awaiting to see how well this roster will do with Contenders mainstays like Harrison "Kruise" Pond, Nicolas "NiCOgdh" Moret and Karol "Danye" Szcześniak.
Above all other pickups, it's actually Paris' head coach, Julien "daemoN" Ducros, who is turning the most heads and creating the largest amount of discussion. A lot of the Eternal's performance will depend on how well he and his coaching staff of Félix "Féfé" Münch, Kyle "KyKy" Souder and Joni "Seita" Paavola bring this team together.
14. Toronto Defiant
The Toronto Defiant is another interesting lineup with a lot of talent, much of it unknown since it comes from Contenders: Korea or the benches of other Overwatch League teams. Former Los Angeles Valiant flex tank Lee "envy" Kang-jae, for example, is a talented player whose time in the Overwatch League was cut short when he was released from the Valiant in April 2018. His over-aggression will need to be curbed to make him a more consistent player with fewer key deaths. Envy and former O2 Ardeont main tank Jo "Yakpung" Gyeong-mu's performance as a tank line will likely set the tone for how well the Defiant will do.
The core of this lineup is from O2 Ardeont, including Yakpung and the DPS line of Lee "Ivy" Seung-hyeon and Lee "Stellar" Do-hyeong. Ivy has been rumored to be one of the hidden gems coming into the second season of the Overwatch League. Much of the Defiant's strength comes from the raw talent of its players ... and most of it is very raw. This team could end up much higher than 14th, or fall closer to the bottom depending on performance.
15. Atlanta Reign
On paper, the roster of Atlanta Reign should rank higher. It has one of the more formidable lineups of all Overwatch League expansion teams. This is a remarkably skilled team, and if the players come together, they could be contending for spots much higher than 15th in the league -- likely a to- three spot at least in the Atlantic Division if this team is able to synergize as one unit. The former Element Mystic front line in Seo "DACO" Dong-hyeong and Park "Pokpo" Hyeon-joon would be enough to push a team into possible dark-horse contention, but is supplemented by incredible DPS talent like Jeong "Erster" Joon and Daniel "dafran" Francesca.
Coming together is still a big "if" and this power ranking, in case you didn't catch the trend, has heavily favored existing synergy from successful inaugural-season lineups going into this season. This will obviously change as 2019 continues, but for now, consider that our other caveat for placing a team with this much talent comparatively low.
16. Guangzhou Charge
This spot might be a bit too low for a Guangzhou team with a load of talent on the roster, but communication is paramount in any esport, and no team will have more question marks about communication than the Charge. There are four different main languages on the roster. There's a chance that because of the language barriers we might not ever see the true potential of this squad. Beyond those issues, however, Lee "Happy" Jung-woo, the team's star DPS, has had many good things said about him by players around the league, and like Sayaplayer last year on the Florida Mayhem, his highlight-reel plays might be the saving grace of a season that might not result in too many on-stage victories.
17. Boston Uprising
A lot of people were kicking themselves for ranking the Boston Uprising so low in last year's preseason power rankings, and we're willing to take that risk again this preseason by placing the Uprising at 17. Perhaps another year of unexpected success will catapult Chris "HuK" Loranger into the best talent scout in the Overwatch League, but for now the sample size of the 2018 Boston Uprising is too small, despite its Stage 3 success against all odds. The top performer for Boston, DPS player Kwon "Striker" Nam-joo, has left for the San Francisco Shock, so HuK & Co. will be hoping that the scouting eye is as good as it was last year.
Notable pickups for Boston include former Toronto Esports (Boston's academy team) main tank Park "Axxiom" Min-seob, New Zealand DPS talent Kelsey "Colourhex" Birse, and former Brasil Gaming House and Team Brazil flex support Renan "alemao" Moretto.
18. Chengdu Hunters
The lowest Pacific Division team in our ranking, the Chengdu Hunters appear to be playing a long-term game similar to the San Francisco Shock last year. The Shock took the first few stages of the 2018 season to see which players it wanted to build around, and then when it figured out who those cornerstones were, it spent money to build a contender. Chengdu is going for an all-Chinese/Taiwanese roster, and although it might not get out to the hottest start, if it can become the de facto home for the best and brightest of Chinese Contenders, it might not be too long before the Hunters become a force to be reckoned with in the Overwatch League.
19. Washington Justice
Of all expansion teams, the Washington Justice have the least impressive lineup on paper. It's a hybrid roster with former Shanghai Dragons DPS player Cheon "Ado" Gi-hyeon. Ado was consistently a strong performer for Shanghai during his time on the team last year, despite its record, but suffered from the team's lack of coordination between its front lines and support lines. This could easily be a problem with this Justice lineup, especially since former main tank Song "Janus" Joon-hwa had problems coordinating flanking engages with last year's NYXL lineup. This will be a true test for critically acclaimed former NYXL coach Kim "WizardHyeong" Hyeong-seok and assistant coach Kim "AVALLA" Molly Kyeong-ey to make this lineup competitive.
20. Florida Mayhem
Until we actually see the Florida Mayhem play, all that we have to go on are the past performances of its new roster additions, and the organization's 7-33 record in the first season. Fortunately for the Mayhem, this record was overshadowed by the winless Shanghai Dragons. Unfortunately for the Mayhem, the Shanghai Dragons (and every other team in the Overwatch League) appear to have made significant upgrades to their lineups.
All isn't lost for the Mayhem. It has star power in the form of Widowmaker phenom Ha "Sayaplayer" Jeong-woo, and pieces on the roster who could surpass expectations such as former Meta Athena DPS player Choi "Kris" Joon-soo, but these players will have to exceed their prior personal bests. Given the talent around the Mayhem, it's difficult to see this roster doing very well at the start of the league.