It’s safe to say that the Overwatch League is a pretty huge deal. With a rumoured $20m buy-in, players being scouted from all over the world and some very important investors, it looks set to be one of the biggest esport leagues of all time.
So, we’ve put together a special guide covering everything you need to know before the season begins. If you’re looking for one section in particular, just click below. Also, if you’d prefer to watch this article in video form, you can find it here.
Overwatch League is an esports tournament run by Blizzard, featuring the world’s best players competing at first-person-shooter Overwatch. Starting in January 2018, and ending the following July, there’s a prize pool of $3.5 million up for grabs, split into performance bonuses and placement prizes. There will also be pre-season exhibition matches on December 6-9th this year, but they won’t count towards the actual season. You can watch every match on OverwatchLeague.com and MLG.com.
The league is made up of twelve teams from around the world, each owned by a company or individual who paid Blizzard an estimated $20million for the rights to their city. However, players don’t need to be from the country their team is based in – the rules say they can be recruited from any region, as long as they are paid at least $50,000 a year, and provided with healthcare, housing and a retirement plan. Each team can field between 6 and 12 players, and each one will have a specific role in the team, specialising in offense (DPS), support or tank heroes. In addition, some players will take on a flex role, which means they can play a range of hero types.
The twelve teams will be split into two divisions called Atlantic and Pacific.
New York Excelsior
Los Angeles Gladiators
Los Angeles Valiant
San Francisco Shock
While the teams represent cities across the globe, they’ll all be relocating to Los Angeles for the first season, with regular season games taking place at Blizzard’s new esports arena in Burbank. However, in future seasons, it’s expected that teams will travel around the world to play games in their respective cities. But, despite this season taking place in LA, the in-game uniform skins for each team will still include home and away colours, with a new spectator mode for matches extending a team’s colour scheme to in-game titles and effects.
The regular season will split into four stages, each of which lasts five weeks. During these stages, each team will play two matches a week, with all the games taking place between Wednesday and Sunday, depending on your time zone. Each match will see teams compete over four maps, chosen from a rotating pool of 8. This means that teams will potentially be able to draw, since Blizzard have confirmed they won’t be holding tie-breaker games.
At the end of each stage, the second and third place teams play each other to decide who’ll take on the top team in a title match, with the winning team taking home a $125,000 bonus. That’s followed by a 10-day break, before the next stage begins.
At the end of all four stages, the top team from each division move into postseason. Then, the next four teams with the best record join them, regardless of which division they played in. Those six teams will then begin Championship Playoffs, with the division winners automatically advancing to the second round as a reward.
So, now that you know how everything works, who should you be cheering for?
Clicking on player names in bold will take you to a clip of that player from our video. Names in the roster list will take you to a player’s Liquipedia page.
First up, we have Boston Uprising. The Massachusetts team is owned by the Kraft Group, who also own NFL team the New England Patriots and Major League Soccer team the New England Revolution.
Their team is a mixed bag of players from a number of different teams, but we’ll be watching Stanislav “Mistakes” Danilov, a Russian player who made it to the Overwatch Contenders playoffs with Team 123 this year. He’s a reliable and consistent DPS, known for his impressive Tracer play.
Next up are Florida Mayhem. Owned by Misfits, the team were favourites to win the European leg of this year’s Overwatch Contenders, although they eventually ended up in second place. Despite being British, the team opted for the Florida spot after NBA team Miami Heat invested in the company. They’ve made the interesting choice to start with just six players, meaning they won’t have the ability to swap players in and out like the bigger teams will. That said, with four of the roster coming from Team Sweden, who placed third in this year’s World Cup, they’re off to a strong start.
Our pick would have to be Kevin “TviQ” Lindström – one of the best DPS players in the world, his wide hero pool and strong hitscan skills make him a versatile asset to the team. In addition, as a member of Team Rogue, he’s seen impressive wins against the teams that are now Dallas Fuel and Seoul Dynasty.
Onto the Houston Outlaws, who are one of two Texas based teams. Owned by OpTic Gaming, the team supposedly also received investment from Neil Leibman, the co-owner of baseball team the Texas Rangers. The Outlaws have a solid roster, filled with players from a number of successful teams, including five players from Overwatch Contenders finalists FNRGFE.
We’ll be keeping an eye on Jiri “LiNkzr” Masalin, a consistent and mechanically talented player who won this year’s European leg of Overwatch Contenders as part of Team Gigantti. Shane “Rawkus” Flaherty is also an excellent support player, winning praise for his sharp skills and flexible play as part of Team USA at this year’s World Cup. In addition, their head coach Tae-yeong Kim led South Korea to a World Cup win in 2016.
Across the pond is London Spitfire, the only Overwatch League team in Europe. Tipped to be one of the strongest performers in the league, they’re owned by successful esport organisation Cloud9, who chose some of the best players from South Korean teams KongDoo Panthera and GC Busan to fill their roster. In particular, with GC Busan having won this year’s Overwatch APEX, we’re keen to see them go up against Seoul Dynasty, whose winning streak as Lunatic-Hai was ended when they failed to take a single map from GC Busan.
Obviously, there’s a wealth of talent on the London team, but our picks would be Ji-Kyeok “birdring” Kim, a flexible DPS player with a talent for Tracer, and Jae-Hui “Gesture” Hong, a tank player known for his Winston skill. In addition, Chan-Hyung “Fissure” Baek is a fan favourite, popular for his entertaining streams and impressive tank play.
New York Excelsior
Next up is New York Excelsior, or NYXL for short. They’ve been put together by Sterling Venture Capital, an investment fund from Fred and Jeff Wilpon. And while this is the fund’s first esports team, Fred Wilpon is already the majority owner of the New York Mets. The team is largely made up from players from South Korean team LuxuryWatch Blue, who finished third in the second season of Overwatch APEX.
Our player pick would be have to be Hae-Seong “Libero” Kim. One of the most flexible players in competitive Overwatch, he can comfortably play almost half the hero pool, allowing his team to confidently switch composition during matches. This gives NYXL an edge, since Overwatch was designed around switching up your strategy mid-game. The team have also signed Yeon-oh “Fl0w3r” Hwang, a much hyped South Korean DPS who can’t play this season because he’s only 17. Next season, however, it’s likely he’ll make a huge difference with his intuitive, precise plays.
Now, onto Philadelphia Fusion, who are owned by Comcast Spectator, part of the world’s largest broadcasting business. The company also own hockey team the Philadelphia Flyers, and previously owned the NBA’s Philadelphia 76ers. The new team features players from nine different countries, showcasing a mix of established and up and coming talent.
In particular, we’re excited to revisit the intuitive pairing of Georgii “ShaDowBurn” Gushcha, often called the best Genji in the world, and Jae-Hyeok “Carpe” Lee, whose DPS skills saw them take second place in Overwatch Contenders as part of FaZe Clan. We’re also keeping an eye on Isaac “Boombox” Charles, a British support player who is widely considered to be one of the best Zenyatta players in the world. Fusion will be without tank player Su-Min “SADO” Kim for the first 30 matches, however, after he was suspended by the league for selling Overwatch account boosting services in Korea.
Dallas Fuel enter into the league with an impressive legacy to live up to, being owned by veteran esport organisation Team EnVyUs. They also received investment from Hersh Interactive, who are minority owners in the Texas Rangers. As Envy, the team had five tournament wins in 2016, as well as taking home the North American trophy in this year’s Overwatch Contenders, so it’s fair to say they have a pretty enviable roster.
Players to watch out for include Timo “Taimou” Kettunen, a strong DPS player and one of the most financially successful Overwatch pros to date, and Félix “xQc” Lengyel, an eccentric, enthusiastic tank player from Team Canada who was voted MVP by fans at this year’s Overwatch World Cup.
|HarryHook||Jonathan Tejedor Rua||Support|
Los Angeles Gladiators
Next up is the Los Angeles Gladiators, the first of two LA teams. They’re owned by Kroenke Sports & Entertainment, who have some pretty significant sport holdings, including UK football team Arsenal FC, NBA team the Denver Nuggets and NFL team the Los Angeles Rams. The Gladiators have a mixed roster featuring players from five different teams, so it’ll be interesting to see if they develop the cohesion needed for this level of play.
Our pick would have to be Lane “Surefour” Roberts, who finished in second place in this year’s Overwatch World Cup as part of Team Canada. He’s a strong DPS player with enviable hitscan skills, and is equally impressive across Tracer, Soldier 76 and McCree.
|Hydration||João Pedro Veloso de Goes Telles||Offense|
|iReMiix||Luis Galarza Figueroa||Tank|
|Shaz||Jonas Samuel Suovaara||Support|
Los Angeles Valiant
The second LA team is the Los Angeles Valiant, owned by esport group Immortals. Their most recent investor was the Anschutz Entertainment Group, who are shareholders in NBA team the L.A. Lakers, NFL team the Los Angeles Kings, and soccer team L.A. Galaxy. Having decisively won Overwatch Contenders Sesaon Zero, their roster looks strong, despite a disappointing run in Season 1.
We’re fans of DPS duo Christopher “GrimReality” Schaefer and Brady “Agilities” Girardi, whose accurate and aggressive play makes them a formidable pairing. Both just 18 years old, we’re keen to watch them develop during the season.
San Francisco Shock
Onto San Francisco Shock, who are owned by esports powerhouse NRG. The California team already has has some serious celebrity backing, with Jennifer Lopez, Shaquille O’Neal and Alex Rodriguez all investing in the company ahead of its Overwatch League debut.
The team was reportedly built around the first player they signed, 17 year old Jay “Sinatraa” Won, a DPS powerhouse who sparked an intense bidding war. However, he won’t be old enough to play in the league until mid-March, leaving the Shock without their star player for half a season. Instead, we’ll be watching André “Iddqd” Dahlström, an impressive hitscan player who’s been called one of the best McCree players in the world.
|nomy||David Lizarraga Ramirez Osmar||Tank|
|dhaK||Daniel Martinez Paz||Support|
Next up are Seoul Dynasty, who are owned by Korean gaming giants Chou and Kent Wakeford. The pair formed KSV Esports and bought their Overwatch League slot after selling mobile gaming company Kabam for over $800 million. Seoul Dynasty is widely considered to be the best team in the league, built largely from the incredibly successful group Lunatic-Hai.
Their star player is likely to be newly appointed captain Je-Hong “ryujehong” Ryu, considered the best Overwatch player in the world by many. His wide hero pool and quickscoping accuracy made him a formidable threat at the Overwatch World Cup, where his surprise off-meta use of Ana saw South Korea take home the trophy for the second year running. We’re also big fans of Jin-Hyuk “Miro” Gong, an excellent tank player who was crowned MVP in the first Overwatch World Cup for his incredible Winston play.
And finally, onto the Shanghai Dragons, the only Chinese team in the league. They’re owned by NetEase, who have been Blizzard’s regional partner in China for almost a decade. The team was originally expected to be made up of players from Miraculous Youngsters, a successful Chinese Overwatch team, leading to surprise when the roster was instead announced as a mix of various less well known teams.
Nonetheless, we’ll be watching out for Chao “Undead” Fang, known for his tactical Tracer play, and Weida “Diya” Lu, a DPS player with the kind of precision that has led to aimbot accusations. In addition, Zhaoyu “Fiveking” Chen has also garnered fans for his Lucio skills, so should be a valuable support asset to the Dragons. All three were originally on the Chinese World Cup team, going 15-0 in the Shanghai qualifiers, but couldn’t compete in the playoffs after having their visas refused, so we’re keen to see how they hold up in the league.
So, now that you’ve – hopefully – chosen a team, you’re probably interested in merch. After all, if people can’t see your support, does it really even exist? Well, don’t worry – it looks like there’ll be two ways to fly the flag of your favourite team. First up, this year’s BlizzCon saw the announcement of Overwatch League jerseys, hats and even socks for each team. They’re available online now at the Blizzard Gear Store.
In addition, you’ll be able to match your team’s uniform while playing Overwatch, with league themed skins for your favourite hero. You’ll have to pay for them, though, after Overwatch announced that 50% of the profits from “special in-game items” would go into a shared revenue pool for teams. To purchase in-game OWL skins, you’ll need to buy League Tokens, a new form of Overwatch currency specifically for use on league items. However, Overwatch will be giving all players enough free tokens for one skin, to celebrate the launch.
That’s just one of the ways that franchisees can make money from the league, with others including signing up team sponsors and running officially sanctioned local Overwatch events. Each team will also take home a share of the profits from Overwatch League, thanks to league-wide advertising, ticketing, and broadcast rights deals.
That’s pretty much everything we know about Overwatch League – hopefully we’ve answered all your questions! But, if that wasn’t enough Overwatch for you, you can always subscribe to our weekly YouTube show The Payload, or follow @OverwatchNews on Twitter for daily content.