The preseason: it’s the spice that takes what we thought we knew about the regular season, and invariably throws it all for a loop, sparking question marks and exclamation points. Today, we’re covering the initial matchups of day one at Blizzard Arena Los Angeles. Let’s get into it.
Florida Mayhem vs.
Philadelphia Fusion—Wednesday, Dec. 6 at 4pm
Editor’s Note: Due to player logistics issues, the Philadelphia Fusion is unable to compete in the Overwatch League preseason. Instead the Florida Mayhem will face the San Francisco Shock (who are profiled in the next section) at the same match time. We look forward to seeing the Philadelphia Fusion compete during the regular season.
If this matchup came down simply to signing the most players, this would be the most one-sided affair in all of preseason. With Philadelphia Fusion among the last few teams announced for the inaugural season, they compensated by mass-signing 12 players and four (!) coaches relatively late into the signing period. However, skimming over the multiple rosters participating in the Overwatch League I can’t help but believe this Philadelphian squad will shine with time.
Philly’s DPS duo of George “ShaDowBurn” Gushcha and Lee “Carpe” Jae-hyeok, who saw themselves finishing second to the rebranded Dallas Fuel franchise in the most recent season of Overwatch Contenders, is certainly a pair to be reckoned with. With an additional six players aged 20 or below, it’s up to experienced head coach Yann “Kirby” Luu to build a legacy similar to that of owner Comcast Spectacor’s NHL franchise, the Philadelphia Flyers.
On the other hand, putting all their eggs in one basket, Florida Mayhem has opted for a six-man roster, carrying over their players from Mayhem’s parent organization Misfits. This isn’t too concerning, though, as the six players from Europe saw themselves placing second in the European side of Overwatch Contenders Season 1 after absolutely rocking it in the regular season, finishing league play with a record of 7-0, and a mind-blowing 27-2 (!) map score.
Questions have been raised concerning Johan “CWoosH” Klingestedt’s versatility as a recently reformed tank player, and Sebastian “Zebbosai” Olsson’s aggressive Lucio playstyle, but the sheer firepower of Kevin “TviQ” Lindström and Andreas “Logix” Berghmans might be enough to persuade anyone into thinking this European-flavored squad will be starting us off with a Florida preseason win—and aiming for a playoff spot in the inaugural season of Overwatch League.
Los Angeles Valiant vs. San Francisco Shock—Wednesday, Dec. 6 at 6pm
Next up is a rivalry in the making, at least if Noah Whinston, founder and CEO of Immortals, LA Valiant’s parent organization, gets to decide. However, SoCal’s stoic Valiant might be in for a rude awakening in their preseason game against NorCal’s San Francisco Shock.
Bolstering the LA Valiant’s hitscan department with superstar Tracer player Terrence “SoOn” Tarlier, and a prodigy in Ted “silkthread” Wang, longstanding member Christopher “GrimReality” Schaefer is potentially facing just that. And although Park “KariV” Young-Seo has rightfully received a lot of praise since his move to North America in June, he will have no easy task maintaining a starting position with the addition of one of the best support players the West has to offer in Benjamin “uNKOE” Chevasson. Since the game’s inception, uNKOE has been crowned champion numerous times in both roster iterations of Rogue, based in Las Vegas.
With these preparations, there’s no doubt the Valiant have gone out of their way to ensure they are fielding one of the best Western-oriented rosters ahead of Overwatch League’s inaugural season. But will it blend? Publicly expressing their disappointment, and even apologizing for their Contenders Season 1 result, a pressured Stefano “Verbo” Disalvo will have to steer this now star-studded team in the right direction, or they might quickly face dire consequences.
A team that is perhaps less interested in starting out their Overwatch League adventure with a bang is the San Francisco Shock. The golden boys of North American Overwatch, Jay “Sinatraa” Won and Matthew “super” DeLisi, will have to wait until March to meet the league’s age requirement—and so, the question is not if the team can come out swinging at the start of the season, but if the proverbial turtle will surpass the rabbit ahead of the playoffs.
It’s hard to get a firm grasp of what level of play we’ll see from these two budding rivals as they enter the arena, with the Valiant fighting to regain their fans’ trust, and San Francisco running the monopoly of Tracer players to fill Won’s shoes until their team reaches their full potential.
That said, my instincts tell me to keep an eye out for the unrelenting Andrej “babybay” Francisty, who had to lead the way for his former team Kungarna in the most recent season of Overwatch Contenders. An even match is expected, but I would not be surprised to see an underrated San Francisco Shock stampede their way to a narrow win in our first Californian civil war.
Seoul Dynasty vs. Shanghai Dragons—Wednesday, Dec. 6 at 8pm
This clash between the two major Asian esports countries is a rare bird in the preseason slate. Here I could go into lengths writing about Korean BBQ vs. Chinese hot pot, but the topic at hand is Overwatch… luckily both South Korea and China excel at that pursuit, too.
Still, take me back one month ago, and I actually thought I’d have spent more time praising the up-and-coming Chinese Overwatch scene. Largely underrated because of subpar performances and off-meta picks at last year’s APAC, it seemed like the Chinese had begun to catch up to at least the Western quality of play this summer.
However, since then, teams like Vici Gaming, 1246, and the Miraculous Youngsters have caused a mess by taking turns snatching wins off each other—and so we have a Shanghai Dragons squad still trying to piece together the puzzle of China’s talent. Whether the team will turn up and be a genuine threat remains an open question.
It will be a true test for the Chinese against a Korean two-time APEX champion roster (plus some gochujang in world-class DPS Byeon “Munchkin” Sang-beom and Kim “Fleta” Byung-sun). I’d be surprised if the World Cup 2016 and 2017 Champion Ryu “ryujehong” Je-Hong doesn’t net us a few sleep-dart highlight plays, in the end making quick work of the Chinese.
Tune in to preseason play on OverwatchLeague.com or MLG.com. Each of the League’s 12 teams will take the stage twice at Blizzard Arena to prepare for the regular season, with Opening Day slated for January 10. Mark your calendars, and check out your favorite teams and players suit up for their first Overwatch League action!