The start of each stage feels like a new school year. We’re all older, wiser, and eager to 1) learn, or 2) see our friends again. And by friends, I mean Tracer, Widowmaker, Pharah, and Genji. We have new study material, as the new patch has shaken up the meta, opening the door for one of the most diverse metas we’ve ever had to open an Overwatch League stage. 12 heroes tallied more than 20 percent playtime, compared to eight in Stage 1, while only two recorded more than 60 percent usage (D.Va and Lúcio), compared to five in Stage 1. We even have transfer students, as players settle in with new teams or make their league debuts.

Buckle up, everyone. Class is back in session.

1. Let’s talk about the meta, or at least around the meta, because we still don’t quite know its exact shape yet. As prophesied, we’re seeing a lot of Winston-based triple-tank, triple-support, but the Reinhardt version is still a reliable standby. We’re also seeing plenty of Bastion bunker comps on defense, bolstered from the changes to Junkrat and the addition of Baptiste’s toolkit. The strength of that setup has resulted in attacking teams going back to DPS-heavy comps—we saw a lot of double sniper, a lot of Pharmercy, and definitely a lot more hitscan.

Spring is here, the air is fresh, and the hills are alive with the sound of shurikens, headshot dinks, and High Noons once more. Welcome back to the likes of Ji-Hyeok “Birdring” Kim, Jeong-Woo “Sayaplayer” Ha, and Chung-Hee “Stitch” Lee, from their meta-enforced bench stay in Stage 1. The sunshine sure feels nice, doesn’t it? Hope the forecast lasts.

2. We’re also seeing the reintroduction, for lack of a better term, of some DPS stars who were assigned to Zarya duty in Stage 1. Players like Seung-Hyun “Ivy” Lee from Toronto, Min-Sung “Diem” Bae from Shanghai, and Corey “Corey” Nigra from Washington are now able to show off on some of their signature heroes. The one I was the most impressed by in Week 1 was Kelsey “Colourhex” Birse from the Boston Uprising. His skill on Widowmaker had a huge impact on the team’s two—yes, two—reverse-sweeps this week, against two of their fellow Stage 1 playoff teams in Atlanta and Toronto. That makes three in a row, a league record.

Boston’s always full of surprises, aren’t they? First there was the trade, sending off-tank Lucas “Note” Meissner to Dallas for Richard “Rck” Kanerva. On paper, this was a lateral move at best, given what we knew about both players on D.Va. But Rck spent a good chunk of Stage 1 playing Sombra, and seemed comfortable switching back and forth, unlike Note. With Rck in the lineup, Boston has gained another dimension, and could continue to catch teams off-guard with their current flexibility.

There are still growing pains, of course; it’s why the Uprising looked like two separate teams in Week 1—a meek version in the first half, way more assertive after the break. After their second reverse-sweep, against Toronto, main tank Cameron “Fusions” Bosworth tried to explain the phenomenon.

“Coming into the game, we knew what we wanted to do, we knew how we wanted to play, but we were really hesitant,” he told insider Mica Burton. “We weren’t confident like we usually are on the first maps, and that’s a symptom of all the reverse-sweeps that we’ve had.”

3. “After only playing 3-3, there is a kind of pleasure in smashing 3-3 comps with DPS heroes.” That quote, from Gui-Un “Decay” Jang, was the battle cry for DPS players everywhere as they were set free in Stage 2. Like Colourhex with Boston, Decay got to show off on more than just Zarya in Week 1, pulling out his classic Genji a few times and hopping on Bastion in defensive bunker comps.

The Gladiators also finished 2-0, defeating the Shanghai Dragons before outlasting the Seoul Dynasty in a five-map thriller that left Decay feeling a bit rattled. “I was shakier than I thought after we won,” he told me. “My hands and feet were shaking so I couldn't even walk...”

That moment reminded me of just how young Decay is—it was his first tiebreaker in the Overwatch League, just a month after his debut—which is a stark contrast to how experienced he is and how long of a career he’s had, which was a running thought I had throughout the Gladiators’ previous match against the Dragons. At the end of that, the greetings between the ex-teammates on both sides—the entirety of the Kongdoo Panthera team that finished as runners-up in Contenders Korea Season 2, plus Jun-Woo “Void” Kang, who played for a previous KDP roster—were full of smiles and hugs:

I asked Decay if he said anything to his former teammates in the handshake line. “We poked fun at each other a bit, like, ‘Oh your Tracer got worse,’” he said. That, plus his assertion that he still hangs out regularly with his former teammates, was a heartwarming moment for me, as a fan of the Kongdoo teams going all the way back to the APEX tournament. For the most part, the players have scattered across the Overwatch League, like a wish made by blowing on dandelion seeds—two with the Spitfire, three with the Gladiators, one each with the Dynasty and Shock, and four with the Dragons. Whether they represented Kongdoo for one season or all of them, they carry both the legacy of those old rosters—the promise and the accomplishments of the past—as well as the hopes of their new teams.

Decay has great ambition to go with great skill. He rated his own Stage 1 performance “only 50 out of 100,” mainly due to the fact that he did have to sit out the first two weeks before his 18th birthday. “It was mid-stage and we were looking to make it into playoffs, and I didn't do as well as I had been doing in practice, so I felt a bit down about that,” he explained.

Watching the Stage 1 Finals only gave him extra motivation to get there with the Gladiators in Stage 2, he added, and a 2-0 start certainly has the team well on their way.

4. Let’s look at the 2-0 teams so far: San Francisco, New York, Chengdu, London, LA Gladiators, and Boston. No one should be that surprised by the Shock or the NYXL, and the Spitfire had a fairly forgiving Week 1 schedule, allowing them to stumble a bit against the Mayhem on Friday before finding their gear against Atlanta on Sunday.

The Uprising and Gladiators were discussed above, so that leaves the Hunters, who are either your favorite team or your favorite player’s favorite team. Seriously—if you polled the league’s main tanks, there’s a very high chance that they have a Chengdu skin Wrecking Ball, or maybe even a smurf account for leveling up their own Wrecking Ball skills. That’s thanks to Menghan “Ameng” Ding’s mastery of the hero, of course.

But he’s just one piece of the unpredictable, chaotic, and highly entertaining Hunters spectacle, so if you start seeing Hunters skins for Symmetra repped by other pros on stream or in your own matches, it’ll be in tribute to Wenjie “Elsa” Luo. That’s because the Hunters made Symmetra work—not just as a one-off flank play on a time-bank attack, but in a legitimate, sustained attack round.

I don’t even know what to say about this. Elsa didn’t offer any secrets, either, when I asked, saying simply, “Our comp was better than theirs, and their counter to us was also not good.”

Elsa’s flexibility is a hidden weapon for Chengdu; he’s normally on D.Va/Sombra duty, like other off-tanks in the league, but will bust out Torbjörn or Symmetra when needed. The team so far has been the perfect vessel for head coach Xingrui “Rui” Wang’s adventurous strategies, and the Stage 2 meta might be the perfect testing ground for all of Chengdu’s tricks, if their dominating 4-0 win over Paris and 3-1 win over Washington are any indication.

“We do anticipate being a strong team in Stage 2 because this meta should favor us,” Elsa told me. “Wrecking Ball is strong, and at the same time, DPS heroes like Junkrat are stronger while there were changes to armor, so I think it really suits us. In Stage 2, we’ll pull out even more varieties of team comps.”

That echoes what Chunting “Kyo” Kong told me back in Stage 1, and I for one welcome our meta-agnostic overlords. Time to get that Chengdu Symmetra skin.

5. Baptiste may not have been the answer to 3-3, but his synergy with bunker comps has so far resulted in a more diverse meta. Teams are using him in various ways—some as a replacement for Brigitte, as a way to further enable aggressive Zarya players (the Shock being a prime example of this), others as an alternative to Zenyatta or Lúcio in specific compositions.

I asked Ben “CaptainPlanet” Trautman to help take a closer look at some of these early adopters of Baptiste, and he provided a list of nine players with more than 10 minutes of playtime on the newest hero. Here’s a preliminary look, with players listed in order of playtime and rankings in parenthesis for each category (please keep in mind that the sample size is still very small!):

Time played Damage done/10 mins Healing done/10 mins Immortality Field deaths prevented/10 mins Amplification Matrix assists/10 mins
Rascal (Shock) 36:00 5,231 (1) 12,633 (1) 4.72 (5) 5.28 (2)
Neko (Defiant) 21:38 2,895 (4) 11,966 (4) 4.62 (6) 3.70 (5)
Hagopeun (Mayhem) 15:53 1,842 (7) 11,225 (5) 5.04 (3) 1.26 (9)
BigGoose (Gladiators) 14:50 2,244 (5) 7,328 (8) 2.70 (7) 4.72 (4)
Eqo (Fusion) 12:52 4,189 (2) 9,168 (7) 7.77 (1) 1.55 (8)
Chara (Charge) 12:34 2,012 (6) 12,203 (2) 4.77 (4) 8.75 (1)
Blasé (Uprising) 10:50 3,236 (3) 10,181 (6) 0.92 (9) 1.85 (7)
Kyo (Hunters) 10:22 1,573 (8) 7,249 (9) 1.93 (8) 1.93 (6)
Ark (Justice) 10:20 818 (9) 12,017 (3) 6.78 (2) 4.84 (3)

6. There were a handful of Overwatch League debuts in Week 1. Paris introduced three players who didn’t see any playtime in Stage 1—Roni “Lhcloudy” Tiihonen, Karol “Danye” Szcześniak, and Luís “Greyy” Perestrelo. For Atlanta, there was Nathan “Frd” Goebel stepping in at flex tank, and for Hangzhou, Sang-Hyun “Sasin” Song. The most impactful entrance, though, was made by Jin “Im37” Hong of the Defiant, who accidentally trolled insider Danny Lim immediately after a sparkling performance against the Washington Justice.

Aside from immediately going viral on social media, Im37’s entrance stood out because of how little preparation he had. Just three weeks ago, he was playing for an Open Division team, and from there he was briefly signed to Contenders team Second Wind before Toronto came calling.

“I honestly didn’t think I would go to the Overwatch League, because I was just playing Overwatch for fun,” Im37 told me. “The reason I joined an Open Division team was because my good friend recommended me. Open Division is like a Tier 3 scene, so [I thought] it should be not that hard compared to Overwatch League, so I was like, OK, I’ll do it. And then everything happened really quick.”

The 19-year-old not only had to make the exceptionally difficult decision to step away from school to pursue this unanticipated dream, he also had to convince his parents that this was worth it.

“I went to Canada to study, but when I said to my father, ‘I’m going to go to Overwatch League,’ he said ‘no, you need to study,’” he explained. “I tried to convince him over 10 days, trying to explain what Overwatch League is, what I’ll be doing and what I’ll be getting from [the Defiant], so it was a really difficult decision to make. Really difficult.”

And now? “They’re neutral now. [They told me,] ‘If you want to do it, if you really love it, do it, but it’s your life, so you take care of it.’”

7. The Defiant were undoubtedly scrambling after the sudden retirement of DPS Do-Hyung “Stellar” Lee just a few days before Stage 2, and there’s not a whole lot of synchronization that can be achieved after only three scrim blocks together. Still, if not for the reverse-sweep suffered at the hands of Boston, though, Toronto would be 2-0 to start Stage 2. Im37 described his debut as “pretty decent” despite the circumstances, but he also recognizes that there are a couple of adjustments he’ll need to make after going from the ladder to the Overwatch League in the span of a month.

The first thing is minor—getting used to all-Korean comms. Im37 is bilingual, but he’s spent the last few years playing on North American servers.

The second change is a bit more difficult. “My playstyle was legit solo queue playstyle—I go for health packs without asking for help, I try to try to kill them all in bad or risky positioning,” he explained. “But now I learned Overwatch in OWL is played with the team and it’s all about team communication and coordination. So, I have to give up my playstyle and adapt to the team’s playstyle.”

8. Time for some superlatives! First, there was this utter domination from the Shock in their 4-0 win over the Los Angeles Valiant on Friday:

Another week, another Vancouver speedrun. This time it was King’s Row, where the reigning stage champions—who, by the way, broke their own record on Rialto in the Stage 1 Finals—with a mind-boggling time of 2:44. This was after Hangzhou finished a decent time bank on their own attack round. Imagine how frustrating that must be; the Shock can relate.

Lastly, London off-tank Jun-Ho “Fury” Kim set a 2019 season single-match record with six ult denials in the Spitfire’s sweep of Atlanta on Sunday, surpassing Hyun-Woo “Jjanu” Choi’s five denials against Paris in Stage 1. A fan compiled Fury’s POV for all six of them (Zarya players do not interact):

9. CaptainPlanet dropped another great stat piece last week, devising a Teamfight Hype Rating. My eye caught some doozies in Week 1, so I asked for the top three:

Tied for second, with a hype rating of 65.17 and 20 total final blows, this King’s Row fight between Chengdu and Washington (timestamped link) was so scattered and chaotic that it prompted Mitch “Uber” Leslie to yell out an anguished “What am I watching?!” after it was all over. Same, dude.

Identifying Hype Teamfights

We created a new algorithm that uses teamfight stats to calculate a hype rating.

The other teamfight that netted a 65.17 rating occurred at the other end of King’s Row (timestamped link), as Shanghai and the LA Gladiators exchanged haymakers in overtime. The fight featured 17 final blows, 17 ultimates, and three resurrections from Gyeong-Woo “Coma” Son’s Mercy.

Finally, the hypest teamfight of Week 1, with a score of 77.33, came courtesy of London and Atlanta, in the time-bank round of Blizzard World (timestamped link). Jun-Young “Profit” Park netted five of the 19 final blows on Pharah, while Jae-Hui “Gesture” Hong was on cleanup duty on Wrecking Ball.

Week 2 begins Thursday, April 11, at 4 PDT, when the Paris Eternal (4-5) take on the Florida Mayhem (1-8). Watch all 2019 season matches live and on demand on overwatchleague.com, the Overwatch League app, our Twitch channel, MLG.com, and the MLG app.