The long anticipated Overwatch League is just around the corner. While the inaugural season begins officially in January, Blizzard has set up some pre-season games to tied hungry fans over before the real games begin.
In this preview we will be looking at the following teams in the Overwatch League's Pacific Division:
This is Part 1. Check out Part 2 here.
Dallas Fuel are one of two franchises in Texas and are part of the later additions to the League after the initial 7 were announced. They are owned by Mike “Hastr0” Rufail, owner of Team EnVyUs, and Ken Hersh (representing Hersh Interactive, a major investor into the team.) Fuel retained much of their then EnVyUs roster, the fan favourites from the West who participated (and won the first season of) the APEX series.
Fuel carry over the synergy and time spent together of the EnVyUs roster, a team that was raised in the competition of the APEX series. As one of the few rosters to hold that acclaim, and furthermore one of the few to have done well there, Fuel come into the OWL as real threats. While retaining the core of the EnVyUs roster, by adding Twitch darlings Brandon “Seagull” Larned and Félix “xQc” Lengyel, Fuel have improved on an already formidable powerhouse in Overwatch. From a purely speculative standpoint, Fuel should do well.
Timo “Taimou” Kettunen: There are few players who can claim such high acclaim universally as Taimou can. The Finnish member of the team, his highlights on the likes of McCree and Widowmaker are honestly some of the best around. A hitscan with few in the same league as him, Taimou is an exciting and consistent player for the roster. Any fans of the Fuel will surely have their eyes set on the star DPS for the team, who already has depth of experience.
Félix “xQc” Lengyel: One of the most vocal players in the scene, with a quirky, strong personality, the Canadian Main Tank is well regarded mechanically within the competitive and Twitch world. Having played on YIKES!/Arc 6 and Team Canada, xQc may not be as experienced in the rigour of league play as his fellow Fuel players, but he’s no pushover. Known for his aggression in the tank role, particularly on Winston, xQc will bring a lot to a team and is one of the most exciting tanks to watch.
Blizzard knows how to build the narratives, as most of the preseason games are against teams natural rivals, and Dallas is no different, looking across the way at the Houston Outlaws. While it’s difficult in some cases to judge a roster that hasn’t played yet, Dallas edge out Houston here for me because of their pre-existing synergy. While Outlaws brings a lot of strong talent, it’ll depend on them to prove that the team can work together. Dallas, on the other hand, have a track record to go off of, and it’s not too shabby.
This doesn’t mean Dallas will walk right past Houston. I expect a close series between the two Texan franchises, but it’s hard to discount the sheer experience that Dallas is bringing with the ex-EnVyUs roster. Any team that can hold its own in APEX series deserves a nod in some ways.
The Los Angeles Gladiators are one of ‘new faces’ to the esports scene, coming from a traditional sports background. They are owned by Kroenke Sports & Entertainment, who also own EPL team Arsenal as well as the NFL team Los Angeles Rams, with the Los Angeles Gladiators being their first foray into the esports sphere. In other words, the Los Angeles Gladiators are a well funded, albeit new, organization.
Fans of the scene will recognize quite a few faces in the purple and white of the LA Gladiators. The biggest player is easily Lane “Surefour” Roberts, but many of the other players are players that are well acquainted in the scene. Outside of Surefour, the Gladiators will have to rely on teamwork over super star power. Experience in teams is something they do have, so long as they can translate and mesh as a new team together they’ll be good. Maybe not the best in their division, but not someone to take lightly.
Lane “Surefour” Roberts: This one is pretty obvious. He’s the star and focal point for a lot of the conversation around LA Gladiators. He was a key part of Team Canada’s deep run into the Finals at World Cup, and while he and Team Canada ultimately lost to South Korea, it would’ve been a massive upset for it to be otherwise. It’ll be on Surefour to lead the team with his diverse DPS’ play.
Hyung-seok “Bischu” Kim and Luis “iRemiix” Galarza Figueroa: Main Tank and Off-Tank work in tandem together to protect their team and create the space for their DPS’ to shine. Both Bischu and iRemiix have a long tenure in the scene, but most importantly they’ve spent much of this time together. While Surefour will bring the raw DPS to win the game, it’ll be on the tank duo to keep him, and their supports, alive and well and enable them to carry the team to victory.
But wait, if LA is the real rivalry, Jared, then why aren’t they playing in their first game? I don’t know. But the first team that the LA Gladiators will face is not just across the country, but damn well almost around the world from them in the London Spitfires. For my previous points about the Gladiators being a team that will need to mesh, rather than rely on super star carrying… well, this is not going to be a fun first throw down.
The Spitfires bring one of the most loaded teams with pure, calculated Korean talent. They literally just took Kongdoo Panthera and GC Busan, the upstart team that ran away with the APEX Season 4 finals from Runaway, and threw them together. How the Spitfires will decide to field their team will be a defining feature in the matchup, but given the Gladiators only have one extra member (in the DPS department), we know what they’ll field. And it doesn’t look promising against the Spitfires. A good showing here will be taking a map maybe.
LA Valiant follow in the path of division members Dallas Fuel and Seoul Dynasty in transferring a complete, full roster from the pre-Overwatch League era competition, while adding some strong additions. Owned by the one of the youngest CEOs in esports, Noah Whinston, the owner of Immortals, LA Valiant contains that full previous roster, along with additions from Rogue and NRG.
As with those other rosters who largely retained a previous team, the Valiants will be strong(er) coming out of the gate than some of the more clobbered togetehr teams. Immortals was one of the first North American teams to experiment with the mixed roster of NA residents and Korean imports to much success. Adding strong members from Rogue, the other Western hope in a sea of Korean dominance, only strengthen the overall roster. While top spot of their Division will likely escape them, I wouldn’t sleep on the Valiants doing well and pulling off some upsets.
Brady “Agilities” Girardi: The DPS’ players of many of the teams are key to their successes, but with Agilities on your team that’s heightened even more. His Genji play is phenomenal, and alongside Surefour was one of the key components in Team Canada’s success at the World Cup. In a field of stacked DPS talent, both Korean and Western, Agilities will need to be on point for this team to succeed.
Stefano “Verbo” Disalvo: While one of the youngest in the League, Verbo has been with the Immortals roster for a long time, and has acted as the kind of leader figure we’re accustomed to with the Lucio-Main-Supports. Shotcalling is vital in any esport, but more so in the cut throat and fast paced nature of Overwatch. Verbo’s effect won’t be shown so much in the game, but outside of it, and a lot hinges on the youngster to keep the team on the same page strategically.
The Valiants face off against other-possible-rival in the San Francisco Shocks. Some familiar faces face off again, as the ex-Main Tank for Immortals, David “nomy” Ramirez, was picked up by the Shock. The geographic rivalry kicks off in honestly Valiants favour, bringing not only an experienced roster with time to synergize, but arguably stronger players down the board, barring fan favourite André “iddqd” Dahlström.
It’ll be a slog for Shock to get things done, and I’d give it to Valiant, but not as a clean slate. But overall Valiant bring experience and arguably stronger mechanical skill in most of their roles. They should, in theory, take down the Shock with somewhat ease.
Texas’ teams were divided into two separate divisions, but that doesn’t stop this rivalry from being the most obvious. Being that Dallas is the only Pacific Division team to… not… actually reside beside the Pacific, they’re geographically separated from a lot of their fellow division teams. But the battle of Texas creates the most likely rivalry for Dallas.
There already exists the geographical element, Dallas and Houston are known to have their non-so-nice-feelings for each other. But this rivalry goes even a bit deeper to the owners of each team: EnVyUs for Dallas, and OpTic for Houston. A rivalry maybe not as famous as OpTic vs. FaZe, EnVy and OpTic still carry with them that history of clashes in games. While the two won’t be jockeying for position within the same division, expect the inter-divisional to be a heated affair.
While it’s a close call for me on whether the two clashing LA franchises will have a deeper rivalry than either LA team with the San Franciso Shock, the battle for the hearts of LA just seems the bigger rivalry right now. When a city gets two teams, you can almost bet that the rivalry between those teams will be even deeper than between two rival cities.
For now the rivalry is just that, but hopefully as it develops we’ll see the tried and true method for teams: identity basis. You’re either a Yankee fan or a Mets fan, and your choice there will ‘say a lot about you’ in New York. Both LA franchises have this unique opportunity to do just that.