All this talk about violent video games is a distraction tactic

I don’t normally talk politics on Twitter. That’s not why people follow me, and arguing with strangers on the internet, 240 characters at a time, is an exercise in insanity. However…

Redirection is a powerful public relations tool. If you control the narrative, you control the outcome. Everyone does it (or at least tries to) – every political party, every industry/interest group, etcetera. It’s part of the basic toolkit because it’s effective. But that doesn’t mean that it has to work every time; it’s important to recognize when it’s happening, and not let yourself and the people you talk to get distracted.

There was a school shooting. In the aftermath, a lot of the conversation was about gun control. Now, a few weeks later, a lot of the conversation is about violent video games. This is absolutely not an accident. People that don’t want the conversation to be about gun control have successfully shifted the conversation to video games. They’ve done it before, and they will continue to do it in the future because it’s proven successful multiple times.

As an aside, many forms of media went through similar periods where people painted them as the cause for the social ills of the time – superhero comics, television, and many, many different genres of music – this has all happened before. In a few decades, video games will get their reprieve and a new form of media will be the target of redirection instead.

Until then though, it’s important to recognize the redirection when it happens. Regardless of your stance on gun control or your broader political views, when someone starts talking about video games as a possible cause of school shootings, don’t fall into the trap of arguing that point – either don’t engage with the conversation, or call the redirection out.


Stage 2 Predictions

Stage 2 is upon us, which means it’s prediction time. Since you’re not here to read intro paragraphs, I’m going to cut straight to the predictions. If you want to tell me that I’m an unqualified hack, you can find me on Twitter at @PestoEnthusiast, or call me out on the reddit post for this article at /r/CompetitiveOverwatch.


By the way, this is for their standings in Stage 2 only, not for how they’ll finish the stage in the overall rankings. Here goes:

1: London Spitfire

Even if London don’t sign replacements for the two players they traded away (and rumor has it that they’re interested in Architect), this is a championship level team. London showed in the Stage 1 finals the ability to adapt to losses quickly, and they have a high ceiling that they haven’t hit yet.

2: New York Excelsior

New York enters the stage with on top with a two match lead. However, if triple tank turns out to be the meta, it won’t be NYXL’s strongest. The only have one off-tank player, no one known for Zarya, and going up against tanks will reduce the potency of Jjonak’s murderous Zen right-clicks.

3: Houston Outlaws

I was one of the few people that believed in Houston at the start of the season (I had them in 5th in the preseason rankings), and I’m doubling down here. With the signing of FCTFCTN, this team is going to have a fearsome tank lineup, and Jakerat isn’t going away any time soon either.

4: Dallas Fuel

This is a team that won two championships the last time triple tank was viable. They’ve just added a Genji (a role that was sorely needed) and their Winston will be back. Now that they can run dive and triple tank at a high level, expect Dallas to look nothing like they did last stage.

5: Seoul Dynasty

This meta will let Seoul’s supports play heroes they’re more comfortable with, and getting Ryujehong and Tobi back on Ana and Lucio is better than any player signing. The meta will also place more emphasis on their tanks (a strong point), and less on their second DPS (a weak point).

6: Boston Uprising

Boston’s tanks have been one of the strongest parts of a surprisingly strong roster, and again, tanks are in vogue. This team has shown such rapid improvement that even though other teams are strengthening their rosters, it’s difficult to see Boston falling below their current spot in the standings.

7: Los Angeles Valiant

Space won’t be 18 until late March, and Numlocked (per his stream) wasn’t given much scrim time in the first stage. While this is a team that’s strong in every position, and will remain fearsome on dive, I have reservations about their ability to run other key comps this stage.

8: Philadelphia Fusion

Fragi was a Reinhardt stuck playing Winston because SADO was banned. Now he gets to play Rein again. Philly also has no excuse not to run Poko all the time now, because they can run three tanks. While these are both buffs, they’ve yet to demonstrate that they can be consistent.

9: Florida Mayhem

Understaffed, and with several signings that will have to wait on visas, Mayhem look to have another rough stage ahead. However in Zappis, Manneten, and Awesomeguy, the team looks well positioned for three-tank. Zappis built his name in this meta, and will be a key leader now.

10: San Francisco Shock

We’re entering a tank-heavy meta, and San Francisco isn’t well positioned to capitalize on it. Nomy hasn’t been the Winston that the team needs, and unless he can step it up on Reinhardt, this team will struggle. I’m also not sure who their second off-tank would be in triple tank.

11: Los Angeles Gladiators

If you had told me this time last year that Hydration would be the best DPS on a team that also included Surefour and a Korean Tracer specialist, I would have laughed. Fissure might be an upgrade at main tank, but I’m not convinced that this team can win without an upgrade at DPS.

12: Shanghai Dragons

The needed reinforcements won’t be arriving in time to save this stage for Shanghai. Even when they arrive, they have the difficult task of integrating several Korean speakers into a Mandarin speaking lineup. They’d be 11th if they played Gladiators in week 5 instead of week 2 though.

Analysis Opinions Overwatch League

#BabyBayChallege recipient NAMI San Francisco: solid financials, poor transparency in Charity Navigator criteria assessment

The San Francisco Shock selected National Alliance on Mental Illness – San Francisco as the recipient of the funds donated as part of the #BabyBayChallenge. I put NAMI San Francisco through the Charity Navigator scoring system (with some caveats, see below) to see how they’d do. The result: They would get one star out of five in the CN system.

Their financial health is pretty good; they’re on the higher end of four stars. Their accountability and transparency score, however, is an abysmal one star, which means that their overall score is one star as well.

As bad as that sounds, NAMI San Francisco could potentially get all the way up to three starts overall in a matter of days; they need only add important documents and information about the organization to their website.


Some caveats before I go into the numbers:

  • Charity Navigator’s system is one group’s opinion of how to judge a charity. It’s not the divine word on whether a charity is well run or not. Most importantly, it doesn’t assess the value of programs, only financial viability and transparency. Whether NAMI SF does valuable work is a decision only you can make.
  • The CN system is designed for large charities (>$1 mil per year revenue) that have been operating for a decent amount of time (5 years of full 990s). Their system isn’t built with a charity as small as NAMI SF in mind.
  • The CN system uses 3-year averaging in some metrics, which creates vastly more work than just using the most recent year’s data. In any place where the CN system uses 3-year averaging, I only use the 2016 data. That said, I don’t think it’ll change their score drastically one way or the other.
  • I am not an accountant, I do not prepare form 990s professionally, and I have no affiliation with Charity Navigator.

Financial Health

NAMI-SF gets four out of five stars, with a raw score of 86.

Their financials are solid. Rapid growth can be unstable, but they have working capital to cover a potential drop in donations. Their fundraising expenses are high and not particularly efficient, but it’s really hard to get that right, especially in smaller, more specialized charities. An 86 is not a red flag.

Where they lose points:
In this section, there are seven criteria worth 10 points each, for a maximum of 70. 30 points are then added to that total to get the final raw score.

  • 71.2% of their expenses go towards programs, which is mediocre, and is good for only 6 out of 10 points. A perfect score requires 85% or above.
  • 17.5% of their expenses go towards fundraising, which is poor, and is good for only 5 out of 10 points. A perfect score requires 10% or below.
  • They spend $0.18 to raise $1, which is a mediocre fundraising efficiency, and is good for only 7.5 out of 10 points. A perfect score requires $0.10 or below.
  • They have 0.76% years if working capital (the ability to continue to run using only available assets), which is mediocre, and is good for 7.5 out of 10 points. A perfect score requires 1 year or above.

Where they don’t lose points:

  • 9.9% of their expenses go towards administration, which is excellent. A perfect score requires 15% or below.
  • Their financial capacity is excellent. This is a really complicated formula measuring growth in program expenses. A perfect score requires a value of 10 or above. NAMI’s value is 36.
  • Their liabilities are 0.57% of their assets, which is excellent. A perfect score requires 5% or less.

Accountability and Transparency

NAMI-SF gets one out of five stars, with a raw score of 51.

Simply not filling out entire sections of their Form 990 – the document they file with the IRS each year – has cost them dearly in the accountability and transparency metrics. Their website also doesn’t contain any of the information that Charity Navigator looks for. The good news is that most of this is quickly fixable; the problems with the 990 might even already be fixed (this was using their 2016 990; their 2017 one is not online yet). The bad news is that, for now at least, it’s an awful look.

Where they lose points:
In this section, the score starts at 100 and works down to get the final raw score.

  • Part XII is not filled out, so there is no information about whether they produce audited financial statements prepared or reviewed by an independent accountant (-15 points)
  • No whistleblower policy (they may have one, but they didn’t fill out Part VI, Section B) (-4 points)
  • No document retention policy (they may have one, but they didn’t fill out Part VI, Section B) (-4 points)
  • No process for reviewing and updating CEO compensation (they may have one, but they didn’t fill out Part VI, Section B) (-4 points)
  • Does not keep board meeting minutes (they may, but they didn’t fill out Part VI, Section A) (-4 points)
  • Does not publish board members on the website (-4 points)
  • Does not publish senior staff on the website (-3 points)
  • Does not publish audited financials on the website (-4 points)
  • Does not publish form 990 on the website (-3 points)
  • Does not publish donor privacy policy (-4 points)

Where they don’t lose points:

  • More than 5 independent voting board members; independent voting board members hold a majority.
  • No reported material diversion of assets
  • No loans to or from officers or other interested parties (they didn’t fill out Part IV, but they didn’t include a Schedule L, which would be required if they did have such loans)
  • Form 990 distributed to the board before filong
  • Has a conflict of interest policy
  • Reports CEO compensation
  • Reports board member compensation; board members are not compensated

Fast Fixes

NAMI SF can potentially get their accountability and transparency score up in a matter of days. Here’s how:

  • Publish the board members and senior staff. Pictures are nice, but even putting a list in plain text – just name and title – would meet the requirements. Depending on how complex the back end of the website is, this would take literally minutes to do. (+7 points)
  • Add a downloads page with the Form 990 and the audited financials (assuming, of course, that they have audited financials). Slightly more complex to implement, but we’re talking hours, not months. (+7 points)
  • Indicate on the downloads page that the financials are audited by an independent account (even if it’s immediately clear just by looking at the cover page). It’s no substitute for properly filling out the 990, but it’ll get the job done. (+15 points)

If NAMI San Francisco did all of those things, it would take their accountability and transparency score to an 84, which is good for three stars. That, in turn would, take their overall score to an 85, which is again good three stars.

If they don’t have audited financials to publish, but they did everything else above, it would give them a 61 in accountability and transparency, still one star, but would take their overall score up to a 71, good for two stars.


Hilariously mid-2000s era Myspace throwback selfies… for charity

Last Friday, the San Francisco Shock posted a photo of Babybay, below, to announce that their star DPS player was starting an Instagram account. Two days later, Cory, the VP of Content for Shock’s parent organization, NRG, posted a photo in the same pose, with the hashtag #BabyBayChallenge.

A joke that spun out of control

When Babybay snapped the photo, he wasn’t thinking that it would become a viral fundraiser in the mold of the Ice Bucket Challenge. That wasn’t the intention when Cory posted his response either. Rather, as NRG/Shock’s Brettbox told me earlier today, it was a joke that spun out of control. (Brett is also the mind behind the “Hilariously mid-2000s era Myspace throwback selfie” description).

Once #BabyBayChallenge caught on through, Shock realized that they had an opportunity to be philanthropic, and ran with it. NRG/Shock had been looking for an opportunity to give back to the community for some time, and had asked their fans last year what causes they wanted the org to support. Adolescent mental health was the clear favorite, so when the decision was made to turn #BabyBayChallenge into a charity event, mental health became the cause.

Backing into a viral charity event meant that NRG/Shock had some catching up to do though. The organization has yet to select the charity beneficiary; they’re still vetting options and will finalize their pick today or tomorrow. They’ll also finalize in the coming days the amount of money per photo. The organization has some exciting plans to grow the #BabyBayChallenge even larger, and have already tapped their celebrity investors to get involved. Former NBA superstar Shaquille “Shaq” O’Neal already answered the call.


San Francisco Shock has selected National Alliance on Mental Health – San Francisco (EIN 94-2914709) as the beneficiary charity.

You can get involved by taking a photo in the style of Babybay’s original, tagging @SFShock, and using the hashtag #BabyBayChallenge.

Celebrity #BabyBayChallenge Photos


Industry Overwatch League

Mayhem are digging themselves a hole that may take years to get out of

The Florida Mayhem are off to an abysmal start. Their only win is against Shanghai, the team at the bottom of the table. San Francisco Shock, who at the time had a 2-5 record, just thrashed Mayhem in a convincing 4-0. While individual players show flashes of brilliance, the team looks uncoordinated, and more often than not looks to lack mental toughness – the ability to close out rounds when they’re one battle away from a solid defensive hold – which has cost them many a map.

While several organizations are doing worse than expected, Florida Mayhem is in a uniquely bad position. Unlike other struggling teams, Mayhem has put next to nothing into infrastructure. Mayhem has only one coach (every other team has at least two), has done nothing to build a local fan base in Florida, is one of the quietest orgs on social media, and are allegedly phoning it in on building their academy team. Per, they’ve outsourced the job of building a roster to the Houston Outlaws’ parent organization. I’ve been told that Mayhem were courted directly by talented free agent rosters, and I’d be very surprised if the academy team they wind up with is stronger than some of the free agent teams that they’ve turned down.


Unattractive Destination

Mayhem’s unwillingness to invest in infrastructure isn’t just costing them this year. It’s going to cost them for years to come.

You don’t get to the top of any esport without believing that you’re one of the best players in the world. For a sought-after free agent, joining a team that’s playing badly isn’t a deal breaker, because the free-agent thinks that they have it in them to turn the team around.
Joining a team that’s run badly, though, that could be a deal breaker. If a free agent has a choice between an organization that makes resources available to help him be as successful as possible, and another organization that has demonstrated unwillingness to properly support its players, which one do you think that he is going to go for? Obviously there are other factors in play – desire to play with specific teammates, attractiveness of the home city/fanbase, etc. – but if Mayhem doesn’t catch up on staff very soon, it’s going to have a harder time attracting talent than they otherwise would.

If Florida Mayhem does become the “you’re on your own” org, they’re probably going to miss out on talent that’s good enough to be courted by multiple OWL teams. This means that to be successful, Mayhem will either need to scout out hidden gems (which requires staff, which Mayhem don’t have), or they’ll need to offer more money than other orgs to attract those top free agents (which sounds out of character for an org that’s shown no willingness to spend much yet).

That Other League

Mayhem shares ownership with Misfits, which fields, among other things, a League of Legends team in the EU LCS. Franchising is on the horizon for Europe, and it’s a fair bet that Misfits wants to be a part of that when it happens.

The Misfits ownership group just bought into a rival franchise and invested significantly less into the effort than any of its rivals. From what I’ve heard (I don’t know firsthand, since I don’t follow LoL), Misfits has put a lot more infrastructure into their League of Legends team than they have their Overwatch team. It’s quite possible, then, that the ownership group’s lack of support for Mayhem won’t hurt their chances when Riot considers potential partners for EU LCS franchising. However, it’s just as possible that the Mayhem situation will give Riot pause. It’s a sure bet that Riot will have more strong candidates than they will spots.

What to do now (i.e. where to spend now)

First and foremost, Mayhem need to increase their coaching staff. At the very least, they need someone with a strong mind for strategy and comps. It’s been an issue for the team since before the Overwatch League started, and it’s not Mineral’s strongest skillset. Many other teams have three coaches, and if Mayhem can find a strong candidate to help with things like opposition research and talent scouting (and driving the team bus), they should seize the opportunity.

Second, Mayhem has gaps in the roster that still need filling. Zappis played hitscan and projectile for NiP, Ana and for team Finland, then off-tank for Gigantti. With Manneten being one of Mayhem’s best performing players, it’s likely that Zappis will be coming in as a second off-tank in tank-heavy comps, or as an option at DPS. However more pickups are needed. A second option at main tank that’s strong on Reinhardt, a second option at main support that’s strong on Mercy, and a second option on off-support that’s strong on Moira are all going to be vital to Mayhem’s success.

Third, Mayhem needs to up their social media game. They initially had something novel going, tweeting in English and Spanish, however they’ve been pretty quiet on social media in both languages since the League started. They need a full-time, Mayhem-only social media manager, and I’d go as far as to say that they should have two official Mayhem Twitter accounts – one in English and one in Spanish. I’d also recommend that Mayhem sign a few Overwatch streamers, the way that Cloud9 did with Mendokusaii or TSM does with Calvin. It’s an inexpensive way to get eyeballs on the brand. Emongg, for example, looks like he’s not going to be on a Contenders team, has a large following, and is a safe choice as a brand representative.

Finally, Mayhem need to start doing local activities in Florida to build their local fan base.  ChanManV organized a fan meetup in Orlando opening night; Mayhem should encourage him to organize more, and provide publicity and giveaways for his events. Additionally, they should organize events in Miami (where Ben Spoont lives).

Florida Mayhem Opinions Overwatch League

For Boston Uprising, Friday’s match could be the most important of their season

Welcome back! Last week I published the Overwatch League match previews for the opening day. Now, I’m back covering one more game taking place later on in the week. It might not look like much, especially with the juicy lineup on Saturday, but it’s the only game in opening week that could be season-defining.

This stage’s map pool and the league format are covered at the start of Tuesday’s article, linked above.


Florida Mayhem hosts Boston Uprising

Dorado · Anubis · Oasis · Eichenwalde


This is Boston’s easiest game this month. Can they seize it?
Commentators were panning Boston Uprising before they even played a game, and the team came into the preseason with a chip on their shoulder. Taking a map off of New Yok Excelsior and a win off of Shanghai Dragons shows that they have potential, however their January is brutal. They play Excelsior in their opening match, and after they take on Florida Mayhem, they have Seoul Dynasty, San Francisco Shock, London Spitfire, and Dallas Fuel to round out their January. For context, Excelsior, Dynasty, Spitfire, and Fuel are expected to be the top four at the end of the season, although probably not in that order.

With Mayhem looking shaky, Shock looking stronger than anticipated, and none of Dallas or the three all-Korean teams looking any less terrifying than expected, Friday’s match against Florida is Boston’s best opportunity to show what they’re capable of. In fact, aside from San Francisco, it’s probably the only game that can be expected to be competitive. If Uprising don’t show up on Friday, they could easily start the season 0-6, a devastating blow that could be difficult to come back from emotionally, let alone in the rankings.

While the season is 40 games long, six games is roughly a fifth of the season, and the middle of the standings is expected to be fiercely contested. Getting off to a slow start means that Boston will spend the rest of the season chasing their rivals, just one more stressor on top of having to build a team with little pre-existing synergy, speaking multiple languages, with a somewhat untested coaching staff. So yeah, a loss to Mayhem might not be season ending, but it could be season defining, especially if they lose to Shock in Week 2 as well.

Who is going to step up for Mayhem?
Florida’s best player during the preseason was Manneten, their off-tank. In TviQ and Logix, Mayhem have some of Europe’s strongest DPS talent, but neither showed up in a big way. While Mayhem’s January schedule isn’t as brutal as Boston’s is, the team is going to be in for a rough first stage if at least a few of their players don’t snap out of their slump in form quickly. The spotlight is going to shine harshest on Logix (more on that below), but Mayhem will need increased contribution from multiple players if they’re going to make it to the transfer window with a respectable point total.

Realistically, that’s probably their goal for the first stage. Even if Mayhem look like a completely different team in the regular season than they did in the preseason, they’re still hampered by their small roster size and small coaching team. Whether the goal is the championship (unrealistic), a 5th/6th place playoff berth (difficult) or just a decent 7th/8th/9th  showing (achievable), they’re going to need increased investment to pull that off. Somewhat counterintuitively, the Mayhem players will likely need to perform well in order to convince ownership to bring in additional players. If Mayhem look bottom of the barrel in the first stage, there’s less to gain from spending mid-season. If they look strong, however, they can justify getting reinforcements now and making a push in Stages 2, 3, and 4.

Mayhem’s goal should be wins against Boston, Shanghai Dragons, and Los Angeles Valiant. Houston Outlaws is probably too much for them, and London and Seoul are out of reach. Their February looks less daunting thein their January, and if they come out of the opening month 3-3, they could end the stage 6-4 or 5-5, a showing that would make the “spend now” approach justifiable. And with a six player roster, there’s plenty of room for that.


Who to watch:

Jonathan “DreamKazper” Sanchez
DreamKazper does not have a reputation as an elite Pharah; he’s much more known on hitscan. However, TviQ’s Pharah looked strong on the first part of Dorado during the preseason, and Oasis is the most Pharah-friendly map in the game, so DreamKazper is very likely going to have to spend time on her (or at least defending against her). If DreamKazper and Uprising can’t shut down TviQ, Mayhem is going to exploit it to great effect. However, if DreamKazper is able to win this positional battle, chances are very good for Boston taking the whole series.

Andreas “Logix” Berghmans
The Belgian Tracer specialist is considered one of the best DPS players in Europe, and his online performances towards the end of last year were impressive. However Logix was shut down hard in the Contenders LAN finals, and didn’t look his dominant self in the preseason either. While there’s room for improvement across the board, Mayhem needs a strong showing out of Logix most of all. If he continues to struggle, Mayhem are going to be in for a rough five weeks, and a reputation for not performing at LAN can’t be good for him personally either.

Prediction: 3-2 to Mayhem

Mayhem couldn’t have asked for a tougher opening game, and Boston aren’t faring much better in their opening either. Both teams will look to this, their second match, as an opportunity to grab a win and close out their opening week on a strong note. Boston came out looking stronger than many pundits expected, and Florida worse, but I see Mayhem scraping out an ugly win here. Mayhem need to rediscover their form, while Uprising need to build it. With such little time to work with, I believe that the former will be easier than the latter.

Boston will likely look to dive Florida’s supports tirelessly. Both Zuppeh nor Zebbosai spent quite a lot of time in the preseason waiting to respawn, and they simply look awful running Mercy without Pharah. Mayhem, for their part, will probably look to exploit Pharah, as they’re going to be confident that they have the better one, and there are plenty of places across the map set to run her. Ultimately, it’s the advantage in this position that has me giving the match to Florida. That being said, I wouldn’t put money on either team winning, especially without seeing how each team responds to their opening match Korean onslaught.

Analysis Florida Mayhem Overwatch League

Overwatch League match preview: Opening Day

Welcome to the first Overwatch League match preview!

In this feature, I’ll go over who I think is going to take each match and why, what the storylines to watch are, and who you, as a neutral fan, should be looking out for. These are incredibly time consuming to make, so depending on the reception, I’ll probably only do them for each week’s key matches going forward.


Before we get started, some general notes:

This stage’s map pool: Escort: Dorado & Junkertown | Assault: Anubis & Horizon | Control: Ilios & Oasis | Hybrid: Eichenwalde & Numbani | Tiebreaker: Lijiang

Playoffs: When I refer to playoffs, I’m always talking about the end-of-season playoffs, not the end-of-stage ones. Six teams make it into the end-of-season playoffs. Most analysts, including myself, see the top four slots as all but locked up by some ordering of London, Seoul, Dallas, and New York, with a bunch of decently strong teams all gunning for the last two playoff spots.

Format: Outside of the playoffs, every game is a four map set (one of each map type). A score of 3-2 indicates that the first maps went 2-2, and a tie-breaking fifth map had to be played. A score of 2-1 indicates that one of the maps tied (most likely the Assault, although it’s also possible to tie on Hybrid).

San Francisco Shock hosts Los Angles Valiant

Dorado · Anubis · Ilios · Numbani

Prediction: 3-2 to Valiant

What a way to open the League! This looks like it’s going to be a tight match between two solid teams with playoff aspirations. I don’t see either team as having a significant edge, but I’m giving it to Valiant. The team in green is coming into the League with an established core – the former Immortals – and since neither team has had ample practice time, Valiant’s pre-existing synergy is going to be important. Additionally, I think that Shock might have shown a bit too much of their hand in the preseason.


Redemption for the Preseason?
Valiant beat Shock 3-2 in the preseason, however Shock came into the match having just played another game (filling in for the absent Philadelphia Fusion), and later claimed that exhaustion played a part in their loss. With both teams coming into this rematch fresh, will Shock be able to get their revenge, or was Valiant the better team all along?

Can Valiant shut down Babybay?
While Shock is by no means a one-trick team, the preseason made it clear that they are a team that is currently built around the Babybay, who put on an absolute clinic on Widowmaker during the preseason, and was known before OWL for his strong Soldier:76. If Valiant is able to focus him down and keep him from dictating fights, Shock could be in for a rough night.

Who to watch:

Nikola “Sleepy” Andrews
Aside from Babybay, the most impressive player on San Francisco Shock has been Sleepy. He came into the League as a relative unknown, but his Zenyatta was one of the strongest in the preseason. As Philadelphia Fusion’s Boombox can attest, strong Zenyatta play can quickly catapult a player from unknown to “household name” status, and if Sleepy plays in Stage 1 like he did in the preseason, he’s going to be one of the League’s first breakout stars.

Shanghai Dragons hosts Los Angeles Gladiators

Dorado · Anubis · Ilios · Eichenwalde

Prediction: 4-0 to Gladiators

I want Shanghai to do well. China is a massive market, growing esports power, and has been one of the most active regions for Overwatch since the beginning. However, what we saw from Shanghai in the preseason was less than encouraging. They had little pre-existing synergy and very little practice time, and it showed in their lack coordination. Gladiators is going to come into this much more polished, and it’s going to show. The map type most forgiving to teams that haven’t built coordination is Control, but Ilios and Oasis are both strong Pharah maps, and Gladiators has two noted Pharah experts.


Can Diya carry?
The biggest bright spot for Shanghai during the preseason was Diya’s Widowmaker. Right now, Widow is quite strong on quite a number of maps, including at least parts of all four maps Shanghai chose. With limited time to build strategies, it’s quite possible that Shanghai have set themselves up around empowering Diya, and if he pops off, it could be a more competitive match than I predicted.

How good is Gladiators, really?
Gladiators beat Spitfire but lost to Valiant. Yes, it was the preseason, with rusty players and awkward forced substitutions, but that’s an odd spread. Gladiators is a tough team to place, both on paper and based on their preseason performances. I personally have them as bottom third, but I also think that they’re going to look strongest earlier in the season, so if they want to place well, a strong start is vital.

Who to watch:

Joao Pedro “Hydration” Veloso de Goes Telles
If the preseason is any indication, Hydration’s role in the team might not have been what people were expecting. A projectile DPS player with a strong Pharah and Genji, he actually spent a decent amount of time on tanks – specifically Orisa and Roadhog – swapping in and out for Bischu, who played only Where Hydration gets his playtime, and who is sitting on the bench while he’s in game, will tell us a lot about how Gladiators is going to play going forward. This team might wind up running solo tank, and possibly even triple tank, more than most others.

Dallas Fuel hosts Seoul Dynasty

Junkertown · Anubis · Ilios · Numbani

Prediction: 3-1 to Seoul

The best game of the week closes out the first day. EnVyUs, who became Dallas Fuel, won OGN APEX season 1. Lunatic Hai, who became Seoul Dynasty, won seasons 2 and 3. These are storied powerhouses that dominated 2017. Between their storied history and their current form, Seoul is the team to beat in the inaugural season of the Overwatch League. While they looked mortal during the preseason, Dallas looked vulnerable as well, losing more maps in less matches. In the end, Seoul is just on another level at the moment, and I expect them to come out with a win, albeit a hard-fought one.


Will we see the streamers play?
Although both are skilled players, there’s still a decent contingent of people that think Dallas signed Seagull and xQc just to grab their massive fanbases. While Dallas seemed to relish the more aggressive tank play xQc brought, Seagull hasn’t clicked as well thus far. In a match against an opponent that will brutally capitalize on every misstep, will Dallas fall back on their old core, or will we see Seagull and xQc get significant play time?

What is Seoul’s ceiling?
Seoul could lose to Dallas. They could just squeak by. Or they could crush the boys in blue and put the rest of the league on notice. They’re going to pull out all the stops against Dallas, who look to be by far their most difficult opponents in the month of January. Without the constraints of the preseason (hiding strategies, forced subs), we will finally be able to see what Seoul is capable of.

Who to watch:

Je-Hong “ryujehong” Ryu
Throughout much of 2017, ryujehong was considered one of the best players in the world. His Ana was so dominant that it pushed the developers to change how ultimates work. Now, with Ana out of the meta, he might not even be the best player on his team. While he is a force to be reckoned with on any hero he plays, the fact is that everything else is a significant step step down from what he can do on Ana. His team has, in the past, tried to force Ana when she wasn’t in-meta, to varying degrees of success. It will be important to see which hero he spends most of his time on, and how Seoul plays around that.

Analysis Overwatch League