Mayhem: A Mountain To Climb

The Florida Mayhem went 7-33 across the inaugural season, comfortably the second worst team in the league. Their league-smallest starting roster and coaching staff proved inadequate, and their additions during the signing window proved insufficient.

When it emerged that TviQ, their star player, had to drive the team an hour each way to get the team to and from matches, the Mayhem ownership’s unwillingness to spend the money necessary for the team to be successful came to the public’s attention, forcing some changes.

With the release of the Season Two signing window timeline, however, it’s clear how difficult it will be for Mayhem to climb out of the hole they’ve put themselves in.

Mayhem

An Inauspicious Start

The Florida Mayhem entered the inaugural season with six players and one coach. This same team, competing as Misfits, came second in European Contenders right before the start of the league, however it was clear even before the preseason that Mayhem would be outgunned; most other teams had nine or more players and three or more coaching staff.

Mayhem, who won an abysmal four games across the first two stages, would go on to sign three players during the signing window. First was flex tank Zappis, an odd choice since Manneten was Mayhem’s best player for the first half of the season. They then added main tank aWesomeGuy, hitscan specialist Sayaplayer, and their coach Rider, all from Korean team Meta Athena.

While Sayaplayer proved to be a strong addition, and main tank was one of Mayhem’s areas of need, main support was (and continues to be) the team’s most dire weakness, and flex support is also a weak area, and no signing was made in either position. The team also took longer than any of its competitors to reach three people on their coaching staff.

A Mountain to Climb

Mayhem Academy was a half-hearted effort. There were some recognizable names from the Tier 2 and Tier 3 scenes, but the roster lacked the ambition or star power of the other affiliate teams. There was no one on the roster that you could see making the jump to the Overwatch League. Mayhem Academy came in 8th out of 12, enough to escape having to requalify through Contenders Trials, but behind every other Overwatch League team’s Contenders affiliate.

And that’s important because the very first opportunity teams will have to sign new players will be to promote them into the main team from their Contenders affiliate. From August 1st through September 9th, existing teams will be able to resign existing players, sign players from their academy teams, and trade players with existing OWL teams.

After that, expansion teams will have a month to sign free agents before existing teams will be able to. While we don’t know how many expansion teams there will be, it’s a near-certainty that many of the biggest names will be signed before Mayhem will have a chance to.

Roster Shuffle

Mayhem need to make quite a few moves before Season 2 if they hope to fare any better than they did in the inaugural season. The addition of two-way players – who can play in both Contenders and the Overwatch League – opens up some options, but Mayhem will still need to make painful choices, including cutting players and shaking up their coaching staff.

Assuming that they don’t release everyone but Sayaplayer and build an all-Korean roster, here’s what they need to do:

DPS: Logix started the season cold, but found his form late in the year. He and Sayaplayer have overlapping hero pools, but they can justify keeping both on the roster, at least until the mid-season trading window. TviQ has had cold spells as well, showing flashes of brilliance, but also spells of mediocracy, especially on Genji. Bringing in a Genji specialist will let the team run better dives and allow TviQ to concentrate on other heroes. The coaching team will have to figure out a system for rotating all four players in, but DPS is Mayhem’s area of least need.

Tank: On a team that has lots of weak areas, flex tank isn’t the most pressing. While he’s had struggles, Manneten has shown enough to suggest that he’ll perform better if he’s surrounded by better players. If the opportunity arises, they should add a second option, and designate one of the two as a two-way player. This would mean cutting Zappis, but he’s had ample opportunity to displace Manneten, and has not been able to do so. At main tank, neither CWoosH nor aWesomeGuy have looked solid. The team needs a new started, and needs to either sign a new second option, cutting both existing tanks, or shift him aWesomeGuy to a two-way player as a backup. Either way, this would be the end of CWoosH’s time on Mayhem.

Support: It felt like every fight, on every map, in every match started with one of the two supports dying. While they were not always properly protected, there’s no denying the skill gap between them and their counterparts on other teams. Sadly, this is a case of “blow it up and start over”; the team needs a new primary support duo and a new backup support duo, and should probably make both backups two-way players. Zebbosai was consistently the team’s weakest player, and it’s time for Mayhem to part with him. Zuppeh was not far behind, and hasn’t shown enough promise to warrant keeping him on as a backup.

Coaching: Mayhem needs a change in direction. As Misfits, the team struggled to settle on which players would run which heroes, and in which compositions. As Mayhem, these issues continued, and the team proved slow to adapt to the Mercy meta, and poor at preparing for opponents. Even after adding Rider, the team’s results did not improve. Without being in the locker room, it’s tough to say if Rider should be given the main coach slot or if a new person needs to be brought in, but if Mineral is going to stay on, it can’t be as main coach. Regardless of who survives from the current regime, Mayhem needs a strong hierarchy, and a full team of coaches, analysts, and support staff. Another skeleton crew would be unacceptable.

timeline

Aggressive Trading

So where does Mayhem get four new supports, two or three new tanks, and a Genji specialist? It’ll be expensive, but the best option is to enter into sign-and-trade agreements with other Overwatch League teams.

Suppose, for example, that Mayhem decides that WhoRU, currently signed to Fusion University, is the Genji specialist they need. Mayhem can’t sign him directly until the general signing window opens on October 8th. However, Fusion can sign him beginning on August 1st, and can trade him to Mayhem for cash immediately. This strategy would allow Mayhem to stock up on players before the expansion teams begin to sign their rosters on September 9, but would limit Mayhem’s options to players currently signed to one of the other affiliate Contenders teams. They might not be able to net all of the players they need this way, but it’s a start.

That will have to wait for a new coaching structure to be installed, however. The sooner Mayhem moves on that, the better, as the new coach will need time to assess the existing roster and to scout potential players before August 1st.

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Florida Mayhem 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 over.gg, 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.

Mayhem

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 D.va 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.

Uprising

Florida Mayhem hosts Boston Uprising

Dorado · Anubis · Oasis · Eichenwalde

Storylines: 

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.

Mayhem

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

Guide to picking an Overwatch League team

Whether you’re new to Overwatch, new to watching competitive Overwatch, or a relapsed fan that wants to know what the heck is going on now with all the new teams, welcome! I hope this guide will be helpful.

Heroes

I want to follow the team that’s going to win the first season

Everyone wants their team to win. There’s no shame in rooting for a team that you think is going to be successful, especially if you don’t have a local one to cheer for.

At or near the top of many lists is London Spitfire. The all-Korean team is a fusion of players from recent APEX and APAC Premier champions GC Busan, perennial APEX strong-finishers KongDoo Panthera, and two additional players. Their biggest challenge will be integrating all of their talent and balancing playtime. With birdring, Rascal, Profit, and Hooreg all on the same team, they’re always going to have a few world elite DPS players on the bench.

You’d be remiss not to consider Seoul Dynasty as well. Most of two-time APEX champions Lunatic Hai were picked up by Seoul, and their highly regard coach, alwaysoov, was brought on as well. Several talented players from other teams have been added to the mix, filling admittedly serious gaps in the former LH roster. With ample LAN experience, including against elite Western teams, the spotlight of the Overwatch League won’t faze them.

Finally, Dallas Fuel is considered by most to be the best team that’s not all-Korean (they do have one Korean, the immensely talented Effect). Formerly competing as EnVyUs, Fuel have proved themselves as elite competitors in every meta. When they won the inaugural season of APEX, they became the only Western team in any team-based esport to win a major tournament in Korea. With the addition of three new players, their vaunted flexibility will only increase.

I want to follow an American team

Even though three-fourths of the teams in OWL are based in the United States, there are no fully American teams, and that’s true whether you mean “American” as the country or the continent.

The Houston Outlaws gets you pretty close though; of their ten players, six are from the United States and one is from Canada. In Jake, coolmatt69, and Rawkus, Houston picked up half of the United States World Cup team. The organization’s branding – with a stylized Longhorn made out of revolvers, also feels the most “American” of any of the teams in the league.

San Francisco Shock also have a good number of Americans. Five of their nine are from the US and one is from Mexico (the only Mexican in the league). Two of those players, Sinatraa and super, won’t be old enough to play until mid-season. Sinatraa and dhaK, along with two members of the Shock coaching staff, are from the now-defunct Selfless Gaming, a team known for their extremely aggressive play.

I want to follow a European team

There’s only one team based in a European city, and it’s owned by an American organization, with an all-Korean roster and staff. So instead of them, let’s look at some teams with European rosters.

Florida Mayhem, formerly competing as Misfits, has an all-European roster with four Swedes, a Finn, and a Belgian. Although only one of Mayhem’s players – Zebbosai – was on Misfits when it they the Overwatch Open and DreamHack Winter LANs in 2016, this is a team of storied veterans. TviQ won several major LANs with Rogue. Zuppeh, Logix, and CWoosH have online tournament wins, Zuppeh with Ninjas in Pyjamas, and the others with Movistar Riders.

The next closest you’re going to get is Philadelphia Fusion. Of their 12 players, half are European, and one is Israeli (the nation competes in Europe in many region-based competitions). ShaDowBurn, the Russian Genji specialist, is probably the most high-profile European on the roster, but Fragi (Finnish) and Boombox (British) are also renowned. Snillo (Swedish) will be sitting out until he turns 18 in early March.

I want to follow a team with big streaming personalities

Seagull is one of the most popular streamers in Overwatch, and has become one of the faces of the game. He was recently picked up by Dallas Fuel. Fuel also picked up xQc, a tour de force of personality with a 5,000 subscriber community. Expect to see some of Fuel’s other stars, such as Taimou and Mickie, make appearances on stream as well.

The Houston Outlaws signed the popular streamer Mendokusaii (he calls his community “the Mendojo”). The org’s general manager, Flame, built his reputation with especially blunt match breakdowns, and has one of the larger Discord communities in Overwatch. Finally, while not one of the biggest names in streaming, Jake has recently started organizing and streaming pro pick-up games, and is known for his well-written Overwatch blog.

The owner of San Francisco Shock, NRG, was famous (or infamous) earlier in the year for signing a “Stream Dream Team” anchored around Seagull. While the rest of that team has departed, Swedish hitscan specialist IDDQD remains. He’s now joined by sinatraa, a popular streamer himself and star from the USA World Cup team.

I want to follow an underdog, but one that’s got a decent shot to surprise people

The consensus on both the Houston Outlaws and Florida Mayhem are that they’re middle of the pack teams. I have them fourth and sixth respectively, slightly higher than many analysts project.

Joining them in the middle of the pack is Los Angeles Valiant. The team is owned by Immortals, and many of the players carried over from one roster to the other. Immortals was in a slump when the changeover to Valiant happened, but Valiant has added several talented players since, including former Rogue players Unkoe and Soon. This is a strong roster with a high ceiling, and shows the potential to challenge the all-Korean teams and the Texas duo.

The consensus on Shanghai Dragons is that they’re a middle of the pack team as well, but also that they could have been much stronger. Not a single member of Overwatch Premier Series champions Miraculous Youngster is on the Dragons. There’s also not much overlap with the Chinese World Cup team. Still, while China is the region least known to Western fans, it’s had more high level competition than most other regions, and Dragons’ players are LAN veterans.

Finally, New York Excelsior is an underdog of a different kind. Expected to finish comfortably in the top half, they’re nonetheless considered the weakest of the three all-Korean teams. Many analysts have them fourth behind Fuel. I have them fifth behind Fuel and Outlaws. That being said, they have an incredibly talented roster, and Saebyeolbe is one of the top players in the world. If New York challenges for the title, it’s not going to be surprising.

I want to follow a real underdog – a team that people are projecting to be bottom of the table

There are two teams left that haven’t been mentioned. Grouping them together here feels almost wrong; there’s a lot of good things you can say about one, while the other has little going for it.

Los Angeles Gladiators have a lot of recognizable names, most prominent being former Cloud9 star Surefour. Both their tanks and their supports were respected duos before joining Gladiators. However, while this roster has the skill to challenge the mid-table, a lot of analysts are approaching it with trepidation. Gladiators is the latest in a long string of talented-looking teams built around Surefour, and none of the others have ever reached the expectations people had for them.

Most analysts, myself included, have Boston Uprising coming in last. In a league full of superstars, most of the players  (and coaching staff) on Uprising are relative unknowns. While it’s possible that a few of them could surprise us, the fact is that there are a lot of better players that didn’t make it into the inaugural season of Overwatch League that Boston could have been picked up instead. It’s a puzzling collection, especially since (per ESPN) Boston was the first team to commit to OWL, and had longer to build than most.

Analysis Florida Mayhem Overwatch League