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

Endemic Brands versus Rich Dudes

Thorin made a pair of tweets recently, reproduced below, suggesting that many Overwatch League teams are poorly run vanity projects with unqualified general managers, and that simply signing Rogue would have led to a better result than those managers’ efforts at building teams from scratch.

Rogue was an all-French team competing in North America before the launch of the Overwatch League, and was the former team of Valiant’s Soon and Unkoe, and Fuel’s Akm. They were consistently at or near the top of the NA standings in the months leading up to the League, but Rogue relied on mechanically outskilling much weaker opponents; top talent was too spread out at the time for their opponents to exploit Rogue’s lack of compositional flexibility or their weakness in the off-tank position.

Were an OWL team to have signed Rogue – just the six players – they would likely be near the bottom of the  standings today. Were a team to sign Rogue, add in a world-class D.va player, a backup for AkM with a significantly stronger Genji, additional depth in the other roles, and some innovative reinforcements to the coaching staff, then they might be competitive at OWL level. But identifying those holes, and the correct people to fill those holes, is a GM’s job.

So where are the good GMs?

Thooorin’s tweet raised an interesting question though: is there a difference in performance between the teams owned by endemic orgs – who have years of experience in esports – and the “rich guys” that bought into the league with little to no esports knowledge or history?

Yes, there is. The endemics are doing terribly.

Stage2

There are six endemic and six non-endemic teams in the Overwatch League. The endemics are Dallas (EnVyUs), Florida (Misfits), Houston (Optic), London (Cloud9), Los Angeles Valiant (Immortals), and San Francisco (NRG).

Of those, only London is on the top half of the table for the stage 2 standings, and only London and Houston are on the top half of the table for the overall standings. While some of the endemic-owned teams have reasons to be optimistic about the rest of the year, most have long slogs ahead of them if they want to get into the end-of-year playoffs.

In most cases, it’s difficult to know what a team’s problems really are, but it feels like the endemic teams have a whole lot more of them. Shanghai is the obvious outlier – a catastrophe so epic that it props up the rest of the league, but the remainder of the teams that could be considered to be in “bad shape” are endemics.

  • Valiant just had their second player dispiritedly announce on stream that he wasn’t even being given the opportunity to prove he deserved to play in matches. Their radical approach to transparency involved letting everyone know that they fired their head coach, but it turns out that their head coach wasn’t actually the problem.
  • Right after the firing, they lost to a resurgent Mayhem. That org has developed a reputation for having to be raked over the coals before being willing to spend money (they were the only team to enter the League with only six players, the only one with only one coach, and they had to drive themselves to and from the venue, from housing over 40 minutes away).
  • Mayhem also recently beat San Francisco Shock, a team that awkwardly straddled the line between saying “we can win now” (which they didn’t do much of), while positioning themselves to win later (with two players turning 18 mid-season). Even if Sinatraa and Super turn out to be gods, they enter stage 3 with a 6-14 record to climb out of.
  • Houston, the best positioned of the bunch (aside from London, of course), find themselves in the awkward situation where just about everyone believes that they need a better Tracer player than they have on the roster, except for their GM, Matt “Flame” Rodriguez, who took to Twitter to contest that point.
  • Finally, Dallas Fuel is a dumpster fire of conflicting visions, poor communication, a meta that they weren’t properly prepared for, a player that got the axe, and a very large, very loud fanbase doing everything they can to ratchet up the stress levels of the players and staff, which unsurprisingly makes things worse.

So yeah, let’s get rid of all the “rich dudes”. Tell Philadelpha to sell the giant house filled with custom Overwatch art, trash the growing collection of funny team shirts, fire the private chef, and hand over the slot to an endemic. Maybe TSM, who famously had a disastrous first foray into Overwatch. Maybe one of Mosaic, Denial, or Northern Gaming, all of whom have been accused by players of non-payment? How about a big name brand with a recent history of serious financial problems, like Fnatic?

Or not.

 

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Blizzard Needs A New Approach to Punishing Account Boosting

A second player in the Overwatch League has been suspended for account boosting. OGE, signed to Dallas Fuel but yet to arrive in the US, will miss four games. The ban, which went into effect beginning with Fuel’s match on Thursday night, is significantly lighter than the one issued to Philadelphia Fusion’s Sado, for the same offense, before the beginning of the season.

This news comes only a few weeks after posts were made on the Korean esports forum Inven (as translated by Robin311for /r/CompetitiveOverwatch) alleging that four other unnamed players currently in the Overwatch League also have histories of boosting.

Right now, the accusations made on Inven haven’t been proven. What is clear, however, is that the issue of account boosting didn’t go away when Sado was banned for the League’s first three stages. If the accusations against the current Overwatch League players prove true, it would also raise the uncomfortable question “if those four did it, who else has, and just hasn’t been caught yet?”. It will be a massive scandal, and would shake confidence in the League.

And that’s because…

Account boosting is cheating

Whether an account owner is using software to help them aim, or is handing control of the account over to another person, the end result is the same: the account owner is exchanging money for an SR that is higher than they have personally earned.
There’s a reason why account boosting is so reviled. On the way up, the booster ruins the games of the players he’s up against. Once the original owner resumes using the account, they ruin the games of the players on their team as they plummet back down to the SR that they actually can play at.

That being said, there are some people willing to give boosters the benefit of the doubt. The Korean scene, despite producing a lot of the best talent in nearly every esport, is not known for paying high wages to its professional and semi-pro players. Many boosters do what they do so that they can afford to keep pursuing the dream of playing professionally. To be sure, this isn’t true of every booster, but at least in the West, many fans believe that boosters should have a path back to pro, and that’s a view that the League Office seems to share.

Inconsistent punishments undermine the League’s public standing

If it turns out that additional Overwatch League players have been boosting, though, Blizzard is going to have a problem on their hands. Any punishment, whether strict or lenient, is going to be seen as unfair. Sado was banned for 7.5 times as many matches as OGE, and the League hasn’t provided a clear explanation for the disparity in the punishments.

In fact, Blizzard’s handling of player discipline overall has been abysmal. There’s been no consistency in the time between when an infraction happens and when a punishment is announced, the descriptions of the infractions are vague, and they’ve yet to release the rulebook that players are held to itself.

Fans are already predisposed to side with players over the League when the two parties come into conflict. The League’s best chance of avoiding fan backlash is to be detailed in describing infractions and consistent in doling out punishments. By doing neither, they’ve opened the door for fans to question the legitimacy and fairness of the punishments. Team owners have also publicly questioned how Blizzard decides punishments; a bad look for the League.

The way forward is in a one-size-fits-all, transparent punishment structure

The best case for Blizzard – and probably also for the players – is if the all of the players with histories of boosting announce it themselves, at around the same time. If names come out in a slow trickle instead, with fans digging up evidence and making accusations against players one by one on Inven, it will make a bad situation vastly worse, stretching out the news and further shaking people’s faith in the League.

In order to convince boosters with professional aspirations that coming clean is their best option, Blizzard needs to lay out a set of terms that makes coming clean attractive, and keeping it secret especially unattractive. The policy also needs to be consistent – it needs to strip away any subjectivity, because Blizzard have shown themselves to be really, really either at making subjective decisions, or else describing those decisions once they’re made.

Here’s a list of terms that would do the job:

  • Any player or coach that confesses to account boosting will be ineligible to play or coach Overwatch in one full season of Contenders (there are three seasons a year), or two full stages of the Overwatch League (there are four stages a year). If they confess while a season/stage is in progress, their period of ineligibility begins immediately.
  • During the time that they are ineligible to play, they are still eligible to be signed to an organization, and can play or coach in scrims, but cannot be in the coaching dugout during their team’s games.
  • Once the ineligibility period ends, the player’s slate is considered wiped clean.
  • Any player or coach that does not come forward voluntarily and is caught boosting, or is identified as having boosted in the past, will instead be ineligible to play or coach for two calendar years.
  • Any player or coach that is caught boosting during or after being given an initial suspension for boosting will be ineligible to play or coach for life.

These terms heavily incentivize people with histories of boosting to come forward, as they’ll have to sit out much longer if they’re caught without having volunteered the information themselves. The terms also make it clear that pursuing professional play and account boosting are mutually exclusive paths. Adopting these terms would result in Sado being able to play beginning at the start of Stage 3, and OGE being out for essentially the rest of the season, but unless Blizzard can come up with a very convincing reason for why their punishments are so different, adjusting both of their terms is perfectly fair.

The TLDR

Account boosting is a form of cheating, and it ruins games. Blizzard can, and should, issue steep punishments to people who have engaged in the practice and seek to play professionally. However, those punishments need to be consistent – something Blizzard have failed to do in their previous punishments. Therefore, a one-size-fits-all approach, which incentivizes boosters coming forward themselves, is the best path forward.

 

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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.

Heroes

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.

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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.

Details

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

BabyBayChallenge

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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).

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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