Three Big Questions for OWL Midseason Madness 2023
Midseason Madness will see the league’s top squads compete on the international stage.
The Overwatch League’s first international tournament of 2023 has finally arrived. Midseason Madness offers the year’s first opportunity for inter-region play as the league’s contenders converge in Seoul. The six-team event will pit the top four teams in the West against the two best from the East in a double-elimination bracket to decide a champion.
With the league only hosting two major tournaments in 2023, Midseason Madness is more important than ever. Throw in the fact that none of these teams have ever won a major title, and this could be one of the most emotional tournaments in OWL history. As the action gets underway, here are the questions that will determine the course of this year’s Midseason Madness.
Can Anyone Challenge Atlanta?
There’s nowhere better to start than with presumptive favorites. Through their first eight matches, the Atlanta Reign have left no doubt as to who is the best team in the league. In those matches, they swept their opponents 3-0 six times and lost just two maps across the entire qualifier stage. They’ve been dominant from start to finish, and there’s no reason to believe they’ll ease off the gas at all.
The Reign’s success shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone. The league has largely settled into a meta centered around Sombra dives, and Atlanta has the league’s undisputed top Sombra in Lee “LIP” Jae-won. He may just play Sombra for every second of this tournament, and it’s hard to make a compelling case to do otherwise.
LIP’s coordination with his dive partners was one of the best things the Reign had going for them throughout the qualifiers. Whether it’s veteran Xander “Hawk” Domecq or rookie Kim “D0NGHAK” Min-sun on tank, Atlanta is nearly always on the attack. With Jeong “Stalk3r” Hak-yong emerging as an excellent Tracer player as well, the Reign routinely strike at the heart of opposing setups with precision and decisiveness.
While LIP and company are a scary force on the frontline, they become downright terrifying when you realize they’re backed up by Han “ChiYo” Hyeon-seok and Kwon “Fielder” Joon. Following their title with Dallas last year, these two are looking to cement themselves as the best support duo in the league. Opponents will want to make them the target, but that’s easier said than done given how good they are at absorbing pressure.
The closest thing the Reign have to a weakness is their predictability when it comes to compositions. They’ve experimented very little this year, and their choice of tank player will definitely telegraph their preferred style on any given map. That said, you still have to beat them, something that has proven to be an almost impossible task so far.
How Will the Teams From the East Hold Up?
Much has been made of the decline of the East region in 2023, and given the minor exodus of talent during the offseason, it wasn’t entirely unwarranted. Now down to just six OWL franchises, league competition was bolstered with the addition of teams from Contenders. Old stalwarts like Shanghai and Dallas struggled to start the season, leaving a power vacuum in the region. Emerging from the fray are two teams that impressed during the Knockouts but remain somewhat unproven.
The Seoul Infernal, after leaving behind the Philadelphia Fusion name, are hoping they can shed the baggage that came with it. Years of near misses and crushing defeats are in the past. All that remains are three promising young players hungry to prove themselves. Yoon “MN3” Jae-hee, Kim “ZEST” Hyun-woo, and Kwon “FiXa” Yeong-hun all impressed as rookies with Philadelphia last year, but have truly come into their own in 2023.
They’ve added a rejuvenated Kim “Mag” Tae-sung and a veteran support thriving in an expanded role in Kim “skewed” Min-seok. After losing their opening match to their hometown rival Seoul Dynasty, the Infernal have been on fire, going undefeated the rest of the way. They still have much to prove as the East’s top seed, but they might just be up to the task.
Hangzhou enter the tournament with an inconsistent track record in 2023 but could have the higher ceiling of the two East teams. Given their status as a Chinese superteam, they’ll also be carrying the weight of their country’s expectations on their shoulders.
The pedigree of players like Huang “leave” Xin, Zheng “shy” Yangjie, and Xu “guxue” Qiulin is undeniable and should serve them well under pressure. Unfortunately, the team will have to compete from China after visa issues prevented them from traveling to Seoul for LAN. Still, they’ve got the opportunity to prove Chinese Overwatch remains competitive even after the game became unavailable in the country earlier this year.
Which West Contender Will Rise Above the Rest?
Behind Atlanta, the West was incredibly competitive at the top of the table. Houston, Boston, and Florida were able to set themselves apart from the rest of the pack but remain close to each other.
On paper and in the standings, Houston is the best of the bunch. Their only loss came against Atlanta, and they might just have the most raw firepower in the league. Every player on this roster has the potential to carry a fight, a map, or an entire match. Outside of Park “Viol2t” Min-ki, they haven’t been the most flexible team so far this year, but playing to their strengths will be how they have a chance to win Midseason Madness.
Up next are the Boston Uprising who moved with relative ease through the upper bracket of the West Knockouts. Aside from a befuddling 3-0 loss to Vancouver in Week 2, Boston has defied expectations that they would be this year’s failed superteam. Their veteran-laden roster has as much playoff experience as anyone, so they should be comfortable in the high-pressure environment. If they hit their peak, they can certainly go far.
Finally, the Florida Mayhem round out the Midseason Madness field. After making a statement by winning the preseason Pro-Am tournament, the Mayhem have taken a small step back as other contenders surged to the forefront. That said, they’ve proven they can compete with the best and continued to grow throughout the season. Even in the Knockouts, they dropped their first match to the Gladiators before rampaging through the lower bracket and getting their revenge in the qualification match.
Don’t be surprised if they lose early but still make a deep Midseason Madness run.