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Overwatch League: 2019 Pacific Division Preview

Gillian Langland

We’re less than a week out from the launch of Season 2 of the Overwatch League (OWL). Now that we’ve taken a look at the Atlantic Division, it’s time to check out the ten teams from the Pacific Division and see how they’ll measure up against the rest of the League. With six returning teams and four new teams, the Pacific Division is set to have some exciting matches.

Surefour LA Gladiators

2018-06-17 / Photo: Robert Paul for Blizzard Entertainment

10) Shanghai Dragons – Potential For Greatness

It’s not a huge shocker the Shanghai Dragons are at the bottom of our top ten list. They were the first, and only, esports team to complete a season 0-40. Despite the changes they made throughout the 2018 season, they just weren’t able to take a single match. When the news came that the players were practicing 12 hours a day, 6 days a week, the fans and League were concerned that their intensive work schedule was impairing their ability to play in League matches.

This season the Shanghai Dragons are set to do better than last year, but the question is HOW much better will they do? Management made the executive decision to release most of their roster and keep only a select few players. They not only signed new players but also some new coaches to help hone the skills of their roster. Chung-Hyeok “Levi” Jung is set to craft some innovative strategies. In addition to the new roster, the Dragons have also solved their communication issues by signing an almost fully Korean team. Look out to see Eui-seok “Fearless” Lee and Se-yeon “Geguri” Kim continue their development to become one of the best tank lines in the League.

Shanghai Dragons win in front of a celebrating crowd.

(Photo courtesy of Blizzard Entertainment)

9) Dallas Fuel – Improvement is a Must

The Dallas Fuel did not walk away from the Inaugural Season of the Overwatch League with a great standing and they are definitely making attempts to not repeat last year. In order to help their team succeed this season, the Fuel has brought on the coaching duo Aaron “Aero” Atkins and Justin “Jayne” Conroy. These two coaches are boasted about as being at the top of the game, and they should be able to turn this 10th place team from last season to a top 5 team this year.

In order to make some big wins, Dallas will need to focus on creating a team that doesn’t rely on the meta and that can be agile enough to flex with updates and hero nerfs/boosts. Ensuring Dallas has a strong backline and confidence in one another should help the team outperform their opponents this season.

8) Chengdu Hunters – Play Outside the Meta

The Chengdu Hunters have set themselves up with a good roster that will focus on the fast, aggressive playstyle characteristic of Chinese Overwatch. Chinese Overwatch relies on unpredictability, at least from their Western counterparts, and is known for relying on their DPS players. This chaotic playstyle is sure to help them succeed against more Western teams in the Pacific Division like the San Francisco Shock but it will see resistance when they face-off against other Chinese teams. Regardless, the Hunters will need to focus on playing outside of the meta but also ensuring that player coordination and trust is at the core of every player’s in-game decision.

The Hunters have been picked up two DPS players, Tzu-Heng “Baconjack” Lo and Zhihao “YangXiaoLong” Zhang, who are sure to create an amazing frontline. Neither of these players played any matches in 2018, so it will be interesting to see if they are able to pack a big punch.

Chengdu Hunters heroes

(Image courtesy of Blizzard Entertainment)

7) Hangzhou Spark – Solid Chance for Success

The Hangzhou Spark has signed a really good lineup that seems destined to produce some solid Season 2 results. The Hangzhou Spark has signed four players from X6-Gaming, forming a good foundation of players who are able to work well together and will be solid enough not to face pre-season nerves or anxiety on the Main Stage.

The Spark also brought over the coaches from X6. This will allow the team to focus on developing the players instead of trying to get the players and coaches into a comfortable groove, focusing on creating stability and player confidence. The Hangzhou Spark will be ahead of most of the other expansion teams and potentially a couple of the returning teams seeing as they have done what other teams have struggled to do: balance between creating a new team but also maintaining some semblance of an old team roster.

6) Seoul Dynasty – Belief in their Foundation

The Seoul Dynasty had a disappointing Season 1 and, despite having some good Stages, they finished in a dismal 8th place. This season they’ve made some big changes to set themselves up for success. One of the much-needed changes was the addition of Chan-Hyung “Fissure” Baek and Min-Seo “Marve1” Hwang. These two dynamite Tanks are filling a hole in the Dynasty’s roster. This was one of the reasons that the Dynasty did so poorly in the 2018 season. In addition to the Tank changes, Dynasty signed Seung-Soo “Jecse” Lee to fill in as a shot-calling support player who can help lead the team with strong leadership and communication.

Seoul also made some management changes and signed Dong-Gun “KDG” Kim as their hero coach. This addition will help Seoul create good team synergy and will also help develop players who can perform outside of the meta. One of Seoul’s biggest downfalls last year was their inability to be successful once the meta changed. This was really reflected when Je-hong, “ryujehong” Ryu was unable to be successful once Ana fell out of the meta. We think this team will be able to perform well if, and only if, they focus on building a solid foundation with all the players.

Fissure LA Gladiators

(Photo courtesy of Blizzard Entertainment)

5) Guangzhou Charge – Mechanically Talented Team

Following suit from other teams like the Vancouver Titans and the Hangzhou Spark, the Guangzhou Charge signed half of their players from of the top performing Contender teams from Korea – the Meta Bellum – and the other half from various Contender League and OWL teams. Meta Bellum had consistently performed well in 2018 and always advanced to at least the semifinals. This performance should translate well to their new team, the Guangzhou Charge, and should make creating cohesion between all their players easy. All their players have played in the Contenders League or the Overwatch League, which means Charge doesn’t need to focus on teaching players how to perform under stress but rather on creating synergy and trust between players.

One of the ways that the Charge has set themselves up for success has been by giving their players English tutoring so that they will be able to communicate better with the rest of the team. This is extremely important for a team like the Charge where they are a team comprised of multiple nationalities and languages. Their star player, Yiliang “Eileen” Ou is set to lead the charge against other Pacific teams in their Division. Eileen led Team China at the 2017 Overwatch World Cup with his aggressive playstyle and flexible hero drafting. Look to see Eileen make big plays for the team!

4) San Francisco Shock – Coached by the Best

The San Francisco Shock spared no expense to sign the best players in Overwatch, and it’ll be interesting to see if they can capitalize on the raw individual talent these players possess. Many previews have called the Shock the most improved team this season, and theoretically, they are but it’ll be up to the coaches to be able to synergize this team. Some of the star players the Shock signed, like Nam-Ju “Striker” Gwon from Boston, will have to work on building confidence in the other players. Talent alone will not win them Season 2.

The San Francisco Shock has taken a page from the London Spitfire last year and has signed the maximum twelve players to their team. It will be quite the feat to manage all twelve players and create a core team that can navigate the struggles that come with a team this big. They will have to quickly decide which players they will have play and restrict the number of switches they make. Players need to be able to form trust with their teammates and switching out teams too often will lead to confusion and a lack of synergy. These tough choices will fall to  Dae-Hee “Crusty” Park, Jae “Junkbuck” Choy, and Bumhoon “NineK” Kim. It’s a big roster and a big coaching team. We’ll see if Shock will be able to navigate these players and coaches to secure some wins this season.

(Photo courtesy of Blizzard Entertainment)

(Photo courtesy of Blizzard Entertainment)

3) Los Angeles Valiant – Disciplined Success

The Los Angeles Valiant had an incredibly successful run in the inaugural year of the Overwatch League. The Valiant did what few other teams did last year – have an incredible year without relying on one or two star players. Instead, their holistic approach led to having a team that was successful because all their players were good. This meant they never risked burning out their star players.

In order for the Valiant to remain successful this year, the team will need to retain their disciplined playstyle. Focusing on keeping a tight foundation and not relying on flashy plays will spell success for the Valiant. Many people discounted their (arguably best in the League) Tank lineup of Pan-seung “Fate” Koo and Indy “SPACE” Halpern because they weren’t overtly flashy. They were solid and dependable, which led to Valiant’s success. The team needs to rinse and repeat last year’s performance and they will be able to outperform most of the Pacific Division in the 2019 Season.

2) Los Angeles Gladiators – Experience over Expansion

The Overwatch Community has high expectations for the Los Angeles Gladiators, and we’re in agreement here at Hotspawn. This team was able to grow throughout the 2018 season and formed a really solid foundation with all their players. One of the best plays of the entire Overwatch League season came from the LA Gladiators match against the London Spitfire. It had fans on the edge of their seats. The well-executed play demonstrated just how much they’d grown and developed as a team.

The Gladiators have focused on developing the team and leaning on the experience they’ve had over the past year instead of adding or releasing players from their roster. Growth comes with time, and the Gladiators want to continue their success by further developing the stellar team they already have. They also have a huge ace in their pocket who goes by the name of Gui-Un “Decay” Jang. This incredible player is set to join the Main Stage at the end of February when he turns 18 and will be eligible to show-off his incredible skills to the rest of the Overwatch League. Look to see this team continue to out-perform and out-think their opponents in the 2019 season.

LA Gladiators win in front of the home crowd

(Photo courtesy of Blizzard Entertainment)

1) Vancouver Titans – Success Breeds More Success

The Vancouver Titans sit at the top of our Pacific Division because they signed the best Korean Contender’s League team – Team RunAway. RunAway had an amazingly successful 2018 season and are in prime form to continue their dominance in the Overwatch League.

They are set to be the top team in the Pacific Division as their team has been persistently resistant to the ever-changing meta and they have an amazing team chemistry to ensure that their communication and trust in one another is solid. RunAway, now essentially the Vancouver Titans, have been playing together since 2016, which means that the players intuitively understand how one another think. This means that their players can make a decision in-game and their team will instinctively know how to react.  The only thing that this star-studded team will need to work on in the Overwatch League will be the cultural adjustment that comes from the team’s move from Korea to Los Angeles. A lot of these players haven’t spent much time outside of their home country of South Korea so they will need the support of management to transition into their new Western home.

Vancouver Titans heroes

(Image courtesy of Blizzard Entertainment)

And that’s the Overwatch League Pacific Division! This Division will see some incredibly difficult match-ups and some bitter disappointments, especially with four new teams joining the League who are eager to make a team for themselves. Be sure to join in the action on February 14th at the Overwatch League’s Twitch channel or on ESPN.