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Overwatch

Teams to Watch At Contenders Gauntlet

Jennifer "LemonKiwi" Pichette

Overwatch Contenders is the talent farming platform for the Overwatch League as the future stars of the OWL will compete in the Contenders Gauntlet starting December 10th. Gauntlet is the biggest Contenders event of the year with the largest prize pool and the best Contenders teams competing. Gauntlet will be an important event for OWL scouts to observe in hopes of finding the final pieces to their rosters before next season. 

Contenders Gauntlet

OWL may be on hiatus but Tier 2 Overwatch is getting fired up with Gauntlet. (Photo courtesy Blizzard)

Whether you’re a longtime supporter of Tier 2 or watching for the first time, this guide will take you through the best teams in Contenders North America and Europe, their rivals, and the Open Qualifier teams that could disrupt the bracket.

The Best Team in EU Contenders History: British Hurricane

British Hurricane, London Spitfire’s academy team, have dominated the European Contenders region for a long time, winning every Contenders tournament since the beginning of 2020. No team has been able to challenge them until Obey Alliance knocked them out of the November Tournament’s Grand Finals. Nonetheless, British Hurricane still hold the respect of the community for having the best players in every role and a coaching staff that has assured consistent results through multiple meta changes.

One name OWL fans might recognize is Kristian “Kellex” Keller, former Boston Uprising Main Support who returned to Contenders after being released. Even though Kellex joined in July, Hurricane have not looked any weaker incorporating a new player in their structured environment.

British Hurricane is a formidable team because they’ve been together for so long. While Contenders rosters usually change frequently, this team has been together since early to mid 2019, one of the longest standing cores in Europe. Throughout their time as a team, they’ve been able to create a seemingly flawless flow of execution in team fights and a level of trust in each other where hesitation in-game is not seen. No matter the meta, trying to beat British Hurricane in a compositional mirror has proven to be almost impossible for most teams. British Hurricane like to take early and quick fights with an aggressive playstyle. They utilize Zenyatta and Mercy support lineups more often than most teams to enable their DPS and strengthen their poke damage, making them strong in early fights.

One series loss doesn’t excuse British Hurricane out of the conversation for being the best team in Gauntlet EU.

Weathering the Storm: Obey Alliance

For most of the players on this roster, Obey Alliance (rebranded from their former name Raspberry Racers) was their most successful team, placing top three in four of the five Contenders tournaments this season. They’ve been the ultimate rivals to British Hurricane throughout this Contenders season. Obey Alliance not only was the only team who defeated British Hurricane this year, they also were responsible for taking six of the nine total maps their rivals lost in 2020. What’s interesting about this team is that they do not have any coaching staff and any substitute players. Their strategies stem from player ideation and forcing unconventional compositions to surprise their opponents. Most notably, Obey Alliance had successes against British Hurricane using a Reinhardt Winston frontline, contrary to the Hammond D.va or Sigma Orisa tanklines that are normally played.

Viewers of the 2019 Overwatch World Cup will recognize some of the names on this roster, like Nikolai “Naga” Dereli from Team Denmark, Ilya “Txao” Makarov from Team Russia, and Emir “Kaan” Okumus from Team Germany. Their most mechanically impressive and oppressive player is Denis “Lethal” Tari, a well known hitscan player in this region who shredded his competition while playing McCree in November.

The Best from the West: American Tornado

American Tornado have ravaged the North American Contenders scene since their first tournament in September, where they were crowned champions, placing third in October, and back to first again in November. However, their rivals and former victors, Odyssey, have been hot on their trail. American Tornado recently swept them out of the finals this past month.

This American Tornado roster features a lot of talented players that would otherwise be in Overwatch League already if it wasn’t for their young age. Nicholas “Speedily” Zou, Christian “Ojee” Han, Benjamin “UltraViolet” David, and Isaiah “Hydron” Rodriguez are under 18, but have been thriving in Contenders on any team they have been on because of their individual skill. Hydron is a top Widowmaker player in the region and Speedily is easily one of the best flex DPS to ever play in Contenders North America.

There are no weak pillars to this roster, every role features incredible players with years of experience competing. The strongest part of this roster is the tankline which consists of Corey “Sh2pe” Scoda and Colin “Cucumber” Arai. They have been competing together for a long time, and competed alongside Abtin “ShRedLock” Shirvani, Dalton “Dalton” Bennyhoff , and Randal “Roolf” Stark before they were promoted to the Vancouver Titans. This tankline can flex to any combination of heroes from double shield (Orisa and Sigma) to Hammond dive (Wrecking Ball with D.Va or Sigma). With an aggressive and raw playstyle, this team is relentless and unforgiving when they see any mistakes from the enemy. Will American Tornado sweep another bracket at Contenders Gauntlet? Or will a worthy challenger disrupt their run to the finals?

The North American Wild Card: Odyssey

Odyssey have been a top team in Contenders North American for the majority of this season, placing top two in four out of five tournaments since July. They have been regarded as the best double shield team in North America, but have been able to flex well to Hammond dive as well. Interestingly for most of these players, Odyssey was their first team they competed in Contenders with and found real success with. The only exception to that is Brandon “N2S” Zepeda who joined Odyssey in October from Karasuno, another Contenders team in the region, and became their Echo specialist. In their support line, Luke “Lukemino” Fish has been in the conversation for best Flex Support in Contenders North America and is best known for his Baptiste. Josh “Malthel” Gonzales is one of the most entertaining DPS players in the region to watch due to his unique lonewolf playstyle on off meta heroes like Doomfist, Genji, and Reaper. Malthel is difficult to read, making him a foe difficult to counter. In Contenders interviews, Malthel’s teammates comment on how they mold their strategies around him and the shenanigans he tries to pull off.

Unfortunately, Odyssey announced the release of Jesse “Dove” Palomo on December 6th, less than a week out from Contenders Gauntlet. Dove was their Tracer or Ashe specialist that played in all of their matches with N2S or Malthel, often turning around fights with multi kills or flanks to remove the enemy supports. Although Odyssey have had incredible results this season, they’ve only been able to beat American Tornado once in a game 5 scenario, out of the three series they’ve faced each other in. With the loss of Dove, Malthel will probably step in to play Tracer, but ultimately Odyssey will have less strategic options in the future without a diverse DPS lineup. Odyssey should still make it far in the bracket and have the potential to upset some strong teams like American Tornado if they continue to play to their strengths of double shield and around Malthel’s unpredictable playstyle.

EU Open Bracket Dark Horse: ÄöÅ

ÄöÅ might be an unfamiliar name, but they have a star studded roster that swiftly acquired one of the EU Open Qualifier spots for Contenders Gauntlet. They are composed of some former Overwatch League players such as Thomas “zYKK” Hosono from the Toronto Defiant, Roni “LhCloudy” Tiihonen from the Los Angeles Gladiators, and Eoghan “Smex” O’Neill from the Paris Eternal. So far, this is the team with the most amount of OWL veterans on it, bringing important experience, discipline, and understanding of the game that will give this team a huge advantage in Gauntlet.

Manuel “Ken” Demir, another DPS player on this roster, is well known for his mechanics on Tracer in Europe. He played for Avoided and placed second in two Contenders tournaments this season. Ken will compete alongside Zykk, who dominated during his Contenders run with Third Impact in North America, making them one of the most threatening DPS duos coming into Gauntlet. The only potential pitfall that holds this roster back is the little time they have had together as a team to build synergy and refine their calls in-game. ÄöÅ have the potential to destroy this bracket based on raw talent but could also fall early from preventable mistakes originating from a lack of time together.

Contenders Gauntlet LhCloudy

LhCloudy, former Paris Eternal main tank, will be competing with ÄöÅ in Gauntlet (Photo courtesy Blizzard)

A Team Reborn: Revival

Revival is another team bringing serious heat to Gauntlet with some last minute additions to their roster. Austin “Muma” Wilmot, former long-standing Houston Outlaws tank player, competed with DarkMode in the Open Qualifier, but just announced his transition to Revival for Gauntlet. Joining Muma is former Los Angeles Valiant DPS player Damon “Apply” Conti and former Dallas Fuel main support Nolan “Paintbrush” Edwards. Revival kept former Los Angeles Valiant off-tank Caleb “McGravy” McGarvey on their roster from when they competed in the Contenders November tournament. This revitalized team now has an Overwatch League level player on every role and enough firepower to make waves in the North American bracket.

Joining these veterans are two experienced Contenders players: Usman “TracK” Mohammad, a name you may recognize from Team Norway from the 2019 Overwatch World Cup, and Brennen “Fix”, who competed with Cratos this season. TracK can play Ashe, McCree, Widowmaker and Tracer at a high level, and will have no problem keeping up with Apply by his side. Since this roster was assembled so last minute, they may not have the depth of synergy and strategy compared to other teams that have been preparing for this tournament for months. However, their wealth of experience and knowledge of the game should be enough to get them through most of the bracket. Revival will fight to prove they deserve another shot to be in the Overwatch League and American Tornado, a team looking for their first home in the League, are the only ones standing in their way of the prize.

Contenders Gauntlet Muma

Muma is back in Contenders to prove himself. (Photo courtesy Blizzard)

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Catch the North American and European Contenders Gauntlet live on December 10th – 20th over on Youtube. Curious about who could potentially move to the OWL next season? Read about the Top Contenders Prospects here.