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The Biggest Offseason Priority for Every OWL Team

Bradley Long  | 
OWL

The OWL offseason is sure to be wild, with free agency already underway. (Photo Courtesy Robert Paul for Blizzard Entertainment)

As the Overwatch League’s silly season kicks into gear with the start of free agency on Saturday, teams around the league are already starting to upgrade their rosters. Around half of the league’s players are up for new contracts, and many will get a change of scenery in the OWL offseason.

With so much talent available, nearly every team will be looking to improve, but where should they be focusing their efforts? For some it will be as simple as filling a single position. For others, an entire rebuild might be necessary. Here, we’re identifying the area of greatest need for each and every team going into the most chaotic OWL offseason the league has seen yet.

Atlanta Reign: Add a Flex DPS

After they said goodbye to half of their 2020 roster, the Reign are left with at least a serviceable player at nearly every position. Some upgrades might be in order elsewhere, but this is the one glaring hole in the roster at the moment.

They have excellent hitscan threats in Tae-Hun “Edison” Kim and Hugo “Sharp” Sahlberg, but they need at least one more versatile threat if they want to excel under Hero Pools next year. The Reign expected Jun “Erster” Jeong to be that player this season, but something held him back after a promising rookie season in 2019. Someone like Charlie “Nero” Zwarg could be the answer for Atlanta.

Boston Uprising: Find a Main Support

Despite another underwhelming season, Boston isn’t making sweeping changes to the roster,  declining just two of their six available team options. They’ve decided to trust that their core can succeed with a few additions and a new coaching staff in place. First and foremost, they’ll need a support partner to slot in alongside last year’s OWL offseason prize, Sang-Min “Myunb0ng” Seo.

There’s a number of solid options on the market at that position: Won-Sik “Closer” Jung, Jeong-Yeon “Chara” Kim, and Seung-Soo “Jecse” Lee to name a few. Given Boston’s MO of searching for diamonds in the rough, however, it’s more likely that they turn to Contenders in search of new talent.

Chengdu Hunters: Get a Traditional Tank Line

After two seasons of operating with Menghan “Ameng” Ding as the starting main tank, it’s time for Chengdu to find a new direction. They’ve offered an entertaining change of pace with their Wrecking Ball strategies, but success has been elusive for the league’s only all-Chinese roster. The Hunters need a more conventional main tank player that they can rely on while using Ameng as a situational option.

OWL Chengdu

Photo Courtesy Robert Paul for Blizzard Entertainment

I can’t claim to be any sort of expert when it comes to the top Chinese prospects, but Team CC’s Qiu “GagA” Jiaxin has been pegged as a potential option. If the Hunters do go in that direction, don’t be surprised if they pick up his tank partner Jia “LiGe” Chengjie as well.

Dallas Fuel: Add a Support Line

More than any other team, Dallas has already made the most of the OWL offseason, acquiring Han-Been “Hanbin” Choi and Yeong-Han “Sp9rk1e” Kim from Paris and reuniting them with their Element Mystic teammate Dong-Ha “Doha” Kim. With Hee-won “RUSH” Yun taking the helm as Head Coach, they even have the leadership needed to transform the team.

Now they just need to fill out the rest of the roster. Some might suggest an all-out Element Mystic reunion with players like Jecse, Jung-keun “Rapel” Kim, and Hyeon-Jun “Pokpo” Park hitting free agency, but I’d prefer them to branch out. Dallas has already shown they’re willing to break the bank, so even stars like San Francisco’s Grant “Moth” Espe and Min-Ki “Viol2t” Park could be in play.

Florida Mayhem: Re-sign the Core

As of right now, just Jun-Ki “Yaki” Kim and Nam-Jin “Gangnamjin” Gang remain under contract for 2021, with Pan-Seung “Fate” Koo awaiting the Mayhem’s decision on a team option. After what was the franchises most successful season by far, it would be a shame to see this team broken up so quickly.

The primary targets for Florida ought to be Sang-Bum “BQB” Lee and Beom-Jun “Gargoyle” Lee, two players who proved themselves tremendously in 2020. If they keep Fate and can hang on to those two, they’ll have a fantastic foundation to build on. An upgrade at main support and some more depth could turn Florida from a pleasant surprise to a real contender next year.

Guangzhou Charge: Build Around the Tanks

Guangzhou is another team on the verge of big changes, despite a pretty successful season. Just Yiliang “Eileen” Ou and Gi-Cheol “Cr0ng” Nam are signed for next year, though rumors suggest Eileen might be joining Chengdu to play with a Chinese roster.

Charge

Photo Courtesy Sean Costello for Blizzard Entertainment

Cr0ng is a certified stud at the off-tank position, but the Charge should also hang on to Seung-Pyo “Rio” Oh who is under a team-option for 2021. His ability to cover every main tank at a high level is invaluable, even if he isn’t necessarily elite. They’ll also likely be looking to re-sign Jeong-Woo “Happy” Lee and Jin-Seo “Shu” Kim, but the tank line will serve as a great starting point no matter how they proceed.

Hangzhou Spark: Add Depth and Build Synergy

The Spark are one of the few teams that have their bases covered as they enter the OWL offseason. They’ve kept the best parts of their 2020 roster, and, despite a disappointing season, there’s a tremendous amount of talent here. If they can continue the late-season improvement they showed under new Head Coach Ji-sub “paJion” Hwang, the Spark should see better results next year.

Now they just need to find another piece or two to fill out the roster. Promoting star DPS Zheng “Shy” Yangjie from their academy team was a great start. If they can find another young prospect in that mold, the Spark will be sitting pretty heading into 2021.

Houston Outlaws: Get a Fresh Start

Few teams are going to have as transformative an OWL offseason as the Outlaws. With just João Pedro “Hydration” Goes Telles under contract, they appear to be cleaning house after languishing near the bottom of the league for three seasons. That’s the right move. Even if the individual pieces in Houston could have value, it’s better for the Outlaws to get a clean slate.

The lone exception might be Dante “Danteh” Cruz, who excelled in 2020 despite Houston’s overall failings. Beyond that, the Outlaws simply need to hit the reset button and find new talent for Head Coach Jae “Junkbuck” Choi to mold. Their announcement of open tryouts suggest they’re headed in that direction.

London Spitfire: Find Veterans to Lead Young Roster

London has a vision for the 2021 season – build a European superteam around the core of their academy team, the British Hurricane. Their new GM, Ysabel “Noukky” Müller, built maybe the most successful Contenders team in the world in Hurricane, and now it appears that they will get their shot at the Overwatch League.

Personally, I would like to see London build a talented mixed roster with some of the Korean talent they still have under contract, players like Se-Won “Bernar” Shin and Gil-Seong “Glister” Kim, but that seems unlikely. In the absence of that option, the Spitfire should look toward OWL veterans like Isaac “Boombox” Charles and Roni “LHCloudy” Tiihonen.

Los Angeles Gladiators: Replace the Finnish Duo

The Gladiators have a fair amount of work to do in the OWL offseason. While their DPS line remains largely intact, they declined options on both their main tanks and moved on from their OG support duo, Benjamin “BigGoose” Isohanni and Jonas “Shaz” Suovaara, both of whom have now retired from professional play.

Gladiators

Photo Courtesy Robert Paul for Blizzard Entertainment.

There’s a tremendous amount of talent available at both positions, with players like Jun “Fielder” Kwon, Seong-Jun “Slime” Kim, and Min-Seok “Aimgod” Kwon hitting the market. LA’s options will be more limited if they want to go towards Western talent, unless of course they want to shell out big time for someone like moth.

Los Angeles Valiant: Find More Unknown Talent

In 2020, the Valiant shocked the league by building a competitive roster while operating on a seriously limited budget. Head Coach Michael “Packing10” Szklanny attributed their success to a rigorous scouting process that saw the Valiant try out around 1000 players. They snatched up players like Jae-Ho “Rain” Park, discarded after one tough season on a dysfunctional Florida Mayhem team, and Sang-Lok “Dreamer” Song, a relative unknown playing in Australian Contenders.

Now, they’ll likely look to repeat the same process, putting in the time to find the talent that other teams overlook. They’ll need a replacement for off-tank Caleb “McGravy” McGarvey, but don’t be surprised when they uncover more hidden gems at other positions.

New York Excelsior: Pick a New (or Old) Direction

After lighting the OWL on fire in the league’s first season, New York has steadily gone downhill. In 2019, the slip was minor – down to third overall. This year they dropped further, going from an elite team to merely above average.

Excelsior

Photo Courtesy Robert Paul for Blizzard Entertainment.

Now they find themselves at a crossroads. They’ve parted ways with most of their newer additions, and the 2018 core all have team options on the table. New York could blow it all up, deciding that the once best team in the league isn’t good enough anymore. Or they could run it back one more time. With Tae-Hong “Meko” Kim hitting free agency and Do-hyeon “Pine” Kim returning to pro play, NYXL could even get the whole band back together. Whether that’s the right move remains to be seen, but the clock is ticking on that decision.

Paris Eternal: Rebuild Around FDGod

Following a breakout season in which Paris won the Summer Showdown tournament and built one of the league’s most exciting young teams, the Eternal have decided to cash in on that success, selling both Sp9rk1e  and Hanbin to the Dallas Fuel. The move has shocked and upset Paris fans who expected a championship contending team in 2021.

Instead, Gi-Hyo “Xzi” Jung remains as the only Korean player on the roster, with many speculating that he might be next on the auction block. Paris now has to decide on team options for their French veterans Nicolas “NicoGDH” Moret, Terence “Soon” Tarlier, and Benjamin “Benbest” Dieulafait. Only Brice “FDGod” Monsçavoir seems to be a sure thing right now, but at least he serves as a rock-solid centerpiece at main support.

Philadelphia Fusion: Run It Back

After the Fusion’s disastrous showing at the Grand Finals Weekend, it would be easy to declare their season a failure. After all, they came up short every time they were facing a big moment, whether it was the finals of the Summer Showdown or Countdown Cup or the embarrassing back to back sweeps to close the season.

Sure, they tripped at the end trying to figure out a new meta while playing in quarantine, but Philly was undeniably phenomenal for 95% of the season. Plus, there aren’t really any obvious upgrades for them to make. You aren’t getting better than Jun-Ho “Fury” Kim at off-tank, and Seung-Hyun “Ivy” Lee was invaluable during Hero Pools. Maybe they could drop big bucks to lure Dong-Jun “Rascal” Kim away from San Francisco, but beyond that, they should focus on retaining their core.

San Francisco Shock: Run It Back Too

What improvements could you even suggest for the back to back champs? Most of the team is already under contract, so it’s really just down to moth, Viol2t, Rascal, and Matthew “super” DeLisi. It’s hard to see super leaving the Shock. If he wanted money, he could go full-time as a streamer and cash in.

OWL

Photo Courtesy Robert Paul for Blizzard Entertainment.

As for the other three, the Shock need to do everything in their power to hang on for dear life. The support duo especially ought to be the biggest priorities in free agency. Other than that, maybe San Francisco can find another Seon-Chang “Ans” Lee hiding somewhere. As if they really need it.

Seoul Dynasty: Find a New Shotcaller

For three years now, Jin-Mo “tobi” Yang has been the in-game leader for the Seoul Dynasty. This year, he was the last remaining member of the original Dynasty roster, formed from the core of Korea’s most successful pre-OWL team, Lunatic-Hai. Now the team has chosen to move on, declining his option for 2021.

They’ll need a new voice to take the reins within the team as well as a replacement for tobi at main support. Perhaps they turn towards Contenders in search of up and coming talent like Hong-gyu “Faith” Kim from newly crowned Contenders champs WGS Phoenix. Maybe they simply re-sign Slime and make more of an effort to integrate him into the lineup. Whoever steps in will find they have huge shoes to fill.

Shanghai Dragons: Add Depth at DPS and Support

By any measure, Shanghai’s season was a resounding success. Yes, a third-place finish was probably disappointing after dominating APAC all year, but the Dragons’ achievements are unrivaled by anyone not named the Shock. After that showing, they have very little to do in the OWL offseason.

After releasing their five least-utilized players early Monday morning, the Dragons are down to the bare bones. They have a killer starting lineup and a backup main tank in Ji-Won “Stand1” Seo, but they’ll need some depth at other positions. Whoever fills out the roster is unlikely to see major play time, so don’t be surprised if they look to pick up and develop a youngster or two fresh out of Contenders.

Toronto Defiant: Establish a Culture Under KDG

Despite reports that they were among the league’s most successful teams financially, Toronto was a mess on the server. Their team of fan-favorites didn’t deliver the results expected of big names, and on Wednesday the team chose to part ways with every player save for Andreas “Logix” Berghmans.

Defiant

Photo Courtesy Steward Volland for Blizzard Entertainment.

Now they face the task of a wholesale rebuild under the leadership of new Head Coach Dong-gun “KDG” Kim, who joins them after one year with Philadelphia. This will be the third time in three seasons that Toronto has what amounts to a completely new team. They need to work toward building something lasting, but at least KDG has a clean slate to work with.

Vancouver Titans: Create Stability

2020 was an undeniably rocky year for an organization that reached the OWL Grand Finals in 2019. After internal conflicts led the release of their star-studded roster, Vancouver scrambled to field a team amidst the ongoing pandemic. Given the circumstances, the new Titans acquitted themselves nicely. They had their moments and gave several young talents the chance to compete at the OWL level.

Now, though, it’s time for the Titans to take a real shot at building a team that can succeed. First and foremost, they need to determine what kind of team they want to build. They’ve held on to three members of last year’s team, but re-signing Niclas “Shockwave” Jensen would do wonders for their continuity. He’s a young star they can build around, but regardless of who they pick up, the priority needs to be putting their players in a position to succeed.

Washington Justice: Attract Top Korean Talent

The Justice cleared the first major hurdle of the OWL offseason on Saturday, re-signing Gui-Un “Decay” Jang after he joined the team on a temporary contract near the end of the season. Now, with him as the centerpiece, they can start pursuing the pieces to fit around him. With the signing of Tae-sung “Mag” Kim, they’ve already landed one of the top prospects from Contenders Korea.

The rest of the roster is something of blank slate, with only Ho-Seong “Ttuba” Lee signed. They could try to re-sign players like Hyun-Woo “Jjanu” Choi, Min-Seok “Aimgod” Kwon, and Yeon-Jun “Ark” Hong, but they probably don’t want to keep too many players after an abysmal regular season in 2020. With all the talent available from Contenders and OWL, the sky is the limit for the Justice.

Bradley Long
Bradley Long
Bradley is a freelance writer who started his esports journey with Overwatch’s launch in 2016. Since then, he’s thrown himself headfirst into the competitive scene at all levels. When he’s not writing about the Overwatch League, he’s probably casting Tier 3 tournaments or playing with his cats.