One of the most ambitious esports efforts in history will take it’s first steps Wednesday night.
The start of Overwatch League preseason is an important step in what has been a lengthy process for Overwatch, whose publisher Blizzard first announced the league in November 2016. We now have 12 teams on three continents, and players from over 30 countries ready to compete for a grand final prize of $1 million.
The league regular season doesn’t kick off until January 10th, but preseason matches over the next few days will give fans their first look at teams in action. There will be three matches daily through Saturday, giving each team an opportunity to play twice.
Here’s why you should watch tonight, the first night of the Overwatch League preseason.
1. Major Game Changes
If you’re an avid Overwatch player, you know that the game has made several changes since the last major tournament. The world’s best players haven’t competed since the World Cup in November, and two big changes have been made to the game since. First is the addition of Moira. Overwatch’s newest support hero is seeing competitive play out of the gate online, but it’s unknown how she will be deployed in pro strategies. The other change regards Mercy, whose kit has been tinkered with over the last few months. Since the World Cup, a delay has been added to her Resurrect ability.
Those two changes both shake up the support meta, and could drastically change the way teams play this week. Mercy was an auto-pick in her previous form, usually paired with Zenyatta, but the shield-ignoring and damage-dealing abilities of Moira could be enough to see her debut.
2. Familiar Faces
If you’re rooting for the NRG-owned San Francisco Shock, then Wednesday is a great night for preseason action. Because of visa issues delaying the Philadelphia Fusion’s arrival, the Shock will play twice on opening night. Fusion were scheduled to play the debut against the Florida Mayhem, but now the Shock will start early and face the Mayhem followed by Los Angeles Valiant.
It’s important practice for the Shock, who will start the season without two of their best players. Both Super and Sinatraa are too young to appear in the first stage of Overwatch League, but they still have powerhouse DPS iddqd on the roster. Without Sinatraa, expect Danteh to join iddqd in the team’s DPS role.
3. Best Team in the World
Blizzard knows how to produce a show, and they end Wednesday night with a marquee matchup. Seoul Dynasty, the early favorites to win the inaugural season of Overwatch League, will take on Shanghai Dragons in the nightcap. Seoul Dynasty are made up largely of members of Lunatic Hai, winners of OGN Apex seasons 2 and 3.
While we know how dominant Lunatic Hai and Seoul can be, Shanghai enters OWL as somewhat of a mystery. The seven-man squad all hails from China, and only two members (MG and Fiveking) were members of China’s 2017 World Cup squad.
The original Chinese team dominated World Cup qualifiers, advancing to the final without dropping a map. But visa issues prevented a large majority of the team from competing in the final, and China were beaten 3-1 by eventual fourth-place finishers France.
Overwatch League begins preseason play tonight and will debut on OverwatchLeague.com and MLG.com.