Collecting connections with Overwatch League trading cards
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Collecting cards, memories and stories

Mel, also known as OddlyAwkward on Twitter, walked through the Blizzard Arena at an early Overwatch League game. There, a popup shop by Upper Deck offered a free pack of Overwatch League trading cards, along with the option to trade for individual cards on the tables. That’s when they spotted a card of Connor “Avast” Prince, their favorite player.

“I don’t think I ever pulled one from one of the packs,” Mel said. “But one of the staffers said ‘we got this card for you,’ because I kept coming out and looking for [Avast’s card], so they knew I was on the hunt for this card.”

After discovering Avast through live meet-and-greets, while he played for their favorite team the Boston Uprising, they went on to moderate his Twitch channel for his Overwatch League co-streams and tournament events. And, as they held that Avast card in their hand,  they knew they had the chance to collect his likeness. But owning one Avast card wasn’t enough. Mel has been hunting for more ever since.

Starting at live events, like the one Mel attended, and later moving online due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Upper Deck sold packs featuring a variety of players and special moments from the league.

Avast Overwatch League cards
A sample of Mel’s collection of Avast cards. | Provided by Mel

Of course, fans’ reasons for buying them vary. But, for Mel, it was their connection with Avast that drove them to find as many cards as possible.

As Mel hunted for these Avast cards just outside of the Blizzard Arena, with more focus on that task than watching the games themselves, they saw fans trading cards while looking for their own specific players. In the shady area just outside of the arena, amidst the pristine California weather, fans could find and trade who they wanted, when they wanted. Then, they could go inside and watch those players on stage.

But, as Mel’s need for those Avast cards grew, they started to buy packs in bulk and open them on Avast’s stream. They said this hunt for the streamer’s card was not only entertaining but also educational. After all, the Upper Deck cards provide a chronicling of a league with constantly changing rosters. Short esports careers create a lot more old faces to go through, and more history to learn. However, cracking so many packs left Mel with plenty of non-Avast duplicates. Since they couldn’t attend live events due to COVID-19, they shipped them to other fans for fun.

Mel's ultimate fan Overwatch League trading cards
Mel’s Ultimate Fan contest card. | Provided by Mel

Then, Mel became a part of Overwatch League history themselves. Toward the end of the 2020 season, Upper Deck revealed a contest where fans submitted photos of themselves and explained why they were the ultimate Overwatch League fan. Mel was voted the no. 1 ultimate fan and got their own merchandise for it.

Around this time, Mel joined a Discord channel entirely focused on the Overwatch League trading cards. Inside were some notable names, including Maurizio DeLisi; the father of San Francisco Shock’s main tank Matthew “Super” DeLisi.

Maurizio’s path to collector status also stemmed from his relationship with a player, though in a different way than Mel. After buying his first pack online and starting a small collection, he knew he wanted to do something special for his son.

Super's family on an Overwatch League trading card
An Overwatch League trading card featuring the DeLisi family. | Provided by Maurizio DeLisi

“I wanted to collect them for the family,” Maurizio said, “but also with a goal of just kind of putting together some memorabilia for him for when he’s no longer in the league.”

Super’s history of playing professional Overwatch is on full display through various cards. And, that goes for many popular faces in the league. One particular pairing, according to Maurizio, has even more sentimental value than most.

“One of my favorite cards is the Jake and Super card, double fragment, because of their connection,” he said. “They’ve known each other for six years or so now, from Bird Noises to when they were on LG.”

After learning more about his son’s career and following it, Maurizio said he wanted to find his son’s friend’s cards to save for his future.

“One of the things I was able to do with the cards was I was able to get the entire original set of all the Shock player cards,” Maurizio said. “And I had them framed for my son when all the Shock players came into my house for dinner.”

While the Overwatch League has moved online, for now, players are still creating history and building relationships with their fans, and the Upper Deck collectors cards still immortalize those moments. Collectors may be limited to buying and trading online for now, but fans like Mel and Maurizio can still help celebrate a unique side of the Overwatch League.