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Welcome to the inaugural entry of Match Notes, a weekly column by staff writer Bonnie Qu that looks back on each week of the Overwatch League.

This week’s entry is about the games that happened from April 16th to 18th. For official match results, check out the Overwatch League website. For everything else, look here.


THIS WEEK’S PATCH NOTES

The good folks over at the Overwatch League are constantly figuring out ways to make things as balanced as possible. This means tweaking the relative strength of various teams and players from week to week, with varying results. This year, they’ve generously agreed to send us some of their official patch notes every week so that we know exactly what changes have been made. It’s always nice to get a glimpse into the inner workings of the league.

SAN FRANCISCO SHOCK

  • Removed Map 6 auto-win ability

Developer’s comment: The last three times the San Francisco Shock went to Map 6, they won the series there. We felt this was a little too strong, so we’ve scaled it back and made it so that Map 6 isn’t an automatic victory for them. To keep it balanced, their ability to win on Map 5 remains the same.

CHENGDU HUNTERS

  • Compositions now resemble the meta at least half the time

Developer’s comment: The Chengdu Hunters’ staunch refusal to abide by the meta has always been pretty fun to watch but we’ve found that it had a limited success rate. This change now allows them to match what everyone else is doing, although they still have the option to play Torbjörn if they so choose.

HOUSTON OUTLAWS

  • New passive ability: Clear throat

Developer’s comment: We’ve received feedback that the Houston Outlaws always losing their tiebreakers was getting too predictable, so to add some variety, we’ve given the Outlaws a new passive called “Clear throat.” This is exactly what it sounds like and hopefully will keep the Outlaws from choking in crucial moments.

JJANGGU from the Houston Outlaws
Houston Outlaws’ JJANGGU. Provided by Houston Outlaws

VICTORY SCREEN

Winners and losers are a natural part of competition — though not always in the way one would think. In this section, we go over who experienced the triumphs, defeats and epic highs and lows of professional Overwatch this week.

VICTORY: OUR EYES

The Overwatch League is back and looking better than ever, with new graphics, a virtual arena and face cams for everyone. The visual identity of the broadcast this year is gorgeous, elevated by slick motion graphics and cinematic in-game shots during the breaks. It’s a much nicer viewing experience than last year’s all-online broadcast; that was, by necessity, thrown together fairly quickly.

After all this time away from offline play, face cams are a particularly welcome addition — if only so that we have proof these players still exist. (That is, unless the subject of conversation is the Gladiators’ Kevin “Kevster” Persson. Rumor has it that Kevster’s physical form literally cannot be perceived by human eyes.) Sometimes when I watch the Dragons’ Lee “Leejaegon” Jae-gon throw himself into the enemy team with reckless abandon, I begin to suspect that he may actually have been replaced by a cat walking over a keyboard. It’s nice to know for sure that there’s a real human being making those choices, although this raises its own set of questions.

Face cams from Dallas Fuel vs. Los Angeles Gladiators. Provided by the Overwatch League

DEFEAT: EVERY POWER RANKING

It takes a special kind of hubris to attempt Overwatch League pre-season power rankings. After three seasons, we should know better. Who are we to think we can know anything based on nothing?

All this to say, everyone’s power rankings are in shambles. Many ranked the Los Angeles Gladiators as one of their top three teams coming into the season. It wasn’t a baseless speculation either; with an array of mechanically gifted newcomers and two-time champion Grant “Moth” Espe at the helm, they were expected to, at the very least, give the top teams a run for their money. However, the Gladiators ended their first weekend with back-to-back losses to the San Francisco Shock and Dallas Fuel. Conversely, teams that were expected to be middling exceeded expectations, with the Chengdu Hunters and Houston Outlaws pulling off spectacular upset victories against their division leaders. Perhaps power rankings really are just a fool’s game. (Although we’ll still be doing them every other week here on Upcomer, of course.)


WHO GAMED THE HARDEST?

Every player in the Overwatch League is, by definition, a gamer. But, sometimes, one rises to the top as the most gamer of them all. Whenever this happens, it’s worth celebrating. Each week, we’ll be picking the one player who we think gamed harder than anyone else.

JEONG “HEESU” HEE-SU (TORONTO DEFIANT)

Heesu poses for the camera.
Toronto Defiant’s Heesu. Provided by Blizzard Entertainment

The Toronto Defiant were able to go 2-0 in their opening games with a victory over the Vancouver Titans and a reverse sweep against the Atlanta Reign. This winning record was due in large part to Heesu, a damage dealer who’s well on his way to becoming the scene’s new baby-faced killer.

It’s safe to say that Heesu gamed very hard this weekend. He dominated on hitscan heroes like Ashe and McCree, constantly keeping opposing damage players pinned down and getting crucial opening picks. He was also a strong contender for best Sombra in the league last season, and his skill on her clearly hasn’t deteriorated over the off-season.

What really set him apart from the rest this week, though, was his decision to play Junkrat on attack against the Atlanta Reign on Dorado. This hero pick proved invaluable in countering the Reign’s tightly-packed rush composition. The Defiant were down 0-2 at this point and Heesu’s tactical rat gave them the momentum they needed to steamroll through the map and eventually win the series. With the meta in its current state, clever picks like these can go a long way. Elite hitscan players are a dime a dozen in the Overwatch League, but a player with such incredible aim playing a hero who requires almost no aim? That takes skill.

HONORARY MENTIONS:

  • Kim “Alarm” Kyeong-bo (Philadelphia Fusion)
  • Cho “JJANGGU” Myeong-heum (Houston Outlaws)
  • Qiu “GA9A” Jiaxin (Chengdu Hunters)
Just a fun guy who likes playing games and also likes writing about people playing games.
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