If the phrase “always the bridesmaid, never the bride” had any use in the esports world, the Atlanta Reign could have adopted it during the 2021 Overwatch League season.
The team, full of standout talents like Rookie of the Year Pelican, made it to three of the season’s four monthly tournaments, traveling to Hawaii every five weeks like clockwork. Each time, the Reign roster was sent home, sometimes with nothing but a suntan.
Atlanta’s methodical aggression paid off by the end of the season as they rushed through the playoff bracket, dismantling favorites like the Dallas Fuel and Chengdu Hunters. Once they hit the wall that was the Shanghai Dragons in the 2021 Grand Finals, however, that momentum stopped. With a 4-0 walloping handed down by the Dragons, Atlanta once again felt the sting of defeat.
For 2022, the Reign chose to revamp most of its roster with Overwatch Contenders talent, banking on the hunger and drive of the next generation to finally take the team to victory.
Over the 2021 offseason, Atlanta lost some of the core talent that brought it success, with players like Pelican heading elsewhere. Despite this, two of the team’s biggest stars stuck around: tanks Gator and Hawk will remain steadfast under Atlanta’s banner, likely bringing a healthy dose of big plays and good-natured toxicity to the league.
The Reign’s support line might be its biggest boon heading into the 2022 season, with Overwatch Contenders dynamos and longtime teammates Ojee and UltraViolet finally making their league debuts. With cohesion and clutch plays, they’ll likely support the team’s penchant for fast-paced tactics.
Atlanta’s damage lineup has also been mostly revamped, aside from terrifying sniper Kai Collins, who will likely cause serious destruction on Sojourn this season. The Reign recruited one of the San Francisco Shock’s flex DPS stars, nero, to its roster and will no doubt have him playing any hero necessary in Overwatch 2’s quickly-shifting metas.
More Contenders talent will also be rounding out the Reign’s damage lineup. Tracer expert Venom–formerly known as Sigma, who had to change his name for obvious reasons–ran circles around teams in the minor league and will bring his hitscan finesse to Atlanta. As if three DPS weren’t enough, flex phenom Speedily, who will be eligible to play in August, is waiting in the wings if Atlanta needs him in the latter half of the year.
Even without some of the high-profile players that brought it success last year, this roster is Atlanta’s best chance to bring home some tournament wins and possibly get revenge against the Dragons. Management went a little heavy-handed on the damage dealers, but this ensures that the Reign is ready for any meta that arises as Overwatch 2 makes unpredictable balance changes.
Atlanta’s issue certainly won’t be a lack of talent, but its concerns should be about balance. With a number of rookies on the team, there’s always a worry of cold feet and nerves getting to them, especially when live events and high-pressure tournaments inevitably return. On the other end of the spectrum, veterans like Gator and Hawk have a history of letting their egos run too hot. Overconfidence can be just as destructive as a lack of experience.
Unless a meta is catastrophically bad for the team, though, Atlanta should easily be able to rise to the top of the West Region. The Reign’s real test will come in the Midseason Madness tournament and the playoffs, where the East Region’s tenacity may defeat them once again.
The Atlanta Reign’s first game of the 2022 Overwatch League season will be against the Florida Mayhem at 5pm CT on May 5.