Overwatch League’s 2023 playoffs will reportedly be played on controversial Zarya patch

Another year, another playoffs on a new patch.

New Queen Street, the Toronto map in Overwatch 2
Image via Blizzard Entertainment

The Overwatch League 2023 play-ins are over, with all the teams officially making their way back home or to Toronto for the playoffs. The happiness that the play-ins teams got by grinding their way to earn a spot is deserved, but a report might make their time in Toronto a lot tougher.

The OWL 2023 Grand Finals look to be on the Sept. 7 patch, meaning that the game balance that teams practiced on through the season’s end and play-ins will be shifted, according to a report from journalist Liz Richardson. This means that teams who just completed their play-ins, like the London Spitfire and Boston Uprising, will have just around a week to practice a new patch before trying to win the most important tournament of the year.


Heading into the play-ins, fans and analysts alike were already aware of the problem that Sept. 7 patch created. One of the testaments of the Overwatch League ever since season two’s GOATS meta problem was to keep the competitive gameplay as close to ranked as possible, meaning that OWL patches would match what players at home would have. It was never perfect, but it led to more diversity across a season, with each stage of a year usually having a different meta to adjust to.

Now, in 2023, the meta shifts have been minor in comparison to previous years, though significant enough to cause teams to rise and fall. For example, when Illari was released, the Toronto Defiant surged from a near-bottom team to just barely losing their chance to play live in Toronto for the playoffs. On a grander scale, the meta of the Pro-Am seemed to fit the Los Angeles Gladiators very well, but it crumbled when the regular season began.

So, as the play-ins started, people started to ask if the Sept. 7 patch would be in the playoffs or not. If the league were to hold to its testament of keeping the game at home and OWL matches close, the Zarya patch would go live. But you also have teams grinding for their spot in Toronto, who will then have to change what got them there in the first place to compete against teams who have had much longer to prepare. Especially for a team like the London Spitfire, who are still adamant on running Reinhardt, these tank changes might tank their chances.

It puts those teams at a disadvantage, but players could also argue that this specific issue is the cost of not playing well enough in the regular season to automatically qualify to Toronto. Plus, it’s not like this shift will make all Play-In teams worse innately. The Dallas Fuel are the key example of a team that qualified through the Play-In system and has one of the best Zarya players in the world, Choi “Hanbin” Han-been, on their roster. It’s hard to imagine a team getting worse when one of their star tank players can now play one of his best heroes.

The controversy of this patch isn’t from the amount of changes or the size of the changes themselves. Zarya will be played a lot more, but there seem to be maps where other tanks are still more viable, like Sigma on Circuit Royale for example.

It’s just a matter of getting teams who have to fly to Canada to have a good amount of practice time to truly make this a tournament of who the best Overwatch 2 team is, not just which one got the luckiest. We’ve had too many times when the playoffs are on a different patch than the regular season, with the inaugural season as the go-to instance. Fitting that what could be the final OWL tournament could have that same issue.

About the author
Michael Czar

Contributing writer for Dot Esports. Covering esports news for just over five years. Focusing on Overwatch, VALORANT, Call of Duty, Teamfight Tactics, and some general gaming content. Washington Post-published game reviewer. Follow me on Twitter at @xtraweivy.