What we learned from the first week of Overwatch League 2021

Expect more upsets and chaotic team compositions heading into week two and beyond.

Photo via Overwatch League

The Overwatch League’s opening weekend included many things fans have come to expect by now, like big plays, surprise wins, and incorrect analyst desk predictions. For a fourth-season opener, however, this weekend brought more chaos and wild upsets than even the most experienced of fans could have planned for. 

Three action-packed days of matches flew by in a chaotic flash. If you were too blinded by the dazzling plays or sparkly new graphics, we’re delving into this opening weekend hype and excitement to dredge out some big ideas. By seeing what worked this weekend, we can anticipate what to look forward to as teams duke it out during the rest of the May Melee tournament qualifiers. 

Not upset about upsets  

Whoever wrote the Overwatch League script this weekend must have had a vendetta against everyone’s predictions. Massive upsets lit up the scoreboard in both regions as some of the league’s most statistically impressive teams were taken down. 

The opening weekend’s biggest shocker was the upgraded Houston Outlaws defeating the San Francisco Shock, the league’s two-time champions. 

While Houston were impressive during their first match against the Dallas Fuel on April 16, most fans believed that the Shock would simply dominate as usual. Instead, the Outlaws roster showed a remarkable amount of cohesion for a rebuilt team, taking full advantage of rare missteps from San Francisco.

Meanwhile, in the East region, the Chengdu Hunters destroyed 2020’s most successful team in an unprecedented 3-0 sweep. Known for chaotic compositions, the Hunters used that novelty along with crisp dive heroes to make a mockery of the Shanghai Dragons.

Smaller upsets, like the Florida Mayhem using fantastic dives to pull one over on the Atlanta Reign, dotted the weekend. Before the season began, the Los Angeles Gladiators were hailed as a potential top-five Western team. The Dallas Fuel, who floundered against the Outlaws, dismantled the Gladiators in a 3-1 slapdown. 

Bosses have been nerfed 

Both the San Francisco Shock and Shanghai Dragons, the veritable “raid bosses” of their regions, were defeated over the opening weekend. The Shock weren’t able to handle Houston’s coordinated attacks, revealing cracks in the team’s normally stellar gameplay. During both games this weekend, Shanghai looked out of sorts and sloppy where they’re normally crisp. 

Any of these singular blips could be attributed to the meta or opening weekend nerves. But when it becomes a pattern, a new question emerges. Is the league’s talent leveling up to meet the demands of top teams and will those teams fall behind as a result? 

Expect variety and a few shenanigans 

Heading into the opening weekend, analysts predicted a clear division in the meta between the two Overwatch League regions. 

The East region, full of Korean and Chinese teams that love Winston and speedy dive heroes, were expected to go for “double bubble” compositions with Zarya. Meanwhile, it was anticipated that the West would lean on “rush” compositions based around Reinhardt and Lúcio. 

Teams in both regions read the assignment and then threw it out the window. North American teams, especially those with strong Winston players, unexpectedly leaned on the “double bubble” setup. Rush turned out to be a map-dependent composition that was easily felled with a cohesive dive. 

Players also gave us a wider variety of hero choices than anyone expected. Various teams pulled out Orisa and Sigma on Havana, bringing the double shield meta back to enable sniper DPS teammates. Echo hit the skybox for numerous teams, making the difference with her Duplicate ultimate. The Los Angeles Gladiators even brought out the Bastion pick on Hanamura’s defense for maximum chaos. 

What does it mean for the May Melee?  

As we head into week two, the second week of qualifiers for the May Melee tournament cycle, expect more chaos and less predictable matches. If the opening weekend taught us anything, it’s that teams with newer rosters may be more impressive than originally anticipated. Sleeper choices like the Boston Uprising and London Spitfire may show up big in week two. 

The entire tournament cycle itself may be less predictable, especially where meta and hero choices are concerned. Successful Overwatch League teams, for the first time in a long while, seem unafraid to push the envelope. The weekend’s big winners, like Houston and Florida, adapted to their competitors by shifting hero picks and even entire team compositions on the fly. 

“Expect the unexpected” is a cliché phrase, but it may apply to the rest of the May Melee if teams and players remain committed to delivering the best, most chaotic performances possible.