What we learned from the first weekend of the Overwatch League NeXT Cup

Dallas needs time, Shanghai needs Fleta, and more takeaways from the exhibition match tournament.

Photo by Robert Paul via Blizzard Entertainment

Over the weekend, four of the Overwatch League’s top teams competed in the first portion of the NeXT Cup, an exhibition match tournament organized in partnership with the Shanghai Dragons.

This was the first of two competition weekends for the NeXT Cup. Two matches took place each day on Jan. 23 and Jan. 24. The competition will resume on Jan. 30 with more matchups, leading to a “Grand Finals” match on Jan. 31. 

The Seoul Dynasty emerged as the weekend’s big winner, racking up two victories. But the Shanghai Dragons and Guangzhou Charge aren’t far behind them. Here are the NeXT Cup results so far:

  • Jan. 23: Shanghai Dragons vs. Dallas Fuel (3-0)  
  • Jan. 23: Seoul Dynasty vs. Guangzhou Charge (3-1) 
  • Jan. 24: Guangzhou Charge vs. Dallas Fuel (3-0) 
  • Jan. 24: Seoul Dynasty vs. Shanghai Dragons (3-1)

North American fans may have missed the action considering the games’ early start times, but we’ve narrowed down what you need to know after this weekend’s matches.

The Dallas Fuel still needs work 

During the Overwatch League offseason, the Dallas Fuel dismantled its previous roster and rebuilt the team with top-tier Korean talent, many of whom previously played under the Element Mystic banner in Overwatch Contenders. With standout players like hitscan Jung “Xzi” Ki-hyo and former Shanghai Dragons tank Lee “Fearless” Eui-seok, many fans assumed the Fuel would be unstoppable in 2021. 

From what we saw during the tournament, a wildly stacked roster didn’t magically “fix” the Dallas Fuel, but the team is still better than it was. 

The NeXT Cup was our first chance to see the new and improved Dallas Fuel in action. Both of the team’s matches ended in 3-0 losses, however. The talent on the Fuel is still impressive, but team coordination was lacking and competitors took advantage of poor positioning. 

Many Dallas fans on social media panicked that the team would still be underwhelming even after these expensive roster upgrades. They should take heart in the fact that team cohesion is something that grows with time—the Overwatch League season doesn’t start for at least another two months. If the roster is given an opportunity to mesh, the Dallas Fuel should still be able to roll over most North American teams.  

Fans should also look toward hitscan ace Xzi to be the “savior” of the team if his optimal heroes, like McCree and Widowmaker, remain in the meta. In countless fights, he gave the Fuel a fighting chance thanks to key eliminations and quick thinking. With better support from his team, he could be even more dangerous. 

Don’t underestimate the Guangzhou Charge 

Heading into the NeXT Cup, few fans and analysts focused on the Guangzhou Charge. Most pundits were more concerned about the mystery of Dallas, the Shanghai Dragons’ offseason dominance, and the Seoul Dynasty’s star-studded roster. Guangzhou showed up with the most to prove and actually delivered. 

Other teams may have flashy players with star power, but the Charge’s rookies brought raw talent and stellar coordination to every fight. DPS players Choi “Choisehwan” Se-Hwan and Zou “MYKaylee” Zijie kept time with seasoned veterans like Ou “Eileen” Yiliang. Choisehwan, in particular, showed that his expertise on Ashe can be devastating to entire teams. 

Newcomer Kim “Jihun” Ji-hun, a Wrecking Ball expert, ran circles around seasoned main tanks like Fearless and Seoul’s Hong “Gesture” Jae-hee. His disruptive playstyle was one of the reasons why Guangzhou dismantled the Fuel in such a decisive manner. 

Respect the Seoul Dynasty’s lesser-known stars  

Seoul may have picked up legends like Park “Saebyeolbe” Jong Ryeol and Jeong “ANAMO” Tae-seong during the offseason, but it was the team’s lesser-known players who stood out during the NeXT Cup. 

Flex support Kim “Creative” Young-wan played well during the 2020 season, but he was an absolute standout during this weekend’s games. His Zenyatta and Ana mind games with KariV during the Charge game were a delight to witness and his well-placed Discord orbs helped Seoul nab a win over the Shanghai Dragons. 

Off-tank Lim “Toyou” Hyun-woo, who was recently brought up from a two-way contract with the Dynasty’s Overwatch Contenders team, deserves his promotion. Former champion Gesture’s Winston repeatedly failed and Hwang “Marve1” Min-seo did his best on an unfamiliar Wrecking Ball, but Toyou’s crisp, clean D.Va play saved his team over and over again. This performance should have earned him a rightful spot as a perpetual starter for the team.    

Veterans still have what it takes 

Rookies and upstarts may have taken some of the spotlight during the first NeXT Cup matches, but it was the league’s most talented veterans who made the difference for their teams. 

Last year’s Overwatch League MVP Kim “Fleta” Byung-sun used this weekend to prove, once again, why he deserved that trophy. The Shanghai Dragons roster is stacked and well-coordinated, but it was Fleta’s Echo play that demolished the Fuel and fought off the Dynasty. Fleta’s Echo is so disgustingly oppressive that upcoming nerfs to the hero should be formally addressed to him. 

On the side of the Dynasty, Park “Profit” Joon-yeong was back at it again, single-handedly winning teamfights he realistically never should. His Tracer was transcendent as usual, ripping through backline supports and marooned Wrecking Balls. Analysts often refer to this phenomenon as “Profit doing Profit things” and he spent the weekend proving why that phrase exists.

The NeXT cup continues on Jan. 30, where the Guangzhou Charge will face off against the Shanghai Dragons at 4am CT. 

The official Chinese stream can be found on the CC website, but numerous Overwatch personalities, like caster Kevin “AVRL” Walker and former player Dusttin Bowerman, will be hosting English co-streams for future games.