The Overwatch League’s first night of competition kicked off with hundreds of thousands tuning in on Twitch to watch a slightly tuned up broadcast, OWL’s experienced commentating crew, and two boring, lopsided opening games. Both the Los Angeles Valiant and the Los Angeles Gladiators steamrolled their opponents (San Francisco and Shanghai, respectively) without much resistance or flair, save for some nifty Doomfist play from the Gladiators’ Hydration. With the mighty Seoul Dynasty (formerly known as Lunatic-Hai) closing out the night, there was reason to worry that the League’s maiden evening might go by without a single close game or at least some tactical intrigue.
Enter the Dallas Fuel, the rebranded bones of Team Envy. The Fuel and the Dynasty have had some hotly contested matches in their past lives, and fans probably realized they were well and truly in for some shit as soon as Dallas rolled out of the Junkertown spawn room with a Roadhog and a Hanzo, both underused heroes at the pro level. The thrill of Overwatch is in its variety, so seeing an attack team really pivot away from the Tracer-D.Va-Genji orthodoxy for what felt like the first time all night was cool as hell. Per the broadcast, the two teams combined played 15 different compositions for longer than 30 seconds, and I hope OWL continues to make use of the Junkertown map.
Dallas rolled without a single DPS hero, and despite consistently strong positioning geometry from Seoul (Ryujehong in particular), they managed to keep using their weird composition correctly and push the payload all the way to the finish. Taimou’s Roadhog was tremendous, and a clever hook and ultimate combo sealed the win on attack.
When it came time to defend, it was once again Taimou who stymied Seoul’s last push by hooking a Reaper who was just preparing to unleash his own ultimate ability.
That was just the beginning, and when the game moved to the Temple of Anubis, it got even better. If you have half an hour to burn, the full game is well worth it, since it’s some of the best professional Overwatch you’ll see. Dallas roared out of the gates and took the first point from Seoul, then took advantage of Seoul’s defenders pushing too far forward (once again, Taimou was huge, this time on Reaper), steamrolling their way straight to control of the second point with over six minutes on the clock. That’s outrageously fast, and the six minutes that Dallas left itself was setting the stage for another upset.
Seoul responded by opting for a traditional dive composition, and they managed to capture both points with four minutes on the clock, meaning both squads earned themselves a few more bites at the apple. From there each team tinkered with their setup and tactics, trying to push forward as their clocks ticked down. Seoul dove again and took both points with terrifying speed. Anticipating a slow push from Dallas, Seoul went full dive, but Dallas countered by having their Lúcio speed boost the whole team to the first point. It was a fascinating strategy. Dallas anticipated Seoul’s guess at how they’d choose to attack the point, so they responded to what they thought they’d see. Watching Seoul scramble to react as Dallas scattered them was enthralling, as it forced the best out of everyone.
When it was once again Seoul’s turn, Fleta shredded Dallas’ defenses with Genji, and though Dallas smartly stalled on the second point with Sombra and Mei making appearances, Seoul got their sixth point with 11 seconds left. Seoul nearly had the point with a minute to go, but Dallas just wouldn’t die, which, even though the result was never really in doubt, watching them try to salvage overtime was incredible.
And when Dallas got onto attack, Seoul switched up their defense tactics and put Fleta back onto Widowmaker, who somehow kept guessing right and knocking off heads. San Francisco was shredded on Anubis by Los Angeles’ sniper, SoON, and yet somehow Fleta’s sniping was just as entertaining, possibly because he was trying to decapitate players with a finer sense of spacing.
Thanks to those beheadings, Dallas left it until overtime to take the first point, and then, for the first time in the game, failed to take Point B. They made a deep push, but Miro’s Winston and Tobi’s Lúcio survived what turned out to be Dallas’ best push and forced them off of the point with two ticks down on the counter. It seemed like Dallas would force sudden death, but Seoul survived just long enough at the right time to squeak out safely. The 6-5 Seoul win seemed to settle them down, and though Dallas put up fierce resistance, Seoul won the next map and ground out a draw in Numbani to seal the 2-1 win. Professional Overwatch is best when it’s close, forcing players who are acolytes to consistency to push beyond what they’re used to and bring forth something more. This match had that, and I can’t wait to watch more teams get pushed to their limits.