By: Ollie Powell

As we exit the stage one playoffs with Vancouver Titans emerging as the champs winning a cool $200,000 winners pool, we take a look back at how all the teams fared during their first seven games and what improvements they could make, starting with the Pacific Division.

Chengdu Hunters

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The surprise package and everyone’s new favorite team, the Hunters are a blast to watch, win or lose. The chaotic style, often running triple DPS with Ameng on Hammond, was a delight, as players such as Jinmu especially impressed. They ran the Vancouver Titans incredibly close in one of the games of the season so far, but it’ll be interesting to see how they fare going into stage two, and how their DPS stand up to some of the best in the league. They’ve been given a lot of freedom so far because of the lack of mobility of GOATs, so they could be punished by the likes of Carpe, Libero and Profit in straight match ups.

What do they need? – Jiqiren’s visa can’t come soon enough. Ameng is perhaps the best Wrecking Ball in the league, but Chengdu’s current lack of a Winston player is a gaping hole in their available roster. If we head back into any sort of dive meta, the Hunters could be in trouble if Jiqiren is still stuck in visa hell.

Dallas Fuel

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One of the most inconsistent sides in the league so far, we’re still not sure what to make of the Fuel. A few players have been impressive so far, such as aKm and Closer, but rCk’s feast or famine style on D.Va and Sombra has won and lost them maps in equal measure. Question marks still remain about Zachereee in the flex DPS slot, but this still team should be able to cope with any meta with their quality at main tank and DPS.

What do they need? – A more consistent D.Va player may be worth a look, if they can find one. Ellivote has been impressive in both EU contenders and on the Fuel’s academy team, so a two-way contract is an option. Zachereee is untested at the top level in his new position, and there are doubts about his quality on Genji and Pharah. Water from Gladiators Legion or Mayhem Academy’s Mangachu could be reasonable pickups.

Guangzhou Charge

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A mixed bag of results so far for the Charge. An impressive 4-0 against Dallas and a tight 3-2 loss against the Vancouver Titans hints at some promise, but a 4-0 hammering in the reverse fixture to the Canadian side, plus a defeat to the Chengdu Hunters, still leaves some question marks for the expansion team. Guangzhou has looked most comfortable on their triple DPS compositions, as Hotba has shined. Much like the Shock last year, the Charge have a few players yet to turn 18, so we might not see their true strength until Nero, OnlyWish and Rise especially can walk out on stage.

What do they need? – The Charge are pretty solid across the board, if unspectacular. Given some time to gel and for communication to settle, Guangzhou could be a reasonably good team, though it’s tough to see them permanently challenging the top teams.

Hangzhou Spark

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After a promising opening week with two wins and a lot of hype from casters, analysts and teams alike, the Spark crumbled, turning in dismal results as they would only go on to win once more in stage one. There’s undeniable quality here, but shotcalling problems and stage nerves seem to plague the team, with no better example than when the team failed to deal with a Houston rotation on Anubis on two separate occasions. Hangzhou has such great DPS talent on their roster, so it’s perplexing why they chose to run so few triple DPS compositions during the stage. Things will need to be turned around quickly if they want to start climbing in the table, as teams with similarly poor starts such as the Spitfire and Gladiators have started to show signs of life.

What do they need? – Guxue and Krystal must be fully integrated as soon as possible. The Spark need to find a way past the language barrier to get their two Chinese super talents playing as much as possible because otherwise this season could quickly go sideways for them.

Los Angeles Gladiators

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The Gladiators suffered a rough start, going 1-4 in the opening three weeks, as they looked disorganized and uncomfortable in the 3-3 meta. But a Week 4 that saw them sweep past the Atlanta Reign and Guangzhou Charge will have given fans a lot of confidence that the Gladiators will once more be fighting it out at the top end of the table. Decay has yet to be properly tested outside of Zarya, where he has impressed, while rOar is starting to look far more comfortable than he did in their losses against Spitfire, Eternal and Spark. Expect the Gladiators to be firing on all cylinders once they can get Surefour and Decay on stage together, and once Bischu is back from illness.

What do they need? – Ask this question before week four, and the answer probably would have been “a lot”. There are still a few doubts remaining over rOar at this level, so Panker might be worth drafting in to see how he fares for a few games.

Los Angeles Valiant

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Where. To. Start. Stage one has been a disaster for last year’s Pacific Division winners, as they are the only team to go winless across all seven games. The team looks split with Fate caught out of position continuously, Agilities and Kariv have been abject on Brigette and Zarya respectively, and that’s without diving into their problems at main support. It’s hard to really put too much of the blame on Kuki as he’s been thrown in the deep end by his coaches. It’s impossible to expect someone playing a new role for just a month to compete with players who have been grinding Lucio for years now. With no head coach after letting Moon go (Packing10 is temporarily taking up the role) and trade rumors swirling around some of their players, it looks like Valiant are going back to In n’ Out for round two.

What do they need? – A main support, desperately. Even Custa has looked poor on Lucio when he’s played. Kellex at Boston and Tobi on Seoul are both options that would solve this issue. Another DPS would be welcome too, with rumors flying around Uprising Academy’s Asking. A lot of work needs to be done, and end of season playoffs are already looking doubtful for Valiant.

San Francisco Shock

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Despite a 4-3 record, the Shock have comfortably been the third-best team behind the New York Excelsior and Vancouver Titans, both of who they lost to in close games, despite the scorelines. Their fantastic run in the playoffs, pushing the Titans all the way in the final, is a testament to Shock’s long term team building and Crusty’s coaching. The American core of Sinatraa, Super and Moth have been especially impressive, while Viol2t puts up JJonak levels of damage on Zenyatta, even if his transcendence usage and positioning has been questionable. If the meta shifts back into 2-2-2 dive in stage two, Shock have the tools to make it work with Smurf, Striker and Architect all able to come in. Expect them to continue being one of the top teams.

What do they need?  – If anything, the Shock could do with trimming some fat from their squad. While Babybay may be good for team morale, players like Sleepy and Nevix could be sold for a pretty penny.

Seoul Dynasty

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This is has been the best, and most important, stage in Seoul Dynasty’s history. After a disastrous inaugural season, Seoul has finally started to live up to their potential, after finally qualifying for their first stage playoffs, but most importantly, claiming their first wins over NYXL and London Spitfire. Fissure and Jecse have been excellent in both games, but the real star in their win over Excelsior was Michelle, as his Sombra tormented the backline, hacking JJonak at vital times to deny transcendence and help clinch the win for Seoul. There’s still room for improvement, but it’s great to see them find a meaningful way to incorporate their subs. If we move back into more traditional dive, Zunba will probably come back in as a starter, but things are finally starting to look positive for Dynasty fans.

What do they need? – Seoul has been very proactive in already addressing their weaknesses, bringing in Highly and Illicit, which will provide cover at flex DPS and flex support. With those two additions, Dynasty look well set to handle any problems thrown at them over the course of the season.

Shanghai Dragons

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After a year of torment in 2018, we finally saw the Dragons light up the stage, claiming their first victories and showcasing their potential to be a real threat this year. Built around the core of last year’s Kongdoo Panthera, with the additions of Diem and Gamsu, there’s a heck of a lot of talent here. DDing especially has shone on Sombra and Pharah, and while the team as a whole has struggled in 3-3 matchups, their triple DPS has looked scary at times, and Geguri has looked solid on both D.Va and Hammond when she’s been asked to play. We’ve yet to see anything of Diya, who has the talent to compete with this roster, but Guardian has looked shaky when he’s played. For the first time though, the Dragons will be a team the rest of the league will not fancy facing.

What do they need? A flex support might not be a bad pickup. Luffy has been decent, but we’ve yet to see if he can flex onto DPS or tank if the situation is required. There’s a touch of worry too about the hero pools of Youngjin and DDing. While both are very good at the heroes they play, the fact Youngjin can’t play Pharah and DDing’s Genji is underwhelming could telegraph the Dragon’s compositions if the two players are being swapped in and out.

Vancouver Titans

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There was a lot of doubts about this team coming into the 2019 season, but they smashed all expectations, and the competition, to be the first team to win a playoff after an unbeaten stage. This former RunAway roster has faced so much hardship on their route to the Overwatch League. The two lost APEX finals, being a tiny team with no backing growing from strength to strength, to finally being able to silence the doubters and prove themselves at the highest level, the Titans deserve their time as the best team in the world. While more unbeaten stages are unlikely, Vancouver is well equipped to cope with any changes in the meta, and should continue to be one of the most feared teams in the league.

What do they need? Just to continue riding this wave of confidence.

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