Stage 1 has been defined by inconsistency in almost everyone.
As a result, very few teams actually look good. A team could seem unstoppable one week and then show an excess of weakness in the next. The only teams that have shown any semblance of consistency have been the Excelsior and the Titans, and even the Titans could be questioned after last week.
On the bright side, very few teams will be leaving Stage 1 in dire straits. With eight matches left in the stage, nine teams are guaranteed to finish the stage within one game of .500. That number can still grow: only six teams are guaranteed to finish with a record at least multiple games detached from an even split in the win and loss columns.
While I held onto the hope that the teams would become easier to rank as the weeks progress, Stage 1 has confounded me at every turn and it has in fact only gotten harder.
Still, I put in my best attempt to make sense of the results so far with the newest edition of Scrub's power rankings.
Image credit: Robert Paul for Blizzard Entertainment
1. (+1) New York Excelsior (7-0)
After securing an undefeated Stage 1, the New York Excelsior New York Excelsior OWL Rank #3 have proven to be the most consistent team in the league and perhaps the only team getting more consistent with time. After starting the season with three matches that were closer than they likely should have been, the Excelsior have lost only two maps in their last four matches. This includes last week's 4-0 over a Shock team that consistently made maps close. That match was a statement win -- the Excelsior are out to prove they should be just as feared as they were last season.
2. (-1) Vancouver Titans (6-0)
After three maps against the Chengdu Hunters, the Vancouver Titans Vancouver Titans OWL Rank #2 were down 2-1. They managed to win the final two maps to close out the series but the fear of losing to a Hunters team that has been routinely routed by stronger opponents was certainly there.
3. (+1) San Francisco Shock (4-3)
Despite a 4-3 start, the San Francisco Shock San Francisco Shock OWL Rank #1 have met the expectations placed on them in the preseason as one of the best teams in the league. Their three losses have been to the league's two undefeated teams plus a close loss to a Gladiators team that has looked strong when at their best. The Shock are pretty solid.
4. (+1) Philadelphia Fusion (4-2)
The Philadelphia Fusion Philadelphia Fusion OWL Rank #6 's only quality win this stage was a Week 1 victory over the Atlanta Reign. In fact, they've probably had the easiest schedule of all of the league's top teams. Nonetheless, the Fusion are 4-0 when Boombox is in the lineup. That counts for something, right?
5. (+4) Toronto Defiant (5-2)
When the Toronto Defiant Toronto Defiant OWL Rank #12 first secured their 5-2 Stage 1 record, I began making excuses to dismiss them. However, they've done their job and consistently beat weaker teams. That's more than what most of the league can say. So I'm sorry to the Defiant. They've done well and deserve their spot in the stage playoffs.
6. (-3) Atlanta Reign (3-2)
While the Atlanta Reign Atlanta Reign OWL Rank #10 are victims of a Gladiators team that transformed into a totally different team last week, the team previously ranked third shouldn't have let themselves be swept. The Reign are one of only three teams that play two matches next week, meaning a finish outside of the stage playoffs is still a very real possibility despite the strong start.
7. (+6) Los Angeles Gladiators (3-4)
Did I mention the Los Angeles Gladiators Los Angeles Gladiators OWL Rank #8 looked like a totally different team last week? If they played like that one week earlier than there's a chance we could be talking about them as a threat in the stage playoffs. Alas, the Gladiators will be on the outside looking in. On the bright side, the next stage looks like it will be considerably easier for the Gladiators, so they should be in pretty good shape by the halfway point of the season.
8. (+2) Dallas Fuel (4-2)
The Dallas Fuel Dallas Fuel OWL Rank #9 didn't need anyone to step off of the payload to beat the Shanghai Dragons last week. Instead, they cruised to an easy 4-0 victory. They seem to have found their stride with aKm becoming a permanent fixture in the lineup as the team's Zarya player. They may even leave Stage 1 with a 5-2 record if they can beat the Boston Uprising this week.
9. (+5) Shanghai Dragons (3-4)
Ranking teams from 9-13 was like throwing darts on a board. I redid these rankings several times and I'm still unsatisfied with it even in finalizing it. No team in this range feels like they're good enough for ninth, however none of them feel quite like a 13th ranked team either. The Shanghai Dragons Shanghai Dragons OWL Rank #16 get the ninth spot for now because they beat the Spitfire. It is unlikely they hold the spot during their off week.
10. (-3) London Spitfire (3-3)
The London Spitfire London Spitfire OWL Rank #5 lost in a close match to the Dragons in their only match of the week. Despite the loss, they're still in the stage playoff picture and play another bubble team this week in the Seoul Dynasty. The winner of the match will at least leapfrog the Dragons in rankings if not also secure a playoff spot.
11. (-) Seoul Dynasty (3-3)
The Seoul Dynasty Seoul Dynasty OWL Rank #7 are probably the biggest reason why this group of teams is so hard to rank this week. They played their bench against the Justice in a 3-1 win. It's hard to rate how a team looks when they don't put forth their normal lineup -- a normal lineup that has shown great levels of inconsistency so far. At least we know their bench is better than the Justice by a considerable margin.
12. (-) Guangzhou Charge (3-3)
The Guangzhou Charge Guangzhou Charge OWL Rank #13 were another victim of the resurgent Gladiators and loss in a 3-1 match. As disappointing a defeat that was, the Charge didn't look terrible. They currently sit in the eighth and final playoff spot for Stage 1, but their odds of holding onto it aren't great. They play the Titans next week.
13. (+2) Boston Uprising (3-3)
After cleanly putting away the Mayhem, the Boston Uprising Boston Uprising OWL Rank #11 are in pretty good shape for a team that has gone through a stage of wild roster ups-and-downs. In fact, if they can beat the Dallas Fuel this week, they might sneak into the stage playoffs.
14. (-8) Paris Eternal (2-3)
The Paris Eternal Paris Eternal OWL Rank #17 have won one of their last 12 maps since starting 2-0. It's not a good look for a team that showed so much promise at the start of the season. They should end their losing streak when they play the Washington Justice first next week. Then they'll have their most defining match of Stage 1 when they enter a showdown with the Philadelphia Fusion.
15. (-7) Hangzhou Spark (3-4)
After starting the season 2-0, the Hangzhou Spark Hangzhou Spark OWL Rank #4 have looked consistently less than stellar. Fortunately, they are still within a game of .500 and thus are just one good meta away from a reversal of fortune. They can also take comfort in the fact none of their four losses were 4-0s, although the Defiant came close by 3-0ing the Spark.
16. (+1) Chengdu Hunters (2-4)
The Chengdu Hunters Chengdu Hunters OWL Rank #15 almost beat the Vancouver Titans. That's by far their best result of the season, even better than their two wins. That match has also propelled Ameng into the spotlight and has made him the talk of the league for the past week. Hopefully they can take the momentum from this match into next week and then the next stage.
17. (+1) Houston Outlaws (3-3)
A very forgiving Stage 1 schedule has the Houston Outlaws Houston Outlaws OWL Rank #18 somehow in reach of a stage playoffs spot. If they can manage to upset the Reign, they may actually sneak into the playoffs. That is unlikely to happen, however, if the abysmal match between the Outlaws and the Valiant was any indication of how good the Outlaws are.
18. (+1) Florida Mayhem (1-5)
The Florida Mayhem Florida Mayhem OWL Rank #20 have won a match this stage, and may even win two. They play the Justice in their final match of Stage 1. We could be in for a match even worse than the one between the Outlaws and Valiant last week.
19. (-3) Los Angeles Valiant (0-7)
The Los Angeles Valiant Los Angeles Valiant OWL Rank #14 have let go of their head coach in the short time since they ended Stage 1 winless. They have nearly a month before their next match, and thus have time to adjust, restructure, find a new head coach, and do anything else necessary to play closer to their preseason expectations. The season isn't over yet for the Valiant -- they just need to finish 12th or higher to make it to the play-in tournament for the final two playoff spots -- but they don't have a lot of room for error. They will need to improve quickly to recover from this dismal Stage 1.
20. (-) Washington Justice (0-5)
One of the Washington Justice Washington Justice OWL Rank #19 's Week 5 matches will be against the Florida Mayhem. Just as the match will be an opportunity for the Mayhem to get their second win, it will also be an opportunity for the Justice to get their first. The penalty for the loss is the worst one imaginable: last in the rankings for the near-month before the Overwatch League begins regular season play again.
A rollercoaster Stage 1 comes to an end this week in eight matches all played on Saturday and Sunday. Expect a fun set of matches as teams jockey for spots in the stage playoffs.
After the stage playoffs, there should be even more unpredictability going forward. A new patch should hit sometime between Stage 1 and Stage 2. Will GOATs continue to dominate the meta or will the most dreaded team composition be killed for good? How will Baptiste work into team strategies, if at all?
Stay on the lookout for teams who can best adapt to the changes Stage 2 may bring.