Written sometime prior to this season's first Contenders matches
The second season of Contenders North America 2019 is looming ever closer. After one of the most surprising seasons, followed by an even crazier offseason, it’s time to once again determine who are the top dogs in North America!
This season comes with some big news and implications. NRG Esports and Mayhem Academy, two playoff caliber rosters, have faded into the night sky and their players scattered to the winds.
Fusion University, the strongest North American team the academy system has produced, has moved to Contenders Korea. This was after dropping only one map in a dominant Atlantic Showdown performance. Their victory earned North America four spots in the upcoming Contenders Gauntlet.
There is a massive power vacuum in North America and long time ticker FrozenGoggles/Jackal has set some early predictions as to which teams have a shot at going to South Korea later this year.
1. Team Envy
When Trill was moved up to the Dallas Fuel Dallas Fuel OWL Rank #15 right before the Atlantic Showdown, everyone thought it was the nail in the coffin for any good push at LAN. However, even with Stand1 as a stand-in, Envy looked strong against teams not named Fusion University thanks to performances from Crimzo and ELLIVOTE . While Stand1 is no longer with the team, their new Tank, LullSiSH , was one of the best in Europe. Added to that the synergy with the aforementioned ELLIVOTE and this is one of the deadliest tank duos in the region.
2. ATL Academy
Last Season, ATL fought an uphill battle. They attempted to field saucy on Zenyatta and brought in PERFACT from Korea to not-so-great success. After signing berd , putting saucy back on dps and then signing FunnyAstro , the team was able to climb back and reach the finals of West before losing to Envy. In the Atlantic Showdown, they pulled a shocking 3-0 sweep of British Hurricane. After the showdown, coach Ilka and berd were released. The flex support position is filled by Kodak who stepped down from the organization's Overwatch League roster. Despite my personal liking of berd's Zen play, Kodak will fill in nicely with the team and his time in an OWL environment will help this young team develop further.
3. Gladiators Legion
The Legion's complete rebuild last season proved to be very fruitful, as the team went second in the East before losing their chance at the Showdown to ATL Academy. They were able to bounce back from the early-season loss of frd by temporarily bringing in Bischu , who was recovering from illness. With Bischu back on the main team, Legion signed eMIL , who was recently seen winning Contenders EU and taking third in the Atlantic Showdown with Angry Titans Angry Titans Contenders EU Rank #3 alongside the previously mentioned Lullish. Speaking of main tanks, they have also signed Stand1 bringing their total number of tank mains to three. This signing is curious and puts Panker's Contenders status into question. Given how strong the roster looked, especially during the playoffs, the Legion do have the chance to make a good showing, but with a region occupied by ATL and Skyfoxes, it might be a little tough.
4. Meta Skyfoxes
After being the laughingstock of Contenders at the end of last year, Skyfoxes Skyfoxes Contenders NA Rank #4 bounced back with a strong roster that took one of the top spots in the regular season. They also joined up with Meta Gaming and got a fresh new look in their branding. Unfortunately, they lost their only playoff match in a close series against ATL Academy. In the off-season, half of their roster departed, and Whoru , Boostio and Attitude were brought in. For Boostio this is one of his biggest tests as a pro given that he has been outside of Contenders for quite some time. For Whoru this is a chance for redemption as Meta Athena Meta Athena Contenders KR Rank #7 , the last team he played with, was not a part of Contenders Korea Season 1. They are also without an off-tank as the team released FR3E due to sexual assault allegations. Again Meta Skyfoxes have essentially a new roster (which is par for the course for Skyfoxes) but their additions have shown promise and their layovers from last season have been very good at times.
5. Second Wind
Every season I doubt Second Wind Second Wind Contenders NA Rank #7 , and every season they come and surprise me. The staff have done a fantastic job of finding talent and making them shine. Unfortunately, this comes with the caveat of having all their talent poached by various teams, even during the regular season. They had essentially cobbled together a roster at the end of last season yet did not perform badly in playoffs. Their starting roster looks about the same as the one near the end of last season, but with two (technically three) notable changes. Ex0rath comes in from Samsung Morning Stars Samsung Morning Stars Contenders EU Rank #7 and will be a good upgrade from Hidan . The “players I’ve never heard of but will probably pop off” slot goes to main tank ShRedLock and backup DPS Caden who will make their Contenders debut this season. An actual main tank means that Frill who played main tank (though not in playoffs) is back to his DPS role. There’s a lot of talent on this roster, and with time to actually practice, they might be a force to be reckoned with.
From the ashes of Mayhem Academy come Revival Revival Contenders NA Rank #14 . This team was once poised to be the top of North America after breaking Fusion University’s win streak last season. They were unfortunately upset by Gladiators Legion during playoffs and then disbanded entirely as part of the big Korean transition the Florida Mayhem Florida Mayhem OWL Rank #20 are undergoing. The majority of the roster (including the coach) has been together for at least an entire season, so gelling and other new team jitters are not a big issue. Rounding out the team is ex-Mayhem player Apply , who played a few matches in Stage 2, former OWL player iReMiix who recently played in Trials and rookie Lyar . Both Apply and Mangachu have played Brigitte in the past so it will be interesting to see who plays Zarya on the roster. Given the core's success last season, I have high expectations for this team.
7. Uprising Academy
Speaking of teams coming back from the dead, Uprising Academy Uprising Academy Contenders NA Rank #5 at times looked head and shoulders above everyone during Trials, as given by their 7-0 record. This team looks to bounce back after a very tumultuous Contenders Season 1 both inside and outside the game. The additions of MirroR and Teetawat along with new coach Kolsti have improved the team. But the old ping monster looms above half the starting six and with harder competition in store, I can't definitively say that the comeback is real. Luckily they have a bit of history on their side as for the past three seasons, every team that has placed first in Trials has earned a playoff spot.
8. Montreal Rebellion
Despite having a good roster coming into the season, Rebellion struggled losing out to teams promoted from Trials. It took a new tank-line injection in Gods and sharyk to get the team out of relegation and into a top four position at the end of the season. However, said tank-line was promoted to the Toronto Defiant Toronto Defiant OWL Rank #18 , leaving a tank gap yet again. The off-tank role has been filled by Smex , and they received a backup flex support in UltraViolet . At the time of writing this, a main tank has yet to be announced. Again this is one of those, “good on paper” teams, but if last season said anything, that does not inherently mean good in execution.
Triumph are the winners of Open Division and the second place team in Trials. One name you might recognize is Decod who has played with Last Night Leftovers and Team Norway in the World Cup. Otherwise, this the first Contenders experience for everyone on starting roster ( Aether has played for Bye Week Bye Week Inactive but he is listed as a substitute). Looking at their play in Trials, they have a decent chance of being a playoff team, but the academies are looking generally improved compared to last season so the journey will not be as easy.
10. XL2 Academy
XL2 just barely got into playoffs only beating the two teams below them -- then got swept by ATL Academy. All their roster -- sans Haku, Kirby and speedily -- were released and replaced by buds , ksp , GIG and Ojee . Both buds and ksp are very talented yet questionable players. Buds has had hot and cold streaks in recent times and ksp has mostly been a specialist backup player during his time in Europe. GiG has been almost too aggressive on main tank sometimes, and that might not mesh well with Kirby. Each of the new roster members come from a different team, so synergy is an issue. On an individual level, the roster is good, but we will see if this can translate into cohesive unit.
11. Square One
Square One Square One Contenders NA Rank #11 were a team that had a good bit of hype as the season went on only to sputter out in the end. They are the first team to find success immediately coming out of Open Division as they were able to earn a playoff spot and even beat a few Academy teams in their first Contenders. The team has a new flex support in Trispear , fresh off an unsuccessful run under Eternal Academy Eternal Academy Inactive . Square One were known for their solid 3-3 play, and will need to polish that up if they want to improve upon their success from last season.
12. Grunto Esports
Chicken Contendies recently joined the Gunto Esports organization.
Despite having the cutest logo in Contenders, the team had an ugly regular season. They were able to take advantage of the chaos of 2019's first Contenders season and avoid relegation. They have made upgrades in Wub and TiZi , but the latter could be playing from his native South Korea. Compositions of three supports and three tanks are the standard of Overwatch right now, but with new variations popping up, it might be detrimental to be so one-dimensional.
13. Tea Party
I have to say I was pleasantly surprised by Tea Party Tea Party Contenders NA Rank #12 -- despite having a team of relative unknowns (except for one former Contenders player Far in a substitute role) they performed very well in Trials. However, Contenders is another beast entirely and I didn’t see anything that told me “this is a viable Contenders team”. Time will tell if they will step up to the challenge and I hope they do. I love seeing new blood shake things up, it's what made last season so exciting.
14. Phase 2
After placing last in their group, Phase 2 Phase 2 Contenders NA Rank #13 went through a complete overhaul with a fresh coat of pink and a dash of Sombra mixed in. They climbed back into Contenders, but not before going to map five in almost all their matches. On the flip side, they won a majority of their map fives, so that means they can likely contend with the middle of the pack. They have two Dutch players in A10 and daans , so their front-line has to deal with ping issues. The roster is relatively unproven as they have been on low ranking Contenders teams or are overall rookies. However, Pika is a player to watch out for as he had good performances on his D.Va in the past couple of seasons.
Bermuda Bermuda Contenders NA Rank #16 went from being one of the worst teams in Contenders North America to almost earning a playoff spot thanks in part to figuring out a few roster issues. Bringing in KapO in the DPS slot should allow the team to utilize more DPS-centered comps, and it seems like Shuh and Guru have been trading maps depending on need. To add to their flexibility, I believe Shuh has shown an expanded hero pool as of late. Despite this, their performance during Trials left a lot to be desired. Getting Ajax and Chayne from free agency could help, but I don’t see them as big upgrades. Maybe a season under their belts can prepare them for what’s to come, but it’s still a hard road ahead of them.
16. Wave Check
This is the answer to the question, “What Open Division team did im37 join on his speedrun to OWL?” Despite having that little factoid in their cap, Wave Check barely got into Contenders -- doing so by a margin of two map wins. Their star player as it was is crakinlakin , known for his time under Fusion University and Uprising Academy. Additionally, there is flex player Higan who under the name Coluge was one of the original members of GOATs. Everyone else is, say it with me, all rookies! Hopefully having a coach with as much experience as Solheim will help improve their performance from Trials.
While the West has already concluded, the East featuring Team Envy and ATL Academy will play their first week matches on Wednesday.