Prior to the start of Stage 4, the Overwatch League released the list of the final five candidates for the 2019's season MVP. The list wasn't bad... except the timing is way off.
The list was released with a quarter of the season remaining. Not only that, but it's the quarter of the season with an entirely new meta created by a massive change to the game's ruleset (no role lock to 2-2-2 lock).
Arguments could be made about including several members of both the Titans and the Shock's roster or for including JJoNaK or Mano. Still, the only truly egregious exclusion is Haksal.
He has easily been the most impactful player on Brigitte this season and has been a huge part of the Titans' success. The greatest evidence is the recently released Player Impact Rating, which puts Haksal as the league's top players.
The Player Impact Ratings were publicly released in the same week the five candidates for MVP were revealed. Did the Overwatch League general managers have access to these ratings when they made their MVP picks? If not, would their picks have changed had they had access to them?
It's a worthwhile question to ask. The highest rated MVP candidate is Twilight, who is ranked third in the league--and third on his team. Sinatraa is next at fourth. super is rated 10th. guxue is 16th and JJANU is 29th.
Of course, their ratings could all change. Each MVP candidate could move up, or alternatively, could move down. That's part of the unpredictability of there still being a stage to go.
It would be that unpredictable even if nothing changed between Stage 3 and Stage 4. But that wasn't the case. The rules of the game changed.
The MVP candidates were selected based on their performance in GOATs play. While their play in that meta defines most of the season, there is still room for change.
This is most obvious in DPS players. Haksal, for example, was a pretty good candidate for MVP in GOATs. What if he continues to be the Titans' best player while on DPS heroes?
Or take a less obvious choice like Erster. He has been the Atlanta Reign's best player all season despite being stuck on Brigitte for most of the season. Now he has an opportunity to be unleashed onto DPS and carry the Reign into the play-ins and then the playoffs. He has no opportunity to enter the conversation for MVP now.
The list can go on and on with DPS players, but they aren't the only ones entering new territory. Main tanks have played Reinhardt more than any other hero this season with a little bit of Winston and Wrecking Ball play and very little Orisa play. The start of Stage 4 suggests that the meta will be much the opposite: Orisa play becoming dominant and Reinhardt seeing very little time in matches. What if guxue and super fail to make the same impact on Orisa as they do on Reinhardt, Winston and Wrecking Ball?
The list continues. Off-tanks find themselves moving away from D.Va and toward Roadhog more often. Support players are now playing the entire support hero pool, regardless if their a main support or flex support player.
The drastic transformations in the meta will change the effectiveness of different players. It would inevitably shift the MVP conversation if there was still room for such a shift.
But the opportunity for that has been stifled. And so has the opportunity for late bloomers and other players to enter the fray.
While it would be a stretch to open up the MVP conversation to a player who only played half the season, it's certainly a plausible outcome. Especially in the case of the Valiant, a team that appears to be on its way to making a complete shift and possibly ending the season in the playoffs after finishing Stage 1 0-7 and entering the season's halfway point at 3-11.
If Shax continues to play as he did in Stage 3, it's not totally unreasonable to think he could be introduced into the MVP conversation. If the Dragons continue to carry their momentum from Stage 3 into Stage 4, it's not unthinkable to see one of their DPS players becoming a candidate.
However, Shax had no chance of making it into the conversation with only one stage of playtime by the time the field was narrowed (and less than that in the case the voting started sooner). The Dragons' DPS didn't have a shot at the league's most prestigious individual award after starts to the season that weren't stellar.
No, regardless of how Stage 4 turns out, the MVP will be one of sinatraa, Twilight, JJANU, super and guxue. The undeniably best player of the 2019 season may turn out to be of those five, or it may not.
That's the problem. The field narrowed too early for anyone to know if those five are the right choices.