Four teams have been converging on London this week as the $75,000 Overwatch Master Gaming Arena 2016 Championship Grand Finals presented by MSI is set to reach a dramatic conclusion three months after it was first announced. The online qualifiers have long been settled and the MSI sponsored team revealed; the only thing left to do is fight it out.
Due to be broadcast live from the Gfinity Arena & Studios in London, the MSI MGA will be the first live Overwatch tournament produced by Gfinity. After a bug in the game's code plagued the first day of DreamHack's inaugural Overwatch event perhaps we should all pray to esports gods for favourable conditions.
The online portion of the tournament was perhaps most memorable for the slightly inexperienced casting desk, but MSI have been pulling out all the stops for the London LAN finals. The host of the Atlantic Showdown and DreamHack Winter, Soe "Soembie" Gschwind-Penski will be corralling ESL's rap god Mitch "UberShouts" Leslie alongside Overwatch's casting power couple Andrew "ZP" Rush and Robert "Hexagrams" Kirkbride.
Last, but not least we have the hardest working man in Overwatch, our very own Josh "Sideshow" Wilkinson, making his debut on the analyst desk. So get your copypastas at the ready and head on over to twitch.tv/msigamingameu for the official English broadcast.
A fairly detailed schedule has surfaced after some brave whistleblower snapped a picture of the event's promotional material. Whether you are cheering on from New York, London, Seoul or beyond you can follow the fixtures in our match ticker.
Since the first day of play was abandoned all games will now be played in one day. We have compiled a new estimated schedule based on the previously listed timings. This is not official, just a best guess.
Thursday 8th December
- 10:00 EST / 15:00 GMT / 00:00 KST - Intro
- 10:20 EST / 15:20 GMT / 00:20 KST - Winner Bracket Semifinal #1
- 11:10 EST / 16:10 GMT / 01:10 KST - Intermission
- 11:40 EST / 16:40 GMT / 01:40 KST - Winner Bracket Semifinal #2
- 12:30 EST / 17:30 GMT / 02:30 KST - Intermission
- 13:00 EST / 18:00 GMT / 03:00 KST - Winner Bracket Final
- 13:50 EST / 18:50 GMT / 03:50 KST - Intermission
- 14:20 EST / 19:20 GMT / 04:20 KST - Lower Bracket Semifinal
- 15:10 EST / 20:10 GMT / 05:10 KST - Intermission
- 15:40 EST / 20:40 GMT / 05:40 KST - Lower Bracket Final
- 16:30 EST / 21:30 GMT / 06:30 KST - Intermission
- 17:00 EST / 22:00 GMT / 07:00 KST - Grand Final
- 18:20 EST / 23:20 GMT / 08:20 KST - Award ceremony
- 18:30 EST / 23:30 GMT / 08:30 KST - Outro
Proceedings will be played out on a four team double elimination bracket with best-of-three fixtures right up until the best-of-five grand final. Although unclear exactly how the bracket was seeded, it sees both North America teams start on opposite sides.
Maps will be drafted in OWDraft.com style by banning until five or seven maps remain.
- 1st: $40,000
- 2nd: $20,000
- 3rd: $10,000
- 4th: $5,000
Ninjas in Pyjamas
- Joona "fragi" Laine (Tank)
- Kalle "hymzi" Honkala (Tank)
- Lauri "mafu" Rasi (Flex Tank)
- Joonas "zappis" Alakurtti (DPS)
- Antti "kyynel" Kinnunen (Support)
- Aleksi "Zuppehw" Kuntsi (Flex Support)
After several months of triple tank domination, NiP are in danger of being branded as onliners. They came up short at the Overwatch Open in Atlanta and had Roadhog's soft underbelly exposed by Fnatic eleven days ago at DreamHack Winter. A seemingly blind belief in their system saw them unable or unwilling to adapt on the big stage where mafu struggled find the right moments to bring out D. Va and often failed to have impact as Zarya alongside zappis' go-to Graviton / Dragonstrike combo being countered by Transcendence at key moments.
Despite all that they still enter here as favourites. Only slight tweaks to decision making and composition are needed for them to reinstate themselves as the masters of tank play. Even with zero changes the ban heavy draft system will allow them to avoid the Volskaya and Numbani shooting galleries that were their undoing. They left Sweden promising that they would learn from their mistakes and over the next two days we will see how far they have come.
- Adam "Spirit" Wills (DPS)
- Nathan "xRetzi" Telen (DPS)
- Mike "IVIidnight" Ryan (Flex)
- Keith "Desro" Hospedales (Tank)
- Samuel "Locke" Latina (Support)
- Kyle "Phaz" Dornian (Support)
Having fought through a qualification bracket that didn't feature EnVyUs or NRG due to APAC, many have questioned the worthiness of the North American representative to the point where they felt they had to come out a defend their invite to MLG Vegas. Despite beating the new Cloud9 roster en route to the final, they have failed to repeat that form at online events since.
Although yet to produce big results on the current patch, Rise Nation have been grinding to improve since the game's launch, back then known as Team Paragon (and briefly GeckoFox). Not unlike the SG-1 team that would become NiP, they have claimed occasional big scalps but struggle to put together a consistent run up to this point. As such they arrive as underdogs, but if they hope to make a breakthrough here it will likely be from the lower bracket.
- Casey "buds" McIlwaine (Flex)
- Hafþór "Hafficool" Hákonarson (Flex)
- Matthew "coolmatt69" Iorio (DPS)
- Warsi Faraaz "Stoop" Waris (Tank)
- Scott "custa" Kennedy (Flex Support)
- Oliver "Vonethil" Lager (Support)
- Robert "Roflgator" Malecki (Coach)
Invited at the behest of their sponsors, MSI, Fnatic did not have to qualify like the other teams, but they are more than capable of taking down any of them. As mentioned above, the draft system might work against their creative map selection when trying to counter-strat against triple tank - this could prove problematic.
At DreamHack winter buds' Roadhog did not appear to be on the same level as hymzi or harbleu and may not even matchup well against EVERMORE. The long awaited return of coolmatt69 on DPS has looked promising and Custa has been making a strong case for Zenyatta, but Fnatic's chances will live or die on the synergy of their tank core. They may be forced to run triple tank against NiP on the majority of maps, so it will fall to rookie trialee Hafficool to find an edge with his D. Va play.
- Kim "Rascal" Dong Jun (DPS)
- An "wakawaka"Jee Ho (DPS/Tank)
- Koo "EVERMORE" Kyo Min (Tank)
- Yoon "Butcher" Seong Won (Tank)
- Lee "Bishop"Beom Joon (Support)
- Yang "Luffy" Sung Hyun (Flex Support)
Panthera versus Uncia should have been the real final of the Asia qualifiers, but they were to beat their sister team in close fashion in semis before crushing final. Ironically KongDoo Uncia have emerged as the stronger team in the six weeks since then, but KongDoo Panthera still represent a clear and present danger here in London.
Famed for his win rate on the Korean ladder, EVERMORE may be the only person on the planet to play more Roadhog than hymzi. He recently became the first player to hit a 5000 SR, but his dedication to the ladder has often been cited as one of Panthera's biggest weakness. The desire to be a playmaker combined with ladder overconfidence often sees Panthera playing a frenetic style fuelled by individual plays which may not do well against well drilled opponents like Fnatic and NiP.
The Koreans are not one trick ponies by any stretch of the imagination, with wakawaka and Rascal proving to be formidable during APEX, but the last time they faced western opposition they got blown up 1-3 by a shaky REUNITED albeit on the previous patch. A bronze finish seems likely, but one would be foolish to rule the Koreans out.