Contenders in the future will serve as a development league in Overwatch, showcasing upcoming talent in the scene as they strive to get into the Overwatch League. For now though in Contenders Season One, before OWL kicks off, we will be treated to the highest level of Western competition in a year.
Contenders Season One pits the eight best teams in the region against each other, with parallel tournaments running in both Europe and North America. A round-robin group system with no group seeding ensures that the best will prevail and make playoffs - a goal that only four of the eight in each region can reach.
The match format sees a continuation of the four-map series popularised at TaKeOver 2 and the World Cup, with match wins determining teams’ standing in the leaderboard (and map difference as the tiebreaker).
Each week Europe and North America will see a minimum of four matches each, as every team takes on one other opponent in their group.
The action started on August 19th with some serious upsets, as Doomfist, practice schedules, and roster changes threw analyst predictions into disarray.
EnVyUs vs. Immortals
The first match of Contenders NA should have been a titanic clash; instead, Immortals hit an iceberg and sank.
EnVyUs finished fourth in APEX Season 4, putting up decent performances against the best teams in the world but eventually falling conclusively to Kongdoo Panthera. Their run didn’t allow for them to challenge many top tier teams and their wins were purely over middling Korean teams, raising doubt about whether they were truly above Rogue and Immortals’ level of play.
Immediately on Oasis it was evident that EnVyUs had continued to add strategies to their playbook. They came out on City Center with EFFECT on Doomfist and Taimou back on his trademark McCree. The strategy worked for them throughout that stage and University as EFFECT plowed into Immortals getting picks across the board, backed up by Taimou’s damage and the tanks’ peels.
Throughout the maps, it was evident that Agilities and GrimReality simply couldn’t make the same kind of fight-winning plays as their counterparts, preferring a more passive style that saw FaTe hung out to dry.
Immortals’ synergy looked off and their Sombra strategy with only one tank led to some questionable sustain in fights on Oasis and Volskaya. On the other side, HarryHook’s flexibility allowed Taimou to stick more with the Sombra in their fights, playing reactively but with huge pick potential still from EFFECT.
EnVyUs also brought out Taimou on Widowmaker to crack a Gibraltar attack, styling with the sniper as usual, while Mickie meandered all over his offtank role from D.Va to Zarya to Winston and back. The long-term flexibility and teamwork that EnVyUs have invested in appears to be paying off substantially, and they looked by far the best team in the tournament at the end of week one.
Score: 4-0 EnVyUs
Rogue vs. EnVision
Coming into Contenders Season One, Rogue were on an unbeaten winstreak against Western teams. Since reforming the team with their full French roster, Rogue had only lost two matches, both in Korea against the two best teams in the world. Though there were rumblings in the scrim circuit that the team was looking shaky, and their most recent performance in BEAT showed more weaknesses than usual, they were still strong favourites in this match.
EnVision had made a couple of roster changes for the better, bringing in Jaru and trialling ChrisTFer to form a far stronger dive, but the team was forced to buy back into Contenders after failing to qualify. The upset which followed hinted at a catastrophic downward trajectory for the former French nobility.
There was no hint of weakness from Rogue on Control Center of Lijiang. They opened with aKm on Doomfist, hinting at some well-practised compositional additions, and wrecked EnVision’s Reinhardt lineup with their triple DPS. It could not have gone more easily to Rogue.
On Night Market they dispensed with the Doomfist and ran their classic triple DPS, but EnVision had also adapted to bring in the D.Va and Winston. In an unfortunate opening, aKm was bursted down by a flying bunch of right-click orbs from Fahzix, forcing Rogue to retreat and give up the point after only five seconds. A few back-and-forth fights played out as Rogue retook narrowly, but then lost another couple of engagements after their supports died first to dives.
In the final fight, a preview of Rogue’s collapsing macro game played out; Rogue popped their Transcendence, Tactical Visor, and Dragonblade at the same time, allowing it all to be eaten up by a single Transcendence. More strategic exchanges of the Dragonblade for that ultimate would have let them take better position, but instead EnVision rolled in with a spare Sound Barrier and stormed the stage to draw Lijiang level.
On Garden, both teams started with PharMercy despite Rogue’s comparative weakness with the composition. Though it was competitive, Tseini outplayed aKm overall to help his team establish space to use their ultimates and take the stage. It was a poor start to the series for Rogue
On Numbani, EnVision again ran PharMercy on attack while Rogue stuck to triple DPS. While the first point was cracked rather quickly with Rogue supports again getting melted first, their aggression halted EnVision in the streets and NiCO’s switch to D.Va gave them stability. They returned to triple DPS for attack and took the point in one push, but kept losing individual targets and having to reset. Eventually, a pick onto Fire let them get the ball rolling and Rogue crossed the line to tie the series up 1-1.
Volskaya was another disaster for Rogue. EnVision again put up a consistent, solid performance; they found a pick onto KnOxXx while aKm was not peeling and powered through the EMP to take A quickly. After several drawn-out fights, EnVision forced winz’ Sound Barrier and disengaged to give themselves a double defensive support ultimate advantage. With scant time left on the clock they closed out their Volskaya attack and went to defense.
Rogue looked back in business on attack, winning the first fight easily to take the cap in under a minute. After that, however, it all went to pot. Rogue kept committing to fights they could not win, throwing ultimates away as they desperately tried to outskill EnVision and overcome the defensive spawn advantage. They had openings surprisingly often but kept making large mistakes that stopped them closing out the map. The map ended with frustration clear from the French team.
Rogue chose to end the series on Gibraltar, their triple DPS home map. A win seemed inevitable but Rogue were far from their usual performance and EnVision kept applying slow but steady pressure. With constant fights tipped by the trio of Jaru, McGravy, and ChrisTFer, EnVision rolled to completion and then held Rogue in the hangar. The series ended with an emphatic win on Rogue’s home map, landing a well-deserved victory in the hands of EnVision’s hungry players.
Score: 3-1 EnVision
Kungarna vs. Renegades
Predicted to be one of the closer games of the week, Kungarna vs. Renegades was a rematch of the group stage fixtures between the two teams in Season Zero. Both of those games had been 2-2 draws, with Renegades playing close to all teams in their group, gaining first seed, but then losing to FNRGFE in the playoffs.
Kungarna dominated Lijiang, using double hitscan to fend off attacks from Zachareee on Genji and Doomfist. Bischu also showcased his Zarya, a preview of the King’s Row compositions which saw both teams transition to Reinhardt Zarya.
That composition allowed babybay to lay waste to London on McCree, working around his tanks’ ultimates once they were up to win the first checkpoint. mykL swapped over to Doomfist from Tracer in the streets to keep momentum and Kungarna stormed through, reaching the foundry and then completing it with over a minute on the clock.
Renegades were not done yet. They opened with Mangachu on Hanzo, able to sync with xRetzi and find opening picks for the first checkpoint, capped in half the time of Kungarna. Clashes in the street and a swap from Bischu, giving up his Graviton percentages to go Winston, saw Kungarna die repeatedly and give up the second checkpoint at pace. With another Graviton and Earthshatter charged, Renegades stormed the home stretch and completed their attack with three minutes left. They held the second round attack from Kungarna just before the archway, leaving themselves with a fantastic win condition.
Renegades managed to force five fights out of the three minutes they owned. Kungarna’s tanky Reinhardt Winston composition let them slow the pace, and mykL clutched twice early on with his Genji play to keep them in control of the checkpoint. Another series of synchronised ultimates led to another teamfight win for Kungarna, while Renegades’ Zachareee had barely charged his Graviton during the entire three minutes.
With overtime approaching, Renegades used their support ultimates and found kills, forcing Kungarna away from the point. Their return was predicted by Renegades but awfully dealth with, as a Graviton and Death Blossom combo was poorly set up and negated utterly by shields and heals. Kungarna held and took the map.
Volskaya was the Assault pick and Kungarna chose the attack, starting with babybay on Reaper and mykL on Tracer. mykL found the opening picks and burst open the first point, with Renegades not playing cohesively around their EMPs. After a series of fights on B that went over to Kungarna but not decisively, their opportunity to attack ended with 91% accrued.
Renegades began their push into A with Mangachu on Junkrat, moving him away from the Sombra and very much filling a niche role in the team. Though he found the first pick of the round, Renegades failed to turn that into a successful attempt until they repushed a second time. They swapped up their composition for the second checkpoint, moving Mangachu over to Zarya and working around the Graviton Surge plus their two defensive ults. Repeatedly, however, Renegades failed to get into a strong position and then execute cleanly. Their focus ignored Pookz, allowing him to hold onto his Sound Barrier for aeons, and failed to win even when Pookz accidentally hit his Q.
Nevertheless Renegades were slowly generating time on point throughout their attempts, and eventually managed to get within 4% of a victory. The spawns battered them back but Renegades retained two ticks on the point, meaning they had less than 25% needed to win. With 20 seconds left on the clock, Renegades wasted time deciding where to set up and xRetzi died late, staggering his spawn. They still had a Graviton, Pulse Bomb, and almost an EMP with no ults up for Kungarna, a huge advantage with less than a tick to take. Disaster hit however as the team communication died; after twenty seconds of waiting outside, Renegades had nobody in position to spark overtime. Primodulce realised a few seconds too late, diving in but too short, giving Kungarna the easy map win.
Gibraltar was a massacre as Renegades appeared to be utterly deflated. They were no match for Kungarna as they stormed through the attack and then held them before checkpoint one for a clean 4-0 sweep. The middle two maps had been close, but horrific mistakes were the difference between a close match and an embarrassing roll.
Score: 4-0 Kungarna
FaZe vs. FNRGFE
These two teams had met in the Contenders Season Zero qualifiers, with both newly formed rosters duking it out in the semifinals. FaZe took the win in a close match then blazed forward in the tournament, FNRGFE not too far behind. While FaZe clearly had the star power in this Contenders Season One match, FNRGFE were likely to bring solid teamwork and a good system to bear.
Nepal kicked off the series, with clockwork finding some serious success on Tracer to help his team to an early stage lead. Village saw both teams whip out the Pharah, though with some notable playstyle differences. ShaDowBurn was aggressive despite only having Harmony to heal him, pushing buds and Bani back in the sky. The space he bought and the extra man it provided on the ground allowed Carpe to go wild, slaying the ground forces of FNRGFE as his raw aim combined with the Discord orb.
Sanctum was a relatively close finale with some interesting twists, as both teams opted for a Doomfist in their compositions. FNRGFE found early picks and blocked SPREE’s Graviton with a Transcendence, but FaZe got back in by punishing buds’ Doomfist plays and syncing their ultimates well. They took the map and showed that the flexibility of their roster would continue throughout this meta.
While FaZe had a fairly solid but regular time attacking Numbani, completing the map, FNRGFE had more interesting (but less successful) strategies. They opened with PharMercy into ShaDowBurn’s Doomfist, a strategy that worked until FaZe’s DPS players clutched again to bring them back into the fight. It took another repush to grab the key kills and establish position on the point, letting FNRGFE take a shot at the streets. There, they got buds away from the Pharah and onto the Sombra, a style that worked well through to checkpoint two but no further. Carpe went into beast mode, hitting numerous Pulse Bomb multi-kills to halt FNRGFE firmly in their tracks.
FNRGFE played heavily around Bani on Sombra for Volskaya. Though their first checkpoint defense fell to pieces in one fight, they held off FaZe admirably by prioritising control of a pivotal healthkit. Bani was able to charge his EMPs highly effectively and the team executed well, able to neutralise pushes despite star performances from ShaDowBurn and Carpe.
It took FNRGFE slightly longer to crack FaZe’s A defense, but after taking out all major ults they picked Joemeister to take the point. Again FNRGFE’s prioritisation of the healthkit led to a large advantage for their Sombra play, with Bani retaining control over Rawkus’ counter Sombra throughout. Even with the lightning-fast EMP though, FNRGFE found it hard to crack through the clutch play of FaZe. After many minutes of pushing, Joemeister was forced to use his ult and FNRGFE spotted an opportunity, spending all their ultimates and resources to take a fight win and grab the victory away from FaZe.
Carpe opened with a Widowmaker on Gibraltar, grabbing picks left right and center to give the team free access into server room. With a whole new set of angles, Carpe was able to pressure FNRGFE back whilst continuing to get kills, respawning as Soldier: 76 once the fight devolved into a scrappy engagement around the checkpoint. FNRGFE were able to delay for a long time, but FaZe could not be denied and took hangar, immediately struggling again to get room.
With the positioning advantage FNRGFE were able to post their players up and get great drops into the FaZe backline, ruining their gameplan and halting the team in hangar. It was all for nought though as the game slipped through their fingers on attack, unable to even take the first checkpoint against Carpe’s clutch Pulse Bombs.
Score: 3-1 FaZe
Week 1 Standings
- 1 EnVyUs
- 1 Kungarna
- 3 FaZe
- 3 EnVision
- 5 Rogue
- 5 FNRGFE
- 7 Immortals
- 7 Renegades
Our match to look forward to in Contenders Season One North America Week 2 is Kungarna vs. FNRGFE. With the two lower playoff spots looking wide open, matches like this one are absolutely crucial to punch those tickets to LAN. Kungarna and FNRGFE have never faced off before in a tournament, with their records suggesting that this could be a very tight match.
Another match also worth keeping an eye on is Rogue vs Renegades. The French team has started Contenders with arguably the two weakest teams on paper as opponents; after losing to EnVision in Week 1 and with roster changes for this match, the French former powerhouses could be down a catastrophic early deficit.