Anticipation is at an all-time high as players and coaches gather in Los Angeles for Overwatch League Season 1. Blizzard will be pulling out all the stops as they attempt to make a lasting mark on the esports landscape. It should not be forgotten that the teams and players will be central to the entertainment and narrative along the way. Starting off in Florida, here is a look at the teams that will make up the first season of Overwatch League.
Of all the teams in Overwatch League Season 1, the Florida Mayhem have the smallest roster. No additions have been made to the Misfits lineup that saw great success in Contenders Season 1, despite ultimately falling to Team Gigantti in the final. Having previously established themselves as one of the most dominant teams in Europe, it appears that there is no reason they will not be able to compete on a global level in the Overwatch League.
The Mayhem roster has undergone a curious journey to the Overwatch League. Misfits started by finding success with a mixed European lineup, of which Zebbosai is now the only survivor. The team then transitioned to an all-Swedish roster but had limited success as they struggled to fit all the talented individuals into one cohesive system. Their final form came with the addition of CWoosH, Logix and Zuppeh, leading to their strong run in Contenders Season 1. Despite failing to be crowned the best team in Europe, a single defeat should not take away from the quality of play Misfits were able to produce with these six players.
The introduction of Logix as a hitscan specialist granted TviQ the freedom he needed to shine. With the freedom to to play what he thought was best for the team, the Swedish superstar began to dominate the European scene once again. There was little doubt the DPS duo would succeed, but bigger questions surrounded CWoosH’s move to Main Tank. Any worries were quickly dispelled as the young Swede looked a natural on the Winston and paired with TviQ nicely. Towards the latter stages of the competition, CWoosH even brought out Reinhardt briefly and looked capable on the hero, although in a more limited sample size.
Retaining this talented core was the obvious choice for the Misfits organisation that owned the Florida spot. Having an established roster will be one of the Mayhem’s greatest strengths. However, it opens up several weaknesses too, most devastating of which, would be illness or injury with no replacements available. Their head coach Mineral would seem the logical choice for a stand-in, though an emergency substitute could also be used. Similarly, if a player is out of form or they want to change their approach, they will need to rely on the players they have to adapt and bounce back.
From a strategic approach, they are the only team for which footage of the full roster in action is available, as the Contenders VODs are freely accessible. This will allow other teams to be better prepared when they face the Mayhem. However, this will be balanced out as the season goes on with all the teams playing a significant number of games, but it does put them on the back foot to begin with. An often cited benefit of larger rosters, and hence a weakness for the Mayhem, is the ability to have specialists giving you an advantage on specific maps or players who have an out of meta hero pool, covering for any potential patches in the future.
For a six-man roster to overcome these weaknesses, they would need a bit of fortune to avoid injury and a versatile, consistent team. Fortunately, the Mayhem possess the latter. TviQ is regarded as one of Overwatch's most flexible players, whilst Logix is adept at all hitscan heroes. Similarly, Manneten has shown prowess on Widowmaker in addition to his off-tank duties. Zebbosai shouldn't be forgotten in this conversation, as he has won LAN tournaments as DPS, in addition to playing Flex-Support and Off-Tank for the team. So despite fielding the league's smallest roster, the Mayhem possess malleable forces that should be able to accommodate most metas without the need for new faces.
It is also important to remember that having a large roster will give their opponents more options, but it will be up to the coaching staff to ensure this is managed correctly. Rosters this size are unfamiliar for most of the Western teams, and it will certainly be a balancing act to get this right. The Mayhem won't face this issue. Everyone is assured a starting position, streamlining practice and preperation. The flexibility of the Mayhem gives them the element of surprise too. When other teams bring on their Reinhardt specialist or their Pharah player their opponents will know what composition they are likely to run. The Mayhem will not be so easy to predict.
While starting with a six-man roster does make them vulnerable in some respects, the versatility and talent of their players should make up for this. I spoke to the team's Head Coach, Mineral, to get his view on the roster and upcoming season:
Thank you for taking the time to talk to me today. Firstly, how are you and the team getting on, are you all in LA already and setup?
Mineral: Most of us are, some of us are still waiting for our visas.
I presume this has been quite limiting for your practice then, have you had any chance to scrim OWL teams yet?
M: No we have not.
Looking ahead to the season then. A lot of pundits are placing you mid-table. For you and the team what would constitute a successful season?
M: It's difficult to gauge what a successful season would be, seeing as it's the inaugural one and it's really hard to say how good each team will be. That being said, I'm very confident in our talent level, and I feel like anything short of playoffs would be a huge disappointment. The season is very long, and we need to make sure to stay grounded throughout to ensure we progress each and every week. If we can do that and peak by the time playoffs roll around, I certainly think we have a good shot at making some real noise. The ultimate goal is to win the OWL, but obviously a lot of things have to fall into place for that to be a reality—not only for us, but every single team in the league.
On that note of a long season, there has been a lot of talk about roster size in OWL, particularly with Mayhem because you have the smallest roster possible. Was that an active decision going into the Overwatch League that you were happy with the roster you had and do you think it will limit you across such a long season?
M: I wasn't necessarily part of the recruiting process, as I was in negotiations myself, so I can't really say much in regard to that. I know some players were looked at, and I'm certain we'll explore possibilities to sign more players mid-season together with management. It's important that any player we pick up in the future not only brings a unique skill set which complements the talent we already have, but also fits within our culture.
There are certainly inherent risks starting the year with just six players, but there are also positives. A lot of teams have to figure out their starting lineups, a viable rotation and how the pieces fit. It can certainly be difficult to account for the shifting team dynamic as you substitute players, while also avoiding conflict. Rotating isn't as simple as looking at hero pools—you have to consider what every player brings in the calling department, and how everyone synergizes, all while preferably not giving away your strategic cards by throwing a specialist into the game. Keeping everyone happy is difficult too, as not everyone can buy into and accept a lesser role. Since we're starting the season with just six players, we should be able to continue building on the foundation we established during contenders, further develop our camaraderie and establish terrific synergy. While we'll inevitably expand the roster, I'm very happy with the core that we have, and it's a great starting point. Every player on our roster is extremely versatile, which should help us adapt to meta shifts.
It seems you certainly have a good handle on the situation and on bringing anyone new into the setup. The flexibility your team has will certainly be useful in this regard too. There has been no official rulebook released to the public for OWL, in a worst case scenario where one of your players is sick/injured , what options are open to you? Would you be able to step in and play?
M: I'm not entirely sure about the official rule book, but from what I've heard we'd be able to use a temporary emergency substitute. So yes, I do believe I'd be able to cover temporarily if emergency struck.
Obviously, I hope that doesn't happen to the team but good to know you won't be without options. One final question, in your most recent tournament in Contenders Season 1 it was felt that you underperformed in the playoffs compared to your regular season performances. The most immediate difference was that it was on LAN. Do you think the underperformance is a fair assessment and how much of this would you put down to it being on LAN? Does this raise any concerns going into OWL as it will be exclusively offline?
M: We did have some LAN jitters, especially in early maps of both sets. We started slow, but we shook it off well. I think the fact that we'll play at least 40 sets during the regular season will go a long way in acclimating all OWL players to the LAN environment, so I'm definitely not concerned.
I certainly feel like it's fair to say we underperformed based on our incredible regular season, but not to the extent that some claim. I feel like the "choke" narrative got a little out of hand. Most of all, I think that narrative is an incredible disservice to Team Gigantti. They improved tremendously throughout the season, and I firmly believe they'd be a playoff team by OWL standards had their full lineup been picked up. Their synergy and individual skill were off the charts. More so than the LAN environment, I felt like our shaky showing had a lot to do with the map changes between regular season and playoffs, and our map pool was incidentally hit extremely hard. We were simply too slow to adapt to those changes.
A lot of things have to align for any team to win a championship, especially in a game such as Overwatch, which features so many chaotic and combustible elements. My biggest takeaway from Contenders was that we managed to claw our way back and force map 7. We played a heck of a team in those finals, it came down to the wire and Gigantti were certainly worthy champions.
I completely agree, very well said. Thanks for taking the time to talk with me and best of luck to you and the rest of the Mayhem going into Season 1.
Florida Mayhem is: