San Francisco Shock was one of the earlier rosters to be announced. They built their team with some of the best talents in North America, two Swedes, and a Spanish Lucio. While they may not feature the most high profile names, they certainly pack enough of a punch not to be dismissed. The team has also been practising together longer than most; with limited visa issues, they have been able to quietly grind away while other organisations continued to fill out their rosters.

The unique part of San Francisco Shock is that their roster comes in two parts. They will start Overwatch League Season 1 with seven players and halfway through they will unlock sinatraa and super on March 18 and March 28 respectively as they both turn 18. In context, this means sinatraa will be available from Stage 2, Week 5 onwards and super from the beginning of Stage 3. While the investment in two young, bright stars is undoubtedly a good one, it does leave them short for almost half the season, leading to them being written off by a lot of pundits and fans.

Their only two support players, sleepy and dhaK, will be on duty every game. Sleepy is probably best known from his stint on Tempo Storm during their run to a second place finish in Haste Tournament Series. Though some may point to this lack of experience as a potential weak point, it is hard to judge one way or another with such limited information.

His partner, dhaK, was part of the Selfless team that dominated America while EnVyUs and Rogue were in Korea. While the Spaniard may not be the name a lot of people remember from that dominant run, you could say the same about most Lucios. dhaK has experience with Team Spain too and should be comfortable against top-tier opposition. As one of the older players in the League, he will bring a sense of maturity and calm to a relatively young squad.

Upfront they have Nomy, who has been off the radar recently but established himself as a commanding Reinhardt in his time with Immortals. Before being denied an appearance at the NGE Winter Premiere finals due to visa issues, he was on course to become one of the most feared tanks in America. The Mexican frontman will now finally be able to go head-to-head with the other main tanks in the league.

super is expected to be the team’s off-tank once of age, but in the meantime, Nevix will be filling the role. It will be the Swede’s first time playing the off-tank position in an official setting, but he has demonstrated his versatility on a range of DPS heroes previously—as well as playing flex support for Misfits for a short period.

In the absence of Nevix, the DPS duties will rest in the hands of three hitscan specialists. Firstly, there is BABYBAY. His Soldier: 76 was good enough for Kungarna to build a successful team around, enabling the accomplished American to dominate opponents. Starting alongside him will be Danteh; the young Tracer player does not boast the same experience as many of his counterparts, but like much of the Shock team, he has been putting in the time. Danteh’s hard work will face a tough challenge as the standard of Overwatch League Tracers is through the roof, but it will be impossible to truly judge how he stacks up until the main season starts.

Covering them on the bench will be iddqd, who shares a hero pool with BABYBAY. The veteran Swede may not be the first choice, but his wealth of experience in offline environments will be a huge boost to an inexperienced LAN team. It does still leave Shock without an established projectile player but given the amount of practice the team has put in, do not be surprised if they have a few tricks up their sleeves.

San Francisco Shock might not be taking home the trophy this season, but this does not mean Shock should be discounted. If the starting seven can hold their own in the opening half of the season, then with sinatraa and super coming into the lineup half way through they will still have plenty of points to play for. Across a 40 game season, it's a marathon, not a sprint.

To find out more about the team and their plans, I spoke with the team’s Analyst Harsha:

Thank you for taking the time to talk to me so close to preseason. Can you tell me about your setup, what is your accommodation like, and what have you got in terms of practice facilities?

Harsha: We have a full room with 12 PCs and a TV for VOD reviews. Right now, all of our coaching staff and players have a PC in the facility, though that might change should more players join the roster. It's an amazing facility though, and the ability to practice on LAN is invaluable.

A lot of pundits and fans see you as finishing in the bottom half/third. Obviously, this is without seeing the team play or any of the scrims that you have access to. With a much better insight of the team and the behind the scenes, what would a successful Season 1 look like for you and the rest of Shock?

H: I think that it's no secret that San Francisco invested in a team with incredible potential and a bright future ahead of them. Whether that comes now--in year 1--or later down the line is not really my concern. I think that striving for anything other than the top spot is silly. Whether or not we get there is inconsequential, but I think that the slate on OWL standings is cleaner than most would believe, and I think that with an even playing field from a practice and environmental standpoint, Shock should be aiming for a top half finish.

Your roster comes in two stages; there are the seven players you start with and then there will be the additions of sinatraa and super at the end of Stage 2/start of Stage 3. Combined with the unprecedented length of Season 1, does this make your preparation difficult?

H: I'm actually of the belief that roster size is overrated, and think that other esports can typically prove this point. Perhaps fatigue will become an issue, but 20 matches over three months is absolutely doable for our current seven. Super and sinatraa should be able to slot in well when the time comes, but that's an issue for another day in my opinion.

In terms of prep, I think that having a set group of guys to focus on actually makes it easier from my perspective. While flexibility might be an issue at this point in time, we do actually have some incredibly flexible players in babybay and Nevix, so I'm not overly worried.

You have a team made of players from different teams. Without giving too much away, what kind of style can we expect from San Francisco Shock?

H: Without giving too much away, I don't think you should expect San Francisco to be the most aggressive team in the league by any stretch. However, 2/3 of our coaching staff and two of our players were on Selfless Gaming, and dhaK is quite vocal, so you might see some flashes of styles from the past!

Across the roster, you have a mix of very young players, as well as some of the oldest in the league. What kind of dynamic does that create in the team?

H: dhaK, in particular, is very much a leader in all regards, and the players respect him quite a bit. I think that having a figure they can rally around makes coaching far easier, especially when dhaK can relay the feedback and has experience in a structured system. Nevix is not quite as old, but he is the most experienced on the team in terms of big stages and has two major victories under his belt. When he needs to, he can grab everyone's attention despite the shy demeanour! The young players are clearly the focus of San Francisco Shock, and they'll be the ones the org looks to develop into superstars in terms of the big picture, but it wouldn't be possible at all without the veterans on the team speaking up.

With Nevix playing flex support—at least until super’s birthday on the March 28—are you concerned your lack of established projectile players will hurt you in the first half of the season?

H: Not at all. babybay has been a real hidden gem in terms of flexibility and has been able to slot into most DPS roles comfortably. Nevix might also be able to bring out his DPS in certain compositions, while babybay and Danteh both understand the flex role reasonably well, but especially on their Zaryas. I think that the team should be fine from a projectile and flex point of view, but obviously not everyone is privy to that knowledge given that babybay traditionally sticks to hitscan, while Nevix has played mostly DPS or flex support in 2017.

Thank you again for your time and best of luck in your preseason doubleheader and throughout Season 1.

The San Francisco Shock roster is:

  • Jay "sinatraa" Won (DPS)
  • Andrej "BABYBAY" Francisty (DPS)
  • André "iddqd" Dahlström (DPS)
  • Dante "Danteh" Cruz (DPS)
  • Andreas "Nevix" Karlsson (DPS/Flex)
  • Matthew "super" DeLisi (Flex)
  • David "Nomy" Ramirez (Tank)
  • Nikola "sleepy" Andrews (Support)
  • Daniel "dhaK" Martinez Paz (Support)