We are down to six teams in the inaugural season of the Overwatch League. While those clubs prepare for the season playoffs and a chance to play in the final in Brooklyn for the first league championship, there are six franchises that will have a long offseason to think about what went wrong. With the Overwatch World Cup beginning after the final, it will be months before these teams play another meaningful game, and that means time for reflection.
Here is our send-off to those six we won't see until the 2019 season rolls around, when there should be even more expansion franchises to battle for spots in the postseason.
Finished: Seventh (22-18, +17)
Team MVP: Austin "Muma" Wilmot
This comes down to either Muma or the team's only consistent DPS threat in Jiri "LiNkzr" Masalin. Either choice would be acceptable, but I give the slight edge to Muma, whose performance as the main tank was impressive throughout the first season of Overwatch League. His Orisa, Reinhardt and Winston were standouts for the Outlaws in Season 1 and gave his team the necessary space even when they lacked the tools to take advantage of said openings.
Offseason mood: Frustration
The Outlaws should feel as if it let one slip away. At +17, the team's map score was good enough as long as it could get the match wins, but losses in five-map contests came back to haunt Houston, while the Philadelphia Fusion, who had only a +13 map differential, made it into the playoffs by one-upping the Outlaws on fifth maps and in general being one of the better fifth-map teams in the competition.
Going into the 2019 season, Houston has the framework for a strong team, but it'll need to at least add, you know, a Tracer player if it wants to think about anything other than short-term success. At least we'll always have the Jacob "Jake" Lyon memes.
Finished: Eighth (22-18, +13)
Team MVP: Kim "Fleta" Byung-sun
It isn't fair that Fleta isn't in the first Overwatch League playoffs. When Fleta began his professional career on Flash Lux in South Korea's APEX league, his solo carrying talents on the hamstrung team became the stuff of legend. After his transaction over to the Seoul Dynasty, his past was supposed to stay just that. Instead, a strong start to the season by the Dynasty ended with Fleta probably thinking he was walking back into the Flash Lux locker room. Even by the end of the season, Fleta's outrageous numbers started to fade with the lack of cohesion and stability in the starting roster.
Offseason mood: Embarrassed
Seoul named itself the "Dynasty" because it didn't want to win only one title. It wanted to set a precedent for the rest of the league to follow.
Spoiler: You can't become a dynasty if you can't even make the playoffs.
Seoul will go into the offseason with its head hung low, but with an opportunity to rectify things in Season 2. No region has more budding talent than South Korea, and with a long offseason, the Dynasty should -- the keyword here is should -- be capable of finding the pieces to put around the core of the team in Fleta and Kim "Zunba" Joon-hyuk.
San Francisco Shock
Finished: Ninth (17-23, -7)
Team MVP: Nikola "Sleepy" Andrews
In a season that saw San Francisco shift from cannon fodder to legitimate stage playoff contender, Sleepy was there to see it all. The American support player was a revelation for the club and in the upper half of Zenyatta players throughout the year. Not only has Sleepy established himself as a starter for the future in San Francisco, but he should also be seeing himself in a red, white and blue United States jersey for the upcoming World Cup. The sky's the limit for San Francisco's standout support.
Offseason mood: Optimistic
As cliché as it sounds, San Francisco wasn't eyeing a championship this season. That might seem offensive to its fans, but it's true, and in the long run, it'll more than likely be the right decision.
Not every team can be a contender out of the gate, and the Shock, instead of doing everything in its power to be a winner in the first year and hamper its long-term success, laid the groundwork for championships for the future. It signed two starters who couldn't play until their 18th birthdays, imported two South Korean talents in the second half of the season and wrapped it all up with the signing of the only coach to lead a team to an undefeated stage, Boston Uprising's Park "Crusty" Da-hee.
Going into Season 2, the Shock doesn't need to make any changes. If it can keep its core together and let Crusty work with the team over the offseason, the Shock can be a top-five team going into 2019 with a ceiling that is similar to its California rival Los Angeles Valiant, which also possesses a hybrid Korean-English roster with a South Korea coach. With the Valiant favorites to make the Overwatch League Grand Finals, that's a good spot to be in for the No. 9 team in the league.
Finished: 10th (12-28, -42)
Team MVP: Pongphop "Mickie" Rattanasangchod
Is Mickie the best player on the Dallas Fuel? No. Is he one of the elite off-tanks in the league? Probably not, at least for most of the 2018 season. But could Dallas have survived this disaster of a season and even turned it around for a stage playoff appearance at the end without Mickie? I honestly don't think so. When it comes to Overwatch, a healthy team dynamic is important, and we saw this season how the Lunatic-Hai core did without its leader, Kim "EscA" In-jae, in the lineup. Although EscA was never the most reliable ace DPS player in South Korea, his presence and the calming voice inside the team let Lunatic-Hai thrive and win back-to-back domestic championships.
Mickie does the same for Dallas. Be it in a news conference, onstage or in-game, Mickie's playful attitude has extinguished any spark of drama in the team. When Brigitte was introduced into the game, Mickie's play inside the game started to match his work outside of it. Sometimes being the most important player on a team isn't always seen through just pure numbers on the screen.
Offseason mood: Cautiously optimistic
Like San Francisco, Dallas can go into the long offseason with a bit of optimism around it after making the stage playoffs and all, but it needs to be cautious. This was a team expected to be possibly playing in Brooklyn for a league title in the preseason, and it is going to have to watch it from the stands. Aaron "Aero" Atkins is a coach Fuel fans can get excited about, and while there will probably need to be some tough decisions on whom to ship out and whom to keep on the roster, there is a semblance of a contender in Dallas. This was never more exemplified than when the Los Angeles Valiant in its post-stage news conference admitted that it wasn't too afraid of any team it could meet in the semifinals since Dallas, its Achilles' heel, would be missing the playoffs.
Finished: 11th (7-33, -78)
Team MVP: Ha "Sayaplayer" Jung-woo
While Sayaplayer played only half of the season with the Mayhem, it was one helluva half-season. On a team that had little to cheer about all season, with only seven victories, Sayaplayer's Widowmaker play and insane highlights of snipe kills will be remembered as the best moments of the Mayhem's first season, along with the team's delightful and innovative entrances through the Blizzard Arena tunnel.
Sayaplayer has the potential to be one of the best DPS players in next season and an MVP candidate if things progress in Florida. It is now up to the Mayhem to get him a team with which he can excel and be at his very best.
Offseason mood: Motivated
Florida is a nice place to visit. Sun, beach, waves, and with a proven upper-management for the Mayhem in esports, this is a team that should be frustrated that it managed to muster only seven wins during its inaugural season. Sayaplayer was a great signing by the Mayhem, and now the offseason will be the time for the team to continue to be aggressive on the market.
The Mayhem came into the season with only six players, and it majorly backfired, with the team floundering throughout all four stages and ultimately stagnating after a small change of momentum from acquiring Sayaplayer. Florida can't be as confident next season. It will need a fuller roster, and although it might be difficult to break into the top six next year, another season with only single-digit victories would be an embarrassment.
Finished: 12th (0-40, -120)
Team MVP: Weida "Diya" Lu
I'm not going to sit here and pat all of the players on Shanghai's back for a hard-fought first season. They failed. Going 0-40 is a disaster that will go down in the history of esports, digital or on the traditional fields. But if there is one player I do have sympathy for, it would be Diya, the Chinese ace DPS who desperately did everything in his power to gain a victory for his team but couldn't succeed.
On a better team with actual structure, Diya could have flourished. Sadly, Shanghai was a sunken ship before it left the port, and Diya had to go an entire season without leaving as a victor once. Next season, hopefully, Diya gets to leave the stage with a smile for the first time.
Offseason mood: Angry
I don't want the Dragons to feel sad or down. I want Shanghai to be angry. I want the team to do everything in its power this offseason to make sure that 0-40 never happens again in the franchise's history. From top to bottom, this team needs an overhaul, and with the offseason most likely lasting for five-to-six months, there should be more than enough time to acquire and acclimate a starting roster ready to win by the time the 2019 season begins.
Oh, hey, China's best Overwatch player in 2017, Huang "leave" Xin, just announced his return to the game after taking most of 2018 off. Wait, he can play almost every hero at a pro level? Wow, he actually can play Tracer? Maybe he could, I dunno, be a good place to start.
China has more than just Diya. It's time for Shanghai to show that next year.