The inaugural week of Overwatch Contenders Season One has come and gone, taking with it many of our preconceived notions of how we expected the season to unfold. The first week was littered with matchups where casters, fans, and analysts expected the favorites to dominate, only to have them play out in spectacular and unexpected fashion.
Three of these matches were particularly notable, and fans in both North America and Europe had to toss their predictions out the window.
The Season Zero Europe champions eUnited kicked off Season One by playing Team Gigantti. These two teams, along with 123, are known for using the more defensive triple-tank compositions less than other teams in Europe. eUnited often chose to go with a more offense-focused triple-DPS composition instead, using it a staggering 61 percent of the time, which was 20 percent more than any European team. Clearly, eUnited thought they had a strategy that could beat the current meta and were confident from their Season Zero performance.
Things didn’t go their way in game one on Nepal however, as they suffered narrow defeats on both points. This was followed by an even more heartbreaking affair on Numbani, where eUnited was defeated in a final fight in overtime. The third game on Volskaya was a similar struggle for the favorites. While they successfully captured both points, it took them until overtime to do so. Team Gigantti finished the map with time on the board, and hit the 33 percent capture mark they needed in overtime to secure the game and the series, 3-0.
This made game four somewhat of a consolation game, but eUnited was determined to not leave empty-handed. They successfully pushed the payload across the entirety of Gibraltar on offense, and stopped Gigantti short of the final checkpoint on defense. Although eUnited had taken the final game for themselves, the upset was resounding and set the stage for an even more turbulent day in North America.
The Season Zero North America champions Immortals made their debut in the first series of Season One, and fared even worse than their European counterparts. Their opponent was Team EnVyUs, a team that missed competing in Season Zero due to being invited to compete in OGN’s APEX tournament in Seoul, South Korea.
This series was incredibly close, with each game being decided by less than a percentage point or by one final fight to push the payload. But in the end, Team EnVyUs secured the game each time, sweeping Immortals 4-0.
Team EnVyUs’ strengths were most evident on the payload and hybrid maps. Immortals entered both the second and third phases of each map with two minutes less than EnVyUs had to work with. In games that were so close, these extra few minutes allowed EnVyUs to move the payload just as far as necessary to win the game. Although Immortals had raised the hopes of many fans with their Season Zero performance, this match was instead a welcome home party for one of the West’s most talented rosters.
The series right after Immortals vs. EnVyUs saw the return of Rogue, touted as the best team in the West, from their adventures in Korea in APEX. Their highly anticipated Contenders debut was set against a relatively unknown EnVision roster that few people were giving a chance in the series.
Much like eUnited, Rogue rejected the current triple-tank meta entirely and chose to instead rely on running triple DPS. They used this composition 74 percent of the time – 10 percent more often than even eUnited – and the results were just as disheartening.
Rogue started strong in game one and dominated the first point on Lijiang Tower only to watch EnVision secure the next two rounds and the opening game of the series. Fans breathed a sigh of relief after game two, as Rogue narrowly defeated EnVision on Numbani and evened up the series at 1-1.
Fans returned to being stunned in games three and four as Rogue was unable to stop either Jason ‘Jaru’ White or Caleb ‘McGravy’ McGarvey, the two DPS players on EnVision, from doing what they pleased, giving them the 3-1 series win. The match proved this new EnVision roster is certainly one to keep an eye on in the coming weeks, as they pulled off an upset against the team many believed to be the strongest in either region of Contenders.
Although some of the most highly-touted teams suffered early defeats, it is difficult to ascertain what caused them to falter. Was it simply that they underestimated their opponents and failed to play at their own highest level? Or is the competition just that much closer, and the overall level of play higher than people anticipated? We’ll see the answer start to unfold as the regular season continues this Saturday at 10:00 AM PDT/7:00 PM CEST.