The 2021 Overwatch League regular season is finally complete, and what a ride it has been. From the Dallas Fuel’s early season surge, to the Shanghai Dragon’s consistent dominance to the Gladiators finally pulling it together, there are more true championship contenders than ever before in OWL history. Even the best predictive minds couldn’t guess what will happen when the dust finally settles after the playoffs. Despite that fact, we will at least try to paint the clearest picture of the league possible with Upcomer’s last Overwatch League power rankings for the regular season.
A winner in the west always allays fears that East Division teams like the Shanghai Dragons will simply roll over the region once the playoffs start, and there was plenty to be impressed with in the Countdown Cup. Both representatives defeated their eastern counterparts at least once, and the Reign did so despite health issues with one of their best players. So, with the Gladiators finally living up to their potential, it feels like the West Division is more than stacked heading into the postseason.
1. Los Angeles Gladiators
Overall record: 11-5
After years of staring down the precipice, it finally happened: the Gladiators won something significant. This team, which often appeared equipped to hang with the best in the league throughout its history, finally figured out how to put their shield up in just the right way. Although, in this case, it was more Kim “Shu” Jin-seo’s Amplification Matrix than a literal shield.
Yet, While Shu undoubtedly ensured the Gladiator’s victory, such a moment wouldn’t have been possible without contributions from the entire team. Indy “SPACE” Halpern and Kevin “kevster” Persson were everywhere they needed to be at almost any given moment, whether that meant the front or backline. Kim “birdring” Ji-hyeok fired with the lethal accuracy and smart target selection that made him a champion during the inaugural season. Kim “MuZe” Young-hun has become a dependable wall for his allies and Kim “skewed” Min-seok at times doubled as a third damage player without shirking his healing duties.
But while the Gladiators did finally win, it wasn’t easy. This squad isn’t the San Francisco Shock from days of yore, where teams just crumbled before them. The gap between them and the other top rosters may only exist by the narrowest margin, and it might disappear entirely once the playoffs start. However, if LA can bring the same flexibility and teamwork they showcased last weekend to the playoffs, there’s no reason they can’t walk away with an even bigger win. In the meantime, they can settle for No. 1 in our Overwatch League power rankings.
— Jason Krell
2. Atlanta Reign
Overall record: 11-5
If it wasn’t for Oh “Pelican” Se-hyun’s collapsed lung, the Atlanta Reign would’ve had a stronger showing in the Countdown Cup. It was tough to see the rookie of the year frontrunner basically unable to play on an even playing field with the rest of the competition due to his surgery. And as a result, the Reign were forced to fight the majority of this regular season tournament without their best DPS player. But even with that big disadvantage, they finished third in the tournament and proved their ranking in the West Division.
Based on the Countdown Cup’s meta and the talent on the Reign’s roster, it looks like they will make waves in the season playoffs. While Atlanta has never been the most flexible team in 2021, their skill with specific compositions and overall team coordination has solidified them among the top in the region. Trying to judge the Reign’s play-in chances after this tournament is tough, but seeing the team collapse without Pelican was a bit worrisome. If the season playoffs have a meta that shakes the Reign, there is a chance they could be upset. But, if the team shakes this time off as just unlucky and proves their skill, the Reign are still favorites to make a deep run.
— Michael Czar
3. San Francisco Shock
Overall record: 12-4
The San Francisco Shock, while not favorites for the championship, are still a challenging foe in the West. The team never made it to Hawaii, but were closest in the recent Countdown Cup qualifiers. They lost a close series against the Los Angeles Gladiators, who proved to be the best team in the Countdown Cup. Plus, after their falling shorter during their first three tournaments, they were only one map away from Hawaii this time around.
One person to highlight for the post-season is Lee “ANS” Seon-chang, the returning star that is the spark to the Shock’s upward trajectory. His performances in both the qualifiers and the Countdown Cup play-ins were key to the maps they won. The one thing the Shock used to their previous championship advantage was insane team coordination and hero depth, and this tournament showed they’re starting to look like their previous selves again. The only question remaining is if this was something specific to the Countdown Cup, or if this is a sign of improvement for the season playoffs. As the Gladiators won the tournament and knocked the Shock into the season play-ins, they will have to win a match to earn their season playoff spot, first.
4. Dallas Fuel (-2)
5. Toronto Defiant (-1)
6. Houston Outlaws (-)
7. Paris Eternal (-)
8. Boston Uprising (+2)
9. Washington Justice (+2)
10. Florida Mayhem (-2)
11. Vancouver Titans (-2)
12. London Spitfire (-)
Victory wasn’t in the cards for the East Division during the Countdown Cup. Both Seoul and Chengdu lost to their American counterparts in the first matches of the tournament, and only Chengdu bounced back before ultimately losing to the Gladiators in the finals. The regular season is in the books, meaning every team but Shanghai will enter the playoffs without regrets.
However, with playoff plans changing to the Hawaii based model, we won’t get to see the Asia-based teams fly out to North America. Will not having to travel for the playoffs ultimately play to their advantage or are the top teams in the reason just flat out better? Only our Overwatch League power rankings can say for sure.
1. Chengdu Hunters
Overall record: 11-5
It took a whole season, but the pandas are finally on top. After a slew of qualifying matches against the weaker teams in the region, there were some question marks around whether the Hunters were truly deserving of their spot in the Countdown Cup final four. They quickly dispelled those doubts by making it all the way to the finals, where they narrowly lost against the Gladiators.
The Hunters have been on a steady upward trajectory all season, and their players keep getting better. MVP candidate Huang “Leave” Xin put on a clinic all through the tournament, supported by the likes of Zhou “Mmonk” Xiang and Ma “LateYoung” Tianbin. With the Shanghai Dragons out of contention for the Countdown Cup, they’ve risen to the top as the best team in the East Division.
— Bonnie Qu
2. Seoul Dynasty
Overall record: 12-4
It’s fitting that Seoul felt so comfortable in Busan, finishing with a map shutout over Atlanta. The next three maps deprived them of their virtual home field advantage, proving that Seoul is not ready for the stiff competition that’ll come with the postseason.
Seoul can probably beat Philadelphia or Hangzhou in order to earn their spot in the playoffs, but I’m not confident they can go much further than that. They’ll need some drastic changes in order to make a run. It’s the postseason, though. Where there’s pain, there’s Park “Profit” Joon-yeong doing whatever he can to drag his team forward.
— Aron Garst
3. Shanghai Dragons
Overall record: 12-4
It’s a bit unconventional for us to move the Dragons up despite them not having played for a while, but considering what we’ve seen from every team in the East Division, leaving the Dragons out of the top three feels wrong. The Dynasty fell flat in the Countdown Cup tournament, and it’s frankly hard to imagine the Dragons would have done the same.
Even so, their puzzling first week of qualifiers leaves us with more questions than answers, especially when followed by their narrow victories in Week 2. The Dragons were the kings of the East for such a long time that they essentially locked their spot in playoffs before the Countdown Cup even began. We’ll have to wait and see whether their end-of-season floundering was just the team taking it easy with their playoff spot assured or if it is indicative of a deeper problem.
4. Philadelphia Fusion (-2)
5. New York Excelsior (-)
6. Guangzhou Charge (+1)
7. Hangzhou Spark (-1)
8. Los Angeles Valiant (-)