Though 2020 has been a wild year for everyone, the action’s barely missed a beat in the Overwatch League. While conventional sports had to shift their seasons, rethink the way they play, and create protective bubbles, the Overwatch League quickly pivoted in March, stopping all live events and moving to a fully online season. From fantastic comebacks and shocking upsets to navigating a quickly-changing world, Overwatch League has continued creating incredible stories throughout 2020. If you love Overwatch but haven’t been following the league, you’re missing out on some of the most exciting competitive gaming of the year. So here’s everything you need to know to become an Overwatch-er and enjoy all the action in the playoffs this fall and beyond.
So what is Overwatch League? To put it simply, it’s the Overwatch you know and love on a global competitive stage. Twenty teams representing cities around the world compete each year for a shot at the championship title. Divided between an Atlantic and Pacific conference, teams full of talented players representing cities as wide-ranging as London, Philadelphia, Shanghai, and Vancouver square off in nearly 300 regular-season matches that begins in February and culminates with playoffs in the fall.
Each match is played in a first-to-three-map-wins format where teams of six compete to score the most objective points on a map. Thirty-two heroes are divided into three categories: “tank” heroes, who can shoulder damage and prepare strong defenses, “damage” heroes, who — as their name implies — rain down maximum firepower, and “support” heroes, who help stabilize the rest of the team through healing and other stat boosts. Players can choose any of the 32 heroes, but each team must be composed of two tank, two damage, and two support heroes. There’s a lot of fast-paced action on the screen at any given time, so what’s the best way to stay plugged in?
From the start of the 2020 season to the thrilling playoffs (in which all 20 teams compete over two weeks in multiple tiered brackets, culminating in a double-elimination final four), each match streams live on OverwatchLeague.com, YouTube, and the Overwatch League app. Color and play-by-play commentary keep you abreast of all the action and shed light on some of the finer details, complex strategies, and behind-the-scenes team dynamics to help viewers understand the full picture of each match.
Helpful overlays over each streaming match offer additional information about everything that’s going on down on the ground. From tracking the active objective on any given map to watching the health and “ultimate” status of each hero, these always-on visual cues help give order to the flying barrage of bullets, missiles, mines, and gravity wells that bloom and burst across the field of battle.
With so many teams competing for a shot at the championship title, it can be hard to know who to follow. And while each of the 20 teams in the league offer their own engrossing storylines, we recommend starting with these two standouts.
First up: the Shanghai Dragons. The Dragons perfectly epitomize the thrilling “anything can happen” nature of the league. After losing every match in their inaugural season two years ago, they’ve quickly grown and are now — at the time of this writing — the number one seed in the league. The Dragons expertly balance damage and defense, pairing the sharpshooting prowess of LIP and the run-and-gun stylings of Fleta with the sturdy defense of tank player Fearless. And in one of the most exhilarating matches of all time, the Dragons came back in stunning fashion after losing the first three maps in their first-to-four-maps match at the May Melee Asia finals against the Seoul Dynasty.
Next, pay close attention to the Paris Eternal. After entering the league last year and finishing in 16th place, the Eternal came out of nowhere to become a team to watch this season. Entering into the Summer Showdown regional tournament in eighth place with a roster full of rookies, the Eternal went on to absolutely upset expectations (and the competition) with a nail-biting win against the Philadelphia Fusion. Thanks in large part to non-stop pressure from Genji-player Sp9rk1e and the varied support tactics from FDGod, the Eternal used their surprise victory to propel them into the playoffs.
Now let’s take a look at some of the most exciting players making waves this season. Viol2t, a support player for the San Francisco Shock, is one of 10 players nominated for the Overwatch League 2020 MVP award, and for good reason. Approaching every map like a laser-focused multitasking master, Viol2t’s a pro at using Zenyatta to keep his teammates healed up in the heat of the battle. They’ll need every drop of health he can provide as they come off last year’s Grand Finals championship win and push to be the first team to land two consecutive championship titles.
Along with Viol2t, keep an eye on one of the fan-favorite players in the league, Carpe. Serving as a key damage player for the Philadelphia Fusion, Carpe’s aim is second to none. Another nominee for the Overwatch League 2020 MVP award, Carpe made history back in April when he became the first player in the league to reach 4,000 career killing blows (meaning he dealt the damage that finished off his opponent), and he’s only just getting started.
As the current season comes to its thrilling finale with the playoffs and championship, Overwatch League remains dedicated to being there for its fans with safe, responsible, and exciting game play no matter what the world throws at us.
Giaco Furino is Senior Writer for G/O Media Studios.