Of the many things 2016 facilitated, one was the beta and release of Blizzard's hero-shooter Overwatch. Being a Blizzard game, it only made sense that the community jumped right into making teams and playing competitively before the game was even released. Throughout the latter majority of 2016, several teams fought it out in some high-caliber tournaments and the eras of dominance weren't as varied as one would expect from a new game. Keep in mind that these are subjective rankings based off of teams' past performances and impacts over all of 2016 and not just the last two months. The teams are judged on in-game performance, results, and impact on the overall scene through popularity or dictating meta strategies.
1: Team EnVyUs
Even as far as opinions go, it's hard to deny EnVy the top spot on anyone's list of Overwatch teams by merit. As one of the three teams who've had substantial time as the best Overwatch team in the world, the multi-cultural lineup held the most time at the top and were the most dominant during their time. Beginning not long after the release of the game, EnVy looked unstoppable for the majority of the summer, boasting a 57-game winstreak. Throughout most of the fall, the team started to fall short at major events due to internal troubles between players and meta-shifts.
In the middle of OGN APEX in South Korea, Talespin left the team and EnVy brought Mickie on-board as a replacement. The acquisition of an off-tank player let HarryHook switch to playing Soldier: 76 incredibly well and let INTERNETHULK shotcall more easily as Lucio. What started out as a quick replacement ended up becoming a permanent part of their lineup when Mickie overperformed with his amazing D.Va play to help carry the team to an APEX victory, regaining their top spot and holding it throughout MLG Vegas. Even if Mickie hadn't been a great player, EnVy would likely still be at the top of this list due to their absolute choke-hold for the majority of Overwatch post-release. It would just be an arguable position instead.
When EnVyUs fell, it was to Rogue at the ESL Atlantic Showdown in one of the year's most exciting series. Leading up to the Overwatch Open, everyone was waiting to see whether Rogue won a fluke victory at ESL. While Rogue didn't get to rematch EnVyUs, they played an incredibly close series against Misfits who went on to beat EnVyUs in a fairly decisive match. Most people believe that if the series between Rogue and Misfits was replayed several times, Rogue would have won the majority of the time. However, it was still a tossup between these two teams for which was the best in the world.
Then Rogue headed to APAC to play against Chinese teams and Korean teams as the true Western representative (The other Western team was NRG, but nobody expected them to make a dent in Korean teams). The Chinese teams turned out to be pretty bad, as expected. However, the Korean team Lunatic-Hai beat Rogue in the group stage which left everyone to wonder if Korea was farther ahead of the west than they thought. It appears that Rogue was unprepared due to the nearly complete lack of information to study about Lunatic-Hai because a week later, the teams had a rematch and Rogue took a decisive victory with their extra time and footage to prepare with. Beyond that, they went to compete in APEX where they didn't drop a single map in their group stage, only to be stopped by the reformed EnVy in a close series. Rogue spent a decent amount of time on top, but the real impact they had was preventing the sudden Korean takeover when East finally met West. Also, TviQ and AKM are crazy good DPS players.
Cloud9 takes the third spot on the list because they were the first truly dominant team in Overwatch, maintained prevalence after EnVy took over, and they have someone who's likely the second biggest star-player in the game. Before EnVy arrived on the scene with their team-house, Cloud9 was the major force to be reckoned with. The unstable meta and lack of hero limit at the time allowed Cloud9 to break apart teams with their superior skill, especially when Widowmaker was very strong.
After EnVy showed up and the meta was put through big changes, Cloud9 didn't find the top spot at any major event but were still able to stay around the top three or four of all North American teams. Late fall, Cloud9 made a series of roster changes that hasn't seen much testing at major events, but their online results have been promising. One important part of the equation is Surefour, who only loses to Seagull in star-power, but Surefour makes up for it in his performance. Along with his popularity, Surefour remains as one of the best hitscan DPS players in the game.
If the Korean scene had developed faster with more overall international play, Lunatic-Hai might have been a rank or two higher. Even though we only began to see this team at around mid fall, they were one of the biggest forces in hyping up the East vs West clash over APAC and APEX. The Beyblade meta favored this team quite a bit as well, because the Beyblade composition let Esca play Mei and let Ryujaehong play Ana in nearly every game.
Miro is the other driving force of the team, one of the best off-tank players in the world who crushed the Overwatch World Cup with his Winston play. Lunatic-Hai was one of the two teams that worried fans about the East overcoming the West this early in the game's lifespan. Over time, APEX showed the world that Lunatic-Hai was head-and-shoulders above every other Korean team in the tournament during the group stage. Lunatic-Hai never conclusively spent time as the best team in the world. Unfortunately, there aren't too many instances of tournaments with Lunatic-Hai to pull results from, but the new year should help with that.
Misfits also never spent time as the undisputed best team in the world, and also similarly to Lunatic-Hai, they've been close. Their win over Rogue and EnVy to take first in the Overwatch Open was already mentioned above. After this tournament, Misfits didn't end up going to either APAC or APEX, which were the two biggest tournaments at the time, and they couldn't attend IEM or MLG Vegas. They did take a victory at DreamHack Winter, though their competition wasn't as fierce.
Without a lot of events to go off of, a big reason Misfits made the fifth slot on this list is because of their continued understanding of the shifting metas and how their playstyle interacts with them. During the Overwatch Open, they refined the Beyblade composition and properly "finalized" it by adding Mei and Zarya to every match. Later, during DreamHack Winter, they reasoned that their team wasn't as suited to triple or quad-tank compositions. In response, they ran a triple-DPS composition that better played to their strengths, but still wasn't at a disadvantage to the meta composition.
Wildcard: LuxuryWatch Red
Normally if there's a sixth candidate, top five lists call it an "honorable mention" because "top six" doesn't sound as cool as "top five". LuxuryWatch Red is an exception here since this wasn't a matter of deserving the sixth or fifth place spot, it's a result of a lack of information. LW Red played at a single major event since they lost their APEX qualifier match. It didn't really seem like the team deserved to be on a list of best teams despite the previous hype around them, since preparation is part of a team's performance and they were ill-prepared against Runaway during their APEX qualifier. Then they competed at the end of the year in IEM, where they beat Rogue and Lunatic-Hai.
This is unfortunately still not enough information as Lunatic-Hai had shown troubles adapting to the new meta at the end of APEX, and Rogue had just undergone a large roster-swap that left them with neither TviQ nor a proper projectile DPS player. The context behind these matches prevents proper performance-based judgements on LuxuryWatch Red lands them a wildcard spot, which is a cop-out way of saying "Honestly,I don't think they deserve to be top five or six, but too many people bought the hype and will probably be angry if they're not on the list."
2017 is going to be an interesting year for Overwatch esports, especially considering the still-limited amount of information regarding the Overwatch League. The other big piece of information that has and will continue to shake things up is the three-way player shuffle between Misfits, Rogue, and Luminosity in an attempt to give Misfits and Rogue teams comprised of a single nationality each while giving Luminosity a surprisingly powerful consolation prize of Kryw and Hidan, seeing as their team ended up with four different nationalities. Blizzard has also already hinted toward new maps, heroes, and game modes as well, which is sure to keep the meta from getting stale.
- Matthew "Azaraki" Waters
- January 4, 2017
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