The biggest Overwatch competition in the world returns for the third year, and it all started last night in Korea. The first of the four Overwatch World Cup group stages kicked off in Incheon, South Korea. The event was held at Studio Paradise and was already sold out several days before the pulse bombs flew. Thanks to the time difference the games started on August 17th at noon in Korea, but 8 PM on August 16th in the United States. This group will compose of the national teams from South Korea, Russia, Finland, Chinese Taipei, Japan, and Hong Kong.
Following a standard group format each of the teams will play the other teams in their group once. At the end of the three days the top two teams will advance to the bracket at Blizzcon. Two important aspects of the group stage are worth discussing before we get into the matches. The first is that the games will be played on patch 1.26. Fans who read the patch notes will know this means Wrecking Ball will be out in play. What effect he will have on this level of Overwatch is still anyone’s guess however. The hamster ball has so far failed to make waves at the contenders level.
The second, and perhaps bigger, point is that ALL of the Overwatch maps are in the map pool this time. Each of the matches will begin on a pre-decided control map. From there the loser of the previous map gets to choose the next map within the set type. Map two will be Hybrid, Map three Assault, Map four Escort. As a tiebreaker the fifth map will be a control map different from the first map. Now on the one hand, this format will mean that the teams will have far more maps to practice on compared to the Overwatch League. Conversely, no team will be at an advantage based on the maps this time. Furthermore, with the potential audience for the world cup the entire game should at least potentially be on display.
Only two teams can advance to the bracket stage, and before more games are played here are my predictions.
1. South Korea
Featuring a roster compromised primarily of NYXL, Korea is by far the most dangerous team in the group. Fans will remember that South Korea has won the last two, and only, world cups. They’ve brought their a-game again this year. The star studded line-up also includes Fate from the Los Angeles Valiant and Carpe from the Philadelphia Fusion. This roster has some of the best players from some of the best teams in the Overwatch League. All of this makes them a clear favorite not only to win this group, but to take the cup for a third year in a row.
2. Russia or Finland
There’s a lot of competition for that second slot out of this group. Finland and Russia seem the most likely, but all of these teams have the talent to try and get into the bracket at Blizzcon. This said, Russia and Finland both benefit from having some Overwatch League pros on their roster. ShaDowBurn and Mistakes will both be on DPS duty for Russia with contenders powerhouse team CIS Hope filling most of the other positions. Finland has a good looking team too, with players from no less than five different Overwatch League teams. Main Tank Fragi and Widowmaker wonder Linkzr are joined by some of the best in the league. Both these teams have a very good shot of advancing to the bracket.
Match 1: Russia vs. Hong Kong
The first match of the 2018 Overwatch World Cup did not disappoint. Opening on Nepal Russia came out swinging and did not stop. They powered through the match taking all four maps. The Russian squad even managed to shut out Hong Kong on Nepal and Rialto. Hong Kong gave it their all and made the Russians fight for it but it just wasn’t enough. In the end the modified CIS Hope squad secured their first win, 4-0.
Match 2: Chinese Taipei vs. South Korea
Not a big surprise to see that Korea took this match. The 4-0 win for Korea looked very clean and the team executed in the way we’ve come to expect from the NYXL. Despite their opponent having the map choices things were coming up all Korea. JJoNak was in top form and they didn’t allow Chinese Taipei any space. Chinese Taipei did manage to avoid any full holds, and this was against Korea so it’ll be another game to see where they really land. The biggest takeaway from this match is for the rest of the teams in this group and beyond. This is the team to beat, and this is only a taste of things to come.
Match 3: Hong Kong vs. Finland
Team Finland is proving that just because their Overwatch League talent didn’t win Season One, that doesn’t mean they’re not some of the best at what they do. Unfortunately for Hong Kong this meant a repeat of the first match for them. Finland was hitting all of the shots they need to and dashed any doubts about how this squad that stretches across the Overwatch League would perform. Finland would win with a score of 4-0, two of those maps being full holds.
The action continues today! Thanks to the time difference there are five more matches happening today, though at the time of writing some have already happened. The biggest still to come today will be Russia vs. Finland at 11:30 PM PST. For the best broadcast for you, check out the article on the Overwatch League site.