The journey that began 10 months ago has finally arrived at its thrilling conclusion—the 2017 Overwatch World Cup playoffs at BlizzCon, located in Anaheim, California. EIght national teams from Australia, Canada, China, France, South Korea, Sweden, the United Kingdom, and the United States will battle it out on the biggest Overwatch stage of the year (thus far) to determine which nation will take home the trophy.
It's been a while since we last saw these teams on display, so let's take a look at what's new.
The five-person Resurrect is no more, and the old Support meta died with it. Mercy's current position in high-level competitive play means that Support players in the Overwatch World Cup will be prioritizing her to a much greater degree than they did in the Group Stages. This will drastically change the way the teams operate as a unit, and will force players who are well known for other Support heroes to shift their focus.
Teams also will have the option of blowing stuff up in Junkertown, the latest map added to the competitive pool, as well as piloting Doomfist—the first time the hero has been eligible for Overwatch World Cup play.
The original Team China roster, which qualified in dominating fashion in Shanghai, unfortunately will not be able to attend the playoffs at BlizzCon due to visa and personal issues. Above all, the Overwatch World Cup is a celebration of competition, of esports communities worldwide, and of the regions who love this game. China is known for its passionate fans and highly skilled players, and it is in that spirit that the Chinese national team will be allowed to field a roster that includes four substitutes:
- Li "Yaoyao" Haibo (original roster)
- Ou "Eileen" Yiliang (original roster)
- Huang "Leave" Xin
- Bian "Time" Yutao
- Cao "YuanFang2" Jiale
- He "Zhufanjun" Junjian
The other roster change for the playoffs is on Team Sweden, where Simon "Snillo" Ekström will replace Jonathan "Reinforce" Larsson. (This was a standard substitution that took place before the roster lock.)
Group Stage events are one thing in terms of spectacle, but BlizzCon is on a whole other level. The Overwatch arena seats 3,000 people, smack dab amidst one of the year’s busiest fan conventions. For many players in the Overwatch World Cup, like Team USA superstars Jay "sinatraa" Won and Jake "JAKE" Lyon, their Group Stage matches were their first time to play in front on stage, in front of a live audience.
It will be interesting to see how players from all the national teams handle the pressure of the supersized BlizzCon crowd, and if it will play a role in their performance—whether for good or ill. It’s likely that a sizable portion of this crowd will be backing the "home team" loudly and proudly, and Team USA will need it: to proceed in the tournament, they must best last year’s champions, South Korea.
Last year, Team South Korea was untouchable, and the region's dominance was again on display during this year's Katowice Group Stage, where the team went undefeated with a 12-0 map record. Any nation that can even challenge South Korea on a map will be a thrill to watch. Team USA is first up to the plate, and all nations have expressed how excited they are to test themselves against the best. The winner of South Korea vs. USA will face either China or France in the Top 4. If South Korea wins out against the USA, will China's essentially newly-formed national team be able to keep up? Or could France's unparalleled home-country support provide their squad with the boost that will surely be needed?
The eight nations that qualified for the playoffs at BlizzCon are flying into California on the wings of the countries that support them. Australia, China, and the USA all qualified out of the Group Stages held in their own country, while the British, Swedish, and Canadian Overwatch communities cheered on their teams from home. The people of France are #avecle6, and even have the support of members of the French government. What will happen when the best countries collide onstage—and backstage—at BlizzCon? These players clearly like and respect each other, but on stage, they will be playing for their fans, who will be awake at all hours of the morning and night around the world to support their heroes.
The Overwatch World Cup playoffs kick off live at BlizzCon on November 3 at 12 p.m. PDT. Visit worldcup.playoverwatch.com all weekend long to catch the action.