After the first announcement back in 2016 and the preseason tease that began last December, the Overwatch League regular season is finally here. Two divisions, 12 teams, and more than 100 players across four countries will compete in a league that is a world first for esports. Keeping track of what's what, who's who, and how this all is supposed to work can actually be a bit bewildering for even the most seasoned of competitive players. So I'm here to help you figure it all out.
The regular season will be split into four stages, each five weeks long. At the end of each stage, the best teams will participate in a mini-playoff to determine the winner of the stage and a $125,000 prize (i.e. more money for Seoul and London to take from everybody else).
At the end of each stage, players will have a 10 day bye period to relax, practice, reformat strategies, and pray.
When all four stages are complete, the playoffs begin. The top team from each division gets an automatic pass into the finals and a good perch from which to watch the peasant teams scrap for a place on the bracket. Afterwards, the Grand Finals will determine the winner of the ultimate prize: bragging rights and the modest sum of $1 million.
Don't worry though, the end of the finals won't mean the end of league play. In August, after the shards of broken dreams have been cleared away, the All Star week begins with what Blizzard promises as "unexpected challenges" for our favorite players. Which I hope means everyone will have to solo queue quick play or be forced to play Mei and Symmetra only.
There are 12 teams across two divisions representing four countries: South Korea, China, the United States, and the UK.
Currently all teams are based out of Los Angeles and play in the Blizzard Arena. There are plans to expand the League (c'mon Chicago) but no word yet on when or what that will look like.
If you've never played a competitive match (and it's okay if you haven't, this is a judgement free zone), it might be a bit confusing trying to figure out what is going on during a match. Yeah, sure, the normal rules of Overwatch still apply. You fight to get on the point or payload or you fight to keep people off them. But after that it gets complicated.
Games are best of four — but wait! Four is an even number, you say? Yes. Draws happen. No big deal. Anyway. Games are best of four for the four different map styles. Here's how they breakdown:
Ilos, Oasis, and Lijang Tower (but only as a tiebreaking 5th map)
Control maps are the easiest, most straight forward map type in competitive. Both teams fight for control (duh) of the map and the first team to reach 100 percent wins the round and a point. First team to two points wins the match. This is why a Control map is used to decide deadlocked games, as there's no way a control map can end in a draw.
Temple of Anubis and Horizon
Assault maps are tricky because in addition to fighting against their opponent, teams are also fighting against time. At the beginning of each fight, the attacking team gets four minutes on the clock. If they take control of point A, they get an additional four minutes added to a time bank to take control of point B and complete the round. Get control of a point, win a point.
Once a team has had a chance to attack, the teams switch sides. Now it's the other team's turn to attack while the previous attacking team defends. If the new attacking team also takes control of both points, the teams swap sides once again, but now instead of getting four minutes to complete the map, the attacking team only has whatever time is left in their bank. Then the opposing team gets a chance with the same rules. And back and forth and back again until each team's respective time banks deplete and the entire team's knuckles get tired from all that 360 no-scoping.
First team who cannot match their opponents progress before their time runs out, loses.
Junkertown and Dorado
Like Assault, the attacking team gets four minutes. Get on the payload. Stay on the payload. Push the payload to a checkpoint and win a point. Teams alternate between attack and defend and the team with the most points at the end wins. And since points are awarded when a payload reaches a checkpoint, the match becomes a kind of Overwatch long jump, where the team that is able to push the payload the furthest within their allotted time wins.
For example: Shanghai Dragons escorted the payload to the end with 2 minutes 30 seconds in left over. The Seoul Dynasty, to stay in the game, must also escort the payload to the end. If they don't, the Dragons win. If they do, it's time to start over with the Dragons having 2 minutes and 30 seconds to push the payload as far as they can. Seoul must then match or beat that length with whatever time they themselves have left over. If not the Dragons win.
Eichenwalde and Numbani
Hybrid is a...wait for it...hybrid of assault and escort map types. The attacking team initially assaults a point, then, once captured, must escort the payload as far as they can. The team that can push furthest, wins.
Note: There are more maps that fit these types but we haven't seen them yet. They may show up later in the season or, for balance reasons, may not show up at all.
The inaugural season of the Overwatch League is well underway. With this handy primer, you'll be in the best position to dive into these matches. Be sure to check out our wiki for more information and stay tuned for more Overwatch League coverage in the weeks ahead.
Ash is a part-time writer/full-time gamer and has managed to successfully combine the two hobbies into one profession. She enjoys RPGs of all stripes and dreams of being a competitive Triple Triad player.