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Mayhem and Magic: What the Overwatch League Pro-Am means for the 2023 season

The deafening competitive silence of the Overwatch League offseason was finally broken with the Pro-Am Tournament, which pitted Overwatch Contenders teams against the pros for the first time. With a 4-2 scoreline, the Florida Mayhem took a swift victory against the Los Angeles Gladiators and ended the latter’s wave of upsets through the bracket.

While we learned that Contenders teams could actually not win a fight against professional teams in the parking lot of a Denny’s, the preseason tournament also provided a few valuable hints we can take into the regular season when it begins on April 27.

What it means for the season

Spicy upsets abound (we hope)

It’s fun the first dozen times, but watching Proper dismantle teams twice a week gets old really quickly. Thankfully for the Overwatch League audience, upsets were plentiful in the Pro-Am tournament. That bodes well for more spice in the actual season and it couldn’t be more necessary: nothing keeps fans entertained like unpredictability.

Prestige overrated, trophies outdated

Most of us projected that stacked rosters like the Boston Uprising and the Atlanta Reign would have no problem fighting their way to the Grand Finals. Teams that looked good on paper fizzled out, however, as coordination and inventive plays toppled the individual deadlift attempts of superstar players.

There’s no better example of this than the Toronto Defiant’s victory over the Boston Uprising in the quarterfinals. No team has more sparkling trophies in individual players’ closets than the Uprising, but a team of North American standbys managed to take the old guard down.

The joke going around is that the “power of friendship” triumphed–most of Toronto’s members were part of the legendary contenders team American Tornado and have played together on and off for years–but the truth is that coordination shouldn’t be underestimated.

Beyond the Defiant brotherhood, Atlanta Reign’s support line of ChiYo and Fielder is a great example of the power found in familiarity. The two are clearly still operating on the same hivemind wavelength they honed on the championship Dallas Fuel roster last year. In seamless fashion, they flip between aggression and fast-paced protection of critical damage-dealers like LIP. That kind of finesse is hard to achieve without sharing a brain cell or two.

Supports going sicko mode

Overwatch 2’s shift to five vs. five competition turned the 2022 season into a veritable “Year of the Tank.” The ability of tank players to flex and adapt in a quickly-changing environment made the success (or failure) of teams possible.

In 2023, the big focus might be on support players. We’re far from the days of pacifist Mercy runs and Lúcio players tweeting from the payload. From Pro-Am Grand Finals MVP Rupal–who broke his Ramadan fast for a Fruit Roll-up Buff– to clutch legends like Twilight and Viol2t, a solid yet vicious backline has never felt more important.

In all arenas of the Pro-Am, the best support players toed the line between healing and harm. Aggressive Anas were abundant, as were Baptiste players who thought they were the real heroes of the team. It’s no longer enough to stand back and hit M1: supports are being asked to step up to the plate and they’ll be the season’s superstars if they make big plays.

Great support players will be even more important once Lifeweaver joins the Overwatch 2 roster on April 11. Another support will be added in late summer and players will be expected to pick them up as well. The same amount of clutch flexibility that was expected of tank players in 2022 has now been handed to support players in season six.

Florida Mid-hem no more

For the first time in Overwatch League history, the Florida Mayhem has come out swinging instead of sighing. Earning the Pro-Am trophy puts a massive target on the backs of the boys in pink, but it should also fire them up for a season of success. They’ll have to be worried about teams like the San Francisco Shock and Boston Uprising at full power, but Florida finally proved that they’re a force to be reckoned with.