Image: Blizzard / Overwatch League

Now that we’ve made it through the first two days of the Overwatch League preseason, I thought that it would be a good time to debut what will become a weekly in-depth player ratings piece. Herein, I will be profiling what I found to be the most interesting team performance of the week and assigning individual player performance grades.

The ratings will be based on a traditional 1-10 scale, with a rating of 5-6 indicating an average performance. When rating players, I will be considering their individual performances based on their overall impact on the match, as well as, how they performed relative to both their past performances and other players playing similar roles/heroes. I will be looking to leverage the best available stats and analytics made available to me when rating players, but will also be relying heavily on the eye test in the early weeks while baseline datasets are being captured by OWL analysts and other Overwatch experts.

This week, I’ll be taking a look at the Dallas Fuel who escaped their first preseason match with a 3-2 win over in-state rivals Houston Outlaws. The Texas showdown felt the most “preseason-y” of the first six matches as both sides looked to be experimenting with frequent lineup changes. The back-and-forth contest was also rife with questionable decision-making – especially for the Fuel.

The problems started early on for the Boys in Blue in Dorado when they failed to respond to Houston’s defensive hitscan tandem of Jake and LiNkzer. The team seemed to be focused on diving LiNzker’s Widow, and as a result, rarely bothered a well-positioned Jake who ruled the high ground as Soldier throughout.

Dallas also made some strange calls with respect to their lineups, the most interesting of which came in the Oasis and Lijiang Tower control maps. In both cases, Dallas opted to forego a main tank player in favor of running Mickie as Orisa and Taimou flexing between Roadhog and even Winston at one point. Team EnVyUs was always celebrated for their players’ ability to flex between a number of different heroes and roles, and tonight felt like they were potentially overlooking the “obvious” lineup composition in favor of putting individual hero versatility on display. And I would be remiss if I didn’t point out that this was of course a preseason match and there is no better time to experiment.

That said, I was still surprised to see xQc omitted from the control point maps, especially after seeing what comp Dallas ultimately elected to run. Taimou has proven himself to be more than capable of flexing between hitscan heroes and Roadhog in the past, but the decision to run him together with Mickie was somewhat perplexing given the availability of xQc. The newest addition to Dallas’s roster is known to be one of the best Winston/Orisa players in OWL, which makes me question why Mickie would be playing the Orisa on these maps in the first place. My best guess would be that team coach KyKy anticipated Mickie having to switch to DVa at some point, but xQc’s omission from control point maps was made all the more glaring by some pedestrian main tank play on Orisa.

The Fuel’s biggest issue tonight, however, was their support play. To their credit, Houston did a fantastic job  focusing Chips’ Mercy, and Dallas appeared to have quite a bit of trouble peeling to him. But nothing stood out more than poor support ult usage. Zen ultimates were overlapped on at least two occasions with Mercy, and there was a particularly disastrous Zen ult from Custa on Lijiang Tower’s Night Market that didn’t appear to be popped to negate any particular ultimate coming from the Outlaws. Not only did the ult come after Taimou had fallen, but it was the only defense Dallas had to protect them against LiNkzer’s Dragonblade and Jake’s Barrage, both of which were up at the time (It’s worth noting that Custa’s decision to pop transcendence could have been an initiation tactic given Houston’s capture percentage was already north of 70). All in all, it’s certainly out of character to see a team with EnVy’s core roster mismanaging their support ults so often.

On the other hand, Effect had an overall great showing, and I thought that Taimou and Mickie showed flashes of brilliance that mostly outweighed the occasional poor play or questionable decision. And despite the mistakes, there is something to be said for Dallas coming out victorious in a match where they clearly did not perform to their expectations – a quality that is inherent in the most talented teams throughout sports. Fringe teams and contenders will likely need to perform their best to secure victories in the upcoming season, whereas the top-tier squads like Dallas have shown they can mitigate the occasional sub-optimal play with class talent.

Individual Player Ratings:

Taimou [6] Taimou had a noticeably slow start on Dorado having to deal with both LiNkzer and Jake dominating the high ground, but he really got going on Anubis with his Widow on Point A and Reaper on Point B. His Roadhog was also very good, but a missed opportunity to kill Jake’s Junkrat on Lijiang Tower’s Night Market after having landed a hook on the outside of the point led to three eliminations for Jake when the team fight was going in favor of Dallas. Gaffs like this can’t happen at such a critical point of a tied match. Fortunately for Dallas, Taimou has shown the ability to make game changing plays with Roadhog in the past and he’ll go on to hit that hook the next 50 times given the chance. We tend to set the bar a bit higher for him.

Mickie – [5.5] Mickie, like Taimou, had more positives than negatives tonight, although I would have liked to see Mickie on his Dva and xQc on Orisa for Lijiang Tower, especially knowing that Houston would likely be running a Pharah. He had a very good showing on Eichenwald’s first point during the attack phase, combining with Cocco to pressure Houston back and into a corner. I think that Mickie would also be more effective teaming up with xQc’s Winston over Cocco’s as we saw their dive tandem was not very effective against LiNkzer and Jake on Dorado. Mickie’s aggressive playstyle also tends to put his healers and backline in compromising positions, especially when the attacking dives are countered and Mickie ends up out of mech, which was a constant storyline early on against Houston.

Effect – [8] Picking up right where he left off in Contenders, Effect continued to show why he is considered one of the top Tracers in the world. At one point after Dallas’s victory on Oasis, Effect had output 40% more damage than Clockwork’s enemy Tracer according to the broadcast, which is simply insane. The only blemish I really found with Effect’s game tonight was allowing himself to get picked very early on in several key defensive team fights. His Zarya play also turned the tide in the deciding Lijiang Tower Control Center map where he survived almost the entirety of the game with over 80 charge.

Cocco – [5] The Fuel’s main tank had a particularly rough day and never really found his groove throughout the constant tank substitutions made. Dallas stormed Eichenwald’s first point behind Cocco’s exceptional Reinhardt play, but he failed to match that early success after switching to Winston for the remainder of the attack. Cocco and Mickie had very little success diving to Dorado’s high ground, which often left their backline exposed to Jake’s Soldier. As the team gets more practice displacing double hitscan comps, I think we’ll see less attacks that look like Dorado’s for the Fuel.    

Chipshajen – [3] This rating probably has less to do with Chips and more to do with Houston’s excellent job focusing him combined with Dallas’s inability to peel to his defense. One of the issues with running Mercy is that she has to be somewhere in the vicinity of the target she’s healing, which means that she can often become exposed to enemy damage if she tries to fly to an ally with critical health outside of her backline. On Dorado, LiNkzer and Jake did such a great job of positioning themselves away from one another so that Mickie and Cocco could only dive one at a time, which allowed the dps player left alone to provide counter fire against them and also pick off Dallas’s support players left alone on the payload. On Oasis, Dallas opted to ignore the Pharmacy and instead focus their attack on the four grounded Houston players, which ultimately worked, but oftentimes left Chips vulnerable to spam coming in from the Pharah. And while Chips will no doubt need to work on his positioning and decision making, I think Dallas needs to prioritize cutting down on the frequency that Chips is put in compromising positions without anyone peeling for him.

Custa – [4] Custa, along with the rest of Dallas’s support players, had a rough first showing. There appeared to be a complete lack of communication in choosing which targets to engage on Dorado, and it didn’t look like anyone was mindful of Houston’s plan to focus Chips early and often. Custa has always been a very vocal player, and as the Zen (and sometimes Lucio) with the best perspective of the map in front of him, Dallas will rely on Custa to make both dive calls and spot flankers that pose a threat to the team’s backline. Custa managed some impressive picks with his Zen, but ultimately offset that impact with a mistimed transcendence or two.

xQc – [6.5] It was a very brief showing for Dallas’s newest main tank, but I thought the team looked to be most effective when it was xQc running his trademark Winston on Anubis. The few times that we saw Dallas’s defense breakdown were usually the result of poor discipline and decision making by other players, like the time Chips and Effect were picked outside of their Point B defense. xQc is so good at diving isolated heroes and getting the eliminations on key targets without ever really putting himself in a compromising position. I would have liked to see more of him on the control points since Dallas seemed intent on running an Orisa, but I think he’s primed to play a huge part of the Fuel’s success this season.

Harryhook – [6] Harry was probably the most impactful of any Dallas support player based almost entirely on his Zen fragging to help capture Point B on Anubis. He didn’t stand out too much otherwise on Eichenwald, but considering the overall impact of Dallas’s support play on the whole, not standing out probably isn’t a bad thing.

Seagull – [6] The bird was used primarily as a Junkrat specialist on control point maps, and with the exception of his play on Oasis’s University where he could most often be seen running back from spawn, Seagull did a good job of dictacting Houston’s attacking routes by applying constant spam to key map positions. He also did surprisingly well countering Pharah/Mercy and Dva in Oasis’s skies using several clever Rip Tires.

The Dallas Fuel will conclude its preseason when they meet the Florida Mayhem at 4:00 p.m. EST on Saturday, December 9th.

Dave is the Creator and Editor-in-Chief for The Benchmob. He primarily writes about Soccer, the NBA, esports, and Pop-Culture.