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 performances 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. Note that these grades will be critical, and so you can expect to see very good performances land a or rating if I felt the player made a poor decision that may have cost his team a key opportunity in-game.

Finally, I’d like to point out that I am constantly reviewing and re-reviewing match VODs as I’m writing these pieces, so rest assured that my opinions are not merely reactions to a single live viewing. 

Today, I will be taking a look at the Los Angeles Valiant who impressed in their first preseason match with a 3-2 win over the San Francisco Shock. The Valiant had far more ups than downs in this one, and with the talented attacker Agilities coming to the roster on the horizon, there is plenty for fans of this squad to be excited about already.

One of the few hiccups we saw from LA in this matchup was its effort on Illios Ruins. Before I get into this point, it’s worth noting that OWL teams are required to play each of their active players during the preseason, and so it’s probably unfair to place much weight on LA’s Illios performance while running Verbo’s Lucio. That said, I thought that the lineup of Grimreality on Widow, Silkthread on Tracer, and Unkoe on Sombra was especially problematic given the tactics LA was determined to employ. Each time LA took the point on Ruins, it tried aggressive engages by diving SF the second they emerged from under the pavilion on SF’s side of the map. This particular area is one of the few spots that your Widow can’t provide support because of the large brick wall that blocks her view from the majority of popular sniping vantage points. As a result, Grimreality had next to no impact in each of these engagements. Moreover, LA continued to engage this area despite not having any hacked health packs near them. And even when Unkoe initiated with EMP, it felt like SF lacked the necessary DPS and target focusing to outlast SF’s heal combination of Mercy/Zen who were rarely pressured in those situations. 

One of the best pieces of insight offered by any casting desk so far was Uber pointing out that he was excited to see LA’s performance on Numbani given the additions of Soon and Unkoe – two players who found well-documented success on this map in the past while playing with Rogue. Unkoe’s fingerprints were all over the initial push with perfectly timed call-outs to dive the highground and disrupt Babybay, nullifying his Tac-Visor and all but guaranteeing LA Point A. Envy and Fate were constantly in-sync as well, making well-timed dives into SF and creating tons of space for Silkthread to get maximum value out of his ults.

According to OWL broadcast stats, Babybay managed to charge his ultimate 22 seconds faster than Silkthread throughout, yet it was Silkthread’s Tac-Visors that ultimately found value thanks to great space-creating tank play by LA. When comparing the impacts of Nomy and Nevix to Fate and Envy, it was in fact the latter tank duo that constantly managed to dictate the flow of each engagement by creating so much chaos in SF’s backline that Nomy and Nevix were never able to regroup and counter LA’s Tac-Visors. Fate and Envy, on the other hand, were constantly giving Babybay fits, disrupting his Tac-Visor on Point A and later nullifying his Deadeye attempt during the streets phase by simultaneously diving with Dva’s matrix and a Winston bubble.

On defense, LA continued to disrupt Babybay and again thwarted an early Tac-Visor by first diving in with a Winston bubble and then expertly disengaging to the high ground above the point. The grounded Soldier had virtually no vantage and had to instead retreat to cover. SF ended up taking the point shortly thereafter thanks to several nice picks from Sleepy’s Zen, but the sequence I just described above was easily one of the most well-coordinated team actions that I have seen in this young preseason (and I can only assume it was thanks in part to the callouts and expert instruction coming from Unkoe).

Individual Player Ratings:

Fate – [7] Fate had a very good showing as LA’s main tank. He did have a major mental lapse during SF’s second attack on Point A on Horizon when he overextended too far forward and was picked immediately, leading to Envy and Kariv being forced to expose themselves in an attempt to revive Fate and bring the fight back to level terms, which obviously never happened as SF quickly overwhelmed the remaining members. Fate had some major contributions on Numbani where his dives continually suffocated Babybay. He always seemed to be in position to dive Babybay on the highground and bubble to disrupt his Soldier and McCree ults. The only real blemish to his otherwise excellent showing on Numbani was deciding to pursue SF’s backline during his Primal Rage on the final point at a time when his presence was instead needed on the point to stop SF from closing out their attack phase.

Unkoe – [6.5] Unkoe got off to a bit of a rough start but recovered very nicely to play a major role in the Valiant’s win. He had a questionable Transcendence on his team’s Junkertown streets phase on attack with 2 teammates already down. He also used a Transcendence prematurely on attack on Horizon expecting Nomy to jump him as LA was beginning its push onto Point B. SF disengaged immediately and the ult was wasted, whereas it could have made the difference in the ensuing team fight on Point B in which LA just didn’t have the sustain needed to outlast SF. Unkoe’s Sombra on Ilios Ruins was a questionable pick as well, with LA failing to capitalize on each of his EMPs. However, I thought that Unkoe really shined on Numbani. As I pointed out earlier, Soon and Unkoe have a storied reputation on this map, and it was so obvious that their signing paid major dividends for LA here. The dive engage callouts were masterful, and I was so impressed with LA’s team movement to counter Babybay’s Point A Tac-Visor: first in sending Fate to bubble in front of Babybay and force him into the mega pack room, but then how quickly they were able to disengage and return to safety atop the highground. Even if the teamfight ultimately went to SF, it will be far easier to clean up the play that ultimately led to SF taking that teamfight than it would be to perfect the earlier-described action that saw LA successfully negate Babybay’s Tac-Visor.

Silkthread – [7] Silkthread had possibly the top play of the first two days with a 4K to close out Junkertown while his team was down 4 players and looking like defeat was inevitable. Silkthread also played an effective Soldier on Numbani. His Tac-Visors were well-timed and always found considerable value, but he also did a great job of tracking Danteh’s flank attempts during LA’s first attack. Danteh was almost never able to make his way into LA’s backline to disrupt their healers thanks to Silkthread’s awareness. I should point out that much of Silkthread’s success was the result of some great tank play out of Fate and Envy, who consistently applied pressure to SF’s backline, in turn forcing Nomy and Nevix to counter-dive rather than focusing on Silkthread. Silkthread also left a little to be desired with his Pharah on Ilios, but it was otherwise a great first showing for this young talent.

Kariv – [6.5] Kariv did a stellar job surviving while being constantly sought out with junk tires and Nomy’s Winston on Junkertown. He used several wasteful rez’s attacking Horizon Point A in situations when LA was clearly being revived into a disadvantage, but he completely saved Numbani for LA when both Unkoe and Silkthread were eliminated in the doorway to the attacker’s highground by a combination of Sleepy’s orbs, Babybay’s Soldier, and an ulting Winston. Kariv managed to revive Unkoe and the two retreated back into the hallway. Knowing that Nomy would be forced to return to the point to defend against the other half of LA’s attack, Kariv intelligently waited for Nomy to disengage before finally bringing Silkthread back and restoring even numbers to the fight.

Envy – [8.5] It’s amazing how much a month of intense practice made for the Valiant’s off-tank specialist. Envy was heavily criticized with Immortals during the last Contenders season, but there is no question in my mind who was the MVP for LA in this one. Envy began with a huge Dva double kill on the final Junkertown defense point followed by 2 more quick kills to save the point for LA, who later went on to win the map in surprising fashion. He played a strong Roadhog on Ilios’ Lighthouse too, including a game-changing hook against Dhak just as the SF Lucio was ready to drop a Sound Barrier (Dhak actually lost the Sound Barrier as a result, which also stopped SF from being able to initiate an effective final push that round). I’ve already sung Envy’s praises on Numbani above, but he managed to come up huge once again during LA’s last-ditch effort to take Point A for a second time in Overtime. Soon had already fallen to Danteh, and Unkoe, Kariv, and Silkthread were being pressured back into a hallway on the highground by Sleepy and Babybay, both of whom were spamming constant DPS into that area while Nomy applied even more pressure by diving in with Primal Rage. Envy managed to swing the fight in LA’s favor by picking the enemy Mercy with his mech ult and then went on a tear by diving and eliminating Babybay and Nomy with the help of Fate. Envy continued this impressive play on the ensuing overtime push where, despite having Kariv go down to Danth early on, he managed to find plenty of real estate in the kill feed allowing LA to level the match 2-2.

Soon – [7.5] Soon ended the day reminding the Overwatch world why he is often considered to be one of the top Tracers in the West, but his day started off rather ominously. His Widow battle with Babybay on Junkertown was mostly a wash. He also made a huge mistake allowing himself to get picked by Nevix’s hook right out of the gates on defense, in turn allowing the Shock to ride a 6v5 to an easy first point capture. He later showed somewhat poor judgement defending the final point on Junkertown when he blinked out from cover as Tracer despite knowing that a Dva ult had been launched ahead of him. But if Silkthread’s Genji clutch on Junkertown was the Play of the Day, Soon made a claim to be 1B with some incredible Tracer work on Lijiang Tower’s Control Center. With both teams at 99%, San Francisco held the point with a clear ultimate advantage. Danteh triggered his rip tire and stalled it out on a high wall looking to deceive LA before ultimately running the tire into LA’s backline. In the meantime, Soon managed to hunt down Danteh’s idle Junkrat and followed that up with a pivotal solo kill on Mercy (who had her ultimate up). He finally laid waste to Nomy’s Reinhardt with a pulse bomb concluding the critical sequence that saw LA flipping the point back and taking a 1-0 lead in the series’ final map. Soon had some big plays on the very next stage in Night Market too, beginning with a 1v1 kill onto Babybay’s Pharah. Soon then dashed onto the point forcing SF to send help in the form of Danteh, who Soon immediately one-clipped giving the Valiant a 2-man advantage and ultimately control of the point. I thought that the casters failed to highlight some important picks that Soon had been making along the fringes of the camera throughout the night, although it was clear by the end of the match that Soon had won the battle of two talented Tracers on this day.

Grimreality – [4.5] Grimreality played well on Tracer for stretches but I thought that his inability to get any real value out of Widow on Ilios Ruins may have cost LA that map. It was clear that LA wanted to initiate with Unkoe’s EMPs, but they kept doing so in such an advanced position that Grimreality was rarely ever able to contribute much to those teamfights.

Verbo – [N/A] Verbo’s inclusion in the Ilios lineup was clearly LA making good on OWL’s preseason rule forcing teams to play everyone on their active rosters. It was admittedly hard to track his contributions and actions during this brief window, so it is very difficult for me to assign a grade here. I don’t expect to see much of Verbo in the current professional meta, but any balancing that leads to full dive-heavy comps making a return could propel him into the starting lineup.

The Los Angeles Valiant will conclude its preseason when they take on fellow LA side Gladiators at 1:00 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.