The Overwatch League’s 2019 season was a booming success, but the tier two scene has received considerably less attention. Gladiators Legion announced that they would not be competing in the 2020 season of Contenders and subsequently announced yesterday that they had let their entire roster and staff go.
Running the Gauntlet
Tier two Overwatch has struggled since the foundation of the Overwatch League, as most players left to pursue the big money. Blizzard has poured funding and support into the League, leaving behind the second-tier scene, and failing to acknowledge where most of their top tier talent comes from. Prior to 2019, all Overwatch Contenders teams only played within their region and rarely got the chance to compete against teams from across the globe. In a similar fashion to how the All-Stars event brings the best players from each region, The Gauntlet was introduced under the same concept.
The Gauntlet pitted the best teams from both the Atlantic and Pacific regions to see who was the undeniable champion of the Contenders scene. Fast forward to the end of 2019, and numerous teams have announced their departure from Contenders both in North America and Korea. Gladiators Legion leaving the Contenders circuit is disappointing, but reflective of the times. There is no lack of talent despite it being classified as “second-tier”, but the lack of support makes the gap feel insurmountable to aspiring players.
The Overwatch World Cup had some incredible moments and at times this was thanks to some of the Contenders’ players. Team France had Lucas “Leaf” Loison, a daring DPS and a Team Giganti member from EU Contenders. Jonathan “Jona” Stelma and Jeffrey “Vizility” de Vries on Team Denmark were a DPS duo that helped carry Team Netherlands as far as they did in the World Cup, and both have yet to make it to the big league.
The 2020 OWL season will not feature any new expansion teams, but the Shanghai Dragons were one of the few teams to bring in a load of Contenders players for the coming season. Chan-hee “Mandu” Kim was picked up from O2 Blast, Jae-gon “LeeJaeGon” Lee was brought on from Team Runaway, Jae-won “LIP” Lee joined from BlossoM, and Ji-won “Stand1” Seo left Gladiators’ Legion before this announcement. These pickups were not in vain as the Shanghai Dragons took home 1st place at the ESM Overwatch Shanghai Masters Invitational this past weekend. They managed to cleanly wipe out the opposition and prove that their second-tier pickups can earn them a first-place trophy.