As soon as its fun Shock vs The World presentation at BlizzCon wrapped up, the Overwatch League announced more details on its 2021 season, including the full schedule, format, start date and more. Here is all you need to know.
Schedule and start date
The full 2021 Overwatch League schedule is now live. Matches between teams based in North America (West) begin at 3 p.m. ET. Action in the Asia-Pacific (Eastern) region begins at 5:00 p.m. China Standard Time / 6:00 p.m. Korea Standard Time, or 4:00 a.m. ET. League officials say they have changed broadcast schedules to better meet the needs of fans.
The action kicks off on Friday April 16 with a pair of spicy matches.
The Houston Outlaws received a major boost last month with the return of DPS star Jake “Jake” Lyon, who is coming out of retirement after working as a caster in 2020. If he plays in the first game of the Outlaws season, it’s’ I’m going to jump straight into the high-stakes action – it’s the battle for Texas against local rival Dallas Fuel. As the season dawns, the Fuels have revamped their squad and have an extremely exciting roster that is capable of causing a stir this year. Expect both teams to try to make a statement when they first take the plate this year.
Also on day one, two-time Overwatch League champion San Francsico Shock will begin his quest for a hat-trick against the Los Angeles Gladiators. While the Gladiators have always been at least a decent team, they’ve also gotten stronger in the offseason. In fact, they’ve taken over former Shock support star Grant “Moth” Espe. I would keep a close eye on the in-game chat during this one.
OWL 2021 format
As Blizzard has already announced, the 2021 season will stay true to the tournament system the Overwatch League switched to last year when the Covid-19 pandemic took hold.
There will be four tournaments during the regular season: May Melee, June Joust, Summer Showdown and Countdown Cup. Each will have three weeks of qualifying matches and each team will receive a week off. The teams will play two games each weekend they are in action for a total of 16 qualifying games during the season.
The top six teams from the West from each tournament cycle will compete against each other and two teams will advance to the final. In Asia-Pacific, four teams will compete for two places in the tournament finals.
As long as it’s safe and practical to do so, the current plan is for the West’s top two teams to go to Hawaii. They will face the two qualifying Eastern teams in a double elimination bracket over a direct-routed connection to minimize latency. If it is not possible to travel to Aloha State, OWL officials will revert to last year’s regional tournament model and have a champion from each division.
Going forward, Blizzard is simplifying how the postseason qualifier will work with a new points-based scoring system rather than win-loss records. Winning a tournament qualifier will earn a team one point. They will claim three bonus points for winning a tournament, two for finishing second and one point for third place. Card spreads (the total number of winning and losing teams on the cards during the season) will serve as a tiebreaker.
There are more than league points at stake in every tournament: there are also cash prizes. The winning team will receive $ 100,000. The finalists will win $ 70,000, the third place team will win $ 35,000 and the fourth place team will claim $ 20,000.
However, these are small potatoes compared to the post-season cash prizes. The 2021 Overwatch League champions will win $ 1.5 million. Here’s how the prize pool breaks down:
In total, there are over $ 4 million in prizes at stake throughout the season.
The hero pool system is back for 2021 to make sure teams don’t necessarily play the same lineups week after week. However, this time around, the Overwatch League will not be using Hero Pools throughout the year.
They will be active for the playoffs and tournament matches in the June Joust and Countdown Cup. Two damage heroes, a tank and a support will not be available. The heroes who will be on the sidelines will be selected at random, but only characters with a play rate of at least 10% can be deleted. No hero can go to the bench more than once per season.
Hero pools will not be in effect for the other two tournaments or the end of season playoffs.
Swimming pool map
Card pools are also in play. At each stage of the season, 14 cards will be in play: five Control (all), and three each of Hybrid, Escort and Assault. Blizzard is ultimately planning to remove this latter type of card from competitive and professional play upon release. Overwatch 2 release date, so this could be the last OWL season we see them in.
Here’s what the card pool looks like for the first tournament, May Melee:
- Control: Lijiang Tower, Busan, Oasis, Nepal, Ilios
- Hybrid: King’s Row, Blizzard World, Eichenwalde
- Escort: Dorado, Watchpoint Gibraltar, Havana
- Assault: Hanamura, Volskaya, Temple of Anubis
Regular season games will be played in a first-to-three format. Each series will start on a control card. If a fifth card is needed, it will also take place on Control.
The highest ranked team will get the first card pick in all four tournaments. The loser of each card in a series will be able to choose the next one, although Blizzard will determine the order of the other three card types in advance.
While Blizzard is rolling out Overwatch patches throughout the season, they won’t necessarily have an immediate impact on the Overwatch League. League officials will be rolling out fixes for the OWL version of the game between tournament cycles to keep things as fair as possible for teams.
And that’s all you need to know in terms of how the 2021 OWL Season is structured and operated. It remains to be seen whether fans will be able to attend the events in person again this year.
When it comes to Overwatch League rosters, the excellent Liz Richardson of Dot Esports has kept track of all trades, roster moves, signings and retirements during the offseason. It is unclear what the Los Angeles Valiant roster will look like after the organization abandons its entire team and many staff following its move to China.
Either way, fans can now mark the date on their Overwatch League return calendar. There are only 55 days to wait.