When the Overwatch League gets bored, we all benefit. After official online matches on March 21 and 22 were canceled due to a California shelter-in-place order, a few Overwatch League teams and talent figures decided to play anyway. On March 22, the league held exhibition matches on the Public Test Realm (PTR) so that professional players could try Overwatch's newest hero, Echo.
The exhibition matches, referred to as "friendly" matches, were quick and hilarious. Casters Mitch "UberShouts" Leslie and Matt "Mr. X" Morello did double duty as observers and producers. Serious teams like the San Francisco Shock and Los Angeles Gladiators let loose, running team compositions that would never see the light of day in the Overwatch League. Here's what we learned from these exhibition matches.
Flex DPS players will go wild on Echo
Echo, the game's newest damage dealer, has a kit that's practically tailor-made for DPS players who love projectile damage and a little bit of chaos. Her ultimate, Duplicate, allows her to copy an enemy player's abilities and charge ultimates at a whopping 650 percent increase. It's no surprise that professional DPS players had a ball with her, even though they most often chose to duplicate tank heroes.
During the San Francisco Shock and Seoul Dynasty match, each team's DPS players got a chance to use Echo on at least one map. Flexible players like Park "Profit" Joon-yeong of the Seoul Dynasty and Jay "Sinatraa" Won of the San Francisco Shock were obviously having way too much fun on the hero. Sinatraa managed to gain 75 percent of Echo's ultimate charge in under 20 seconds on Junkertown by attacking the Seoul Dynasty in their spawn.
When the Los Angeles Valiant and Los Angeles Gladiators went to battle, the Valiant's Kai "KSP" Collins and Kyle "KSF" Frandanisa took turns on the hero and copied the Gladiators' best tanks. Chris "MirroR" Trinh and Jason "Jaru" White were a little more creative with Echo, copying support heroes and whatever DPS the Valiant threw at them.
Hitscan heroes are Echo's counter
When Sinatraa tested Echo with lead game director Jeff Kaplan on her release day, he initially noted that hitscan heroes would be an effective counter for the high-flying hero. These matches proved him right.
Sniper expert Lee "ANS" Seon-chang made his debut on the San Francisco Shock and was able to do massive damage to Echo and the enemy team. MirroR of the Los Angeles Gladiators played Soldier: 76 and even Torbjörn against Echo with a good level of success. McCree and Ashe were also effective against Echo.
Exhibition matches aren't a good indicator of performance
These matches were technically the 2020 Overwatch League debut for the Seoul Dynasty. Unfortunately, they lost 3-0 to the San Francisco Shock in their first match. While this may make Seoul fans nervous, these friendly matches are a good reminder that anything below an official game isn't a good indicator of basically anything.
This year's Seoul Dynasty roster is buffed with former stars of the London Spitfire, like Profit and main tank Hong "Gesture" Jae-hee. Many analysts expect the Dynasty to do incredibly well. Armchair analysts were quick to criticize the Dynasty's performance against the San Francisco Shock in these matches, though. Considering the Dynasty ran Roadhog and Wrecking Ball as a tank duo at one point, let's not judge them too harshly for having fun. The real test will come once matches resume next week.
Match chat should always be visible
Thanks to the superior production skills of Uber and Mr. X, match chat was visible for the entirety of each game. Match chat is used for teams to communicate with each other while in the same lobby. For Overwatch League players, much like the rest of us, match chat is apparently for talking trash and planning duels. We need this to be visible at all times in the future for maximum hilarity.
At first, match chat was only used so Sinatraa could call for an Echo duel against Park "ILLICT" Jae-min without Profit interrupting. Then, the Los Angeles Gladiators stepped into the lobby with the Los Angeles Valiant for the next game and the true shenanigans began.
Before the extremely serious "Battle for L.A." could begin on Busan, Gladiators Nolan "Paintbrush" Edwards and MirroR called for a Torbjörn duel on point. Valiant DPS KSP obliged him, but MirroR came out as the champion duelist. Without match chat being visible, fans would've had no idea what was going on. Valiant off-tank Caleb "McGravy" McGarvey also lamented the fact that MirroR wouldn't stop eliminating him with a Torbjörn hammer.
ECHOATS shouldn't exist
While the San Francisco Shock and Seoul Dynasty took their match relatively seriously, the Los Angeles teams aimed for entertainment over competition. With a 1-1 score going into King's Row, both teams decided to go a little wild for the final round of their match. The Los Angeles Valiant subbed in head coach Mike "Packing10" Szklanny and the Los Angeles Gladiators brought in head coach David "Dpei" Pei to join the fray.
As if adding coaches to the roster wasn't enough chaos, the teams took off the role lock requirement for the Overwatch League. Without a limit of two supports, two DPS, and two tanks, the teams could bring back the triple tank, triple support "GOATS" meta that was seen throughout the majority of 2019. This time, each team added Echo, showing us the "ECHOATS" meta for what is hopefully the first and last time.
Packing10 and Dpei are reasonably good players in their own right. Despite that fact, both of their teams instantly put them on Brigitte, a hero that requires the least amount of aim in any GOATS lineup. The Echo players on each team tried their best to copy the most disruptive heroes possible and mess with the opposing coaches the most they could. It was absolute chaos that could only be found in a friendly match.
Exhibition matches are important
With much of the Overwatch League suffering in a variety of ways due to the spread of the coronavirus, league morale has often been low. Exhibition matches like this remind players, staff, and fans that fun still exists even in a tumultuous time. Some good-natured trash talk and flashy plays can brighten anyone's mood.
Though the broadcast was sometimes a disaster thanks to Mr. X and Uber taking over the duties of dozens of production employees, the matches felt like the old days of Overwatch. Before the Overwatch League and Contenders, matches were often run from the confines of homes and basements where players showed up and did their best for the joy of competition. Among all the glitz and glamour of the Overwatch League, many fans often forget that the esport came from a place of dedication, love, and extremely scuffed broadcasts.
Official Overwatch League matches return this weekend with an extremely packed schedule. The action begins when the Guangzhou Charge take on the Shanghai Dragons at 5am CT on March 28.