The Overwatch Winter Premiere, hosted by NGE, returned in explosive fashion with the round of eight group stage that featured some unplanned changes. Both Fnatic and Cloud9, two of the stronger teams in the North American scene, decided to drop out of the tournament and to fill the void, FaZe Clan and Citizen7 were chosen to take their place. At the end of the round robin, two of these eight teams were culled from the group. The other six teams that passed the open qualifiers are compLexity, Immortals, Renegades (formerly known as Kingdom Esports), Team Liquid, Kungarna and Luminosity. This round of eight round robin will take place from Jan. 3-5, and 10-12.
The two teams that came to fill Fnatic and Cloud9’s vacancies would quickly be put to the test as the first two sets would be their debut matches in the Winter Premiere. FaZe Clan is well known for having George “ShaDowBurn” Gushcha. Having picked up more heroes like D.Va and Pharah in the current meta, they still couldn’t face up to the might of the Renegades roster, though they may be suffering from some team composition problems as they consistently had issues dealing with specific heroes employed by the Renegades team. Liam “Mangachu” Campbell was a thorn in their side with clever flanks on D.Va and key missiles from Pharah. On the first point of Route 66 for example, Mangachu’s Pharah had free reign of the skies as he knocked the Reinhardt off the roof of the gas station and FaZe crumbled. Citizen7 fared no better as they were decimated 0-2 by Luminosity’s Toni “Ube” Häkli, the unstoppable Roadhog of that series.
The last two sets of the day were intense rematches between teams who faced off in the qualifiers. Between compLexity and Kungarna, it came down to what compLexity learned during their time in MLG Vegas. Things looked rough for them during the open qualifiers as Jake “torkTJO” Lepoff desperately tried to learn how to incorporate Sombra into the team strategy. While it cost them several maps during the open qualifiers, it was incredibly effective when they put it into play at MLG Vegas, using Sombra’s EMP to take important points on Hollywood, where full holds were somewhat common there. They weren’t the only ones learning tricks as both Andrej “babybay” Francisty and Connor “ConnorJ” Johnson picked up other heroes. Babybay for example, was most often on Soldier 76 during the qualifiers but when he started picking up Zarya, that allowed ConnerJ to show off as he got a six-man kill on King’s Row as Genji. At the end of the day however, compLexity was able to pull off a win after an incredibly long set of games on Hollywood with an unfortunate server crash that forced them to remake the game.
Shortly after this neck-and-neck set, Team Liquid and Immortals closed out the day with a relatively quick 2-1 battle that ended in Immortals’ favor. While Team Liquid was able to shut out the offense from Immortals on Watchpoint: Gibraltar, it was Brady “Agilities” Girardi that proved once again that he is the powerhouse that drives the Immortals forward, continuously hooking key targets on Roadhog. As the round robin continues over the next couple of days, each of these teams will be put to the test as they will have to figure out strategies to sabotage the strengths of their opponents.