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Stage 2 of the Overwatch League kicks off tonight and a number of changes are coming for the next five weeks of play.

The first stage of the Overwatch League concluded last week with one of the twelve teams winning $100,000 in the Stage 1 Title Matches. The league’s inaugural season is divided into four Stages of five weeks apiece with a weeklong break after the Title Matches, ultimately concluding with the Finals for the Season. A few things are changing up for the next five weeks of Blizzard Entertainment’s Overwatch esports competition.

Map Pool Rotation

The maps for each Stage are locked in for the entire duration of the five weeks. Although there is the risk of a downside of things getting a bit boring for the audience with the same set of maps, the pros can take advantage of familiar territory to try out new strategies. Fans got to experience a few different comps beside the gold standard Dive Comp such as the Halt & Hook (Orisa pulls enemies in with Halt & Roadhog draws them in with Hook), Slambulance (D.Va, Roadhog, Reinhardt, Zarya, Lúcio, & Moira for a fast-moving, high-HP pool), and Pirate Ship (Bastion & Orisa sitting on top of the payload). Nearly every character in the game saw some level of play, although characters weaker in the meta like Torbjörn & Symmetra were relegated to shenanigans in the spawn room.

Here’s how the Map Pool and order will be changing for Stage 2 of the Overwatch League. Matches will consist of one of the two listed maps in each category,

Map Stage 1 Map Pool Stage 2 Map Pool

1st Map: Eichenwald (Hybrid)
Numbani (Hybrid)
Hanamura (Assault)
Volskaya Industries (Assault)

2nd Map: Horizon Lunar Colony (Assault)
Temple of Anubis (Assault)
Lijiang Tower (Control)
Nepal (Control)

3rd Map: Ilios (Control)
Oasis (Control)
Hollywood (Hybrid)
King’s Row (Hybrid)

4th Map: Dorado (Escort)
Junkertown (Escort)
Route 66 (Escort)
Watchpoint: Gibraltar (Escort)

Tiebreaker Map: Lijang Tower (Control) Ilios (Control)

At the moment, the only map making a return from Stage 1 is Lijiang Tower (which formerly served as the tiebreaker map). The tiebreaker map for Stage 2 has not yet been announced. Ilios & Oasis are the only possible contenders if the Tiebreaker will continue to be a Control Map that isn’t part of the current pool for the Stage. Blizzard World (the latest map to be released for the game) will not feature in Stage 2 at all.

Patching & Meta Changes

The Overwatch League doesn’t run on the same version of the game as everyone else sees on live servers; a special tournament version is used for the entirety of a Stage. A patch is applied during the break between Stages. League Commissioner Nate Nanzer went into detail regarding which changes will be making their way into Stage 2 on the Stage 1 Week 4 episode of Watchpoint: Preview Edition.

We will be updating the patch on the LAN server here at the arena in-between Stage 1 and Stage 2. So, what will be going in into Stage 2 will be the Mercy and Junkrat changes, also the movement changes that were patched on live recently, as well some bugfixes and some quality of life stuff. That’s honestly mostly for the observers. Like there’e actually some bugs in the observer client, some things like that that we’re ironing out. That’ll all get patched in-between Stage 1 and Stage 2. Blizzard World will also be in that patch but we won’t be playing on Blizzard World until Stage 3.

While the general rule is that patches will only take place during Stage breaks, he added the caveat that a mid-Stage patch could take place if there was a severe issue that needed to be corrected in the game. The Mercy & Junkrat changes that were recently added to the live version of the game will likely mean that we’ll see some of the game’s other healers step up to the plate.

Six of the game’s heroes currently (or will soon be) having balance changes tested on the PTR. Which of these (if any) make their way into the live game is up in the air for now, but we could see an even more drastic change in the meta for Stage 3 of the league.

The meta changes are one of the many things discussed in Watchpoint: Preview Edition – Stage 2 Week 1.

New Roster Additions

The ability for teams to trade players or sign free agents has recently come into play, and some teams have taken advantage of the fact. The Daily Mail has a pretty solid list highlighting all of the confirmed roster signings for the league as well as a number of rumored picks.

The Shanghai Dragons (currently on a 0-10 losing streak) have signed four players in total (including Geguri, a player who earned the nickname of “God Zarya” for her near 80% win-rate with the character in early Competitive Seasons). Unfortunately, securing athletic visas for some of the players has proved to be a challenge and it’s unlikely that some of the new additions will be able to make it to their first game tonight against the Dallas Fuel.

The Florida Mayhem have signed three players (bringing their roster from 6 players to 9), and the Dallas Fuel & Houston Outlaws have each picked up one new pro for their respective teams. The Florida Mayhem, in particular, likely had some issues with flexibility and specialization due to their inability to substitute players as their Stage 1 roster had the bare minimum of 6 players.

The maximum roster size for a team in the Overwatch League is 12 players, and most teams have some room on the bench to add to their numbers. Rumors abound for who will be added to which team, but we can’t be quite sure about who will be joining which team until the teams themselves make the official announcement.

Scheduling Changes

Finally, the league’s schedule is being made more consistent for Stage 2. Match times were a bit inconsistent for the Wednesday-Friday matches and they’ve all been standardized to begin at the same time. Saturday matches will also be starting later in the day.

The Stage Title Matches for Stage 1 took place on the last Saturday of the first stage, resulting in five series of 4-5 maps being played back-to-back. The League’s Commissioner acknowledged that this wasn’t an ideal situation, and Stage 2 will see the Title Matches moved to Sundays.

If you’re in the Los Angeles County area and you’d like to see some of these games in person, you can still get tickets for some of the upcoming matches.  You can catch up on past matches by checking out the VODs on the league’s official Twitch account. The first matches of Stage 2 will take place tonight starting at 7:00 PM Eastern Time; have a look at the schedule to see what’s in store for future weeks.

What do you think of the Overwatch League so far? Are there any players you’re excited to see in Stage 2? How do you think the meta will shift with Mercy being nerfed? Let us know in the comments below!

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Robert N. Adams

Senior Writer

I've had a controller in my hand since I was 4 and I haven't stopped gaming since. CCGs, Tabletop Games, Pen & Paper RPGs - I've tried a whole bunch of stuff over the years and I'm always looking to try more!