A Guide to Overwatch Contenders

Overwatch Contenders is the blood of OWL. As seen through all the moves in Season 2 — without Contenders it becomes so much harder to scout talent. This is not to say the Contenders system is flawless, but it’s definitely an amazing scouting ground for players to get noticed from all across the world.

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James “Yuki” Stanton played for Dark Sided in Contenders Australia Season 2. He was on the Australian World Cup team in 2018 and now plays for ORDER in Australia.

Players from Contenders get the chance to play in World Cup alongside their OWL (or Tier 3 amateur counterparts), they might perform and all of a sudden they are thrown into the beast that is OWL. Fusions and KYB from the UK Team, both of who played in EU Contenders in Season 2, are notable pickups from OWWC, while Colourhex from AU Contenders was taken straight from the tournament itself.

The Contenders system can seem confusing to people new to the Tier 2 scene, but it’s generally pretty straightforward. Here is a breakdown.

Who plays in Contenders?

Across the world, there are seven Contenders regions: North America, South America, Europe, China, Korea, Pacific and Australia.

Throughout 2018 anyone in any eligible country (about 100 or so countries are eligible to play in the Contenders ecosystem) could play in any region, but in 2019 region locks are being put in place.

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A map of the Contenders Regions in 2018.

The region locks will mean the majority of a team will have to come from the designated region — saving regions like Pacific who have had massive influxes of Koreans, but ultimately hindering showing off Korean talent.

In 2019, there is an eighth region being added: North America East. This will mean that NA will be split into NA West as well as NA East, allowing 16 teams from the region to play in Contenders.

In each Contenders region, there are 12 teams who play in Contenders. They might have qualified by climbing through Open Division into Trials and then finishing top 4 in trials — as Mindfreak did in AU Contenders for Season 3.

They might be an Academy team — Gen.G Esports, who is the Seoul Dynasty Academy team, got a free spot in Korean Contenders. They might have qualified in Season 1 and never dropped out, or had to climb back out of Trials. Either way, they are the cream of the crop when it comes to talent in their respective regions.

In 2019, the team count will go down to eight per region in Contenders, which provides for more competition to lay your claim at the top.

For a full list of teams and players, check out the Overwatch Contenders website.

What is the format of Contenders?

The 12 teams in a region are split into two groups of six for the Round Robin of each season of Contenders. They play in a 5-week online Round Robin (exception: Korea, who play on LAN at the FreecUP Studio in Gangnam, Seoul) to determine the top 4 teams in each group who proceed to playoffs.

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Korea is the only region to play on LAN all season long. Runaway won in Season 2 in front of a passionate audience in Seoul. The game went for three hours and they played eight maps.

The bottom 2 teams in each group demote into Trials, where they must fight their way back up against Open Division teams in the lead-up to the next season.

Each game is a Best of 4 with a limited map pool which changes each season. If at the end of the fourth map the teams are tied, they play a fifth Control map tie-breaker.

Playoffs spots are seeded based off Round Robin performance. The team who placed first in Group A will play fourth in Group B, second in Group A will play third in Group B and so on. The winners of those games will move on to the Semi’s and then the Grand Final.

Playoffs are Best of 5’s until the Grand Final, which is a Best of 7. If at the end of the five/seven maps the teams are tied, they play a Control map tie-breaker.

Some region’s playoffs are entirely on LAN (Korea), some have LAN Semi’s (Australia, China), some only have LAN for the Grand Final (Europe, North America, Pacific), and some have no LANs (sorry, South America).

Teams who qualify for Playoffs automatically qualify for the next Contenders season except for Season 1 2019, where a bunch of changes are happening.

What time does each region play?

Monday: Contenders Australia (1am UTC), Contenders Korea (9am UTC), Contenders Europe (5pm UTC)
Tuesday:
Contenders Australia (1am UTC)
Wednesday:
Contenders NA (12am UTC)
Thursday:
Contenders NA (12am UTC), Contenders Pacific (9am UTC), Contenders SA (9pm UTC)
Friday:
Contenders Pacific (9am UTC)
Saturday:
Contenders Korea (4am UTC), Contenders China (9am UTC)
Sunday:
Contenders SA (9pm UTC), Contenders Korea (4am UTC) Contenders China (9am UTC), Contenders Europe (5pm UTC)

For times adjusted for your own timezone, check out the Overwatch Contenders website.

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Fusion University — Philadelphia Fusion’s Academy Team — are one of three teams to have won two Contenders seasons. Sydney Drop Bears (Australia) and Lucky Future Zenith (China) are the other two.

Who should you support in each region?

I’m not the one to tell you this! I have my personal favourites in each region: Xavier Esports for Pacific, Melbourne Mavericks for Australia (RIP SereNity), Team CC for China (my boy ieatuup), Runaway for Korea, Second Wind for North America (I love you, Maid), Fury for South America and Angry Titans for Europe.

If you notice a team you like, just support them. They might be affiliated to your favourite OWL Team (LA Valiant Academy when? Australian Franchise Season 3?). Some teams even sell merch so you can rep them in real life!

How can I follow each region?

The best thing you can do for the ecosystem is watching the games. Tweet about it, post on /r/competitiveoverwatch — the more visibility and engagement there is, the more people will pay attention to it.

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British Hurricane — London Spitfire’s Academy team — won Season 1 Contenders in Europe. They were demoted to Trials after Season 2.

Most regions are streamed on the Overwatch Contenders Twitch Channel, however China and South America have English language streams on broadcast.gg’s Twitch instead.

There’s plenty of resources out there. First of all, there’s the official Path to Pro Twitter and Website. The Community Overwatch Contenders Twitter is new and really well run by a passionate group of Tier 2 fans. OWC Daily, run by LemonKiwi and KickedTripod, is also very good.

Region-specific, Snowball Esports (shameless plug) do Australian content, while I highly recommend following Volamel for anything on Chinese Overwatch. Website like OverwatchScore and InvenGlobal also do occasional content on Contenders.

If you want to jump right into the action, Contenders Korea is live in 45 minutes from when this post goes out, so jump right in and follow the next generation of OWL players on their Path to Pro!

Freelance Esports and Cycling Journalist. Overwatch Content Lead for Snowball Esports. Bylines for Blizzard, Red Bull and Respawn Ninja.

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