Peter Wellman analyses the recent London Spitfire roster departures and look towards the future in this opinion piece, with input from fellow Esports News UK writer Jace. (Update: Spitfire have signed British former player ChrisTFer as head coach)
The Shanghai Dragons stormed Atlanta Reign 4-0 in the Overwatch League’s Season Four final, but now with the season having ended, rosters are being shaken up once again.
For London Spitfire, another big shake-up is on the cards. But before we get onto that, former Spitfire player Ji-hyeok ‘Birdring’ Kim – who won the first Overwatch League with them – has now retired, as has another former Spitfire player, Dong-jun ‘Rascal’ Kim.
Elsewhere, British Overwatch player Fusions announced his retirement from competitive play. The retirements of these young players come at a time of change for Overwatch esports.
Back to the London Spitfire camp, the post-season roster shake-ups have begun. A few days ago, the London Spitfire Twitter account first tweeted a gif from Full Metal Alchemist’s Roy Mustang crying before letting most of their players go.
Of the eight-man team, they departed with DPS Jeffrey ‘blasé’ Tsang, British DPS Dom ‘Hybrid’ Grove, off-tank Mikkel ‘Molf1g’ Djernes, main tank Daniel ‘Hadi’ Bleinagel, flex support Riku ‘Ripa’ Toivanen and main support Kristian ‘Kellex’ Keller. They also dropped coach Mads ‘fischer’ Jehg.
This has left the team with only two DPS players, the Tracer master Johannes ‘Shax’ Nielsen and the rookie William ‘SparkR’ Andersson. This is the team’s third major rebuild in the four seasons the league has been running.
London’s 2021 season was rocky from the outset. They picked up the Houston Outlaws flex DPS player Blasé over Spitfire academy side British Hurricane’s Daniel ‘Dannedd’ Rosdahl. Blasé was a contentious pickup, a largely unproven DPS player that had been around from the beginning of the league but never really shown himself to be a star.
Regardless, the team didn’t perform well enough to see success. London Spitfire only managed to pick up one win this season.
Now moving into the 2022 season, Spitfire appear to have kept their most reliable pieces and are looking to go for a major rebuild again. SparkR is a reliable hit scan and someone whose ability to coordinate with his team won Hurricane a lot of Contenders matches.
We now know that the 2022 Overwatch League will be played on Overwatch 2‘s beta version and it seems to be more DPS-oriented, so Spitfire keeping their best DPS players makes sense.
The Sombra change for instance, now turns her more into an assassin going and hunting supports. Sombra’s hacks now shut down opponent abilities for one second, but does 50% more damage to hacked targets and her EMP ultimate now does damage to enemies (40% of their current health, to be precise).
But to return to Spitfire. In my opinion, they need to really spend their time researching and picking up star talent from EU. Paris proved good players can go far, and also having all the players in the same region will provide better results.
For next season, keeping reliable DPS players in a more DPS reliant arena means that protecting and eliminating supports has become way more important than before. EU always has a massive supply of tanks, but finding that star support will be key.
Having a good Sombra (whose rework in my opinion is more broken than a shredded jigsaw) was always important, so now Shax has to up his game on the hero, but we don’t even know if this is her final form.
Spitfire general manager Ysabel ‘Noukky’ Müller and the rest of the coaching staff have to find some real star power and build a team later. With less ults and more reliance on the neutral game, finding mechanical players is going to be top priority.
However I would hate to have their jobs right now. You have to hire a team for a game that hasn’t been released, no one knows how it will be balanced, and in a space where you cannot train. Do you scrim EU players 5v5 on the original Overwatch game? Do you use a custom game mode? How do you build a team when you have to speculate on basically everything?
To conclude, Noukky and the whole of the Spitfire team now have the huge job of trying to build a team in a space which they have limited information on. It feels like in this post season, a lot of teams will be gambling on what they are going to be picking up, focusing on raw talent and building a team later.
This situation that OWL teams have been placed in seems impossible. This post season is going to be difficult to predict, but SparkR and Shax are good keeps for the team along with keeping British coach Xavier ‘CommanderX’ Hardy. Keeping some coaching staff maintains some stability.
They still have a Contenders pedigree, with British Hurricane going unbeaten and winning both Contenders Cups this year. But does this promotion system actually work? Hopefully for next year they can pick a team and the fans of London Spitfire can get something that lives up to their expectations.
There is a fanbase for the Spitfire and hopefully they can get hyped for the rebuild. Time will tell.