Following the debut week of the Overwatch League's fourth season, professional Overwatch looks very different than it did a year ago. A number of rookies made their first starts, revamped rosters tested their mettle and, with 14 matches down, one team defied all expectations: the Houston Outlaws.
After finishing 6-15 in 2020, good for a bottom-dwelling No. 16 in the standings, the Outlaws shook up their roster for 2021. With five of six starters making their Houston debuts, the Outlaws proceeded to drop the Dallas Fuel and San Francisco Shock for a 2-0 start to the new season.
Both wins went the distance to a tiebreaking 3-2 but remained impressive underdog victories. The first was against a big-spending, highly touted Fuel and the second against the typically indomitable, two-time OWL champion Shock.
Here's how the full first week shook out and how the new-look Outlaws earned themselves top-tier recognition.
Friday, April 16
Houston Outlaws 3-2 Dallas Fuel
Los Angeles Gladiators 1-3 San Francisco Shock
Saturday, April 17
Guangzhou Charge 0-3 Shanghai Dragons
Los Angeles Valiant 1-3 Chengdu Hunters
Philadelphia Fusion 3-1 Seoul Dynasty
Toronto Defiant 3-1 Vancouver Titans
Atlanta Reign 1-3 Florida Mayhem
Dallas Fuel 3-1 Los Angeles Gladiators
Sunday, April 18
Guangzhou Charge 0-3 Seoul Dynasty
Chengdu Hunters 3-0 Shanghai Dragons
Philadelphia Fusion 3-0 Los Angeles Valiant
Houston Outlaws 3-2 San Francisco Shock
Florida Mayhem 3-1 Vancouver Titans
Toronto Defiant 3-2 Atlanta Reign
Full schedule and standings available here.
The Outlaws called on various unknowns for 2021. Most prominently, they brought in streaky hitscan DPS Happy from the Guangzhou Charge and a new tank line from Contenders: Talon Esports' PIGGY and JJANGGU.
From the first map against Dallas, it became obvious that the Happy acquisition raises Houston's ceiling. Running a high-skill-cap hero in Hanzo, the sharpshooter secured three kills (including two headshots) to earn his team an edge.
Against the Shock, Happy's streak continued—with the nasty sniper notching six kills in one fight, single-handedly bursting Temple Anubis open for his new team.
But the game went to a tiebreaking Map 6, and that's when it was time for rookie JJANGGU to demonstrate an absolute absence of rookie nerves. With the game on the line in overtime, the main tank boldly flanked and landed a massive Earth Shatter to bring Houston a 2-0 start to the year.
While the exact structure of the 2021 season remains unclear, what is known is that there will be a whopping $4.25 million available in prize money. By starting their year off 2-0, the Outlaws appear poised to start securing some deposits.