Over the past few weeks, many changes have been introduced to the Overwatch League. There’s a new hero, a new meta, and most importantly, a new challenger approaching.
When evaluating prior stages of the League, the consensus seemed to be that the Dallas Fuel was doomed to be a bottom 2 team, stuck alongside the Shanghai Dragons. The results that followed only seemed to strengthen this conclusion. To many, it seemed that the situation could only get worse. But with changes to their coaching staff, role stabilization and shifts in the meta, it is evident that a new flare has arisen and the Fuel is on fire.
But how did a team struggling to survive against its competitors manage to become such a league-defining force? They went from barely edging out bottom tier teams, to defeating the London Spitfire and the Philadelphia Fusion with ease. Let’s Discuss.
Whose team is it anyways?
From day one, there has been a lack of transparency over who is really running the show. Fans found themselves repeatedly perplexed; questioning many of the decisions made by the Fuel’s management over the course of the season. One such decision was seen when Fuel’s star DPS player, Timo “Taimou” Kettunen, was played on the main tank role. The team’s disorganization was also highlighted by a continued lack of decisiveness that dictated role inconsistency across the support roster. Reviewing first few stages, we saw three different players shuffling their Mercy and Zenyatta duties near weekly.
With these decisions by the Fuel’s former coaching staff, the team was left struggling to find its footing. It was clear that behind the scenes there were internal conflicts over who was really calling the shots. A few months ago, the team’s owner and CEO, Mike “Hastr0” Rufail, released a statement that only added to the confusion. In his statement, Hastr0 mentions that he has given head coach, Kyle “KyKy” Souder, full control of the team on March 14th, 2018. This statement was problematic because it implied that their head coach didn’t have full control prior to this date. The Overwatch community was left to speculate over who was making decisions for the team. With a roster constantly in flux, uncoordinated gameplay and important team decisions being left up to seemingly multiple individuals, the lack of a decisive team leader left the Fuel idling from the start.
From the ground up
Enter, Aaron “Aero” Atkins, the new head coach of the Dallas Fuel. With heavy emphasis on structure and basics, Dallas Fuel’s newest member has hit the scene to much excitement, bringing with him new results. The previous versatility dominated game plan used by the Fuel has been scrapped in favor of a much more structured take on the team. No longer will we be seeing hitscan players flexing onto main tank or projectile roles to fill shoes. With Aero in charge of the game plan, fans and players alike have seen a reinvigorated Fuel. A squad where everyone on the team knows their role.
Keeping players in their designated roles will allow for more time dedicated to specialized practice. This is due to the fact that players now know what is expected of them. From the start, Aero was up front with Taimou, stating that he would no longer be flexing onto odd roles. This allowed for him to be consistently stationed as the team’s hitscan specialist alongside Dylan “AKM” Bignet. This created an environment for Taimou to build up his confidence by sticking to the role he is known for. This also allowed for him to avoid the looming pressure of potentially swapping out of his comfort zone. This newfound reliability has resulted in a team-wide boost to competence and confidence. This has been showcased during the series against the Boston Uprising where the Fuel swept them 3-0.
Expect the unexpected
While the squad has experienced multiple changes to their coaching staff and their team structure, there’s still one more key aspect regarding their recent success. Fans of the League have grown accustomed to watching the Fuel pull out off-meta compositions week after week. In previous metas, the Fuel struggled with compositions such as Dive and Quad Tank. But with the reintroduction of the Slow Push meta with Brigitte at the helm, we’ve been able to see the Fuel in a new light. This is due in part to Mickie leading the League with his Brigitte prowess. After having seen the Fuel play everything outside of the meta, let’s take an inside look on which aspects of this meta are causing them to shine.
In an interesting turn of events, the current meta and the Dallas Fuel’s hero pool are completely in sync. We’re finally back to seeing classic picks like Seagull on Genji and Unkoe on Zenyatta. This is coupled with a brand new supportive play style from Mickie on Brigitte. This bodes well in the long term for the Fuel, essentially giving them the ability to run strong compositions without much need for adjustment. As such, Seagull is able to fill in the off-tank role or the projectile DPS role, preventing the team from having to make awkward swaps in the current triple support meta. Further separating the Fuel from other teams is their dominance over multiple compositions with the same six man lineup. If a Brigitte is needed, Mickie can take over while Seagull plays D.va. Alternatively, if a Genji is needed, Mickie is able to swap over to D.va. This puts the Fuel in an optimal situation to shake up their compositions mid-game and come at their opponents in ways they do not expect.
There is no debate towards the Fuel being on a roll. With a highly versatile group of players, a revamped coaching staff, and debatably the best Brigitte player in the League, the Fuel don’t seem like they’ll be slowing down any time soon. In weeks to come, we can definitely anticipate major changes in the meta, but with the Fuel’s new and highly successful infrastructure, I don’t expect to see too many changes with the team.
One unmentioned aspect of the team that keeps me curious is the plan for the Fuel’s popular DPS player, Effect. In the current Slow Push dominated meta, Tracer is considered an off-meta pick. This leaves me wondering if there is even a roll for Effect to fill on the current Dallas roster. Seagull has taken nicely to Projectile DPS duties while Taimou has Hitscan DPS covered. With all this in mind, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Effect looking for new paths in his career. Especially with Dallas’ newfound success following his departure to Korea.
In any case, if you need a team to cheer for, there’s no better time to be a Fuel fan. With the dynamic state of the League, there are multiple contenders for this stage’s playoff spots, but it’s safe to assume that the playoffs will be a little more blue than we’ve seen in weeks prior.