Now that the pandemic’s torpedoed all of Blizzard’s plans for the Overwatch League 2020 season, the League’s head office is making significant changes to its roster construction rules ahead of the 2020 Playoff season.
“The League Office has established the following guidelines in place for roster construction, which includes significant changes to contract lengths and guarantees,” the League announced yesterday on its official website. “We are also making a few changes to the 2020 roster rules, which will be in effect through the end of the 2020 Overwatch League postseason.”
One of the changes involves the League’s two-way system. The two-way system allows a player to play in the semi-professional Contenders league (think AA baseball) and the Overwatch League at the same time if they follow certain restrictions.
“While we have seen many players signed as two-way players this year, very few players have actually competed in both OWL and Contenders, and we continue to see players signed in OWL with limited playtime who aren’t able to compete in Contenders either,” wrote Overwatch League Commissioner Jon Spector in a weird blog-tweet. “This has led to bad situations for players who want to compete.”
With the new rules in place it’s now easier for those two-way players to actually play in both leagues. Previously, there was a four two-way player limit per team and a two-way player became ineligible to participate in Contenders matches for 60 days if they played two or more OWL matches in a 30-day period. The new rule removes the limit for the number of two-way players per team and reduces the lockout time period between playing in an Overwatch League match and eligibility to play in a Contenders match.
Here are some of the specifics:
- Teams without academy team affiliates may agree to player loan agreements with a Contenders team. Player loan agreements must be submitted to the League Office for approval.
- Any two-way player that does not play in five consecutive Overwatch League matches for their team over a minimum of three consecutive weeks will be eligible to participate in Contenders or other non-league Overwatch esports competitions licensed by Blizzard, subject to team approval.
Simply put, it’s now easier for your favorite bench player *cough* Geguri *cough* to show up in a Contenders match.
Another interesting development involves the playoffs and the League’s many free agents. The free-agency period closed July 31st, making it impossible for any free agents to be signed to a team before the period reopens after the 2020 season ends. However, with the new roster construction rules, the League is now allowing teams to sign new players as the postseason approaches.
“From now until the end of the 2020 Overwatch League season, if a team has a player retire, become unavailable for play due to COVID-19, or elect not to travel, that team may sign a free agent to replace that player,” the announcement reads. “Any such replacement signing must expire at the end of the 2020 season, and those players will become free agents for the 2021 season.”
Basically, players without a team and stranded in the free agency dead zone can now show up in the League just in time to compete in the playoffs. In fact, this has already happened. Gui-un “Decay” Jang was let go from the Dallas Fuel on August 3rd, mere days after the free agency period closed. Within hours of this new rule’s announcement, he’s now been picked up by the Washington Justice—a team sorely in need of Decay’s godlike ability to carry a team.
Since all teams have a shot at participating in the playoffs regardless of standings, with Decay on the roster, Washington has the potential to go all the way, or at least spoil other teams’ chances of making it to the Grand Finals. And Washington probably won’t be the only team to take advantage of this new rule. Earlier in the year, an entire team’s worth of Overwatch legends were let go from the Vancouver Titans. So far, a handful of players have found new teams. But it’s now possible for the main tank stylings of Chan-hyung “Fissure” Baek or Sang-beom “Bumper” Park, or the God-King of main supports Jehong “ryujehong” Ryu to appear in the OWL again.
Fan sentiment about the new developments seems positive, especially regarding the changes to the two-way system and the 2020 Playoffs Free Agent rules. But there’s one more thing Blizzard should consider when designing new rules for the 2021 season.