Chris Higgins, February 2, 2017

Why you should be watching Overwatch's Assembly Winter 2017

Though it's been six months since Blizzard officially announced Overwatch's esports intentions, there's still a remarkable dearth of actual tournaments to get excited about.

The DreamHacks and ELEAGUEs of the world are great events when they come around, but trying to keep up to date with which teams are emerging as forces to be reckoned with (and worthy of chucking an Overwatch bet on) is difficult outside these. Enter The Assembly Winter 2017.

This small €5,000 tournament will be Finland's first pro throwdown in Helsinki's Convention and Exhibition Centre from this Friday, February 3, but with some big names on the bill.

Finland is emerging as something of a training ground for great Overwatch talent, with EnVyUs' Taimou stealing plays of the game all over the place, and their resident four teams competing in The Assembly should give you an idea of what else the country can do.

Ninjas in Pyjamas

The Finnish all-star squad has been in hiding since DreamHack, after being tipped for the win and falling agonizingly short. A similar story repeating from just a few months before at ELEAGUE's Overwatch Open may have spurred this team on to improve their game, as whispered talk suggests they've been bulldozing over other teams in recent scrims. It may not help that once again they are the favourites to take this smaller tournament, but hopefully they’ve overcome their curse, or confidence issues.

The recent patch may not work in their favour, however, as Hymzi’s famed Roadhog could be suffering under Hook 2.0 and NiP is a team that has stuck to their guns through most metas. The triple or even quad-tank comps we’ve been seeing may be a tough sell for the Ninjas, but they still have a significant LAN experience advantage over their opponents. One more loss here might not just send them into hiding for two months.

Helsinki REDS

Hometown heroes, the REDS should have plenty of crowd support as the esports wing of the town’s ice hockey club, IFK Helsinki. Since their formation in November last year, the team has been hard at work breaking through the lower tier leagues, winning Coil Overdrive 13 last month. However popping their head above the ramparts to take part in Underdogs Season 4 in December exposed them to some of Europe’s premier teams which resulted in painful defeats at the hands of Team Vitality and eventual winners Tornado RoX.

Though not quite of the same calibre as NiP, these lower tier sides could be the more interesting results of the tournament as we see improvements or outstanding performances from rising stars of the Finnish scene. In the absence of Blizzard’s touted “combine” these national skirmishes are invaluable proving grounds for new talent.

ENCE eSports

Overseen by one of the country’s top CS:GO players, Tomi “lurppis” Kovanen, ENCE is one such proving ground having held open trials for its team over the new year period. The result is a team of promising potential but very little experience. Aside from DPS Mikael "SKYTRiXSHA" Silvennoinen and support captain Ville "Trickwide" Saastamoinen, who have participated in small leagues such as ESL’s UK premiership and weeklies such as Go4 and GosuGamers, this will be many on ENCE’s first rodeo. There could be gems hidden in the rough here, or a perfect team synergy straight off the bat. Only this weekend’s matches will tell.

SkitLite Gaming

This is the longest running of these Overwatch teams, having formed in June last year, however that hasn’t exactly been a boon to them. SkitLite’s greatest accomplishment so far has been second place at The Assembly’s summer BYOC tournament. The weeklies and minor qualifiers they’ve entered since have all been lower half finishes, though some have been against difficult opponents such as Melty eSports (which contained Rogue and Luminosity players at the time).

A first round match-up against tournament favourites Ninjas in Pyjamas doesn’t spell much of a showing for SkitLite. We all know there’s no such thing as a sure thing, but this would be the closest we could call to one on paper alone. After that, the world is their training ground.

Chris Higgins

Chris is the silent solo support.