As the plans for the Overwatch League have yet to be announced, the professional Overwatch scene sits in a precarious state. No concrete plans have been made for how teams will form their Overwatch divisions, as we have a universal pool to go through as well as patches. This has given rise to pertinent questions regarding long term nurturing of talent. How does a team create a roster for the long haul? What are the best types of infrastructure to increase a team’s overall skill? In both cases, I believe that sister teams are the answer.
Sister teams are essentially the B-team of an organization. This method was used in League of Legends (though circumstances surrounding them have largely shifted, and Riot Games has banned them in Europe starting this summer). It was also used by MVP during the early days of Dota 2 in Korea. This approach to team structure raises two problematic issues. First, paying two teams at once is an exorbitant drain on your budget. But the sister team functions more like an academy team, so it doesn’t need to be paid as much initially. The second is a potential conflict of interest when the two teams meet in the bracket. That will depend on how the tournaments are organized as well as how much Blizzard cares (Valve clearly doesn’t).
For now, I’ll set that aside and focus on the benefits. There are currently two looming issues in Overwatch teams: a reluctance to have efficient practice and the disruptive nature of patches. In Episode 5 of Oversight, Matt “Flame” Rodriguez brings up that teams are having bad practice. This is caused by egos, as players like to brag about scrim results. This leads to scrims where teams play to win rather than play to practice. This isn’t the best way to practice because playing to win encourages players to fall back on the same habits and play styles used in tournaments. Teams should use practice to test different compositions or explore situations where they are at an advantage or disadvantage. Playing to win stifles growth.
A sister team gets rid of this problem as it minimizes the benefits of getting a big head. Because both teams are under the same organization, the organization can slap down any egotistical behavior and force the teams to practice without trying to win. In fact, it gives both teams much stronger control of the situation. Now both teams can give each other specific and controlled practice. Team A can have Team B play a specific composition in specific positions with a certain amount of ult energy and then run the scenario with different compositions until Team A can find what it wants. Besides that, the teams don’t have to worry about any scrim information leaking. Since the results are kept hidden from outsiders, you can always go all out against your sister team without fear of leaking essential strategies.
The other problem this addresses is patches. Many have theorized that Overwatch teams will reorient themselves around flex players in the future — because patches can utterly devastate a player’s hero pool and destroy the basis of how he works with the rest of the team, it requires too much commitment to rely on specialists. By becoming patch resistant, you won’t have to deal with contract negotiations and rebuilding teamwork every time Blizzard tweaks the game.
Sister teams naturally answer this problem. It’s likely that a six person team won’t have an answer if a new patch nerfs one or two players out of the meta. No matter how drastic the patch, it’s unlikely it can nerf out 12 players simultaneously. Without a sister team, a normal roster has three paths out if the patch nerfs them too hard. They can either buy out/trade a player from another team, wait until the contract expires and then buy them, or gamble on a new player who hasn’t played at that level. A sister team adds a fourth reliable option: recruit one of the players from that team and insert them into the roster.
The sister team also holds a few additional benefits. It’s a great place to develop a highly skilled player who needs to work on team skills. You can make critical trades between both teams to satisfy the meta or possibly fix other internal issues. And if you’re really lucky, both teams can become strong, as we saw in the case of Samsung White and Samsung Blue in League of Legends.
The sister team theoretically solves the practice problems that plague the North American region as well as deal with potential patches in the future. It also has multiple other benefits and is a good way to increase the overall skill of orgs.