New York Excelsior JJoNak Wins the first Overwatch League MVP as Zenyatta

The best player from end-to-end gets the proper recognition as the Overwatch League’s first most valuable player. Bang ‘JJoNak’ Seong-hyun, a Zenyatta main, who in many ways revolutionized the flex-support meta with his damage hybrid style wins the MVP. JJoNak ended second in total damage among all qualified players as a support player. Nuff’ said

The story of a talented, rather unknown player, to the top of the Overwatch League and the best player on the best team. The rise of the New York Excelsior is certainly a team effort, but it’s an undeniable fact that JJONak brings something to the table that no other player in the league can offer. In terms of actual value, losing JJoNak would likely hamper every aspect of the NYXL roster. He’s that much of an impact player.

JJoNak doesn’t have any glaring deficiencies in his game and even with more modest healing numbers, he uses Zenyatta’s transcendence for maximum value more than every other Zenyatta which makes up for his focus on damage. He’s the most unique player in the league. No other player can offer the type of impact he can on any given match.

He is the heart and soul of the NYXL and that the coaching staff is still finding new uses for his talent. Consider this, the Excelsior popularized pocketing Mercy onto Zenyatta to keep JJoNak alive and let him do maximum damage with the damage-buff. The entire NYXL strategy is centered around this guy finding kills and it hasn’t failed them yet.

As JJoNak takes home the MVP trophy that he rightfully deserved, the NYXL will look to not let his dominating season go to waste. A refocused NYXL team will provide a much different look in these playoffs than what we saw at the end of stage four, and a big reason for that will be JJoNak.

Congrats to New York Excelsior JJoNak!

 

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Philadelphia Fusion First Team to Beat Boston Uprising on Volskaya all season as they take 1-0 series lead

The Philadelphia Fusion made a statement in the first match of the Overwatch League playoffs beating the Boston Uprising through better preparation and execution. In terms of a potential darkhorse, the Fusion now look like that team after suffocating the Uprising all over the place.

Turning immediately to the closing match on Volskaya Industries, a map the Boston Uprising finished undefeated on in the regular season and ended up getting completely outplayed in every facet of the match. Starting with the strategy coming in for the Philadelphia Fusion: Boombox out, HOTBA in while Poko sticks onto the D.va and HOTBA moves over to Tracer, to help add more close range damage aside from EQO and Carpe on their respective snipers.

In fact, this was the first time any team made massive, wholesale changes to every single approach on Volskaya against the Uprising. Take the composition for example first, but looking at how they approached the defense by playing the first choke, rather than sitting back on high-ground of the first point. This gave the Uprising plenty of trouble and they struggled to get any point presence. The changes messed with the Uprising’s entire gameplan as they looked discombobulated on the attack.

The Carpe and EQO Show

Every map this set was characterized by EQO mixing it up near the front line with Hanzo and doing big damage, while Carpe sat back on Widow and had free reign to get shots on squishy characters. In terms of the sniper duels, Carpe and EQO dominated. Now, while Carpe was winning the Widow-duel, EQO was tearing up the rest of the Uprising. Mistakes had no chance against EQO today, who in my eyes, was the MVP of match one.

It’s a snipers league, and it showed today with the better Hanzo and Widow pairing won the day. The number of impactful picks and first kills heavily fell in favor of the Fusion as the Uprising had essentially zero pressure on the Carpe and that backline. The Uprising will have to make serious adjustments on how they approach and defend against Carpe and EQO.

Neptuno Comes Out Strong

Carpe and EQO might have made the biggest impact damage-wise, but Neptuno completely dominated Kellex on the other side. Neptuno even dropped a 31k healing game on Einchewalde and had six fewer deaths than Kellex. His healing was off the charts as he contributed on most big plays throughout the match, Plenty of times where Fusion players could keep pressing with Neptuno always there for critical heals.

Take the video above, for example, Neptuno not only gets the battle mercy kill but somehow finds a way to get back to EQO and essentially turn his disadvantaged one-vs-one against notE’s Dva and eventually turning the entire fight. Neptuno stepped up in a big way and allowed BoomBox to play more of a flex role, as we saw him tear it up on Eichenwalde with Roadhog. The biggest deficit in overall play was the support mains and Neko and Kellex will have to come alive tomorrow.

Sado, HOTBA, and Poko

The revolving door of tanks on this Fusion team keeps spinning as Poko got some playing time while HOTBA found playing time not only on D.va, but Tracer as well. notE and Gamsu put up a good fight at the front-line, but the sniping advantage for the Fusion was too much for the strong performances out of the Uprising tank line.

Now back to Sado, who made so many fights changing plays in the win. His bubble placements are incredible and that was displayed through the many different ways he approaches fights with Winston’s bubble. More than anything, Sado was fantastic at blocking damage with either shields or his body. In terms of a difference maker, his coordination with the snipers on who to dive on and who to bubble was on-point.

Uprising Adjustments

Dive compositions or some way to get EQO off the backline would do wonders for this team. Striker put on a pretty great performance, alongside the tanks, but Kellex and Neko weren’t making impact plays or resurrections to stem the tide of the Fusion gameplan. It’s also clear this team was not prepared for any changes to the Fusion attack, and it showed as they were blindsided by the Fusion on both Eichenwalde and especially Volskaya with the three-damage main composition.

The Overwatch League Playoff Preview: Can the NYXL be beaten?

The anticipation for the start of the Overwatch League playoffs has hit a fever pitch for the fans. The long layoff is not only making fans nervous but the players who had two full-weeks of preparation for these three game series. The most incredible part is that with the resurgence of the Valiant and Gladiators, it doesn’t necessarily feel like an easy victory for the New York Excelsior, who enter as the favorite.

Four straight NYXL appearances in the stage finals, and a full regular season of dominating performances. Ending the season with a 34-6 record and a +83 in map differential shows a superiority to the rest of the league. In fact, the NYXL now employ five of South Korea’s starting roster, the same nation that’s barely been pushed at the World Cup the past two years. The question then becomes who will win the Overwatch League, but instead ‘who can stop the NYXL?’

Are the NYXL beatable?

Asking the Los Angeles Valiant that at this moment and time would give you a much different answer than the general public. The stage four champions, a team that’s improved immensely off the moves made by team manager Mike Schwartz, feel as if they are the favorites and can beat the Excelsior.

The Valiant has essentially caught up to the Excelsior in talent with the signings of Indy ‘SPACE’ Halpern and the trade for Scott ‘Custa’ Kennedy, who’s been arguably the biggest difference maker on the team. Now, does this mean the red-hot Valiant can take out the best team in a series?

In the season series, the NYXL lead 3-2 in overall record and that’s including the Valiant’s win in the stage four finals. Based off relevancy, that last result might be the most telling in this matchup with how much the Valiant have improved compared to the NYXL who’ve had a nice comfortable lead all season long. Combine that with SPACE playing at an MVP level, and Terence ‘SoOn’ Tarlier tearing it up on Widowmaker.

A refocused Excelsior team out of the break should get them back on track after dropping three games in stage four. It took Hae-seong ‘Libero’ Kim stepping up to push this team into a stage playoff spot, and then got handled in the stage four finals so time off felt necessary for the top seed. It’s still NYXL vs. the field.

The Field

Each team who I haven’t mentioned already has about as good of a chance of coming alive and winning the entire thing. Each team at one moment and time this season has been at or near the top. Every team earned it as the American favorite Houston Outlaws and the preseason favorites Seoul Dynasty got bounced because they couldn’t keep up at the pace of these four teams.

Starting with the Los Angeles Gladiators, who in some way have improved to the same imaginary level the Valiant have risen too. Let’s not forget the Gladiators picking to face the Valiant instead of the Dallas Fuel and losing in five games. The important thing to remember is that this team is good enough to beat every single team left, and should be looked at as the wildcard team right behind the top two seeded teams.

The other terrifying team is the Boston Uprising and the potentials of their roster with the likes of Nam-joo ‘Striker’ Kwon. This is a team that ran off a huge winning streak that lasted a stage and a half even after the loss of their second damage main. The fortunate aspect of the Uprising run is their run will bypass NYXL until the finals. It also matches them up against two teams they have winning records against.

Lastly, seeing the London Spitfire, a team who has massively underperformed this season according to their standards, with a final shot at winning the title leads me to believe they can do it. But, all the turmoil and shuffling of the roster still brings questions to their chances as a whole. Overall, their talent level is practically just as high as the Excelsior, with the GC Busan core, but they haven’t put it all together since stage one.

Predictions

  • The Boston Uprising over the Philadelphia Fusion in three games
  • Los Angeles Gladiators over the London Spitfire in three games

Semifinals

  • Los Angeles Valiant over the Boston Uprising in two games
  • New York Excelsior over the Los Angeles Gladiators in three games

Finals

  • Los Angeles Valiant over the New York Excelsior in three games

The Valiant seems to be synchronizing and gelling just at the right time. The team unison is higher with this team than any other team in the playoffs, and more big performances from their main playmakers can push them over the top similarly to stage four. Valiant over NYXL in three close games with SPACE as the MVP.

 

NRG Blows Second Map Lead in Consecutive Days as Rogue Impresses in the Win over Complexity at the America FACEIT Minor

It’s been a rough few days for the prohibitive American favorite to not only take one of the two qualifying spots but to be sitting in Rogue’s spot as the top placing team. Now, after starting off 1-0 against both Complexity and eUnited, ended both days losing two straight and are now the first team sent packing.

The loss to Complexity yesterday was completely unexpected, by winning decisively on the first map, only to drop two games with sloppy play and inconsistent play from their bottom-three. For an NRG team that’s usually solid against their own region, the last two days seem like a total outlier. The odds of losing the match when winning the first map are low for any team, but the top-ranked North American team doing it is somewhat of a mystery.

Even the top players showed up on both days, Cvetelin ‘CerQ’ Dimitrov and Vincent ‘Brehze’ Cayonte played quality Counter-Strike. Both finished with positive kill-death ratios and made plenty of big plays. However, the rest of the teams play dropped off drastically after those two. And even on the losing maps, CerQ struggled to get anything going and ended up with less than .60 kills per round.

Unfortunately for NRG, it was the snowball effect for them today. Falling down early on Dust 2 by losing pistol and the lead slowly growing put the stranglehold on an NRG team that was losing confidence. The final kill count on Dust 2 ended at 91-52 in favor of eUnited. It was over once NRG’s mental game faded. eUnited will now face Complexity in qualifying for the Major. The two teams who beat NRG this week.

Rogue Improvements

Rogue deserves plenty of praise for their noteworthy performance at the Minor. Against a Complexity team that played exceptionally well, Rogue went to an even higher level of play and earned the win. It was nice to see a Rogue team, headed by Spencer ‘Hiko’ Martin, play up to their talent level. They’ve put themselves in a great position to qualify with the 2-0 win against Complexity.

Witnessing Casper ‘cadiaN’ Møller heat up with the AWP on Mirage was quite the sight. He sat apartment side and seemingly didn’t miss a shot for the entirety of the map. Of course, Complexity adjusted to his positioning specifically, but his overall impact on the game didn’t go unnoticed. Outside of cadiaN’s AWP, Hiko was a monster against Complexity. On Dust 2, a map Rogue dominated on, and Hiko finished with 30 kills and a staggering 1.79 rating. He set everything in motion.

The Grand Finals

eUnited vs. Complexity should be a barn burner, in that both teams seem evenly matched in most important areas. Seeing as both teams lost to Rogue, a scenario where one of these teams makes the necessary adjustments to beat Rogue seems unlikely. Especially now with Rogue having the upper bracket advantage, but the important thing to remember here is the winner of Complexity and eUnited qualifies for the FACEIT Major.

Featured image courtesy of FACEIT

Complexity Win Sloppy Affair against NRG at FACEIT’s American Minor

Complexity Win Sloppy Affair against NRG at FACEIT’s American Minor. #FACEITMinor

The week of upsets in the Counter-Strike world continues as NRG falls in an extremely close match with Complexity at the American Minor. After winning a convincing first map on Xache, NRG proceeded to throw away a few leads on Train, only to lose in overtime and eventually get exposed on CT-side of Inferno, dropping eight on nine rounds.

Now the result wasn’t from a lack of trying and by the looks of it could’ve been avoided with a few longer stretches of consistent play. Looking at the post-game numbers, almost all of NRG went positive, with CerQ, their main fragger having good enough numbers to win, but even he failed to give NRG a chance in the second half of Inferno. Despite what looked like a winnable set after map one, Complexity completely turned it around.

In all honesty, Complexity didn’t play close to their best here. ShahZam wasn’t having his best day on the AWP, alongside Stanislaw who finished at even overall. However, Complexity relied more on their strategy and in most cases, especially on the CT-side of maps, were finding advantageous situations. ShahZam wasn’t hitting every shot, but in most cases, he had the opportunity to get the first peak and that opened up everything for Complexity.

Overall, it was a sloppy game from both sides. Complexity came alive in the key moments, but it was a messy back-and-forth before they eventually pulled away in the second half of Inferno. Seeing Complexity have to battle down on Train, having to win six of the last seven rounds to stay alive. Stanislaw didn’t have his best performance, but on Train, he was constantly making big plays happen. Often due to positioning and playing around smokes, but he made the plays when they needed it.

Complexity’s Dephh will end with the highest rating, but CerQ still had his number and ended with a higher kill-death ratio. Complexity will now face Rogue in the upper bracket final as NRG will scramble back down into the lower bracket to face eUnited, who had a rough loss to Rogue.

Featured image courtesy of Complexity 

lloD Beats Out Southern California to win The Even Bigger Balc

The one MDVA player in attendance comes into one of SoCal’s oldest tournaments and wins the whole thing. Arjun ‘lloD’ Malhotra wins his second regional of the year beating both Zac ‘SFAT’ Cordoni and Johnny ‘S2J’ Kim to take the Even Bigger Balc title. This win comes after lloD’s highest major tournament placing at CEO last week.

For lloD, it’s his best result of the year. 2018 that has shown him greatly improving his average placing and showing more ability to beat players perceived to be better than him. Back at CEO, SFAT eliminated lloD in a five-game set. At the Even Bigger Balc, lloD made the necessary adjustments and frankly demolished SFAT’s Fox.

In the video above, lloD’s displaying the two aspects of his game that carried him to a victory with Peach. We’ll talk neutral game, but first, we admire his edge guarding. Against Falcon, it was a relentless effort in zoning out S2J and pushing him back into the corner. From this position, lloD earned himself a large number of edge guarding opportunities. Every stock S2J was fighting just to make it back on stage.

In neutral, lloD centered his entire gameplan around setting up garbs. Using turnips to approach sparingly as he relied more on stage position and zoning. In every area Peach needs to hit to win, lloD was certainly hitting. lloD used directional input and the aforementioned stage control to stave off each potential knockout attempt. S2J wasn’t landing any finishing blows, mostly settling for up-air to try and kill at high percents.

It was an impressive showing. lloD being one of the lone players to travel cross country enters the event and leaves a champion. As Evo 2018 approaches, it’s important to be playing at a peak performance level and lloD, at the very least, is revving up for a big July run.

Westballz Out in Losers Round One

Weston ‘Westballs’ Dennis fell out as early as losers round one to local California Melee player Cesear. It’s a noteworthy placing for Westballz as a top player falls out of a seemingly easier tournament than the norm. Now, without seeing the actual reason for his exit, Westballz has taken these SoCal regionals lightly in the past (getting DQ’d at The Bigger Balc in 2017). Whatever the case, losing this early after just signing an extension is not the best look.

Featured photo courtesy of SD Melee TV 

Natus Vincere are the ESL One: Cologne Champions

Natus Vincere, led by tournament MVP Aleksandr ‘s1mple’ Kostyliev, dispensed of the surprising German side, BIG, 3-1 in maps to win their first event of the year. It’s been a long arduous road for the Na’vi side in their quest for a premier title over the likes of Faze and Astralis. In Cologne, it all came together as Na’vi strung together their best performances altogether down the roster.

Back to s1mple, who’s been arguably the best player all year, turned up again in each of the playoff matches. Regardless of some lesser kill numbers out of Egor ‘Flamie’ Vasilyev, S1mple not only was able to continually clutch rounds for Na’vi, but get that consistent kill-per-round. On top of the offensive consistency, his ability to stay alive was uncanny. Special performance from a special player.

S1mple had a magnificent week, but Na’vi won this event the moment Danylo ‘Zeus’ Teslenko started to make plays. The captain of the notorious Na’vi franchise, Zeus was struggling in the bracket play and it was clear they weren’t getting their best result. Once the playoffs hit and the tough matches started to come, the rest of Na’vi outside of S1mple and Denis ‘electronic’ Sharipov stepped up in a big way. This full-team effort carried them to a win.

It was clear shortly after Na’vi recovered after the 16-10 Dust 2 loss on map two that any setback wasn’t going to deny them. The response on Train was massive in terms of this team avoiding another upset at the hands of BIG Clan. BIG played some impressive Counter-Strike this week, but unfortunately, Johannes ‘nex’ Maget reached his limit on Inferno after consistently dropping huge kill numbers. nex was the BIG Clan’s most valuable player, but he ended game four with four kills.

It was an incredible week of high-level Counter-Strike. Na’vi coming from the depths to rise above the rest and win and ESL One is a fantastic ending. It’s maybe not the storybook ending German fans were looking for, but Na’vi on top of the CS world feels right.