Sado and Hotba Making the Difference for the Philadelphia Fusion

The most unknown entity entering the playoff had to be the Philadelphia Fusion as the six seed. Jae-hyeok ‘Carpe’ Lee and Josue ‘EQO’ Corona are a well-known DPS-duo playing the team into a playoff spot. Now the newly added tank line is looking to carry the team the rest of the way.

Su-min ‘SADO’ Kim and Hong-Jun ‘HOTBA’ Choi spent the season on the sideline due to some account boosting. It left somewhat of a skill gap between the tank line and the ferocious damage-line for the Fusion. Joona ‘fragi’ Laine filled in nicely for SADO during the regular season, but the insertion of SADO’s calculated Winston is making a world of difference and has made Carpe and EQO even scarier.

For one thing, Sado’s getting faster and more effective primal rages. He’s working up to ultimate at one of the fastest rates in the playoffs and getting good use out of those ultimates. However, the main reason why Sado and Hotba’s presence on the front-line is useful with the level of understanding.

In the current meta, Sado, and Hotba work incredibly well together and with the rest of the team. It’s back to a tank-minded meta-game with a focus on one burst damage hero. With Hotba’s ability to flex onto more heroes than practically any player in the league, working with three-tanks and strategies that require staying together and team-targetting one player.

Hotba is Hot, brah’

The most influential player in game one was HOTBA, who made a living off pressuring Do-hyeon ‘Pine’ Kim or Hae-seong ‘Libero’ Kimon the backline keeping their snipers completely off-balance. He was also responsible for 12% of first kills, and a majority of those coming from the NYXL snipers. HOTBA has made his versatility invaluable to the Fusion in the first two playoff series, and it’s paying off dividends for Philly.

The fact that Gael ‘Poko’ Gouzerch can sub in for Isaac “Boombox” Charles allowing HOTBA to go Zarya or potentially Roadhog while losing next to nothing on D.Va with D.Va specialist, Poko, who plays a similar style to HOTBA. Keeping two of the best overall D.Va mains in the league gives the Fusion a huge advantage over other teams who want to run or counter their tank-heavy style. The Uprising struggle in killing both HOTBA and Sado, and now the same can be said for the New York Excelsior.

It’s realistically been a mix of the two tanks defending with great shields and owning space control. The potential of this team was clear after stage two, and now with one game to win to play for the first-ever Overwatch League championship could be a special moment for Philadelphia. Start with Roston Yoo, as the team manager, who brought this all together. Now we’re seeing the vision for this team brought to the stage.

 

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London Spitfire Reaching Their Full Potential in the Overwatch League Playoffs

Back when the Overwatch League regular season began, the London Spitfire was looked at as a potential championship contender. Signing over the rights to the season four Apex champions, GC Busan, and securing a team with scary potential. The ups-and-downs of a full regular season played a toll on a still growing Spitfire roster but sitting one game out of a spot in the finals, that potential if coming into form.

For myself, I had the London Spitfire as the odds-on favorite to take the championship from the pre-season. It was the same GC Busan team that ran through all of South Korea’s best talent entering the Overwatch League season. It seemed obvious that the level of skill would translate over to the OWL.

Now, the thinking that bringing in an established team would automatically translate to cohesiveness throughout the organization up from the players, to the coaches, to the owners, was ideal. But, there came difficult times for the organization, as many players were moved to keep the starting six happy in a tumultuous ending to the season. Losing the entire lower half of the roster was a dramatic shift in thinking for the organization

Early on, the Spitfire management knew that tough decision had to be made in order to keep players happy and leave the team balanced. The decision to move Chan-hyung ‘Fissure’ Baek came off as an odd move at the time, but watching this team now keeping Fissure on the bench wouldn’t have been beneficial for anybody. This team knows that they can only rely on themselves and no number of substitutions will get them a win.

Watching this team overcome the Los Angeles Gladiators in three games showed that same level of attack and confidence as the Spitfire showed in stage one. It was Jae-hui ‘Gesture’ Hong being a monster on Winston, making their snipers uncomfortable, alongside Jun-ho ‘Fury’ Kim who did a nice job following up on callouts. Those two are carving up the front-line of the Valiant, making it a lot easier on Ji-hyeok ‘birdring’ Kim, who’s had his best week since stage one.

The return to prominence and a shot at silencing the doubters for the Spitfire after they looked spooked in game one of the Gladiators series. It looked over and the world was calling them dead, but in one of the more inspiring moments of the season summoned that level of cohesion and dominated six straight maps. A win to make it to the finals as the five seed will be one of the better stories all season.

Do-or-Die Valiant

On the other hand, the Los Angeles Valiant don’t want to see their season end in two short games. No, they are still eyeing the title and despite the game one loss, the Valiant is not a team to shy away from a challenge. It comes down to one magical set of Overwatch. Can they shut down Jun-young ‘Profit’ Park or outduel birdring in the sniper matchup.

The main matchup I’ll be focusing on is Indy ‘SPACE’ Halpern facing off against Fury. Space didn’t have his standard impact on game one as Fury was able to contribute both offensively and defensively. The net-win in damage and objective time for Fury seemed to be a small difference that ended up making a big impact. Fury also finished second in kills, and if the Valiant want to win tonight, slowing him down is the first step.

Valiant also need Terence ‘SoOn’ Tarlier to have a stronger game on the Widowmaker to give them a chance. At the very least, keep the margins of picks within range, as Profit was able to find a staggering amount of final-blows in game one. The difference in that category alone made up for a lot of the Spitfire’s win. Whichever Widowmaker gets more space to tonight will make all the difference.

 

 

 

Red Hot London Spitfire Enter the Overwatch League Semifinals against Streaking Los Angeles Valiant

In one of the more shocking turns of events in the inaugural season filled with one surprise after another, the London Spitfire dug deep despite a lousy game one performance, to bounce back and win six straight maps to move past the Los Angeles Gladiators and into the semifinals.

It was truly shocking considering where both teams stood at the end of the regular season. The Los Angeles Gladiators were trending up, higher than possible any other team in the league while the Spitfire looked like a team still searching for answers. It even looked as if the Spitfire, who built a huge game lead in stage one and two, could fall out of the playoffs. And despite ending with a 4-6 record this team snuck in only to get trampled in game one.

In the extra day-off between games one and two, the Spitfire must have done a ritual of some sort because they summoned the soul of the old GC Busan team and turned on kill mode. If our readers aren’t familiar, GC Busan is the old Apex team that was made up of London Spitfire players, and that team came alive in the postseason as well. GC Busan dismantled every team outside of RunAway (including Fissure, LAG’s main tanks, former team).

It was an impressive display of skill as we saw the rise of Birdring, who disappeared after rounds one and two, but was arguably the MVP of the stage one finals run. With Hanzo and the sniper meta being so prevalent, it makes sense that he would be the one to step up for the London Spitfire considering his ridiculously good aim. Add in Profit being able to flex onto Widow or Hanzo to get a double-sniper pushed this team to this point.

For the Valiant it’s simple, stick to their gameplan. While the Spitfire is late to the party in the current meta, the Valiant has been leading the charge with stellar play over the last two stages. No team has the team targetting teamwork down even close to the Valiant at this time. The followup to callouts and finishing off weak opponents is their specialty, and it will be on NUS to withstand that fiery burst damage of the Valiant.

Breaking Down the Matchup

DPS Advantage: London Spitfire

The Valiant DPS-line of SoOn on sniper and hitscan and Agilities, Bunny and Kariv filling is an underrated group of players without a doubt. Each one can play a number of different heroes effectively, and it makes it hard to try and counter their compositions and setups. However, if Birdring and Profit come alive tomorrow, it’s hard to imagine the Valiant being able to slow them down. They are the Spitfire trump card and need huge performances from both for a chance to beat a much deeper Valiant team.

Tank advantage: Los Angeles Valiant

This is an easy one considering the Fate and Space tank-line is seemingly miles ahead of the rest of the league. Both players do so much for their team and are the main reason why this team wins fights decisively with excellent space clearing dive timings and perfect follow-up on weak players. Space specifically has risen the level of play from this Valiant team by himself and is a will be a huge factor against the Spitfire. But once again, the Spitfire support a sleeping giant on the tank-line with arguably the best Winston in Gesture and is still growing Fury on flex.

Support Advantage: Los Angeles Valiant

The London Spitfire is the most technically proficient supports in this matchup, BDosin being similar to a JJoNak styled flex-support, while NUS and Closer can manage on the Mercy, but the Spitfire simply lacks the cohesion and leadership that Custa provides on the backline. It’s simply incredible the impact Custa has made on this Valiant team. Add that to Kariv putting up ridiculous good damage and healing numbers on Zenyatta and we see why this Valiant team has made such a huge jump in stages three and four. Custa and Kariv rank close to the top in overall rating, according to Winston’s Lab, since the start of stage three.

Bench Advantage: Push

Considering that the Spitfire doesn’t have a bench and the Valiant rarely ever stray from their starting six, this advantage is moot. Obviously, the Valiant has a distinct advantage with Bunny on the bench, but it’s unlikely based on past results that we’ll see Bunny get some action over Agilities or Soon.

Series Prediction: Los Angeles Valiant in three games

The Spitfire might have come back from the dead to make it this far, but it’s hard to deny a Valiant team that has an entire roster coming together at the perfect time. I see the Spitfire being able to push this to a game three, but good luck beating this well-coached, practiced, and cohesive Valiant team in a series.

Featured image courtesy of Overwatch League Twitter

Zest and Impact Survive the PartinG Gimmicks to Advance in GSL Code S Group E

In one of the more interesting nights of the Code S season, Won “PartinG” Lee Sak came with a cheese build for every map, against any player. Kim “Impact” Joon Hyuk and Joo “Zest” Sung Wook eventually figured out PartinG’s strategy and were the two to advance, but watching PartinG try out every build in his repertoire was quite the show.

Starting against Zest, PartinG was able to get an early game one victory going with early aggression, but later on, in the same set, Zest turned that same aggression on PartinG running dark templars into his main base and PartinG, unfortunately, started building Phoenix’s and an Oracle making it nearly impossible to hold unless PartinG was able to kill all three Dark Templar’s with a single revelation, which was not the case.

Making an Impact

The real story of the day, however, was the sheer impressiveness in which Impact disposed of Byun and last season’s runner-up, Zest, with excellent macro-oriented play. Impact made his moves in smaller, less noticeable ways. Denying any early expansion and keeping it that way with excellent creep spread helped build that lead. Against both Zest and Byun, he didn’t have to worry much about engagements because he always held the supply lead in both worker and army count.

With this in mind, Impact could use many different types of units to move into his bases and do damage to his worker line. In his two wins, he got tons of mileage out of Zergling run-bys and even had a single Ultralisk take out a whole command center. It was incredible to watch the timing of his counter-attacks. At no point did it feel as if Impact was not in control of either match. He had little issues dealing with Byun’s bio-micro and with his massive leads in the economy, it put them constantly on the back foot.

Zest Holds Off PartinG

PartinG certainly didn’t make it easy on Zest, but at the end of the day, he won four of six matches against PartinG in the Protoss vs. Protoss matchup. As Artosis put in the broadcast, by the sixth game against Zest, PartinG essentially ran out of builds to try. Even if he had more builds, Zest seemed prepared to handle any early, cheese builds. It also featured some serious PartinG blunders, including an Artosis pylon, named after the same man commentating this very match.

It wasn’t Zest’s strongest round of Code S, but in the end, he moves on. Seeing Zest back into the round of 16 isn’t a welcomed sight for other competitors as we saw him make a very deep run, but he will have to improve against the likes of macro-intensive Zerg mains like Impact. Both players should be a threat to make the round of eight.

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Angry Titans and 6nakes Impress as British Hurricanes Drop Another Game in Overwatch Contenders

The season one champions are sitting at 1-2 to start the Overwatch Contenders season. It’s not only them losing games, but the way in which they are losing these games. 6nakes, a team that qualified through trials, surprisingly took the Hurricane’s to the woodshed this morning winning 3-1 with some fairly dominant efforts on both Oasis and Eichenwalde.

The Hurricane struggles to begin season two is one of the more shocking updates to come out of Contenders so far. Fortunately, much like season one, the Hurricane’s didn’t always look or play like the best team but found ways to continue to grow and eventually get to the spot where they’re beating the other top teams. This season could spell the same type of mid-season transformation, but the early returns look a lot worse than they did in season one.

It never got to this point, where teams were manhandling them on control and hybrid maps. Now it could be the unfamiliarity with the 6nakes, but losing in such dramatic fashion speaks to larger problems inside the team. It’s still early in the season, but the Hurricane’s need a quick turnaround or things could get ugly.

Angry Titans Stay Angry

The Angry Titans are one of the darling teams in the Overwatch Contenders. Fans love their dedication to tank-heavy compositions and their unwillingness to bend to the sniper-meta. While yes, they do run Hanzo, the bulk of their strategy is comprised of devastating Zarya graviton surges and converting off excellent team targetting. Early in the season, the Titans look like the best team in Overwatch supporting a 3-0 record with a +10 map differential.

As for the 6nakes, a team that I, personally, was super impressed with in Trials. I looked at them as an actual playoff threat in Contenders and it’s nice to be proven right early on. It’s still not close to a finished product, as the team sits in the middle of group A at 2-1, even in map differential, but the skill and talent are clearly there. Beating the season one champs will go a long way for confidence sake.

 

Philadephia Fusion Eliminate the Boston Uprising Out of the Overwatch League Playoffs

The Philadelphia Fusion is the first team to ever win a playoff series, and the first team to ever win a playoff series as the lower seed. The final team to earn a playoff spot is moving out of the first round and look like a serious threat to win it all.

After an impressive showing in game one, that put the entire Fusion roster on display in the win, it was a question whether or not that Fusion team would show up again today. Losing game two to the one-two punch of Mistakes on Hanzo and Striker’s Widowmaker brought those questions to the surface. Fortunately for Philadelphia, it became the EQO show on the decisive game three, and he limited Mistakes damage against the Fusion supports.

However, the Boston coaching staff made some highly questionable decisions in the loss today. First of which was the decision to go away from Volskaya and Kings Row and fight on Hanamura and Eichenwalde instead.  It not only fed into the Fusion’s playstyle but also took them out of their comfort zone. Sure, the Fusion looked strong on Volskaya in game one, but the Uprising entered the day with a 10-1. It was the Uprising going away from their bread-and-butter and it cost them

Secondly, the moment the struggles started to hit Mistakes, when EQO focused him more heavily on the sniper or when he switched to Genji to dive on top of him, the entire Uprising attack faded. Gamsu was caught often in no man’s land of the battlefield and was susceptible to picks from the dangerous Fusion sniper-line. The moment that matchup switched backed over to EQO’s favor, the entire Fusion team took on a different look. Even despite a slow start in game two, which he admitted in interviews later, he showed his ability to adapt and target the right players on offense.

The other aspect of this entire series that’s interesting to point out is the constant subbing from the Philadelphia Fusion. Subbing out HOTBA for Poko on maps with more linear launch angles for D.Va’s self-destructs and using HOTBA on maps where more defensive-minded D.Va play came in handy. The flex spot wasn’t the only role being swapped in-and-out. BoomBox was subbed in for Dayfly because he can play Bastion and Roadhog on Junkertown or flexing BoomBox over to a damage role. The Fusion tried many different things and most of them worked out great.

By the same token, the entire gameplan from the Fusion answered everything the Uprising attempted in this series. It was the Fusion straight up outcoaching the Uprising coaching staff by forcing matchups and finding ways to make Striker, and more importantly, Mistakes feel uncomfortable enough to switch their focus solely onto Carpe and EQO aggressively coming at them. It was a treat to see a team truly prepared for a match.

Now, the Fusion will have the first shot at the New York Excelsior and the early takeaways are that the Excelsior will struggle against this high-flying DPS-duo of the Fusion. It’s clear that this Widow-meta doesn’t necessarily fit right into the NYXL’s play style, and work similarly to the Boston Uprising. Of all the teams left in the playoffs, the NYXL get their worst draw out of the first round, and a team that matches up unfavorably for New York. Fusion looking to pull a second consecutive upset to play for an Overwatch League title.

Featured photo courtesy of Overwatch League

Serral gets the comeback win over Scarlett at WCS Valencia

Two of the better players in the entire event faced off early in round one of the playoffs and it went the distance to a game five, with an impressive comeback. Joona ‘Serral’ Sotala, the best European SC2 player, fell down 2-1 off a suffocating aggressive style from Sasha ‘Scarlett’ Hostyn, that ultimately was her downfall on game five

It was a back-and-forth affair from two of the most exciting Zerg players, who approach the game differently. For Serral, it’s all about acquiring enough of the economy to feel safe in moving out. In Scarlett’s case, at least in the loss today, she would constantly try and cripple that economy. Unfortunately for Scarlett, if early aggression was held then it was a complete uphill battle to try and recover compared to Serral’s economy.

Losing in the macro-game forced Scarlett into whole scale changes to her gameplan. It wasn’t a move to cheese or gimmicks, but a notice to win the game before Serral can amass any type of big, macro army. And on a map like Redshift, where the normal second hatch for Zerg is ridiculously close to their opponents allowed for some fantastic early Zergling, Baneling, and even some spine crawler aggression. In these micro-intensive moments is when Scarlett shines and that’s how she worked her way to a 2-1 lead.

On the third map, Scarlett really showed her technical prowess and ability to read the situation. Switching into early muta’s and using them to pick off Serral units moving out of the home base. And once she was able to impact the Serral economy with Muta run-by’s, the zerling and baneling all-in came to finish the job. Killing off all Hydralisk with the baneling’s allowing the muta’s to pick off queens and the rest of the army ended the fight swiftly. Unfortunately, Serral adjusted to Scarlett’s adjustments just in time to save the series.

Scarlett did her job by winning the smaller, two-player maps, but switching to the bigger maps flipped the advantage back over to Serral. He wasn’t able to hold off the early-game unit aggression, but turning away Roach’s and stifling Zergling attacks on hatcheries and the main-base kept pushing Serral farther and farther ahead. Scarlett wasn’t able to gain any sort of advantage, meaning she has to fight a full-supplied Serral army.

Looking at the last map, after a tough loss on Darkness Sanctuary where Scarlett played more standard, she once again tried to catch Serral with an all-in on Catalyst, a medium-sized map. However, the attempt was sniffed out early and by the time the all-in took place, Serral had already acquired more roaches. Scarlett was one map win away from being the first person in forever to beat Serral at consecutive tournaments. Her style is somewhat of a yin-and-yang type feel with Serral, and after a glorious set today, these look two of the best Zerg’s by a long shot.

Featured photo courtesy of StarCraft 2