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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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

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

WCS Valencia could pin Reynor and Serral against each other in round two of the Playoffs

WCS Valencia playoffs are here and our attention turns once again to the European slayer, Joona ‘Serral’ Sotala, in his quest to win another WCS title. His last win came only a month prior to Valencia at WCS Austin and he’s now got his sights set on winning four of his past five WCS events.

However, the path to another title will already be layered with the worlds best non-Korean talent. He not only has to start off against one of the most threatening opponents in the entire event, Sasha ‘Scarlett’ Hostyn, and play a Zerg vs. Zerg in round one, but will have to follow it up with a likely matchup against GSL Code S wunderkind, Riccardo ‘Reynor’ Romiti, who looks like the next big player at the ripe age of only 16-years old.

The potential faceoff between two of the perceived most talented players in Europe will be a big moment. Serral’s essentially taken over Europe without any issues and now Reynor could bring in his heavy harass Zerg style and make things more interesting in the SC2 Europe landscape.

In fact, this would be one of the few times the two have actually played at an event. The only recorded match I could find was from Assembly where Serral swept him 3-0. That match dates back to two years ago, so by the looks of it, both players will come in almost blind to the others traits and playstyle. But with all the data on Serral, Reynor enters as more of a mystery.

Rest of the Bracket

While most of the attention will be focused on the top half of the bracket, the bottom half also will provide some excellent matchups. Starting Neeb facing Bly in round one, a matchup that could come down to the wire. Neeb will be looked at as the odds-on favorite to make all the way through to winners finals. Secondly, Nerchio, who’s had a recent resurgence in play will be a threat. He will potentially get Has in the second round.

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Looking back to Scarlett, she has a massive opportunity to beat Serral and get momentum heading deep into the bracket. This entire article could be moot if she brings her best Zerg vs Zerg micro and builds to the table.  It could be Scarlett vs Reynor that would steal the show, but obviously getting through the European champ won’t be easy.

It’s the most stacked WCS event I’ve seen all year and should provide not only great StarCraft 2, but upsets. Expecting the unexpected as Serral eyes back-to-back titles. Reynor is clearly a player to watch after beating the likes of Classic in Code S just last week, but Serral is also an entirely different beast. Either way, Serral will have to earn his victories against two of the worlds best Zerg players.

Featured photo courtesy of WCS

 

Overwatch Contenders Season Two starts with a bang as Mastermind GC and British Hurricanes fall in day one

The Overwatch Contenders season is back. Seven regions, 84 total teams, 6,048 players all looking for a chance to make it to the big leagues. Overall, contenders is flushed with talent and much like season one should bring some high-level Overwatch.

Yesterday marked the start of the European and Australian seasons. The same teams enter season two as the prohibitive favorites to win the league in almost all respective league. Starting in Europe, the season one champion British Hurricanes actually fell in their first matchup at the hands of Young and Beautiful. In the Australian region, similarly to the British Hurricanes, the season one Australian champ, Masterminds GC, losing to Dark Sided team who held them to only four points in four maps.

Europe

Looking back at the reason the British Hurricanes lost turns the focus to the meta switch and how these teams adjust to the move away from dive-compositions. In the first game of the season, Matt “Dids” Didehvar on Widowmaker and Mateusz “MATTH” Prymas on Hanzo gave the Hurricanes fits all afternoon. It was a constant barrage of picks onto the squishy characters. Hurricanes had no answer despite solid performances out of the damage department.

In the next few matches, the Angry Titans took care of business against Orgless and Hungry, followed by an exciting third match between two of the teams who qualified through trials. These two teams have a history: 6nakes being the trials champions and Bazooka Puppies barely sneaking into the top four. During trials, these two teams played a close five-game set, but 6nakes still got the better of them. In the loss today, it was a complete team effort, getting strong performances all over. However, without the ferocious Hanzo aggressive out of William “Asking” Vetter, the win was likely not happening.

In terms of teams to watch out for coming out of trials, 6nakes is undoubtedly that team. Similarly to Young and Beautiful, 6nakes is more inclined towards the snipers and with the meta being the way it is, Asking might be one of the newest threads in that division. It’s a balanced team, but the test will be against the contender’s teams and seeing how they stack up.

Australia

Australia got the jump on the rest of the contender’s leagues this week and have concluded week one of matches. With the Masterminds falling, the league has a different look extremely early into the season. The rest of the results were as expected, with the season one champion Sydney Drop Bears winning it easily over Blank Esports.

I wanted to take a second to recognize a most excellent play pulled off on first point Illios. As you’ll see in the video, this team boost the right heroes and move in the right direction, in-sync to dive directly onto the healers without being seen. Kanga Esports, fortunately, won the game because of this maneuver and avoided the reverse sweep out of Serenity.

BlossoM Secures the Top Spot at OWC Contenders 2018: Trials Korea with Win over WGS H2

The former management team behind the GC Busan organization back before they were members of the London Spitfire, seemed to have put together another up-and-coming squad. BlossoM will now get a chance to compete in Overwatch Contenders Korea and based on the talent from two main DPS-players, to Swoon and his impressive Zenyatta, this team could be dangerous.

Securing the undefeated trials record tonight came at the hands of strong team play, shutting down World Game Star H2, who’s also being promoted to challengers. The three other teams are MVP Space, who finished second overall, and GC Busan Wave, meaning Meta Athena will miss out on a promotion. Meta Athena, one of the more consistent organizations in Overwatch, lost out by one map win. The +8 map differential was one behind WGS H2’s +9.

BlossoM Royal Road?

The surge of Blossom in trials has made it more difficult on teams like Meta Athena and other teams looking to qualify. Even after huge turnover of player and coaching staff this year: losing Gambler to Seoul Dynasty, and their former head coach Agape to the London Spitfire; The Blossom are improving at an impressive rate. On top of all that, Blossom was one of the teams involved in boosting, resulting in a few former players being released from the team.

The addition of Ans, who has arguably been their best player in Trials on Widowmaker, loosened the load for everyone. Also adding LIP as a late addition heading into Trials worked out tremendously for Blossom, as he slotted in nicely as the fill-in damage main aside Ans’s Widow. In reality, the two tanks are the ones responsible for such a dominating effort in Trials. Both SeeYa and Mineral did nothing but create space for that newly added backline. It was a culmination of the spacing, aiming, and execution that led to the 7-0 record.

It’s clear this team has taken massive jumps in coordination and skills since the few appearance we saw of them in April. The overall team record is only 8-4. Only 12 matches on record and this team is now looking like a real threat to make even more improvements heading into Contenders.

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Maru Sweeps GSL Code S Finals

StarCraft 2 was elevated to new heights this evening with Cho “Maru” Sung Choo winning his second consecutive code S GSL title. Maru not only surpassed other terrans in this era with his dominance from a young age but became a towering figure in the world of Starcraft. Maru’s now can now be mentioned among the greats.

Maru

The win over Joo”Zest Sung Wook puts Maru on a path that only a few Starcraft professionals have been able to conquer. A third win in Code S would far-surpass any player in the era. The player who started as a young 16-yeard old is now on the brink of accomplishing feats few players have before him.

In light of this, Maru’s sweep over Zest will go down as one of the more lopsided victories in history. From start-to-finish, Maru had the upper hand. It was evident from Darkness Sanctuary on that this was Maru’s game to win and no one would be able to stop the onslaught. On most maps, it was a landslide victory, with Maru having a constant advantage in the economy and having the bigger numbers.

The 4-0 sweep will mark one of the largest margins of victory in GSL history. Maru’s separating himself from the pack, and putting himself on a path toward Starcraft glory. Maru can already be mentioned among the likes of Lee”Flash” Young Ho and other legends of the game. His sweeps confirm his dominance over this era.