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

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

Breaking Down the 9,000 IQ Play from the Los Angeles Gladiators on Kings Row

So, the Los Angeles Gladiators took care of business in game one of the Overwatch League playoffs over the London Spitfire despite some odd roster decisions and vague explanations of those decisions. It was one of the Gladiators easier sweeps of the season, as Surefour went absolutely off on hitscan, but that’s not the important part of this match.

The important part was on Kings Row when the Gladiators ran an unforgettable set-play to secure the map win. Now, this type of play has been run before on Kings Row for the attacking side: run through the left side apartments to behind the point, then circle all the way around to the back, head up the staircase and then fight near the point on high-ground. Simple enough to understand, but the Gladiators took it even one step further.

Running three tank, two support, and the one damage main in Surefour on Widow allowed for this to happen. First off, the Gladiators had to stay together the entire time through the apartment as to not alert the Spitfire that a member of their team wasn’t in the death ball. The Spitfire didn’t recognize that only five players made the journey to behind the point.

Secondly, using the quickest set of support heroes in Lucio with the speed boost and Moira’s shift and fast walk speed. Using these two, especially BigGoose on Lucio, clumped them up together and allowed for more AOE healing from both supports and easily pushed them through to the back. Once that was secured, it was simply a waiting game for Surefour.

Lastly is the subtleties the Gladiators added to this strategy by deceptively keeping Surefour at spawn. Deception is certainly a strong tactic in Overwatch, but it’s not often an entire set-up is focused around the deception. In a situation where the Gladiators only needed one point, running this seemingly routine strategy with a heavy-tank composition through the apartment, led the Spitfire to believe that all was required was to re-setup off the high-ground and fight on the point. Unfortunately, Surefour standing in spawn got free and easy shots onto Mercy and instantly turned the fight.

The extra month off since stage four ended has to lead to some interesting new set plays and compositions, as we saw today with HOTBA and the Philadelphia Fusion going triple-DPS. It’s allowed teams more experimentation and now we are seeing refined strategies in this current Widowmaker-focused meta. The Gladiators are at the forefront of these types of innovative plays and should inspire other teams to try new things out.

Featured image courtesy of LA Gladiators twitter

Los Angeles Gladiators Win Game One over the London Spitfire with Fissure on the bench

Shortly before the start of the second Overwatch League playoff match, the Los Angeles Gladiators sent out a press release relaying to fans that Fissure would be sitting out the first map against the London Spitfire. A move born out of some inner turmoil and a strong week of practice from iRemix, but nevertheless, the Gladiators didn’t miss a beat with their best player on the bench.

Now, the Fissure benching will take all the headlines, but the biggest story is not only how good the Gladiators looked in the win, but how badly the Spitfire looked in the loss. It was a combination of a cohesive, fundamentally sound Gladiators approach to this match against a discombobulated, miscalculated attempt at slowing down the Gladiators backline. Similarly to a Philadelphia Fusion team that came out firing, the LA Gladiators also made a statement by sweeping the Spitfire.

Starting with Surefour, the MVP of the match, who gave the supports of the Spitfire trouble all game long. On either McCree or Widowmaker, Surefour wasn’t being contested enough to throw him off his positioning or force him into tougher sightlines. It was a struggle in both the Widow-duel and trying to dive onto his spot. It was a huge game for Surefour and helped make up for a real space creator in Fissure on the bench.

Luckily for the Gladiators, the decision to bench Fissure ended up working out. The move from Bischu to Void gave that frontline a bit more firepower, but the Gladiators dominated at every position. It wasn’t just Surefour on hitscan, but Hydration tearing it up on Hanzo or Silkthread in more of an aggressive dive role. It feels as if no team is improving at the rate of the LA Gladiators, and tonight was more proof of that.

London Spitfire Meta Woes

Trying to come to terms with the Spitfire’s recent struggles that have now bled on over into the postseason, in my eyes, boils down to one thing. The drastic gameplay changes with the popularization of sniper compositions, forcing Profit onto a role he’s not entirely comfortable with or necessarily excels in like he does with every other damage role. Bridring can certainly play an effective Widowmaker, but the most aggressive-minded team in the OWL having to play more passive-aggressive sniper strategies is messing with their gameplay.

This run also comes in the midst of a number of roster changes this team has made, as they assemble a core structure to the organization.  All these subtle and big changes hit at once and at the most inopportune time right before the playoffs. This is no excuse for getting badly outplayed and generally outcoached, but it’s a factor into the recent struggles. However, more of this will lead them out of the playoffs.

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!