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

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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.

 

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

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.

 

Meta Bellum Envy looking like his old self in win over X6 Gaming

Meta Bellum supported a higher echelon contenders team even before the arrival of Envy. The addition of the former Los Angeles Valiant flex tank Envy gives Meta Bellum a new added dimension to each aspect of their gameplan. In the 4-0 win over X6 Gaming, Envy started single-handily winning fights on both D.Va and Brigitte and showing the potential impact his role on the team will have down the line.

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Photo courtesy of twitch.tv/overwatchcontenders

First off, Envy fitting into the Brigitte role makes a ton of sense based on his style of play. If anything, Brigitte fits his playstyle even more than D.Va by having more available tools in close-range fights, which Envy takes quite often as a flex tank. It’s nice seeing him open space for his damage mains to move in, similarly to how he looked early on with the Valiant.

 

Obviously, Envy wasn’t the only Meta Bellum player popping off in this one: Naist, on a variety of different damage mains, primarily Pharah and Junkrat, completely tore up the X6 backline. Order and Godsb, that started the season looking extremely strong against World Gaming Star H2, had a rough time accounting for the Meta Bellum damage mains. For Meta Bellum, it was Naist pressuring the frontline and Happy on Widowmaker staying alive on the backline. The combination of those two fulfilling their roles perfectly combined with Envy’s space opening plays led to a route of the season one champions.

 

Equally important, is the early affect Envy’s having on the rest of the team. When Envy arrived at the LA Valiant, he was an incredible offensive-minded D.va, but his failure to last boiled down to connecting with his teammates. It had little to do with his actual play but more the attitude he brought into the building every day. On a contenders team, the pressure is off and he can focus more on himself rather than the entire spectacle and pressure of the Overwatch League.

It’s only the second time X6 Gaming has been swept (Element Mystic took them out 4-0 in season one), and the first out of the Meta Bellum squad. This result tells us that believe the hype that Envy is going to bring firepower and that this team is lined up now to make a deep run and potentially be a threat to win Contenders Korea.

Featured photo courtesy of twitch.tv/overwatchcontenders

 

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.