London Spitfire Win OWL Stage One: Defense is name of the game

The players that make up the London Spitfire have enjoyed a wealth of success in their short careers. Following the royal road to an Apex title, earning the title as the best team in Korea, and now winning the stage one championship in dramatic fashion over the New York Excelsior. A pattern is forming and it involves the heart of the Spitfire roster and winning everything.

BDosin happy after winning the stage one championship. Photo via https://www.flickr.com/photos/londonspitfire/with/39319450275/

London went down two games to a New York Excelsior team with a nearly unblemished record, on the biggest stage. The Spitfire needed to rally to become the first Overwatch League champion. This was a team that struggled to find their footing and lost winnable games due to lack of teamwork in stage one. It was a process, one that required serious trial and error.

Fortunately for London, they employ the strongest defensive unit in Overwatch history. A suffocating, relentless defense that’s been the main driver behind the success of GC Busan and now the London Spitfire. In fact, throughout all of stage one, the Spitfire had the most shutouts on non-control maps.

Now, this type of defensive effort goes back to the Apex days. GC Busan made a living off strong defensive holds. Even with an uncoordinated offensive attack, GC Busan would always find a way to hold offenses on the first point. The GC Busan spirit is embedded into this team. Add in the helping hands of Kim “Birdring” Ji-hyuk and Choi Seung-tae (to name a few), who have helped elevate an already ridiculously talented GC Busan roster. 

Shutting Down the NYXL

In game four on Numbani, the Spitfire got off to a rough start on offense, barely capping the first point and failing to reach the second point. At the end of that attack, it felt like the momentum had suddenly shifted back to the Excelsior. The lack of ultimate kills despite good ultimate economy was the difference, but Kim “Rascal” Dong-jun out positioning the Excelsior on the high-ground with Soldier 76 turned the last and most important fight.

The Spitfire’s Numbani offense only lasted a few meters longer before getting shut down. The reverse-sweep hanging in the balance on a map that’s notorious for easy offense was London’s most dangerous situation. Only a world-class hold against a team fielding Park “Saebyeolbe” Jong-yeol and Kim “Libero”  Hye-sung would do the job. Luckily, Birdring is one of the most dangerous Widowmaker players on the planet and stepped up in the moment.

The Excelsior continued to dive at Rascal on Junkrat, who was isolated on the high-ground near the first point on Numbani, spraying down the street. The dive exposed Rascal, but it gave Birdring easy shots onto he NYXL healers. JJoNaK struggled to avoid Birdring using Widowmaker’s grappling hook to get the extreme height and tracking BDosin on the low-ground targeting him on Zenyatta. It was scary a one-two punch.

By the same token, Hong “Gesture” Jae-hee played a fantastic zoning Winston. In the event of a disadvantaged fight, the Spitfire would disengage around the backside of Numbani first point and re-engage with a dive, led by Gesture pushing the Excelsior into bad spots. The use of ultimates on defense for the Spitfire is much more organic and valuable. Gesture’s primal rages were game changers.

Dorado

Heading into game five, the Spitfire were riding a wave of momentum entering a map they’d beaten the NYXL on earlier in the day. The pressure was also flipped over to the Excelsior who were scrambling to avoid the reverse-sweep. The Excelsior stuck it out with Saebyeolbe and Libero on the dive and the Spitfire moved back to Profit on Junkrat over Rascal.

However, the formula for the Spitfire closing out the series was similar to their Numbani and Horizon defense.  Give Birdring Widowmaker sightlines and protect him by using the tanks aggressively. Kim “Fury” Jun-ho on D.Va combined with Birdring to dive on every player Birdring weakened from the backlines. It was a beautifully choreographed play from the Spitfire defense.  

Together with the strength of Birdring and the tank play, Profit’s laser focus on taking out the Excelsior supports stunted many NYXL attacks. On multiple occasions, Profit’s delayed rip tire got to the backline and took out Hong “ArK” Yeon-joon on Mercy and JJoNaK on Zenyatta to ruin the Excelsior’s day. Profit’s play was incredible, single-handedly forcing the opposition to back up and stay aware of Profit’s positioning.

In the final analysis, it’s clear the Spitfire still haven’t completely gelled as a team offensively. However, the players on that roster have a talent for zoning defense and ultimate usage. It’s scary because this squad is only going to get better from here on out. The players of the London Spitfire keep winning. No matter the situation, they pull it out. That’s a strong trait for a team to display early on.

The NYXL proving that the Overwatch League is wide open

When the Seoul Dynasty announced they were acquiring the most successful Overwatch team in the game’s short history, Lunatic-Hai, the Overwatch world crowned their season one champion. How could a team with such a prominent history falter? Well, after their first matchup with a top-three roster, the tune around the league has changed dramatically.

The New York Excelsior entered their match against the Dynasty following a hard-fought loss to an underrated Philadelphia Fusion squad. It was the Excelsior’s first loss of the season, and the first time they looked vulnerable. Heading into a fist fight with the consensus best team meant this team would have to make serious mental and in-game adjustments to get a win.

Mind you, this match was on the heels of the two most heart-throbbing and intense matches of the season. With the Excelsior falling to the Fusion and the London Spitfire losing on the fifth map to the Boston Uprising, beating the top Korean teams wasn’t inconceivable anymore. Now, with the pressure of ending week three at 0-2, The Excelsior showed the league that the Dynasty is mortal.

The game plan for NYXL

NYXL talking some strategy before facing the Seoul Dynasty. Photo via twitter.com/NYXL

If a team wants to have a chance against the Dynasty, it not only is going to take a full cohesive team effort, but it will require players outperforming their counterpart in key positions. Let’s start with the talk of the league in Kim “Fleta” Byung-sun. Shutting him down is imperative to any sort of strategy against the Dynasty.

For example, Fleta deals the most damage on a litany of heroes for Dynasty. On top of his absolutely filthy Widowmaker play, his Genji and Pharah are world class, and early in the season, he’d completely shut teams down with his damage output. The NYXL made this a priority, and fortunately having a force like Park “Saeyeolbe” Jong-yeol and Kim “Libero” Hye-sung to counter Fleta actually worked out.

NYXL’s Support Duo continues to dominate

However, it wasn’t just putting Libero on Pharah and both NYXL DPS players out dueling Fleta on the Widowmaker. No, the most important factor to the Excelsiors’ win was a player who I believed separated himself from the other support mains in the Overwatch League. Bang “JJoNak” Sung-hyeon is now firmly in the conversation for MVP with his DPS-like Zenyatta play.

The combination of JJoNak’s survivability on the back-line, damage output and healing output, coupled with Hong “Ark” Yeon-joon getting the brunt of the healing duties on Mercy, has made that support line extremely difficult to break. It was the main difference between the two squads last Saturday. I don’t think I’ve ever seen Ryu “Ryujehong” Je-hong struggle that hard.

Is the NYXL the best team in the Overwatch League? 

It’s a long season. It might be tempting to crown the Excelsior as the best team now, but there are too many games left to believe anything’s figured out. We still have yet to see the London Spitfire matchup with either of these two teams. And based on the roster makeup of the Dynasty and Excelsior, NYXL has the means to counter the Dynasty better than anyone.

Furthermore, there’s still plenty of time left for all these teams to develop more chemistry and gain more momentum.The top-three front-runners are clear, but the standing of the teams right behind them is unclear. Teams like the Los Angeles Valiant, Fusion and Uprising have displayed plenty of game knowledge and talent.

The emergence of the Excelsior support players and the deep bench leads me to believe this team can pull it off. But, with the transfer window approaching, and the fact that most teams have already drastically improved, it feels unlikely to stay that way.

You can “Like” The Game Haus on Facebook and “Follow” us on Twitter for more sports and esports articles written by other great TGH writers.

Featured photo via NYXL Twitter