Seoul Dynasty decisions raise questions after missing out on stage one playoffs

Halfway through stage one of Overwatch League the geniuses of the world seemed to have it all figured out. The Seoul Dynasty were the clear favorite. Teams such as the Boston Uprising and Houston Outlaws weren’t considered actual threats yet. The London Spitfire were the dysfunctional Korean team.

Fast forward only two weeks later, the world of Overwatch has flipped on its head. The Seoul Dynasty are on the outside looking in. The most prestigious organization in the game completely fell apart. Losing to the London Spitfire and New York Excelsior is one thing, but getting swept by the Los Angeles Valiant and coming close with the Outlaws and San Francisco Shock is something entirely different.

Underperforming Players

The onus of the struggle doesn’t fall on one certain aspect, but the collection of decisions and underperformances. The coaching staff has even resorted to trying new lineups and testing different combinations. Overall, the roster decisions have proven to be costly. Sitting Ryu “Ryujehong” Je-hong and keeping Kim “KuKi” Dae-kuk on the bench in favor of Gong “Miro” Jin-hyuk.

The regular cohesiveness isn’t quite there for the Dynasty lately. Outside of having Kim “Fleta” Byung-sun hard-carry with a litany of destructive heroes, the rest of the team is struggling to work together. Fleta’s picks seem to be the one thing keeping this team moving forward.

Going back to Miro’s play, it’s obvious that he’s not on the same page with his supports right now. Miro’s getting caught out with bad positioning at a high rate. He’s failing to make the normal plays we see out of his Winston and it all stems back to the lack of synergy between Miro and Yang “tobi” Jin-mo. Tobi’s known as one of the premier support players in Overwatch history, but being forced into the Mercy role has limited his value.

Tobi is an excellent Mercy, but it’s just not his top choice in his hero pool. Considering this along with Ryujehong and Miro’s struggles is the most probable cause for this team missing out on the playoffs.

The Munchkin/Bunny/Wekeed Dilemma

As I previously stated, Fleta is a wrecking ball crashing through your window. In many ways, he’s able to single-handedly pick up the slack for his team with his mind-boggling playmaking ability. It’s not only that but his timeliness on hero picks to get the best possible matchup.

The problem isn’t Fleta, it’s the revolving door of half-Tracer mains that can’t seem to earn that second DPS spot. The best teams in the Overwatch League are incredibly deep at the DPS position. The Dynasty don’t have the same luxury when they’re still trying to find the right spot for each player.

Chae “Bunny” Joon-hyuk is presumably the most talented of the group, but he has no versatility whatsoever. If The Dynasty to play strictly dive, like the Boston Uprising or Philadelphia Fusion, Bunny would be a mainstay on the starting lineup, but that’s not always the case. Byeon “Munchkin” Sang-beom is the most experienced, but is limited similarly to Bunny in terms of hero pool.

If the Dynasty look to improve the roster heading into stage two, look for that spot next to Fleta to be a priority. For the time being, the same rotation of players will continue. Fleta is the focal point of any Dynasty game plan so being able to work to his strengths will benefit the entire team. In many instances, Bunny seemed to be the one that meshed the best.

Benching Ryujehong not out of the question

No one is safe on this team after a disappointing stage one, not even the highly regarded Ryujehong. There’s a scenario where talented Zenyatta player, Mun “Gido” Gi-do, gets more starts over Ryujehong. Even Tobi could potentially be subbed out for a better Mercy. Everything is on the table if this continues.

One thing to consider is the new meta plays similar to the olden days when Lunatic-Hai was the best team in Korea. Mercy getting nerfed will open up the door for more creative support picks and giving the Dynasty more weapons at their disposal. In any case, the Seoul Dynasty will be just fine. Even if it takes some minor or major tweaking, this team is too talented to stay down for long.  

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Featured photo via Seoul Dynasty Twitter

The First Ever Battle of Los Angeles in the Overwatch League is a Classic

There’s something special that happens when two rival teams matchup. Michigan vs Ohio State, Packers vs Bears, Yankees vs Red Sox, and now the battle for Los Angeles in the Overwatch League. A 3-2 Valiant victory over the Gladiators in the first official Los Angeles matchup started this rivalry out on the right foot.

In dramatic fashion, the Los Angeles Valiant pulled out the reverse sweep. A hard-fought loss on Eichenwalde and a rather outmatched loss on Horizon Lunar Colony set the stage for one of the biggest comebacks in the early season. It also happened in front of the most raucous crowd the Blizzard Arena has seen yet.

Envy and Agilities. Photo via LA Valiant twitter

How the Valiant turned it around

In a season filled with sweeps, the Valiant showed the rest of the league how it’s done when down 0-2. The halftime break resets them mentally, and the necessary adjustments were made with a focus on the tank line. The moment Lee “Envy” Kang-jae and Pan-seung “Fate” Koo switched up the positioning to more objective focused the game turned.

The ability of the Valiant tanks to constantly keep pushing up and make the brunt of the Gladiators game plan to focus on slowing down the tank-line, opened it up for Ted “Silkthread” Wang and Terence “SoOn” Tarlier on the damage mains. On Illios, the ground game was simply dominated by the Valiant tanks. All it took for a Valiant victory was picks from Silkthread on Pharah or SoOn on Widowmaker, and that’s exactly what happened.

Once that first win happens, it’s a snowball effect. A little doubt starts to creep in and a semblance of worry crosses their minds. Even if the win on Ilios was too close for comfort, the Valiant finally had some success in the kill feed.

The key moment in the game didn’t happen in-game. No, that moment was switching back to Brady “Agilities” Girardi over Silkthread. It’s not only that Agilities hero pool is more conducive to maps like Junkertown, but that he was one of the few doing major damage during the two losses. In a few instances, the Junkrat was a key in controlling space.

The final game of the match is the highlight of the early season. The crowd had reached a fever pitch, and there was clearly not a soul in that arena looking away from the screen. In surprising fashion, the Gladiators made some major lineup changes heading into the pivotal game of the series.

Gladiators Decision to bench Bischu backfires

Photo via LA Gladiators twitter

The Los Angeles Gladiators typically stick with the standard composition of two attack-two tank-two support. The move to replace Hyung-seok “Bischu” Kim in favor of another damage-main in Lane “Surefour” Roberts turned out to be the difference between the Gladiators winning or losing. Even with Surefour having the ability to go Zarya, losing that committed D.Va main seemed to be the difference.

It’s not the macro-decisions that were the downfall of the Gladiators, it was the micro-decision making and the revolving door of DPS substitutions for the Gladiators. It’s still unclear what exactly is working for the damage mains up front. All their substitutions are mapped based and not really focused on how a player is performing at the moment. Oftentimes, Choi “Asher” Joon-seong or João “Hydration” Pedro Goes Telles get subbed in after playing a very strong game.

It was an epic first game between the two Los Angeles teams, and it was incredible to see the crowd split into purple and green jerseys. Even if it’s a young rivalry, the fans passion is real. The importance of building and sustaining these rivalries is what can separate the Overwatch League from other esports

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Featured photo via LA Gladiators twitter

And the Overwatch League Week One MVP is…

The opening week of the Overwatch League has now come and gone, and after two games a piece the teams are already starting to separate themselves. In similar fashion, certain players stood out amongst the talented group and flashed early on.

It is no surprise, the best teams in the league are the heavy-Korean teams such as the Seoul Dynasty, London Spitfire, and New York Excelsior. All of whom ended the first week at 2-0. The other undefeated team is the one surprise from this week, the Los Angeles Valiant sweept their matches ending the week up 7-0 in games.

Who was the week one MVP?

After the dust settled, four players stood out among the rest of the player pool. The first player to be mentioned is Kim “Fleta” Byung-sun for the Seoul Dynasty. Unlike any other player this weekend, Fleta went above and beyond with his hero pool. Seven unique characters all combining to do massive amounts of damage and help carry the Dynasty to a 6-1 weekend.

Pine signing autographs after the win. Photo via the Overwatch League

As for the unsung heroes of the opening week, how about Terence “SoOn” Tarlier and the Valiant taking the league by storm? Led by SoOn and his backline Tracer play the Valiant rolled through the San Francisco Shock and came out victorious even though they were the underdog against the Dallas Fuel. SoOn’s presence made the difference with his constant pressure that worked wonders alongside Valiant’s dive composition.

Looking at the New York Excelsior roster, there are a few names that took a big step this weekend. Kim “Pine” Do-hyeon’s flashiness on the Widowmaker and McCree or Park “Saebyeolbe” Jong-yeol rolling on Tracer made it a tough decision to make. One Excelsior separated himself from some of the other support mains in the league

Bang “Jjonak” Sung-hyeon was responsible for huge picks, a great deal of healing, fight winning transcendents, and a ridiculous amount of healing on Zenyatta. It truly was an all-around great performance. In terms of best Mercy play, one half of the Dynasty dynamic support-duo, Jin-mo “tobi” Yang, was nasty with Valkyrie, moving in-and-out of danger in a flash.

It’s hard to pick a favorite of the London Spitfire roster considering that roster still feels very much in the air. Keep an eye on the Spitfire to have a more fluid starting roster in the future.

Drumroll Please

As for the best of the weekend, it’s quite simple, Fleta was the workhorse for the Seoul Dynasty. Anytime the Dynasty needed a hero switch and a big push, Fleta would switch and the Dynasty would win. It’s nice to see a wide variety of top-end talents at multiple heroes and position making a name for themselves. Now let’s see if they do it again in week two.

 

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Featured photo via Overwatch League

Pharmercy guide: Rule the skies

It’s time to look into a guide that will help you rule the skies in Overwatch. That’s right, today we are going to be looking at the Pharmercy strategy.

The Pharmercy strategy, as the name suggests, consists of Pharah and Mercy. The purpose of this strategy is to give your team complete control of the skies. If your team controls the skies you can dictate engagements on your terms. As a result, you are able to blast the enemy into itty-bitty pieces.

However, before I break down this strategy, let me share one thing you should keep in mind.

Pharmercy is A team Decision

Always keep in mind that running a Pharmercy is a team decision. The Pharmercy strategy has Mercy focusing on pocketing Pharah. Which is good for Pharah because it provides her with a floating healer that can damage boost her. But it is also bad for the team because Mercy is farther away from them pocketing a roaming Pharah. So decide with your team at the start to run Pharmercy so that they can expect less healing. Otherwise, you risk tilting your team because they would expect Mercy to be near them and not pocketing Pharah. Speaking of pocketing Pharah, let’s shift to Mercy’s responsibilities. Much as it takes two to tango, it takes two to run a Pharmercy.

Mercy’s Job

Mercy’s job in the Pharmercy is to provide Pharah with healing and damage boosting her rockets. Seems like a simple concept. But in practice, it’s more complex. Especially when you factor in following a constantly moving Pharah.

A good way to tie yourself to Pharah is to make sure that you have the correct Mercy settings on. One setting you need to have on is Guardian Angel Prefers Beam Target. This setting makes Mercy fly to whoever her beam is on instead of who she is aiming at. And since in a Pharmercy your beam is almost always on Pharah and you will always fly to her.

Another thing to be aware of, as Mercy, is that you are pretty vulnerable in the air. Therefore you have to constantly be on the lookout for threats, in addition to healing and damage boosting Pharah. Also remember that Mercy’s damage beam applies damage when damage is dealt. Which means that Mercy can heal her Pharah and then switch to damage boost as the rocket is mid-flight.

Next, to the second part of our Pharmercy: Pharah.

Pharah’s Job

Pharah’s job is to get kills, just every other DPS character. And with a Mercy pocket, it makes her job even easier. So play Pharah like every other DPS with a focus on high priority targets like supports and other DPS.

But keep in mind that having a Mercy pocket does not make her invincible. Pharah can still die to a tremendous amount of burst damage. So don’t give the enemy a better chance by hovering a few feet above them. Always think about your positioning because it effects your Mercy’s positioning as well. At the same time be aware that Mercy does have five other teammates to heal, so don’t roam too far away.

By and large, Pharmercy can be a devastating combo to play against, but it can be stopped.

Pharmercy’s weakness

The Pharmercy’s weakness is hit scans. Heroes like Soldier 76, McCree and Widowmaker are what counters a Pharmercy. Even so, this does not mean that the people playing those heroes can actually hit Pharah or Mercy. Just be aware that the enemy hit scans will focus you, and if they frag you more than you frag them, then consider abandoning the Pharmercy strategy.

That’s it for the Pharmercy strategy. Hopefully this guide helps you control the skies. Let us know what you think in the comments below. The next article in this series will be looking at some of the new updates from the latest patch.


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Overwatch League Contenders: European Weekend Recap

Never underestimate eUnited or Cyclowns. While playing semi off key, their dive comps both looked very well oiled and extremely dangerous.

European teams have a very strong base in Genji play. Sticky bomb kills going into a three kill was not uncommon but Dragonblades were accounting for most of the deaths in any match, sometimes nanoboosted. Both of these teams played each other off stream on Saturday, with eUnited winning two to one against Cyclowns. eUnited never dropped a match before or after that war with Cyclowns.

Cyclowns went on to crush the Sunday bracket, only getting a serious challenge from the next point. Both teams DPS are the stuff of nightmares and on full display throughout the Saturday and Sunday streams. Highly recommended viewing content for those looking to see great anticipation from Tracers or Genjis.

On Saturday, GamersOrigin lost to Bazooka Puppies but on Sunday stormed through the brackets, ultimately getting second place after losing to Cyclowns. Origin played out of their collective minds throughout Sunday, giving a lot of people the impression that they’re an up and coming team in the European arena. They’ve been around since the beginning of Overwatch. Their two longest tenured players are Hyp, who is captain as well as support, along with Noki, also support.

The casters for Europe are very entertaining. The rapport between the pairs of casters really shows. Erik Lonnquist and Christopher Mykles look to be working through a transition phase from League to Overwatch. You never got an odd vibe from anyone during this section of the tournament. Each pair of casters played off one another, through the blunders and word flubs you see a sense of appreciation for each others company. Blizzard’s picks to commentate are really impressive and give a sense of calm insight and emotional commentary without being too overbearing in either sense.

Things that could definitely use some improvement

The waits between matches almost kill any interest. Some matches take roughly 20 minutes to start, and that 20 minutes is enough to lose any focus one has. This will likely be fixed soon when the next round kicks off next weekend, though. All eight teams will have everything in order before the rounds begin to cut down on wait times. If they’re lacking content between the matches, that’s understandable.

Lack of coverage is another issue. We see a lot of matches scheduled but only half the matches streamed. It’s confusing when someone is looking forward to watching a team only to find out their match is not streamed. Four matches a night with 10 to 20 minutes between each match feels empty.

There’s not much else to gripe about really. The matches are all played online, so pauses are inevitably going to happen. Teams may be a bit late and it may take a bit of time to organize over 750 teams. Getting a controllable bracket can’t be easy and it speaks volumes that Blizzard got this tournament to function as well as it did and still get some coverage on the key matches.

Here’s looking forward to next week when the North American sweet 16 go into the four groups to battle for the top four spots. The round robins will hopefully be getting a lot more coverage than the four matches shown each day so far.


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Forgone Conclusion: Overwatch Contenders League Qualifying Weekend Sunday

Immortals versus everyone, it’s not close. Every team fight looked exactly like this.

I miss Saturday’s games already. Sunday’s looked to be a fatalistic foreshadowing of future proceedings. Immortals were not giving a single point to anyone and lived up to their name going two to zero every game they played throughout the bracket. They ended up annihilating any and everything in their way. Not too surprising coming from Carbon League where they went six and four but ultimately won the tournament convincingly. In essence, despite losing in the Bracket Saturday, Immortals returned Sunday like a shadow.

Throughout the night I found myself drawn to the odd ball type teams. The current meta itself rotates primarily through dive comps situated around Winston, D.Va, Zenyatta, Lucio, Soldier 76 and Tracer. The dive meta comp however seemingly disappears, especially on Lijang Tower’s Garden area. Control point maps, especially wide open control points like Lijang Tower Garden and Nepal Sanctum suddenly burst to life when you see a Mercy or a Mei.

Image courtesy of Toronto Esports

The issue however was that outside of the various little differences, you saw teams very rarely try to play anything outside of the dive meta. This staleness in the game really has plagued Overwatch over the last year. Near the inception of Ana, it was the three tank meta where two teams would slam trains together assuming different results. Now with every nerf bat ever made, the three tank meta slowed and it’s now become submarine battles. If your team is unable to dive and kill the critical element of a team, you’re forced to reset and try again usually.

Getting off the soap box however, I’m a sucker for long games with a lot of back and forth. Meta or no meta, if a game is going to be a slug fest, you can sign me up. The series that gifted me such a request was once again the match before the final match. Toronto Esports and Hammers Esports went the distance. Every single match on Sunday night was a two to nothing win except for one and it was a screamer. Not much can really top off a D.Va ult suddenly and irrevocably changing the team fights.

Image courtesy of Hammers Esports, LLC.

A blurb about Toronto Esports from their About Us page “Toronto Esports Club was founded in 2016, with the goal creating a local Esports team for Toronto and Canadian fans to cheer for. On September 6, 2016 the Club announced their intention to enter the competitive Overwatch scene with the introduction of their first professional Overwatch roster.” It also helps that this team has seasoned professional players in Chris “Huk” Loranger. More to the point, most of their entire roster is essentially been together since March but showing they’re stuff in Open Qualifiers thus far.

Hammer Esports was primarily a mobile-MOBA focused team but their expansion into non-mobile Esports, primarily Overwatch feels like an attempt to finally put themselves on a wider stage. Their showings thus far in the Open Qualifiers stands to reason that they have nothing but good things coming their way in the coming competitions.

MAP 1: WATCHPOINT: GIBRALTAR

Image courtesy of Blizzard Entertainment

Gibraltar seems to be the initial map for every skirmish. Hammers had Snizzlenose (Roadhog, which is his main) and Christfer (Winston) while Shaz and Tomzey played around with Ana and Lucio. No Zenyatta meant that Winston’s dive target might actually last a tad longer. On the flip side however, Ana using Roadhog to build her nanoboost to give an edge to Winston for the pick was a safe assumption. With a Nano’d Winston, it’s safe to assume that Winston getting a pick in the backline was all but guaranteed. DPS duties were resting with Nesh and Fischer on Soldier: 76 and Genji.

It looked rather one sided with how Toronto started but things definitely turned for the better.

Toronto’s team went full dive comp with Winston, D.Va, Tracer, Zenyatta, Lucio but used Genji instead of Soldier: 76. Cynic (Winston) and Jaru (Genji) were truly on their game though, pushing Hammers back line while Note on D.Va seemingly got picks on her Ult consistently. There was not a single self destruct on offense where Note seemingly didn’t kill someone. In the hanger, Toronto was forcing the issue as they’d lost momentum thanks to the doors shutting. Note bowled a strike by sending D.Va’s ult into the hanging shuttle above the main cart route and getting a double kill. Arguably play of the round as Hammers retreated immediately after losing two.

Hammers stuck with Ana but the better players prevailed as it was showing more and more evident that Fischer was not as strong at Genji as Jaru. Toronto secured the first game, with Hammers trying to be over aggressive on defense and ultimately costing them. Toronto used their obvious advantage in DPS, flipping to a lopsided one tank, three dps, two supports set up. Note held down the first point leaving Jaru and Onigod to get picks and hamstring Hammers push until overtime when Note and Jaru closed down the point with solid point awareness and a devastating team fight.

MAP 2: LIJANG TOWER

Image courtesy of Blizzard Entertainment

As the rotation for the maps plays out in Payload, Control Point, Assault, the next up was Lijang Tower and my personal pick for the best solo game of the night. Hammers and Toronto stuck mostly to script outside of throwing in a Mercy/Pharah combo as well as just unreal D.Va play out of Note and Snizzlenose who finally got comfortable. At no point was any single map in Lijang a conclusive result as you saw Toronto and Hammers trading ults and kills back and forth. There were Mercy ults on both sides, it looked like a modern movie climax with everything exploding into a ball of fire. Garden had the team trading blows and point capture up until the final moments with both teams coming down hard on how to counter and dive one another. Hammers luck held up however and truly showed off their

Suddenly Lijang opened my eyes to a possible real fight happening. Credit to /u/BigMurph26

skills as Note’s impressive D.Va play was matched by Snizzlenose time and again.

With match point, Toronto shows adaptation at its finest as it abandons the 2/2/2 set up and runs lopsided DPS with Note going back to Solider 76, flipping the scales completely and dominating Hammers on Night Market. That game was distilled Overwatch, a game built around switching heroes to better suit your advantage versus another team.

The final match returned to Garden however and another massive brawl happens on the point but ultimately Toronto looked like it was out of ideas on just how to counter Hammers superior map presence. Hammers never conceded the point and tied the match up. We get a real match and suddenly I feel like it’s a no holds bar type of excitement bubbling up from the center. These two teams are insanely even and it really takes just incredibly strong play from both sides but who was going to crack?

MAP 3: TEMPLE OF ANUBIS

Image courtesy of Blizzard Entertainment

Final round began with Hammers starting on Offense. Both teams fielded lopsided set ups with Toronto running two tanks, three DPS and Luddee on Lucio. Just a note, Luddee is officially listed as a sub and is only playing with Toronto on this specific tournament which is truly a testament to his skill as a player. People might knock Lucio for being rather simplistic in his playstyle but it’s entirely different to have to sub in for a team on a huge stage. Not to mention being a strong enough a player to keep you in a match by simultaneously getting kills and healing everyone enough to put you in the ring with Immortals.

Toronto managed to hold out on last point for six and a half minutes, punishing Hammers over and over using Sombra’s EMP effectively. Much if the game between FNRGFE and FaZe, with FNRGFE attempting to use Sombra to stall out FaZe, Toronto used Sombra in a much more effective manner. This was primarily because of Toronto abandoning first point the moment it became evident they could no longer hold out. Hammers with a minute left forced a team fight in the enclosed hallway to the side of the last point.

The fight initialized with Shaz landing a hail mary biotic grenade on Jaru who had just activated Dragonblade. Sensing weakness, Christfer identified Jaru as unable to heal, killing him, and Hammers pushed through onto point, despite an EMP. Suddenly it turned into a complete brawl as not only did the EMP not hit Lucio, Lucio had Sound Barrier and put Hammers in a position to score. On top of this, Nesh switched to McCree and that single switch from Nesh seemingly got them into a fight where Tracer and Genji could not. This happened in less than a ten second window with only 40 seconds left to win the point. They tied in the team fight and Hammers finished with 34% of a point captured. True to form for Anubis however, it takes the royal flush level of coincidences to really win Anubis handily.

Sensing an opening, Toronto returned to the 2/2/2 set up but abandoning dive comp completely. Jaru and Snow went with Pharah/Mercy, Note and Cynic on D.Va and Winston respectively and Onigod on Widowmaker with Luddee finishing the squad on Lucio (because of course). What put it in Toronto’s favor was that Hammers too had gone Widow with Nesh picking up the rifle himself.

The casters noted offensive Widowmaker is given a lot of leeway and that put Hammers down essentially to a five versus six without them even knowing it. Within moments of the match beginning, OniGod makes the call of Nesh’s Widow pick, you see Note and Cynic instantly harass. Despite an effort to hold, the first point collapsed like the old ruins they’re fighting in and Toronto began storming towards the last point.

With ultimates a plenty, Toronto drew up a play and laid their Royal Flush on the table. Jaru and Snow still on the Pharah/Mercy flew over the right side picking off Tomzey. A split second later Cynic killed Snizzlenose, and Hammers went down two players. Even if anyone crucial died, Snow’s Rez was ready and waiting to punish any ults used by Hammers. Onigod fired up garbage truck cleaning up the remaining members brave enough to try and stall.

Game, two to one,  Toronto Esports.

The rest of the matches had highlights but this particular one stands out as not only does it highlight one of the primary features of Overwatch, it shows just how much is can radically alter a match when used both effectively and creatively. On the whole however, the night was taken by the best team and that was Immortals. Immortals might ultimately become the ones with the targets on their backs for the rest of this tournament.

Check back June 18 when I cover the Open Qualifiers for Europe as well. In the meantime I’ll be covering other various aspects of Overwatch and Heroes of the Storm.

 

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