The Atlanta Reign have secured a playoff spot in Stage 1. The path there was a bit bumpy and came down to the final weekend of the stage, but they made it and are looking to forge a path through to Sunday’s finals.
Last Week’s Matches
Chengdu Hunters 3-4
The Chengdu Hunters have become infamous for their off-meta compositions, and they’ve gotten better at them as the stage has progressed. Atlanta, meanwhile, have shown tremendous strength throughout the stage with the exception of their struggles against a surging Gladiators squad. The two teams met head to head in a back and forth battle that went all the way to line with a map five loss for the Reign.
The thing to remember about this match-up, however, is that it was the first of two games played over the weekend in which they had to win only one. With the Outlaws having a stronger record and a shot for the playoffs, they were the more predictable opponent that would guarantee the Reign’s spot in the playoffs. This being the case, Atlanta seemed much more prepared for Houston as Chengdu were able to exploit the Reign in multiple areas to win the day.
Hu “Jinmu” Yi in particular was a thorn in the side of Atlanta as he was able to stay alive, find key picks and build quick ultimates across a range of heroes. Even still, the Reign were able to find victories against the Hunters in order to push it to a map 5 and retain a high map differential despite the loss.
Results: Atlanta Loses 2-3
Hold of the Game
While numerous players had stand-out plays, the moment of the match where the Reign truly came together was the final defensive hold on Rialto. With the Hunters having pushed the payload to the final choke of point C, and three and a half minutes left in the time bank, it seemed as if it was Chengdu’s match to win. Atlanta wasn’t ready to give up, however, as they rotated ultimates effectively, found key picks and were even able to push the Hunters all the way back to spawn. This hold in particular pointed out how brightly Atlanta can shine when under pressure.
Houston Outlaws 3-4
The Houston Outlaws have had struggles throughout the season, with their wins coming from very hard fights. Despite this, they were still looking at a stage playoff spot if they were able to beat the Reign; Reign was in a similar position against the Outlaws. Thankfully for Atlanta, Houston has played much more meta-friendly compositions that were easier to prepare for.
The Reign did struggle a bit, however, as the Outlaw’s Sombra-GOATs was incredibly effective when primed with the EMP. Despite this, however, Atlanta was able to play around it, gaining strength and understanding as the day went on. By the time map 4 came about, the Reign had figured out how to shut down Dante “Danteh” Cruz on the Sombra from finding appropriate positioning to engage properly. This led to the Outlaws spinning their wheels a bit and eventually falling, allowing the Reign access to the playoffs.
Results: Atlanta Wins 3-1
Play of the Game
Once again, Rialto is where Atlanta made their strongest stand. In the final fight of the map, the Reign’s defense found itself up against an Outlaws offense loaded with four powerful ultimates. As they started coming in, however, Atlanta was able to diffuse each and every one of them. After Houston threw out an EMP, a Shatter, a Transcendence and a Graviton Surge, the Reign brushed each and every one of them off. The kill-feed then lit up with a torrent of Outlaws players without Reign dropping a single player. The Atlanta Reign had figured out the Houston Outlaws entirely and had put the match to bed without having to deal with a map 5.
This Week’s Quarterfinal Match
Philadelphia Fusion 5-2
In what promises to be a rematch that both teams’ fans will be rabidly cheering over, the Philadelphia Fusion and Atlanta Reign will face off in round one of the stage playoffs. Their previous match-up came in week one where the teams fought back and forth in some great, high level Overwatch. It ended up as a map 5, round 3, 99% to 99% overtime showdown where the Fusion were able to squeak out a win over the Reign. It showed us how close these teams truly were, and that it very easily could have gone the other way.
The difference going into this playoff match is that Atlanta has been tested, has faced hardships against tough opponents and have shown serious growth; the Fusion have not. Philadelphia showed struggles against low performing teams like the winless LA Valiant, and even handed the Florida Mayhem their only win of the season so far. At this point, their week one victory over the Reign has been the highlight of their stage so far, and that was in week one.
Week one for Atlanta consisted of a 4-0 against the Florida Mayhem and a narrow loss against the previous year’s runner-ups. They had to prepare for two games, did well in both of them despite the loss and have shown tremendous growth throughout the stage. The Reign defeated a very competent Toronto Defiant, derailed the Paris Eternal’s undefeated season, and are the only non-homogeneous expansion team to make playoffs.
At no point should anyone underestimate the Fusion, however. They have shown tenacity and the ability to clutch out wins, especially if they make it to map 5. Even with somewhat questionable performances, Philly have been known to play to their opponent and are still a very dangerous team, especially if Atlanta has trouble finding their footing in early maps. Expect this one to go the distance, but don’t be surprised if the results fall the other way.
Prediction: Atlanta Wins 3-2
Player to Watch Out For
The Philadelphia Fusion have shown their weakest performances when Isaac “Boombox” Charles is out and Elijah “Elk” Gallagher is swapped in to play Zenyatta. Expect Atlanta to recognize this and work on shutting down Boombox while protecting and propelling their own Zenyatta. Keep an eye on Dusttin “Dogman” Bowerman for clutch plays that tip close fights as his team prevents his counterpart from doing the same.
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