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.
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
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
Featured photo via LA Gladiators twitter