After an impressive Stage 3 showing, the Hangzhou Spark have had some time off to regroup and prepare for the stage ahead. With just five weeks of games to go, now is the time to lock in strategies and fight for a spot in season playoffs. This time, the teams have the new addition of role lock to work with as well; for the Spark, this means that they can no longer rely on the 3-3 composition they mastered over the course of Stages 2 and 3. This weekend gives them their first opportunity to prove that they can still show up and perform well, no matter the composition.
Opponent 1: Atlanta Reign (9-12)
The Reign faltered hard in Stage 3, finishing it out with a 2-5 record by defeating the Florida Mayhem and Toronto Defiant at their homestand. Currently ranked at eleventh place in the overall standings, they’ll fight tooth and nail to keep their spot in play-ins. Their reasonably easy schedule this stage means that they could see some better results, and they’ll undoubtedly want to start out strong against the Spark.
It’s difficult to say if the addition of role lock will allow the Reign to develop any new tricks. Between their three DPS players, the team has a deep hero pool to work with. By the end of Stage 3, however, Atlanta had moved away from a 3-3 composition anyway, and opponents have a fair idea of what to expect from them. If Hangzhou’s own DPS lineup performs, and if the team doesn’t give in to the pressure of a new composition, they’ll likely still be able to read and counter the Reign.
Prediction: Hangzhou wins 3-1
Player to Watch: Kyeong-bo “GodsB” Kim
Few of the Spark’s players will feel the impact of role lock harder than GodsB. After serving as the team’s Zarya specialist in 3-3 and occasionally playing Sombra as the meta changed, he’ll most likely return to his hitscan ways for Stage 4. This first game gives fans a chance to see if he can quickly adapt to role lock, or if his time in Zarya jail has left him a little rusty. As Hangzhou’s Widowmaker specialist, this week’s match also gives him a chance to flex his skills against either Andrej “babybay” Francisty or Ilya “NLaaeR” Koppalov, both of who could provide an exciting duel. Either way, this is an especially good week to see what the stage ahead has in store for GodsB.
The Hangzhou Spark begin their Stage 4 run on July 27, when they take on the Atlanta Reign. With season playoffs getting closer and closer, every match counts now.
Follow Darby on Twitter @soundchecck! She is happy to talk about anything she’s written! You can also get in touch with her on Discord (soundchecck#7242).
Featured image courtesy of Robert Paul for Blizzard Entertainment.
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