The season’s first stage is in the books, leaving behind plenty of memorable moments to look back on. With grudge matches, new rivalries, record-setters, and everything in between, the teams put on performances that had fans out of their seats. With all the action, it’s difficult to narrow down which matchups stood out the most, but here are just a handful of the best games so far.
10. Hangzhou Spark vs. Los Angeles Valiant (Week 1, February 16)
After closing out season 1 with a strong performance, the Los Angeles Valiant headed into opening week looking to prove that they could still stand among the best teams in the league. They squared off against the Hangzhou Spark, then a highly-anticipated expansion team building off a decisive victory over the Shanghai Dragons. The resulting showdown became an exciting five-map series that came down to the wire. With nearly every map proving a close fight, the two teams scrapped hard for the win before the Spark came out on top. Although neither team kept up the momentum through the stage, they kicked things off with a fantastic show that left fans excited and optimistic for the season ahead.
9. Shanghai Dragons vs. Dallas Fuel (Week 3, March 2)
The Dragons took on the Fuel hoping to keep their first ever winning streak alive. The Fuel, meanwhile, had proven wildly inconsistent throughout the stage, and hoped to follow up on a solid performance against the Philadelphia Fusion the week before. As a result, tensions were high as the two teams battled it out, keeping it neck-and-neck throughout the entire series. As the Dragons stabilized, they appeared poised to win. However, a devastating misstep on Dorado cost them the map when they left the payload in overtime. Clearly shaken, Shanghai struggled to snatch back the momentum in map five, giving the Fuel all they needed to claim the series. Despite the tragic ending, an otherwise strong performance left Shanghai fans confident that they would keep trending upwards, while Dallas fans could build confidence that their own team would work out their issues.
8. Chengdu Hunters vs. Atlanta Reign (Week 5, March 16)
The Reign spent the season trying to prove that they deserved consideration among the league’s top dogs. As they inched closer to securing a playoffs spot, it seemed that they would earn the reputation they wanted. They found a surprising obstacle, however, in the ever-eccentric Chengdu Hunters. Chengdu’s signature disregard for the meta against Atlanta’s standard aggression led to an explosive and deeply entertaining match that ended in a map five victory for the Hunters. Though the Reign ultimately made it to the playoffs anyway, Chengdu showed off both strength and flexibility in this game especially, indicating just why they’ve attracted so much attention this stage.
7. Boston Uprising vs. Dallas Fuel (Week 5, March 16)
With a coveted playoffs spot on the line, everyone knew that the Uprising and Fuel would brawl for a much-needed win. Sure enough, they pushed each other to the limit map after map, with many victories coming down to one crucial team fight. Naturally, the fight headed to map five before Boston pulled out the win, leaving them in a prime position to head to playoffs. With standout performances on both sides and some quick-thinking hero swaps on Boston’s part, the match proved a thriller all around. Throughout the stage, the Uprising had taken pride in the opportunity to prove their naysayers wrong, and their victory over the Fuel was a perfect example of how they planned to do so.
6. Seoul Dynasty vs. New York Excelsior (Quarterfinals, March 21)
To Dynasty fans, Seoul’s first appearance in stage playoffs was enough excitement on its own. Nobody anticipated the added hype when they proceeded to upset the Excelsior altogether, booting the second seeded team from playoffs early on. The match gave the Dynasty a chance to flex their ‘two-roster’ strategy, rotating their players based on whether they wanted to play aggressively or defensively. They caught New York entirely off guard, destroying the chances of the New York-Vancouver final that most people expected. Though the Vancouver Titans made short work of them in semifinals, Seoul’s quarterfinal victory was a major game-changer, and their unusual rotational strategy was a delight to kickoff playoffs with.
5. London Spitfire vs. Shanghai Dragons (Week 4, March 10)
There’s something especially poignant about the Dragons closing out their stage with a victory over last season’s champions. They did it in style, too, winning both King’s Row and Route 66 with full holds and forcing the Spitfire into a fifth map. Beyond the excitement of the match were the playoffs implications – London’s loss dropped them below the cutoff line for playoffs, and they couldn’t reclaim the spot. For a team with a storyline as compelling as the Dragons’, booting the reigning champions from playoffs was quite the way to close out this chapter.
4. Atlanta Reign vs. Philadelphia Fusion (Quarterfinals, March 22)
The Reign hadn’t forgotten their early-stage loss against the Fusion, and they were all too happy to lean into the idea of a grudge match. When the two teams finally butted heads after plenty of buildup, the showdown had all the signature style of an Atlanta-Philadelphia match. Flashy performances, close map fights, Self Destructs, Torbjörn – the two teams filled the match to the brim with the same attitude and aggression that earned them fans in the first place. Despite the Fusion’s decisive 3-1 victory, the teams proved wildly entertaining throughout. If they keep making it back to playoffs, this could be the beginning of a beautiful rivalry.
3. Chengdu Hunters vs. Vancouver Titans (Week 4, March 10)
By the time the Titans reached Week 4, they had established themselves as a powerhouse, rolling over opponent after opponent with ease. That made it that much more fascinating when the scrappy Chengdu Hunters took them to task, pulling out clear-cut victories on Hollywood and Temple of Anubis. In particular, the main tank battle between Sang-beom “Bumper” Park and Ding “Ameng” Menghan has gone down as one of the most memorable (or, at least, meme-worthy) matchups of the stage. Though the Titans won the day and held on to their winning streak, the Hunters proved that their unusual performances can work, and they’ve captured plenty of hearts through the stage.
2. Shanghai Dragons vs. Boston Uprising (Week 2, February 22)
There’s no denying the raw energy of the Shanghai Dragons’ first win. Their victory proved emotional for both fans and players, especially the two remaining members of Shanghai’s Season 1 roster. Add to that the fact that Shanghai’s brand new main tank, Young-jin “Gamsu” Noh, led the charge against his former team, and the stage was set for an exciting night. The gameplay captured plenty of attention as well, with Jin-hyeok “DDing” Yang taking center stage on DPS and the rest of his team enabling him throughout the night. In terms of sheer storyline potential, though, few games stood out this stage the way this one did. Hopefully, it’s just the beginning for the Dragons.
1. San Francisco Shock vs. Vancouver Titans (Finals, March 24)
Fans couldn’t have asked for a better ending to the stage. Perfectly matched in every way, the Titans and the Shock put on a show that’s already being heralded among the best matches in the Overwatch League – maybe even among the best in Overwatch’s short history. A seven-map brawl between two bona fide powerhouses, the match cemented both teams among the best in the business. If the end of GOATS dominance is as near as some people think it is, this match was a fitting goodbye. Here’s hoping that both teams continue to excite in the stages to come.
The action picks right back up on April 4, when Stage 2 begins. If the teams keep things this exciting, fans won’t want to miss it.
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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