This season of the OWL has, so far, all been played on relatively the same meta. The 3-3, or GOATS, meta is one that has forced players and coaches to perfect the most minor details of the game and, while some viewers may not enjoy it quite as much, it has produced some of the highest level of play Overwatch has ever seen.
The End of an Era
This all comes to fruition in this weekend’s Stage 3 Playoffs. Eight teams that have spent months perfecting and/or countering this meta will face off for what will likely be the last time on the current ruleset. The all but confirmed 2-2-2 role lock coming in Stage 4 ends an era of Overwatch that, in all reality, goes back well before the OWL to Apex and other competitive iterations of the game. Since the developers instituted the change allowing players to only pick one of each hero, this will be by far the most considerable change made to the game.
While some may have their eyes set on Stage 4 and the relief from GOATS that it brings with it, there is a case to be made to slow down and enjoy this last bit of Overwatch’s history in the Stage 3 Playoffs. If viewers tune in for nothing else, tune in to witness history: The last time OW is ever played at the highest level outside of the 2-2-2 lock. That, in and of itself, ought to be reason enough.
The Best Overwatch
What this means, subsequently, is that these games may be the highest level of OW fans get to witness all season long. Think about it. The players, coaches and managers have only had, presumably, a stage or two to prepare for the coming 2-2-2 lock. And, even while they have been “prepping” they have had to still focus on Stage 3 and the current rule system in place.
That means, when Stage 4 rolls around, matches may be far more experimental than they are now. While this may lead to some more big plays and, obviously, more DPS play, it may also lead to some serious blowouts and just overall poor quality of play. This may even carry over into the Season Playoffs.
Consider a team like the Houston Outlaws. It took them effectively three stages to get to a point where they had the meta figured out and began to have success. Teams like the Outlaws with lesser coaching staffs and fewer resources may not have the time to perfect, or even come close to perfecting, their 2-2-2 playstyle in Stage 4. Even for professionals, this takes time.
This is all the more reason to tune into the Stage 3 Playoffs. Teams have spent the entire season perfecting this meta and general playstyle. They’ve had time to work out the experiments and the kinks and now and only the top eight teams are left standing. These stage playoffs are, in a sense, a microcosm of what the Season Playoffs could have been. The true culmination of the best in the ruleset that will have been played for 75% of the season. In short, this may be the best Overwatch that has ever been played, top to bottom.
If fans are skeptical of the 2-2-2 meta, fine. If not for the history of the way the game has been played, just tune into the Stage 3 Playoffs for the solid competition that is to come. In STage’s 1 and 2, most more or less knew that the Shock and the Titans were going to be contending for the title. But, this time around, it’s anyone’s game. OWL caster Wolf Schröder said it best in a tweet a few days ago:
This is probably the least predictable Stage Playoffs in Overwatch League history. New York and Vancouver are chasing redemption, while Houston and Valiant seek relevance. Shanghai are inconsistent but masters of the meta. Shock look to defend their title. Spark trying to upset. pic.twitter.com/NDx6MJPk14
— Wolf Schröder (@proxywolf) July 7, 2019
The NYXL are coming in undefeated but have their skeptics when it comes to playoff performance. The Shock and Titans, the heavyweights of the season, have both looked beatable in recent weeks, each suffering less than normal losses. The Spark, Dragons, Outlaws and Valiant all look hotter than ever but not without their inconsistencies. And, as always, Seoul are chasing their historic expectations from their proud and deep OW lineage.
There aren’t many more ways to say it. This is going to be some of the best OW that has ever been played and represents a historic pivot in the way the game has played. If the motto of the OWL is #CaptureHistory, there’s no better time than the present.
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Featured Image Courtesy of Robert Paul for Blizzard Entertainment
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