The LA Valiant have been the talk of the town in Blizzard Arena, and not without reason. Their roster additions have clicked, their mechanics are sharp. A perfect start to the stage has reflected the immense effort the team has gone through to improve from their so-so start to the season.
The thing is, though, all that success has come against teams that had no right to beat the Valiant. Seoul has fallen from grace this stage. Shanghai and Dallas are… Shanghai and Dallas. The win against San Francisco was probably the most convincing of the bunch, given the Shock’s current 4th place standing, and the 3-2 win against the Gladiators was as even as could be. Josh “Sideshow” Wilkinson put it best- the Valiant are a bit overrated right now, especially with a host of other teams giving us strong showings lately.
That point was driven home this week against the London Spitfire. Like the Valiant’s match against the Gladiators, it was a close finish- but all series long, the Spitfire poked and prodded all of the Valiant’s uncomfortable vulnerabilities. It was the Valiant’s first true test- and they failed miserably.
a Negative profit margin
A good Tracer player can often turn the tide of a fight, or even an entire series if you let them run free. The LA Valiant know this, and signed Joon-hyuk “Bunny” Chae from the Seoul Dynasty in between stages two and three. He’s been a real highlight player for the Valiant, and his synergy with the rest of his team has been impressive.
You know another Tracer with impressive mechanics and team cohesion? Profit. He’s been playing at a (T-Mobile) MVP level all season long, and made another strong case for himself here against the Valiant. Against Bunny (or anyone else in green,) Profit sliced his way through the noise with efficiency, and escaped situations that would normally leave him dead on the ground. Bunny just couldn’t keep up, and it showed in key 1v1 situations. Even when Profit was taken care of, Bunny could sometimes get a little ahead of himself. He’ll need to sharpen up in the Valiant’s last four games, three of the Valiant’s four opponents have world-class Tracer players (Logix, Snillo/Carpe, and Striker.) If he doesn’t, well… hopefully he likes In N Out.
Not So Agile anymore
Speaking of In N Out, Agilities had an interesting series here against the Spitfire. I wouldn’t say it was a good interesting, either. His Genji did work, and his Pharah shredded on Nepal, but you could tell that the Spitfire were making the adjustments they needed to handle him. On Oasis, they had his number. A spread out play style and the occasional stray sandal to the face proved to be all it took to keep Agilities from getting much of anything done, and in a key tiebreaker, minimizing one player’s performance is as good as gold.
The Spitfire never even ran a counter Pharah, or a Mccree. A Sombra was enough, and that says a lot about the Spitfire’s strategic thinking. The way they positioned themselves on Oasis kept the Valiant honest, and Sombra’s newly-strengthened EMP is a death knell for Pharah players everywhere. It may be time for the Valiant to take a second look at their playbook on Pharah-focused maps, especially with SoOn proving his mettle as a flexible hitscan specialist. I mean, look at this! How can you see plays like that and sub SoOn out for map five? The Valiant have come a long way in terms of structure and cohesion, but still have some lessons to learn at the strategic level- namely, the value of keeping a player that’s running hot.
Still a ways to go
This isn’t all to say that the Valiant are toast, mind you. All missteps aside, the hometown heroes have put up an impressive showing this stage, and have a lot more yet to prove as we approach the stage playoffs once again. They’ll just have to hope that they can fix their mistakes before they have to take on any more big names.
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Featured photo: Robert Paul for Blizzard Entertainment