Week 3 saw Se-hyeon “Neko” Park’s return to the starting lineup against the mighty New York Excelsior and the “Shangovered” Boston Uprising. Despite an impressive map 4 performance from the Defiant, NYXL walked away victorious claiming their fifth victory and just their first of the week. Toronto fared far better against a Boston team still struggling to grasp the Stage 1 meta behind their vocal main tank, Cameron “Fusions” Bosworth.
Their victory over Boston helped inch Toronto ever closer to that elusive Stage 1 playoff spot. With two games remaining for the Defiant in Stage 1, every map win is crucial. Considering Toronto sits at a neutral map differential of 0, their performances against the Chengdu Hunters and the Hangzhou Spark in Week 4 will have major playoff implications.
Week 3 Recap:
Defiant- 1 NYXL- 3
Standing against the mighty NYXL is no simple task. The powerhouse roster from New York have decimated their opponents in Stage 1, only surrendering six maps in six games. Neko made his debut in Week 3 against an NYXL after missing Toronto’s previous three matchups to start the season. His first glimpse at Season 2 action would come facing off against the 2018 MVP, Sung-hyeon “JJoNak” Bang.
It was not a stellar performance by any means from Toronto. Key playmakers from NYXL like Dong-gyu “Mano” Kim, Tae-hong “MekO” Kim and Yeon-kwan “Nenne” Jeong continued to display their prowess through the first three maps of the series. On map 4 however, New York’s bold substitution of Jong-ryeol “Saebyeolbe” Park and Toronto’s “never say die” attitude cost the Excelsior dearly. Toronto full held NYXL on Dorado to claim the fourth and final map of the series.
Uprising- 1 Defiant- 3
After a tough loss to the Excelsior, Toronto responded to their critics with a dominant performance against the Boston Uprising. Neko’s reunion with his former team was certainly a must win for the Defiant. Their victory helped put Toronto in a commanding position ahead of other fringe playoff teams.
Boston’s utilization of the popular 3-3 composition has shown some fatal flaws other teams have exploited over the weeks. Toronto’s response was no different. Fusion’s presence can certainly be overwhelming for opponents, but Seung-hyun “Ivy” Lee’s dominant performance on Zarya outshined that of Boston’s Kelsey “Colourhex” Birse. The clear damage advantage set the Defiant up for success against the aggressive Boston squad .
Chengdu Hunters (2-2) 3/7
The Hunters have had a surprisingly productive start to their season. With multiple key players awaiting visa clearance, Chengdu have shown enormous potential with early wins against the Guangzhou Charge and the Florida Mayhem. Their losses; however, have been rather concerning, as they have been swept by both the Seoul Dynasty and the Shanghai Dragons.
With a week under his belt. Neko’s presence will continue to be felt as Toronto closes out Stage 1. His presence already had an incredible effect on their showing against Boston in Week 3. Even more playtime and synergy can only benefit a team that has shown an impressive grasp of 3-3, as well as an ability to work outside of meta restrictions.
Joo-seong “RoKy” Park continued to represent Toronto as their main support. His Lucio play has been a key contributor in multiple ultimate combos since Week 1. Successful utilization of their supports has helped boost the overall success from their tanks, Kang-jae “envy” Lee and Gyeong-mu “Yakpung” Jo. The team’s versatility and synergy are sure to pose a major threat against their Chengdu in Week 4.
If Toronto can continue playing at the pace they set against NYXL in map 4, they should overwhelm the Hunters just as they did the Uprising in Week 3.
Prediction: Defiant- 4 Hunters- 0
Hangzhou Spark (3-3) 3/9
After a strong start and a surprise drop off, the Hangzhou Spark seem to have gotten their groove back against a surprisingly less than stellar Gladiators team in Week 3. With their communication issues evidently behind them, Spark main tank Xu “guxue” Qiulin seems to have finally claimed the starting role for the Spark going forward.
Guxue’s presence certainly puts pressure on Toronto. Hangzhou’s performance against the Gladiators in Week 3 revolved around the Spark’s deletion of LA main tank Chang-hoon “rOar” Gye. Yakpung has shown some early tendencies to be caught off guard by sudden aggression from opponents. It will be key for the Defiant supports to balance the Spark’s aggression through orb, aura and ultimate.
Despite their recent struggles, Hangzhou can’t be doubted. Although inconsistent game to game, the Spark carry enormous talent throughout their roster with huge carry potential. Players like Ho-jin “iDK” Park and Kyeong-bo “GodsB” Kim are each just as integral to their compositions as their Toronto counterparts RoKy and Ivy. This will be a close match with both teams seeking dominance over the other expansion rosters behind the Vancouver Titans.
Prediction: Spark- 2 Defiant- 3
Week 4 Player to Watch: Gyeong-mu “Yakpung” Jo
Toronto’s chances at victory may very well live and die with their main tank. Throughout their entire match against NYXL, Mano severely outperformed Yakpung on the first three maps. On map 4 however, Yakpung was able to facilitate several effective Earthshatter combos with Envy’s Self Destruct for key fight wins leading to map victory. If Yakpung can stand tall against guxue’s ferocity, and Chengdu’s Ding “Ameng” Menghan’s versatility, look for Toronto to gain a decisive edge against their opponents in Week 4.
Featured Image Courtesy of Robert Paul for Blizzard Entertainment
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