In the hours leading up to the first of three games between the LA Gladiators and the London Spitfire, the hometown crowd was delivered some chilling news.
Super-star main tank Fissure was benched by the team for at least game one. Esports consultant Rod “Slasher” Breslau revealed in a series of tweets that Fissure has been unhappy with his teammates’ lack of commitment to practicing in the weeks leading up to playoffs.
LA Gladiators Fissure is not playing tonight. Source: Fissure was unhappy with players on the team not trying hard enough in scrims as preparation for the playoffs and stopped communicating in the scrims. Gladiators chose to play iRemiix instead.
— Rod Breslau (@Slasher) July 12, 2018
Source: Fissure has been unhappy on the Gladiators since joining and his own commitment/practice to the team has waned going into playoffs, prompting his benching by LAG not that his teammates aren’t trying. Wants out of LAG to an all-Korean team.https://t.co/S0DZ26Y1j7
— Rod Breslau (@Slasher) July 12, 2018
As mentioned, the Gladiators opted to start their backup main tank Luis “iRemiix” Figueroa, who had played only a handful of maps since the team’s forgettable Stage 1. While many feared the worst, the Barceloneta native stepped up in a big way against London. With his help, the Gladiators got off to a commanding 1-0 lead in their quarterfinal series.
No Need to Panic
Initial concerns surrounding iRemiix involved his lack of play time and synergy with fellow teammates, especially Fissure’s long-time teammate Void. While Void is the Gladiator’s newest addition (and probably knows less English than most of his teammates by a good margin,) he didn’t appear to struggle at all as the Gladiators stepped into their three-map sweep.
The tank line stepped up, but they weren’t alone. Shaz was as smooth as ever, using his flexibility and sharp mechanics to keep the Spitfire on the back foot. Surefour had the most impressive performance of them all, thanks to an ingenious- and crazy- play on King’s Row.
iRemiix himself was good, but not perfect. His balance between protection and aggression was just a bit off, often leading to some messy Earthshatters and unfortunate overextensions. He needs polish, for sure, but has the potential to fill Fissure’s shoes fully. If he can step up consistently, the Gladiators will be just as scary as they were with Fissure up front.
Speaking of needing polish, the Spitfire had more than a few misfires to give LA the win. Birdring struggled in the Widowmaker duel, Profit couldn’t keep up with Hydration (or even Silkthread,) and even Gesture- a contender for best main tank in the world- struggled against iRemiix’s crazy mix-ups. They’ll need to study the tape thoroughly between now and Saturday if they want to right the ship. LA fans are hoping they sleep in.
Hold the Line
This early success doesn’t mean the Gladiators can rest easy just yet. They still have another game to play against the Spitfire on Saturday, and another after that if London can turn things around and tie up the series. While Oasis (the Spitfire’s kryptonite) is in the rotation for that first game, Dorado, Eichenwalde, and Volskaya are also present. London has done fairly well in all of those maps.
It remains to be seen if Fissure will play at all this series- I’d say it’s doubtful, given the reasons revealed for his benching. That means a couple things.
One: the Gladiators are making their playoff push with a statistically inferior tank. Two: despite his numbers, iRemiix is also a tank that no one knows anything about. Wildcards do well in the Overwatch League… until they get figured out. The Gladiators will have to pull deeply from their bag of tricks to keep this momentum. If they can triumph over the Spitfire, though… We’re looking at the beginning of a very interesting story.
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Featured Image Courtesy of Robert Paul for Blizzard Entertainment