Enjoy the shows
There’s a lot of dead bodies to be buried this weekend. Counter Strike killed half its audience with a heart attack. No doubt thanks to things not going as planned. The Overwatch community however is just heartbroken and overjoyed. Set the relationship status to it’s complicated. While on one hand, crowd favorites were obviously the home team of Australia, sleepers like Japan and Spain not only gave great performances, they won over the crowds. Sweden shocked no one in their performance. The biggest came from Taimou as he came to life, shunting Finland through a couple of matches with a very realized smile. The dive meta wasn’t natural law for a 72 hour period and that gave him free reign to poor bullets from a certain beloved Cowboy.
Production for this seems well matched for their set up and the groups once again make their return. This tournament feels markedly different from Contenders. The matches thus far are easy to watch, casted at the same high rate and most of all, the teams themselves seem taken to experiment.
The complaints of dive comp and stale meta sat still for only a few moments. Teams are innovating once again because players are all from different squads, forced to mesh together. This is prime ground for throwing out new ideas and losing very little for being wrong. It heightened everything from the excitement of a live crowd to the players themselves.
Day 1: Don’t Belittle Italy and Spanish Rice
Australia made a bold statement immediately as the opening game of the tournament. They blanked Italy immediately. Only one match went to overtime and despite itself, the games were always interesting. Sweden was nearly shocked by Portugal however, as Mowzassa, kiler4fun and horthic (pronounced Orthic) proved to be just as ready to face off against Misfits Sweden. Cwoosh did not have a strong weekend overall but his team rallied regardless. TviQ proved to be a stronger Tracer while Chipshajen, Manneten and Reinforce anchored the impressive line. Zebbosai’s calls also proved to be a difference maker as Sweden’s play looked more refined than Portugal. That having been said, they stilled tied and put Australia in the Driver seat for their respective group.
Finland, and a rather excited Taimou, beat Vietnam with a whiffle-ball bat. Vietnam fielded an entire gaming squad against Finland and yet looked hapless against them. Not to discount Vietnam but it shows the levels between these teams as a whole and it was still a good showing, albeit brief.
This piece cannot leave out Japan however. Japan is an insulated scene, with very little play from the outside world. This has given Japan a write off in the internationally thus far. The world has not only been put on notice but given a wake up punch to the face. Japan beat Spain in an ‘upset’ to close out the night. HarryHook and neptuNo initially doubted who they were dealing with as Japan’s absurd aggression took everyone by surprise. They were serial killers and they committed to everything as a team.
The shocked Spanish squad was on their back heels for Kings Row battling fruitlessly against players like Ta1yo and AKTM. Both Japanese DPS seemed tailor made for wild strategies, rolling characters like McCree on payload maps, wildly head shoting and stunning at will. It was the stuff of nightmares for a very traditional squad from Spain who looked outmatched. (Believe me when I say this, WATCH THE VOD, it does not disappoint.) Japan’s 3 to one final score won over a load of support as suddenly the groups fate no longer looked decided before committee.
Day 2: Fo, Fo, Fo, Fo
Taking a page out of the NBA, the fo, fo, fo, fo is a joke of winning every best of seven in four games. In this case, Japan, Sweden, Australia and Spain blanked the competition. Liam Neeson would’ve been proud as they terrified their opponents with quality play from everyone. Japan continued to highlight an unorthodox aggressive approach against Vietnam. Spain and Finland started incredibly strong with Taimou’s resurgence but Finland lost out in the end. Australia nearly lost matches against Portugal but won in spite to a delirious home crowd. Sweden’s games mirrored that of Japan with back breaking fights that left Italy reeling.
Day two seems like a wash but the difference in this versus Contenders is that no team was ever truly ‘rolled’. Some maps spun wildly out of control but it seemed less scripted than before. The whole idea of a stale game suddenly went away as teams began doing unexpected strategies. Zarya, Reaper, McCree, Widowmaker, all showed their faces. It was an echo of a year gone by with the games beginning to feel fresh and new. While Dive meta remains the same in consistency, the wave may be beginning to crest and recede. If the trend continues, it could theoretically begin developing cracks that grow wider as fights get wilder.
Day 3: Set the table and blow out the candles
The night started with Sweden finally taking the reins from Australia. The hometown favorites from Sydney were toppled in a three to one exchange that could’ve easily spilled into a tie. The initial two games looked hopeless for Australia until Volskaya where the squad came to life. Battling hard despite ceding the high ground constantly to Sweden’s DPS, Australia choked the win right out of Sweden. Route 66 proved to be the heart breaker however after a blown support ultimate on defense cost Australia the top spot and seed. (Sidenote: Italy and Portugal duked it out for nothing but by box score had a hell of set by the looks of it.)
Eyes turned to Japan as Finland sharpened their knives. If Japan lost, they would take second in group standings and be forced to fight Sweden. Refusing this notion, what essentially was the match of the whole weekend took place. Japan lost a close match on Hollywood before putting its foot down on Lijang Tower and Horizon. In the driver’s seat, they lost control of Dorado against Taimou and company and finished two to two tied. It left the crowd and casters breathless. (Sidenote: Spain cruised over Vietnam and secured the second spot based on maps won/lost.)
Finals: Don’t get up!
Sweden versus Spain ultimately went to Sweden. HarryHook and neptuNo provided ample performances but Sweden’s roster was too stacked. Cwoosh was cold all weekend until he put the button in the final match on Horizon Lunar Colony. The game became an instant classic despite it going Sweden’s way.
The true match of the tournament was Japan and Australia. They went tit for tat against one another. Each match becoming a back and forth between great plays made by great players. Ta1yo would struggle only to be saved by AKTM. Ieatuup and Aetar would match aggression with aggression. No team wanted to go home it seemed. The crowd cheered for every kill Australia got, every point captured, yet never seemed spiteful to Japan’s perfomance. There was a magic in the air and the match exploded finally onto Oasis. Australia closed out a gassed Japanese team who ultimately fell. Japan played their hearts out to win but Australia’s home crowd nearly fainted in the process.
Overall, this weekend pulled in massive viewership, a live crowd of 2000 people and a slew of great games. This games audience is at least dedicated. Overwatch league may be getting laughed at behind closed doors, however the audience clearly exists. It may not fill stadiums but it does fill spaces. Grand ideas will have detractors and detractors. The proof of concept however was shown in Sydney. This may actually work, even if no one wants to be the first to admit it.
Okay, admit it, it was a hell of a series at the very least.
“From our Haus to yours”