The Overwatch League heads to Washington D.C. this week for the first of the Justice’s five Homestands in 2020. As eight teams converge on the nation’s capital, the top teams want to maintain momentum after strong debuts while some simply look to notch their first win. As more matches are played, narratives start to take shape from the fog that was the offseason.
Who Is the Alpha Dog of the East?
The opening game of the week is undeniably the most enticing on offer in Washington. New York and Philadelphia both emerged from their respective Homestands unscathed. Now they meet in the first true marquee match of the season.
Neither team has really been pushed as of yet, but both have championship aspirations. On paper, they’re juggernauts, and early returns suggest they’ll be jockeying for position at the top of the conference. The winner here should come away from the weekend with a 4-0 record and an early lead in that race. Atlanta is still looming, but Philly and NYXL have a chance to stake their claim now.
The matchup looks to be a fascinating clash of styles. To this point, New York hasn’t strayed far from the established meta. They run the six most popular heroes (Reinhardt, D.Va, Mei, McCree, Lucio and Ana) together in 56% of teamfights, highest in the league, and Hong-Jun “HOTBA” Choi plays D.Va in more than 90% of teamfights, per the OWL Stats Lab. The Fusion, on the other hand, are running Orisa over D.Va most of the time. They’ve shown the ability to flex to the standard meta style, but they seem to prefer to slow and steady double shield approach. How that push and pull plays out over the series will set the tone.
When these teams meet on Saturday, it will be the first look at that strategic battle with top teams on both sides. It will also bring a renewal of one of the best rivalries in OWL. New York and Philly met six times in Season 1, with climactic finishes in the Stage 2 Finals and the Playoff Semifinals. If they can deliver anything resembling those classics, this should make for a wildly entertaining match.
Who Is… Not?
The flip side of that clash of titans comes in the match that immediately follows it. Boston and Houston disappointed mightily in their debuts, both sport dramatically revamped rosters and, so far, they’ve struggled to put the pieces together. When they match up this weekend, the winner will avoid ignominy and the loser will surely be branded the worst team in the league.
There are mitigating factors, of course. Expectations for Boston are low, and their only match was against NYXL. There’s no shame in that loss, but it wasn’t pretty or particularly encouraging. Now, against a team more on their level, fans will get a real taste of what Boston has to offer. Hopefully, they’ve caught up a bit in the two weeks since they last saw the stage.
For Houston, their less than stellar Week 2 can be chalked up to growing pains and the ravages of the flu on their roster and staff. They’re owed some benefit of the doubt, but a loss to Boston would put them in a hole that no team wants to dig itself out of. They’ll need improvements across the board, but especially from Jeffery “Blasé” Tsang. Forced into the hitscan DPS role, he looked out of sorts, but maybe a match against his old team can help him flip the script.
Can Washington Take Care of Business at Home?
All things considered, the Justice had a solid start to their 2020 campaign. They pushed the hometown Fusion, a potential title contender, to their limits at times on Saturday. They cleaned up an easy win against Houston the following day. Now, they return home to put on a show for their fans.
After their outing last week, picturing this team as showmen just seems right. From Ethan “Stratus” Yankel playing the heel for the Philly crowd to Minseok “AimGod” Kwon’s great escape on Junkertown, to Corey “Corey” Nigra’s flashy hitscan performance, this is a team with a bit of flair. They’re charismatic and, unlike last year, they seem to have the goods to back it up.
Now, they just have to deliver on the promise of the talent they’ve accrued. The meta suits them, especially that DPS duo, pretty much perfectly right now, so they need to rack up wins while they can. The Justice will be favorites in both matches this week, though Paris with Hanbin in the lineup screams trap game. Taking care of matches like these is essential for any team with playoff hopes. Washington wants to be in that discussion.
Who Will Win the Fusion University Alumni Mixer?
This season, five members of Fusion University entered the OWL: Kyungbo “Alarm“ Kim, Julian “Beast” Lauandos, Seung-jun “WhoRU“ Lee, Se-won “BERNAR” Shin, and Tae-hoon “Fuze” Kim. All of their teams will play in Washington this weekend.
Alarm is among the most anticipated rookies of the year, and he’s been solid so far. He hasn’t jumped off the screen as he did in Contenders, but for a debut performance, it was encouraging. He didn’t make many of the glaring mistakes that tend to plague rookies, in part because he’s hardly a rookie after his time with Fusion Uni. He’ll be tested for real on Saturday, though, going up against 2018 MVP SeonngHyun “JJONAK” Bang.
JJONAK’s teammate, WhoRU put in a similar performance for NYXL. His Mei is certainly good, but it doesn’t have the same flashy carry potential of his signature picks, Doomfist and Genji. New York fans might have been surprised to see the rookie play over Haeseong “Libero” Kim, but the early returns are promising. Now, it’s time to see how he holds up under real pressure.
For Beast, the sample size is small and the results are mixed. He looked comfortable playing the Winston during Toronto’s Week 1 victory, but his Reinhardt is kinda shaky. Some of that is surely first match jitters – particularly his more questionable Earthshatters – but now he’ll have to contend with a veteran opponent in the Fusion. No more room for sloppy mistakes.
Looking at London, Fuze hasn’t seen the stage yet, but Bernar was a bright spot for the Spitfire. They were rough around the edges in losses to New York and Paris, but Bernar was a menace on D.Va. To no one’s surprise, he routinely denied ultimates and kept his team in fights. He definitely needs more help, but his talent is undeniable.
So who is likely to come away with bragging rights among the Fusion University Alumni? The winner of Alarm vs WhoRU would be the obvious pick. Bernar is probably the most likely to lead his team to an upset. But it’s Beast who has the most to gain in Week 3. A strong performance against Philly would quiet a lot of the doubts about his ability to compete on the OWL stage. A win against his former parent org could inspire true confidence and jumpstart a surprise run for the Defiant.
Featured image courtesy of Robert Paul for Blizzard Entertainment.
You can also follow Bradley @shyguyow.