Atlanta Reign (3-3) vs Chengdu Hunters (3-4)
Chengdu Hunters 3-2 Atlanta Reign
The final match of the day on Saturday promised an explosive affair with playoff implications for the Reign. A win here would all but assure them a spot in the Stage 1 playoffs. Standing in their way were the Chengdu Hunters. The matchup between two of the league’s most flexible and creative teams did not disappoint as both brought their all in a match that went the distance.
Nepal: Hunters 2-0 Reign
Chengdu ran wild on Nepal and completely overwhelmed the Reign thanks in large part to Hu “Jinmu” Yi and Wenjie “Elsa” Luo. Respectively their Pharah and Sombra play left Atlanta searching for answers the entire map. On Village, the Reign never found anything to combat the combo and barely set foot on the point en route to a drubbing at the hands of Chengdu.
Shrine went a bit better for the Reign, but they still fell behind early as Jinmu continued to pop off. Atlanta won their only fight of the map when Donghyung “DACO” Seo used a Nanoboost to focus Chengdu’s Pharah ace. Outside of that lone success, the Reign never got anything going on Nepal as they took a 2-0 loss to open the series.
Numbani: Reign 4-3 Hunters
Numbani offered Atlanta an opportunity to stabilize and avoid going down 2-0 to start the series. On defense they put together a decent showing, managing to slow down the Hunters on every point. Daniel “Dafran” Francesca had an up and down showing on, finding success with his raw mechanical skill but struggling at times with his Graviton Surges. Despite forcing their opponents into overtime, the Reign could not stop the Hunters short of point C.
On attack, Atlanta failed to find their footing at first. Their ult usage was sloppy, and members of the Reign continuously found themselves in awkward positions. Chengdu’s GOATs composition replicated their success from last week, and Atlanta barely captured point A. A quick point B gave Atalanta a chance going into the final phase of the map, and they took full advantage, forcing the map into extra rounds.
The Reign did what they could not up until this point and clipped the wings from Chengdu’s Pharmercy duo. An early pick onto Xianyao “Yveltal” Li secured the defense for Atlanta and the Hunters only managed a single tick on their second offense. Atlanta responded with the aggression they were missing in their first attack, taking the point decisively to claim Numbani 4-3.
Horizon Lunar Colony: Hunters 1-0 Reign
Chengdu came out of halftime with a vengeance. Their triple DPS setup trounced the Reign repeatedly as Atlanta failed to capture a single tick on point A. Tzu-Heng “Baconjack” Lo was a menace on Widowmaker, and Elsa brought out a Torbjorn that would make Dafran think twice. Atlanta tried a number of compositions to crack the Chengdu defense, including Jun “Erster” Jeong Genji and a last-minute GOATs swap, but nothing yielded results.
The offense for Chengdu was just as decisive, and Jinmu once again made his presence felt. His Genji ripped through the Reign methodically despite an early 5 vs 4 advantage for Atlanta. The Reign were far too spread out, and the Hunters made them pay as they took point A in just over a minute to give themselves a 2-1 lead in the series.
Rialto: Reign 3-2 Hunters
Jinmu continued his reign of terror on Rialto where his insanely quick Rocket Barrages and aggressive individual play left Atlanta reeling for their entire defense. Chengdu stormed through the first two points before the Reign stabilized on point C and forced Chengdu to play the GOATs mirror. Atlanta dominated that matchup, stonewalling the Hunters and giving themselves a shot at Map 5.
On their attack, Atlanta found themselves up against yet another new look from Chengdu, this time a double sniper setup from Baconjack and Jinmu. The two failed to find much success and Atlanta pushed through point A with ease. Chengdu made swaps almost across the board and left the Reign with a significant ultimate advantage as they pushed through point B. With over four minutes remaining in their time bank entering point C, Atlanta had little difficulty finishing Rialto to force the series to a fifth map tiebreaker.
Busan: Hunters 2-0 Reign
The Reign started strong on Busan, immediately punishing Menghan “Ameng” Ding for his choice to start Downtown on the Wrecking Ball. Unfortunately, they squandered their early positional and ultimate lead and gave Chengdu an opening to bring the stage back. When Elsa denied Dafran his Graviton Surge, it ruined Atlanta’s ult economy and put the Reign too far behind to turn things around.
The map moved over to Sanctuary where the Hunters gave up on the Wrecking Ball shenanigans and opted for the GOATs mirror. This time around though, Chengdu punished positional mistakes from Atlanta’s tanks and never let their foot off the gas, even pushing toward the Reign spawn. Atlanta answered back, building up to 74 percent before the Hunters retook the point. A beautiful Self-Destruct from Elsa dashed the hopes of the Reign and gave Chengdu the 2-0 win on Busan.
In a pressure-packed situation, the Reign came up just short against a surging Chengdu team. The Hunters’ unusual style proved too much for Atlanta to deal with. Jinmu especially was a menace all night, with both his Pharah and Genji proving problematic. On the night’s final map, the Reign got the matchup they wanted, but they failed to close the deal even with GOATs on both sides. Their Stage 1 playoff hopes will be on the line against Houston tomorrow, with a win guaranteeing them a top-eight spot.
Featured image courtesy of Robert Paul for Blizzard Entertainment.
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