Atlanta Reign (6-6) vs New York Excelsior (12-1)
Atlanta Starting Lineup
Hyeonjun “Pokpo” Park
Donghyung “DACO” Seo
Petja “Masaa” Kantanen
Dusttin “Dogman” Bowerman”
Andrej “babybay” Francisty
Jun “ErsTer” Jeong
Reign 3-1 NYXL
The Atlanta Reign were a massive underdog against the New York Excelsior. They had been floundering all stage as DACO sat on the bench amidst swirling rumors. Yet, they looked like a new team on Friday, whether it was DACO or Nathan “frd” Goebel in the lineup. Atlanta’s 3-1 victory was the upset of the young season, the first loss for New York and a potential turning point for the Reign’s season.
Busan: Reign 2-0 NYXL
Atlanta was rejuvenated to start the night on Sanctuary. A long first fight went to NYXL when Dong-Gyu “Mano” Kim unleashed the Earthshatter to combo with Tae-Hong “MekO” Kim’s Self-Destruct. Atlanta responded quickly by focusing down Mano to get a flip. They held until 99% behind some proactive ults from babybay and Dogman. New York got the flip, before a massive kill from Dogman on SeonngHyun “JJONAK” Bang denied his Transcendence and put the Reign on map point.
The Reign kept the momentum rolling on Meka Base, taking the first find behind ErsTer’s Rally. NYXL answered back as the teams traded Graviton Surges, and Mano found the punishing Earthshatter. Atlanta invested a Sound Barrier to secure a pick on Mano and retake the point. Then Atlanta got aggressive with their defense at the chokes and built up to 99% before a scrappy fight went the way of NYXL. The Reign needed just one fight to finish the map, and again Dogman came up clutch. This time a pick on Tae-sung “ANAMO” Jung kicked off the winning fight to give Atlanta a 1-0 lead early.
Temple of Anubis: Reign 3-2 NYXL
Atlanta maintained the momentum during their attack round, methodically talking point A when they punished Mano with a Biotic Grenade. His death was the first domino as the Reign took just one attempt to secure the point. A snowball attempt claimed a single tick, but babybay went down early in several fights before Atlanta broke through. A massive shatter from Pokpo gave them the definitive fight win they needed to capture point B with 52 seconds remaining.
Babybay picked up the Widowmaker in Atlanta’s bunker composition on point A defense. Atlanta has been successfully running this comp so far this season, and his opening pick on JJONAK denied NYXL much of their healing and time bank. The hold was solid for the Reign, but babybay got punished for his forward position and it crumbled. Atlanta swapped babybay to the Mei for point B. It paid off big time with tremendous zoning potential and even forced NYXL into overtime before they finished the map.
With only a minute to attack, New York needed to find a way to break the bunker from Atlanta. They could not, as babybay and ErsTer completely shut them down, securing the full hold and the chance to take a 2-0 lead. The Reign would not be denied, hunting down Mano after a stun from ErsTer forced him out of position. NYXL couldn’t recover and found themselves on the wrong side of a game no one saw coming.
King’s Row: Reign 4-3 NYXL
Atlanta kept up the pressure on New York as they looked to close out the series. Point A went to the Reign when they managed to kill Mano through a Nanoboost for the second map in a row. The teams traded fight-winning Earthshatters, and Atlanta moved into point C with about five minutes remaining. New York stabilized somewhat, slowing the Reign before a massive store of ultimates allowed them to punch through and close out the map.
NYXL needed to finish the map with time remaining to keep their perfect record alive. With that in mind, Atlanta played cautiously, and it cost them on point A when Pokpo went down early. They managed to regain control of the choke point and returned to their aggressive ways, pushing forward to the NYXL spawn on the hold. It was a masterclass for the Reign, stalling for almost four minutes before New York broke through. They had just two minutes to complete the map and were up to the task. They rolled through the Reign thanks to clutch plays from Mano and Yeon-Gwan “Nenne” Jeong to finish with 18 seconds remaining.
Facing the same situation they couldn’t conquer on Anubis, New York faltered. ANAMO went down early, and NYXL had to retreat. An overtime push stalled when Mano died with Earthshatter, and Atlanta pulled off the full hold. The series was over, but Atlanta wanted still wanted to win the map. They took care of business with force.
Rialto: NYXL 4-3 Reign
Atlanta continued their hot streak on the night’s final map, claiming point A by once again finding Mano out of position on Winston. They were briefly held up on point B but still moved into the final point with about five minutes to work with. The Reign were relentless with their pressure, securing an opening kill on JJONAK to finish out the map and assert themselves once more – 2:37 left in the time bank.
NYXL looked to salvage a map win but needed an impressive attack. They traded favorably on point A, and they started well with favorable trades. A stall from Atlanta was broken when Pokpo went down, and Mano capitalized with an Earthshatter. Atlanta looked shaken for the first time all night as they got steamrolled through points B and C. Pokpo went down to Meko’s Self-Destruct and Dogman’s Transcendence expired just as Mano’s Shatter put the nail in the coffin.
After two stellar attack rounds, it came down to extra rounds with New York up 40 seconds. NYXL pushed up too far on their defense and got punished immediately. They stabilized and forced a long fight at the checkpoint where the teams traded ults to no avail. New York pulled off the full hold when Nene’s Grav secured the necessary kills as time dwindled.
Atlanta took the initiative on the defense, holding at the first high ground for over two minutes. The Reign made their final stand at the checkpoint before they stepped off the cart and gave New York their consolation map.
It was an unlikely win for the Reign after a lackluster start to Stage 2 They are the first team to beat the Excelsior during the regular season, finding redemption following some less than ideal losses. It was like a switch had flipped on for Atlanta against New York – this was not the same team that lost to the Valiant a week ago – and for their sake hopefully, it stays on.
Featured image courtesy of Blizzard Entertainment.
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