The Chengdu Hunters have squeezed their way into the Top 12 and the play-ins, after the LA Valiant falls short in their Homestead weekend. The 12th seed does not guarantee them a place in the playoffs; they must compete in a single-elimination mini-tournament with five other teams. Only two of the six teams will get the remaining spots, and the rest will go home. This is how the Chengdu Hunters got here, after the events of the Kit Kat Rivalry Weekend, and a look at what can be expected from the Hunters going into the play-ins.
KIT KAT RIVALRY WEEKEND:
The Los Angeles Valiant had a long-shot chance to reach the Top 12 after going 0-7 in Stage 1. At the start of Stage 4, however, LAV chances seemed like a foregone conclusion. Everything was looking up for the team, their roster looked suited to the 2-2-2 meta, and the narrative of a potential comeback was captivating. Their push to the Top 12 seemed inevitable- and they just narrowly fell short of it.
The Valiant’s entire season hopes lay in the LA Kit Kat Rivalry Weekend. They needed just one win to overtake the Chengdu Hunters to make it to Top 12, but their hopes were dashed when they lost the Battle of LA. Out of the two matches scheduled for the LAV, the match up against their rival LA team seemed the most winnable.
The LA Gladiators are currently the number fifth seed, and despite their high seat the game was expected to be close. Valiant was favored for this matchup, but most agreed that it could go either way.
The Battle for LA always brings the best out of both teams; recent wins or losses are never a good indicator of who could win. The Valiant had a lot on the line. The Gladiators, meanwhile, had a chance to send their long-time rival home. Unfortunately for the Valiant, the Kit Kat rivalry weekend didn’t end in the happy ending they hoped.
Lane “Surefour” Roberts, DPS player for the LA Gladiators, put an end to the Valiant’s hopes with his excellent Hanzo play. Surefour had a breakout performance this match and frankly took over the game. Many will remember Surefour was one of the best Widowmakers last season. It should come as no surprise that Surefour can play hitscan at such a high level.
While the LAV couldn’t make their playoff hopes a reality, the two losses they suffered at their Homestead secured the Chengdu Hunters spot in the Top 12 and a chance in the play-ins.
What to Expect in the Play-ins:
The stage is set for the play-in tournament, and the new patch of Overwatch is incoming. Sigma, Blizzard’s latest hero, will be the newest addition to the Overwatch League and with it a new meta. The 2-2-2 lock remains, but the new hero will open the door for different compositions. Sigma and Orisa are speculated to be the favored tanks. Shields will be the name of the game. Some have pointed towards Symmetra as the new favorite damage dealer because her primary fire has high shield break.
During the Kit Kat rivalry weekend, there was a brief preview of what might come in the playoffs. DPS player for the Atlanta Reign, Andrej “babybay” Francisty, played Symmetra a lot this weekend. Although it was a brief look, it showed the multitude of new compositions that could potentially be represented as the playoffs start.
Chengdu Hunters Play-in Chances:
Now that the Hunters have squeezed their way into the play-in tournament, can they make a run to the playoffs? The first match of the play-in tournaments is Guangzhou Charge vs. the Chengdu Hunters. The Hunters, unfortunately, have historically struggled against the other Chinese teams and the Charge will undoubtedly be the favorites for this match up.
Guangzhou Charge looked dominant in Stage 4. Since the addition of DPS player Charlie “nero” Zwarg, who recently became eligible to play, the Charge has been a force to be reckoned with. Stage 4 also saw the rise of the Guangzhou Charge’s explosive Widowmaker player, Jung-woo “Happy” Lee. Many believe the Charge will have a long run in the playoffs, and the Hunters are a minor obstacle.
However, not all is lost; anything is possible in the playoffs. Last year the London Spitfire and the Philadelphia Fusion were two teams that also narrowly made it into the playoffs. Both teams had struggled with consistency but made it to the Grand Finals despite an up and down season.
Many have concluded that the Chengdu Hunters won’t make it past Friday. However, the Hunters should never be counted out. They have shown throughout the season, that they can take on top teams. Their trademark chaotic and unpredictability style could suit them well in the playoffs. Moreover, the Hunters tend to perform better when the meta is unclear. The Hunters got early wins in Stage 4 against top teams when the meta was still undefined. It will be hard to determine how the Chengdu Hunters or the Guangzhou Charge perform in the play-ins if there is a significant shift.
Chengdu Hunters, playing the Meta?
Who will play Sigma in this meta? It is possible that star tank player Ding “Ameng” Menghan may be playing Sigma given his unorthodox approach to tank play. In Stage 4 he played a lot of Orisa, perhaps he will continue and leave Sigma to the off-tank role. It is hard to picture the Chengdu Hunters playing to the meta.
The Hunters could surprise the Charge in this new meta, especially if Happy can no longer play Widowmaker as effectively. Either way, it will be an exciting match, and the Hunters are not likely to give up easily.
If Symmetra is a popular pick this meta, one of the biggest counters to Symmetra is Pharah. As luck would have it, the Chengdu Hunters happen to have one of the best Pharahs in the league, Yi “JinMu” Hu. Playoffs are a time when DPS stars tend to play out of their minds. Everyone will remember Joon-yeong “Profit” Park at last years grand finals, on his signature tracer. JinMu has been a huge carry for the Chengdu Hunters this season, and if playoffs are in a meta where Pharah is back in favor- then who knows what the potential is.
The Hunters have certainly made a historic run to the Top 12. Even if the hunters lose to the Charge, their fans can still be proud of their season. The Hunters got into the top 12 by playing their own style of Overwatch and beating the odds. Their unpredictable playstyle could launch them deep into the playoffs and play spoiler for the Guangzhou Charge. They are a tough opponent, but there is still a chance -albeit slim- for the Hunters to prove themselves as a top contender.
Featured photo credit to Ben Pursell For Blizzard Entertainment
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