The Chengdu Hunters played their last match of Stage 4 last week against the Houston Outlaws. Yet, their playoff hopes are still on shaky ground. The Hunters’ fate lies in how the LA Valiant perform at their homestead weekend. The KitKat Rivalry Weekend, hosted by the LA Valiant, will have a lot on the line for both the Hunters and the Valiant. It all comes down to the so-called Battle for LA, where both LA teams play against each other. If the Valiant win, they are in the Top 12, and the Hunters are eliminated. If the Valiant loses, their only hope is to beat the San Francisco Shock later in the week- which would be quite a mountain to climb.
The Chengdu Hunters Review:
The San Fransisco Shock (21-5) 4-0:
This match went about as expected, with utter domination from the San Fransisco Shock. Shock is currently undefeated in Stage 4 and is the 3rd seed going into the playoffs. The Shock took the series 4-0 in a breezy fashion.
The Shock taunted the Hunters, by playing “cheese” compositions towards the end of the series just to demonstrate how one-sided the match was. “Cheese” compositions are cheesy or ridiculously compositions that can sometimes overpower and confuse opponents. On Hollywood, after they full held the Hunters, they briefly ran a Bastion, Orisa, Reinhardt and a Symmetra on an attack. Later on map four, they switched their roster around and had their DPS player Dongjun “Rascal” Kim play support.
It looked pretty grim for the Chengdu Hunters since their 2nd match of the week was a must-win.
The Houston Outlaws (9-19) 3-2:
The match against the Outlaws was a do or die situation for the Hunters. The win is good for them, but it won’t secure them a spot in the Top 12. Before the match began, many wondered if the Outlaws would be fielding their star DPS player and vocal leader, Jacob “JAKE” Lyon. JAKE was missing from a few of Houston’s most recent matches, and he announced on twitter that he was not playing for “personal reasons”. His substitute Jiri “LiNkzr” Masalin, is no slouch on the DPS role, but for this match JAKE made his return to the stage.
It was a close series and could have gone either way. A lot was on the line for the Hunters, and the tension could be felt with every play. The Hunters often played extremely aggressive, like on Anubis where they held Point B outside of the temple.
A strategy not often seen, it forces the Outlaws to use ultimate abilities even to get to point B. Meanwhile, if a player falls on the Hunters’ side, they can all regroup and back up to the point. By the time the Outlaws get to the point, the player has already respawned. It also benefits the Hunters playstyle, the geography of the map outside the temple has a choke and many high ground positions, making it suitable for the high mobility dive composition that the Hunters prefer to play. However, it could just as easily backfire and cause deaths to be staggered.
The Outlaws brought it to a Map 5 off the back of LiNkzr’s amazing Widowmaker on Junkertown, but it wasn’t enough for the Outlaws to secure a win. The win was essential for the Hunters to make it to the play-ins, now their hopes lie in praying that Valiant lose.
Player of the Match: Elsa
The player of the match was off-tank player Luo “Elsa” Wenjie. He played well throughout the series, including a game-winning D.Va bomb on Hollywood that unlocked Point A for the Hunters. Eventually, it got them a win on Hollywood. Elsa was clutch when the Hunters were in pressing need of him. While Elsa performed very well, their flex support player Chunting “Kyo” Kong also had an impressive game on Zenyatta. Multiple times during the series, Kyo had huge Frags, sometimes with 2 or 3 kills at key moments during the series. Kyo has had a relatively quiet season, so his performance this match was especially crucial for the Hunters to get this win.
Next Week: Valiant (12-14) vs Gladiators (16-11)
Even if the Valiant lose, they have another chance to get a win against the San Fransisco Shock. However, that will not be an easy match, and it’s doubtful they would take a win against such a tough team. The Valiant’s best chance to get into the play-ins and overtake the Chengdu Hunters is a win against the Gladiators.
Either The Valiant or the Gladiators could walk away with the win. The Gladiators recently lost to the Spark, so despite their higher seed, the Valiant might be the favorites coming into the match up. However, the Valiant had a relatively close series with the Boston Uprising last week. Although the scoreline (3-1) doesn’t suggest a close series, it doesn’t paint the full picture. It looked like it might be going to a map five for the 2nd half of the series. Boston has struggled a lot in Stage 4. During this series, in particular, Boston looked improved.
If the Valiant lose this match, it is likely their playoff hopes are over and Chengdu Hunter fans can rejoice! Whatever happens, if Chengdu Hunters make it to the play-ins, there might be hope for them to make it to the Finals. They are a scrappy team that always tries to play to their own strengths. The new patch for the finals, which includes the new hero Sigma, might be something the Hunters could get a handle on before other teams. Depending on how the meta shifts, and how drastically with the new patch- the Hunters could catch teams off guard. The Hunters perform better when the meta is not as clearly defined.
Featured photo credit to Ben Pursell For Blizzard Entertainment
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