The Houston Outlaws Week 1 match against the NYXL is in the books, but the train never stops. In their coming path are the San Francisco Shock, looking dominant and confidant. After all, they’re only the Stage 1 champions and coming off a strong win against the Atlanta Reign. No big deal. What’s our takeaways from Week 1? What’s to come in Week 2?
Well, Outlaws fans: It might be time to put that paper bag over your heads. It’s going to be a long Stage 3. Let’s take a look at what ended up being a shockingly close game and what’s in store this week for the boys in lime green and matte black.
Week 1 Takeaway: Ugh
Boy howdy is it exhausting being a fan of a bad team. The same mistakes pop up week after week, seemingly as if Bill Murray has fallen back into Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. While there were flashes of brilliance against the New York Excelsior, the Outlaws suffering the same pratfalls they’ve fallen prey to in the past. For every moment of brilliance such as Jiri “Linkzr” Masalin’s shooting spree as Widowmaker on Numbani, there’s cringeworthy moments like allowing Dong-Gyu “Mano” Kim’s Reinhardt to murder them solo on Horizon.
Video Courtesy of Twitch/Overwatch League
That said, let’s talk about Linkzr for a moment.
Week 1 Takeaway: Let. Them. Play.
The clip above is a perfect example of how the Houston Outlaws are an exciting team when given the chance. Moreso than almost any other team in the league, the Outlaws are a team of specialists, egos, and lunatics (meant lovingly.) Houston is at their best when the likes of Austin “Muma” Wilmot and Linkzr are allowed to be themselves, play the characters that brought them to the dance and do their thing.
What happens the moment they switch off into a GOATs composition? Bad things. Boring things. Bad, boring things. What the above clip doesn’t show is Linkzr immediately switching off Widowmaker for Zarya and had little impact on the match. Like neighboring city Austin, Overwatch League should allow Houston and other teams to stay weird and do what comes naturally. Perhaps the rumored Stage 4 switch to a 2/2/2 role lock will be a boon for teams like the Outlaws.
Week 1 Takeaway: Defeat From the Jaws of Victory
If you tuned into the Week 1 game late, you might have missed the fact that Houston stole Map 1 from the Excelsior. Honestly, it appeared more like NYXL gave it to them but in Overwatch League teams have to take what they can get. That said, the Outlaws played hard for at least half of the game, taking two maps from the vaunted NYXL.
Where things fell apart for Houston was when the lines shifted and the team switched to GOATs composition. The meta has not been kind to the Outlaws and their inability to deploy GOATs well and regularly can’t be ignored. Houston is at their best when playing DPS-centric compositions that suit their strengths. Be weird. Play Wrecking Ball, McCree compositions. Anything is better than suffering a slow death in GOATs.
Week 2 vs. San Francisco Shock
Yikes. The sole word to describe the Outlaws matchup for Week 2. Not only are the Shock the reigning previous stage champions, but they are a team with something to prove. Not all fans believe that San Francisco are worthy of the crown over the still-dominate Vancouver Titans, so they appear determined to come out hot. Nothing allows a team to come out swinging more than playing a few struggling teams, back to back. Look at the swagger involved when Hyo-bin “ChoiHyoBin” Choi and Matthew “Super” DeLisi team up to make their opponents look like Platinum League players.
Video Courtesy of Twitch/Blizzard
The above clip highlights what San Francisco is capable of versus a complacent squad. Super’s Earthshatter is expertly timed while ChoiHyoBin’s D.Va keeps support and off-tank pieces out of the fight. Houston’s inability to prove they can match other teams move-for-move in GOATs may once more be their downfall.
That said, not everything is doom and/or gloom. Muma and Linkzr are bright spots on the Outlaws roster, with the former securing objectives on his own via aggressive and entertaining Winston play. The Outlaws are at their best when their individual parts work in unison, and a large portion of that comes when the team gels and does what they’re good at. Communication was the Outlaws biggest strength in Season 1, so the key moving forward is for Houston to find it once more.
That said, get the paper bags ready. Things may not look up for Houston until Week 4 against the Florida Mayhem.
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