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Houston Outlaws Week 21 Preview: Signs of Life?

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The Houston Outlaws went into last weekend’s match against the Los Angeles Gladiators in dire need of a morale boost. They’d only won one of their previous six games up until that point. The Outlaw’s season seemed to be in freefall, and their tough schedule was only making it worse.

But last Saturday, Houston looked like a completely different team. They swiftly took the first two maps of the series and ended with a 3-1 victory. The Gladiators were a formidable opponent, but the Outlaws had clearly improved by leaps and bounds since their Week 19 blowout loss at the hands of the Philadelphia Fusion.

Can the Outlaws continue their positive momentum this weekend versus a top-tier Florida Mayhem squad?

The Opposition: Florida Mayhem (10-5)

Houston Outlaws Preview

Image Courtesy of Blizzard Entertainment

The Mayhem are coming in off a disappointing 3-1 loss to the Los Angeles Valiant. Despite strong showings from Sang-bum “BQB” Lee and Jun-ki “Yaki” Kim, Florida were overpowered by Valiant’s DPS duo.

Both Johannes “Shax” Nielsen and Kai “KSP” Collins had monstrous games for Valiant. Shax made numerous big plays as Tracer, wreaking havoc in the Mayhem backline. KSP happened to have one of the best Widowmaker performances we’ve seen in Overwatch League this year.

Florida will be looking for a rebound week with the Summer Showdown right around the corner. Luckily for them, they won’t have to deal with hero pools in Week 21.

Florida’s hero pool woes

With last week’s hero pool banning both Echo and Brigitte, Mayhem were severely limited in terms of team compositions. Main Support Jun-soo “Kris” Choi was unable to play Brigitte and enable Yaki’s Tracer with armor packs. Yaki himself couldn’t flex over to the Echo. Moreover, the hero pool forced Mayhem to mostly run a Baptiste-Zenyatta backline, which is not a strength for them.

It’s likely that Florida will look to return to their bread and butter this weekend. They can run their classic double-shield Ashe-Tracer rush comp, or some variation. Last time Mayhem got to work with no hero pool, they made it all the way to the finals of the May Melee.

Don’t let Mayhem’s past achievements fool you though, Houston most certainly can challenge them.

Houston finally gets the support they need

For the first time since Week 15 against the Vancouver Titans, the Outlaws stuck with two Support players for an entire series last Saturday. The Support duo of Shane “Rawkus” Flaherty and Jung-keun “Rapel” Kim gave Houston perhaps the best performance they’ve gotten from their backline this season.

Throughout the season, the Outlaws’ utilization of their Support players has come into question. In particular, Houston’s constant rotation of Rawkus and Rapel in and out of the lineup has often left fans and analysts confused. The Outlaws seemed to have no rhyme or reason for their Support swaps most of the time.

Now that the meta favors running Baptiste-Zenyatta or Baptiste-Brigitte, Houston is in business. They can start both their Flex Supports and have them on heroes they’re comfortable on. This especially paid dividends for Rawkus last week, as he was able to play mostly Zen and enable Danteh to pop off on Tracer with his excellent orb support.

Houston has their Support lineup set with Rawkus-Rapel, at least for the time being. Things might get tricky for them once Lucio or Mercy comes back into the meta and they need to bring Main Support Seung-soo “Jecse” Lee back into the mix.

Houston Outlaws Preview
Image Courtesy of Houston Outlaws

Player to watch: Hydration

So far, Main Tank João Pedro “Hydration” Goes Telles has done an admirable job for the Outlaws. Since replacing Austin “Muma” Wilmot as a starter, Hydration has shown some promising play, particularly on Orisa. Fortunately for Hydration this week, Orisa is likely still on the menu. If Houston is going to pull off the upset versus Mayhem, they’re going to need a strong all-around match from everyone, and that starts in their frontline with Hydration.

Match prediction: 3-2 Mayhem

If you told someone two weeks ago that this Outlaws vs Mayhem match could be close, they’d probably be confused. Nonetheless, given both teams’ performances in Week 20, it’s looking to be a tight match. Houston will put up a fight, but it’s hard not to favor the Mayhem in this one. They’ll be able to bring out their signature comps now with no hero pool, and they’ve looked so dominant on them in the past.

Featured Image Courtesy of the Blizzard Entertainment

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