So… that just happened.
It’s difficult to sum up the Houston Outlaws’ first game week of 2020 in any kind of reasonable way. “Disaster” isn’t descriptive enough. “Train wreck” feels too generous. Eleven capable professional Overwatch players with strong pedigrees and impressive records marched into the Met in Philadelphia and collapsed like a souffle during a Neil Peart drum solo.
The flowchart leading up to last weekend looks like an Escher print. Brand new coaches, language barriers in comms, travel, a new meta, there are a thousand reasons why. Not to mention a flu outbreak on the team — there haven’t been that many nerds spreading the plague in a Blizzard game since Corrupted Blood hit Orgrimmar. But whatever the reasons, the result was the same: a catastrophic failure to launch.
“Houston, we have a problem.”
Week 2 in Review
In the Outlaws’ defense, the Mayhem came out swinging. They had an impressive weekend altogether — while they didn’t score a map against Philadelphia, they held their own against the home team. But against the discombobulated Outlaws, they were unstoppable.
The desk analysts were surprised to see Shane “Rawkus” Flaherty playing flex support rather than newcomer Jung-keun “Rapel” Kim, but presumed this meant he would be playing Ana, who’s been strong in the new meta. Contrary to that guess, Rawkus played Brigitte almost exclusively, only switching onto Ana on Eichenwalde when the team was already 0-2. In fact, the entire team stayed on the exact same composition — Reinhardt, D.Va, Mei, McCree, Brigitte and Lucio — for the majority of the match.
Aside from the Brigitte, the comp seemed to fit the current meta well… at least, the hero comp did. The player lineup was another story. The team ran João Pedro “Hydration” Goes Telles on Mei and Jeffrey “blasé” Tsang on McCree, and both turned in weak performances. This notably left hitscan specialists Jiri “LiNkzr” Masalin and Dante “Danteh” Cruz on the bench. While Danteh was rumored to be one of the players under the weather, LiNkzr — historically the strongest McCree on the team — was confirmed not to be.
The Mayhem ended the three-map set with 64 total deaths. The Outlaws more than doubled that number with 134.
The exact same thing happened.
That’s not hyperbolic. The Outlaws ran a nearly identical comp — Rawkus and Rapel both played and stayed on Ana most of the time, and blasé got to swap to other DPS heroes for a total of 9.5 minutes of the 38-minute match. But it was otherwise the same players on the same heroes losing three slightly different maps in a row. That’s it. That’s the review.
The team flew back to Houston this week and will then be heading to Washington for the upcoming weekend. This doesn’t bode well for any of the team still suffering from illness. However, head coach Harsha Bandi at least acknowledged that poor coaching decisions were made last week. If the comps change — or the team learns how to switch off of one that’s not working — there’s a decent chance they can take a map or two off the Uprising, who’ve had similarly abysmal results. But change has historically not been the team’s strongest suit. It may need to be seen to be believed.
Prediction: Uprising 3-1 Outlaws
New York Excelsior
There’s an outside chance that New York’s Dong-gyu “Mano” Kim and Jong-ryeol “Saebyeolbe” Park take their main tank and captain roles seriously enough to undertake a clandestine mission behind enemy lines to rescue their former teammate Tae-hong “MekO” Kim from his current position with Houston.
If that happens, and the remaining Excelsior play the entire match 4v6, the Outlaws may take a map. Otherwise, expect another sweep.
Prediction: Excelsior 3-0 Outlaws
Players to Watch: DPS
It’s still unclear what combination of illness, practice and strategy led to Hydration and blasé holding down the damage lineup last week. Whatever it was, it will need to change for the team to make any progress. Either play different heroes, or put one of your two (two!) lauded hitscan specialists in to play the most traditional hitscan hero in the game. Playing Ana instead of Brigitte in last week’s second game made the team look a little bit less hopeless. Fixing that DPS lineup (and nursing the roster back to health) is the next step. Once that baseline is achieved, maybe the Outlaws can focus on actual improvements in time for their inaugural homestand in Week 4.
Follow Rainee on Twitter @Jezi_Belle for your daily dose of bad puns and emotional over-investment in Overwatch League and its players.
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