The Houston Outlaws’ incredible record in the weeks leading up to the May Melee was bookended with matches against their rivals, the Dallas Fuel. Houston won the first of these two matches, thrilling many Overwatch League fans and changing the perception of the team from average to solidly top-tier. Although Houston would maintain their status as a top team in their matches against the San Francisco Shock, the Paris Eternal and the London Spitfire, they would shed it in their second match against the Fuel, one which they would lose 3-0.
This disappointing loss at the end of a tremendous winning streak would sully the Outlaws’ reputation and position on the power rankings, leading many to wonder if they will be able to make it into next month’s June Joust?
To determine if the Outlaws are down or out, three factors will need to be examined. Who will the Outlaws match up against in the coming weeks? How does their roster stack up against the other top teams in the league? And how will the June Joust’s hero bans affect the team’s coming performances?
The Outlaws’ schedule should look very disappointing to fans hoping for easy, clean victories over the next two weeks. To make it into the June Joust, the Outlaws will need to show up against three extremely strong teams that they have very little experience going toe-to-toe with. The Toronto Defiant, Atlanta Reign and Florida Mayhem. Of these teams, the Mayhem are probably the strongest opponents and greatest threat. Though they only placed third in the May Melee, they still outpaced the Houston Outlaws by making it in, and took matches off of the Chengdu Hunters and Washington Justice, two incredibly scary teams in their own right, in order to do so.
But the Mayhem shouldn’t be the only team that Outlaws fans worry about in the coming qualifiers. The Toronto Defiant made it about as far as the Outlaws did in the first quarter of the season, and the Atlanta Reign’s world-class DPS line of Kai “Kai” Collins, Seyhun “Pelican” Oh and Taehun “Edison” Kim proved to be a challenge for even the ever-dominant San Francisco Shock to defeat.
However, having to play three indecisive matches doesn’t mean that the Houston Outlaws’ luck has completely gone bad. The Outlaws will also have to opportunity to play the London Spitfire, who they beat earlier this season. All in all, despite three of their qualifying matches being tough, the Houston Outlaws certainly have the potential to win each and every one of them and to do it in style.
Of all the factors determining the Outlaws’ success in the coming weeks, this is the one that requires the least discussion. The Houston Outlaws have all-star players in every single position. It would be foolhardy to imply that a single slot feels remotely lacking. Standout performances by Min June “Piggy” Shin, Myeongheum “Jjanggu” Cho and William “Crimzo” Hernandez were vital in the Outlaws’ early success, and helped to establish the Outlaws as an aggressive powerhouse.
But the players aren’t the only piece of the Outlaws’ roster that has brought them success. The team brought Jae-won “Junkbuck” Choi of San Francisco Shock fame on as Head Coach in October of 2020. Choi’s veteran knowledge has reportedly been a welcome one, and may have been what the Outlaws had been looking for to lift their mixed roster to new heights.
Hero bans, a system that temporarily bans certain heroes from play, is being re-introduced to the league after being absent from the May Melee. Over the course of the June Joust, Tracer, Sombra, Reinhardt and Zenyatta will not be appearing in any League matches. This is a massive blow to a number of Overwatch League teams, many of whom were utilizing these heroes to great success in their compositions- and the Houston Outlaws are no exception. The Outlaws will miss Reinhardt and Tracer in aggressive compositions, as well as Zenyatta in compositions that utilize Wrecking Ball. However, this isn’t a nail in the Outlaws’ coffin by any stretch. These heroes are out of reach for every other team as well, and Houston will simply need to adapt to other heroes that can fill the gaps the banned ones left, such as Genji and Orisa.
The Final Verdict
Though the coming weeks won’t be a cakewalk for the Houston Outlaws, fans shouldn’t resign themselves to defeat just yet. The hero bans shouldn’t be the be-all and end-all for Houston’s success, and even the Outlaws’ most difficult matches will be against teams that are right around their skill level. So even if the path to the June Joust isn’t clear, the Outlaws have a fair shot at making it in, and their matches are sure to be a joy to watch either way.
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