Sunday, June 23: The final day of Stage 3, Week 3. This day will forever be remembered as one of the most unexpected days of competitive Overwatch to-date. Chengdu completed their second straight victory against a plummeting Fuel team, the Uprising put their fans through another stress-inducing map 5 win, the Outlaws lost to Florida after having beaten the Shock just days before and, most shocking of them all, the Los Angeles Valiant beat the Vancouver Titans 3-1.
This is a Valiant team that has been trending upwards, no doubt, but few expected them to come in and beat the Titans on Sunday. Despite the odds and despite the Titans dominance in the league this season, the Valiant managed to pull some of their newest players together, effectively communicate and capitalize on the Titans clear weaknesses. Here’s a more in-depth look into how all of this went down and what other teams can glean from the result.
The Sombra Problem
The Titans have been struggling to adapt to Sombra for some time. As Wolf “Wolf” Schröder pointed out during the broadcast, this is a team that hasn’t been known for pioneering their own metas. They are a team that has taken time to master GOATS but may not have that kind of time as the season winds down.
In this match, specifically, Johannes “Shax” Nielsen not only outplayed Min-soo “SeoMinSoo” Seo on the hacker but he was also better enabled to do so. The increase in “enemies hacked” and “hack eliminations” both indicate that the Valiant were keeping the front line busier while Shax was able to hack enemies in the backline. Then, presumably, a call would be made that one of the Titans was hacked and support would come from the Valiant to secure the elimination. All of this requires a dedication to the team’s Sombra and quick reactions and decision making.
LA’s Calling and Morale
Even outside of the Sombra play, the Valiant just seemed to be more communicative overall in this series, especially in clutch moments. In the highlight below, the Valiant lose Shax early and the Titans push forward as a response. When the Titans get the solo grav on Kyle “KSF” Frandanisa, the Valiant realize the urgency of the situation and, not only come to their Zarya’s aid, but they also communicate a counter-attack onto SeoMinSoo. They turn a disadvantageous situation into a team fight win, only losing two ultimates along the way.
All series long the Valiant seemed to have higher morale. In between maps, even after the first map loss, the players were peppy and talking to one another in productive ways. The Valiant, like the Outlaws, are on the cusp of realizing how important it is to have fun while on stage, rather than tilting or staying silent. If they can keep up their morale and continue improving with their new-look roster, the Valiant ought to be a Stage 3 Playoff lock.
The entire Valiant team and coaching staff deserve kudos right off the bat. But, special praise is also deserved for Young-seo “KariV” Park. He had the week of his life in the Valiant’s games versus Shanghai and Vancouver, proving instrumental in two very different kinds of ways. Against Shanghai, KariV had to be locked in to shut down the DPS attacks of the Dragons, who have a very talented Sombra player of their own. Versus Vancouver, KariV hit some incredible shots on Pharah here and there but proved most valuable in his clutch ability uses and nano-boosts for his teammates.
If they continue at this pace, Russell “FCTFCTN” Campbell, KariV and Shax may prove to be the core that the Valiant have been looking for all season long. Currently sitting at 7-12, the Valiant are only two games out of the season playoff race, with some less than stellar looking teams sitting ahead of them. If the Valiant do manage to sneak into the play-in matches and net the #8 seed, they may be getting another shot at the projected #1 seed Titans before it’s all said and done. Could they slay the giants a second time?
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Featured Image Courtesy of Robert Paul for Blizzard Entertainment
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