The London Spitfire Playoffs Radar
Last week’s upset at the hands of the Florida Mayhem have put the London Spitfire in a tough spot. At 2nd in their division and 6th overall, the London Spitfire are currently on track to easily make the second season’s playoffs . But how secure is their playoff spot, and what can they hope for in terms of seeding? The answers to these questions depend on how the rest of the stage’s matches go, and not just their own.
Targets in Sight
At the top of the league’s standings are the Vancouver Titans, the New York Excelsior and the San Francisco Shock, none of which London is capable of catching up to for a top 3 seed. But it’s after that when things get interesting; at 14-9 with a +4 map differential, the current No. 4 Hangzhou Spark have been struggling immensely in the 2-2-2 meta. Meanwhile, the Gladiators are just ahead of London at No. 5, with the same 15-10 match score but keeping an edge thanks to their better map differential (+17 to +9). London is a team that needs a chance to warm up, and they desperately want to snatch one of the 4 or 5 seeds, who will face each other, rather than staying in 6th and risking a quarterfinal matchup against an explosive San Francisco Shock. Any matches that the Spark or Gladiators lose will be a huge boost to London’s playoff seeding hopes.
On Their Six
It’s not just the teams ahead of them that London have to worry about. With only one more loss than London each, the Philadelphia Fusion (14-11), Seoul Dynasty (13-11) and Shanghai Dragons (13-11) can still overtake them. Being knocked out of the security of an assured playoff spot would be disastrous for London. Conversely, all three of the No. 7 through No. 9 teams would like nothing more than to be locked securely into the season playoffs. If any of these three teams can finish out stage 4 strongly, the pressure will be on Spitfire to fire on all cylinders and keep them off their heels.
A Tough Schedule
Obviously, it’s not only their rivals’ matches that matter to the Spitfire. The dent put in their record by losing to the Mayhem might make things harder for them; but if London is able to win all three of their remaining matches in Stage 4, they’ll be locked in for playoffs. Even better, if they win all three of their upcoming matches while the Gladiators lose one or the Spark lose two, they’ll be able to get one of those coveted No. 4-5 playoff seeds. Still, winning all three of their upcoming matches, including against No. 1 seed the Vancouver Titans and the rising star of the Atlanta Reign will be a tall order for a team just coming off an upset.
Matches To Watch
#1: London Spitfire vs. Vancouver Titans, Week 3.
Why It Matters: Of London’s three remaining games, their match against the Vancouver Titans will almost certainly be their most difficult. If the Spitfire can take down the Titans, they’ll have a real chance of going 6-1 for the stage and making it impossible for Seoul, Shanghai or Philadelphia to catch up to them. Although the Spitfire could lose this match and still make the top 6, winning it will give them a lot of security going into their final week.
Best Case Scenario: LON 4-0 VAN
Not only do London want to win this match, they want to win it and gain as much map differential as they can. The Spitfire need to pick up nine more map wins than the Gladiators to overtake them if they remain tied in match score. Not only that, but the threat of Seoul, who also have a higher map differential than London, is very real.
Worst Case Scenario: LON 0-4 VAN
Even if they lose, London should still hope to make it a close game. Getting 4-0’d would put London at a mere +5 map differential with an end-of-season maximum of +13, low enough to take London’s seeding out of their hands if the Gladiators (currently at +17) can stay ahead of them or the Dynasty (+14) can catch up in match score.
Prediction: LON 2-3 VAN
With both teams coming off shocking upsets, it’s anyone’s game. Last week, both teams were totally locked out of winning a map by one of the league’s lowest two seeds. Whichever team is most able to bounce back mentally and treat this as a fresh start after last week’s painful losses should be able to take this. London fans should hope for Ji-hyeok “birdring” Kim to beat Dong-eun “Hooreg” Lee in the sniper battle, and for Jae-hee “Gesture” Hong to outplay Sang-beom “Bumper” Park on Orisa.
#2: Los Angeles Gladiators vs. Hangzhou Spark, Week 4
Why It Matters: The Spark and the Gladiators are the two teams that London is currently chasing for a top 5 seed. As they play each other in Week 4, one of them is bound to pick up a loss. London could take advantage of this to overtake them if they win one or both of their Stage 3 matches. As Hangzhou’s other remaining matchups include the New York Excelsior, stage 3 champions the Shanghai Dragons and a surging Chengdu Hunters, a loss to the Gladiators might knock the Spark out of the top 6 entirely. Hangzhou looks very unsteady in the 2-2-2 meta, so Spark is likely to lose convincingly to the Gladiators. This would give London their easiest road to a 5th place playoff seed.
Best Case Scenario: LAG 3-2 HZS but lose to VAL or HZS 4-0 LAG but lose to NYE and CDH
Losing to the Gladiators would make it very difficult for Hangzhou to stay ahead of London. Their strength of schedule is difficult with matches against New York and Chengdu also coming up. On the other hand, a loss at the hands of Hangzhou would force the Gladiators to dominate the LA Valiant during the Kit Kat Rivalry Weekend in order to make sure they can stay ahead of London.
Worst Case Scenario: LAG 4-0 HZS
There’s no two ways around it, this match is a win-win for the Spitfire no matter which way it goes. That said, the last thing the Spitfire need out of this match is an LA team that’s already leading them in map score to rack up even more points.
Prediction: LAG 4-0 HZS
The Hangzhou Spark have not looked strong at any point this stage. Having taken all of Stage 1 to become a top-tier team in the GOATS meta, it seems that the Spark are simply not a team that’s able to adapt quickly. The Spark have only won one map across this stage so far. Without a drastic turnaround, this looks like an easy win for the Gladiators.
#3 Seoul Dynasty vs Guangzhou Charge, Week 3 & Seoul Dynasty vs. Shanghai Dragons, Week 4
Why It Matters: Of the three teams on their heels, the team the Spitfire should be the most worried about is the Seoul Dynasty. After barely missing out on playoffs last year, this squad looks determined not to make the same mistake. Of the three teams on London’s heels, Seoul are the biggest threat for one simple reason: map differential. While the Fusion and the Dragons are both at zero, the Dynasty’s +14 means that they only need to win one more game than London does in order to overtake them on map differential. Philadelphia and Shanghai, on the other hand, would both need to win two more games. London can make this impossible by going 5-2 this stage, making Seoul the bigger threat.
The Dynasty could potentially overtake London even if London wins all their games, if they also win all of theirs. Two of these four games are extremely winnable matches against the Toronto Defiant and Philadelphia Fusion. The real hurdles that Dynasty would have to jump if they wanted to contest London’s playoff seeding would be the much more challenging Charge and Dragons. Both of these squads’ extremely strong DPS lineups have been propelling them to victories this stage. London should hope for Seoul to lose both of these rematches to keep them off their tail.
Best Case Scenario: SEO 0-4 GZC & SEO 1-3 SHD (but SEO beat PHI)
A strong loss at the hands of Guangzhou should wreck Seoul’s map differential. If followed up by a rerun of Week 1’s loss to Shanghai, then Spitfire would have to lose two of their three matches for Seoul to overtake them. That said, Spitfire shouldn’t be hoping for Seoul to fall off too much, as it would be very helpful for them to beat fellow top 6 contender, Philadelphia Fusion, in their Week 4 matchup.
Worst Case Scenario: SEO 4-0 GZC & SEO 2-3 SHD (and SHD and SEO win the rest of their matches)
The Spitfire should be having nightmares about this result. If Seoul can get three strong wins to close out the stage and lose to the Dragons without their map differential taking too much of a hit, and the Dragons can turn around their stage and finish 5-2 by upsetting the Shock, the Spitfire could see themselves dropped down into seventh place; even with the Spark plummeting, unless they’re able to pull off three consecutive wins.
Prediction: GZC 3-1 SEO & SEO 1-3 SHD
Despite their extremely strong map differential, Seoul’s prospects don’t look all that high. Unless they’re able to settle on a starting six and field two consistent DPS, they’ll have to settle for play-ins. It’s unlikely that Philadelphia or Shanghai will be able to turn their stages around dramatically enough to catch up to London either. Although any of these teams might make it through play-ins, London’s seeding should be safe from them.
#4: Los Angeles Gladiators vs. Los Angeles Valiant, Kit Kat Rivalry Weekend
Why It Matters: The Gladiators, like the Spitfire, only have three games remaining this season. Two of them, against the Dallas Fuel and the Hangzhou Spark, look like easy wins for the Gladiators. That means that if Spitfire want to have any chance of overtaking them and stealing their playoff seed, they’ll need the Valiant to win this year’s second Battle for L.A.
Best Case Scenario: LAG 0-4 LAV
If the Valiant can complete the redemption arc story-line and beat the Gladiators, it might just be possible for London to overtake them. Although the match is unlikely to be one-sided, the more damage done to LAG’s map differential, the better.
Worst Case Scenario: LAG 4-0 LAV
If the Gladiators are able to convincingly win their three remaining games, they’re likely to be assured the No. 4 seed, which might leave London stuck at 6th place and facing one of the league’s top 3 teams. Even if London still manage to snatch 5th place and face the Gladiators themselves, a strong performance in their last regular season match is a sign of a much more difficult rematch of last season’s playoffs.
Prediction: LAG 3-2 LAV
The Valiant will certainly fight for this. After losing to Seoul, the second battle for L.A. is a must-win if the Valiant want to sneak into play-ins. However, Gui-un “Decay” Jang, Jonas “Shaz” Suovaara, and Jun-woo “Void” Kang have all played incredibly this stage. It’s unlikely that Valiant will find the win they desperately need.
#5: London Spitfire vs. Atlanta Reign, Week 4
Why It Matters: With London’s other two remaining matches being an extremely winnable matchup against a struggling Outlaws and a much more difficult match against the Vancouver Titans, the Atlanta Reign match is the biggest question mark in London’s remaining games. If they lose to the Titans, it’ll be a must-win game for London to make the top 5. Going 4-3 for the stage would strand them at 6th place or even lower.
Best Case Scenario: LON 4-0 ATL
If London can convincingly defeat the Reign and Outlaws and scrape a victory against the Titans, they’re very likely to get their hands on the 4th place seed for playoffs. If they lose against the Titans, this match becomes even more important: it’ll be the key to avoiding play-ins. A win against Atlanta and a 5-2 stage will definitely push them up into 5th if the Spark continue struggling.
Worst Case Scenario: LON 0-4 ATL
If London beat the Titans this week, they’ll be able to afford to lose this game. Otherwise, a loss to Atlanta would be disastrous. At the end of the day London will definitely make top 12 at worst. However the Spitfire should be aiming for the highest seed possible; losing to both Vancouver and Atlanta would put them at the mercy of the Gladiators’, Spark’s, and Dynasty’s performances.
Prediction: LON 3-1 ATL
Atlanta have looked stronger this stage, but not dominant. Jun-ho “Fury” Kim might be the only D.Va in the league capable of outplaying Dong-hyeon “DACO” Seo. Not to mention that Atlanta’s DPS should be no match for London’s dynamic duo of birdring and Joon-yeong “Profit” Park. London should be punching their ticket to the playoffs in their last match of the regular season.
Conclusion: London Spitfire Flying Towards Playoffs
It would take an extraordinary series of unfortunate events for the London Spitfire to miss out on playoffs. Being forced into the play-ins would be risky; but if London can beat Houston and Atlanta they’re in no danger of missing out on the top 6. With the Gladiators looking strong, London might not be able to catch up to them with their map differential lead; but Hangzhou’s difficult schedule and struggles with the meta should let London sneak into playoffs at 5th place. With some luck, all signs point to a 5th place finish and a rematch of last year’s playoffs against the Gladiators.
If you’re curious about other teams’ playoff hopes, The Game Haus has covered teams’ chances of making play-ins here.
Featured photo by Robert Paul courtesy of Blizzard Entertainment.
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