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Gladiators End Their Season; 4 Takeaways From Their Journey

la gladiators 2020

The Gladiators gave it their all, but their season comes to a close in the North American tournament. Each battle over the weekend was tough, but what direction was the team headed at the end of the season?

Reviewing Week 31

Toronto Defiant

defiant 2020 roster
Photo: Robert Paul for Blizzard Entertainment

On Thursday, two matches took place to decide who continues their season and who goes home. The Boston Uprising upset the weapon-laden Outlaws and the Washington Justice pounded the Vancouver Titans down once more. Of the three teams to choose from, however, the Gladiators chose the Toronto Defiant. While both Boston and Washington are considered underperforming teams, they both gave LA some embarrassing defeats which the front office can’t afford to allow again. Toronto was considered a smart pick as they weren’t able to stand much of a chance against the Yaters in each of their encounters.

Here is how the game went down:

Map 1 – Ilios

Birdring is benched while Mirror and Kevster play the dps. Agilities starts on tank. He plays as Roadhog, whom this current meta favors. Zykk as Pharah was able to limit how much success the Yaters had this first round. The Gladiators looked like they were going to flip the point but Agilities was a juggernaut and refused to go down thanks to a nano boost from Kariv. Roadhog is just too cheap. Defiant hold on to win Round 1 100-83%.

Round 2 was redemption for LA. The Glads played aggressively once they took possession over the point. Defiant manages to waste both their Sound Barrier and Deadeye at once as Kevster blows Logix up with a Pulse Bomb. It had managed to pay off as Defiant players go down. Defiant desperately try one last attack but Gladiators corral them up and off the point. LA wins Round 2 100-27%.

Mirror chooses Pharah to counter Zykk’s Pharah. Toronto gets the first possession and holds it. OGE tried to take down Agilities as Roadhog all by himself. Winston is as resilient as a stormtrooper going up against him. Toronto manages to get to 84% when LA finally manages to take the point for the first time. But for the next fight, Logix as Sombra leads the way with an EMP to take the point again and the map. Toronto wins Round 3 100-43%.

Map 2 – Hollywood

Birdring comes into the game in place of Mirror, fighting illness. Gladiators start on offense. Shaz goes down early and the rest of the team flock to the other section. Once he returns, Agilities goes on a tear taking out BigGoose and Birdring. Third times the charm, as the Glads needed a bunch of ultimate abilities and damage targeted at Agilities in order to take him down. They get Point A and get the cart moving. They get to point C after coordinating an attack. OGE, Mirror, and Birdring all did well here to get the payload to the end with time expiring.

Gladiators go on defense now. At one point, Zykk was able to take out the backline, but the Glads were able to come roaring back to save the point thanks to Birdring and Kevster. The Defiant were able to power through with a minute left and take Point A. OGE was able to go on an elimination spree as Wrecking Ball. The Glads did a good job in stalling time, and when the Defiant were able to get their footing on the way to Point B, they had little time to work with. Gladiators tie the game 1-1.
Map 3 – Anubis

Birdring stays in the game. LA defends first. OGE also stays with Wrecking Ball. Both teams were losing players on Point A, but the X-factor was Agilities as Roadhog. The Glads needed to defend Point B for over five and a half minutes. It looked like Toronto was on its way to a quick Point B takeover. OGE had other plans as Wrecking Ball, laying down a clutch minefield. Defiant backed off once Agilities went down. It appeared that Toronto was going to seal Point B, but Kevster and Shaz manage to take out Kariv, Logix, and Agilities on the point with time expiring. Amazing clutch play from Kevster and Shaz. Defiant come out with only 1 point.

Gladiators go on offense now. To win this map, the Glads needed to take 91% of Point B. Gladiators and Defiant traded casualties on Point A, but Toronto stuck around to keep LA from fully capturing it. LA win the numbers game, though, getting the point as soon as the last Defiant fell. Gladiators go right on the attack at Point B, managing to take two-third of it. Toronto regains its support. For the next fight, they target Agilities. He is Nano-Boosted, but is not able to get a single elimination. Kevster as Sombra gets an EMP off and LA regains their momentum in getting to that 91%. Gladiators regain the lead 2-1.

Map 4 – Dorado
Oddly, the Gladiators have only played on this map just once in the 2020 season. Gladiators go on defense first. Both teams chose Pharah, but it’s clear that Kevster isn’t as good as Zyxx in these battles. Toronto keeps the momentum until close to Point B. Space’s Self-Destruct and Kevster’s Pulse Bomb allowed them to halt Toronto. With just seconds remaining on the clock, Zyxx made the difference in helping Toronto get to Point B. For point C, the Yaters were not able to get a good defense going. Birdring fell early and Toronto cruises to Point C with no time remaining.
On offense, the Glads struggled early on, thanks to Agilities once again. It required a Discord Orb from Shaz’s Zenyatta, a Pulse Bomb from Kevster, and constant firepower to vanquish him. Gladiators get to Point A. Point B had the same results, as Toronto manages to swing the momentum once they were outside the base. Birdring as Widowmaker though made magic happen, putting bullets in Defiant players to make their forces soft and beatable. On the way to Point C, Zykk unleashes a Rocket Barrage from behind the whole team. Time runs out as the Glads struggle to stay on the payload. We go to a Map 5 and LA is one loss away from ending their season.
Map 5 – Lijiang Tower
In a bold move by Toronto, Numlocked replaces Agilities on tank. Round 1 begins, and without the Symmatra teleporter advantage that Toronto used, the Glads were able to win the first team fight form outside the point. LA had the ultimate ability advantage and brought it continuously to Toronto until they were able to find an opening to take the point for themselves. The Gladiators regain the point once BigGoose as Lucio takes out Kariv from a distance. Possession of the point is traded back and forth once more, but LA is able to get to 100 first.
In Round 2, Toronto gets the early advantage thanks to Zyxx as Junkrat. In the next fight, the Gladiators get a strategy done to target the tanks, but  Zyxx gets a Rip-Tire off. While it doesn’t eliminate any players, it certainly cancels plans of an LA takeover. Birdring as Reaper does a Death Blossom from up top to take out five. It’s too late though, as Toronto wins the round as soon as they get the point back. They do try to hold for as long as possible, but they lose 88-100%.
For all the marbles. The first fight was a long stalemate. While Toronto claimed possession of the point first, LA quickly took it from them after an EMP and Coalescence. The Defiant never got the point back again. They played hard defense, countering every successful plan Toronto had. Birdring with one last Death Blossom puts Toronto out of commission. The Gladiators move on in the North American tournament and Toronto fans have to be very disappointed. LA with a Round 3 win 100-13% and the 3-2 victory.

Player of the Match: Kevster

Kevster was a very methodical player this round, particularly as Tracer. He was just the player the Glads needed this game in order to keep the team from losing possession of points and payloads. He was able to use Pulse-bombs on Agilities, Nevix, Kruise, and Kariv, without it seeming like it went to wast, which is often the case with Tracer.

Good on Birdring for playing and stepping up. This is the kind of player they needed in Fissure two seasons ago. Unless he has been gravely ill, it would have been a mistake to have sit him out of this game.

Philadelphia Fusion

Overwatch League Power Rankings
Image Courtesy of Stewart Volland for Blizzard Entertainment
The Gladiators, the Washington Justice, and the Atlanta Reign were of the opponents that the “Tier 1” teams could choose from to face in this 8-team tournament. You know something’s amiss when an excellent team has the most confidence in beating the Gladiators over a team like the Justice. That’s what happened when Philadelphia didn’t hesitate to challenge the Yaters to a bout the following day, as they almost lost to the Toronto team they picked. A loss to Philly wouldn’t necessarily guarantee elimination, but it would still be one foot out the door for Los Angeles.
Here is how the game went down:
Map 1 – Lijiang Tower
The Gladiators get the point first in Round 1, but Philly responds quickly. Ivy as Reaper was able to generate a Death Blossom to take out the Glads. Two battles later, the Glads retake the point thanks to a Death Blossom from Birdring. The Fusion quickly answer with another Death Blossom and a Self-Destruct. The latter came from Fury as D. Va. This was a back-and-forth style bout but the Glads do reach 100% thanks to a coordinated effort.
Round 2 underway. OGE tries his luck on Roadhog. This is a fight that reaches inside the little house. Philly takes the point and gets the upper hand. It wasn’t until a couple of team fights where LA takes the point back. During one of the next fights, Shaz looked to give a Nano-Boost to Mirror who was in the sky, but instead shot it at BigGoose. Can’t afford to charge the wrong teammate. That lead to Philly using a couple of their ultimate abilities to retake the point once more. Philly gets Round 2 100-42%.
Round 3 comes. Fusion get the advantage early once they drop OGE and Birdring. Fusion were managing to stay dominant in the hallway. Mirror as Doomfist wasn’t able to get anything done. LA had to make character changes late. It wasn’t until Philly got to 99% until LA was able to defeat them. They retake the point and now they get more aggressive. Doomfist is finally functioning. Unfortunately, Ivy switched to Doomfist and managed to make some highlight reel plays. The Glads collapse as Fusion takes the map and the round 100-81%.
Map 2 – Numbani

Mirror plays tank in place of OGE to play as Roadhog. The Yaters needed a few attempts to get Point A with the help of a Rocket Barrage and EMP. Kevster has managed to generate ultimate abilities very quickly as Pharah. He unleashes three more before even getting to Point B, albeit they needed to work to get there. Gladiators manage to stop the payload just outside of the goal.

Defense was another story. Philly managed to take LA down fast and get the payload going. They continue their parade of brutality down the street. The battle outside of Point B was long and brutal. In the end, it was Roadhog was stayed alive and took out the remainder of Philly’s forces. The next fight, however, the Fusion were able to take advantage by taking out both Mirror and Kevster in the sky. Glads needed to defend the payload for about four minutes. The Fusion just needed more than three, and the Glads were overwhelmed as Philadelphia cruise to victory.

Map 3 – Anubis
OGE is back on tank in place of Mirror. Carpe the cleaner comes in the game for the first time, looking for the closeout. The Glads made a good first attempt to take point A, but ultimately it did not pan out for them as they took too much time to wipe the Fusion out. The second team fight was lost much faster, however, with many ultimate abilities wasted. The third time was the charm as Birdring as Reaper unintentionally hunted both support players. They take Point A as time expires. Philadelphia is great at defending Point B, even they’ve defended the whole palace at one point. The Fusion however faltered here, allowing the Glads to take them one by one.

Gladiators are on defense now. They hold Point A pretty well, allowing a couple of minutes to be shaved off the clock. They tour into the buildings. Birdring had a Death Blossom waiting for them but he died before he could use it. Fusion take out LA and secure the first point. The Fusion had a good attempt to take Point B right away by focusing on Birdring once again. Kevster answers with an EMP.

Gladiators on offense once more, and have one minute to take Point A. They copy the Fusion’s composition. They opt to take their time; it’s like they forget they only had a minute on the clock to work with, and the Fusion get the upper hand by targeting OGE. That worked well.

Gladiators on defense needing to protect Point A for almost 2 minutes. If they do this, they draw. The Fusion creep the Glads into the shelter area. Shaz as Moira gets a Coalescence to drop Funnyastro. Fusion quickly regroups and returns the favor with Ultimate Abilities from Sado, Carpe, and Alarm. OGE tries to hang onto the point with Primal Rage but can’t. Fusion couldn’t have picked a better team to play this game. 3-0 shutout.
Player of the Match: BigGoose
We got to see some classic BigGoose this match, as the need for life support for Pharah and Roadhog meant that he needed to change form Lucio to Mercy. I cannot necessarily say that he had cost any round or maps this game, as he has been consistent in keeping teammates up and moving.
Both BigGoose and Shaz have been loyal Gladiator players throughout their careers, and have been known to be one of the best support duos in the league. Without knowing their contract details, it’s not easy to determine whether they will return to the team another year or they’d have to be offered new contracts. If they do happen to leave the team next year, they will certainly be hard to replace, despite them getting up there in eSports age.

Florida Mayhem

Image Courtesy of the Florida Mayhem

With the loss to the Philadelphia Fusion, the Gladiators were placed in the “Loser’s Bracket”, with their opponents being the Florida Mayhem. Florida lost to the Los Angeles Valiant in the very next match.

The Gladiators, while they seemed to be within competitive reach in terms of record, have never been able to figure out Florida all season, so it certainly was a do or die game here.

Here is how the game went down:

Map 1 – Busan

Round 1 starts and it was already disastrous for LA. As Florida won the point, Shaz and Moira used a Coalescence that had no effect. By the time the second fight engaged, the Mayhem already had well over 60% on the point. Third fight, BQB crashes LA with a Death Blossom as Reaper. Mayhem wins 100-0%.

BQB has his presence felt again in Round 2, getting a couple early kills which allow Mayhem to take control of the point. The Yaters had a better chance this map as Yaki as Sombra managed to botch an EMP. OGE pounces to eliminate a couple of Florida players to take the point for LA. The Gladiators held the point for a while, but were not prepared for the Mayhem’s next attack. They take the point again. One more fight, and it was BQB and Fate that closes out the map for Florida, taking LA forces down piece by piece. Florida get round 2 100-93%.

Map 2 – Hollywood

Gladiators start on offense. Mayhem behave like a swarm and go after stragglers early. The Glads had difficulty in finding a way to penetrate the Mayhem’s defenses. On the third fight, the Gladiators were able to get two thirds of point A, but BQB is there again to quash any effort. Another instance where Glads take too much time. Just embarrassing. Florida is able to hold Point A with barely any challenge.

Florida didn’t even need an elaborate strategy to take Point A. They only needed 89% just by pressing their attack on LA. Kevster fell, OGE fell, Birdring fell, from there, Florida won. They pull ahead 2-0.

Map 3 – Volskaya

 

Gladiators start the map on offense. Mirror comes into the game on tank in place of OGE. Gargoyle is hands-on with Florida’s first defense, scoring multiple melee KOs as D .Va. The second fight was favorable for the Glads. Birdring as Ashe was able to headshot BQB. From there, they had no trouble against Florida for Point A. They needed four minutes to take Point B. Things seemed to be going great for LA until the game was paused. Fortunately they were able to take Point B.
Florida is on offense next. They target Space as Roadhog and get him. BigGoose as Mercy resurrects him, though and Mayhem retreat. Birdring shines on the next fight shooting a couple of Mayhem players and controlling others with B.O.B. The next fight was long and brutal but it leans in favor of Florida due to them being closer to their spawn zone. On the way to Point B, both teams trade KOs back and forth, but Gladiators were able to hold nicely. Birdring drops Yaki before he could register the EMP. With one last fight, Mayhem take the point from LA thanks to BQB and Yaki.
Gladiators go on defense. Florida only has a minutes to get point A. LA goes for the tanks and gets them. Florida scrambles and fails. Great hold.

Gladiators back on offense. They had two attempts to take Point A and fail. It all came down to not targeting BQB as Ashe. BQB has been yet another star DPS set out to embarrass the Yaters. This map is a draw.

Map 4 – Dorado
Map 4 starts and…no it doesn’t. We need to watch a lengthy taped segment of Soe baking cookies first. Technical difficulties aside, Gladiators are on offense. LA was able to beat Florida after the third team fight, largely due to Birdring as Ashe and B.O.B. Florida’s able to stall in order to waste time before LA officially reaches Point A. Things seemed to be going smoothly until eh payload got to the bridge where the Mayhem were perched on. LA tried to punk Florida into getting to ground level but Florida didn’t fall for it. Again, the clock ticks. Yaki as Genji does a Dragon Blade to start Operation: Fallen Gladiator. The Glads flounder as the payload halts outside Point B.
Gladiators on defense now. They allow the Mayhem to move the cart up to the tunnel area. Seemed like a mistake as the Glads weren’t able to stop the payload. They were able to try to stop the payload again from advancing to Point A, but Yaki as Genji went on a tear with a Dragon Blade. Space as Roadhog was able to touch the payload and unleash Whole Hog, which allowed the Glads to regroup, but it only delayed the inevitable. The Mayhem were able to crawl the payload with very little problems. While LA did put up a fight in the end, Florida were just more “with it”. Gladiators fall one at a time in front of the payload and boom; Gladiators raised their last shield. Florida advances 3-0.

Player of the Match: Birdring

This was a hard choice due to the inferior play that the team faced on the last game of the season. The guy shows promise, though, despite his age. Picking of a pre-EMP Sombra was the last glimmer of a potentially successful season, but he also was able to play well on maps 2 and 3, too.

Just a disappointing season overall, compared to how they’ve played in previous seasons. The author has found four factors in their decline in their performance this season:

1. All the restrictions in the hero pool. The team historically had their best performances when there were no restrictions on heroes, and when any player could choose any character they wanted. The role lock rule makes it harder, considering that the priority lies in choosing your players to play as certain heroes instead of being able to adapt to battle easily. Mirror for example would be able to freely pick whom he wanted and not be limited to the role he plays. The return of free range of heroes would be incredibly welcome, but of course, we would have compositions like GOATS to worry about like with before. You could even say the ball started to roll in this regard thanks to the urgency to play GOATS.
2. The improvements from other teams. From rebuilds and developments, we’ve seen teams surge in performance such as the Florida Mayhem, Washington Justice, Los Angeles Valiant, and Paris Eternal that were able to reach the elite threshold faster and for longer than the Gladiators did.
3. The emergency league split. COVID-19 certainly hammered the league, causing major changes in structure and scheduling. But despite the teams taking their play online, the league wasn’t able to make it possible to have North American teams play those in Chinese and Korean locations. The author feels that different decisions could have been made, such as relocate the league to Los Angeles once again, so that the league wouldn’t need to be modified. Considering that was the idea for the past two seasons, they should have had an emergency plan in place considering where the Coronavirus originally came from and how long the league had to prepare. Even though teams like Guangzhou, New York, and Shanghai have been considered tough teams, Los Angeles likely could have won more games in the season regardless if they had more opponents to face.
4. The coaching. Mr. Pei had not been able to adapt well with all the changes that the league has taken with Overwatch competitive gameplay. Many coaches have been able to excel with the current restrictions, but he has made the Gladiators seem more inferior than they actually are as a team. As they have declined in rankings each season, the writing’s on the wall in terms of Mr. Pei in a coach’s position. The author just cannot imagine for Mr. Pei to turn the team around on his own accord.
If I were in control of the Gladiators, the first thing I would do is to assure the team that there will be changes to the coaching staff next season, including replacing the head coach to somebody that has enough knowledge and recent success. This would be to convince the players they want to keep to be more likely to do so, should they become free agents. Kevster, Birdring, Space, and Shaz are four players I would try to re-sign, with possible improvements to be made in other roles.
That wraps up the Gladiators 2020 season. We’re hoping for the team to bounce back in 2021 with exciting acquisitions and hopefully a return to venues!

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