After a final week that brought down two undefeated teams, solidified the playoff race in Group B and provided a mess of outside-the-game drama, we have had quite an ending to the season. Through all of this, we have finally arrived at the 2018 NA Contenders Season 3 playoffs.
Typically, these Power Rankings go through each team and rank them in terms of overall strength/power. However, because the season is over for four of the twelve teams, they will be left out of the rankings this week. In light of that, this week’s rankings will serve to evaluate which teams are coming in with the most momentum and which teams have the best shot of making it to the coveted grand finals. Each team’s shifts in ranking are derived from the Week 4 Power Rankings (#1-#6 & #7-#12) done previously.
1. Fusion University: 5-0 (+3)
Week 1 Result: 3-2 Victory over Uprising Academy
Week 2 Result: 3-1 Victory over Kungarna
Week 3 Result: 2-1 Victory over First Generation
Week 4 Result: 3-2 Victory over Mayhem Academy
Week 5 Result: 4-0 Victory over ATL Academy
In the final week of the regular season, Fusion University silenced every doubter who claimed they weren’t championship caliber. In a shocking 4-0 sweep of ATL Academy, Fusion University cemented themselves at the top of the Power Rankings as the only undefeated team entering the playoffs. If anyone is the favorite, it’s them.
Still undefeated in @owpathtopro btw 😁
— Fusion University (@FusionUni) January 3, 2019
What is big about this win for FU is both the momentum it creates and the fact that it was not a closely contested match. Each of their previous wins has come down to a handful of team fights, the only exception being in their win over Kungarna. Getting this 4-0 sweep over another undefeated team is exactly the sort of thing you’d expect from a team on their way to a championship.
Before they get there, however, they’ll have to go through Team Envy, a team hitting a stride of their own having won their last two games in order to qualify for the playoffs. With each team playing their best Overwatch of the season, this one may be closer than expected, but expect Fusion University to advance and stay undefeated in NA Contenders.
2. XL2 Academy: 4-1 (+1)
Week 1 Result: 3-1 Victory over Team Envy
Week 2 Result: 4-0 Victory over NRG Esports
Week 3 Result: 4-0 Victory over Skyfoxes
Week 4 Result: 2-3 Defeat by Second Wind
Week 5 Result: 3-1 Victory over Gladiators Legion
In a game that meant everything to Gladiators Legion, XL2 delivered and sent the Legion home with priority shipping. All terrible puns aside, it is fitting to see XL2 and FU at the top of the table entering the playoffs. It sets up a rematch from Season 2 and gives XL2 the anime-style redemption arc they so badly want to fulfill.
With their only defeat of the season coming to Second Wind, prior to the departure of star main support Carson “CarCar” First, XL2 have to be feeling good about their chances in the playoffs. Outside of this, the team has looked remarkably solid, only dropping two maps in their four victories.
PLAY-OFFS, here we come! 🙌😍🎉
— XL2 Academy (@XL2) January 4, 2019
They will be tested in the quarterfinals by an Uprising Academy team that is limping into the playoffs. After a bitter defeat at the hands of First Gen, Uprising Academy will no doubt look at this game as the most important they’ve played all season. Will XL2 do the same? Or will they follow in the footsteps of their OWL team and choke in the playoffs? Better tune into this one to find out.
3. ATL Academy: 4-1 (-1)
Week 1 Result: 3-1 Victory over Mayhem Academy
Week 2 Result: 4-0 Victory over Uprising Academy
Week 3 Result: 4-0 Victory over Kungarna
Week 4 Result: 3-1 Victory over First Generation
Week 5 Result: 0-4 Defeat by Fusion University
Everything looked so good for ATL Academy until week 5. Beating both Frist Gen and Uprising Academy meant that ATL had dealt with the toughest opponents prior to their meeting with FU. It was clear that these victories did not prepare them. Or, perhaps their scrims were shared as well?
Jokes aside, this week 5 performance was perplexing. All season long this team looked to be among the best of the bunch and they suddenly drop off against the toughest competition. Outside of the likely possibility that they just had a bad game, could it have been that ATL was sandbagging in order to hide playoff strategies and further scout FU? The conspiracy theory side of me says, “Heck yes!”.
ATL has an interesting matchup to start things off. They go up against an NRG team that has time and time again proven to be an impossible team to scout. They’re either feeling it and are seemingly unbeatable, or, they get swept and look lost. With this level of inconsistency, one would have to think ATL Academy will advance, even despite NRG’s victory over Second Wind.
4. Second Wind: 4-1 (-3)
Week 1 Result: 3-2 Victory over Gladiators Legion
Week 2 Result: 4-0 Victory over Skyfoxes
Week 3 Result: 3-1 Victory over Team Envy
Week 4 Result: 3-2 Victory over XL2 Academy
Week 5 Result: 1-3 Defeat by NRG Esports
What a week it has been for Second Wind. After losing arguably their best player in CarCar to Fusion University, the team was duped into thinking they had signed a player named “Ellie,” only to stumble into the off-season’s biggest scandal. I won’t go into detail on this here, but it is worth reading up on if you have some time.
All in all, we will have to wait and see if this affects Second Wind’s performance or not. They didn’t look themselves without CarCar in their match against NRG in week 5, which seems to indicate that CarCar did a great deal of shotcalling and in-game organizing for the team. Despite this, Second Wind is still a high-caliber team that went 4-1 in the regular season and beat XL2 at one point.
The trouble is that they go up against a First Gen team that has the potential to force a game five, or even pull the upset. This is the match of the week, without a doubt. Will Second Wind’s synergy pull them through, or will the loss of CarCar and the “Ellie” debacle derail this team out of the playoffs? Our next team is hoping for the latter.
The Cinderella Stories
5. First Generation: 3-2 (+1)
Week 1 Result: 3-1 Victory over Kungarna
Week 2 Result: 4-0 Victory over Mayhem Academy
Week 3 Result: 1-2 Defeat by Fusion University
Week 4 Result: 1-3 Defeat by ATL Academy
Week 5 Result: 3-1 Victory over Uprising Academy
The Cinderella team with the best chance of making a deep playoff run is First Generation. Closing the season out with a decisive victory over Uprising Academy plus their first-round matchup against a vulnerable Second Wind culminates to an opportunity for this team to get to the semifinals, at least.
This team, much like Second Wind, is filled with players who are competing with minimal resources for their chance to play for an OWL/Academy team. For them, this playoff run may be the best chance they have to make an impression that could earn them that crucial tryout. This matchup has real, lasting stakes for these players and coaches, so expect nothing less than their best.
While it is hard to go against Second Wind in this matchup, don’t be surprised to see First Gen take an early map or two lead while Second Wind attempts to hit their stride. If First Gen can do that, they’ve got a real chance to pull a huge upset victory.
6. NRG Esports: 3-2 (+3)
Week 1 Result: 4-0 Victory over Skyfoxes
Week 2 Result: 0-4 Defeat by XL2 Academy
Week 3 Result: 2-1 Victory over Gladiators Legion
Week 4 Result: 0-4 Defeat by Team Envy
Week 5 Result: 3-1 Victory over Second Wind
The most back-and-forth team in all the land, NRG Esports is a hard team to pin. Trading off weeks between looking really solid and absolutely dreadful, NRG has yet to find a consistent form. On the bright side, this team did manage to hand Second Wind their first loss of the season in week 5, albeit after Second Wind lost a key piece of their roster with little time to prepare.
— NRG Esports (@NRGgg) January 4, 2019
This team has a chance to best another team that is down on their luck as they face off against ATL Academy in the first match of the playoffs. ATL looked like a completely different team (in a bad way) in their loss to FU in week 5. If NRG has any hopes of pulling the upset, they need to hope ATL hasn’t picked up the pieces just yet and use the VOD from that match to prepare. Overall, there’s no doubt this one will be tough, but it’s certainly not impossible for NRG.
7. Uprising Academy: 2-3 (-2)
Week 1 Result: 2-3 Defeat by Fusion University
Week 2 Result: 0-4 Defeat by ATL Academy
Week 3 Result: 3-2 Victory over Mayhem Academy
Week 4 Result: 3-1 Victory over Kungarna
Week 5 Result: 1-3 Defeat by First Generation
After picking up the pace midseason, Uprising struggled to close out the year strong in their loss to First Gen. What’s more important than the loss itself is the seeding difference it made. Now, instead of matching up against a beatable Second Wind team, Uprising Academy has to face a tough XL2 Academy team in the first round. IoStux and company will have their hands full with this one.
One thing to note about this team is how remarkably high their ceiling is. With the talent in place and the proven coaching, it is only a matter of time before this team starts clicking. Perhaps the break in between week 5 and the playoffs will be sufficient and they can come out firing against XL2. If not, this team is by far one of the scariest teams going into 2019.
8. Team Envy: 2-3 (No change)
Week 1 Result: 1-3 Defeat by XL2 Academy
Week 2 Result: 1-2 Defeat by Gladiators Legion
Week 3 Result: 1-3 Defeat by Second Wind
Week 4 Result: 4-0 Victory over NRG Esports
Week 5 Result: 4-0 Victory over Skyfoxes
Speaking of team’s that have improved as the season has gone on, Envy finds themselves entering the playoffs on a nifty 2-0 run (both of which were sweeps). All year I have boasted about this team’s potential, all while they have struggled to perform in their more difficult matchups. This, paired with the fact that they have the hottest team in Contenders as their first-round matchup, make Envy a hard team to believe in for the 2018 S3 playoffs.
— Team Envy (@Envy) January 4, 2019
Yet, much like UA, Envy is a team that people should be very keen on going into 2019. With proper resources, a wealth of individual talent and good coaching, Envy is a team that will only continue to improve. If the last two matches are indicative of anything, it is that this team does not quit and will continue working to be the best they can be. If they keep up that mentality going into next season, watch out.
Pictured above is the schedule for the first and second round of games. You can catch all of these games on the Contenders twitch channel. Otherwise, be sure to keep up with all of the Contenders and OWL coverage here at The Game Haus.
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Featured Image Courtesy of Robert Paul for Blizzard Entertainment
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