Since the start of the 2021 Overwatch League season, a slew of new rivalries have formed. The Washington Justice and The Florida Mayhem. The Hangzhou Spark and The New York Excelsior. And, most notably, the Dallas Fuel and the Houston Outlaws. Both Texan teams made massive adjustments over the course of the offseason, and, for their efforts, rose rapidly up the NA power rankings, going from middling pushovers to world beating powerhouses. The two teams have also fought frequently this season. The 2021 battle for Texas reached its fourth iteration this Friday, as the teams fought for their spot in the Summer Showdown knockouts. Though the Outlaws squeaked out a win in the first battle for Texas, their luck has recently soured. The Dallas Fuel won the second and third battles for Texas in convincing fashion, trouncing the Outlaws in runaway games.
So heading into the fourth battle for Texas, it was clear that some scores needed to be settled between the Outlaws and the Fuel. The ever-dominant Dallas Fuel needed to hold onto their title as the champions of both Texas and NA. The Houston Outlaws needed the win to make the Summer Showdown qualifiers, and to take back their crown. And most importantly, fans of both teams needed bragging rights on Overwatch League Twitter. So who won the fourth battle for Texas? How did they do it? And what does it say about both teams places leading into the latter portion of the 2021 season?
Setting The Stage
The Fourth Battle For Texas was an incredibly exciting event for Fuel and Outlaws fans across the world. However, it was a dream come true for fans in the Dallas area. Ahead of the match, the Fuel announced that the game would double as NA’s first homestand in over a year. Fans got the opportunity to watch the match live at the Esports Stadium in Arlington, a season four first. Though the Houston Outlaws were absent from the stadium (instead opting to host a watch party in Spring, Texas while playing remotely), the Dallas Fuel performed in front of a crowd, ushering in the first walkout since the start of the 2020 season.
Though it’s unclear whether playing in front of a crowd was a bane or a boon for the Dallas Fuel, there’s one thing that’s for certain- NA homestands are coming back, and they’re coming back in a big way.
The Fourth Battle For Texas
Heading into the fourth battle for Texas, expectations were high. Fans of the Dallas Fuel expected to win in dominant fashion. Fans of the Houston Outlaws expected a power-ranking shattering upset, especially after a recent victory against a struggling San Francisco Shock. And those of us who support teams outside of Texas expected it to be a close, nail-biting brawl, and an overall joy to watch. But no matter your expectations, you often have to respect tradition. The Outlaws received a trouncing from the ever dominant Fuel, who beat them 3-0 for the third time this season.
Though this was a disappointing loss for fans of the Houston Outlaws, it was to be expected. The Fuel are nothing short of a dominant force in NA. Though their record is worse than the Outlaws’, their frequent tournament appearances speak to their abilities as a team. Though they struggled in the first couple weeks of the 2021 season, they came back strong in the May Melee knockouts, and have taken only a single non-tournament loss since. This isn’t to say that the Outlaws are a bad team- in fact, they’re anything but. However, it’s become clear that there are areas of play that they’ll have to work on before they can reclaim their spot at the top of Texas.
For fans of the Houston Outlaws, one thing has become painfully clear. If the Outlaws have any hope of getting ahead in the 2021 season, they’re going to need to learn dive. Dive, a composition that utilizes the maneuverability of heroes like Winston and D.va to get key picks, has been the bread and butter of dominant Overwatch League teams this season. It’s also a favorite of the Dallas Fuel, who have seen incredible success with the composition as a result of the talents of their main tank, Eui-Seok “Fearless” Lee. Being at least halfway decent at dive seems to be a requirement for any title seeking OWL teams. That’s why it comes across as incredibly odd that the Houston Outlaws, despite their obvious strengths in other areas, have repeatedly failed to excel in this composition.
A partial reason for this could be the teams arguable underutilization of Sanglok “Dreamer” Song. Dreamer, a genius on Winston and a midseason signing for the Outlaws, has the potential to turn the teams hopes for success in Dive compositions around. Despite this, Dreamer has seen minimal playtime over the course of the season. Instead, Winston responsibilities have been delegated to Myung-heum “JJANGGU” Cho, a player whose skills lie in other areas of tank play. If the Outlaws can harness Dreamer’s true potential, they may see great success in the Countdown Cup and beyond. But if they fail to do this, the next battle for Texas could be another loss- as could many other games and events in the remainder of the 2021 Overwatch League season.
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