As the dark horse of North America, the Washington Justice defied all expectations in their run through the playoff bracket. Even though they were reverse-swept by the San Francisco Shock, the Double Elimination Bracket kept them alive. On Sunday, they defeated the Paris Eternal, who had established themselves as the third strongest team in the region before the playoffs, to keep their miracle run alive. Many fans are angry because they assume this run is only based on luck. However, the complete picture is more complicated.
It is undeniable that Gui-un “Decay” Jang is the golden goose for the Justice. A few weeks ago, he was released from the Dallas Fuel, surrounded by many rumors. It appeared that he would not be able to play this year. However, the Washington Justice intelligently used the Covid-19 regulations of the Overwatch League. Teams can pick up replacement players to help teams work around travel and visa issues. This allowed Washington to pick up Decay for the remainder of the season.
The star DPS player was one of the highest valued rookies last year on the Los Angeles Gladiators. His experience in Contenders and on the Gladiators during the GOATS meta now enables his Zarya to lead the #12 seed Washington Justice on their miracle run. Decay was able to get revenge on Dallas and, enabled by his supports, has put up skyrocketing statistics during the playoffs.
But wait, there’s more…
However, Decay alone could not achieve what Washington has achieved. Their new head coach Seung-jun “Supr7me” Han, who was promoted to the position in June, was praising his team on Twitter and told their fans that the team was practicing extremely hard despite the bad results. Now, as the meta has shifted in their favor, the practice is starting to pay off. Yeonjoon “Ark” Hong and Minseok “Aimgod” Kwon can play their best heroes Mercy and Ana. Chung-hee “Stitch” Lee and Hyeon-Woo “JJANU” Choi, who joined the team after the Vancouver Titans fell apart, have fully integrated themselves in the team as well.
It is the combination of a lucky meta, determined players and good coaching that allowed Washington to reach this point. Analyzing the entire team, Decay in the Tank slot could become a huge liability. San Francisco was able to adapt in their series and reverse swept Washington because the Justice could not adjust. With Zarya and Roadhog as their best tank-line by far, they locked themselves into a single strategy.
How did we get here?
As the second-worst team in the regular season, Washington would not even be in the playoffs in a normal season. Luckily for Washington, the Overwatch League decided to invite all teams to the playoffs this year due to the shift in regions caused by Covid-19. Even some Overwatch analysts felt that the miracle run was partially dishonest due to this irregular situation.
Despite this, it should be considered that Washington’s record was negatively impacted by the new regions. Three top ten teams that would have been in the Pacific region, San Francisco, and the two Los Angeles teams, moved to the North American region. Meanwhile, the weak London Spitfire moved to the Asian Division. Though all these changes might still not be enough to put Washington into the playoffs in a regular year, it would have made a significant difference in their record.
Can the Washington Miracle Run continue?
The Washington Justice have a tall task ahead of them. Teams now had a week to prepare for the composition the Justice is running. If Washington wants to have a chance to reach the Finals in Korea, they need to broaden their strategy portfolio. Will they be able to learn how to finish the job against the best in the league?
Featured image provided courtesy of Blizard Entertainment.
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