The battle for L.A.: Gladiators and Valiant go for round three

Throughout the Overwatch League’s brief history, the Los Angeles Valiant and Los Angeles Gladiators have met for some intense games. During stage one, the Valiant were able to reverse sweep the Gladiators in a five map thriller. Fans of both teams were thoroughly engaged, and the first rivalry of the league was born. The Gladiators, not satisfied losing to their regional rival, took their stage two match-up by storm. With a 4-0 thrashing, the Valiant were left scratching their heads. Since they last met almost a month ago, both teams have fresh faces to challenge for the win.

Since Last We Met: Overwatch League Rival Recap

Overwatch League

Agilities and Bischu, from Overwatch League

The Gladiators are not so changed from their last match against the Valiant. They have newcomer Void, a flex player known for his D.va play. He adds an extra layer of flex tank to play alongside Fissure. They also received Silkthread from the Valiant before the trade window closed. These were the only moves that the Gladiators made from stage two to stage three.

The Valiant are a different story. Since the last match, they have five new players, and one that’s finally of age. Space, who has been on the roster since the team’s inception, turned 18 during the stage break between stages two and three. Two others have come through trades, Bunny, a DPS, was obtained from the Seoul Dynasty. The other player, Custa, was obtained from the Dallas Fuel. To land Custa, the Valiant sent a fan favorite, and fellow countryman of Soon, Unkoe to the Fuel.

This trade was one of the most looked at as a potential to backfire for the Valiant, as it was believed that Unkoe was more mechanically sound than Custa. However, the opposite has been true, as Custa has fit perfectly with the Valiant. The other three players were picked up for depth, KSF, a DPS main, Finnsi, a flex player, and Izayaki, a support main.

Who has the advantage?

Looking for any advantage or insight to this series is hard. The Valiant have looked dominant throughout stage three, with a 4-0 record through the first two weeks. The Gladiators have played the same teams as the Valiant through the first two weeks, and have a 3-1 record. The San Francisco Shock were the one team that the Gladiators could not defeat. With such similar records against similar opponents, it’s hard to narrow down a clear advantage for either team.

Overwatch League

Shields Up by Robert Paul

Looking at straight records, the Valiant appear to be the stronger and more confidant team heading into this rivalry. They aggressively retooled their roster to make the team more competitive, and the rewards have been flowing in for them. Alternatively the Gladiators have tweaked and added to their roster at the end of each Overwatch League stage, and have steadily improved. Throughout the entirety of the Overwatch League the Valiant sit 15-9 and Gladiators at 13-11. The Valiant lead the pack for stage three so far with their 4-0, +13 map differential. The momentum sides with the Valiant, but it’s no clear cut.

Overwatch League

Valiant Fans by Robert Paul

 

The great thing about rivalries is that each team has extra drive to win. The Gladiators and Valiant have extra fuel to burn trying to win the hearts of undecided Los Angeles fans. With the recent poor showings of both Southern California hockey teams, sports fans will want to dive in to a great rivalry. There’s no fiercer one in the Overwatch League than the L.A. Valiant and the L.A. Gladiators. Whether you have your wings up, or shields raised, be ready for one intense match to kick off week three.

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Featured photo by Robert Paul

Los Angeles Valiant

Los Angeles Valiant roster overhaul paying off

Before stage three of the Overwatch League started, the Los Angeles Valiant made a flurry of moves. Bunny, Custa and Space joined the team while mainstays like Unkoe, Envy and Silkthread departed. The drastic change has worked wonders and has made the Valiant look incredibly strong this stage.

Los Angeles Valiant Roster Recap

Los Angeles Valiant

Space and Soe courtesy of Robert Paul

Quick recap of exactly what happened to the Valiant roster. To kick things off, they announced they had acquired Bunny from the Seoul Dynasty. Next, they made a trade with the Dallas Fuel and swapped support Unkoe for Custa. Their next move remains clouded in mystery to exactly what the reasoning behind it is, but they “mutually” terminated Envy’s contract. Following this announcement was that backup DPS GrimReality was moving into an assistant coaching position, removing him from the roster. During the off-stage break, flex-tank player Space turned 18, and became an active player for the Valiant. Their final move was to trade with their rivals, the Los Angeles Gladiators, by unloading Silkthread from their roster.

Los Angeles Valiant

Custa by the Los Angeles Valiant

So for those keeping track, two players from the Los Angeles Valiant’s starting roster, Unkoe and Envy, were removed. Two DPS that weren’t being given a chance anymore, Silkthread and GrimReality, get moved off the roster. With Envy gone, Space takes the D.va role. Bunny starts to challenge Agilities for the second DPS spot behind Soon, and Kariv goes back to being a support alongside Custa.

Has it Worked?

Fans looked on at what the Valiant were doing to their team, and wondered how exactly things would play out. Many weren’t expecting these kind of results however. At the end of stage three, week two, the Valiant have gone 4-0. They played two teams many don’t give much of a chance to, Shanghai Dragons and Dallas Fuel, but they also played up-and-coming San Francisco Shock as well as near-dominant Seoul Dynasty. They rolled through every team 4-0 except for the Dallas Fuel, who looked vastly improved with OGE in the lineup. With a total map score of 14-1 throughout two weeks of play, the roster moves have worked out incredibly well.

Working as a team

Los Angeles Valiant

Photo: Robert Paul for Blizzard Entertainment

One of the main differences that the Los Angeles Valiant have shown through this stage is their team communication. Custa was constantly touted as a leader in Dallas, and he seems to have brought those skills to the Valiant. Alongside with Kariv, they’ve barely missed a beat together. Space has jumped in and performed as well if not better than Envy, and if the rumors about personal issues were true, the team mindset may be cleared with him off the team. Bunny and Agilities have also been great swapping in-and-out depending on the map. Bunny specifically has given Soon the ability to flex on some different heroes, as his McCree and Reaper have been producing great results lately.

With a new looking roster missing zero beats throughout stage three, the Valiant could easily be contending for the stage three championship. They’re producing great results against both challenging and “easy” teams, showing that they have the drive to win no matter the team. If anything, it’s a great time to be a Los Angeles Valiant fan, and the future looks bright.

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The bloodiest battles in the Overwatch League are yet to come

Now, I’ve talked about why this stage in particular is going to be great. So far I haven’t been disappointed, either. We’ve had some great games so far, and this week should be no exception. I’m looking just a bit past this week, though, to week 3 of the Overwatch League’s third stage. A week so packed with potential that I’m writing about it eight days in advance. Why is that far-off day worth worrying about now? Follow along, dear reader, and I’ll show you…

The battle for LA is back with a vengeance

Photo: Robert Paul for Blizzard Entertainment

One of the hottest rivalries in the Overwatch League, this hometown hoedown never disappoints. In S1W3, the Valiant squeaked by with one of the league’s first reverse sweeps ever in a harrowing 5-map affair that kept the crowd loud all night long. In S2W3, we saw a decidedly different outcome, a 4-0 smash from the Gladiators, whose shiny new main tank Chan-Hyung “Fissure” Baek made it look easy against the Valiant’s sagging shields.

Now in S3W3, it’s anyone’s guess as to who will take the lead in the head-to-head rivalry. Fissure has cemented himself as a fixture for the Gladiators. The Valiant are looking good after acquiring ex-Dallas Fuel support Scott “Custa” Kennedy and Seoul’s former Tracer star Jun-Hyeok “Bunny” Chae. Indy “Space” Halpern has looked good, too, moving up to the main roster after turning 18 earlier this month. Even so, the Valiant’s new additions will need to work overtime to prepare for the onslaught of purple fists, rockets and shuriken sent out by the Gladiator’s insanely versatile DPS lineup, which recently added Ted “Silkthread” Wang to its already impressive arsenal.

Keep an eye on this match for sure, but also keep in mind that it’s not the only big rivalry we get to see this week…

 

This state ain’t big enough for the two of us

Dallas vs. Houston has been… not as competitive as the Battle for LA. I’ll be real with you there. S1W2’s high-noon brawl left the Boys in Blue bleeding in the street, with Houston cruising comfortably to a 4-0 sweep. I would hope that the Fuel put up a bit more of a fight this time around, but it’ll be up to their front line to make that happen. Their new tank Minseok “OGE” Kim is set to make his debut in week two against Seoul- maybe.

Debut or no, Dallas has a lot of work to do to put up a fight against the Outlaws, even with their recent stumbles against the Boston Uprising. Unkoe and Jonathan “Harryhook” Tejedor Rua have been working well together, at least. The DPS corps is looking strong, and if Brandon “Seagull” Larned has to swap back to his former role as projectile specialist, they could be even stronger. Ponghop “Mickie” Rattanasangchod should be returning to off-tank, too, where his phenomenal D.Va play can really shine.

No, no, EFFECT. You have to get MAD at Muma! Photo: Robert Paul for Blizzard Entertainment

Houston has been struggling a bit with consistency, but still has fantastic upset potential so long as their heavy hitters come to play. Jacob “Jake” Lyon needs to pack the caffeine gum and get to chewing; his frenetic Junkrat play has torn top teams to pieces, and his Tracer is steadily improving, too. Shane “Rawkus” O’Flaherty has been on a bit of a tear himself. That Soldier:76 flex on Numbani last week? Or the Roadhog flexes on Junkertown? More, please!

We could even see some changes at main tank for the Outlaws, too, with Russel “FCTFCTN” Campbell waiting in the wings. I wrote a bit more on that here– suffice to say, he’s pretty good. You could say I like the guy. I don’t know if Dallas will by the end of the day, though.

I don’t want to send this one off as a 4-0 sweep for the Outlaws, though I’m sure many could come to that conclusion with confidence. Dallas has that spark, even now, and they tend to bite teams that underestimate them. Let’s hope the desk gets EFFECT really, really mad. The power of NMA might just win the day for them, like it did against Shanghai.

 

Speaking of Shanghai…

2018-04-04 / Photo: Robert Paul for Blizzard Entertainment

Yes, the Dragons are winless. No, that probably won’t change any time soon. But if it had to happen… if Shanghai had any chance at all… it would be here, in S3W3, against the Florida Mayhem. With games against Seoul, Boston, Philly, New York, and London, there will be no better opportunity for Shanghai to win a game this stage- or this season, even, barring their other match against Florida in S4W4.

Shanghai doesn’t need a win, per se. They’re not in the hunt for any playoffs (unless we see a BIG turnaround in stage four,) and the roster is going to need to take its time to get things right and find their groove. All the same, though, a victory- ever- in Season 1 would mean great things for team morale, which is a crucial point for a game as intense as Overwatch.

Besides, how could you not want the Dragons to get a win at this point? The underdog story is one of the most quintessential American tales in the history of anything, ever, and Shanghai are definitely underdogs at this point. Florida aren’t much better off, frankly, though the gap between the two teams is still four wins and 31 maps wide. Each team is reshaping their roster in a big way, and that could mean an upset when the Dragons need it most.

 

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Featured photo: Robert Paul for Blizzard Entertainment

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Los Angeles Valiant official roster moves for stage three

The Los Angeles Valiant have been the team circulating the rumor mill since stage two of the Overwatch League ended. As we prepare for stage three to begin this Wednesday, here are the official roster moves the Valiant have made.

Los Angeles Valiant Mutually Terminate Envy

Los Angeles Valiant

Envy by Robert Paul

Rumors of a conflicting personality have swirled around Envy, one of the Valiant’s best tanks. Then there were reports the Valiant attempted a trade with the Dallas Fuel for flex player Seagull. At the end of the day, on April 2nd, the Valiant announced they had agreed to mutually terminate Envy’s contract with the Valiant. No trade, no incoming player. This move effectively creates the opening for incoming tank Space. Envy proved to be an extremely talented D.va player that could take games over for the Valiant. Whatever the reason may be for his termination and removal from the team, Envy is sure to find himself continuing his professional career.

Valiant and Fuel Support Swap

The long rumored, (and personally disliked), Unkoe for Custa swap has finally happened. It separates long-time teammates Unkoe and Soon, while bringing in a veteran player in Custa. Custa is by no means a downgrade from Unkoe, and not essentially an upgrade either. Both the Fuel and Valiant are excited to receive their new players, as they should be. Reports that Unkoe, much like Envy, had personality clashes within the team, could have potentially hindered play. Custa is also an incredible support like Unkoe, who’s great play on Zenyatta and Moira could bring a formidable pair with either Kariv or Verbo on the Valiant. For the Fuel it allows a good triple support rotation between HarryHook, Chipshajen, and Unkoe.

GrimReality Off the Roster

Los Angeles Valiant

GrimReality from Los Angeles Valiant

A player that never got to see any playing time on the Overwatch League stage. GrimReality, Christopher Schaefer, is no longer a roster player for the Los Angeles Valiant. He stays with the team, however, in a surprise move. He joins as the new assistant coach, and it’s a good way that the Valiant extend their relationship with a talented player that never got his time to shine. With a career being a professional gamer now behind him, GrimReality can continue to offer his insight to the team. If his retention is any sign to fans, it’s that his insight and talent have helped the team behind the scenes more than we know.

Bunny Joins in time for Easter

Los Angeles Valiant

Source from the Los Angeles Valiant

The day before Easter the Los Angeles Valiant had an important announcement for their fans. They had received DPS player Bunny from the Seoul Dynasty. A talented player that could be found when Munchkin was rested, Bunny showed off his ability with a deep hero pool, one that could work in tandem with Soon. With Agilities regaining his form in the last couple weeks of stage two, this allows for a player like Kariv to return his focus to support heroes. Having the ability to swap Agilities and Bunny in to pair with Soon, or even resting Soon and having Bunny play Tracer, allows the Valiant a wider range of options.

The Space age

Known primarily as a flex player, Space is joining the Los Angeles Valiant. Space had his 18th birthday at the end of March, making him fully eligible to play starting day of stage three. Joining the team with a focus on tank play, the sudden void left by Envy’s termination is Space’s to lose. He excels at D.va, which effectively swaps out Envy, and also has good history playing Roadhog and Zarya. With Fate locking down the main tank role in Winston, this hero pool will work to compliment the Valiant’s style of play.

4/3 Update: Rival Dealings

Los Angeles Valiant

Silkthread from Los Angeles Gladiators

Today, April 3rd, it was announced that the Los Angeles Gladiators have purchased the rights to DPS Silkthread from the Los Angeles Valiant. That means that the two DPS thought to be moved from the Valiant, GrimReality and Silkthread, have effectively been removed from their active roster. The signing of Bunny has more impact for the Valiant. It also allows for a more proven rotation between Bunny, Agilities, and Soon. Silkthread was known for his great ability to play projectile heroes like Pharah and will bring that to the Gladiators. For stage three fans will have to wait and see which DPS will begin to take on that role should the map call for it.

With stage three just days away, the Los Angeles Valiant starting roster is going to look a lot different than the previous two stages. Envy and Unkoe are gone. Space and Custa should slot in to those vacant spots, or Custa will watch from the sidelines as Kariv and Verbo start as a support duo. Soon and Agilities seem poised to start as the two DPS players, but there’s no sleeping on former Dynasty player Bunny and his ability to challenge either player for their spots. As a Valiant fan, you might not agree with all of these roster moves made during the stage break. However, there is no denying that new players, and a new assistant coach create excitement and hope for a brighter and more competitive team for this stage.

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Featured image courtesy of Los Angeles Valiant

Los Angeles Valiant trading away starting players would be a mistake

There are multiple reports that have the Los Angeles Valiant looking to move a lot of their current players. Moving just one would help free up a starting lineup spot for newly eligible Space, but at what cost could it come? With Envy and Fate being one of the strongest tank duos throughout the first two stages, moving even one of them could lead the team in the wrong direction.

Unkoe for Custa

The main trade that has been floating around for a few days has been swapping Unkoe for Dallas Fuel’s Custa. Credit to both players for their strong play, but disrupting the cohesion of your supports is the wrong move to make for the Valiant. Unkoe and Kariv were near unstoppable during the first stage. He has continued his strong play alongside Verbo during stage two. Moving him and changing the dynamic of the backbone of your team could lead to communication errors. Not only that, but Soon and Unkoe have been friends and teammates for a while. What message would it send to your star DPS player if you swapped similarly skilled players?

Los Angeles Valiant clearing the bench

Los Angeles Valiant

Source: Robert Paul

Silkthread hasn’t seen any playing time since stage one ended. GrimReality has never gotten in to play in Blizzard Arena. While Silkthread looked impressive in the minimal time he got to shine, moving both of these players makes sense to me. They’re not currently playing or on the starting roster, and they can’t be happy with where they’re at regarding playing time. It’s a move that could benefit both teams involved, as the Los Angeles Valiant either free up a roster space or add a new player. For Silkthread and GrimReality, they’d be given a chance to compete for a spot to play, even if it’s rotating in for a single map per match. Silkthread has said previously he believes his time to play for the Valiant is up.

Envy of the league

If there is a player that has meant more or carried the Valiant more than Soon, it’s definitely Envy. Envy’s performance on D.va has been absolutely brilliant, and he has turned games on their head to give his team a chance to win. What possible reason could they have for looking to move him out? There’s been reports from a few sources that site some of the players personalities are clashing. If they perform that well on stage as a team, however, is it worth getting rid of them? Thankfully, the Valiant and Envy have continued to deny this rumor of a possible move, but with Space looking to contend for a playing spot, somebody might be leaving.

Los Angeles Valiant

Source: Los Angeles Valiant

A hop in their step

With Kariv and Agilities splitting time playing DPS throughout stage two, and no faith in Silkthread or GrimReality, the Valiant wanted another reliable DPS. Seoul Dynasty has gifted them Bunny, Jun-hyeok Chae. Bunny not only has a fantastic name, but he’s a great player too. His play on Tracer certainly fits DPS billing, and he will help challenge Soon or give the Valiant an option to rest the player with no fear. Bunny may also add another dynamic to the team coming from one of the top teams in the league. His view of the Overwatch League may add additional insight to the Valiant and how they approach different maps.

With all these moves, and more possible, the Valiant a fan sees for stage three could look a lot different. Familiar and fan favorites could be on the way out, and a new core of players might be enough to carry them to a stronger record.

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New Faces: Overwatch League Pacific Division

The signing window for the Overwatch League is coming to a close on Tuesday. Many teams have been busy reinforcing their rosters with trades and free-agent pickups, or are finally reaping the benefits of their younger players as they come of age. Certain teams in the Overwatch League Pacific Division will definitely benefit from some fresh talent, and I’ve taken the liberty of assembling the best of those new players and going a little more in depth on what they’ll be bringing to the table.

 

5. Gambler

On February 26th, the Seoul Dynasty announced the signing of Heo “Gambler” Jin-woo, a former support player from LW Blue. While much of his old roster went on to form the core of the NYXL, Gambler was decidedly absent in the early days of the Overwatch League. Gambler was well known for his strong in-game leadership and shot-calling ability, but flew under most teams’ radars until Seoul finally made the move to pick him up.

Those strengths could be just what the Dynasty need to get a hold of their inconsistent communications in-game. While his synergy is unavoidably behind that of long-time support stars Jin-Mo “Tobi” Yang and Je-hong “ryujehong” ryu, Gambler’s extensive experience could help provide fresh perspectives on the weaknesses of the Dynasty. His mechanical skills are top-notch, too.

 

4. Super

Image Courtesy of breakthegame.net. Super stands 5th from the left, between Jay “Sinatraa” Won and Dante “Danteh” Cruz.

Matthew “Super” DeLisi is one of many additions to the San Francisco Shock’s young roster, and he could easily be the most impactful. While the Shock are known for their long list of DPS players like Jay “Sinatraa” Won and Andrej “BABYBAY” Francisty, the tank line has lacked that same depth. Fielding only David “Nomy” Lizarraga Ramirez Osmar and Andreas “Nevix” Karlsson through the first two stages of the league, San Fran has a chance to surprise their enemies with this high-powered addition.

The Former LG Evil star also has plenty of experience with other members of the Overwatch League, including former teammates Jacob “Jake” Lyon of the Houston Outlaws and Connor “Avast” Prince from the Boston Uprising. While I expect he’s spilled the beans on his old comrades in internal training sessions, making plays with that knowledge in mind is an entirely different (and more advantageous) possibility.

Most importantly, Super just plays main tank differently than Nomy does. His positioning, communications, and responsiveness will all be different than his counterpart from Tijuana, and that can drastically change how the entire team performs.

 

3. Space

Indy “Space” Halpern is another player coming of age in the league’s third stage, and he’s apparently made some ripples in the team already. Rod “Slasher” Breslau reports that the Valiant are looking to trade their off-tank Kang-Jae “Envy” Lee, most likely to make room for the younger player in the starting six. Players from the Valiant have refuted this news, including Envy himself– so that’s definitely going to be something to keep an eye on as the stage gets underway.

Slasher has also reported that the Valiant are deep in talks with the Dallas Fuel to trade French support star Benjamin “Unkoe” Chevasson for resident Aussie Scott “Custa” Kennedy, once of Space’s former teammates from Arc 6. While the move wouldn’t be that great for Dallas, the Valiant could profit immensely from the trade. The only downside- the separation of long-term teammates Unkoe and Terence “SoOn” Tarlier, who’s time together has been impressive, to say the very least.

 

2. Geguri

Seyeon “Geguri” Kim is one of the better off-tanks we’ve ever seen, and her addition to the Shanghai Dragons will definitely help the team pull itself back from the depths of its abysmal 0-20, -65 record. Between her and Eui-Seok “Fearless” Lee, the Dragons are starting from the ground up at tank.

I don’t expect the Dragons to turn things around overnight, mind you, and their challenges are unique in both variety and magnitude. There’s a couple language barriers, for one, as well as the stress of living in a new country with new people, far from home. Hopefully the Dragons embrace the potential being in last place gives them. It’s not the best situation to be in, sure, but now they can take the time to find what works for them.

That’s all without mentioning the pressure Geguri is already getting as the league’s first female player- pressure that will only increase as she plays, win or lose. Shanghai’s coaching and support staff need to put in the time with their new players if they want them to grow and improve in a healthy way. Without that support, the Dragons will never get back on their feet, even if Geguri is as good as I think she is.

 

1. void

Go watch this, and come back. (Don’t, actually, it’s five hours long.) Try this one or this one instead. Notice those crazy D.Va bombs? That’s what Jun-woo “Void” Kang brings to the LA Gladiators now that his signing has been confirmed. We’ve waxed poetic on the Gladiators before, but I have a feeling their move up the league’s standings has just begun.

Void’s greatest strength (beyond those crazy bombs) is his game sense. His ability to respond and move in concert with the needs of his team will play perfectly with the style of his new/old main tank Fissure, a former teammate from C9 KongDoo. His lightning fast target-focus and peeling capabilities will also increase the lethality of his flexible DPS corps and bloodthirsty backline. Suffice to say, this was a good pick-up.

While I bemoaned the potential loss of the Gladiators’ other tanks, iRemiix and Bischu, keeping them could be just as advantageous as sending them on their way. As LA approaches a full 12-man roster, the chance for internal scrim opportunities grows higher, especially with access to the Gladiators Legion academy team. Those scrims could show us new heights for the Gladiators, and that is one exciting prospect.

 

 

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Featured image courtesy of Robert Paul and Blizzard Entertainment