The Evolution of Widowmaker in the Overwatch League

The evolution of Widowmaker play in the Overwatch League is rather interesting. Pick rates still sit around 30% for all maps, but her presence league-wide is felt. Teams with strong Widowmakers almost seemingly have a leg up over the rest of the competition due to how dangerous of a character she is at the hands of Overwatch professionals

Consider this, according to Winston Lab, Widowmaker currently sits as the sixth most picked hero in the Overwatch League. Of the top six heroes, Widowmaker is the only one with a positive rating overall and has the highest percentage of team kills. Even if she’s a map dependent hero, the threat of a strong Widow on the opposing team changes the entirety of a teams gameplan.

The power of Surefour’s mother is taking him over the top. Photo via Los Angeles Gladiators twitter

However, it helps to have players like Do-hyeon “Pine” Kim or Lane “Surefour” Roberts. Two players who are known for their pure aiming skill and put that to good use on Widow. For both players, it was a struggle to find playing time when trying to find a role on their teams. It wasn’t until Widow became a more frequent pick that both broke out and earned more playing time.

Looking back, the uptick in Surefour’s Widow picks has shown steady improvement in his play and the play of his teammates (well that and having Fissure boop everyone with primal rage). In the Gladiator wins, Surefour is successful at finding the backline and making teams pay for leaving supports exposed. Surefour’s got the most player of the match titles on the Gladiators and most of those of his Widow play.

So what do Surefour and Pine getting more run on Widowmaker mean for the rest of the league? It means coaching staffs are finding new ways to incorporate Widow. She’s becoming more of a threat through better positioning and the constant improvement on players landing critical shots. Fans knew Florida Mayhem’s Jeong-woo “Sayaplayer” Ha had incredible aim, but sitting on a 33% critical hit percentage is shocking. It’s the best in the league by a wide margin.

Widowmakers to watch

The best Widowmaker is a revolving door of a handful of players that seemingly changes each day. It’s either Chang-hyun “Fissure” Baek calling Surefour the best Widowmaker or the nightly show put on by Pine, the Outlaws Jiri “LiNkzr” Masalin, or Fusion’s Jae-hyeok “Carpe” Lee, it’s nearly impossible to choose. Each player has their own Widow play-style, and at any given moment can pop-off with headshots.

If you’ve ever dabbled with Widowmaker, the feeling one gets when the sound of the headshot rings out like a sharp bell is almost intoxicating. That sound ignites a fire under the player and as the adrenaline starts pumping, momentum starts to build. All the top Widow’s can end team fights with two shots easily, and go on a rampage of quick-twitch critical shots. The ones who best exemplify this would be Pine or Carpe, but each of the best Widow’s has this ability.

The Patient Widow

Now, let’s get specific, focusing on a few aspects that make the best Widowmakers the best, and what makes her more of a concern in the league overall. Let’s start by looking at the best players in final blows to deaths per 10 minutes on Widow. At the top is the Seoul Dynasty’s Byung-sun “Fleta” Kim, a player not known for his Widow play, but has a staggering 2.48 final blow to death ratio with 110+ minutes played. Fleta’s positioning is world class and these numbers speak for themselves, however, despite leading the league by a wide margin, he’s only sixth in total playtime on Widow. The Dynasty are still not fully committing to Fleta on Widowmaker, but he’s earning more as the season continues.

The Explosive Widow

Switching to Carpe, he’s got 35 more minutes played on Widowmaker than anyone, but his final blow to death ratio is only good for fifth. Yes, playing more will average out the numbers, but Carpe’s shown to be in the more explosive group than Fleta who stays alive longer. Carpe is willing to get the best angle possible even if he’s left exposed foregoing safer positioning. Carpe’s more in-line to make fight winning plays, but will also be subject to dives and focus fire.

The Duel Widow

The two sub-categories for Widowmakers fall into one of those two camps usually with some variations. In the case of LiNkzr, who’s known to many as the league’s best Widow, he smothers opposing Widowmakers. He forces duels and prioritizing opposing Widow’s over supports. LiNkzr through the three stages so far is winning Widow duels at an astounding rate. On average per 10 minutes, he lands a staggering 3.48 kills on Widow. The next closest player is Carpe at 2.2 kills. But LiNzkr only sits at a 1.41 final blow ratio on every other hero.

The debate over best Widow will never stop, it will only intensify as these players get better aim and strategies. Outside of the names mentioned above, newer additions are starting to carve up opposing teams on WIdowmaker. The Shock’s Min-ho “Architect” Park is already proving himself to be one of the best Widow’s with a 1.89, good for the third-best ratio (Surefour has a 1.90) in the league. Architect is finding playing time because he’s been so effective in the small amount of playing time he’s received.

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Feature photo via Overwatch League Twitter

London Spitfire

Does London Spitfire’s inconsistency make the league more interesting?

London Spitfire likes to keep the league interesting. Spitfire are easily the second best team in the Overwatch League. With an impressive 15-7 league score so far and a +30 map differential it’s impossible to deny they are among the best. However they are not perfect by any means. They have three more losses then their rivals New York Excelsior, and they have now lost three matches in a row. They lost to rising stars Philadelphia Fusion, then long time road block Houston Outlaws, and then their aforementioned rivals, NYXL.

London are one of the most dominant teams, but they struggle in odd match ups and often lose to opponents considered much worse then them. But admittedly, their inconsistencies have made them a very interesting team to watch. NYXL looks amazing with flashy plays by Park “Saebeyolbe” Jong-ryeol and Kim “Pine” Do-hyeon, but if you’re anything like me, seeing them win every day is a bit…boring. But a team like Spitfire, well anything can happen.

London Spitfire

London’s abysmal start to stage 3 places them with the bottom two teams in the League. Courtesy of the Overwatch League website

Losses against lower teams

It sounds weird praising a team for their losses, but this does make the whole league a bit more interesting to watch. They lost to two teams I would argue they should’ve easily won. That was Boston Uprising and Los Angeles Gladiators. Now since then both have proven themselves as forces to be reckoned with, but neither team has even managed to make it to stage finals before. The Boston match was a heart pounding 2-3 loss for London. It was an amazing game that lead to their first loss. At that point we thought the three Korean teams were going to dominate the league. London vs Boston was the first sign that wasn’t going to happen.

And when they lost to the Los Angeles Gladiators, they lost by a bit of a margin, 1-3. But it again really fit a story line of Baek “Fissure” Chan-hyung claiming victory over his old comrades. In both scenarios, although disappointing for London fans, was actually incredibly hype to see them lose, and totally went against what everyone was expecting.

Roadblock with Houston Outlaws

At this point it’s fair to say that London have a problem with Houston. Maybe it’s that Houston is known as a great anti-dive team. Maybe it’s because all four times they have played Houston it was the same week that they play New York. Or maybe there really is just a mental road block at this point. No matter what it is, if you’re just looking at the regular season they are 0-3 against Houston. Now why is this interesting? Story lines. People like a good story, and a dominant tyrant brought down by a somewhat mediocre (at this point) team is exciting. On top of that once they do win, it’ll be even more exciting since we won’t be expecting it. It was super exciting when they tasted revenge beating Houston 3-1 in the Stage 1 finals. Next win will be just as satisfying as well…if they win.

 

The most interesting rivalry in the league

New York Excelsior is the final boss of Overwatch. With an immaculate 20-2 record and a staggering +54 map differential, they are the top dogs. At this point there aren’t many teams who really put up much of a fight towards NYXL. Heck, only two teams in the entire league have ever actually won against them. Those being Philadelphia Fusion, and of course, London Spitfire. The Spitfire are actually the only team to win twice. Once in the Stage 1 finals and a second time in Stage 2. Unfortunately after a pretty one sided loss against NYXL, they are now 2-2 on sets. Like I said, NYXL always winning does get boring, but as long as London is around, they will never sit too comfortably a the top; if they slip up even a little, London will be looking for blood.

 

Why is this good for the league?

People like to see change; if you watched the same episode of the same show every day it would get boring. Watching the same three teams win day in day out is exhausting and uninteresting. That’s why a team like London is good for the league. Keep it exciting, keep the fans on their toes. There’s a reason in Football no one wants the Patriots to win, they always win. No one wants to see the same result everyday. So London both being the only team to go toe to toe with NYXL while also being a team that any team can strive to beat keeps the league a bit more balanced.

 

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Featured photo courtesy of Twitch and MLG channel

Gladiators to Spare- What will LA do about its new tank problem?

The LA Gladiators have been one of Stage 2’s greatest stories. While their Stage 1 stats (8th place, 4-6 finish) left a lot to be desired, Head Coach David “Dpei” Pei had a plan to turn things around. As the trading window opened, the Gladiators moved quickly, securing Chan-hyung “Fissure” Baek’s contract from the London Spitfire. One of the earliest moves of the season, Fissure’s short tenure with the Gladiators has been nothing short of miraculous. His addition raises some interesting questions, however…

 

The Great Enabler

Gladiators Hydration

2018-03-07 / Photo: Robert Paul for Blizzard Entertainment

Fissure is a fantastic main tank, which is a necessity for any team looking for a playoff spot in the Overwatch League. His true strength, though, might be what he brings out in the rest of his teammates. Jun-Sung “Asher” Choi, Joao Pedro “Hydration” Veloso de Goes Telles, and Lane “Surefour” Roberts have really figured things out this stage, and their performance at DPS has made life far easier for LA’s front line. With Mercy (mostly) eliminated from pro play, flashy one-off kills, or “picks”, are much more impactful. When you have a Pharah/Doomfist specialist like Hydration, or a flank-focused Tracer player like Asher, or a Widowmaker savant like Surefour… you get a lot of picks. Fissure knows this, and gets in the enemy’s face so his damage dealers can get down to brass tacks. There’s not a single team in the league that plays to this strength the way the Gladiators do, and their focus on supporting individual performance with strong team play has been wildly successful.

 

a team in sync

Photo: Robert Paul for Blizzard Entertainment

In the backline, Jonas “Shaz” Suovaara and Benjamin “BigGoose” Isohanni have continued their dominance, maintaining their status as one of the best support duos in the league. With a tank line as strong as theirs, the ex-Gigantti boys have been running riot. They make a recursive loop, of sorts- the tanks make more space, the healers stay alive longer, they heal the tanks more, who stay alive longer, creating more space, keeping the healers alive longer… you get the idea.

Fissure’s aggressive, intelligent main tank play also helps his off-tank specialist, Aaron “Bischu” Kim. The two keep each other alive in extended dives or frantic defenses, securing kills and space in equal measure. Enemy DPS players can’t simply push past the tanks to get to the juicy back line; they have to pay attention to Fissure and Bischu. And if they’re watching the tanks instead of, well, anyone else… they usually die.  

 

Trouble in Paradise

So we’ve established that having a top-3 main tank is a good thing. Hard hitting, investigative journalism at work. The Gladiators have taken that wisdom and ran with it, having reportedly signing Fissure’s former counterpart, Kang “Void” Jung-woo. Their performance on the Korean team KongDoo Panthera was the stuff of legends, and if Void has held onto his old skills, the top 3 conversation could be split wide open. The only thing is, there’s an ever-so-slightly awkward question to ask now that Void will be joining his old friend in LA. What’s gonna happen to the Gladiators’ other tanks?

Photo: Robert Paul for Blizzard Entertainment

Bischu and Luis “iRemiix” Galarza Figueroa were signed together from Kungarna after season 1 of Overwatch Contenders. They’ve been apart lately, though, with iRemiix riding the bench as the Gladiators ride out Fissure’s explosively successful introduction. Bischu’s off-tank play is as solid as ever, but I worry that he won’t last long once Void flies into LAX. iRemiix’s contract is already up on the trading block, per Rod “Slasher” Breslau from ESPN, and his Korean-Canadian counterpart might soon join him.

What do you think will happen? Will Void fill a specialist role, keeping Bischu consigned to D.Va duty? Or will both of the Gladiators’ original tanks have to find new homes? If so, where will they go? Will a team buy them both, a package deal to reset their front line? Or will the Puerto-Canadian bond be broken for good?

 

 

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Featured image courtesy of Robert Paul and Blizzard Entertainment