The London Spitfire just benched four players: Good move or not?

In a Tuesday afternoon tweet, the London Spitfire announced a move that has shocked fans across the world.

“Effective immediately, the following players are designated as inactive on our roster…”

The names listed were a surprise at first glance, but make perfect sense after giving it a little thought. There were plenty of factors that forced London to this point with their roster, and a lot of it had to do with on-stage performance. Behind a mediocre Stage 3 and a terrible start to Stage 4, though, lie some deeper issues for the Spitfire.

 

Out with the old…

HaGoPeun


Photo: Robert Paul for Blizzard Entertainment 

I hate to say it, but HaGoPeun is a straight step down from Bdosin. This move (and Hooreg’s) made the most sense. Yes, he did get this absolutely ridiculous play that one time, but his consistency just isn’t at the level London needed it to be. In a league full of insanely talented Zen players, you need to bring your best. Jjonak can smell weakness. He can sense fear. His wrath knows no bounds.

In any case, the Spitfire are supremely confident in Bdosin’s ability, and he’s never given them reason to doubt his play. Bdosin may well be the player London builds around, modeling their efforts after NYXL’s Jjonak-centric approach. You can’t say it hasn’t been working, and if you can’t beat ’em, why not join ’em?

Hooreg


Here’s the deal- Stage 3 showed us that Hooreg simply couldn’t hang. Everyone knew that he had less stage time and less mechanical skill than Birdring, and that gave every team going up against the Spitfire an easy in. Put pressure on Hooreg, run heroes that counter what he’s good at, win the game. Easy stuff. While he may have gelled a bit better with his team with more play time in Stage 4, Birdring is where the Spitfire want to invest their time right now. Even in his very rusty state, Birdring has the potential to blow fights wide open and win maps. That’s what the Spitfire needs more than anything right now. Splitting stage hours between the two of them with season playoffs on the way just doesn’t make sense for London, and they knew it. I’m ok with this change.

Woohyal


Photo: Robert Paul for Blizzard Entertainment

The Spitfire’s second string off-tank saw a decent amount of play time, and did fairly well when on stage to boot. In this new Rein/Zarya focused meta, though, even a skilled D.Va player like Woohyal finds himself without a home.

There are plenty of heroes he can learn to flex to in his time off, at least. Off-tanks moving to Brigitte is something we’ve seen a lot of lately, and I think Woohyal has the reflex and game sense to be really, really good with her. If Brigitte isn’t nerfed to the ground within a few patches, being able to play her will be a must for any flexible off-tank player, or any new team looking for an off-tank.

TiZi


My initial reaction to seeing TiZi on this list was one of blind rage. He never even got to play a game on stage! He was our first chance to see a former RunAway player on stage! Runner would have been so proud!!

Looking at it with a little more context, though, the move makes just as much sense as the rest. I’ll let Susie explain:

“Tizi is an amazing Rein player. Like holy moly. But the rest of the team has already adapted to Gesture’s play style and he’s been consistent for us; there really was no space to incorporate Tizi as much as we wanted to. When we picked him up, we thought that we’d be getting a 12th player as well to keep things even but awkwardly ended up being 11.”

That last part is maybe the most important, even past the (totally valid) point about being used to Gesture’s play style. A 12-man roster means you can have one half of your team scrim the other. That means you can keep your secret strategies secret, try out different roster combinations on the fly and increase general efficiency by a lot. An 11-man roster means finding other teams to scrim you, while five of your players ride the bench at a time. There’s a big difference there, and that big difference may have been the deciding factor in all four of these moves.

 

The start of something new?

This move is the first of its kind in Overwatch League history, and its results will likely shape the dynamic of team rosters in a pretty major way. If London can come back to stage champion form with this streamlined roster, other teams going for a deeper playing field might look to trim down themselves. If it turns out this loss of flexibility bites the Spitfire in the butt, well… we’ll all be wiser at London’s expense.

Was this a good decision? Yes and no. Publicly announcing a decrease in roster depth is a major strategic blow to the Spitfire, whose 11-man roster was always a wild card that teams were forced to prepare for. That said, the variability hasn’t exactly been yielding results. Focusing on a small core (one of the strongest in the Overwatch League, no less) will definitely make things easier for London’s coaches. They’ll just have to hope that the efforts to refocus the roster haven’t come too late.

 

 

 

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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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