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…
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?
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.
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.
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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