Stage one of the Overwatch League is coming to a close this week and the scramble for the playoffs begin. The New York Excelsior and London Spitfire currently sit at the top of the league, but the fight for the final spot is still very much in play.
Currently, four teams sit at 5-3 and one game behind the Seoul Dynasty (6-2). Los Angeles Valiant, Houston Outlaws, Boston uprising and Philadelphia Fusion have an outside shot of sneaking into the playoffs. Each of these teams are not only 5-3, but are at least in striking distance in the game differential.
For one of these teams to pass the Dynasty, it’s going to take some serious help from the San Francisco Shock and Valiant. Fortunately for the Valiant, their chances at a playoff spot are in their hands. The Valiant and Dynasty will match up in the most important match of week five. The Valiant will not only have to win, but win several games.
If the Valiant find a way to beat the Dynasty, losing more than one game is not an option. A win will get them close, but it will require a dominant effort. Avoiding a game five is imperative, especially with Seoul facing a bottom four team to end out the season. All of the teams sitting one game outside of the playoffs will be huge Valiant fans on Friday.
Based on the schedule, the Valiant have the best shot of any team to make a playoff spot. The rest of the teams will either play each other or face the top-two teams in the Overwatch League. However, the Fusion and Valiant end stage one against the Shanghai Dragons (0-8) and Florida Mayhem (1-7).
Photo via Overwatch League Twitter
In the Houston Outlaw’s case, they went on an 18 game winning streak, and are now in the best position to overtake that third spot. Despite a tough ending to stage one, their +14 almost secures them a tiebreak victory if both teams end with the same record. It will take some crazy bounces of good luck, but there’s a chance the Dynasty miss the stage one playoffs. It all comes down to Friday.
Battle for the one seed
Yes, the battle for that final spot is intriguing, but even more important is the battle for the one seed and the first-round bye. The London Spitfire and New York Excelsior took care of business against the Seoul Dynasty, but a loss here would force the loser right back into a rematch with the Dynasty.
Obviously, that’s not a death sentence. Both teams are capable of dispatching the Dynasty, as they did in week three and four, but earning a free walk to the title game and avoiding a potential upset at the hands of the Dynasty is important. Even the Outlaws and Valiant look dangerous enough to sneak out a few playoff wins.
The first round bye most likely decides the winner of stage one. At this moment the London Spitfire sit atop the leaderboard at 7-1. A win on Saturday will clinch the title, as it will for the Excelsior. Nothing is set in stone for the final week of what’s been an incredibly exciting stage one of the Overwatch League.
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South Korea wins their second consecutive Overwatch World Cup, taking out team Canada 4-1 at Blizzcon. Korea took out the United States, France and Canada en route to another title, only dropping four games in the process. Korea displayed the same mark of skill that’s been unbeatable in international competition since the start of Overwatch.
Photo courtesy of twitch.tv/playoverwatch
Let’s break down how they methodically dismantled Canada, even with strong performances from the opposition. Despite close games throughout the set, South Korea still managed to pull out a 4-1 victory. At times, Canada would push them, but similarly to France and the US, it’s tough to contend with Korea through an entire seven game set.
Coupled with the questionable composition decision making from Canada, and the constant matchup advantage they had to overcome. It made for a tough afternoon for Canada and put them constantly on the back foot. It wasn’t as easy as the previous year, but Korea once again proved why they’re the best gaming country in the world.
On University, Canada jumped out to a hot start. Randal “Roolf” Stark got early hits with charge on Zenyatta, spraying the small choke points. Roolf cutting entrance ways took Korea by surprise, and allowed Canada’s heavy-hitters to get ultimate charge. Brady “Agilities” Girardi using dragon blade to swing the fight and Lane “Surefour” Roberts finishing kills with every Tracer, closed out university with with an impressive 100-0 victory.
However, the challenge against Korea is sustaining that level of play. Instead, Canada switched to triple-DPS on Gardens and left themselves open to some of the worlds best tank play. Kim “Mano” Dong-Yu recognizes their lack of tanks, and took advantage. Even with Liam “Mangachu” Campbell owning the Pharah matchup, the two Korean tanks dominated the ground game.
On city center, it came down to some sneaky plays from Mano and Tracer player Park “Saebyeolbe” Jong-yeol, who got an early pick on Canada’s Mercy and carried that all the way into a defensive full-hold. Korea kept up an aggressive style, and had Kim “Zunba” Joon-hyuk continue to push them back with his excellent D.Va play. It was clear that the positioning, and team targeting favored Korea. A 100-0 on City Center gave Korea the ever so important 1-0 lead.
Photo via twitch.tv/playoverwatch
Now, game one didn’t provide a lot of the flashiest player in Overwatch. The incredibly talented Yeon-oh “Flow3r” Hwang got to show, not only his versatility, but his creativity on Kings Row. He carried Korea with a few tire kills on Junkrat and a four-kill off Mano’s earth shatter on first point.
It was the snowball effect. After taking game three on control point, the momentum unmistakably shifted towards the winner. Korea clearly had the edge and Flow3r broke out because of it. Zunba getting to play his patented Zarya also helped out. Canada was held to one capture and 107 meters, which isn’t good.
Clearly, a hold for Canada seemed like a difficult proposition and a mistake on the character select screen left them vulnerable. Flow3r having the luxury of Pharah against Agilities on Junkrat left Canada having zero answers for korea’s air-attack. It took Korea essentially no-time to perverse the map as they traveled to an easy victory.
Kings Row was trouble for Canada. The utility of Flow3r, with his catalogue of effective heroes, makes for tough decisions. The failure to adjust to his picks got Canada in an 0-2 hole. On Hanamura, it was imperative that Canada wins. A loss and the dream completely dies. Hanamura, with second point defense being so strong, gave Canada a chance .
Fortunately, Canadarealized their mistakes from Kings Row and adjusted. After a few engagement losses on first point attack, a subtle switch off Genji to Roadhog and substituting in Soldier 76 on the second point made the difference.
On the other side, Korea’s first point defense utulized the lower ledge of the Hanamura gate. Orisa’s shield and Flow3r peppering the DPS angels with McCree nearly stopped the Canadian attack.
It took an inspired effort from Mangachu on D.va to even push it to a second point. From there, Canada snowballed and took it with 32 seconds remaining. Now it was going to take all Canada had to prevent a Korean win.
Korea has a secret weapon on Hanamura: Flow3r’s widow maker. Canada did attempt the triple-tank composition to counter the Widow-composition, but it back fired against them. Saebyeolbe’s Tracer did all the ground work. Zunba, in a similar role to Mangachu, kept pressure on high-activity areas with D.va. Korea now had strangle hold on the World Cup.
Junkertown was win or go-home for Canada. In that situation, Canada decided to bring out the unorthodox compositions. Using Orisa and Bastion on attack took Korea by surprise. Korea threw out triple defense, and weren’t prepared to face such a strong cart offense-to-defense. It forced Korea off that composition.
The real leg-work had to be done on defense. Korea had been basically perfect on offense up until Junkertown. It even started out great as Ryu “Ryujehong” Je-hong continually landed sleep darts and Zunba got constant self-destruct kills. It wasn’t until Surefour got his Tracer going and Agilities his junkrat.
The two of them being able to work in tandem to target fire the same opponent was a spectacle. It earned Canada another game in this tournament. Korea wasn’t going to clean sweep like they did against Russia in 2016.
Flow3r’s talented in many different areas, but when Korea gets to throw him out on Pharah that’s when the matchup feels most disadvantageous. Numbani’s sight lines give Pharah free reign to attack and hide behind corners. Canada had no early counter, going with the Roadhog.
South Korea ended with a 2:46 and three points heading into a defense for the World Cup. The desperation was clear from Canada. Mangachu switched to Torbjörn for an second point offense. It got that weird and desperate for Canada. Luckily, Surefour finally got a chance to play his best character in Soldier 76 and that carried Canada to another round.
The overtime period ended swiftly. Korea had a much bigger time bank and Saebyeolbe wasn’t going to be denied on his Tracer.
Surprised it’s not Flow3r? Well, Zunba absolutely earned this with just constant damage, blocking, and positioning. He was on fire a majority of the set. His aggressive D.va play made it incredibly difficult on Canada’s offense. He came through clutch on every character.
Flow3r had the explosive plays, but Zunba was hot all afternoon long. Overwatch fans in New York should have a big smile on their face.
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Featured image courtesy of twitch.tv/playoverwatch