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

What is going on in the Overwatch League?

In the past two weeks, 12 games have gone to a game five. That’s the most in a two-week span this season. Three of the four teams currently sitting in the stage three playoff spots didn’t make stage one or two playoffs. The London Spitfire are two games under .500, San Francisco Shock are in a playoff spot, and the Boston Uprising are now unbeatable.

What the **** is going on in the Overwatch League?

Uprising Industries

The Boston Uprising is the biggest story of stage three for many different reasons. Obviously, the team dismissal of talented projectile-DPS player Jonathon “DreamKazper” Sanchez due to inappropriate behavior with a minor, left a major void on the Uprising starting lineup. Despite a good start to the stage, it felt like the inevitable doom was coming for the Uprising.

Enter Stanislov “Mistakes” Danilov, a Russian-born player with many considerable functions in-game as the projectile-DPS alongside star Tracer-main, Nam-joo “Striker” Kwon. Since Mistakes took over the DreamKazper role, the Uprising haven’t missed a beat. He’s not only filled a need, but has in some ways excelled in areas DreamKazper wasn’t as proficient in.

The most improved team from bottom-to-top is the Uprising. Even before the DreamKazper release, Lucas “NotE” Meissner was starting to drastically improve, and a tank line that went under the radar began to make big impacts on games. Same goes for the support line Kristian “Kellex” Keller and Park “Neko” Se-hyeon, who are both producing more healing stats (mainly Kellex) and contributing extra damage and final blows (mainly Neko). And of course, the play of Striker has put his name right near the top of any MVP discussion.

Overall, the transition has been seamless for coach Da-hee “Crusty” Park and the Uprising staff. It’s been a combination of the rest of the team stepping up in his absence and the coaching staff finding ways to put Mistakes in the best position to produce. The Uprising is not only 6-0 in stage three with wins over the top three Korean-dominated teams (Seoul Dynasty, London Spitfire, and New York Excelsior), but bring in a 10 game winning streak from stage two, and are only four games back of New York for the first overall seed.

Shocking the Overwatch world

The Shock is a great feel-good story. Sitting at 10-16, six games behind the Philadelphia Fusion, their chances of a playoff run are rather slim. However, this is a new roster and they still have the stage playoffs. The Shock dropped eight games against the Dynasty and Valiant in the stage three matchups, but also have wins over the Gladiators and Fusion. It’s still a work in progress.

Signing Jay “Sinatraa” Won, Matthew “super” DeLisi, Min-ho “Architect” Park, and Grant “Moth” Espe added talent to an already talented player base. The early return on these players is looking great, and as teams like the Uprising, Fusion, and Valiant have shown, if the talent is there, it will only take time before they catch up to the rest of the league. It’s still uncertain what this new rosters ceiling is, but the way it’s constructed feels as if it can adjust to any meta-swings and has players still learning the pro-game.

Furthermore, it will allow Dante “Danteh” Cruz to be unleashed on the league. Adding Sinatraa will allow Danteh to flex onto other roles besides Tracer, mainly getting to play Sombra. The Sombra usage in the league is still being played with, but the advantages of having Danteh lets the Shock run it on most maps. The other signing of Architect is the Widowmaker this team has been looking for, and Super’s the space creating main-tank that Danteh has been looking for.

The strange results of the Dynasty, Spitfire and Excelsior

Lastly, the oddities associated with these three teams continue in stage three. The New York Excelsior continue to start bad and end with a smile, reversing sweep their last two games. The London Spitfire keep losing that game five, and the Dynasty can’t beat teams over the .500 mark anymore.

Expectations and reality are reaching a breaking point with these teams. The Seoul Dynasty and London Spitfire are only two games ahead of the seventh-seeded Houston Outlaws. The New York Excelsior have only dropped three games, but it’s clear that teams are catching up with them too. It’s a mad scramble among the Overwatch League playoff teams.  

Nevertheless, these teams will be big players at the end of the season, and this is more than likely a bump in the road. It’s the world of Overwatch balancing itself, as the non-Apex players have finally caught up with the level of competition being so high. The results clearly show that it’s not a three-team race. Any of the six playoff teams can beat anyone at any time. That includes the NYXL, who struggled in both stage finals as the favorite.

the great thing is the that the fans are getting one helluva show every single night in the Overwatch League. The margins of player skill are razor thin from top-to-bottom. Seemingly every team has a few sleepers ready to have a breakout performance, and that’s going to make stage four and the run towards the playoffs unbelievable.

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Feature photo via Overwatch League Twitter

The Unofficial Midway Point Overwatch League All-Star Rosters

The Overwatch League is around the midway point of the season, and with two stages and a playoff left to go, it’s important to recognize the players at the top of their positions making the biggest impact for their team.

Now, the rosters were selected for their specific role. For instances,  Byung-sun “Fleta” Kim is a projectile main but can go hitscan and often does. Regardless of this fact, Fleta is a projectile main because that’s his primary role. Only supports don’t make the distinction, but it’s important to recognize the divide between main healers and projectile healers (I didn’t make the distinction).

The 20 best players in the Overwatch League according to their roles. The decision-making process took some heavy analytical thought and pinned uber-talented players against each other. Ultimately, the 20 players on these rosters are as close as you’ll get to the actual all-star game, which takes place after the season in August.

Hitscan Main

Photo via OWL Twitter

Atlantic: New York Excelsior Saebyeolbe

Sub: Philadelphia Fusion Carpe

Pacific: Los Angeles Valiant Soon

Sub: Los Angeles Gladiators Asher

Saebyeolbe is undoubtedly the best Tracer in the Overwatch League, but Terence “SoOn” Tarlier has been a force for the Los Angeles Valiant in the inaugural season. Unfortunately for the Pacific, the Atlantic is riddled with top-level Tracer play. Facing Saebyeolbe is one thing, but having Carpe on the bench is just cruel.

However, Choi “Asher” Joon-seong is starting to establish himself as the premiere Tracer main in the Pacific and is showing a greater ability to win heads up against other Tracer’s. Regardless of SoOn and Asher’s continued advancement in the Tracer-heavy meta, there’s no better player than Saebyeolbe and Carpe comes as a close second.

Projectile Main

Photo via Overwatch League Twitter

Atlantic: New York Excelsior Libero

Sub: Philadelphia Fusion EQO

Pacific: Seoul Dynasty Fleta

Let me preface this by saying that the league’s best projectile main was just suspended indefinitely which drastically shakes up, not only the Boston Uprising roster but the rest of the Atlantic in terms of playoff placings. In his absence, the New York Excelsior add yet another name to the unofficial all-star game starting lineup as Hae-song “Libero” Kim slots in as the next best choice. The other quick rising name on the list is Fusion’s Josue “EQO” Corona who helped totally transform Philadelphia into a dangerous playoff team.  

As for the Pacific, Byung-sun “Fleta” Kim was a natural choice, but outside of his expert level Genji and versatility on many offensive minded heroes, there’s really no other players that came close throughout the Pacific. In recent months, Fleta’s been flat, as has most of the Dynasty roster, but there’s no doubting that a more cohesive team could set Fleta off on a number of different heroes. If an all-star game ever does happen, watch for Fleta to win MVP.

Main Tank

Photo via Overwatch League Twitter

Atlantic: London Spitfire Gesture

Sub: Houston Outlaws Muma

Pacific: Los Angeles Gladiators Fissure

Sub: Los Angeles Valiant Fate

The most intriguing matchup of the entire match will undoubtedly be seeing the former Spitfire main tank against their current starter. Baek “Fissure” Chan-hyung vs. Hong “Gesture” Jae-hee alone would sell tickets. Looking through all the roles, no other matchup seems as balanced as the main tanks. Gesture and Fissure have proven to be the most lethal Winston’s with their high damage totals and thus belong on these squads.

Austin “Muma” Wilmot and Koo “Fate” Pan-seung are no slouches either. The two of the better spacing Winston’s leave such a huge mark on their teams and are very deserving of all-star spot despite the lack of gaudy damage numbers. In fairness, these players don’t have the plays that show up in the kill feed, but their presence is felt even more than the best damage dealers.

Flex Tank

Courtesy of: owl report

Atlantic: Houston Outlaws Coolmatt

Sub: new York Excelsior Meko

Pacific: Seoul Dynasty Zunba

Sub: Los Angeles Valiant Envy

Flex tank is always the kid at the party having the most fun. This statement applies to all these tank players, and each one should be looked at as the unsung heroes on their teams. Now, Matt “Coolmatt” Lorio has the best survivability of any D.Va player, and is incredible at turning disadvantageous fights with D.Va’s maneuverability. However, Kim “Meko” Tae-hong is equally good at controlling fights and does a great job distracting for his dynamite damage mains to get in.

The Pacific throws Kim “Zunba” Joon-hyuk, who historically have been the strongest flex player in the world dating back to Apex. This hasn’t changed much since that time, Zunba is the player putting the Dynasty in the best position to win with his methodical and space controlling push style. As for the subs, Kang “Envy” Jae-lee currently is unemployed but based on stats alone, Envy was the most damage intensive D.va in all of the Pacific. Looking forward, expect Indy “Space” Halpern being the next strong D.Va main in the Overwatch League.

Support Mains

2018-03-25 / Photo: Robert Paul for Blizzard Entertainment

Atlantic: New York Excelsior JJoNak

Atlantic 2: New York Excelsior Ark

Sub: London Sitfire BDosin

Pacific: Seoul Dynasty Tobi

Pacific 2: Los Angeles Gladiators Shaz

Sub: San Francisco Shock Sleepy

The Atlantic has an undeniable advantage in the support department from the stacked Zenyatta’s to the strong Mercy and Lucio play. Bang “JJoNak” Seong-hyun is changing the game as a hybrid-support player with Zenyatta allowing for players to have an impact on all aspects of the game. Choi “BDosin” Seung-tae is no slouch, coming in at second overall in damage output, but no one compares to JJoNak.

The Pacific would have the old Lunatic-Hai duo of Jin-mo “Tobi” Yang and Je-hong “Ryujehong” Ryu, but both have underperformed this season and fell well below their standards of healing. Tobi is still considered one of the best straight healers, but his ability to survive isn’t as efficient as it used to be before this season. It was also tough only choosing one from the Los Angeles Gladiators Finnish-duo, but since the Mercy patch, Jonas “Shaz” Suovaara has separated himself in the Pacific.

For what it’s worth, Ark is still the best overall Mercy and continues to play her and other supports at the highest level possible. Nikola “Sleepy” Andrews is one of the bigger surprises, as his confidence has grown tremendously through this first season. Sleepy’s starting to become a premiere Zenyatta damage dealer.

Take a look at these rosters and tell me this isn’t something that audiences would watch.

Atlantic Roster

  • Saebyeolbe
  • Libero
  • JJoNak
  • Coolmatt
  • Gesture
  • Ark

Bench

  • Meko
  • Muma
  • BDosin
  • Fate
  • EQO

Pacific Roster

Starters

  • Soon
  • Fleta
  • Fissure
  • Tobi
  • Shaz
  • Zunba

Bench

  • Asher
  • Fate
  • Envy
  • Sleepy

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Feature photo via Overwatch League Twitter!

The five best players in stage two of the Overwatch League

Photo via Overwatch League Twitter

Two stages down with two stages to go and at the halfway point of the regular season the picture of best teams and players is becoming clearer. The New York Excelsior have separated themselves as the best team with their staggering amount of map wins and their stage two win over the Philadelphia Fusion. NYXL is the best team, but do they feature the league’s best player?

Honorable Mentions

Stage two featured many breakthrough performances as the skill gap continues to close between former Apex players and the rest of the world. It’s been made abundantly clear that the talent pool is not centrally located, and after Josh “EQO” Corona bust onto the scene in stage two and dramatically improved the Fusion dive, no player can be underestimated.

Additionally, stage two featured plenty of established Apex players making their patented big plays. Kim “Libero” Hye-sung for the stage two champs showed his versatility by filling and producing with many different heroes. Similarly, Kim “Birdring” Ji-hyeok played that same role for the Spitfire, and continues to terrorize teams with his ridiculous skill and big play potential.

Other names who deserved consideration, the Outlaws Jiri “LiNkzr” Masalin single-handedly won games in stage two. Hong “Gesture” Jae-hee didn’t make this list because of his deaths per 10 minutes, but in terms of damage from the main tank, there’s no one better. Let’s not forget Austin “Muma” Wilmot proving himself as one of the three best main tanks or Kim “Fleta” Byung-sun who’d be in the top five with more consistency.

  1. Philadelphia Fusion Carpe

On championship Sunday, Lee “Carpe” Jae-hyeok was unconscious on Tracer and Widowmaker against the NYXL. This performance was more-or-less what Carpe will do on a daily basis. Outside of adding another playmaker like EQO and having an aggressive tank with Joona “Fragi” Laine play disruptor, Carpe’s freakish aim and game sense was the main reason the Fusion almost took the stage two title.

In terms of survivability as a Tracer, Carpe’s one of the best with a kill-death of 4.21 per 10 minutes which is good for fourth among active players. It’s not only his survivability on the opponent’s backline, but his ability to find those priority targets. Carpe’s arguably the next best Widowmaker behind Linzkr. If you need proof, watch the Widow’s in the stage two playoffs fail miserably in the sniper battles.

  1. London Spitfire Profit

Similarly to the NYXL, the Spitfire have many players who are on the brink of breaking into the top five, but no player had the impact that Park “Profit” Joon-yeong had throughout stage two. Sure, Libero gives them that much-needed utility, but in terms of damage dealer, Profit’s been invaluable. Profit is the backbone to a feverishly aggressive team, spearheading it all.

Looking at the most kills throughout the league, Profit sits in second with 515 total kills and is in the top three in most statistical categories. Profit’s not the best Tracer in a Tracer driven league, but he’s really close to taking that top spot and has more versatility as a hitscan than some of his counterparts.

  1. Los Angeles Gladiators Fissure

In terms of sheer impact on his team, Baek “Fissure” chun-hyung outshines nearly every player in the league. All the evidence is in the record before and after stage two for the Los Angeles Gladiators. Fissure’s presence changed everything for this team, and the rest of the roster is benefiting from a smart main tank who puts them in good positions.

Now, Fissure’s not the best tank in terms of overall damage; that designation belongs to Gesture. His survivability reigns supreme though. His job is to make it easier for the damage mains, and it’s hard to argue that any other tank has done that better while still dealing plenty of damage. Fissure is an incredibly smart player and the Gladiators are now starting to build around him which is scary for the rest of the league.

  1. New York Excelsior JJoNak

Let me preface this decision by saying it’s not easy picking between two teammates who both severely outplayed the rest of the players in their particular role. Seong-hyun “JJoNak” Bang is another player similar to EQO that was pulled off the ladder, and after two stages, he’s proved in a short amount of time that he’s the best support main in Overwatch by a pretty good margin.

There are many reasons why JJoNak is so coveted as a Zenyatta main. It’s not only that he essentially plays the role of another damage main, but that even when a team dives on top of him, he’s so good in micro-situations that it’s no guaranteed kill. He’s in on every play in one way or another and constantly finding final blows. JJoNak leads all support mains in kills per 10 minutes by a few kills. It’s almost unfair to compare other support mains to this monster.

  1. New York Excelsior Saebyeolbe

The best Tracer, and currently the world’s best player in New York Excelsior’s Park “Sabyeolbe” Jong-ryeol, who’s been the face of consistency in a league that demands that to be the best. Saebyeolbe is a wrecking ball of destruction, and that’s proven by his impressive statistics. First in total kills, damage, and he has the best kill-death and has a pretty healthy lead in all of those categories.

The NYXL sit at 18-2 on the season and are now the clear favorite to be holding the trophy at the end of the season. Saebyeolbe’s imposing Tracer play is the main reason this team finds themselves in this spot. It’s not just the unbelievable positioning, constantly outsmarting opponents, and one-clip prowess. It’s a constant struggle to find and kill Saebyeolbe, and that’s shown through his utter ridiculous kill streaks. He does it all and is the best Tracer in the most competitive role in the Overwatch League.

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Feature photo via Overwatch League Twitter

Gladiators hit the jackpot on the Fissure trade

It’s been four weeks since the Los Angeles Gladiators made the blockbuster trade for Chan-hyung “Fissure” Baek, and in that time one thing has been made perfectly clear: the Gladiators are massive winners here. Let’s take a look at the sort of impact Fissure has made on this Gladiators team.

Gladiators look like a playoff team in stage two

Looking back on stage one, it was clear that this team had potential but a piece was missing. The lack of certainty on dives from the now backup main-tank, Luiz “iRemiix” Galarza Figueroa, presented problems for their damage mains and made it tougher on the dynamic support duo of Jonas “Shaz” Suovaara and Benjamin “BigGoose” Isohanni. Gladiators had trouble on payload maps and stages that are typically associated with strong tank play.

The matchups against the best teams in the league were all extremely one-sided. Consider this, against the top five teams in stage one the Gladiators ended up only winning two maps. 2-15 against the likes of the Excelsior, Dynasty, Outlaws, Valiant and even the Uprising. Even with top-notch performances from BigGoose and Shaz nightly, the tank and damage lines were getting badly outplayed.

Fast forward to stage two, the Gladiators currently sit at 5-2 and are a combined 10-7 against a number of those teams that beat them badly in stage one. The major difference? Fissure’s insane aggression on dives and his hunting capabilities have opened the door for every player on that team. Since Fissure has arrived, the Gladiators have looked like a completely different team in every sense. The game plan is different and each player is getting praise for stepping up their play.

Fissure helping the DPS-mains

The one phrase that gets passed around a lot when it comes to Overwatch League tanks is “creating space.” what exactly does that mean? Well, I’d like to direct your attention to any of the Gladiators most recent games and how far up Fissure and D.Va main Aaron “Bischu” Kim position themselves on attacks. It’s never a doubt who’s going to be the aggressor in any given situation, with BigGoose insuring speed-boost, the Gladiators almost always dive first.

Back to creating space, Fissure’s constant forward progress means one of two things. Firstly, all the attention of the opposing team will be forced on Fissure and Bischu. Secondly, with the attention on the tanks, and a retreating backline for the opposition, this allows Joon-seong “Asher” Choi sneaking around to the backline or Joao Pedro “Hydration” Goes Telles free shots onto supports with Pharah. It’s a domino effect.

Since Fissure was signed, no other unit in the league has seen as much improvement as the Gladiator DPS-line. Asher is starting to play at an MVP-type level on Tracer. Hydration can play uncontested on Pharah and Lane “Surefour” Roberts is back looking like himself again, getting plenty of time to line up shots with Widowmaker or Soldier: 76. The early deaths in team fights aren’t a problem anymore, and Fissure is allowing this unit to play how they want to play, which is aggressive.

London Spitfire might have made a mistake

Now, I don’t want to give the impression that what the Spitfire did was not the logical move. It most certainly was and is still is at this point in time. Jae-hee “Gesture” Hong is a premier Winston player, and he comes from GC Busan which the Spitfire roster is primarily made up of. Keeping Gesture over Fissure had more to do with familiarity and trust that’s been built over time.

As for whether or not it was a mistake of a player evaluation, this is up for debate. Fissure entered the league with the perception as arguably the best main-tank in Korea. On one of the most consistent teams in Apex, Fissure was the playmaker and main shot caller. He was unbelievable during that time and was definitely in the conversation for the world’s best players.

However, entering the OWL on a team featuring Gesture, who just came off a flashy and dominating Apex season, was going to be an uphill battle for Fissure. Despite the perception surrounding him, he was benched. One of the worlds best sat on the sidelines. And when the time came, the Spitfire chose to keep rolling with Gesture and the two parties had a mutually beneficial breakup.

Four weeks later, it’s hard not to think that the Spitfire might have released one of the most impactful players in the league. The proof is in the record and they’re head-to-head, which the Gladiators ended up taking 3-2. The Spitfire roster has unquestionably more talent overall, but Fissure’s bringing out the best of each player on the Gladiators roster. It’s incredible the transformation this team has made in seven games.

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Featured photo via Los Angeles Gladiators twitter

The San Francisco Shock pull out most impressive performance in win over Dallas Fuel

The San Francisco Shock are starting to find their stride in stage two of the Overwatch League. Even at a 2-3 record, the Shock are showing steady improvements and the dominant win over the Dallas Fuel Wednesday is proof. A total team effort caps the most impressive performance from this Shock team all season.

The Emergence of Danteh

One player who’s shown the most steady improvement from stage one to stage two is Dante “Danteh” Cruz. Danteh entered the league as a talented player with a rather unproven track record. The Tracer main spent the better half of 2017 on different North American squads (Arc 6, Denial esports, etc).After Danteh’s silly good performance against the Fuel, it seems as if he’s arrived.

Photo via Overwatch League

Situational Awareness

Danteh’s been improving in many areas, but the one area that sticks out is his presence of mind or situational awareness. The bad engagements have ceased and Danteh’s starting to find himself in better situations. Opposing teams are finding it difficult to keep track of Danteh and put quality shots onto him.

Additionally, in recent weeks, Danteh’s started to become a sniper of support mains with Tracer’s pulse bomb. It’s not only the degree in which he acquires the necessary ultimate charge but the sheer aim, targeting the support and positioning on the back line to constantly pull out two-kill pulse bombs.

Against the Dallas Fuell, Sebastian “Chipshajen”  Widlund had a hard time accounting for the illusive Tracer main because he was the victim of many sticks with the pulse bomb. Danteh put on a clinic. Absolutely one of the more impressive Tracer plays in this win.

A Total Team Effort

However, the success of the Shock Wednesday wasn’t solely due to Danteh’s Tracer. No, the entire lineup found success against the Dallas Fuel, who quite frankly, didn’t look right.The actual player of the match was  Nikola “Sleepy” Andrews. Sleepy filled in nicely behind the two tanks and gave nice support to Andrej “Babybay” Francisty, as Danteh caused havoc on the backline.

Nomy and Nevix best performance

David “Nomy” Ramirez and  Andreas “Nevix” Karlsson have had their fair share of issues in the Overwatch League. Aside from inconsistent support play, the lack of cohesion on the dive tends to put extra pressure on Babybay and Danteh to find kills. That wasn’t the case against the Fuel.

On a side note, the Dallas Fuel looks utterly lost with Timo “Taimou” Kettunen and where and when to use his new Winston. The constant subbing for Felix “xQc” Lengyel, an adjustment period with him learning better about positioning and dive timings is causing problems. Nevix and Nomy, a tank pairing that’s struggled mightily at times, was able to bully the Fuel tank-line. In many situations, the Shock tanks were able to take much more real estate because the Fuel kept waiting for the dive.

In turn, this made life much easier for Sleepy and Babybay, who sat on the backline with no one pressuring them. The Shock goes from a below average team to an almost playoff contender with good play from the tanks and supports. The damage mains have proved their merit, and the next step is becoming consistent.

Lack of consistency

The reason the Shock find themselves sitting at 5-10 is inconsistency. Now, I can talk about the skill of Babybay and Danteh, but both of these talented players have bad days that cost the team. Unfortunately for San Francisco, today’s performance wasn’t exactly the norm. It’s usually quite the opposite with Nevix and Nomy fighting an uphill battle.

The win today is meaningless if the Shock keel over and lose the next few. The real test of these teams newfound strength will be the next stretch of brutal games on the schedule. It starts with the Shock facing the New York Excelsior, followed by a matchup with the stage on champs, London Spitfire, and ending week three against the Houston Outlaws.

It’s a rough stretch, but heading into Saturday, the Shock knows they have a chance to disrupt the standings. A win might seem unlikely, but as the play continues to improve, bigger wins will come. Regardless of the schedule, the San Francisco Shock are showing serious improvement and look to be moving up the ladder one week at a time.

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Featured photo via San Francisco Shock twitter

 

Dallas Fuel still looking for lineup answers after 3-1 loss to the Seoul Dynasty

The Dallas Fuel is the main candidate to make the biggest jump in terms of record from stage one to stage two. The trade for Kim “Rascal”  Dong-jun and signing heavy sought-after free agent Dylan “aKm” Bignet revitalized a talented Dallas Fuel roster. Unfortunately, the Seoul Dynasty brought the newly formed Fuel roster back down to earth.

There’s still a question of how the Dallas Fuel looks to use their new DPS-mains. Early on, aKm has been the primary hitscan player with Hwang “EFFECT” Hyeon on Tracer. Rascal will often replace aKm, keeping Effect focused on his role. It comes down to map preference, and the Fuel is still feeling it out. The use of Effect does deserve a spotlight considering his lack of production against the top OWL Tracer players.

Munchkin Steals the show

Photo courtesy of Overwatch League

In my eyes, Byeon “Munchkin” Sang-beom was the standout in the 3-1 for the Seoul Dynasty. Yes, Kim “Zunba” Joon-hyuk was everywhere on the D.Va, but it was Munchkin’s survivability and constant full-clips that had the most positive effect for the Dynasty. The Dynasty made a substitution on Hollywood moving out Munchkin for Choi “Wekeed” Seok-woo to play Genji. The move led to Effect with more space to work and not have Munchkin continually bully him. It was the one map win for the Dallas Fuel.

It was a total team effort from the Seoul Dynasty. Predictably, letting Yang “tobi” Jin-mo focus on Lucio and Ryu “Ryujehong” Je-hong play more reactionary on Zenyatta makes them that much scarier. By no means were Jonathan “HarryHook” Tejedor Rua and Scott “Custa” Kennedy bad, it was actually quite the opposite, but with all the pressure Zunba and Munchkin can do to support mains, it allowed the Dynasty supports to thrive.

The biggest mismatch in the loss for the Dallas Fuel was trying to contain the two-man wrecking crew of Zunba and Gong “Miro” Jin-hyuk. It’s not often Pongphop “Mickie” Rattanasangchod looks that bad in the D.Va matchup, but the aggressive anti-dive defense from the Dynasty made it really tough on both Mickie and Félix “xQc” Lengyel. The sheer advantage in eliminations-to-death ratio shows how dominant the Seoul tanks were yesterday.

A Small Stepback for the Dallas Fuel

However, it’s not all bad for the Dallas Fuel. A small step back, sure, but even in a 3-1 loss, they showed plenty of fight. It felt as if a game five was certain to happen after a third point hold on Route 66, but the Dynasty’s timely hero changes on the last point and stalling tactics held on. The lack of in-game adjustments and coaching adjustments continues to be a work in progress.

The Fuel will end week two facing another 2-1 team in the Los Angeles Valiant. It’s gut check time for a Fuel squad who not only needs wins to stay competitive for the stage two playoffs but as a team who desperately needs wins to get back in the overall playoff conversation. A loss against the Valiant would be a major blow to their chances and will kill the good feeling the new acquisitions have brought to this team.

Lineup Questions Persist for both the Dynasty and Fuel

Despite the win, the move off the hot hand in Munchkin to Wekeed was questionable from the Dynasty coaching staff. Add the Dynasty to the list of teams struggling to find cohesion with their DPS players. Week one was all Chae “Bunny” Joon-hyuk and Munchkin has thus far received all the week two playing time. It’s another work in progress, but Munchkin’s starting to separate himself from the pack.

Back to the Fuel roster, finding the right spot to run Rascal or aKm will come off trial and error. aKm got good run on strong Soldier: 76 maps and switched onto Pharah on Hollywood. The decision to go with Rascal on Route 66 was questionable considering aKm was much more warmed up and starting to present problems for the Dynasty. The move to Rascal, who ended up playing 76 anyways, didn’t have the same effect on the match.

Regardless, both teams have a good problem here. The talent on both rosters is immense and finding playing time for all these talented players is a task. Good players will be on the bench as it’s inevitable, but finding the right balance and using substitutions timely will separate the best coaches from the worst. It’s a small issue, but an issue nonetheless and something to track heading into the rest of stage two.

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Featured photo via Seoul Dynasty Twitter

Houston Outlaws steal the spotlight in stage one of the Overwatch League

The big story coming out of stage one was not the London Spitfire predictability winning the stage one finals. No, it was an upstart Houston Outlaws squad separating themselves as a playoff team. The only playoff team to not feature any players with Apex experience and is mainly American born players.

Seasoned Overwatch fans will recall at this years World Cup, two players from the United States made a loud statement in the match against Korea. Jacob “JAKE” Lyon and Matt “coolmatt” Iorio stood out amongst an American team that pushed Korea to the limit. It was foreshadowing what was soon to follow in the Overwatch League.

Houston Outlaws show continued improvement

First, the emergence of a mainly North American Overwatch team that’s challenging the best Korean players in the world is a first. The rigid training and playing schedule are seemingly leveling the playing field. That’s not to say the London Spitfire and New York Excelsior haven’t been a few steps ahead of even the Outlaws, but as we saw previously at the World Cup, the gap is closing.

The Houston Outlaws almost closed the gap entirely last week and showed the world that they’re a legit contender. Sweeping the London Spitfire to even stay alive in the playoff race, and then sneaking out a victory over the Boston Uprising to pull off the unthinkable and make the stage one playoffs.

Entering the season, any scenario where the Seoul Dynasty misses the playoffs and the Houston Outlaws jump both the Dynasty and Spitfire to earn the second overall seed would’ve been laughed at. The juggernaut Overwatch teams looked unstoppable early on in stage one. Dynasty jumped out to a 5-0 record and barely dropped any maps.

On the flip side, the Houston Outlaws started the season out 0-2. Falling in a close game to the Philadelphia Fusion, 3-2, and losing the following night to the New York Excelsior, 3-1. Fortunately, the next stretch of schedule after the opening losses was against all bottom feeder teams; and what happened in the coming weeks jump-started this climb to the second overall seed.

The 18 map winning streak

Photo via Houston Outlaws Twitter

Let’s take a look at point differential. In the five-game span in which the Outlaws won 18-straight maps, they outscored their opponents by 29 points. In those five games, the Outlaws held their opponents to a staggeringly low number of points: only 10 points surrendered in 18 maps. Incredibly dominant performances that spring-boarded their confidence into the tough part of the schedule.

Soon after the streak ended, the Outlaws matched up against the Seoul Dynasty. The Outlaws took the loss, but it most certainly instilled fear into the minds of the Dynasty core. The best of the Korean players all seem to have one common saying between them regarding the Houston Outlaws and that’s the need to shut down Jiri “LiNkzr” Masalin.

The legend of LiNkzr

Starting in the preseason, the pinpoint aim from Linkzr was a must-see. The Outlaws garnered plenty of attention because of the sheer skill of Jake and Linkzr, but now this team is being recognized as an actual threat. In a short amount of time, the Outlaws have developed an impenetrable defense. The defense along with the destructive aim of LiNkzr, the spacing with JAKE on Junkrat, and the diving with coolmatt on D.Va is pushing this team over the top. 

Each of those three players is in the discussion for stage one MVP, and look to be building more and more chemistry as the schedule moves along. The only question now is if this team can live up to expectations now that they’re no longer flying under the radar. It’ll be a test for these players, but one that they seem capable of handling in stage two and beyond.

Lastly, should the Outlaws make any moves during the transfer period, an extra support is about the only current need for this team; but don’t be surprised if any of the top teams get aggressive to solidify rosters for the rest of the season.

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Featured photo via Houston Outlaws Twitter

London Spitfire Win OWL Stage One: Defense is name of the game

The players that make up the London Spitfire have enjoyed a wealth of success in their short careers. Following the royal road to an Apex title, earning the title as the best team in Korea, and now winning the stage one championship in dramatic fashion over the New York Excelsior. A pattern is forming and it involves the heart of the Spitfire roster and winning everything.

BDosin happy after winning the stage one championship. Photo via https://www.flickr.com/photos/londonspitfire/with/39319450275/

London went down two games to a New York Excelsior team with a nearly unblemished record, on the biggest stage. The Spitfire needed to rally to become the first Overwatch League champion. This was a team that struggled to find their footing and lost winnable games due to lack of teamwork in stage one. It was a process, one that required serious trial and error.

Fortunately for London, they employ the strongest defensive unit in Overwatch history. A suffocating, relentless defense that’s been the main driver behind the success of GC Busan and now the London Spitfire. In fact, throughout all of stage one, the Spitfire had the most shutouts on non-control maps.

Now, this type of defensive effort goes back to the Apex days. GC Busan made a living off strong defensive holds. Even with an uncoordinated offensive attack, GC Busan would always find a way to hold offenses on the first point. The GC Busan spirit is embedded into this team. Add in the helping hands of Kim “Birdring” Ji-hyuk and Choi Seung-tae (to name a few), who have helped elevate an already ridiculously talented GC Busan roster. 

Shutting Down the NYXL

In game four on Numbani, the Spitfire got off to a rough start on offense, barely capping the first point and failing to reach the second point. At the end of that attack, it felt like the momentum had suddenly shifted back to the Excelsior. The lack of ultimate kills despite good ultimate economy was the difference, but Kim “Rascal” Dong-jun out positioning the Excelsior on the high-ground with Soldier 76 turned the last and most important fight.

The Spitfire’s Numbani offense only lasted a few meters longer before getting shut down. The reverse-sweep hanging in the balance on a map that’s notorious for easy offense was London’s most dangerous situation. Only a world-class hold against a team fielding Park “Saebyeolbe” Jong-yeol and Kim “Libero”  Hye-sung would do the job. Luckily, Birdring is one of the most dangerous Widowmaker players on the planet and stepped up in the moment.

The Excelsior continued to dive at Rascal on Junkrat, who was isolated on the high-ground near the first point on Numbani, spraying down the street. The dive exposed Rascal, but it gave Birdring easy shots onto he NYXL healers. JJoNaK struggled to avoid Birdring using Widowmaker’s grappling hook to get the extreme height and tracking BDosin on the low-ground targeting him on Zenyatta. It was scary a one-two punch.

By the same token, Hong “Gesture” Jae-hee played a fantastic zoning Winston. In the event of a disadvantaged fight, the Spitfire would disengage around the backside of Numbani first point and re-engage with a dive, led by Gesture pushing the Excelsior into bad spots. The use of ultimates on defense for the Spitfire is much more organic and valuable. Gesture’s primal rages were game changers.

Dorado

Heading into game five, the Spitfire were riding a wave of momentum entering a map they’d beaten the NYXL on earlier in the day. The pressure was also flipped over to the Excelsior who were scrambling to avoid the reverse-sweep. The Excelsior stuck it out with Saebyeolbe and Libero on the dive and the Spitfire moved back to Profit on Junkrat over Rascal.

However, the formula for the Spitfire closing out the series was similar to their Numbani and Horizon defense.  Give Birdring Widowmaker sightlines and protect him by using the tanks aggressively. Kim “Fury” Jun-ho on D.Va combined with Birdring to dive on every player Birdring weakened from the backlines. It was a beautifully choreographed play from the Spitfire defense.  

Together with the strength of Birdring and the tank play, Profit’s laser focus on taking out the Excelsior supports stunted many NYXL attacks. On multiple occasions, Profit’s delayed rip tire got to the backline and took out Hong “ArK” Yeon-joon on Mercy and JJoNaK on Zenyatta to ruin the Excelsior’s day. Profit’s play was incredible, single-handedly forcing the opposition to back up and stay aware of Profit’s positioning.

In the final analysis, it’s clear the Spitfire still haven’t completely gelled as a team offensively. However, the players on that roster have a talent for zoning defense and ultimate usage. It’s scary because this squad is only going to get better from here on out. The players of the London Spitfire keep winning. No matter the situation, they pull it out. That’s a strong trait for a team to display early on.

Seoul Dynasty decisions raise questions after missing out on stage one playoffs

Halfway through stage one of Overwatch League the geniuses of the world seemed to have it all figured out. The Seoul Dynasty were the clear favorite. Teams such as the Boston Uprising and Houston Outlaws weren’t considered actual threats yet. The London Spitfire were the dysfunctional Korean team.

Fast forward only two weeks later, the world of Overwatch has flipped on its head. The Seoul Dynasty are on the outside looking in. The most prestigious organization in the game completely fell apart. Losing to the London Spitfire and New York Excelsior is one thing, but getting swept by the Los Angeles Valiant and coming close with the Outlaws and San Francisco Shock is something entirely different.

Underperforming Players

The onus of the struggle doesn’t fall on one certain aspect, but the collection of decisions and underperformances. The coaching staff has even resorted to trying new lineups and testing different combinations. Overall, the roster decisions have proven to be costly. Sitting Ryu “Ryujehong” Je-hong and keeping Kim “KuKi” Dae-kuk on the bench in favor of Gong “Miro” Jin-hyuk.

The regular cohesiveness isn’t quite there for the Dynasty lately. Outside of having Kim “Fleta” Byung-sun hard-carry with a litany of destructive heroes, the rest of the team is struggling to work together. Fleta’s picks seem to be the one thing keeping this team moving forward.

Going back to Miro’s play, it’s obvious that he’s not on the same page with his supports right now. Miro’s getting caught out with bad positioning at a high rate. He’s failing to make the normal plays we see out of his Winston and it all stems back to the lack of synergy between Miro and Yang “tobi” Jin-mo. Tobi’s known as one of the premier support players in Overwatch history, but being forced into the Mercy role has limited his value.

Tobi is an excellent Mercy, but it’s just not his top choice in his hero pool. Considering this along with Ryujehong and Miro’s struggles is the most probable cause for this team missing out on the playoffs.

The Munchkin/Bunny/Wekeed Dilemma

As I previously stated, Fleta is a wrecking ball crashing through your window. In many ways, he’s able to single-handedly pick up the slack for his team with his mind-boggling playmaking ability. It’s not only that but his timeliness on hero picks to get the best possible matchup.

The problem isn’t Fleta, it’s the revolving door of half-Tracer mains that can’t seem to earn that second DPS spot. The best teams in the Overwatch League are incredibly deep at the DPS position. The Dynasty don’t have the same luxury when they’re still trying to find the right spot for each player.

Chae “Bunny” Joon-hyuk is presumably the most talented of the group, but he has no versatility whatsoever. If The Dynasty to play strictly dive, like the Boston Uprising or Philadelphia Fusion, Bunny would be a mainstay on the starting lineup, but that’s not always the case. Byeon “Munchkin” Sang-beom is the most experienced, but is limited similarly to Bunny in terms of hero pool.

If the Dynasty look to improve the roster heading into stage two, look for that spot next to Fleta to be a priority. For the time being, the same rotation of players will continue. Fleta is the focal point of any Dynasty game plan so being able to work to his strengths will benefit the entire team. In many instances, Bunny seemed to be the one that meshed the best.

Benching Ryujehong not out of the question

No one is safe on this team after a disappointing stage one, not even the highly regarded Ryujehong. There’s a scenario where talented Zenyatta player, Mun “Gido” Gi-do, gets more starts over Ryujehong. Even Tobi could potentially be subbed out for a better Mercy. Everything is on the table if this continues.

One thing to consider is the new meta plays similar to the olden days when Lunatic-Hai was the best team in Korea. Mercy getting nerfed will open up the door for more creative support picks and giving the Dynasty more weapons at their disposal. In any case, the Seoul Dynasty will be just fine. Even if it takes some minor or major tweaking, this team is too talented to stay down for long.  

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Featured photo via Seoul Dynasty Twitter