The battle for L.A.: Gladiators and Valiant go for round three

Throughout the Overwatch League’s brief history, the Los Angeles Valiant and Los Angeles Gladiators have met for some intense games. During stage one, the Valiant were able to reverse sweep the Gladiators in a five map thriller. Fans of both teams were thoroughly engaged, and the first rivalry of the league was born. The Gladiators, not satisfied losing to their regional rival, took their stage two match-up by storm. With a 4-0 thrashing, the Valiant were left scratching their heads. Since they last met almost a month ago, both teams have fresh faces to challenge for the win.

Since Last We Met: Overwatch League Rival Recap

Overwatch League

Agilities and Bischu, from Overwatch League

The Gladiators are not so changed from their last match against the Valiant. They have newcomer Void, a flex player known for his D.va play. He adds an extra layer of flex tank to play alongside Fissure. They also received Silkthread from the Valiant before the trade window closed. These were the only moves that the Gladiators made from stage two to stage three.

The Valiant are a different story. Since the last match, they have five new players, and one that’s finally of age. Space, who has been on the roster since the team’s inception, turned 18 during the stage break between stages two and three. Two others have come through trades, Bunny, a DPS, was obtained from the Seoul Dynasty. The other player, Custa, was obtained from the Dallas Fuel. To land Custa, the Valiant sent a fan favorite, and fellow countryman of Soon, Unkoe to the Fuel.

This trade was one of the most looked at as a potential to backfire for the Valiant, as it was believed that Unkoe was more mechanically sound than Custa. However, the opposite has been true, as Custa has fit perfectly with the Valiant. The other three players were picked up for depth, KSF, a DPS main, Finnsi, a flex player, and Izayaki, a support main.

Who has the advantage?

Looking for any advantage or insight to this series is hard. The Valiant have looked dominant throughout stage three, with a 4-0 record through the first two weeks. The Gladiators have played the same teams as the Valiant through the first two weeks, and have a 3-1 record. The San Francisco Shock were the one team that the Gladiators could not defeat. With such similar records against similar opponents, it’s hard to narrow down a clear advantage for either team.

Overwatch League

Shields Up by Robert Paul

Looking at straight records, the Valiant appear to be the stronger and more confidant team heading into this rivalry. They aggressively retooled their roster to make the team more competitive, and the rewards have been flowing in for them. Alternatively the Gladiators have tweaked and added to their roster at the end of each Overwatch League stage, and have steadily improved. Throughout the entirety of the Overwatch League the Valiant sit 15-9 and Gladiators at 13-11. The Valiant lead the pack for stage three so far with their 4-0, +13 map differential. The momentum sides with the Valiant, but it’s no clear cut.

Overwatch League

Valiant Fans by Robert Paul

 

The great thing about rivalries is that each team has extra drive to win. The Gladiators and Valiant have extra fuel to burn trying to win the hearts of undecided Los Angeles fans. With the recent poor showings of both Southern California hockey teams, sports fans will want to dive in to a great rivalry. There’s no fiercer one in the Overwatch League than the L.A. Valiant and the L.A. Gladiators. Whether you have your wings up, or shields raised, be ready for one intense match to kick off week three.

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Featured photo by Robert Paul

Los Angeles Valiant

Los Angeles Valiant roster overhaul paying off

Before stage three of the Overwatch League started, the Los Angeles Valiant made a flurry of moves. Bunny, Custa and Space joined the team while mainstays like Unkoe, Envy and Silkthread departed. The drastic change has worked wonders and has made the Valiant look incredibly strong this stage.

Los Angeles Valiant Roster Recap

Los Angeles Valiant

Space and Soe courtesy of Robert Paul

Quick recap of exactly what happened to the Valiant roster. To kick things off, they announced they had acquired Bunny from the Seoul Dynasty. Next, they made a trade with the Dallas Fuel and swapped support Unkoe for Custa. Their next move remains clouded in mystery to exactly what the reasoning behind it is, but they “mutually” terminated Envy’s contract. Following this announcement was that backup DPS GrimReality was moving into an assistant coaching position, removing him from the roster. During the off-stage break, flex-tank player Space turned 18, and became an active player for the Valiant. Their final move was to trade with their rivals, the Los Angeles Gladiators, by unloading Silkthread from their roster.

Los Angeles Valiant

Custa by the Los Angeles Valiant

So for those keeping track, two players from the Los Angeles Valiant’s starting roster, Unkoe and Envy, were removed. Two DPS that weren’t being given a chance anymore, Silkthread and GrimReality, get moved off the roster. With Envy gone, Space takes the D.va role. Bunny starts to challenge Agilities for the second DPS spot behind Soon, and Kariv goes back to being a support alongside Custa.

Has it Worked?

Fans looked on at what the Valiant were doing to their team, and wondered how exactly things would play out. Many weren’t expecting these kind of results however. At the end of stage three, week two, the Valiant have gone 4-0. They played two teams many don’t give much of a chance to, Shanghai Dragons and Dallas Fuel, but they also played up-and-coming San Francisco Shock as well as near-dominant Seoul Dynasty. They rolled through every team 4-0 except for the Dallas Fuel, who looked vastly improved with OGE in the lineup. With a total map score of 14-1 throughout two weeks of play, the roster moves have worked out incredibly well.

Working as a team

Los Angeles Valiant

Photo: Robert Paul for Blizzard Entertainment

One of the main differences that the Los Angeles Valiant have shown through this stage is their team communication. Custa was constantly touted as a leader in Dallas, and he seems to have brought those skills to the Valiant. Alongside with Kariv, they’ve barely missed a beat together. Space has jumped in and performed as well if not better than Envy, and if the rumors about personal issues were true, the team mindset may be cleared with him off the team. Bunny and Agilities have also been great swapping in-and-out depending on the map. Bunny specifically has given Soon the ability to flex on some different heroes, as his McCree and Reaper have been producing great results lately.

With a new looking roster missing zero beats throughout stage three, the Valiant could easily be contending for the stage three championship. They’re producing great results against both challenging and “easy” teams, showing that they have the drive to win no matter the team. If anything, it’s a great time to be a Los Angeles Valiant fan, and the future looks bright.

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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!

Los Angeles Valiant trading away starting players would be a mistake

There are multiple reports that have the Los Angeles Valiant looking to move a lot of their current players. Moving just one would help free up a starting lineup spot for newly eligible Space, but at what cost could it come? With Envy and Fate being one of the strongest tank duos throughout the first two stages, moving even one of them could lead the team in the wrong direction.

Unkoe for Custa

The main trade that has been floating around for a few days has been swapping Unkoe for Dallas Fuel’s Custa. Credit to both players for their strong play, but disrupting the cohesion of your supports is the wrong move to make for the Valiant. Unkoe and Kariv were near unstoppable during the first stage. He has continued his strong play alongside Verbo during stage two. Moving him and changing the dynamic of the backbone of your team could lead to communication errors. Not only that, but Soon and Unkoe have been friends and teammates for a while. What message would it send to your star DPS player if you swapped similarly skilled players?

Los Angeles Valiant clearing the bench

Los Angeles Valiant

Source: Robert Paul

Silkthread hasn’t seen any playing time since stage one ended. GrimReality has never gotten in to play in Blizzard Arena. While Silkthread looked impressive in the minimal time he got to shine, moving both of these players makes sense to me. They’re not currently playing or on the starting roster, and they can’t be happy with where they’re at regarding playing time. It’s a move that could benefit both teams involved, as the Los Angeles Valiant either free up a roster space or add a new player. For Silkthread and GrimReality, they’d be given a chance to compete for a spot to play, even if it’s rotating in for a single map per match. Silkthread has said previously he believes his time to play for the Valiant is up.

Envy of the league

If there is a player that has meant more or carried the Valiant more than Soon, it’s definitely Envy. Envy’s performance on D.va has been absolutely brilliant, and he has turned games on their head to give his team a chance to win. What possible reason could they have for looking to move him out? There’s been reports from a few sources that site some of the players personalities are clashing. If they perform that well on stage as a team, however, is it worth getting rid of them? Thankfully, the Valiant and Envy have continued to deny this rumor of a possible move, but with Space looking to contend for a playing spot, somebody might be leaving.

Los Angeles Valiant

Source: Los Angeles Valiant

A hop in their step

With Kariv and Agilities splitting time playing DPS throughout stage two, and no faith in Silkthread or GrimReality, the Valiant wanted another reliable DPS. Seoul Dynasty has gifted them Bunny, Jun-hyeok Chae. Bunny not only has a fantastic name, but he’s a great player too. His play on Tracer certainly fits DPS billing, and he will help challenge Soon or give the Valiant an option to rest the player with no fear. Bunny may also add another dynamic to the team coming from one of the top teams in the league. His view of the Overwatch League may add additional insight to the Valiant and how they approach different maps.

With all these moves, and more possible, the Valiant a fan sees for stage three could look a lot different. Familiar and fan favorites could be on the way out, and a new core of players might be enough to carry them to a stronger record.

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Featured image courtesy of Los Angeles Valiant

New Faces: Overwatch League Pacific Division

The signing window for the Overwatch League is coming to a close on Tuesday. Many teams have been busy reinforcing their rosters with trades and free-agent pickups, or are finally reaping the benefits of their younger players as they come of age. Certain teams in the Overwatch League Pacific Division will definitely benefit from some fresh talent, and I’ve taken the liberty of assembling the best of those new players and going a little more in depth on what they’ll be bringing to the table.

 

5. Gambler

On February 26th, the Seoul Dynasty announced the signing of Heo “Gambler” Jin-woo, a former support player from LW Blue. While much of his old roster went on to form the core of the NYXL, Gambler was decidedly absent in the early days of the Overwatch League. Gambler was well known for his strong in-game leadership and shot-calling ability, but flew under most teams’ radars until Seoul finally made the move to pick him up.

Those strengths could be just what the Dynasty need to get a hold of their inconsistent communications in-game. While his synergy is unavoidably behind that of long-time support stars Jin-Mo “Tobi” Yang and Je-hong “ryujehong” ryu, Gambler’s extensive experience could help provide fresh perspectives on the weaknesses of the Dynasty. His mechanical skills are top-notch, too.

 

4. Super

Image Courtesy of breakthegame.net. Super stands 5th from the left, between Jay “Sinatraa” Won and Dante “Danteh” Cruz.

Matthew “Super” DeLisi is one of many additions to the San Francisco Shock’s young roster, and he could easily be the most impactful. While the Shock are known for their long list of DPS players like Jay “Sinatraa” Won and Andrej “BABYBAY” Francisty, the tank line has lacked that same depth. Fielding only David “Nomy” Lizarraga Ramirez Osmar and Andreas “Nevix” Karlsson through the first two stages of the league, San Fran has a chance to surprise their enemies with this high-powered addition.

The Former LG Evil star also has plenty of experience with other members of the Overwatch League, including former teammates Jacob “Jake” Lyon of the Houston Outlaws and Connor “Avast” Prince from the Boston Uprising. While I expect he’s spilled the beans on his old comrades in internal training sessions, making plays with that knowledge in mind is an entirely different (and more advantageous) possibility.

Most importantly, Super just plays main tank differently than Nomy does. His positioning, communications, and responsiveness will all be different than his counterpart from Tijuana, and that can drastically change how the entire team performs.

 

3. Space

Indy “Space” Halpern is another player coming of age in the league’s third stage, and he’s apparently made some ripples in the team already. Rod “Slasher” Breslau reports that the Valiant are looking to trade their off-tank Kang-Jae “Envy” Lee, most likely to make room for the younger player in the starting six. Players from the Valiant have refuted this news, including Envy himself– so that’s definitely going to be something to keep an eye on as the stage gets underway.

Slasher has also reported that the Valiant are deep in talks with the Dallas Fuel to trade French support star Benjamin “Unkoe” Chevasson for resident Aussie Scott “Custa” Kennedy, once of Space’s former teammates from Arc 6. While the move wouldn’t be that great for Dallas, the Valiant could profit immensely from the trade. The only downside- the separation of long-term teammates Unkoe and Terence “SoOn” Tarlier, who’s time together has been impressive, to say the very least.

 

2. Geguri

Seyeon “Geguri” Kim is one of the better off-tanks we’ve ever seen, and her addition to the Shanghai Dragons will definitely help the team pull itself back from the depths of its abysmal 0-20, -65 record. Between her and Eui-Seok “Fearless” Lee, the Dragons are starting from the ground up at tank.

I don’t expect the Dragons to turn things around overnight, mind you, and their challenges are unique in both variety and magnitude. There’s a couple language barriers, for one, as well as the stress of living in a new country with new people, far from home. Hopefully the Dragons embrace the potential being in last place gives them. It’s not the best situation to be in, sure, but now they can take the time to find what works for them.

That’s all without mentioning the pressure Geguri is already getting as the league’s first female player- pressure that will only increase as she plays, win or lose. Shanghai’s coaching and support staff need to put in the time with their new players if they want them to grow and improve in a healthy way. Without that support, the Dragons will never get back on their feet, even if Geguri is as good as I think she is.

 

1. void

Go watch this, and come back. (Don’t, actually, it’s five hours long.) Try this one or this one instead. Notice those crazy D.Va bombs? That’s what Jun-woo “Void” Kang brings to the LA Gladiators now that his signing has been confirmed. We’ve waxed poetic on the Gladiators before, but I have a feeling their move up the league’s standings has just begun.

Void’s greatest strength (beyond those crazy bombs) is his game sense. His ability to respond and move in concert with the needs of his team will play perfectly with the style of his new/old main tank Fissure, a former teammate from C9 KongDoo. His lightning fast target-focus and peeling capabilities will also increase the lethality of his flexible DPS corps and bloodthirsty backline. Suffice to say, this was a good pick-up.

While I bemoaned the potential loss of the Gladiators’ other tanks, iRemiix and Bischu, keeping them could be just as advantageous as sending them on their way. As LA approaches a full 12-man roster, the chance for internal scrim opportunities grows higher, especially with access to the Gladiators Legion academy team. Those scrims could show us new heights for the Gladiators, and that is one exciting prospect.

 

 

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Featured image courtesy of Robert Paul and Blizzard Entertainment

Space Soldiers’ Journey to ESL One Cologne

The Space Soldiers squad, hailing from Turkey, qualified for one of Counter-Strike’s most notorious tournaments by defeating Swedish side GODSENT in the closed qualifiers.

Space Soldiers sought redemption after faltering at the European minor, losing out on a spot at the PGL major. Despite that loss, they’ve been on a strong run of form. The team flew out to Lisbon to compete in the 4Gamers CS:GO Masters in which they took first place by defeating a number of Portuguese opposition. A confidence boost, no doubt, for the string of qualifiers that laid ahead.

European Minor

Unfortunately for the Turkish squad, they opened up their Major campaign with a close loss to Tricked and then a dominating defeat at the hands of Team Kinguin. Following those losses would be wins over North Academy and NiP. Although both sides had their flaws, Space Soldiers dictated the play leading to both victories. However, they would fall short to Dignitas in the next round, losing 16-2 on one of their worst maps, Inferno. Had the team not gotten off on the wrong foot, it’s likely we would have seen them pressing on to the main qualifier.

Cologne Qualifier

The ESL One Cologne qualifier was a chance at redemption for Space Soldiers. They easily defeated their first opponents, Bulgaria’s Outlaws, with score lines of 16-3 and 16-7 on Train and Cobblestone, respectively.

Their next series would be against Team EnVyUs, who as we know are a line up with potential thanks to the likes of Adil “ScreaM” Benrlitom and Alexandre “xms” Forté. However, a strong team performance would earn Space Soldiers another 2-0 victory with Buğra “Calyx” Arkın performing in both games.

Engin “MAJ3R” Kupeli led the way in fragging against GODSENT. [Source: Liquipedia]

To secure their place at the infamous ESL One Cologne, Space Soldiers would have to defeat GODSENT, one of the many struggling Swedish teams. GODSENT got off to a bad start in the veto phase by allowing Space Soldiers to get their favorite map, Cobblestone, first. The Turkish were relentless in securing the victory (16-5).

In the second map, Space Soldiers would jump out to a commanding 14-4 lead before GODSENT started to build up an economy on the Counter-Terrorist side. However, in the twenty-fifth round, the Swedes would throw their chance away by losing to a TEC-9 force buy. Space Soldiers would win the map 16-10 and the prized tickets to ESL One Cologne.

It would be hard to pick a standout player for the qualifier. The entire team stepped up when needed, even stand in Engin “ngiN” Ko, however, Engin “MAJ3R” Kupeli led the way in terms of kills and damage across both maps in the final.

The Big Chance

Aside from their attendance at WESG in China, ESL One Cologne will be the first premiere LAN event for the Space Soldiers. The team has risen in popularity due to the incredibly skilled Can “XANTARES” Dörtkardeş and Buğra “Calyx” Arkın. Their journey to the top has been eagerly awaited and I’m sure many will be wanting them to upset the best of the best as they descend on the Lanxess Arena, Cologne in July.


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