Gesture from the London Spitfire

The London Spitfire’s Slow Fall from Grace

Even though Stage 4 just started, the Overwatch League is on a new patch. Moreover, Ji-Hyeok “Birdring” Kim has returned to the London Spitfire’s lineup, making an appearance for the first time since early in Stage 3. The Spitfire are still looking shaky after their match against the Houston Outlaws. The Spitfire have never beat Houston, as the Outlaws are 4-0 against them in the regular season. More impressively from the Outlaws, London’s fourth loss came as a brutal 4-0 sweep. Are the London Spitfire, the Stage 1 Champions, still a team to be worried about?

No Birdring, No Widowmaker

With the double sniper meta becoming more prevalent, Birdring is making his return at the right time. Snipers have become an ever-increasing importance for teams in Stage 3 and Stage 4. In Stage 3 the London Spitfire weren’t nearly as dominant, Birdring’s absence was felt. A great Widowmaker, like Birdring, can dominate space and make enemies fear peeking at any position. In Stage 3, the London Spitfire had to opt out of Widowmaker duels because Birdring was unable to play. However, with Birdring back in the mix, will the London Spitfire return to form?

Not Nearly as Dominant

London Spitfire's Birdring

London Spitfire’s Ji-Hyeok “Birdring” Kim

Since the start of Stage 3, teams have closed in on the London Spitfire in the overall standings. A once dominant London Spitfire, who finished in the top three during both Stage 1 and Stage 2, and finished sixth in Stage 3 with a 5-5 record. Although they didn’t have Birdring, this is still concerning for London Spitfire fans and players. A team with a star-studded roster, who dominated Stage 1 and Stage 2, should not go 5-5 in a stage.

Instead of improving, it seems like they have hit their peak early on in the Overwatch League. Meanwhile, teams like the Boston Uprising, Philadelphia Fusion, Los Angeles Valiant, Los Angeles Gladiators and San Francisco Shock are continuing to improve, climbing the standings each week. With the London Spitfire on a downward trend and other teams on an upward trend, will London have another shaky stage?

London Can Prove Teams Wrong

With the playoffs coming up soon, every win matters for teams in Stage 4. As it currently stands, the London Spitfire are third in the overall standings. However, they are nowhere near safe. Three teams are currently one game behind them, while two other teams only trail by three games.

Six teams make the Playoffs for the inaugural season of the Overwatch League. The London Spitfire need to do well in Stage 4 if they want to play in the playoff spotlight. The good news is that, with Birdring back and a meta that favors double snipers, the London Spitfire can do well in Stage 4. But the question is: can the Spitfire return to their strong play that we saw during the regular season?

The road won’t be easy, but Stage 4 offers an opportunity for the London Spitfire – an opportunity to rise above their recently lacking performance and impress all Overwatch League viewers. They can prove, once again, that they are a team to be feared.

To find out if the London Spitfire can finish the rest of Stage 4 strong and make the Playoffs, tune into the Overwatch League.

 

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Featured Image Credit: Blizzard Entertainment/Overwatch

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

Overwatch League Team’s Approach to Blizzard World

Blizzard World is the newest map to be inserted into the Overwatch League map pool, and the hybrid map early on has facilitated strong defensive play and made it tough on attacking teams. Seven games have been played on Blizzard World and only three teams have reached the third point. Each team has similar strategies with slight differences, here’s how each team plays this map.

The first Point

The first point on Blizzard World is a long run for the attacking team, with many open sightlines and back alleys to avoid them. The majority of teams in the Overwatch League started off positioning themselves on the backside of the dock building, towards the mini health pack. Similarly to Hanamura, Kings Row, and Eichenwalde, teams will play near the back of each point.

One reason is to go anti-dive and make getting onto the backline a journey just to get into a position to dive that far. Secondly, it makes the attacking team come to them and stay organized. An attacking team lacking cohesion on the first point of Blizzard World will come to a swift and brutal end. Lastly, it makes healing easier, especially on this map where there are more doors and buildings to enter than just about any map.

Pro Play

As for how pro teams play this first point, it depends on the team, we will use a couple of teams as examples. On attack, the strongest strategy so far has been the triple-tank composition that pushes up through the right or left buildings and slow pushes aggressively onto the point. The Seoul Dynasty are the only team to run this, but unlike other strategies that rely on a Sombra hack or Widowmaker pick, the tank composition has more room for error.

Dock building where most teams set up for on defense for the first point. Photo via Overwatch Wiki

Moving closer to the standard, the three characters that often get picked on this long stretch of a first point is the best mobility characters (Sombra and Tracer) and the character that covers the most ground (Widowmaker). The San Francisco Shock ran Sombra throughout the entire map but were hard countered in some instances by the Dynasty’s tank lineup.

As for the most forward-thinking setup, that belongs to the Dynasty on defense as well. It was the same tank composition but switching Jin-hyuk “Miro” Gong from Winston to Orissa and shielding the small pathway on the attacking right side. On the attacking left side, Byung-sun “Fleta” Kim on Sombra hacked the big health pack and with Jin-mo “Tobi” Yang on Tracer forcing the attacking team to the attacking right side, right into Seong-beom “Munchkin” Byun waiting behind the Orissa shield with Roadhog’s hook.

The most efficient team throughout week two on the first point was, you guessed it, the New York Excelsior. Facing the London Spitfire, who sat behind the dock building, Jun-hwa “Janus” Song forced them off with direct dives, leaving Do-hyeon “Pine” Kim free shots on retreating support players. Widowmaker is not a must-pick on Blizzard World, but the tight shots with heavy cover make it hard to pass up.

Second Point

Pylon Terrace second point

The second point on Blizzard World was the doom bringer for offenses in week one. It’s a long point, with many doors to escape and a giant wall that helps defenses set up on the high ground with cover. The Pylon Terrace section is a great section for defenses and five of eight teams were stranded in this middle section.

Why is it so difficult? First off, it gives the close quarter heroes a serious advantage. The D.Va players last week tore up the second point. Matt “Coolmatt” Lorio used D.Va’s vertical maneuverability to control the against the dive and counter-dive while still maintaining the high ground advantage. That’s not to mention the success D.Va’s have found with angled self-destructs in week one. Coolmatt had couple play of the game plays, but he wasn’t the only one, Tae-hong “Meko” Kim and Gael “Poko” Gouzerch also landed major self-destruct multi-kills.

Additionally, Tracer and Junkrat can play a significant role in this section. Heroes like Tracer and Sombra work well because it’s easy to get to the backline considering all the passageways. Junkrat is great because all those passageways allow for Junkrat to send easy body shots onto anyone he catches. Jun-young “Profit” Park played this role as it should be played, but Jong-ryeol “Saebyeolbe” Park did a great job trying to counter the Pylon Terrace setup.

Third Point

Five out of fourteen rounds ended in three points. It’s incredibly difficult to push into that final point and takes a well-concentrated ultimate fight win to take the point entirely. Heavy tanks have been one of the best strategies because they have the necessary help to power through. However, Junkrat’s proven to be a nuisance for attacking teams, as there are many paths for a rogue junktire to connect.

Diablo section of the third point. Photo via Overwatch Wiki

In essence, it’s about outlasting opponents and getting strong ultimates to end fights. It’s arguably the most difficult point to take in the map pool, but that will change over time. With only five rounds finishing on the last point, there’s not enough data to get a clear understanding of what teams are looking to run at this point.  From the few games last week, it took a skill shot and recognizing a retreating defense from  Kim “Zunba” Joon-hyuk to finally take the point with a triple-kill self-destruct. 

It’s safe to assume more strategies will be introduced this week. It’s nice to see the compositional picks are spread out amongst a large number of heroes. Sombra has been shown to work on both offenses and defenses. Same goes for Widowmaker and the tank-compositions. Those three have taken the spotlight, but expect more drastic changes to be implemented this week.

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Feature photo via Overwatch Wiki

Overwatch

Overwatch League Hero Spotlight: Widowmaker

Although uncommon to see in competitive solo queue play, unless a teammate is a one-trick or trying throw a game with her, Widowmaker is extremely viable in professional play. With a coordinated team, she is one of the deadliest heroes in the game – one pick or kill on the enemy can stop an entire push, in addition to wasting time. Teams must craft specific strategies or take different map paths to counter her line of sight. When Widowmaker is in the hands of a professional player, she drastically alters the game.

Her Kit: One Shot, One Kill

The main reasons that Widomaker is strong is because of her ability to kill low health enemy heroes in one shot and the ability to see through walls with her Ultimate Infra-Sight. Together these two characteristics make her one of the deadliest heroes in the game. Widowmaker can track enemies through walls and hit an easy headshot onto an enemy hero, giving her team a numbers advantage. At a professional level, a numbers advantage usually guarantees a team fight win or signals the end of a fight and a team regroup. No sane team wants to go into a fight when their numbers are down. Getting a single pick with Widowmaker can drastically change the scope of the game.

Other things that make Widowmaker strong is that her kit provides utility and balance. Her first ability Grappling Hook allows her to repel to different areas on the map when she is danger. This ability is crucial when she is getting dove against a coordinated team; it allows her to create distance between herself and the enemies. In addition, Grappling hook can also be used as an offensive tool to chase after weak enemies, gain high ground, or hit crazy shots. Her second ability Venom Mine is less useful than Grappling Hook. Venom Mine deals a small amount of damage to the enemies who are hit by it, and those who are hit by it are temporarily visible to Widowmaker. The main use of Venom Mine is to spot people who may be flanking. The clip below shows how deadly Widowmaker can be if gone unchecked.

 

Why It’s a Solo Queue Problem

There are many different reasons why Widowmaker isn’t as good in solo queue as compared to professional play. The most obvious one is skill gap. Typically, in solo queue, Widowmaker players aren’t as good and play her in the wrong situations. Widowmaker is designed to play at a distance and get picks onto enemy heroes, giving your team a numbers advantage. Likewise, team play isn’t as coordinated, so Widowmaker lacks the protection that she needs to operate at the highest level. In solo queue she typically gets dove by multiple people and the rest of her team doesn’t help her as much as they should. This gives an easy kill to the enemy team and then gives them a numbers advantage. Finally, there is a negative connotation around those who play Widowmaker. Most people, regardless of skill level, feel that there is always a better hero that you can play.

Looking Ahead

Regardless of play tier, Widowmaker is a viable hero when used in the right situations and played correctly. She is a staple of professional play and it is almost impossible not to see her played on maps such as Ilios or Watchpoint: Gibraltar. Her kit provides her with tools for both offensive and defensive capabilities, and a single kill from her can alter the game. Expect to see more high level Widowmaker gameplay in the Overwatch League.

 

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Featured Image Credit: Blizzard Entertainment/Overwatch

Videos Clips: Overwatch League

Danteh

Danteh to be traded to Houston Outlaws?

With Sinatraa’s eligibility to play starting in the final week of stage two, Danteh seems the odd-man out. His play has been fantastic on Tracer, and there is a team that has been severely lacking Tracer. The Outlaws would get their major flaw patched while the Shock shore up their tank line. It seems to be a perfect match, but we will have to see what the Outlaws are willing to give up to get a Tracer.

Why They Need to Move Danteh

Danteh

Source Robert Paul

You may wonder why the Shock would even consider moving someone as talented as Danteh. Sinatraa is the main answer, as the man is being paid for his high-level of talent. There is no way that Sinatraa does not start with his eligibility starting on March 22nd. With his talented Tracer play, the odd man out seems likely to be Danteh over Babybay. With this in mind, the Shock have a roster full of DPS players. Recently signed Architect seems like the precursor to moving Danteh, and the roster still has iddqd waiting to play and eligible soon player Super. With so many DPS players waiting for their chance to play behind Sinatraa, and Danteh’s proven record, teams will call and the Shock will listen.

Danteh For FCTFCTN

Danteh

Source Overwatch and Blizzard Entertainment

FCTFCTN was recently signed by the Outlaws, but his focus on tank could see him just as quickly moved. The Shock aren’t starving for a tank player, but they don’t have many waiting. In fact, the only player listed as a tank main is Nomy. Nevix, listed as DPS/flex, has played the role of the second tank throughout the season. Having a strong tank main ready to jump in at any time would be a strong addition to have.

This, coupled with the strong play that FCTFCTN has shown in his play, especially during the Overwatch World Cup with Team USA, could be just the kind of player the Shock would be willing to swap for someone as skilled as Danteh. In fact, FCTFCTN and Adam are the only two starting line-up members of Team USA yet to make their OWL debuts. FCTFCTN has sat on the sidelines. Adam is playing for the NYXL’s academy team. They’re both capable players, and FCTFCTN is just waiting to prove he belongs on a team. Given the chance to shine, FCTFCTN could bolster the Shock’s area of weakness.

Danteh for Spree

A tank that falls under the tank position, but has looked great during playtime in the OWL, is Spree. Spree may be harder to pry away from the Outlaws due to his strong Zarya play when they roll triple-tank, but they could have FCTFCTN pick up that roll if Spree is gone. The Outlaws would prefer not to give up someone that has meshed well with the team, but strong tank play is definitely on the Shock’s radar, just like any available Tracer is on the Outlaw’s. Picking up a tank that can flex should any of your other roles falter can be helpful, and Spree is a proven off-tank with both Zarya and D.va. While Spree rarely plays, his play is noticed. With the Outlaw’s failing to meet expectations throughout Stage two, they need to give up anything to secure a proven Tracer player. With one of the strongest starting tank lines in OWL, with Muma and CoolMatt, other tanks become expendable.

Continue reading below for a dark horse take on another team that could swing for Danteh.

Dark Horse Candidate: Philadelphia Fusion

Danteh

Courtesy of Liquipedia

Hear me out here, the Philadelphia Fusion could swing a deal for Danteh. The Fusion technically have 12 players signed, but SADO has been suspended for quite some time. He’s a tank player, so the Fusion could afford to give up an extra tank with the knowledge that after his ban SADO can fill the position. The Fusion also have a great wealth of support players. With dhaK’s recent struggles the Shock signed and have been playing Moth in the support role. Shoring up the support role could be something they look to do with their loads of DPS. The Fusion also have a wealth of DPS, with Carpe being a constant and EQO and ShaDowBurn swapping in and out to fill the other slot. If Carpe goes down, their Tracer play will struggle. If they want to run Widowmaker and Tracer, they could deploy a strong duo in Carpe and Danteh. It’s not a position that the Fusion need to fill, but they could get even stronger if they went for it.

The Shock are sure to be listening to any team that has a want for a Tracer or strong DPS player. The expectation is that come Stage three, Danteh is on a new team. What team that is, we’ll have to wait to find out.

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Featured image courtesy of Robert Paul and Blizzard Entertainment

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

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

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