Today in OWL – Stage 2 W3D4

This week has been absolutely filled with exciting games and fresh upsets between some of the mid tier teams. If you haven’t been keeping up with the competition, I highly recommend going back and watching the second round of #BattleForLA on Wednesday and the Philadelphia games against Seoul and New York.

The biggest trend we’re seeing in Stage 2 has definitely been Tracer playing a central role in team strategies. Teams with good Tracer players are starting to pull far ahead of the rest of the pack while teams with mediocre Tracers are slowly falling behind. For instance, The Los Angeles Valiant absolutely dominated Houston on Thursday with Soon’s pristine Tracer play, and Philadelphia’s Carpe went blow for blow with Seoul’s Munchkin and New York’s Saebyeolbe. San Francisco’s Danteh also played an insane Tracer against Dallas, scoring an insane 27 kill streak and 50% of all the Shock’s final blows. Even Florida, with the plethora of problems they have with their supports, had a really good set against Houston due to the prowess of Logix.

It’s becoming clear that every team needs a top quality Tracer player. Every kill matters more without the Mercy resurrects coming through, and no one picks off heroes better than Tracer. Houston and Dallas in particular have been struggling. They’ve tried sticking to their guns (pun intended) and continuing to run deathball-style compositions to make up for their struggling Tracer players, but it’s just not working. We’ll have to see how the rest of the stage pans out, but for now, you can bet that whichever team has the better Tracer wins.

The series today are:

  • London Spitfire vs Los Angeles Gladiators
  • New York Excelsior vs San Francisco Shock
  • Florida Mayhem vs Dallas Fuel

How Good Are the Gladiators? – London vs Los Angeles Gladiators

The Gladiators have been a fairly strong if not consistent team in the Overwatch League, but they’ve never really had the breakout success of Philadelphia, Houston, or even Boston, which makes it quite difficult to pin them down. Lifetime, they have a record of 1-11 against Korean teams, and they’ve yet to face off against London, which is arguably the strongest one. When you take into account their mixed success against even the non-Korean teams, it’s almost impossible to figure out if they’re “good” based on numbers alone.

Earlier this week, I wrote that the Gladiators managed to find some success of the back of their secret weapon, Fissure. During the rise of Fissure, it seems Hydration, Asher, and Bischu have also stepped up their game within the last week, and that may be the tipping point for them. But is Asher good enough to take on Birdring and Profit? I’m not so sure. As much as I would like to cheer on the Gladiators (#SHIELDSUP), it’d be foolish to bet against London at this point in time: 4-0 London.

First Up – New York vs San Francisco

San Francisco is another team that’s difficult to rate. On good days, the DPS duo of Danteh and Babybay can look indomitable. On others…not so much. The Shock have an insanely wide hero pool and tons of compositional flexibility, but in their case, it might be more important to dig deep than wide. The results are stacked against them. Along with Florida and Dallas (and Shanghai, of course), San Francisco has one of the worst records in the league, and even though they’ve shown small glimmers of talent, it hasn’t turned to gold.

Interestingly enough, San Francisco has only played against one Korean team (twice) due to the format of the league, and since the Koreans are basically the overlords of Overwatch, the Shock has been largely untested. Both their series against Seoul were fairly one-sided but with a few outstanding rounds. London and New York are different beasts. New York has proven time and time again that they are the most flexible team in the league. It’s almost as if they’re always two steps ahead of their opponents in the game of compositional chess and strategic thinking. If San Francisco has scored a few upsets in the past due to some clever hero swaps and brilliant tactical play, they’re in for a surprise against New York. As well as New York has been playing, it would be insane to expect anything less than a 4-0 from them.

A Beautiful Mess – Florida vs Dallas

Oh god, where to begin with this matchup? Florida and Dallas are both the biggest trainwrecks of the league (except of course, as always, the Shanghai Dragons), so this matchup is essentially the junction of two massive disappointments…? It feels wrong to speak so badly of both teams, but there’s no doubt that they haven’t lived up to expectations.

Dallas is formerly the single most successful foreign Overwatch team prior to the Overwatch League. Team EnVyUs dominated the west for close to a year then went to Korea, competed in APEX, and brought half the league to its knees. It was impossible to topple Lunatic-Hai (now Seoul Dynasty) from their perch, but they gave everyone else a good run for their money. So it’s no wonder that all eyes were on Dallas in the Overwatch League, and I think that many people were expecting far different results from the fan-favorite team. However, from the very beginning, they have been failed to live up to the hype surrounding them. Their play has been inconsistent at best, and their roster has experienced multiple penalties for poor behavior. xQc alone has spent more than half of the Inaugural Season on the bench due to disciplinary actions of the league and Dallas.

Florida, on the other hand, is the remnant of Misfits. They don’t necessarily have the same legacy as EnVy or Rogue, but they were still very much contenders for second best non-Korean team before the Overwatch League began. Logix and TviQ were legendary in their time, but as assassins on the Mayhem, they have failed to match up with the insane level of DPS play in the rest of the league. Florida also has severe issues with their tank/support coordination which prevent them from capitalizing on even the best plays from their DPS duo. All in all, they have a ton of potential, but their performance in the Overwatch League has been nothing greater than underwhelming.

That’s what makes this match interesting though. So many things can go wrong. The result of random tilting, poor decision making, or mechanical errors could change the course of a game drastically at every turn. It’s completely unpredictable. For that reason, I’m not even going to try and predict what will happen…I’m just going to sit back and enjoy watching this beautiful mess.

Today in OWL – Stage 2 W3D3

I missed yesterday due to IRL stuff, but at least I got to watch a great series between Philadelphia and Seoul in the VoDs. Anyhow, today’s storylines are a bit drab. No one really has anything to lose or gain with these series, but as with everything in the Overwatch League, every map matters. It’s a chance for all of the teams struggled below the playoffs line to pick up a few maps and increase their odds of making it to the Grand Finals.

If it’s any consolation, at least there’s no Shanghai games today.

The series today are:

  • London Spitfire vs Boston Uprising
  • New York Excelsior vs Philadelphia Fusion
  • Florida Mayhem vs Houston Outlaws

Boston Tea Party – London vs Boston

Boston started Stage 2 in a straight up freefall with 12 consecutive map losses, a shocking result after the impressive play they showed at the end of Stage 1. Nonetheless, as they’ve adjusted to the new metagame, it’s been less of a struggle. They recovered fairly well with two 4-0s against Florida and Shanghai, and they’re back in the standings with an overall positive map score.

Nonetheless, this is a difficult match for them. London won the Stage 1 playoffs and carried that momentum into Stage 2 with a big win over New York and absolute domination over Philly; simply put, they are the team to beat in this league. It’s unlikely that Boston will take the series, but Striker’s Tracer might be enough to disable London’s front line long enough for the Uprising to take a map…but we’re talking about the royal navy against some rebels here. 4-0 London.

The Struggle is Real – New York vs Philadelphia

This will probably be the highlight match of the evening. Philadelphia has been slowly but surely improving, and other than their humiliating loss to London last week, they’re putting up a real fight to break into the top 5. Their victory over the Outlaws in Week 2 established them as the best non-Korean team, and their series against Seoul was nothing short of breathtaking (though it ended in defeat). They’ve taken on two of the Korean final bosses, now it’s time for the third.

But New York is an immovable object. Sporting the three best Overwatch players in their respective roles—Saebyeolbe, Pine, and JJoNak—New York has a triple DPS threat that is terrifyingly difficult to deal with. With so much pressure being put on Pine by opposing teams these days, Saebyeolbe has stepped up to the plate with his Tracer play and knocked it out of the park. Even if you try to dive the supports, you still have to avoid getting booted in the face by JJoNak’s Zenyatta. It’s such a strong lineup, but New York has one fatal flaw: their aggression sometimes puts them way out of position. The team has actually stated in an interview that they let Pine play as aggressively as he wants and just try to back him up—the casual definition of a house of cards. If Pine falls, New York’s coordination can fall apart very quickly, and that’s something that Philadelphia can capitalize on.

Philadelphia still holds the record for being the only non-Korean team to take a series off New York, so it’s not out of the question that we could see another victory here. However, considering how badly Philly got booped by London, I find it difficult to expect a miracle series against New York again. New York should win this decisively, but I expect the Fusion to give them some trouble. 3-2 in favor of New York.

Uh, What Happened? – Florida vs Houston

Remember when Houston was far and away the most consistent non-Korean team? Well, I’m not certain that’s true anymore. They started off Stage 2 very comfortably with a revenge victory against London and a subsequent 4-0 against Boston, but things just haven’t quite lined up since. They fell to Philadelphia next (though, to be fair, it was a great series), and from there, everything just unraveled. New York boinked them almost as hard as London beat up Philadelphia, and then the Valiant swept up with a decisive 4-0.

It appears that their deathball style of playing has finally caught up to them. Agile assassins like Tracer and Genji can easily break up the deathball without the bandaid double Mercy ressurect. Jake’s Junkrat is a crutch, and without it, the Outlaws have had to pivot to more mobile hitscan heroes that they’re not as well-practiced on. Let’s face it, Houston doesn’t have a Tracer player on the same level as Carpe, Soon, or Danteh, and it’s that lack of a strong Tracer player that’s been hurting them. Although Clockwork (Houston’s fallback Tracer player) made a brief appearance in the match against the Valiant, the series continually had them going back to their old comfort picks of Junkrat, McCree, and Widow and using wonky triple tank compositions, all of which were not working. Simply put, Houston has hit a wall here. Their old strats are impotent, and they don’t have the flexibility to succeed in the new metagame.

Florida, on the other hand, has had some ups and downs throughout the league, but they’ve arguably had more ups than downs recently. They have a tremendously terrible record in Phase 2, but it’s partially because they were thrown to the lions in Weeks 1 and 2. However, for a team that is struggling, Florida did have a few good moments against New York and London which suggest that they may actually have what it takes to rise to a greater level. But they’ve got to get there first, and a lot of that starts with just improving their basic mechanics and shotcalling. I hate to say it, but even in such a battered and beaten state, I still think Houston will take the win 4-0.

Today’s Storylines – OWL Stage 2 W3D1 (Wednesday)

Today’s matches are far less important story-wise compared to last week’s post on Thursday, but by and large, it’s still an important week in terms of points. The best teams in the league have a series of matchups this week against far weaker opponents which should give them a chance to further extend their lead. Meanwhile, the underdogs falling below the midpoint in standings, need to pull off some kind of miracle to start getting their score off the ground.

The biggest event for today by far is #BattleForLA. Grab your shields, put on your war paint, and head down to the Blizzard Arena…it’s time for round 2.

The series today are:

  • Seoul Dynasty vs Shanghai Dragons
  • San Francisco Shock vs Dallas Fuel
  • Los Angeles Valiant vs Los Angeles Gladiators

When Ahead, Get More Ahead – Seoul vs Shanghai

Let’s face it, Seoul doesn’t need this match. This is just free points for Seoul, a team that’s already 13-0-3 in Stage 2 and second in overall standings. The former Lunatic-Hai squad started off Stage 2 looking much stronger than they did at the end of Stage 1, in part because of the meta shift away from Mercy, and they’ve been wrecking teams left and right since then. It’s unfathomable that Shanghai poses any threat at all to Seoul. 4-0 for Seoul, no problem.

In the meantime, we’re still waiting on Shanghai’s Korean players to get here so they can become a more competitive team. In addition to roster changes, the Shanghai have also attempted to reshuffle their coaching lineup. Over the weekend, Head Coach Chen Congshan “U4” stepped down. While there are rumors that the Shanghai players were being mistreated by the head coach, none of those rumors have been fully substantiated. For now, it’s at least safe to assume that Shanghai needed a coach that could bring out the better parts of their players. Current assistant coach Sun Jun Young “Kong” will be standing in as head coach during this transitional period.

Rematch – San Francisco vs Dallas

Dallas was perhaps the most disappointing team in the league during Stage 1. Their legacy as the former EnVyUs squad raised a lot of expectations for them, but they were unable to live up to those standards. Stage 2 has been an entirely different story. The addition of aKm and Rascal as well as the return of xQc from the bench has reinvigorated the squad, and they’re playing arguably better than ever.

Earlier this week, a breaking story about Taimou’s use of language on stream back in January threw Dallas once again for a loop. While this has been a controversial story, the bottom line is that Dallas has a lineup of loose cannons who need to be more cognizant of their language. It’s unlikely that Taimou will receive any public punishment, but the drama has undoubtedly—at least momentarily—broken the team’s focus for the upcoming week.

Despite a hard loss to the Valiant last week, Dallas is more than capable of taking down the Shock. However, San Francisco has a history of giving even the best teams a tough time for no apparent reason at all. The Shock experienced a 0-3 loss to Dallas in Stage 1 (while xQc was benched), but they’ve steadily been getting more and more consistent. Dallas still doesn’t have that consistency, though, and that’s the “X” factor here. It could go either way, but I’m betting on Dallas 3-1. It really depends on whether Dallas shows up today.

The Battle for LA, P2 – LA Valiant vs LA Gladiators

There was honestly no more exciting match during Stage 1 than “The Battle for LA”. Not only do we have two rival teams fighting over the right to represent LA as king, but they’re also very evenly matched. Twitter blew up with #BattleForLA tweets as local LA fans showed up to the Blizzard Arena to cheer on their favorite LA team. In addition, the match came down to the absolute wire by some of the closest margins we’ve seen in Overwatch League yet, with Valiant barely edging out the victory in a breathtaking round on Lijiang Tower.

The Valiant have been a consistently great team carried by the DPS duo of SoOn and Agilities, and with Verbo back to his comfort pick on Lucio, they’re in a decent spot to do well in Stage 2. With victories over San Francisco and Dallas already, they’re looking primed to wreck some nerds. On the other hand, the Gladiators have unleashed their secret weapon: Fissure. This guy is an absolute monster on the tank role, and his Winston is statistically the strongest in the league right now. The Gladiators struggled against Dallas and Seoul but still managed to look beautiful while doing it. The end result is that both LA teams are neck in neck in the standings—this could go either way. No predictions here, just hype.

Today’s Storylines – OWL Stage 2 W2D4 (Saturday)

As part of a new series, I’ll be writing about some of the biggest storylines in OWL. In today’s review, we look at three very important matches that represent a big turning point for every single team involved. The series today are:

  • Philadelphia Fusion vs London Spitfire
  • Houston Outlaws vs New York Excelsior
  • Shanghai Dragons vs San Francisco Shock

A New Contender – Philadelphia vs London

Philadelphia has been largely ignored throughout OWL so far despite their immense victory over New York in Stage 1—New York’s only series loss in the league so far, by the way. Their relatively unimpressive play and less prestigious past compared to Seoul or Dallas made it easy to overlook them, and with a mediocre map score at the end of Stage 1, they weren’t on anyone’s radar. It wasn’t until the first week of Stage 2 that the Fusion started to pop off. The insane flexibility of their roster has allowed them to adapt to a more fluid metagame, and their play is looking far more decisive now. Earlier this week on Thursday, they took down Houston (again) in an extraordinarily close 3-2 series and secured their place as one of the top non-Korean teams.

However, their biggest test is right around the corner today. They go up against the Stage 1 champions London Spitfire in what will either be a spectacularly close and intense series or a tragic blowout. Either Philly rises to the occasion and plays to the level they’ve established for themselves or they wither beneath the pressure the Korean team will put on them. If it’s not a quick 4-0 for London, it’s anyone’s game.

Try Again, Outlaws – Houston vs New York

It’s been a crazy ride for Houston. They’re most certainly the most consistent non-Korean team in the league, and their victories over London in both stages have been hard fought and epic in scale. However, living at the top means constant fear of losing your spot. After Philly’s upset on Thursday, Houston is looking vulnerable again. It’s hard to believe that a single loss makes such a difference, but when you’re playing with the best, a single misstep is all it takes to drop out of the top three and into mediocrity.

That’s why this series against the Excelsior is so important. A good series against New York could cement their position at the top of the standings, especially since they’ve already defeated the other final boss, London. Unlike London, New York has proven to be an impregnable wall of resistance. Clean assassin play from Pine, Saebyeolbe, and Libero overpowered Houston’s supports in Stage 1 during the Mercy meta, but we’re in a new meta now, and that could make all the difference for the Outlaws. A victory for New York is still expected, but perhaps it’ll be a closer 3-2 this time around.

The Little Team That Could – Shanghai vs San Francisco

Everyone loves the Dragons. It doesn’t matter what happens when they play, it’s so easy to feel sorry for them and cheer them on anyway. Shanghai has gone a humiliating 0-13 in the league so far despite their best efforts to shuffle the roster and change up their tactics. At the beginning of Stage 2, they signed Geguri, Sky, Fearless, and Ado, but they have yet to bring the players into action due to travel constraints.

While it’s unlikely we’ll see the Koreans in play this week, at least Shanghai has an easier match. Despite a better record than Florida, San Francisco’s gameplay looks subjectively worse and they seem to have far less impact than the other non-Korean teams in the league. If Shanghai is going to finally snag a victory, it’ll be against the Shock. The two haven’t played against each other since the first week of Stage 1, but it’ll be interesting to see how Shanghai’s rearrangement will fare. San Francisco still has the edge in bets, but I’ll take the risky prediction here: 3-1 Shanghai Dragons. (Roshan…if you’re going to let me down, let me down gently).

Tracer’s Undeniable Grip on OWL

The Overwatch League launched in early January, and it hasn’t taken long for every team in the league to designate a dedicated Tracer player. Aside from the brief intermission of the Widow/Junkrat metagame at the end of Stage 2, Tracer has been ubiquitous in almost every game and has slowly evolved from the back line assassin she used to be to a consistent damage dealer in a dive-heavy meta.

According to Winston’s Lab, Tracer snags an impressive 25% of all team kills and has some of the best combined KDAs in the entire league. On winning teams, Tracer players can score 8.0 KDAs or higher like complete monsters, all while casually styling on their opponents and dropping BM sprays.

It’s no secret that Tracer’s a strong hero, but what’s impressive has been her resiliency. Despite a handful of “counters” like Winston and McCree, she’s thrived through multiple metas and even become a trademark for the league itself. Whether it’s a rather tank heavy meta, a dive meta, or some sort of poke meta, Tracer has the chops to get behind enemy lines and wreak havoc.

Tracer’s uncanny ability to sidestep the meta is exemplified in the use of Pulse of Bomb. During Stage 1 when Mercy was the go-to support, it was especially important to eliminate the Mercy before or during a big fight so that she couldn’t get the double resurrect off with Valkyrie. Unsurprisingly, Tracer was the perfect hero for the job. How many times was Mercy eliminated by Tracer bombs in Stage 1? Too many to count.

And yet, even with the Mercy nerfs in patch 19.3 and a new era of tank-heavy compositions, Tracer is standing tall in Stage 2. With beefier compositions and the prevalence of Winston and Zarya, it looked like Tracer might have trouble busting tankier comps, but instead she’s become more relevant than ever. Now that Resurrect isn’t as powerful (and Mercy has been generally replaced by Lucio), single target eliminations mean much more, especially on tanks. It’s easy for Tracer to deal a bit of damage to one of the diving tanks like Winston or DVa and quickly finish them off with a Pulse Bomb.

In the recent match between Seoul and Dallas in Week 2, Munchkin repeatedly stuck xQc’s Winston and effectively shut down the Fuel’s aggressive tank line to expose the weaker DPS players in the back line. It’s also become common practice to de-mech DVa at every opportunity, and Tracer players are perfectly willing to use a Pulse Bomb to do that knowing that DVa is effectively dead after losing her MEKA suit. You can worry about the back line when there’s no front line left.

Will Tracer survive into the next metagame? All signs point to “yes”, but with the upcoming buffs to Sombra, it looks like she might be getting replaced…at least for now.