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).