Overwatch League Recap: Stage 3 Playoffs
Photo by Robert Paul for Blizzard Entertainment
As the final week of Stage 3 wrapped up for the Overwatch League, we already knew we were in for something a little different. A quick glance across the schedule showed more green than we were used to as the Houston Outlaws and the Los Angeles Valiant stood beside the Vancouver Titans. Little did we know that none of those teams were the ones to watch this past weekend.
The Houston Outlaws and the Vancouver Titans were the first to take the stage and as loyal as Houston fans may be, everyone knew going in that the odds heavily favored the Titans as they had been very quick to adapt to the new offense oriented meta. The Outlaws had a few spare moments through the set that might’ve made the hearts of hopeful fans flutter, like on Eichenwalde after the Titans took point A. The Outlaws seemed to be setting up a decent defense of Point B, but when Stitch started to backcap the entire Houston team suddenly fell back to protect the payload and the rest of the Titans came up quick on their flank and cleared them out. The entire three map series would be just as bleak as the Vancouver Titans defeated the Houston Outlaws with a clean 3 – 0 sweep.
Following the Vancouvers dominance over the Outlaws, the Shanghai Dragons took to the stage against the New York Excelsior. NYXL was the first seed in the play-offs with a perfect stage record of 7 and 0, the Dragons narrowly made it in at the eighth seed. What would follow is the steady dismantling of New York’s conservative style of game-play as the Shanghai ran the wildest offense hero oriented comp we’ve seen this season. Gamsu primarily playing Wrecking Ball for the disrupt, Dding on Pharah executing maneuvers he probably got inspiration for watching John Wick and Youngjin on the Doomfist laying hands all over the NYXL New York did manage to take one map from the Dragons, but for the most part they looked lost on the field of play. However, losing out in the playoffs, stage or otherwise isn’t anything new to the Excelsior. Some call this match an upset, but it may just be another day for New York.
The San Francisco Shock and the Seoul Dynasty match-up was a lot closer than the final score would lead you to believe. The Dynasty had a decent start taking the first map on Oasis, but the Shock were constantly on their heels. Unfortunately, the Seoul Dynasty lost the momentum quickly and fell behind as the Shock took map. The rest of the series would fall in favor of the Shock as they Dynasty, as usual, fall just short of the wins they need.
The second closest match of the playoffs were against the Los Angeles Valiant and the Hangzhou Spark who would go toe-to-toe for the entire set, all the way to a game 5. The Spark were probably the better team overall, but there was one key tactic that the Los Angeles Valiant employed that allowed them just enough of an advantage to snatch the win away from the Spark. It was KSF on the Zarya with perfectly timed Gravs to catch out Guxue, alone in most cases, that won a lot of the fights. When the Grav came in you’d see a back and forth of ultimates going off that usually ended in Guxue’s death, the Spark taxed on ultimates and the Valiant maintaining control. Going into game 5, the Spark had the edge as they’ve never lost a game 5 time breaker, but in this case the Valiant were able to gain the upper hand and walk away with the win.
The Semi-Finals is where the Shanghai Dragons would prove that the match against the NYXL wasn’t just the NYXL’s play-off curse, they had what it takes to bring down Titans. The Dragons had a lot of momentum going into the first map on Illios as they took it 2 – 0 with the Titans barely getting up 50% on either of the two points. The rest of the matches would be hard fought for the Dragons as the Titans fall just a single objective point behind each time. All credit to Dding, Youngjin and Diem through the entire match for their impressive prowess on offense characters and their ability to zero in on and shut down Twilight, the Titan’s star Ana player. Without the support from Twilight, the Titan’s tank Bumper would get deleted the moment he stepped into the Dragon’s crosshairs.
After their close win over the Hangzhou Spark, the Los Angeles Valiant’s run to the final match would be short lived. Like the Outlaws against the Titans, the Valiant didn’t stand much of a chance against the Shock. Super and his team shut down the Los Angeles Valiant with a perfect 4 – 0 sweep.
The finals for the Stage Playoffs came down to the Shanghai Dragons and the San Francisco Shock, the Stage 2 Champions, in what was easily one of the best finals in the history of the Overwatch League. The Dragons got a commanding lead 3 – 0 lead, but would nearly lose it as the Shock fought back to a 3 – 3 match point. After going through the entire 7 map distance it was ultimately Gamsu leading his team of Dragons to victory. For a full breakdown of that match make sure you check out Norris’ take on how the Dragon’s dethroned the Shock.
The Little Dragon That Could: Shanghai Wins Stage 3 in OWL
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Interview with Harsha Bandi, Vancouver Titans Coach
Overwatch League Recap: Stage 3, Week 5
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