Overwatch League Playoff Preview
Photo: Robert Paul for Blizzard Entertainment
With the play-ins now complete the playoff picture for the Overwatch League is now fully fleshed out. Of the 8 teams in the post-season almost half are expansion teams (Vancouver, Hangzhou, Atlanta) and two original 2018 teams are in the mix for the first time (San Francisco, Seoul). Only the LA Gladiators, New York Excelsior and defending champion London Spitfire see a return to the post-season from 2018. This year also introduces a double elimination bracket. Meaning there will be a chance, if a team loses their first match, to make a run through the loser’s bracket. Robbie and Norris will give their take on each team and their chances to take home the chip in the OWL.
Season Finish: 6th, Key Players: Erster (DPS), Dogman (Support)
Norris: Atlanta is a team in the ascendancy right now. They finished top of the pile in Stage 4 and bullied their way into the playoffs proper. Remember, the Reign even before their Stage 4 run had made a reputation for themselves as giant-killers. They’ve beaten NYXL twice, took the Shock to the brink in Stage 3, won 3-1 over the Hangzhou Spark. This is a team that can BEAT the big teams. They seem to be one of, if not the most comfortable team in the 2-2-2 meta, but we haven’t seen them use Sigma yet. I personally think if they played any other team besides San Francisco in the first round we’d be looking at a potential finals team but I don’t think they have enough to take down the Shock. Championship Chance: The Little Dogman That Could.
Robbie: Atlanta has been an interesting team to watch over the season. Out of the gate they were a force to be reckoned with with Dafran and the unpredictability he brought to the squad. Many thought his departure would be a big hit to the team, myself included. With the addition of Babybay, they filled the DPS slot and over the rest of the season they proved that that spark of creativity wasn’t solely on Dafran. They had some spots, but ultimately they were able to give NYXL, the second overall seed, two losses and brought home a 7 – 0 Stage 4. They’re unlikely to fell the San Francisco Shock in round one, but coming back from the losers bracket would be on brand for the Atlanta Reign. Championship Chance: A Slog through Reign and Muck.
Season Finish: 4th, Key Players: Guxue (Tank), Godsb (DPS)
Norris: At the start of the season, I was able to ask many of the players who was the team that you really need to look out for. They nearly all said Hangzhou. The Spark perhaps didn’t make the waves that some of their other expansion team cohorts made, but they quietly played themselves into 4th place at the end of the season. Just below the NYXL. I think this is a team that could end up in the finals if Godsb plays to top form. But I feel like it may be through a loser’s bracket run. Championship Chance: Possible but where’s Krystal?
Robbie: Coming into the 2019 season off an impressive showing at the Overwatch World Cup, Guxue was the man to lead his team to victory. Sitting at fourth place overall is a great place to be as you’re just under the likes of the Titans, the Excelsior and the Shock. So why are the Spark so constantly overlooked? They’ve fought just as hard as anyone to else to get to where they are. Sometime the ones we don’t pay the most attention to, are capable of surprising us. If Guxue and Godsb find their stride, this is the team to pull ahead of the pack and take it all. Champsionship Chance: A Spark of Possibility.
Season Finish: 7th, Key Players: Profit (DPS), Gesture (Tank)
Norris: London won the first ever stage championship and the first ever grand finals in OWL. If there was a legacy team in the league’s short history, London would be it. However, they had to take the back roads into the post-season this year. And to be honest, they haven’t really looked like they totally belong there either. They played out a grueling 8 maps against the Shanghai Dragons to get into playoffs proper. It was one of the best matches of Overwatch I’d ever seen but it didn’t sell me on their championship potential. The London/NYXL matchup in the first round is perhaps the most even of them all, but it also feels like the most irrelevant too. Championship Chance: Nah.
Robbie: I find it poetic that the London Spitfire and the New York Exelsior play each other in round one. Despite barely making it into the play-offs and NYXL sitting at second seed both these teams have vastly different habits when it comes to finals. While NYXL is known to choke, the Spitfire tend to soar high when the pressure is on. Though they’re performance against the Dragons was shaky, at times it seemed like they were barely holding on and at others rising to the occasion. The Spitfire have the star power to succeed, but they may also have to rely a bit on NYXL to wash out, otherwise they have an uphill fight ahead of them. Championship Chance: Flying Blind, Praying for a Miracle.
Los Angeles Gladiators
Season Finish: 5th, Key Players: Surefour, Decay (DPS), Void (Tank), BigGoose (Support)
Norris: I don’t think there are too many teams more well-rounded than the Glads. Front to back they are solid. But perhaps that’s the issue. Surefour and Decay are top tier at their position, Shaz and BigGoose are still the best support duo in the league but I’m not sure if they have the player that totally commands respect from the rest of the teams in the post-season. They’ve only played the Hangzhou Spark twice this season and lost both times. IF they get past the Spark, they’ll be a threat, but it is the biggest of IFS. Championship Chance: The Strongest Maybe
Robbie: Led by one of the most versatile DPS players in the League, with one of the best support line-ups in the league with a strong tank line, it’s difficult to bet against the Gladiators. The Los Angeles crew may have one of the best shots at the title whose name isn’t the Titans or the Shock. As Norris points out, the Gladiators have lost to the Spark twice this season already, but fighting back from the bottom would be a great end to the Gladiator’s 2019 season. One of the Gladiators strongest qualities is keeping your shields up when you’re down, as they showed us in their limited run as the Los Angeles Big Geese. Championship Chance: You Will Be Entertained!
New York Excelsior
Season Finish: 3rd, Key Players: Jjonak (Support), MANO ( Tank), Nenne (DPS)
Norris: What more can be said about NYXL? They have the talent, they have the shot-calling, they have the 2018 MVP, Jjonak. Why can’t New York get over the hump? In Stage 4, they looked lost in the new 2-2-2 meta where the support play is minimized and Jjonak isn’t as effective. In fact, they finished 3-4, the worst of any of the top eight teams. NYXL is lucky their first opponents are London, to be fair. Anyone else on this list and I think the Excelsior would be getting sent to loser’s early with little fuss. Championship Chance: Incoming Choke, Heimlich Maneuver Needed
Robbie: The New York Excelsior have the longest history of any other team when it comes to finals (Stage or otherwise). They’ve been in eight finals and only won two (2018 Stage 2 and 3). This year they only managed to make it past one first round in a stage final and in stage 4, had there been a stage final they wouldn’t even had made an appearance. With the pedigree that this team has, it’s a mystery why they can’t perform when it really matters. They will at some point be sent to the losers bracket and they will not soar ever upward. Championship Chance: Ever Downward.
San Francisco Shock
Season Finish: 2nd, Key Players: Sinatraa (DPS), Super (Tank), Choihyobin (Tank)
Norris: Let’s get this out of the way. Sinatraa is the MVP of the league. Period. His flex ability through at least 3 different metas this season leads validity to the idea that there isn’t a better DPS player in the league better than him. On the back of their star they still have the single best main tank in the league, Super, and the 2nd best off tank in the league in Choihyobin. While I’d give the edge to Vancouver in the support line, San Fran can go blow for blow with the Titans. Please let this be the finals. PLEASE. Championship Chance: 2nd Favorite
Robbie: The San Francisco Shock, like the other California team is an all around superior squad. They have the formidable tank-line in Super and Choihyobin, they have their pick of A-List DPS with names like Sinatraa, Striker, Rascal and Architect and they’ve got a reliable back-line of supports between Moth and Viol2t. They’ve proved throughout this entire season they are one of the teams to beat with two undefeated stages (including the Leagues first no maps lost stage). Expect to see the Shock in the finals. Championship Chance: Shock and Awe, All the Way.
Season Finish: 8th, Key Players: Ryujehong (Support), Fleta (DPS), Michelle (DPS)
Norris: Seoul shouldn’t be in this position, in my opinion. Having to face the Titans in the first round is a tough deal for a team that has the talent but didn’t close out the matches they should have. They made quick work of the Guangzhou Charge in the play-in tournament, and looked really comfortable with the new Shield Meta which uses the new hero, Sigma, heavily. Jehong looks dominant again and Michelle is back performing like a rookie of the year candidate. BUT their first match is against the Titans. Game over, basically. Championship Chance: An ice cube’s chance in Hades.
Robbie: The Seoul Dynasty are another team that on paper, should be achieving greatness but tend to under perform. Their win in the play-in stage over the Guangzhou Charge was a good start against a team that was on the cusp of becoming a real contender. Plus, if this season has taught us anything is that a meta shift can benefit some teams in extraordinary ways. Seoul has a chance to make something of themselves if they face off against the right teams. However, the Vancouver Titans in round one is definitely the wrong team. If Seoul want’s a Championship, they have to fight up through the losers bracket and that’s going to be just as hard. Championship Chance: A Stone Short in David vs Goliath.
Season Finish: 1st, Key Players: Twilight (Support), JJANU(Tank), Seominsoo (DPS)
Norris: RUN AWAY FIGHTING! Everyone knows I’ve been high on this team since their entry into the OWL this season. I said they were championship contenders and they gave me even more than that. They are the front runners. They’ve lost a grand total of three matches all season long. But to be honest only the Shock have a legit chance at taking down these guys in a series. Twilight and Jjanu are MVP candidates and SeoMinSoo should have been an MVP candidate. The only weakness I see is Bumper’s aggression can often overextend the support line. But that usually doesn’t matter because half the opposing team is already dead. Just like the rest of the playoffs field.Championship Chance: Pending Prom Queen
Robbie: From the moment they first stepped foot on the stage, the Vancouver Titans have been living up to their name. This is the team to beat, hands down. They have few weaknesses, many strengths and they adapt to the meta as quick and efficiently as anyone else. In high pressure situations they’ve only been bested by the San Francisco Shock and the Shanghai Dragons and only one of those two teams may meet them on the stage. Any given payload could send a team home, but the Titans are the ones to bet on. The only chance any other team has, if they can completely shut down Twilight, they may see the light at the end of the tunnel. Championship Chance: Running Away with the 2019 Title.
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