The second season of the Overwatch League is off to a pretty cool start, I’d say.
First time I’m going to be really delving into the Overwatch League, here, so I’m going to keep things simple and work my way up to doing some more interesting stuff as the season goes on, provided this goes over well. I don’t have the luxury of watching the games as they air because of work. So I’m still working out exactly how I want to do this and keep it timely. I want to be able to delve into the games at length, like this (actually, I’d like to be able to do so on a play-by-play level, but that’ll have to wait). But doing things this way takes time which would make recaps considerably later than the airdate of the games, themselves. So we’ll see how it goes. Call this a test. For reasons I won’t get into, right now, I probably won’t actually be doing regular recaps for the first stage. But if you guys want more of this, I’ll try to figure out a regular thing for stage 2. Either way, if you’re a fan of OWL or Overwatch, in general, enjoy!
Philadelphia Fusion v. London Spitfire
As with any sport, the Overwatch League is awash with rivalries between teams. The LA Gladiators and LA Valiant, the Seoul Dynasty and the Dallas Fuel, but one of the more surprising ones to come out of the last season was between the Philadelphia Fusion and the London Spitfire. The two teams went all the way to the Grand Finals, where the Spitfire pulled out a dominant win to become the first ever Overwatch League Champions. And the opening match of Season 2 was a grudge match between these titans. But o’ how the script was flipped.
For the sake of total transparency, the Philadelphia Fusion is my team. I love watching them play and I think they, as a team, have perhaps the most overall personality and identity in the League. Thus they’re also fun to observe outside of the context of the game, itself. The other teams certainly have great player personalities. Jjonak of the NYXL comes to mind. But they don’t quite have the same kind of net personality as a group. All this to say I was pretty bummed when they got shut out of the Grand Finals the way they did and I was nervous about this match, wondering exactly how much they’d be affected by the prospect of a rematch. Would they be psyched out? Overly hungry for the win? Turns out I needn’t have worried because they honestly played it like business as usual and we got a pretty good game out of it, regardless of whose side you rooted for.
The game was unsurprisingly close, all things considered. The Fusion took home a 2-1 victory on Ilios, first up. They struggled on the first portion – Lighthouse – where the Spitfire showed signs of that precision that won them the Grand Finals, executing really clean plays in order to punish the most minute mistakes like an attempt at a sneaky Fire Strike from the Fusion’s main tank – Sado – which got caught out, letting the Spitfire’s main tank – Gesture – get a massive Earthshatter. But the Fusion struck back on Ruins with a clean 0-100 capture. Then, despite the Spitfire bringing out an unconventional McCree Bunker comp in the GOATS (3 Tanks, 3 Supports) Meta, the Fusion rolled that point back in their favor.
The next map – Hollywood – was far closer. On the Fusion’s attack, there were certainly a lot of big plays. At one point the Spitfire threw all of their resources at the Fusion’s off-support, Boombox. But the entirety of the East-Coast team turn things into a game of Protect the President, peeling back and saving their Zenyatta from being swarmed. Despite the Fusion not being able to complete the map, they managed to somehow secure the win by keeping the Spitfire from matching their progress. A lot of this came down to some really sloppy play from the Spitfire on that final checkpoint. Had they pulled themselves together, things may have gone differently.
The third map finally went the way of the Spitfire, and it was even closer. The Spitfire rolled out on their Volskaya attack with a bizarre Quad-DPS, Solo Tank, Solo Support setup. And it worked. The Dive GOATS composition of the Fusion couldn’t really do anything. The team wasn’t able to effectively dive the Mercy because of her having so many paths to escape – a Widowmaker in the distance, a Pharah in the sky, two flankers in Tracer and Sombra, and a dive tank in Hammond. It was madness. And with so much damage, there wasn’t much to be done about it. The Fusion could have swapped to a more DPS-centric composition. But that also likely wouldn’t have been ideal as the Fusion team does have quite the same diversity to allow most of their non-DPS players to take on those DPS roles. Carpe and EQO are top tier DPS – especially Carpe – and can pretty squarely duel Birdring and Profit of the Spitfire. But who else gets put on those DPS positions in a 4-1-1 composition? Their inability to really deal with this is what cost them so much of the game. Though it later just came down to London barely capping the point in the final round.
The last game was… honestly just a parody of a game on Rialto. It was the most dominant the Fusion have looked in ages. The Spitfire were barely able to get around the first corner of the map. Rialto is a difficult map to play and a lot of teams get stuck on that first point, but they usually get at least near the first checkpoint. On the back of that defense, wherein Carpe did Carpe things and scored a massive Graviton (his second of the night, with the first being on Ilios), the Fusion played one of the breeziest offenses of the OWL careers and walked home with the 1-0 win on the map and the 3-1 win of the series, earning some revenge.
New York Excelsior v. Boston Uprising
This match was a lot closer than I think anyone expected, and for a number of reasons. For one thing, the NYXL were the top dogs throughout the majority of Season 1. They struggled towards the end, when the meta changed. But they’re one of the most well-oiled, adaptable teams in the League by a wide margin. On the other side of things, the Boston Uprising lost not one, but two of their star players – Gamsu and Striker – leading up to Season 2. The impact they had on the team during the Uprising’s long undefeated streak couldn’t be overstated. But they were also impacted heavily by the meta change at the end of Season 1. The roster that played in this game for the Uprising was almost entirely new. And while I think there’s certainly a lot of star power in the new roster, it’ll likely take time before they really settle into things and begin functioning like a team. That being said, they held their own surprisingly well, despite everything stacked they had working against them.
The first map went the way I think everyone would’ve assumed. Things came down to a convincing 2-0 victory on Nepal. Jjonak did what Jjonak does, putting people in the ground. But the execution of the team’s 3-3 composition showed a few faults that really became visible in map 2. The NYXL really shouldn’t have lost Numbani, but they just didn’t look comfortable on the 3-3 composition. They made a number of crucial mistakes. Horizon Lunar Colony was a draw, in no small part due to the same struggles.
But then came the final map of the series, Route 66. And one key change in how they decided to play really factored into their earning the 3-2 win on that map. Sombra. Now, to be fair, the NYXL are nothing if not adaptable and their ability to slowly get a read on the Uprising’s strongest player in the match – Fusions – was a large part of their victory as well. But electing to drop the D.Va from their composition in favor of a Sombra essentially won them the game by allowing them to execute that nigh flawless teamwork they’re so known for. With Meko unconventionally flexing onto the Sombra role, they executed numerous EMP engages with surgical precision to get them the map win and a 2-1 win in the series.
Seoul Dynasty v. Los Angeles Gladiators
This was one of the better games of the day, as well as another one with some fun little grudge match implications. The main tank of the Seoul Dynasty – Fissure – was previously a player on the roster of the LA Gladiators (and the London Spitfire, before that). Fissure was transferred among some behind-the-scenes issues, a large part of which likely coming from the team not being fully Korean. So with communication being a problem, it led to complications within the team. This was despite his actually elevating the Gladiators to Playoff Tier upon his joining their ranks, as they’d previously been struggling. So seeing Fissure take on his former team was always going to be a major draw.
The game featured a lot of really interesting plays, to boot. Map 1 was Ilios, where the Dynasty took a very convincing L. And it wasn’t too hard to see why. On the first point – Well – they tried running a multi-DPS composition that had them drastically out-damaging the Gladiators. But they weren’t securing any of the kills they needed to really take control of the objective. They tried to shift gears from this strategy on the second point, but it just didn’t work out.
The next two maps, though? Much cleaner. The Dynasty took King’s Row by a wide margin. But that’s no surprise, really. It’s always been one of their best maps and running an improved team lineup meant it was going to be one of their better showings. Especially on the back of the disappointment from the previous set. They finished the map handily and, despite some cheeky plays from the Gladiators on their own push – placing Surefour on Symmetra, of all things (and it was actually working for a while) – the LA team was unable to even reach the first checkpoint.
Map 3 – Horizon Lunar Colony – was a total shutout. The Dynasty kept the Gladiators from even taking first. Then all they needed was to match the opponent’s progress, which they did. It was Map 4 where things got a bit wild as Route 66 went down to the wire. Both teams completed the map on their first attacks. But the game came down to the battle of the Main Tanks as Fissure paved the way for his team to win the map 5-4, thanks to a Big-Brained under-the-cart Earthshatter that bailed his team out of a bad situation, taking a win for the series 3-1.
Shanghai Dragons v. Hangzhou Spark
“At the end of today, a China team will have take home their first win of the Overwatch League.”
The casters said something to that effect before this match started and… well… it wasn’t inaccurate. The Shanghai Dragons have had a rough OWL career. They infamously went 0-40 during the inaugural season. And between now and then, they’ve changed most of the roster up, even recruiting the Boston Uprising’s former main tank, Gamsu (though he didn’t play in this match). Here they were looking to break that losing streak. On the other side of things is the Hangzhou Spark – one of the expansion teams introduced in this season and featuring a lot of Korean Contenders players meshed into one super Franken-Team.
Well. The game… happened. Honestly, the Dragons came out looking fairly decent, overall. Far superior to their play in the previous season. But they in no way, shape, or form looked like they were a team to be worried about. Yet. Not for any team beyond, maybe, the Florida Mayhem (the other worst team in the League). They rolled out on Map 1 – Busan – with a wonky 3-2-1 composition (3 Supports, 2 DPS, 1 Tank) strategy that just didn’t get much value. This largely comes from their roster changes, however. Gamsu was traded to them just days before the beginning of the League, so they didn’t have much time to practice with him. Their other main tank, Fearless, was back in China to deal with health issues. As such, Geguri was the only tank player they played, that night, and she’s a Flex Tank, not a main tank. They did reasonably well on the first point, largely thanks to DPS player Diem finding heads with Widowmaker. But it wasn’t enough to secure a map win. Without the tank-line to back it up, Triple Support is a fairly pointless composition, especially when those supports are Lucio, Zenyatta, and Brigitte. The composition doesn’t have the sustainability or lethality to justify the lack of balance.
The Dragons looked far better on Hollywood when they rolled out. They came out with GOATS and steamrolled the unprepared Spark off of the objective in a clean push. But they got gummed up on streets pretty badly. One especially insane play saw the Spark get a quad kill from their D.Va player, Ria, comboing Self-Destruct with Graviton Surge and a cheeky boop from their Lucio player, IDK. The main problem came from the team just not having the proper coordination for the composition. They weren’t on top of their ultimates or those of the enemy team’s. And they weren’t cycling their abilities properly, so they were never really able to get the combos going for themselves. In the end, while they had a strong start, they lost the map either way, 2-1.
Map 3 – Horizon Lunar Colony – was a better showing, overall. Mind you, the Spark are projected to be in the top 5 best teams in the League, this season, by some experts. But this map let the Dragons shine at what they were individually best at. They returned to another 3-2-1 composition, but this time with three damage characters, which is likely for the best. Healing is vastly overrated in Overwatch. It’s obviously a great thing. But if the entire enemy team is bursting something down, there’s not enough healing in the world to save it, really. Both teams came out with some… unconventional first-point attacks. But the Dragons brought home the map victory by giving us all flashbacks of the Beyblade Meta. A nano-boosted Reaper let it rip on the objective and gave the Dragons a 3-2 win.
Unfortunately for the Dragons, the final map of the night was Rialto. And just about everyone will generally tell you that unless your team coordination is god tier, you are not winning that map if the enemy has a main tank player and you don’t. Kudos to the Dragons for making it work as well as they did. Unlike seemingly Easy Mode battle between the Fusion and the Spitfire, the Dragons actually managed to clear the first checkpoint… somehow. But the Spark eventually ground their momentum to a halt and matched their progress for a map win, 2-1.
The matchups were fun to watch. I was personally just happy to see the Fusion take that win against the Spitfire, but that’s me speaking as a fan. The Dynasty and Gladiators definitely played the best game of the night. And I was glad to see the Dynasty looking more comfortable after playing a very up-and-down season, last year. The NYXL looked a bit shaky and still didn’t seem too keen on the current meta. Then there are the Dragons. Let’s be honest. Everyone roots for the Dragons. Literally everyone. 0-40 is sad and everyone wants them to win at least one game. So seeing them lose here was disheartening. But they did look much better and I think once they have an actual main tank alongside them and a definitive leader, they’ll actually be a pretty frightening team in the middle of the pack. Gamsu may just be what they need.
The return of the Overwatch League means I’m going to be really distracted for the next few months. But it’s going to be a lot of fun, I think. Hopefully this new season really delivers. In the meantime, thanks for reading, as always. Keep up the Awesome.