The first season of Overwatch League is not over yet. The big gap between the group stage and the playoffs might be a bit too much, but there are a few exciting matches still remaining. The Overwatch League playoffs will be held at the Barclays Center, a multi-purpose indoor arena. One of the iconic locations in New York, it is a fitting venue for the playoffs of the first season of Overwatch League.
There are only six teams remaining as we head into the playoffs. These six teams have established themselves as the dominant teams after a long Group stage. Each stage saw a different meta, and more often than not a different team challenging NYXL at the top. Amongst all of these teams, only NYXL can be called truly consistent and dominant throughout the season. However, they are not undefeatable as we saw more recently. Towards the end of the Season, we saw several teams being able to take down the mighty NYXL.
We will take a look at the four quarterfinalists for the OWL Playoffs. London Spitfire, Los Angeles Gladiators, Boston Uprising and Philadelphia Fusion are the four teams in the quarterfinals. They have to play a BO3 Match series with each match comprising of Five maps. This means that each team will have to play a minimum of 6 maps with a maximum of 18 maps ( including some tied games ).
The Cloud9-owned Overwatch league franchise probably had the team with the most potential at the start of the Overwatch League. Their roster consisted of two of the strongest Korean teams at the time. They catapulted to the top with an amazing comeback in the Stage 1 Playoffs against New York Excelsior. While NYXL was leading in points, London Spitfire seemed to be the strongest team in Overwatch league at the time.
A team’s performance changes drastically depending on the meta. The London Spitfire roster did do quite well in Stage 2, however, their fall from the top was quite sudden. To add to their problems, they had to let go of several of their strongest players. Players like Rascal, Fissure, Woohyal were let go from the roster. When their coach also left the team, there was a dearth of leadership on the team. Their downfall is probably due to a combination of several factors, but London Spitfire was no longer the dominant team anymore.
Despite ‘falling from grace’, the team remained a decent mid-level team during the final two stages of Overwatch League. But is it enough for the team in the OWL Playoffs? They definitely have a very strong team against them in the quarterfinals.
London Spitfire won only 9 maps over the course of the last two stage. The Spitfire is the only team to reach the playoffs with a below .500 mark (9-11) for the second half of the season; they were 15-5 after Stage 2. This makes their potential for progress in the OWL playoffs doubtful.
London Spitfire Roster:
The management has decided to keep their core roster intact while signing off most of the other players. This should not affect the team’s performance drastically since this is the main roster for the team.
The change in the meta has definitely affected the team as is evident from their performance in the last two stages. The London Spitfire team has had a lot of time to practice and acquaint themselves with the new meta. However, the actual level of improvement will only be visible once we see them in the matches. They face off against Los Angeles Gladiators in their first match.
Los Angeles Gladiators
The Los Angeles Gladiators is a team which turned its fortunes with the correct roster changes. The introduction of Fissure into the roster turned the team from a non-competitor to a contender for the OWL Season 1. Fissure was on the bench for London Spitfire and did not receive much playtime. He took matters into his own hands, approached the Gladiators GM and charted their future. His input into determining the practice regimen, the performance of the Gladiators is key.
Quickly establishing himself as a respected leader in Los Angeles Gladiators, Fissure was able to lead the team into the OWL stage playoffs. Los Angeles Gladiators already has several talented individuals. But with Fissure, they were able to coordinate their performance as well as follow some really good calls within the round.
But as we see Fissure leading the team, the players also show renewed vigor and confidence. They are no longer the weaker Los Angeles team and can stand toe to toe with their local counterpart, the Valiants.
The Gladiators have all the pieces to become the champions
There are very few teams which can truly be competent enough to win the title, despite being in the playoffs. The Gladiators is one such team which has seen a steady improvement in performance through the duration of Season 1. The Gladiators face off against Philadelphia Fusion a team which can surprise us at times. However, this is truly a comeback story. The Gladiators were near the bottom of the table during the early part of the Season. They have climbed up to the top with grit and determination. With the likes of Surefour, Fissure, BigGoose, Asher on the team, this team is poised to reach the finals of the Playoffs.
The Boston Uprising owner, Robert Kraft was one of the first names associated with Overwatch League franchises. The initial roster picked up by the team, with the help of their ‘President of Gaming’, Huks seemed woefully inadequate. With no big names except
Gamsu, the team seemed to be full of rookie players. However, as the First stage progressed everyone was proven wrong. The coaches molded the players beautifully and we were seeing amazing results from the team. One of their primary focus in the early part of Season 1 was to perfect the ‘dive meta’.
This particular meta requires great coordination and it would also serve as a way to cement the team together. It worked wonders for the team which had a perfect 10-0 score during Stage 3. The Boston Uprising team has shown us what a group of players with minimal ego and the willingness to learn can achieve. Their players suffered a setback when Dreamkazper was removed from the roster, however, they quickly rose to the occasion and eventually qualified to the playoffs.
Boston’s chances during the playoffs, however, remain questionable. The new meta punishes teams with a ‘dive mentality’. Seeing as Dive is the staple playstyle for Boston Uprising, it will be a tough task for them to rise to the occasion. They have had the time required to practice the new meta and get themselves comfortable.
The Boston Uprising have been hit hard by the meta. With the absence of Mistake as a reliable DPS in the Brigitte meta, they have to pull up their individual performances in other aspects of the team. Coach Crusty moving to another team ( San Francisco Shock) is going to make their attempts to adapt to the new meta difficult. The Boston Uprising has always been a very tactical team
When we see Philadelphia Fusion it is made up of several stellar individual performances on part of the players. While they have focussed on building the team-play aspect of their playstyle, their success has come from amazing individual performances. Players like Fragi, Carpe, Eqo have propelled the team into a fearsome name.
The team is known for an extremely forward thinking playstyle. If we leave Fragi on his own, he will just swing his Reinhardt hammer and get an ultimate in ten seconds. Poko’s D’va ultimates were so good, that teams had to invest time and energy learning how to avoid his ultimates. As time progressed, they got better at avoiding his ultimates, but that is the time that could have been invested in other parts of their game.
Philadelphia Fusion lacks the consistency required of them especially against seasoned teams. They have great individual performances, but their playstyle is not unique anymore. Teams can understand them and play accordingly, taking advantage of the lack of coordination amongst the tanks and the DPS.
However, Fusion also has a very deep bench which will prove very advantageous to the team. This is especially true if they can advance to the next stage. Teams like London Spitfire are definitely going to suffer fatigue and exhaustion due to the lack of substitute players as well as the long schedule of matches. Philadelphia Fusion plays their first match versus Boston Uprising in the first match of Playoffs.