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What to Expect Going into the Stage 3 Overwatch League Playoffs

What to Expect Going into the Stage 3 Overwatch League Playoffs

Eight teams move onto Stage 3’s Playoffs: Houston Outlaws, Vancouver Titans, Shanghai Dragons, New York Excelsior, Seoul Dynasty, San Francisco Shock, Los Angeles Valiant, and Hangzhou Spark. Read further for a brief recap on Stage 3 and what to expect moving into the playoff weekend. 

Pacific Division

Hangzhou Spark

In a surprising turn of events, recently formed team and franchise, Hangzhou Spark, joined the Overwatch League for this 2019 season and blasted their way through contenders. A rough start deterred their momentum in Stage 1 but they picked up the pace in stage 2, placing in the 7th seed and ending the Playoff stage in 3rd-4th place. After a large improvement in Stage 2, they continue to show even more promise during Stage 3 as they win nearly every match, losing only to the elite Vancouver Titans.

Their first match in the quarterfinals against the LA Valiant will likely be a fairly balanced match leaning in the Spark’s favor. At this point on Stage 3, the Valiant have honed their gameplay skill from their low points earlier this season and can make for a tough opponent. Victory against Valiant will lie in Hangzhou keeping up morale and consistency as the Valiant have shown to be a stubborn team that won’t go down without a fight.

Los Angeles Valiant

The Valiant started the season at a low but have since risen up to prove their worth in Stage 3. From Stage 1 at the bottom seed, to a mid-tier standing in Stage 2, they’ve finally reached the playoffs and have their hard work to show off. LA Valiant have a strong fan presence that has helped the team come together to push forward to the path of victory. Their resilience and ability to adapt to situations is what will make them a challenge to play against.

With a quarterfinal match against the Sparks, LA Valiant will need quick decision making to outmaneuver the opponent’s positioning and hold fast as the Hangzhou Spark have a strong season record and stats to show off their skills. Valiant’s vast improvement in the past few months will really highlight their performance here, but that may not be enough to save them in this match.

San Francisco Shock

Taking the 4th seed with a five-way tie for a 5-2 win loss ratio are the San Francisco Shocks. With more than just a good lineup, the Shocks have an extremely strong track record this season. Stage 1 they placed 2nd in the Playoffs and secured 1st place in Stage 2. Playing well under pressure, this team has a high chance of making it through quarterfinals. 

Their first match is against Seoul Dynasty, a rematch from the Dynasty’s crushing loss just weeks ago. San Francisco destroyed the Dynasty, going 4-0 and continuing their easy ride through the Overwatch League the next few weeks. This rematch should go in favor of the Shocks with the main chance of an upturn coming from Dynasty’s DPS players learning from the last match.

Seoul Dynasty

Seoul Dynasty is one of five teams that tied 5-2 for the qualifiers to the Playoff stage. Apart from the huge spike in gameplay performance this stage, the Dynasty had a mediocre level of play Stage 2 and a high level of play in Stage 1 where they played 3rd-4th in Playoff Stage. They played consistently well and won most of their matches without giving the opponent a chance to net a point on the scoreboard. The notable exception here is their match against the San Francisco Shocks, who they will now play again in the Playoff Stage. 

The San Francisco Shocks decimated Seoul Dynasty’s in their Week 2 match. The 0-4 loss came from a weaker team composition where both teams tried using the GOATS formation, with Seoul having slightly weaker teamplay, letting the Shocks pummel through defenses and sweep the match. The Dynasty are still a viable competitor for winning the Playoff Stage provided they can combat the Shock’s teamwork and avoid another mirrored GOATS match.

Shanghai Dragons

The Dragons have performed admirably throughout Stage 3 after their weak run in Stage 2. Losing only to LA Valiant and Guangzhou Charge in their 5-2 run, the Dragons have found much-needed momentum that will push them further. The strength they have lies in their transition of team comps with DDing’s superior Sombra play. Relying on DDing to break apart the common GOATS comp will be crucial to winning their next games. 

While there is a possibility that the Dragons can find victory in their first match against the ever strong Excelsiors, it is highly dependent on which team comp is countered first. Will the Shanghai’s Sombra dismantle the defenses of Excelsior’s GOATS comp or is this a move already predicted by New York with counterpicks ready? New York has the advantage in terms of the scoreboard and past record but this match can still go either way.

Vancouver Titans

Titans — is that really just the team name? The Vancouver Titans have truly become the Overwatch League’s titans, consistently beating down the competition and leaving their mark in large competitions. Taking 1st place in the Stage 1 playoffs, 2nd place in Stage 2’s playoffs, and the 2nd seat in Stage 3 Standings, this team has monumental recognition as a common victor. 

Facing the Houston Outlaws, fans are betting that there will be very little resistance as the Titans overpower the Outlaws through sheer individual skill on their roster. The Outlaws showed strength with their unique DPS team that took the Titans by surprise in their last encounter. Now that this secret is no longer a surprise, the Outlaws will need another stunt to shake the Titans off their road to success. It won’t be a clean sweep, but Vancouver will probably take this W and move on to the semifinals, potentially a match between the 2 division leaders. 

Atlantic Division

Houston Outlaws

Coming in at 7th, Houston is one of only 2 Atlantic teams to reach the Playoffs. They’re one of the remaining teams to watch out for in the quarterfinals. With impressive feats such as the 3-2 win against the San Francisco Shock and a 2-3 loss against the steamrolling Excelsior, the Outlaws have shown the teamwork needed to have a chance to beat their next opponent, the Vancouver Titans.

The first match of the playoffs will be decided on how much Houston learned from their match against Vancouver in Stage 1. Houston started strong using a DPS heavy composition with initial success, even winning the first round on Busan. But when control shifted away for a payload map, all went downhill. Ditching the DPS comp for a traditional 3-3 comp, the Outlaws were outclassed by Vancouver’s skills and the rest of the match went in favor of the Titans. While the 3-3 comp is a smarter move for a payload map, the DPS team was what won them the first rounds. The decision making for the appropriate team will be the breaking moment in this quarterfinal match and whether the Houston Outlaws will overthrow Vancouver.

New York Excelsior

New York’s team has performed consistently well each season and has shown even better results this season. Reaching the Playoff stage in all 3 stages and getting 3rd-4th place in Stage 2, the Excelsiors scores continue to grow higher. They have the top seat this stage with a 7-0 record and have never looked better. As the other team in the Atlantic Division, the East side’s hopes lie primarily on the performance of these giants.

The next match against the Shanghai Dragons will prove to be a test for the steamrolling group. Numbers don’t mean everything and a big factor in who takes this match will be the coordination and composition Excelsior takes to the game. For this team, individual skill is not a problem with the mastery of JJoNak’s Zenyatta covering for weaknesses. The challenge will be countering opponents’ team comps. Not shifting to the meta has lost the New York Excelsior games and the playoffs at the end of season 1 when they got arrogant with their enormous victory streak and sandbagged. Their lack of focus prevented them from following the meta when a double sniper composition was favorable. If New York can keep their head in the game, they will be top contenders for the finals.


Credit: Justin Amin

Esports Moment of the Year at The ESPYs

Esports Moment of the Year at The ESPYs

For the first time, esports is getting a proper award at ESPN’s ESPYs award show. While the worldwide leader in sports is no stranger to esports coverage, this expanded presence for esports at their award show promises to be a huge milestone for esports. 

The format the ESPY’s are using for this award is unique. Instead of the normal group of five candidates with one chosen as the winner, 16 esports moments will go head-to-head in a bracket-style competition. 

Fans will vote on each one as the bracket moves along in anticipation of the award show on July 10th. The 16 candidates range from moments of gender breakthrough in the NBA 2K League to dynasties cementing their reign to perennial losers finally righting the ship. 

Here is more information about each of the 16 nominees for the ESPY’s Best Esports Moment Award:

SonicFox winning Evo after switching sides

At EVO, one of the largest fighting game competitions in the world, SonicFox employed a unique strategy. After losing the first game of the Grand Finals he opted to switch sides. This is an old rule in fighting games dating back to “port priority.” Basically, the loser of a game can opt to switch sides in order to get the first player slot. At one point that switch came with fractionally better latency, but those days are long gone. 

In this case, SonicFox used the outdated rule to slow his opponent's momentum and come back from there. He ended up winning the DragonBall Fighter Z competition and further cemented himself as the best fighting game player on the planet.

Team Liquid upsets defending world champ Invictus Gaming at MSI

For years the difference between Asian teams and western teams in League of Legends was vast. Each year teams from North America and Europe would show up to Worlds, only to be smacked by the best from South Korea and China. Not anymore. In the last year, the tides have turned and western organizations are winning international matches consistently. 

Invictus Gaming is the defending World Champion (more on them later) and at the Mid-Summer’s Invitational, they were one of the favorites. North American organization Team Liquid stepped in for the massive upset, another huge step in the closing of the international gap between League of Legends teams. 

Cloud9 wins CS:GO Boston Major

Similar to Team Liquid, Cloud9 is on this list as a representation of how far North America has come. While the gap between NA and the rest of the world in CS:GO isn’t as pronounced as League of Legends, a North American team had never won a CS:GO major. 

That changed in January of 2018. Cloud9 finally climbed the hill and beat the world’s best teams in Boston to lift a major trophy. The North American crowd was obviously quite hyped making this one of the best esports moments of 2018. 

Astralis winning Katowice

Yes, the Cloud9 win was historic, but Astralis is the real team worth highlighting in CS:GO. The team was one of the most dominant dynasties in esports history, much less CS:GO. 

They won tournament after tournament and there was no doubt who the best team in the world was during their run. Now as we enter the summer of 2020, Astralis has fallen off the top spot in the CS:GO rankings but for a long time they were the undisputed kings and IEM Katowice was the peak of their run. 

Invictus League of Legends World Championship

League of Legends Worlds 2018 was a crazy tournament. Left and right teams were being upset as western organizations pulled off upset over upset. When the first two rounds of the bracket after groups ended, three of the four teams were from the west.

G2 and Cloud 9 were in unfamiliar territory while Fnatic was back in the semis for the first time since Season One before the game really took off in Asia. 

The only team standing in the way of the first western champion was Invictus Gaming, a dark horse team from China going into the tournament. The semi-finals had the western fairytale stop. Invictus incinerated G2 and Fnatic, sweeping both teams in route to the organization’s first World Championship. 

Spitfire win inaugural Overwatch League championship

The Overwatch League was an esports experiment. They broke off from the established organizations and had teams compete under new logos and names. London Spitfire is the representatives for the Cloud9 organization and they rock the signature baby blue color on their jerseys. 

The first season of the OWL had its share of ups and downs, but the grand finals were a true spectacle. Blizzard sold out the Barclays arena in New York for the event and even had DJ Khaled perform an ill-advised concert before the match. 

Cringy concerts notwithstanding, the OWL’s first year marked an important moment in esports and it culminated with the Spitfire’s win over the Philadelphia Fusion at Barclays. 

Team OG wins the International and $11 million from qualifiers

Before Fortnite became a thing, The International stood alone as the highest prize pool in esports, and it wasn’t close. TI 2018 featured over 25 million in prizes with the power to turn Dota 2 players into millionaires. 

OG was special because they weren’t invited to the event, they had to qualify. By winning an open they received one spot in the massive tournament, but no one really expected them to win the thing. 

OG came to play and the team left $11 million richer once the month-long competition finally wrapped up. 

Shanghai Dragons end 42-game losing streak

Most of the nominees on this list are winners, but the Shanghai Dragons are anything but. The Overwatch Leagues least successful team managed to go through the entirety of Season One without winning a single match. 

Sports historians began comparing their run of ineptitude to traditional sports teams and the losing streak passed all the worst milestones in the traditional sports world as well. That’s why, once the Dragons finally won a game midway through the second season, the esports world gave them a standing ovation. 

If they win this award it will be more of a slap in the face than an accomplishment and it’s honestly funny they were even nominated for it, but history is history I suppose. 

Serral winning StarCraft at BlizzCon

BlizzCon was once the grandest stage for all Blizzard titles. While Blizzard games like Overwatch and Hearthstone have now branched into unique world championships, StarCraft II’s most prestigious tournament still resides in LA. 

In 2018 the winner was Serral, the Finnish player capped off an incredible year that saw him dominate most matches before finishing with the title at the end of the year. It was the result most predicted and Serral didn’t disappoint.

Chiquita Evans becoming the first woman in the 2K League

One of the best things about esports is the level playing field between genders. While most leagues are still male-dominated, the majority have at least a couple of women competing at the highest level. In the NBA 2K League, that gender barrier was broken by Chiquita Evans. 

Selected 56th overall by the Golden State Warriors in the Season Two draft, Evans has quickly become a fan favorite in the league. Her winning personality and skill on the court have made her a phenomenal ambassador for equal gender representation in the league. 

oLarry’s return to the NBA 2K League after the Jacksonville shooting

 When a deranged Madden player shot up a Jacksonville Madden competition, the esports world bowed its head. Two young Madden players lost their lives that day and video from the competition will scar all who watch it. 

Many more people were injured including Bucks Gaming’s oLarry. He was shot three times. His thumb was detached from his hand requiring multiple surgeries to fix. He didn’t know if he would ever compete professionally again and he still doesn’t have perfect motion in his hand. 

But when the Season Two draft rolled around, oLarry had his name called by Timberwolves Gaming. Now he’s back on the court and competing in the NBA 2K league again while continuing physical therapy on his injured hand. 

Leffen finally winning EVO in what could be Melee’s last year at the event

Super Smash Bros esports have had a rocky road. The scene existed and flourished in spite of Nintendo going out if its way to place roadblocks. Still, the scene persevered and third-party tournaments like EVO were crucial for it to succeed. 

Thanks to years of lackluster Super Smash Bros titles, the Gamecube’s Melee still reigned supreme as the game of choice for most tournaments. But Nintendo finally made a great successor in Super Smash Bros Ultimate and the Melee era seems to finally be winding down after 18 years. 

Leffen is one of the most well-known Melee players. He gained the nickname the “God-killer” for his success against the five “gods” of Smash. While Mango, Armada, HungryBox, Mew2King, and PPMD dominated Melee competitions, Leffen was the wild card who was capable of taking series off of the five. 

While other players won at times, it was Leffen who emerged as the best among the challengers. But he had never won EVO, the most prestigious fighting game tournament belonged to the gods, which made Leffen’s win at EVO 2019 so special and a fitting send-off for arguably the greatest fighting game esport of all time. 

Ninja Fortnite win with Marshmello at E3 ProAM

This win was the coming out party for competitive Fortnite. For the first time, Epic Games held a Fortnite tournament and they paired top streamers with notable celebrities. 

The event had plenty of hiccups as Epic experimented with broadcasting the unique battle royale format but in the end, the duo everyone expected ended up winning. At this time, Ninja was considered the best Fortnite player in the world. He’s not anymore, or even very close, but during this event last summer it was the era of Ninja. 

This event remains his only significant win in competitive Fortnite and the pro-am was a crazy kick-off to the tumultuous year of Fortnite esports. 

Chritobin Madden Challenge walk off

Madden esports is a mixed bag. The Madden club Championship now has support from all 32 NFL teams but viewership for the league has been rocky, much like other sports simulation games.

Still, the storylines are as good as any esport. The 2018 Madden Club championship saw Chritobin, an unknown qualifier connect for the walk-off touchdown in overtime. 



G2 wins R6 world championship

Rainbow Six esports are gaining a lot of momentum. Much like Rocket League, the R6 esports scene has been slowly growing since a 2015 release and the unique nature of the game makes it stand out in the crowded FPS genre. 

The season took them to major cities around the world and culminated with a G2 win at the World Championship. That was without a doubt the biggest moment of R6 esports so far as the game looks to break into the top flight of esports.

Morgausse winning Fortnite’s Summer Skirmish from out of nowhere

After the E3 Pro-Am, the next major Fortnite esports event was the Summer Skirmish. No longer weighted towards celebrities and streamers, it was time for the best players in the world to shine. 

This was the period where many of the top players in the game today had their coming out party. One of those players was Morgausse, who became the first player to take home a massive prize for the Summer Skirmish. 

Since that point, many more players have become rich from Fortnite but Morgausse was the first young Fortnite player to shine on the biggest stage. 

Credit: Mitch Reames

Who said GIRLS can't be Gamers? Here are our Top 5 Female Esports Competitors

Who said GIRLS can't be Gamers? Here are our Top 5 Female Esports Competitors

One of the beautiful things about esports is that competitive video games are a fair and level playing field, regardless of gender. Even though the majority of esports competitors at the highest level are male, there are some women who are so good that they are competing in the top leagues of their respective games.

Here are five women who have proven themselves as elite competitors:

#5. Jamie “Karma” Bickford

Karma is a Rocket League player who currently completes for Splyce. She has been playing Rocket League competitive since 2016 and joined Splyce in June of 2017. Because Splyce was a new organization to Rocket League, they needed to work their way up through the ranks up to the Rocket League Championship Series – or RLCS - through the Rocket League Rival Series better known as RLRS. After each season the top two finishers in the RLRS play against the bottom two finishers in the RLCS to try to move up to the top league.

In Season 5, Karma and Splyce finished 6th in the RLRS and didn’t have a chance to rank up, but in Season 6, which just wrapped up last fall, they dominated the competition throughout the season and in the promotion playoffs to secure a spot in RLCS Season 7. The new season begins on April 6th and Karma will be the first woman to compete for an RLCS team when that season begins.

4. Jin-u “Bai-Za” Wang

Bai-Za is a Chinese Hearthstone player who is one of the top players in the world. Hearthstone is a digital card game from Blizzard, and like all card games it comes with some random elements. Still, there are a group of players who have proven that they can navigate that randomness better than anyone else, and Bai-Za is one of those players.

She rose to the world Stage in 2017 when she qualified for the Hearthstone Championship Tour (HCT) Summer Championship. She experienced an unlucky draw and was matched up against Pavel, the defending world champion – and the player with the all-time highest competitive winrate. She nearly pulled the upset winning two of the first three games in the best of five series. Unfortunately the cards weren’t in her favor the last two games and Pavel took the series 3-2. Regardless, a nail-biting series against the best player in the world is nothing to be ashamed of.

#3 Ricki Ortiz

Also known as HelloKittyRicki, Ortiz is one of the pioneers in the Fighting Game Community. Her first recorded competitive result is in 2003 when she finished second in the Evolution Championship Series.

HelloKittyRicki's career has been amazingly successful and she has been a top player in Street Fighter and Marvel vs. Capcom titles. Competing for Evil Geniuses, the esports organization that signed her way back in 2010, Ortiz dominated the 2016 Capcom Cup to reach the finals. There she was matched up against fighting game legend NuckleDu. The entire bracket at the Capcom Cup was stacked and she had to defeat plenty of amazing players to reach that point, but NuckleDu proved to be too much as he won the final series 3-1.

Ortiz still took home a payday of $60,000 and she is widely respected as one of the best Fighting Game players on the planet. Unfortunately though she never took home a major first-place win, despite a ton of runner-up finishes.

#2 Katherine “Mystik” Gunn

Mystik’s path to being a successful gamer was different from most people on this list. Back in 2010, esports weren’t to the level they are today, and there weren’t nearly the same opportunities for people to become professional gamers. Mystik isn’t technically an esports player per se, but she was still one of the first women to take home a major gaming title.

Mystik won season two of the WCG Ultimate Gamer, a reality show that combined gaming and physical tasks. The show ran two seasons in 2009 and 2010, and Mystik was the winner of the $100,000 prize for the second season. At the time, the $100,000 prize was one of the highest ever awarded to a single gaming competitor. In the show, which is available on Amazon Prime, gamers had to compete in games across a bunch of different genres. The final series came down to three games: Rock Band, BlazBlu (an arcade style fighting game), and Halo: Reach.

During the WCG Ultimate Gamer season 2 finals, Mystik lost in Rock Band but won BlazBlu 5-0. The final came down to the game Halo: Reach, where the first player to 15 kills would win the championship. She dominated, destroying her opponent so bad that if they were playing in a house he probably would have unplugged the console.

Here’s a clip from the end of the game where she hits a beautiful snipe for her 14th kill:

#1 Se-yeon “Geguri” Kim

Geguri is a 19-year-old Tank and off-tank player who formerly played for the Shanghai Dragons in the professional Overwatch League. While this list wasn’t necessarily a ranking by skill, Geguri is recognized for her FPS prowess in Overwatch and is the only player on this list to compete in such a prominent esports league.

The Overwatch League has entered its second season and slots for expansion teams reportedly cost as much as $40 million. They have franchises all over the globe and Geguri competes for one of the four Chinese teams named the Shanghai Dragons. This team set records in the first season of Overwatch League, but unfortunately they were not the good kind of records. Somehow the team turned in a winless 0 - 40 season, which is a record never before seen in professional sports or esports!

Of coures, that 0 - 40 season 1 record for the Shanghai Dragons wasn’t Geguri’s fault, and she joined the team well into that season, when they had already lost their first twenty games. Having just finished the first round of their second season, the Shanghai Dragons have improved quite a bit as they finished a respectable 3 wins and 4 losses. They are currently ranked thirteenth out of twenty and their next matches are scheduled for early April 2019.

Geguri’s start in competitive Overwatch began with controversy. In a situation all-too-familiar to female gamers, men in the Overwatch scene didn’t believe that she could so good without cheating. At the time, she had the highest winrate with Zarya (her main character) and an absurd kill to death ratio (K/D).

To prove her results were legit, she played multiple matches in a controlled setting with a camera recording her movements with the mouse. Geguri’s accusers said they would quit playing Overwatch if she proved them wrong. In fact, two unnamed players did actually quit the game when Blizzard confirmed that Geguri wasn’t cheating or hacking.

That wraps up this list of some of the most prominent and well-known female gamers in the competitive scene. Everyone on this list has been a pioneer in their own way as women in a largely male-dominated pro gaming arena. With esports hitting the mainstream and more girls playing games than ever before, we will see what new girl gamers and champions rise to the challenge in the future esports scene!