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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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