February 15, 2018 by coachcarter717
Written by Carter Cotrupi
Wow. Just wow.
OWL ended Stage 1 with an intense series of matches. Each one carried that big-game feel and the crowd at the Blizzard Arena was electric! With all three Stage 1 playoff spots still up for grabs, teams had to pull out the big guns for a shot at the title.
Game 1: New York Excelsior (3-2) London Spitfire
The day started off with a clash of the titans between New York Excelsior and the London Spitfire. Unsurprisingly, this intense matchup went to the tiebreaker Map 5 where New York outmaneuvered and outwitted London’s dominant tank line to go 2-0 in the best-of-three Lijiang capture maps. This locked in the #1 seed for New York with a 9-1 Stage 1 record.
Game 2: Houston Outlaws (3-2) Boston Uprising
The next match between Houston Outlaws and the Boston Uprising was a culmination of three different playoff scenarios depending on the outcome. Because of the map differential (number of individuals maps won throughout Stage 1), Boston would have to beat Houston by two maps or else the LA Valiant would steal their spot in the playoffs. All Houston had to do was beat Boston and they would move onto the final three. In another close matchup that went to the tiebreaker Map 5, Houston silenced the doubters and cracked the code for Boston’s near-impervious dive comp to pick up the W.
Game 3: Florida Mayhem (2-3) Philadelphia Fusion
The last regular season match of Stage 1 was the struggling Florida Mayhem up against the directionless Philadelphia Fusion. Even with no chance at making the Stage 1 playoffs, the Florida Mayhem would not back down from the Philadelphia Fusion. They traded maps back and forth until the Fusion finally capped off their mid-card Stage 1 performance with a 3-2 win over Florida.
The stage was set for London vs Houston to decide who would go on to face New York for the Stage 1 title.
Stage 1 Semifinals: London Spitfire (3-1) Houston Outlaws
Houston started off strong on Dorado, the map that London has struggled with throughout Stage 1, including earlier in their loss to New York. Thanks to some phenomenal Roadhog plays from Rawkus and the lethal precision of Linkzyr, the Outlaws were able to hold London to just 1 point on their attack. That ground was easy enough to cover when it was Houston’s turn to attack.
However, London would quickly adjust and turn the tide back in their favor on Illios. Thanks to Profit’s Tracer and Birdring’s McCree, London would zone out the Outlaws away from the capture point and corral them for easy eliminations.
On Temple of Anubis (2 CP), Profit surprised Houston by picking up the dual shotgun-slinging Reaper to tear through the defending tanks on the second point and the rest was history. On Houston’s attack, Jake would be forced to play Tracer, one of his weakest DPS heroes while Linkzyr failed to out-snipe Birdring’s superb Widowmaker. The Outlaws would not even capture the first point as London kept them at bay until the clock hit zero.
Birdring did his part in shutting down Houston’s aggressive attack
(Courtesy of Blizzard Inc.)
London had a tall order with Map 4 being Eichenwalde: the map that Houston was undefeated on. The Spitfire picked up on the mistakes the Uprising made in their dive attack earlier and held further back, minimizing the effectiveness of Houston’s superior anti-dive playstyle. Birdring dropped back to guard London’s supports in the backline, which allowed them to punish Houston for attacking too aggressively. They sandwiched any attackers who got too close to Nus or Bdosin and toppled Houston after a tough fight.
Profit’s amazing Junkrat performance against Houston would foreshadow things to come… (Courtesy of Blizzard Inc.)
Just like that, the last day of Stage 1 was bookended by New York and London once more.
Stage 1 Finals: London Spitfire (3-2) New York Excelsior
There were many great matchups that the OWL casters deemed worthy of “Best match of Stage 1”. But none of them would hold up to the second match of the doubleheader between London and New York.
The first map of the match (Junkertown) started out well for London. The clock ticked down to overtime on London’s attack, but they were able to sneak the payload in to secure the 3rd point at the very last second. New York had a much easier time securing all 3 points with the payload. They gave themselves plenty of time left in the timebank to overtake the minimal progress on London’s last attack. Just like earlier in the day, the Spitfire looked like they were just a small step behind every move that the NYXL setup in their strategy.
New York overwhelmed the London Spitfire on Junkertown thanks largely in part to Pine’s incredible Widowmaker play and Jjonak’s unstoppable Zenyatta. Keep in mind, this was London’s tenth match of the day, having gone through their last regular season matchup with NYXL and the semi-final bout against Houston.
The second map (Oasis) was London’s to lose. In two rounds, the Spitfire had the capture percentage stuck at 99% and in both situations, they played it too safe, backing off the point, letting New York take it over and never give it up. The Spitfire would have won round 2 if it weren’t for Saebyeolbe’s insane last-second heroics on Tracer. He was able to stall on the point for almost half a minute and cleaned up the last four Spitfire players there to seal the victory.
Map 3: Horizon Lunar Colony. The 0-2 start in the best-of-five series meant that every map was a must-win for London. The Excelsior looked comfortable on defense to start. They strayed away from the defensive strategy we’ve seen most of the OWL teams utilize. Most teams set up on the high ground in front of Point A to rain destruction on the attacking team below. Instead, NYXL spread out their defense to the back of Point A, making London’s offense bring the fight to them. This unusual positioning eventually backfired on NYXL and London used the momentum from capturing Point A to bully their way quickly onto Point B. They boxed out the New York defenders that were trickling out one-by-one and captured B with plenty of time in the timebank. They stopped New York from capturing Point A after a 2-2 draw and the rest was history.
The fourth map, Numbani, showed us why its so important to have solid depth on any professional team. DPS flex player Rascal subbing in for Spitfire MVP Profit had everyone scratching their heads. Why would you take out one of your top two players with the Stage 1 title on the line? But the London Spitfire knew what they were doing, and it would be the DPS sub and his clutch offense plays on Soldier 76 that would help kick the final series into Game 5.
Map 5. Dorado. Man, this one was a nail-biter.
Profit would sub back in to bring London’s core-six together for Dorado: the final map of Stage 1. The only loss that NYXL had on Dorado in all of Stage 1 was to the Spitfire earlier that day. London would need to reignite that magic if they wanted to complete the reverse sweep. Left unchecked for the most part, Birdring on the Widowmaker would lead the charge for London’s attack until NYXL simply outflanked them. Failing to capture the third point with the payload, the Spitfire needed to reach deep into their bag of tricks.
In came Profit and his “$100,000 rip-tire”. Emulating “Jakerat”, Profit would make the most clutch play of Stage 1 thanks to a game-saving rip-tire to take out New York’s Mercy in overtime. Without their main healer, New York was picked off one-by-one as the clock hit zero, leaving the Spitfire standing victorious on the payload, $100,000 richer.
The reverse sweep. 14 games in one day. Stage 1 Champions. Congratulations to the London Spitfire!