February 21, 2018 by coachcarter717
(Courtesy of Activision Blizzard Inc.)
Written by Carter Cotrupi
Today is the day! Stage 2 starts at 7:00pm EST with a hard-hitting matchup between Seoul Dynasty and the LA Valiant. With a new map lineup and a new meta, we’re bound to see some exciting action as all 12 teams race to the top for the next playoffs.
Part 3 of the Stage 1 team notes will focus on the top 4 teams after the final playoff standings. These teams have the best chance to make the playoffs for Stage 2, but their skill level is not that far ahead of the rest of the pack.
LA Valiant: 7-3 (4th)
Strengths- Oddly enough, the LA Valiant will start out Stage 2 as the frontrunner of the OWL Pacific Division thanks to their 7-3 record and map differential above Seoul. Despite leaving their playoff hopes in the hands of the Boston Uprising at the end of Stage 1, the team proved that they have a much better foundation laid out than their LA counterparts, the Gladiators. They recently hired Coach Byung Chul “MBC” Moon as their new head coach. Moon has experience coaching current Valiant players Fate and KariV from their time as team Might AOD in the Korean Overwatch scene.
The Valiant have one of the best tank lines thanks to the combined efforts of Pan-Seung “Fate” Koo and Kang-Jae “Envy” Lee, who are equally proficient at peeling back to protect their supports as they are diving into enemy lines. Already, the Valiant have shown they can capitalize on the lethal DPS play from SoOn and that makes all the difference when they stack up against the top-tier teams.
Weaknesses- There is room for progress as with all these teams in the league. But I believe the Valiant were the most well-equipped roster to handle any of the three teams that made it into the Stage 1 playoffs. In the three losses they had (Boston, London, New York), it seemed like the team struggled against dive-heavy compositions which is what all three of those teams are best known for.
Notes- Like the Boston Uprising, the LA Valiant roster was created based on the capacity for team chemistry, leaving ego behind, and building a lineup that would foster a community appreciation for Overwatch in the city of Los Angeles. When they faced teams like Dallas or Philadelphia, it was clear that they have one of the best flexible lineups in the league. Players like Agilities can go from Pharah to Roadhog and back to Genji all within the same map. They were able to capitalize on mistakes made by the opposing team due to a more flexible attack strategy.
Outside of Saebyeolbe and Birdring, I would put SoOn as the top disruption Tracer in the league. I can’t count the number of times that SoOn has caused his opponents to panic because of how good he is at catching them off guard. He might not be the most mechanically gifted DPS player, but his playstyle of a renegade saboteur Tracer is so fun to watch. I’d like to see Silkthread step up to the plate a bit more to assist SoOn when he pops off on Tracer and Widowmaker.
Houston Outlaws 7-3 (3rd)
Strengths- One word: Jakerat. Next word: Linkzyr. The Outlaws were able to best the dive comp prodigy Uprising team in a playoff-deciding matchup through brute force and maintaining an aggressive attack through the whole series. I truly believe that Houston would have taken the last series against Seoul (lost 2-3) if the flu virus going around the league didn’t take Linzyr at such an inconvenient time. Houston has come out as a team that fears no one in OWL and that automatically separates them from the rest of the crowd.
Weaknesses- I feel like this team can get carried away when they start ramping up their already fast-paced offense. When this happens, it leaves little room for error and often their supports are left out in the open for a flanking DPS to target. I would like to see this team regroup more often, even if it’s to avoid chasing down the last one or two opponents in the aftermath of a team fight. Their anti-dive playstyle is still one of the best in the league, so let the enemy come to you once in a while guys.
Notes- “Raw talent” would be my descriptor for the Houston Outlaws. Jake, Linkzyr, Muma, everyone in the starting six has made huge contributions in their matches. They have Rawkus, who plays flex support and that opens so many options for team compositions with him in the lineup. But the one glaring flaw in their high-flying lineup is the tendency to overextend and pay the price for it.
More disciplined teams like London and New York were able to capitalize on the mistakes that the Outlaws made and oftentimes that is all it takes to turn the tides in your favor. Limit these mistakes by developing more situational strategies, and the Outlaws should be a lock for the Stage 2 playoffs. In short, Houston is defined by talent, not discipline. But that all could change in Stage 2.
New York Excelsior: 9-1 (2nd)
Strengths- New York is by far the most well-rounded team in OWL. Even though they finished just short of the Stage 1 title, the Excelsior have a roster loaded with playmakers. Pine, Libero, and Saebyeolbe is by far the most talented DPS group in the league. New York utilizes their entire roster when they play in a match and the constant rotation of players in any given round makes it hard for opposing teams to strategize against them.
Weaknesses- The human highlight reel Pine seems to be limited to certain map types and that’s why we don’t see him make more of an impact for New York. The roster consists of less flex players, opting instead for pros in specialized roles. Ark and Jjonak, the two main supports, are the only members of New York that play in every round of every match. The problem with having such limited roles for these individuals is that if they don’t perform up to par, then that leaves a glaring weakness for the opposing team to exploit.
Notes- I’m not alone in this, but I would like to see Pine used in more map types. He started to appear in more Escort maps like Dorado and Junkertown back in Week 2 and he’s proven how capable he is defending on those maps. At 9-1, the Excelsior have room to switch up the pairings across the board. Not only would this further confuse teams studying their game film, but it could highlight more options for their starting lineups depending on the matchup.
London Spitfire: 7-3 (1st)
Strengths- Winning the Stage 1 title is not a bad start to London’s season. This puts a huge target on their back, but it also makes other teams respect them that much more. Next to Boston, London runs one of the cleanest dive comps you’ve ever seen and keeping that top-tier dive attack will be more relevant than ever with no Mercy to give players a second chance during team fights. What separates London’s dive comp from Boston’s is their wider hero pool that their players can utilize. Birdring can do it all by himself, but it helps having a dedicated Genji and Junkrat star like Profit as DPS insurance. Supposedly Winston will be a top-pick for teams without Mercy to cancel his dive effectiveness and London happens to have a great Winston-main in Jae-Hui “Gesture” Hong.
Weaknesses- Their three losses to the Boston, New York, and Houston happened because those teams did not give London room to breathe. These teams weren’t afraid to bully their way through the tank frontlines and directly at the supports. London’s backline was exposed early and often, and it looked like the they hadn’t planned for their engagements to go that way. Without their supports alive during team fights, Birdring and Profit were only able to get so many picks before they were wiped out. Again, with no Mercy to resurrect teammates who may have messed up, the survivability of the support players will be top priority in every fight.
Notes- In the Stage 1 finals, London recognized their weakness in the backline and they were able to quickly adapt their playstyle to attack the enemy backline first in their engagements. A team with that level of adaptability will enjoy long-term success even if they don’t always stay at the top of the food chain. It will be interesting to see what strategies teams in Stage 2 will throw at London now that they’ve addressed their one glaring weakness.
Stage 2 is here. Get hyped!