April 3, 2018 by coachcarter717
The LA Gladiators are on track to break into the playoff picture thanks to new additions and growing chemistry (Courtesy of Blizzard Entertainment, Inc.)
Written by Carter Cotrupi
In Part 2 of my “Stage 2 Team Notes” series, we analyze the four mid-tier teams in the standings. Houston fell far from grace since making the playoffs in Stage 1. The LA twins decided to swap their rankings for Stage 2. And the Boston Uprising remain consistent while narrowly holding onto the last spot in the overall playoff standings.
- Los Angeles Valiant
(Courtesy of the LA Valiant on Twitter)
What do we have here? A changing of the guard so soon in the city of angels? Indeed, the LA Valiant dropped the lowest out of any team from their Stage 1 finish. The Valiant struggled to find a foothold in the Stage 2 standings, drawing a map against Shanghai and losing 3-1 against the Florida Mayhem. The LA Gladiators hoarded whatever secret source of swagger is in the water on the West Coast as the Valiant looked lost even on the maps they won.
There is nothing to criticize about SoOn, as he continues to rank as one of the top Tracer players in the league, but he was not helped at all by the likes of Silkthread or Kariv in LA’s strange attempt at an off-meta playstyle. Kariv, who normally plays as a support for the Valiant was seen playing Widowmaker more times than was necessary, although he did show some impressive skill for such a sudden role change.
One thing the Valiant still has a firm grasp on is the pulse of the Overwatch League community. Whether its interacting with fans in-person or on social media, LA knows how to gain favor from the otherwise neutral spectators of this esport. Team performance might wax and wane but keeping a tight-knit community to build your fanbase around is one of the key factors to maintaining a successful franchise in any sports league.
The Valiant could benefit from shaking up their roster with one or two new additions to the team, if only to provide incentive for the current starters to compete in the hopes of holding their place in the lineup. Outside of that, LA needs to learn from its counterpart Gladiators and how they have dramatically shifted from being below average to a true playoff contender.
Recent rumors spread around the community concerning trade talks between the LA Valiant and the Dallas Fuel. It was reported that LA was looking to shop SoOn and Unkoe as they looked to rebuild their roster. Those reports were soon confirmed as it was announced that the Valiant acquired Scott “Custa” Kennedy from the Dallas Fuel in exchange for Benjamin “Unkoe” Chevasson. Admittedly, I think LA got the better end of the deal as Custa showed much improvement playing on the starting lineup for Dallas in Stage 2.
The LA Valiant also bought out the player contract for Jun-hyeok “Bunny” Chae from the Seoul Dynasty. This acquisition is one that I’m not so sure about. There is no reason to doubt SoOn’s ability to carry in his main Tracer role, which is the spot that Bunny filled in for Seoul most of the time. On Seoul’s end, the move makes sense as Munchkin was the clear favorite to support Fleta on the DPS line throughout Stage 2.
LA’s transactions will be covered in more detail in a later article, so be on the lookout for that!
- Houston Outlaws
(Courtesy of the Houston Outlaws on Twitter)
The fall of the Houston Outlaws was a shocking development as Stage 2 progressed. The roster has not devolved or lost any of its swagger. The Outlaws simply did not play with that level of intimidation that helped them capitalize on mistakes made by their weaker opponents. Their exposed anti-dive strategy could be a contributing factor as to why they seemed lost against stronger opponents in their Stage 2 schedule.
One of the main criticisms that analysts have about the Outlaws lineup is the lack of a definite Tracer player. While their anti-dive formation was famous for dismantling dive-heavy teams like Boston and London, it was more one-dimensional this time around in Stage 2. Houston appears to have a desperate need for someone who can play Tracer at a competitive level. The team tried its best to form its own version of a dive comp, alternating Jake, Linkzyr, and Clockwork to fill in that pivotal Tracer role. However, none of those players inspired much confidence when battling other Tracer mains around the league and taking Linkzyr out of his normal Widowmaker/McCree sniper role would never work long-term.
This is where the Danteh trade theory comes into effect, as described in the last Team Notes article. Danteh has proven he can be a major distraction for teams facing the Shock. His Tracer commands attention and he can create huge plays if left unattended. Having a Tracer that can disrupt enemy formations and prevent them from diving Linkzyr and the Houston supports in the backline would prove invaluable to the Outlaws driving to the Stage 3 playoffs.
I would like to highlight Muma in particular. It would be an injustice to comment on his “improved” tank play, for he has always been one of the best Reinhardt/Winston players around. He looked more comfortable after a full stage of experience playing alongside his teammates and that translated into what we saw as a more aggressive and confident Outlaws main tank.
- Boston Uprising
What we saw in the Stage 2 Boston Uprising team was less of a Celtics/Bruins “young upstarts” identity and more of the classic Belichick-ian “Run the same thing despite how the fans feel” playstyle. This approach of course was characterized by Boston’s resilience to move from their dive comp strategy that they were famous for in Stage 1.
Thanks to some creative freedom and utilizing Mistakes as a fresh face for opposing teams to worry about, Boston finished Stage 2 at 6-4. But the end result was not what Uprising fans experienced early on in this stage.
The Uprising lost their first three matches of Stage 2 without taking a single map from Philadelphia, New York, or Houston. The games played out as if Boston handed their dive comp playbook to each team beforehand and then never changed anything in their execution. This was a team that either swept or got swept by every team they faced and that was perhaps the most frustrating part of being a Boston fan this stage.
Boston would play dream-killers for the LA Gladiators, who needed to sweep Boston 4-0 to sneak past Philadelphia and earn that 3rd playoff spot. But the Uprising would end their hopes with a 3-2 win to end Stage 2.
It doesn’t look like Boston will move away from their patented dive comp as we reach the second half of the OWL inaugural season. With so many matches dedicated to perfecting their dive strategy, the team might as well solidify themselves as the best dive team in the league. I can see them fully committing to mastering every possible point of attack as they work through the full map pool. Stage 3 Uprising will hopefully continue to experiment with integrating more of their roster into map-specific roles, such as giving Dreamkazper a break and letting Mistakes flash his Sombra/Genji skills.
If you aren’t convinced that Boston runs one of the cleanest dive comps in the league, watch the breakdown of their overtime win on King’s Row below.
- Los Angeles Gladiators
Bischu and BigGoose take a break from playing Bubble Soccer against members of the equally excitable Florida Mayhem (Courtesy of the LA Gladiators on Twitter)
Who could have guessed that trading for Fissure from the London Spitfire would be the one move necessary to make LA true playoff contenders. As much as I hate seeing the bromance of iRemiix and Bischu broken up, there’s no mistaking that Fissure is one dominant main tank player. His Winston play alone can change the tide of a game within an instant. Watching him lead the Gladiators’ tank line makes you wonder how London kept him on the bench for so long. But its clear that Fissure belongs front and center in a starting role.
In an in-depth interview with the folks over at Blitz Esports, Fissure highlighted the change in his team’s mentality upon his arrival. He notes how everyone recognizes his S-tier level play as a main tank and his teammates now work to elevate to his playstyle, creating a friendly air of competition during every match.
What Fissure’s pressure as a main tank does for guys like SureFour and Asher is open more space to make smart plays. One of the dive composition’s most important plays is having the Winston and Tracer players work in-tandem to quickly burst down high-value targets then use their mobility to pull back to safety. iRemiix may have the better synergy with Bischu, but he was not a credible threat that opposing teams had to worry about. Fissure is a player that teams must plan against, lest they find themselves with a primal rage slap across the face.
As Stage 2 drew to a close, the LA Gladiators added to what I would consider to be the best group of tank players out of any OWL team by signing Jun-woo “Void” Kang. Kang is Fissure’s former teammate from their days playing for KongDoo Panthera in Overwatch APEX. He is best known for his exceptional Zarya and D.Va play.
The one problem I have with this signing is that it could spell the end of the original Gladiators tank line bromance of Bischu and iRemiix. If LA chooses to start Void alongside Fissure from now on, what they would essentially be doing is just replacing one long-standing tank duo (Bischu and iRemiix) for another pair. We’ll have when and how LA decides to throw Void into the mix.
Like the Florida Mayhem have done in their Stage 2 transformation, I think the Gladiators just need to work on executing their game plans more efficiently. They’re playing a lot better than their 8th place spot (10-10) in the overall standings would have you believe. Obviously, they have the talent to be contenders in this league and continuing to play with Fissure in the lineup will help shorten that gap. LA is on the right track towards being that wildcard team that playoff contenders need to worry about.