August 22, 2018 by coachcarter717
**Cover image and all other images in this article are courtesy of Blizzard Inc./PlayOverwatch on Twitch**
By Carter Cotrupi
The Overwatch League inaugural season has come and gone, but the action is far from over for the best players in the world. That’s right! The Overwatch World Cup 2018 is here and esports fans have the chance to watch some of the most interesting and inspiring Overwatch teams from across the globe.
Just like the years prior, 24 countries have qualified to compete in the Overwatch World Cup 2018 tournament. These countries had the best average SR across the board, with the fan vote determining the four host cities for the Group Stages: Incheon, South Korea, Los Angles, CA, Paris, and Bangkok, Thailand. Most of the teams within the 24 countries are highlighted by familiar faces from the Overwatch League, while some are relative unknowns looking to make a mark on the biggest Overwatch stage of them all.
Before we dive into what has already happened so far in the World Cup, let’s break down some key differences in how matches are structured in this international tournament. If you’re completely new to watching Overwatch as an esport, check out my beginner’s guide to watching Overwatch here!
With the exception of it’s general match structure, watching the Overwatch World Cup should come easy to seasoned Overwatch League fans.
General World Cup Rules:
- Round-robin tournament– To start off, the 24 total qualifying teams in the tournament have been divided into groups of six with a different city hosting each Group Stage. All six teams will play the other five in their group in a round-robin style structure with the top two teams from each group stage advancing to the quarterfinals.
- Loser picks the next map– One mechanic that will throw off Overwatch League viewers is how the map pool is picked for each matchup. The first map is chosen at random within a specific map type (Assault, Escort, Capture, etc.), but the rest of the three (or four) maps are chosen by whichever team lost the previous round. With the entire map pool available to the teams, this mechanic can be very telling as to which maps a team has the most experience with.
- Only one sub is available per roster– Unlike the OWL and Overwatch Contenders teams, each team in the World Cup is allowed just one roster spot for their substitution. This means that each roster is limited to seven players and there is little room for mistakes when choosing the best of the best in each country.
Studio Paradise in Incheon, South Korea
The first group stage to kick off the Overwatch World Cup was hosted in Incheon, South Korea. This group contained a few teams that most experts could see making it all the way to the championship round. South Korea is the heavy favorite to win it all, as they have done the past two World Cups in a row. Finland is comprised of many OWL fan favorites like Taimou, zappis, and Linkzyr. Russia has one of the most underrated DPS duos in ShadowBurn and Mistakes. Besides those three fierce competitors, the rest of the Incheon group contained underdogs to the three superpowers like Japan, Hong Kong, and Chinese Taipei.
Below are the full rosters of the Incheon Group along with their SR ranking amongst the non-host 20 qualifying Overwatch World Cup countries.
South Korea (Host- 4479 SR)
Finland (5th-4257 SR)
Russia (8th- 4219 SR)
Japan (10th- 4156 SR)
Hong Kong (15th- 4052 SR)
Chinese Taipei (18th- 4018 SR)
It should come as no surprise to anyone that South Korea was the first to punch their ticket to the next round of the tournament. The battle for the remaining spot came to Finland and Russia, with Finland proving that they had the more developed roster this time around, snagging 2nd place in Incheon. Although the remaining three teams were no match for the top 3 performers, there were standout performances from each squad that are worth noting for future player development.
Incheon Group Final Standings
GR- Game Ratio, MR- Map Ratio
Match of the Week: Finland vs South Korea
For the Overwatch World Cup 2018, let us callback a familiar segment over from the “Two Minute Warning” fantasy football series, Match of the Week.
The match of the week for Week 1 of the Group Stages is Finland going the distance and pushing South Korea to their limits on Day 1.
Finland (2-3) South Korea
Team Finland and Team South Korea boast rosters with great potential for making a long run in the Overwatch World Cup tournament. Team South Korea was picked as the frontrunner to win the tournament thanks to its stacked roster, comprised of some of the best players in the Overwatch League, including the OWL Season 1 MVP, JJonak.
On the other side of the board, Team Finland has fan favorite Taimou flexing his wide range of skills in the DPS role alongside Linkzyr, who was widely regarded as one of the most underrated snipers in the OWL.
Map 1: Lijiang Tower (Control) The first map of the day was Lijiang Tower. As expected, Carpe had himself a night making plays on Widowmaker. Coming out of the gate, South Korea flexed the strength of their dominant roster as Finland struggled to keep up with the damage output crushing them on the point. The hope in Finland’s quad-tank comp was having more survivability with larger health bars per target. However, South Korea stuck with the basic 2-2-2 formation to remind everyone why it has dominated the meta for so long. Libero bombarded Finland’s tanks with rockets and Carpe combined with Fate’s Wrecking Ball pile-driver ability for some support skeet-shooting. Lijiang: Night Market was captured by South Korea with ease.
At Lijiang: Control Center, Finland found a lot more success with just a slight tweak in their team comp. Linkzyr stayed on Zarya to support Fragi’s Reinhardt and zappis’ D.VA, but Taimou would give even more healing output by switching to Brigitte in this second round. Things were looking great for Finland as they captured the point first and were able to keep South Korea at bay all the way to 99% capture progress. Unfortunately, Finland would drop the point due to one big push where South Korea threw most of their ultimate abilities at them. And Finland would not get another chance to finish that 1%. 0-1 South Korea.
Map 2: King’s Row (Hybrid) The next map of the match was King’s Row. Right off the bat, Finland cleared point A on attack utilizing a 3-3 tank/support comp to force South Korea off of the high ground and into a massive melee brawl, where Fragi’s Reinhardt and Big Goose’s Lucio led the charge. Finland unlocked the payload with an impressive 5:30 left in the time bank to work with.
The payload steadily navigated through the narrow alleyways as Finland fought off South Korea’s array of new heroes thrown into the mix, like Carpe’s Doomfist and Fate’s Wrecking Ball. As the payload drew closer to point B, Finland started feeling the effects of South Korea’s advantageous spawn point, but they powered through with just over 4 minutes left on the final stretch.
Once inside the factory, Linkzyr’s Zarya really started to shine, lobbing lethal energy barrages to disrupt Carpe’s Widowmaker. Unfortunately, South Korea would halt the early-game momentum of Finland’s push and force some hero swaps for the next attack. Finland came back into the mix, now with only 2 minutes left, sporting a normal 2-2-2 DPS/tank/support comp. Linkzyr switched to Hanzo, Taimou moved to Widowmaker, and BigGoose on Mercy to pocket Fragi’s Winston.
Thanks to JJonak’s heroic transcendence ults, South Korea held the defensive advantage to ward off Finland from completing the final point.
South Korea’s attack was led by Libero’s tactical Genji play, poking and prodding Finland’s unique Zarya/Reinhardt defense until the rest of the attacking team was able to come in for the clean sweep. Carpe (Hanzo) and Libero would continue to roll forward until Finland retaliated, as Linkzyr flexed onto the Brigitte, leaving Taimou the solo DPS hero with some excellent Widowmaker plays. South Korea would finish escorting the payload to Point B, but not before overtime started to tick.
Riding behind the aggressive tank line of zappis’ D.VA and Fragi’s Winston, Finland boxed out South Korea from making it halfway down the final stretch and tying up the series.
Map 3: Temple of Anubis (Assault) After halftime, both teams met on Temple of Anubis with South Korea starting on attack. Oddly enough, Finland chose to run a basic dive comp on their initial defense. However, South Korea showed why they’re one of the best dive teams in the tournament, opting for a slow, methodical push against Finland’s squishy targets.
Carpe would flex onto McCree to help run a faster push onto Point B and it looked like Finland were simply not ready for the sudden change in tempo. Meko on D.VA and Libero on Genji worked to fend off Finland’s desperate defensive swaps to more close combat heroes, but it was too late. South Korea finished their assault attack with 5:35 left in the bank.
Finland would run the same dive comp, but would meet a more map-standard defense unit from South Korea. Libero would bombard the attacking team on Junkrat and Fate would hide his supports behind the Orisa shield on the high ground, leaving Carpe plenty of room in the backline to set up some highlight snipes. Unable to crack the stout South Korea defense, Finland’s attack stopped dead in its tracks. Easy win for South Korea on Anubis. 1-2 South Korea.
Map 4: Rialto (Escort) For Map 4, Finland chose Rialto, hoping to take advantage of the many cramped chokepoints for heroes like Pharah, Reinhardt, and Wrecking Ball. Finland ran these three heroes initially until they found success with Taimou on Sombra and zappis back on D.VA.
South Korea looked great on defense once again, almost earning a full-hold against Finland’s sporadic attack pattern. It took the combined effort of Shaz’ Coalescence and Taimou’s flanking to clear out point A for Finland to advance.
Carpe made the questionable decision to swap over to Doomfist in an attempt to catch Finland off-guard at the climax of the fight on point A. However, once he was eliminated and swapped over to McCree, it left South Korea on the wrong side of the ult economy. With Taimou’s EMP grounding both Meko and Fate, Finland had an easy time rolling through to point B.
Fragi’s aggressive Reinhardt play almost sabotaged Finland’s epic comeback until the team pulled off the play of the week. Finland kept the attention towards the front line as Taimou waited for his EMP to charge on the flank. In one swift motion, Taimou disabled the entire South Korea team, setting up Linkzyr’s graviton surge perfectly while zappis sent his self-destructing mech over the underpass and into a glorious team kill.
Now, it was time for Finland to protect their fantastic attack round with a solid defensive hold. Right away, Finland took the fight to South Korea, pressuring them back into their spawn…until the game server disconnected, halting all gameplay while the officials worked out the technical difficulties. #BlackoutGate anyone?
The immediate controversy was about halting Finland’s momentum heading into what was looking like a dominant defense in the minutes before the dropped connection.
Libero came out swinging (literally) on Brigitte, bashing Finland all the way out of point A in a fairly easy fashion. After that, the match turned into an all-out brawl. Both teams kept the payload at the same position as they traded blows back and forth. The only difference between the two team comps was JJonak playing Ana and it would seem that was the defining factor in South Korea crossing over point B. With a full 3 minutes left to push the payload all the way, things were looking bleak for Finland’s defensive hold.
The game ultimately came down to who had the better Reinhardt. I hate to admit it, but it was Fragi’s risky, fearless charges that would eventually seal the win for Finland. Game tied, 2-2.
Map 5: Nepal (Control) The questions were endless going into Map 5, which was established as a second control map. Remembering Finland’s epic loss on Lijiang Tower in Map 1, South Korea chose Nepal in the hopes that Fragi’s Reinhardt would be irrelevant in the more open areas.
As they were doing the entire game, Finland played to their strengths by utilizing the slower, beefier team composition to counter South Korea’s natural dive strategy. The first round was played on Nepal: Shrine, where the tight architecture of the central structure favors close-quarters engagements for big tanks like Roadhog, Reinhardt, and Zarya. Linkzyr would essentially waste a pair of Graviton surges after the team had already lost the fight, switching to Soldier 76 to put some pressure on Libero’s Pharah. After an overtime fight that felt like an hour long, Finland flipped the point and captured it to take the lead in the best-of-three.
For Nepal: Village, both teams started with the same comps as the first round. This time around, South Korea would flip the point after only 21% capture progress by Finland. Thanks to Shaz’ Coalescence, Fragi was able to pop off on Reinhardt and swing his hammer to his heart’s content, flipping the point back with South Korea at 42%. Despite Finland’s best efforts, there were no answers to countering Libero’s Pharah for the rest of Round 2.
Just as every Overwatch fan was hoping, the match between Finland and South Korea came down to the last possible point of contention: Round 3 in Map 5. Whoever won this round would win the Map and essentially secure 1st place in the Group Stage.
Unlike the past two rounds on Nepal, South Korea would break into Sanctum with an 84% lead off the first point capture. Both teams utilized different forms of the dive comp, with Linkzyr and Taimou opting to run Hanzo and Widowmaker against Libero on Tracer and Carpe also on the Talon sniper. Finland did a great job sticking together and protecting their support line from the flanking Libero, but eventually South Korea took the fight to them.
Before we knew it, both teams were tied at 99% each and the overtime clock was ticking towards a Finland victory. In what could only be described as the best stalling tactic ever, Carpe’s Soldier 76 and Libero’s Tracer traded off sprinting like madmen around the open capture point. By some miracle, Finland was unable to eliminate either pesky player before reinforcements arrived on the side of South Korea. With the team back in full force, the tank line of Fate and Meko would bully Finland away and South Korea pulled the rug right out from under Finland at the last possible second.
I sincerely hope that Taimou does not take this loss personally. As a member of the Dallas Fuel in OWL, he is used to the frustration of coming up short in big matches. But despite his overzealous “3-1 Finland” prediction, he showed a level of comfort with his all-Finnish teammates that fans have not seen from him since his debut for Dallas in OWL.
So, Finland and South Korea are the first two teams to move on to the Top 8 stage of the Overwatch World Cup, which will be hosted at Blizzard Arena in Burbank, CA during BlizzCon 2018!
Stay tuned for the Week 2 recap of the Los Angeles Group stage which features Team U.S.A. and Team Canada!