Its time everyone! With the first five weeks of the Overwatch League done, we have finally arrived at stage one playoffs. I gotta say, with the level of parity we’ve seen through stage one, the possibilities of how this playoff might turn out feel truly limitless. But before we get too ahead of ourselves, let’s take a look at the bracket.
*All times are Eastern Standard*
So there we have it. Round one matches are set and it’s all ready to start Thursday night. Let’s take a look at the individual matches, shall we?
Seoul vs New York
The Seoul Dynasty definitely has an uphill battle if they hope to knock out the New York Excelsior in this matchup. The aggressive tendencies of Seoul, led by main tank Fissure, could play right into the hands of the extremely passive play style of New York.
Seoul must be hyper-aware of their positioning when pushing into New York, or they can expect to be punished severely for the slip-up. Jjonak is as big of a threat as ever from the back lines, and once New York gets that first kill their passivity becomes a steam roller in a real hurry. However, if Seoul can crack the line and manage that all important first kill for themselves, they are definitely able to put New York onto the back foot.
The most interesting question mark to me in this game will be whether we end up seeing MekO go back onto Sombra. He played the character superbly in week 1 but has spent little time on her since. With the chips being down it will be interesting to see if New York pulls a wild card to shut Seoul out of its game plan.
Boston vs Vancouver
The Vancouver Titans managed to snag the number one seed with its 4-0 win over Guangzhou in week 5. It’s a rare occurrence where a number one seed in Overwatch League isn’t New York. In fact, if I’m not mistaken the last time a number one seed wasn’t New York was stage 3 playoffs when it was the Boston Uprising.
While Vancouver has to be viewed as the heavy favorite here, one would be remiss to count Boston out completely. Boston is well known for playing up to their opponents and if Vancouver comes in underestimating Boston they might just be in for a big surprise. Especially if the series goes to a game five, where Boston has the highest win rate in the league for five-game sets, they are 12-3 over their lifetime.
Boston is well known for clutch plays that let them pull a victory from the jaws of defeat. And, unfortunately for them, they are likely to need them. Vancouver has shown possibly the most consistently high-quality play we’ve seen in the Overwatch League, which puts the need to hit those above and beyond moments squarely on Boston’s shoulders. If Vancouver can just play their game, and keep Boston from succeeding at pulling of surprise plays, and big turn arounds, they should have this match in the bag.
Atlanta vs Philadelphia
The Atlanta Reign has shown it can be full of surprises. From repeated appearances by Torbjorn, to new and clever was to have Zarya traverse the maps, you can never quite be sure what Atlanta is gonna throw at you. And it is an edge they will need if they want to upset the Philadelphia Fusion this week. While Philadelphia certainly isn’t unbeatable, they have been shoring up their play as the stage has progressed and look to be playing like the 2019 runner ups we expected them to be.
Their only big concern could come from their tank line. While main tank Sado, who is a top-tier Winston player, has shown he sometimes struggles when he plays Reinhardt. And if your Reinhardt falls early in a fight the statics show its most likely all over but the crying. If Atlanta can bring some trickery to further drive a wedge between the front line and back line of Philadelphia’s composition they could have an upset well in hand.
San Francisco vs Toronto
Of all the games in the first round I feel this is the one that is the biggest mystery to me. Both teams look like they have solid records, but the win/loss record doesn’t always tell the whole story. With the exception of Toronto’s win over Boston, none of either team’s victories have come off of teams that are making a playoff appearance this stage.
With that in mind, I can’t help but wonder just how good these teams are. I feel like the edge probably has to get to Toronto as they seem to have shown some fairly steady improvement in their play as the stage has gone on, but San Francisco sports so much talent on their roster that it feels like the sky is truly the limit if they can get their team firing on all cylinders. Toronto will need to show a lot of poise and find the chinks in the aggressive play style we’ve seen from San Francisco if they want to progress to the next round.
Those are my thoughts on the initial matches for the stage one playoffs. With how unpredictable this season has been so far I wouldn’t dare try to hazard a guess as to who might emerge the stage one champion. I’m just confident it’ll be one wild show to watch. I look forward to recapping all the action when I see you all here next week for my stage one playoff recap.