PREVIEW: Overwatch League Stage Two Playoffs

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stage playoffs
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After all of the drama of another Overwatch League Stage, we have come to the playoffs. The top eight teams have been determined and are ready to make their run for the big prize. Let’s take a look and see who is competing for the title of stage champion.

Round Two: FIGHT

The San Francisco Shock finished off their perfect stage with a four and oh victory over the Shanghai Dragons that could mislead many into thinking this match is going to be a simple, one-sided, affair. Those who watched the game will know a different story. While the Shock managed to pull off the victory, no single map was particularly one-sided. Several maps could’ve easily gone against the Shock, and the Dragons will undoubtedly spend the rest of the week trying to hone their play to the fine-tuned engine it needs to be to make the victory theirs.

For the Shock to assure a repeat of their victory they have to make sure they can keep a handle on the Sombra that the Dragons love to play so much. With her fight winning ultimate, and the Dragons being arguably the best team in the league at playing the Sombra variant of the GOATS composition, if the Shock allows the Dragons to utilize Sombra properly, the match could easily get away from them.

For the Dragons, I think there are two keys to making this upset possible. The first is to make sure the Shock is not able to shut down their Sombra play, as they are undoubtedly focused on doing, and the second is to bring something new to the match the Shock will not have a chance to prepare for. We saw some Doomfist pulled out by the Dragons on Sunday that worked well, partly because it was not expected. And as the Dragons have shown a propensity for a creative play I think they will need to lean into that style a bit if they are to have a real chance at upsetting the number one seed in this playoff bracket.

London is Falling??

London Spitfire’s third-place position would seem to imply that they would be the favorites in their matchup against the Hangzhou Spark on Thursday. That, coupled with their grand finals victory last season would give them the experience on the big stage, matched with their skill, to overcome their opponents, who are playing in Overwatch League playoffs for the first time. But, as is often the case, things aren’t always that simple. The Spitfire has a history of not always showing up with their a game. Having dropped their last serious challenge of the stage against the Chengdu Hunters, one can never be sure which London Spitfire will show up on any given day. That coupled with a fairly soft schedule this stage and there are plenty of questions left to be answered about the London Spitfire.

Meanwhile, the Hangzhou Spark have been showing strong play through tout stage two. With their only two losses coming at the hands of the San Francisco Shock and the Vancouver Titans, number one and two playoff seeds respectively, they Spark have built an impressive stage record, with a significantly higher class of opponent than the Spitfire. And having just dominated the Seoul Dynasty last week, with the stage playoffs on the line, the Spark showed they can handle high pressure games. Whether or not they can keep it together against the London Spitfire remains to be seen.

Shields Up in the Big Apple

The New York Excelsior, once considered to be the unstoppable juggernaut of the Overwatch League, Maybe showing signs of cracks in their armor. Having dropped the last two games of this stage to the Atlanta Reign, comprising two of Atlanta’s three victories this stage, the Excelsior are stumbling their way into the stage playoffs. Whether or not this will drive them to improve their performance for the playoffs, or be the beginning of a long slide for the Excelsior remains to be seen.

The Los Angeles Gladiators have shown marked improvement in this stage, improving their record from the three and four it was stage one, to an impressive six and one. Much of their improvement can be credited to their deep hero pool. With several of their starting players being able to flex to several different heroes, they have a lineup that can bring their best to most maps, whatever the game type might be. Couple that with the fact that one could make a valid argument for Decay being the best Zarya player in the Overwatch League and you have a recipe for excellence.

To Stop a Titan

While the Dallas Fuel has had a strong stage two showing, much aided by the mid-stage acquisition of main NotE to the roster, they have an excruciating challenge ahead in the form of the Vancouver Titans. In order for the Fuel to be able to overcome the monolithic obstacle that is the Titans, they will have to bring something truly meta breaking to the match. If they go in trying to beat the Titans at GOATS I don’t see any way that they can win. With all the improvement the Fuel has shown this season so far I would love to see them manage what would have to be considered one of, if not the biggest, upset in Overwatch League history.

As for Vancouver, all they have to do is play to the level of polish they have shown all season, while also not allowing the Fuel to throw them off their game, and they should have this one in the bag.

That’s it for now. I hope everyone gets to enjoy the playoffs, and I will see you back here next week for when we take a look back at all the thrilling playoff action.

’Til then, keep playing the point!