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After making it to the Overwatch League 2022 season playoffs through the only play-in spot from the Eastern division, the Hangzhou Spark are making an underdog playoff run through the lower bracket. To start off their tournament, they sent the former league champs Shanghai Dragons down to the lower bracket. Then, after squeaking by the Toronto Defiant 3-2, they just beat the Florida Mayhem 3-1. Having just achieved the top six, they have the momentum to continue their upset victories.

The road to the top six

Out of all the teams ranked in the season playoffs, the Hangzhou Spark were the twelfth seed out of twelve teams. This was due to the way seeding worked: a mix of regular season standings and points earned from tournament performances. Out of the three play-ins teams that made it to the playoffs, the Hanghzou Spark were the lowest-ranked team with an 11-13 record and a negative three-map differential.

The only other team to enter the season playoffs with a negative map differential were the Toronto Defiant, and the only other team to enter the playoffs with a negative record were the Philadelphia Fusion. When they faced the Shanghai Dragons first, it seemed like an easy win for the former champs.

Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case. The Shanghai Dragons looked sloppy, nowhere near as coordinated as earlier in the year. On the other side, players like Xu “guxue” Qiulin and Kim “Teru” Min-gi played great on their respective heroes. The playoff meta of Winston, Reaper, Sojourn, Kiriko and Lucio fit with the Spark more than previous metas have. They took a map off of the top-tier Dallas Fuel, got sent to the lower bracket but then beat the Toronto Defiant in a five-map series. That led them to a tough matchup against the Florida Mayhem, a team known for great lower-bracket runs in 2022.

The western pink team versus the eastern pink team

The Florida Mayhem were on a similar path to the Hangzhou Spark in the 2022 playoffs, yet not nearly as surprising. Their win over the Atlanta Reign was a little bit of a surprise, but getting swept by the Seoul Dynasty was a reality check. So, after rematching with Atlanta in the lower bracket and beating them again, they had the path to another run. But, they had yet to meet the pink team from the East on their own great run.

The first map was close, with Florida getting the edge thanks to great plays from Ham “SOMEONE” Jeong-wan. However, as the maps went on, one man was on a mission to get his team the win. It was the same man who helped the team get the win over the Toronto Defiant the day before. Zheng “shy” Yangjie showed the Mayhem exactly why his Sojourn was considered one of the best in the East on Para√≠so and Dorado. Then, in a crazily close Push map that is great to rewatch, Hangzhou edged out Florida on Esperan√ßa by 0.3 meters.

London Spitfire matchup coming up next

Now, with a top-six finish guaranteed, the Hangzhou Spark have a tough opponent coming up in their playoff run. The London Spitfire have surprised opponents over the course of the entire season instead of just these playoffs. Yet, to be the best you have to beat the best, and the Spark are well on their way.