The teams in Overwatch League are no strangers to upsets, and as the season heats up, there’s no doubt that we’ll see the tables turn more than once before the playoffs. We already saw some surprises this weekend, despite it only being the first week of stage three.
New York Excelsior started their stage three facing off against Houston Outlaws. It was a match that everyone had tipped as an easy one for NYXL, and although they walked away with a 3-2 victory, Houston managed to push them to that fifth map. The Outlaws took the first map, Ilios, after their “Bunker” composition proved successful, and this was the first indication of NYXL playing as anything less than themselves.
Although NYXL managed to take the second map, Horizon Lunar Colony, it was a long and taxing fight against Houston. Star player Jong-ryeol “Saebyeolbe” Park was immediately targeted and deleted, but in the end, NYXL managed to push through the Outlaws’ defenses to win. The difficulty of this round seemed to set the tone for the rest of the series, and fans began to worry when Houston took a 4-3 victory on Numbani. On this map, Houston’s Jiri “Linkzr” Masalin was the star of the show, decimating NYXL on Widowmaker.
New York managed to even things out on Watchpoint: Gibraltar by finishing the map with time to spare and preventing the Outlaws from getting the last point. On the fifth map, NYXL closed out the series with a 2-0 victory on Oasis.
Although they won in the end, this was certainly a worrying game for New York players and fans. The last time these two teams faced off back in stage one, NYXL easily overpowered Houston in a clean 4-0 sweep. Perhaps Saebyeolbe’s return contributed to the team’s troubling performance, as it looks like he is struggling with the current meta. Hopefully New York will use the short break to figure out what went wrong and how they can improve their strategies before week two.
San Francisco Shock were also taken to map five, by Atlanta Reign. Like we saw with NYXL vs Houston, Atlanta won the first map, Ilios, which shook San Francisco and threw them off their game. Although they won the second, fourth, and fifth maps, it was another concerning game for a top-seeded team.
Shock managed to even things out on the second map, Paris, with a Baptiste GOATs comp. But on the next map, Atlanta had an extremely strong defense and prevented their opponents from completing the map.
For the rest of the series, it was clear how much the stage two winners were struggling. San Francisco just barely took the fifth map, with a lucky Graviton Surge being their only saving grace. This was not a clean victory in the slightest, and their hesitant performance resembled season one. Although they won the match, this is arguably one that the Shock should not be proud of.
For the last game of the week, the undefeated Vancouver Titans played against home team Los Angeles Gladiators. Vancouver are easily the best team in the League at the moment, and the Gladiators have had a few rocky moments throughout this season so far. However, what the Titans expected to be a clean 4-0 sweep turned out to be slightly different.
Although Vancouver won 3-1, Los Angeles took a map from them and challenged them throughout the series. Perhaps the most difficult map for the Titans was Paris, which the Canadian team notoriously struggle with. The Gladiators ended up winning the map 3-2 after three meticulous rounds. João Pedro “Hydration” Goes Telles subbed in for Jun-woo “Void” Kang during this match, and Los Angeles seized the chance to show off their brutal DPS plays.
With Lane “Surefour” Roberts on Bastion, a Pharah-Mercy coming out, and a double sniper composition, it’s no wonder that they overpowered Vancouver. There’s no doubt that Los Angeles Gladiators are a team that perform best while playing damage-centric or Bunker compositions, but unfortunately, they were forced onto GOATs or similar comps for the rest of the series. Although the Gladiators’ GOATs are strong, Vancouver just couldn’t be taken down.
The Gladiators should still be proud of what they accomplished. Not only did they take a map from Vancouver, but they also demonstrated that they are not a team to underestimate. Hopefully the home team will apply what they have learned about the top-seeded team to their strategies when they face them again in week four.
Stage three has only just started, but it's already proving to be wildly unpredictable. As the stage progresses, fans may have to throw their expectations out the window if we see more upsets on the scale of week one.
The third stage of Overwatch League 2019 continues with Houston Outlaws vs San Francisco Shock, which you can watch on Upcomer on Thursday June 13th.