This week, mathematical certainties emerge as the league standings cement more teams in the green and red. Three teams have already been eliminated and four more teams are close. Let’s recap last week and turn back to Eric Doerr’s projections as the reckoning draws near. In the spirit of our new damage lord, when in DPS role queue, Don’t Fear the Reaper.
This past week, the Reaper has arrived and really narrowed down the top 12 field, leaving a voice line specifically for today’s most interesting teams:
“Die! Die! Die!” - Atlanta Reign for practically eliminating Houston & Paris play-in odds. That is 3-0 for stage 4, threatening at least a 6k with Washington, London, Dallas, and Boston remaining. Atlanta gets a week off, still has an outside chance at top 6, and would likely be favored to clear play-ins given their current form.
“Dead man walking.” - For Dallas Fuel. While they still have five games left, they likely need at least three wins out of the Gladiators, Shock, Spark, Charge and Reign, all of whom will be intensely competing for their own playoff positioning.
“That which doesn't kill you, makes you stronger.” - Philadelphia Fusion started out stage 4 with two losses, but this week solidified their standing with two hard fought wins. They may have to go through the play-ins, but nobody should consider them an easy out in 2-2-2. They start this week against an extremely desperate Paris fighting to avoid mathematical elimination then play the teetering Titans. If the Fusion can copy the other team’s meta interpretation half as well as Reaper’s voiceline copied Nietzsche, they should be fine. If it’s the Kelly Clarkson version, they might be in trouble.
“Better stay out of my way” - Guangzhou Charge conceptually looked optimized towards 2-2-2 and especially a Widowmaker meta. Corey has certainly been a standout performer on the hero, but Charge’s DPS is on equal footing and takes shots other Widows wouldn’t. Two matches in the last three should be enough and we’ve already seen that standout DPS performances can get you there even against the best.
“Things are looking... grim…” - With Valiant's loss against the Dynasty, the tables have turned in this division rivalry. This season, Seoul’s win over the Valiant combined with Chengdu’s upset win have left the Valiant as the odd man out of the playoff picture. A grim reality of starting 0-7, the Valiant need to get hot and rely on competitors go cold. Needing China to cave in while winning out.
“Well, looks like we're going with plan B” - Shanghai Dragons’ loss against Toronto significantly drained their chances at securing a playoff spot outright, though they stand little chance of falling out of the top 12. Best case, the Dragons can regain their top 6 spot with a win streak through their remaining rough schedule, Shock-Dynasty-Eternal-Spark.
“I'm back in black.” - In Logix’ glorious OWL return, the Toronto Defiant beat the aforementioned Dragons and took Philly the distance despite conflicting organizational priorities. Although the Defiant are eliminated from postseason contention, they are not done entertaining. Mr. Logix gets to thank Florida twice in Toronto’s last three matches, and this week they could #RiseUp to Seoul stealer by eliminating the Dynasty from top 6 contention.
“I'm on fire! Better stay out of my way.” - Fresh off winning Comms Check American Idol, Corey dealt hard Justice to Vancouver, leaving the Titans to apologize and promise to practice hard for future games. Washington seriously looks like a top 5 stage 4 team, which leaves us to wonder what could have been if WizardHyeong wasn’t so far ahead of the meta. With week 3 opponents Boston and Houston facing mathematical elimination, Washington is now the one asking “Any last words?”
“Finally some recognition” - They brought the Mayhem. Beating the Spitfire had a major impact on the race for the top 6, unfortunately their schedule only offers one more spoiler opportunity against the borderline Valiant. Florida may well take this upset and end their season with a heat wave (Defiant, Valiant, Uprising, Defiant). In the other direction...
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Motivation matters, and with their spots practically locked up, top teams Vancouver and New York went cold while San Francisco has rotated MVP candidates to the bench, granted likely for meta related reasons. All these team’s fates can be set given the below Magic Numbers:
Vancouver to clinch Pacific: 2 (Titan wins + Shock losses)
Vancouver to clinch #1 overall: 2 (see above condition, adding 2 between Titan wins and Excelsior losses)
San Francisco to clinch at least #3 overall: 1 Shock win
Excelsior’s “sandbagging” could possibly leave New York with their first losing stage ever, directly benefiting contenders Hangzhou & Guangzhou this week
While the top 3 chill out, the action below them is on fire.
Locking in a play-off spot and part of the $3.5 million prize pool is where the fiercest competition remains. Six teams have legitimate chances of claiming one of three chairs for spots 4, 5, and 6 in the season playoffs. Let’s hope those armrests don’t cause any trouble.
“Right. This is where I picked up the damn ingrate.” - London Spitfire opens the week against former player and current Vancouver lucky charm in Hooreg. A win here would push their top 6 odds up past 90%, acquiring their 16th win and reducing the necessity of their last two matchups against Houston and Atlanta.
“I will get my revenge.” - Again with another slow start to a new meta, the Hangzhou Spark are plotting a come back to crystalize their position in the season playoffs. They have two of the biggest games this week because their matchups against the Excelsior and Hunters are high leverage when it comes to season standings. Given their mediocre map differential, they may need three wins among this week’s games and future opponents Fuel, Gladiators, and Dragons to skip play-ins.
“This is my curse…” - Unlike the Spark, the Seoul Dynasty do not control their own top 6 destiny even after edging out the Valiant this week. While the Dynasty hold a solid map differential, the schedule threatens succession: three of the four remaining games are against teams fighting for their own top 6 crown. In fact, this week’s matchup against the Guangzhou Charge has a lot of leverage over the league’s final playoff picture. Week 4 also threatens high intensity matchups that force playoff repositioning, closing out their season against the Dragons and Fusion.
As the season approaches its penultimate week, both the meta and playoff seeding remain in flux. We still can’t be certain that Reaper/Mei/Orisa compositions will define NuGoats or if a stage 3 Shanghai style renaissance is in the works. This weekend will be 2019’s last one with a full 16 games, as the season winds down, “I’m ready for action”.