Last night’s Overwatch League matchups saw the return of a recurring theme – two lackluster games, followed by one incredible one. It was a good night to be rooting for California, as all three of the California-based teams were up to play. The San Francisco Shock dueled with the still-improving Shanghai Dragons. Meanwhile, the LA Valiant look to continue their undefeated streak against the Dallas Fuel. But the big matchup of the night was all about the LA Gladiators taking on the giant that is the Seoul Dynasty.
The Valiant/Fuel matchup was one that many fans were anticipating. After a mostly excellent showing against Seoul in their last game, it looked like the Dallas Fuel were starting to return to form. The new tank line-up was especially impressive. Perhaps they could hand the Valiant their first defeat of the Overwatch League. And, in a way, they did. After coming to a draw on Map 1, it was evident the game would be a good one. However, the thing that pushed fans over the edge was that the Dallas Fuel picked up a win on Numbani, handing the Valiant their first map loss of the stage. Unfortunately, that was as far as things went. The Valiant’s new acquisition, Bunny, was a nightmare for the Fuel on Tracer, being so unbelievably annoying (and risky) that they had to deal with him. This left plenty of opportunities for the Valiant’s other DPS, Soon, to pop off. In the end, the Valiant secure two map wins in a row for a series victory.
The matchup between the Shock and the Dragons wasn’t especially surprising. Many fans rightfully expected the Dragons to lose. Despite picking up a map win, here or there, the team hasn’t won a series yet. Meanwhile, the Shock won a handful of games, despite also being near the bottom, and have only improved. Thanks to some improved tank synergy and Ado’s consistent DPS performance, the team was able to take a map win. However, they ultimately fell to the Shock. It’s apparent, though, that once they have more time to practice together and iron out their communication issues, the Dragons will be more than capable of holding their own in the Overwatch League.
The highlight match of the night, however, goes to the clash between the LA Gladiators and Seoul Dynasty. On the first map, the Temple of Anubis, the Seoul Dynasty managed to scrape out a win. Despite only being able to take first point with some progress on Point B, the Dynasty completely walled off the Gladiators on their own Point B defense. This came despite the Gladiators having no shortage of time (over six minutes, in fact) after an incredibly quick Point A take. However, the play could have looked very different if Hydration were able to pull off a key rocket-punch on Doomfist, rather than hitting a tree. Such is life, one supposes. Even so, Wekeed and Fleta really showed up on the Dynasty’s DPS line-up to hold that point.
However, Blizzard World went the way of the Gladiators. After a fight that was poised to go their way on Point C, the entirety of the Dynasty, still alive, managed to somehow not touch the payload. This likewise happened on Anubis, though they were obviously still able to win. This time, they have no such luck. The Gladiators burn through Point A quickly, following up on some key Mercy picks onto Gambler. Rinse and repeat for Point B.
Nepal was another win for the Gladiators. Despite a strong Point A, the supports for the Dynasty constantly died throughout Point B. Surefour had an amazing game on Roadhog on Point B. He pulled out no less than three high-value hooks. The team’s tank-heavy comp was a perfect counter to Seoul’s attempt at running a Pharah. Combined with some expert positioning, the map win was quickly secured, 2-1.
Come Junkertown, things turned around and went the way of the Dynasty. Some high-level Mei play from Ryujehong earned them an incredibly quick Point A. The Gladiators adapt to this strategy and eventually force the Dynasty to swap to dive. After a sneaky near-back-cap from Miro, they manage to clutch out a fight to take Point B. Then, on their own defense, they hold strong, keeping the Gladiators from completing point B, themselves, and forcing the game to a Map 5.
Some incredibly tight multi-tank play won them the first Point. That and an incredibly sneaky Flank-Shatter from Fissure, who went all the way around behind the Dynasty as Reinhardt to open the point. Then, on Point B, some smart Sombra hacks and target prioritization rock the unsuspecting Dynasty. In the end, the Dynasty fall despite a 6-ultimate advantage on the Oasis Gardens. The Gladiators pulled a massive upset victory – the second of the week after the Uprising brought down the NYXL.
With the Philadelphia Fusion winning (again) against the London Spitfire, today, the game has seen three upsets in one week. Even better, they’d all be on the respective members of “the Big Three.” In fact, none of them – the Seoul Dynasty, London Spitfire, and NYXL – are even in the top four of the standings. This is certainly shaping up to be the week of the Overwatch League underdog story.