Stage 3 of the Overwatch League is officially underway and with it came a number of absolutely major changes to the various teams and their rosters. These switch-ups were out in full force for the first day of the stage. The Seoul Dynasty debuted Gambler in their throwdown against the LA Valiant. Meanwhile, the Valiant traded Unkoe for Custa, of the Dallas Fuel, and also picked up Bunny from the Dynasty, themselves. On top of that, the newcomer, Space, made his Valiant debut.
And those weren’t the only major changes shown off on Day 1. The Shanghai Dragons took on the aforementioned Dallas Fuel with an almost completely new roster, including recent acquisition, Kim “Geguri” Se-yeon. Only Altering returned from the team’s previous starting line-up. And the team has also parted ways with Undead since Stage 2. The LA Gladiators got to show off Silkthread against the San Francisco Shock, who themselves debuted Sinatra and Super in the showdown with their fellow California-based team. But with all of these roster switch-ups, how did the actual games go?
The first match of the night saw the Shanghai Dragons go head-to-head with the Dallas Fuel. Both teams have failed to impress throughout the previous stages. The Dallas Fuel, in particular, have been a noteworthy disappointment for many after looking like a strong contender in the early season. But the team is currently 10th in the standings. Meanwhile, the Shanghai Dragons had almost impressively managed to go 0-20, having picked up a few maps, but zero series victories. After the almost total shake-up of the roster, could they break this losing streak? The casters seemed to have faith in them. Of those sitting at the desk, three of them predicted the Dragons would finally claim victory. But in the end, the Fuel claimed victory with a 3-map streak, only dropping Map 4, Junkertown.
The Dragons made some ambitious plays, including two attempts at an aggressive 1-push defense near the enemy spawn. Their new DPS player, Ado, got to pop off with the Dragon Blade several times. But the shot-calling and communication of the Fuel had them come out on top. Effect showed up, this time, after underperforming, last stage. But the hero of the game was definitely AKM, who brought a mean Defensive Sombra to Map 1. He scored several key eliminations in Map 2. And on Map 3, he played an almost completely uncontested Widowmaker. The Dragons put up a fight, and thanks to the domination of Fearless on the Roadhog, they were able to win Map 4. With some more time to practice with one another and nail down the communication woes, this new roster could be one to look out for.
The more shocking match of the night came when the Los Angeles Valiant took on the Seoul Dynasty. Seoul is often regarded as one of the best teams in the League. Some predicted they’d be the best. But the standings currently have them at third place, behind London and New York. Last season they just barely missed their window into the playoffs after going undefeated for most of the stage.
The team has become notorious in the Overwatch League for dropping a lot of maps in the late stretch of the stage. For example, they lost King’s Row to the Dragons in Stage 2 – a map previously known as one of the Dynasty’s best. Even so, the Dynasty are a force to be reckoned with. So it’s not just surprising that they lost to the Valiant, but they lost in a complete 4-0 sweep. Could this have been Bunny’s influence? It’s possible to an extent. Something vaguely similar happened when the Gladiators defeated the London Spitfire in Stage 2 after having traded Fissure off to their opponents. But this looked even more convincing than that.
The Valiant absolutely rolled the Dynasty. They double-capped Map 1 – the Temple of Anubis. Then they full held the Dynasty on that very map. This could dominantly be chalked up to incredibly sloppy engagements and poor ultimate management. And Map 2 looked no better. After gaining some momentum, they just rolled through the map without losing a single team fight. Not one. On Map 3 the fight was much closer. The two teams ran almost perfect mirror comps of Triple Tank-Reaper. But Valiant won out the brawl and held strong on Objective B for the series win. Their win on Junkertown was a bit hairy, but they managed after trading a very poor Orisa-Hog comp for pure Dive. Put plainly, the Dynasty were just playing bad Overwatch.
The best anyone can gather is that Seoul simply wasn’t respecting their opponents enough. They didn’t run most of their A-Team, despite the Valiant proving to be a difficult team for them in the past. There’s a theory that they’re intentionally running their less experienced members as practice to get them ready for later in the Overwatch League season. That way every player in their roster will be competitive. But, honestly, that’s just unlikely.
The final match of the night saw the San Francisco Shock take on the LA Gladiators. And despite a very convincing Map 1 loss on Volskaya, the Shock pulled out a win with the demi-Reverse Sweep on the remaining maps. Sleepy was an especially noteworthy asset to them on the Moira, as was Babybay. The new blood on the team, Sinatra in particular, also made their mark.
Overall, it was a night of surprising Overwatch. Unfortunately, it wasn’t a night where viewers got to see the best their teams had to offer. And the next few days likely won’t provide that either. With so many new elements, there’s going to be some growing pains for all the teams. Less practice time for new acquisitions, language barriers, and meta changes make this one of the most dynamic periods in the Overwatch League so far. But that’s what makes it so engaging to watch. Next up, the Florida Mayhem take on the NYXL, the London Spitfire battle the Houston Outlaws, and last season’s Dark Horse team, the Philidelphia Fusion clashes with the Boston Uprising.