Since the Overwatch League began, there’s been an existing conception that the teams with full Korean rosters were the best. Seeing any Western (or dominantly Western) teams take on the likes of the Seoul Dynasty, London Spitfire, or NYXL was always going to be an underdog story. This is made all the more evident by the Stage champions, so far, London and New York, respectively. But there’s been an ongoing argument regarding which Western team was the best. All throughout Stage 1, many believed that the title belonged to the Houston Outlaws. There were also arguments for the Boston Uprising and LA Valiant. Then came Stage 2, and two more teams – the LA Gladiators and Philadelphia Fusion found themselves added to the conversation. And now, in Stage 3, four of those teams are looking incredibly strong. The LA Valiant are undefeated. The Gladiators defeated the Dynasty and the Uprising brought down the NYXL in huge upset victories. And as of Saturday, one more can be counted among them.
The first match of the night saw the Philadelphia Fusion defeat the London Spitfire again. In what’s becoming a rivalry not dissimilar to that of the Seoul Dynasty and Dallas Fuel, it seems like the London Spitfire always bring the best out of the Fusion. Of course, the Fusion defeated them in Stage 2 as well, going on to the finals against the NYXL. This, however, is the Fusion’s first regular series win over the Spitfire. In Stage 1 and Stage 2, London clean swept the Fusion in dominant displays during the regular season. But this makes for the third game in a single week where one of the Big 3 fell. And there are two key factors to this. First is the drastic improvement of the Fusion’s tank play from Stage 1. Second is the DPS god, known as Carpe, who manages to clutch out several fights through sheer aim. Adding Snillo to the roster to take over Tracer duties also didn’t hurt.
It should surprise no one that the game went to Map 5. At this point, it almost seems like a stape of any Philadelphia Fusion game. The Fusion won Anubis after holding on Point B. Then, thanks to a beautifully high-value headshot from Carpe, they broke open the fight on Point A during their own attack. Afterward, some excellent Dragon Blades from EQO clean up Point B for a delayed take on Point B. Then, on Blizzard World, the tank play out of Poko and Fragi really secures the needed fights to take the map after London takes two points.
Ilios and Junkertown went the way of the Spitfire, however. They likely saw the Fusion’s previous match against the Outlaws and knew exactly what kind of mistakes not to make. But what’s more, the Fusion simply aren’t good at Junkertown. In fact, they played some very bad Overwatch on that map. They attempted to run the “Pirate Ship” comp for far too many fights to justify. The strategy involves setting up a Bastion and Orisa on the payload and riding it to the end. However, once the Bastion is dismounted, it’s nigh impossible to get him back. Yet the Fusion stubbornly ran this strategy even after that happened. In the end, the Spitfire had no problems picking up a map victory.
However, the Spitfire likely wanted to end the game sooner. Map 5 took the series to Oasis. Of all the teams in the Overwatch League, the Philadelphia Fusion have the best win rate on that map. Meanwhile, the Spitfire have one of the worst track records there. Despite taking the Fusion off-guard, early on the map, London lost Point A convincingly. Some crazy play from Carpe on Soldier 76 and Snillo on Tracer led to a clean take. Then both teams ran multi-tank on Point B. But the difference-maker was Neptuno, constantly booping Gesture’s Reinhardt out of the fight to remove the enemy shield. With that obstacle cleared, as well as one classic Poko-bomb, the Fusion took the map and the series.
That wasn’t the only great match of the day, however. In fact, both of the day’s other games also went to Map 5. The Houston Outlaws made the NYXL sweat quite a bit. And though they lost, the NYXL only won by the skin of their teeth. They looked incredibly relieved to walk away with the win in the end. Meanwhile, the Florida Mayhem put of a surprising fight against the Boston Uprising, who’d previously defeated the NYXL in their own matchup against the Overwatch League’s best team. This Stage is heating up and many of the Western teams are stepping up in a big way. Perhaps this time it won’t be one of the full Korean teams winning the finals. Only time will tell.