Thursday’s Overwatch League games brought out the rematch of Stage 3 – the LA Gladiators and London Spitfire. After trading Fissure to the Gladiators in Stage 2, the Spitfire fell to the LA-based team, 3-1 in week 3. Now, in week 4 of Stage 3, the two teams go at it again. But while that matchup was a big one, it wasn’t the only one. Marvel’s Avengers Infinity War released, that night, so one could be forgiven for missing yet another night where all of the Big 3 played. The NYXL took on the San Francisco Shock and the Seoul Dynasty took on the Philadelphia Fusion. But the matchup between the Gladiators and Spitfire set the tone for the evening.
The first map of the game, Volskaya, saw a dominant performance by the Gladiators. The team was historically bad at Assault maps. However, they got significantly better throughout Stage 3. On their first attack, they completely rolled through both objectives, buying themselves nearly 6 minutes in the time-bank. London only barely secured both objectives, themselves. But despite a strong first point defense in the time-bank portion of the map, they still lost, 4-3. They didn’t have the time to win out the fight, due to how quickly the Gladiators’ first attack was.
But for as dominant as Volskaya was for the Gladiators, Blizzard World was even more of a blowout. This should surprise no one. The Gladiators were 4-0 on this map, so it heavily favored them. Changing things up by subbing in Hydration for Asher, the team ran a Sombra-Tracer attack. Yet interestingly, they were able to cap objective A because the London Spitfire C9’d it. C9 is Overwatch vernacular for what happens when a team is fully capable of contesting the objective and simply doesn’t, allowing the enemy to win it despite having an advantage. With all of that momentum gained, the Gladiators roll through the rest of the map, completing all three objectives. Then, on the Spitfire’s attack, a combination of excellent Junkrat and Widowmaker play from Hydration and Surefour allow them to full hold for a 3-0 map win.
Things turned around after halftime. Both Ilios and Route 66 favor the London Spitfire. Despite pulling out a clutch win on Ruins, the Gladiators didn’t get the kills needed to win out on Lighthouse or Well. Route 66 was equally close. Surefour showed up big on the Widowmaker. But a missed pulse bomb from Asher very possibly cost the Gladiators their final push. In the end, they weren’t able to complete the final objective and the Spitefire pulled out a win by pushing the full distance on their own attack. With this evening out the score, the two teams were sent to a tie-breaker.
However, the tie-breaker map is Oasis. And, unfortunately for the Spitfire, that map doesn’t favor them at all. In all of the Overwatch League, they’re 2-8 on it. Meanwhile, the map is a playground for a projectile player like Hydration. So the result surprised no one. Yet the match wound up being surprisingly close. The Gladiators pulled out a Herculean effort to win City Center despite the Spitfire taking the point first and pulling out a massive stall for 30% of the objective. But they came up short on Gardens. It was University that decided it all. The two teams both ran triple tank strategies (with Roadhog and Zarya, respectively). But the refusal to allow the Zarya to build up charge was the difference-maker. Fissure’s smart Reinhardt play and Hydration’s superior Junkrat also proved a major boon. In the end, the Gladiators pulled ahead in a much closer 3-2 win.
Later matches brought far less heat, however. Most expected the San Francisco Shock to lose to the NYXL. Struggles or not, the NYXL is still the top team in the Overwatch League. Some figured the much-improved Shock would be able to take the game to a Map-5 scenario, however. Some even predicted they might be able to win. But they were defeated, 3-1, in the end. Meanwhile, the other anticipated matchup of the night was the Seoul Dynasty vs. the Philadelphia Fusion.
Unexpectedly, however, the two teams simply didn’t bring their A-Game. Both teams came to the game with some incredibly tepid offenses. Neither team seemed especially impressive on Anubis. EQO oddly underperformed and was constantly getting shut down on Genji. He failed to get much value out of his Dragon Blades all night, in fact. The Dynasty took Anubis with a surprising full hold after failing to really get far on Objective B of their own attack. The match set the tone as the night came down to a battle of the defenses for both teams.
The Fusion picked up Blizzard World in a very similar fashion. They picked up the first objective but failed to complete the second one. Yet they were able to full-hold the Dynasty. They showed up to a much greater extent on Nepal, where they cleaned up the map, 2-0. But they also fell on Route 66. Once again, the Dynasty completed the first point and full-held, tying up the game. This led to the tie-breaker on Oasis. Ordinarily, the Fusion are just expected to win University, and yet they didn’t. They won out on City Center. But losing University hurt. And with that done, Gardens went the way of the Dynasty, winning them the map and the series. But many argue that neither team really played to their fullest capability throughout the entirety of the night. Seeing so many full-hold situations is rare.
It was a bit night for the Overwatch League. London, in particular, walked away with an incredibly low chance of making their way into the Stage 3 playoffs. At this point, they’d need to win every single one of their next matches and pray for all of the top teams to majorly drop the ball. Time will tell, as Friday’s matches include three of the top four teams of the stage with the Dallas Fuel vs. the Boston Uprising, the LA Gladiators vs. the Houston Outlaws, and the LA Valiant vs. the Florida Mayhem.
Chris has a fondness for geek media of all kinds – video games, anime, comic books, you name it. And he strives to bring people the same types of experiences that he grew up with, while also sharing his admiration for what’s already there through articles and fun geek news commentary shows! Whenever he’s not writing for The Nerd Stash, he’s keeping up his own website, Galvanic Media, along with some friends.