Wednesday kicked off another week over the Overwatch League‘s third stage. Among the matches played, one of them was hotly anticipated – the Houston Outlaws vs. the LA Valiant. The Valiant was coming down from their first loss of stage three against the London Spitfire. Meanwhile, the Outlaws were on the rise after a rough first two weeks. Even so, many thought that it’d be an uphill battle for the Texan team, considering how dominant the Valiant had looked, up to this point. Meanwhile, others pointed out that most of the teams they’d played weren’t really bringing their A-game. And the map pool statistically favored the Houston Outlaws – especially Map 4, Junkertown. But first, the Shanghai Dragons had to take on the Boston Uprising.
For anyone keeping up with the Overwatch League, the result of that matchup should surprise no one. The Boston Uprising are undefeated in Stage 3 and their odds on advancing to the playoffs are pretty good. The Shanghai Dragons have yet to win a game in the entire season. That isn’t to say the Dragons didn’t put together a handful of good plays. Players like Ado and Geguri made waves with some pretty big plays, in fact. And Diya was a nightmare on the Dragons’ Route 66 defense. But the Boston Uprising is a fine-tuned unit and one of the better teams in the league. No one doubts the mechanical skill of the Dragons. It’s there. But their inferior team cohesion lost them the first three maps and the series. Their communication issues continue to plague them. Often times the Chinese players would wind up completely separated from the Korean ones, making team-fights chaotic. It was on Route 66 where the team looked its best, actually taking the map, proving that they’re capable of competing.
Next came the match of the night, where the Houston Outlaws took it to the LA Valiant. The desk split their predictions. As stated, the map pool largely favored Houston. But the Valiant has been putting up competitive performances against the likes of arguably better Overwatch League teams. The game’s outcome largely hung on the first map, Temple of Anubis. It was the only map that the Valiant was heavily favored to take. Houston hadn’t managed to win on Anubis at all throughout stage 3. The win percentage they had was all from back in stage 1. So imagine the surprise when Houston picked up the win on that map. It was a tough fight, however. They held the Valiant on Point B for around six minutes despite nearly letting them take it after a massive snowball from Point A. A combination of airtight dive on attack and skillful Rip-Tires from Jake on Defense allowed them to win out in the end.
The second map was Blizzard World. While this map favored the Outlaws, Overwatch League teams are still getting used to it. However, one strategy adopted by the Pros has been the “World’s longest flank.” Essentially it’s a strategy that sends the bulk of the team all the way around the map, distracting the enemy with one or two targets up front. Then the team pulls a collapsing maneuver from the unexpected positioning in the back. Valiant tried it, but it looked as if Houston prepared for that. In the end, they were able to fully hold on Point A, making their own attack far easier. A few key Widowmaker shots from Linkzr opened the fight and allowed the Outlaws to meet the Valiant’s progress with ease. It was at this point that the narrative began to change. With two maps won, and Junkertown in the map pool, it looked very much like the Valiant would lose this game.
Then it came down to Nepal. Despite a sloppy first attack, the Valiant was able to flip the point and maintain control of it for the duration of the round. Then came Sanctum, which looked like it was poised to go the way of the Valiant, due to no one contesting Soon’s Widowmaker. However, a few clutch Halts from Muma’s Orisa managed to pull key targets into the pit and get much-needed kills. Linkzr got a few key kills of his own, as well. On the final objective, Village, Houston came out with a cheeky composition including Mei. They split the enemy team, using her walls, forcing lopsided fights. They also kept the Valiant from being able to attack from both sides of the objective. With this strategy, they were able to secure a win on the objective, the map, and the series.
The only thing left was Junkertown. The Valiant ran the Pirate-Ship composition to great effect, plowing through most of the map with Houston barely able to stop them. However, Houston put forth a very questionable performance in their own attempt at this strategy. In the end, the Valiant was able to full-hold them, ironically winning the one map that favored them the least. In a later interview, the Outlaws lamented that they’d let their Junkertown play slip in recent weeks and needed to work on it again. But it’s also possible that having won the series, they simply grew complacent.
The final matchup of the night saw the Dallas Fuel take on the Florida Mayhem. On an ordinary day, this would have seemed like an open-and-shut match to most. The Dallas Fuel is struggling, but they are a competitive Overwatch team with several high-level players. However, their star DPS player, Effect, was absent for the match. And, in fact, he won’t be back until Stage 4. With that in mind, the Fuel ran other players and some very gimmicky team comps. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough to secure a win as the Mayhem defeated them, 3-1.
Next up, it’s a rematch between the LA Gladiators and London Spitfire. Fissure’s addition to the former proved to be a major factor in swinging the game their way before. But the Spitfire is still an incredibly tough team. Meanwhile, there’s also a match coming up between the San Francisco Shock and NYXL, as well as the Seoul Dynasty and Philadelphia Fusion.