The Overwatch League is coming to its end. But it isn’t winding down even a little. The Playoffs are on and the quarterfinals wrapped up on Saturday. The Philadelphia Fusion and London Spitfire came out victorious in a double upset. Both teams occupied a lower seed than their opponents. And both teams walked away with a W. As such, the Philly Fusion take on the NYXL in the semifinals.
Meanwhile, the London Spitfire aren’t done with LA yet. Their semifinal opponent is the LA Valiant. The Philly Fusion is one of the few teams that make the NYXL sweat for victories. Meanwhile, there’s a battle on between two Stage champions in the Spitfire and the Valiant. These games all promise to be explosive. But the games leading up to them were pretty ridiculous as well.
To a seasoned fan, the less surprising outcome was seeing the Philadelphia Fusion defeat the Boston Uprising. The Uprising famously went undefeated in Stage 3 until the finals against the NYXL. But they majorly underperformed in Stage 4. And a large part of this was their overall slow adaptation to the new meta. Boston is a very slow-to-start team, at present. Philadelphia defeated them in Week 1 of Stage 4, 3-1. And the Uprising went 4-6 throughout the remainder of the stage.
That said, the quarterfinal between the two was intense, especially in the Friday matchup. The Fusion defeated the Uprising during the inaugural game on Wednesday, where they handed Boston their first ever map loss on Volskaya. But they lost the first game on Thursday. With their backs against the wall, it came down to the third game where virtually the entire team popped off. Even their Mercy player, Neptuno, got a 3-K at one point. But the heavy lifting of the game was done by the actual DPS. While Carpe was doing what Carpe does, EQO played out of his mind across every hero he ran, including Genji and Zarya. His closing play on their Eichenwalde attack saw him delete 5 of Boston’s 6 players from the game, pretty much by himself.
The Philadelphia Fusion is a team that lives or dies by its DPS players, more often than not. Carpe and EQO are among the best, if not the best DPS duo in the Overwatch League. There’s a meme in the League of Carpe shouting “Winnable” and proceeding to singlehandedly erase 4 of the enemy team as Widowmaker while all but one of his teammates were dead. In the past, the team’s had some trouble with its tank play, but the new additions, Sado and Hotba, have been putting in excellent work on those roles. And the team even brought back Poko for a brief stint. Now it’s just a matter of whether EQO and Carpe can match the bevy of DPS All-Stars on the NYXL in the semifinals.
But the most unexpected result was, by far, the matchup between the LA Gladiators and London Spitfire. For context, the London Spitfire had literally never beaten the Gladiators, prior to the quarterfinals. Not even in Stage 1, when the Spitfire were the champions. And yet in the quarterfinals, the London Spitfire full-swept the Gladiators twice in the same night. And this was immediately after a devastatingly one-sided loss in their first match of the quarterfinals on Wednesday. The Gladiators won that game in style. One play on King’s Row, in particular, gained widespread fame in the community and was dubbed “The Great Bamboozle” because of how sneaky it really way.
The BIGGEST BRAIN set play we've ever seen in pro OW.
Surefour hides in spawn as Brigitte, deathball baits a rotation.
THEN BOOM! Surprise Widowmaker counterpick.
— Your Overwatch (@YourOverwatchYT) July 12, 2018
And despite that, the London Spitfire dominated the Gladiators in their subsequent matches. According to the team’s general manager, it all came down to team mentality. Whether or not that’s true is uncertain. Mentality is a very intangible, difficult thing to measure the impact of. But whatever they did, it worked. In terms of in-game logic, there were a number of things going on. Despite seeming to be asleep for the majority of Stages 2 through 4, Birdring and Profit are among the best DPS duos in the Overwatch League. Right alongside Saebyeolbe/Libero and Carpe/EQO. And the two of them played ridiculously throughout the night. The Gladiators were hardly ever able to deal with them.
Another major problem for the Gladiators were the tanks. Gesture and Fury, on the Spitfire, simply outplayed the tanks on the side of the Gladiators. But one could argue that there was a distinct reason for this. Throughout the quarterfinals, the Gladiators opted not to field their star main tank, Fissure. The reasons are complicated and generated a lot of drama, but the statistics speak for themselves. After his addition to the team, the Gladiators saw a roughly 10% includes in victories, going from around 45% to around 55%. iRemiix is a great tank player, but he was constantly being focused and evicted from the fight before the fight even truly began. The main tank role is crucial in Overwatch. And entering a fight without one is basically asking to return to the spawn room, once at the higher levels of play.
Another major problem was that the team’s main healer, Biggoose, was repeatedly picked off early. And while a portion of this did fall on his own positioning, there wasn’t enough protection for him, most of the time. So Birdring outright bullied him throughout the majority of the night. The Gladiators looked like a completely different team from the tight unit that swept the Spitfire just two nights prior. They were often scattered. Many of their set plans fell apart. And they got outplayed across the board. But one of the biggest takeaways was that London actually adapted.
London has historically been terrible at adapting to what their opponents are doing. They stubbornly ran things that weren’t working for far longer than they should have. But in just two nights, they learned that lesson and turned it into an upset victory over a team they were never able to defeat in the past. If they continue to play like this, it’s entirely possible the Overwatch League will see a replay of Stage 1.