As Stage Four winds down, Overwatch League is only getting more interesting. The Los Angeles Valiant (8-0) clinched the Pacific Division and a playoff berth after an intense match against the Houston Outlaws (5-3). After two gruelling matches, both the Seoul Dynasty (2-6) and London Spitfire (3-5) fell to reverse sweeps against the Philadelphia Fusion (5-3) and Los Angeles Gladiators (7-1), respectively. Things are looking grim for the Shanghai Dragons (0-8), who lost both their matches this week and are set to play the Gladiators and San Francisco Shock (4-4) in the final week of the regular season.
Looking ahead at the Los Angeles Valiant and New York Excelsior
There's plenty to be excited about if you're a fan of the Valiant right now. Not only are they still undefeated in the stage, but they're arguably the best team in Overwatch League as we near the finish line. The trade with Dallas for support player Scott "Custa" Kennedy and mid-season promotion of off-tank Indy "SPACE" Halpern appear to have been what the Valiant needed to push them over the top. With the right pieces in place, they have been unstoppable. [caption id="attachment_104355" align="alignnone" width="600"] Dong-Gyu "Mano" Kim[/caption] There is still a lot to prepare for, however. Above all else, they need to really pay attention to the New York Excelsior (6-2). Yes, they have been dropping maps in very questionable fashion, but that doesn't mean they've suddenly forgotten how to play Overwatch. We're at that point in a season where competitive spirit tends to take a back seat for teams who clinched playoff berths. This isn't anything unique to esports, either. In most pro sports, playoff-bound teams often utilize bench players or try new strategies to help relieve some of the stress of the long season. Now, it might be unfair to say that's why the Gladiators and Valiant beat them recently, but some big names seem to think that's what happened: https://twitter.com/MonteCristo/status/1005572601463410689 If New York is, in fact, "sandbagging," it's safe to say that what we're seeing right now isn't what we should expect in the postseason. Remember, New York destroyed Los Angeles in the Stage Three finals. For all their hard work that stage, the Valiant could only take two rounds from New York in a 3-0 loss in the finals. They also fell without a win in their Stage Two meeting. When you take that into consideration, the Valiant still have plenty to worry about moving forward. New York has the talent and coordination to make even the most difficult matches look incredibly easy. Los Angeles has plenty of heart to spare, and can come up clutch in bad situations. If I were to make a call right now, I'd say that Season One is still New York's to lose. Sure, they've given up a few games, but you have to imagine that after some rest and total focus on the postseason, they're going to be out for blood. We'll see if the Valiant can play hunter and slay them.
Seoul and London are still in freefall
It's worth mentioning that Seoul and London have ironically proven that this isn't "Apex Global" anymore. There's no other way to put it - they have pummelled themselves worse than any other team has been able to do. Whether it's bizarre composition choices or awful timing, these two former Korean powerhouses continue to offer themselves up on silver platters left and right. [caption id="attachment_104357" align="alignnone" width="600"] No one predicted Seoul's fall from grace[/caption] It's particularly difficult seeing the Dynasty struggle so much. They were once the undisputed best team in the entire world as Lunatic-Hai. When KSV (now Gen.G) announced that they purchased Seoul's OWL slot and had signed Lunatic-Hai, most had penciled them in as the Season One winners before we even saw them in action. Seoul are currently eighth in the overall standings with a 21-17 record. London aren't doing much better at 23-25. Maybe it's all the games that these teams have had to play, or perhaps going through a few complicated meta shifts that didn't do them any favors. Whatever the case may be, the thought that we might not see either of these teams in the postseason is crazy. It just goes to show that no one is unbeatable in the league, and that no team not named the "Dragons" should be taken for granted.