Rematches, downswings, and stakes, the Summer Showdown has it all
The Overwatch League’s monthly tournament format was not only been a resounding success, but it has also given us strong narrative points that help to frame the regular-season standings. Without the May Melee, we wouldn’t have the same level of clarity around a team like the Florida Mayhem, who upset the Philadelphia Fusion and took maps off of the San Francisco Shock. With the groups drawn and the stage set, here are five of the most important narratives to follow as we head into the Summer Showdown.
1. The Gladiators Stand At A Crossroads
The Los Angeles Gladiators feel like they have escaped the ire of the community, but when you look at the roster sat next to their coaching staff, it’s difficult to not be disappointed. Their regular-season record currently has them as the 12th seed with a 6-6 with a match record and a 24-24-4 map record, meaning that they are even everywhere it counts. In their last five games, which admittedly also span multiple Hero Pools and metagames, the Gladiators are 3-2, which isn’t bad, but that’s the whole point; this team is just fine. Not bad, not good, just stale bread.
With a roster that includes the stylings of players like Indy "SPACE" Halpern, Son "OGE" Min-seok, Kim "birdring" Ji-hyeok, and a coaching staff that somehow trumps the strength of the roster on paper, this isn’t a team that should be even. This should be a team that is gearing up for and preparing for the playoffs, not one that is trying to keep its head above water. What’s almost more concerning is that the Gladiators’ opponents in the Round of 12 are not a team they should toy around with.
Closing out Saturday’s matches in Week 21, The Gladiators paired off against the Justice, a team that started weakly, went through a roster shuffle and came out the other end still looking frail. However, the Gladiators had more difficulty than you’d imagine putting away such a team. They still secured the win, but taking a draw on Volskaya Industries and losing Rialto is surprising in and of itself. With some newly found confidence after beating the Boston Uprising to take the 12th seed and an inspiring performance from Lee "TTuba" Ho-Sung on the Genji, the Justice could very well provide a difficult opponent for the Gladiators with the added context of losers’ map pick.
The Los Angeles Gladiators stand at a crossroads and if they want to re-enter the discussion of a top-rated team in North America, they have to perform. Could this rematch with a semi-hot Washington Justice cement the downswing of the Gladiators or will the Summer Showdown give them a chance to prove the doubters wrong?
2. Out In Front
The Summer Showdown is set to bolden the resume of both the Shanghai Dragons and the San Francisco Shock. They each lead their respective regions and are favorites to win each side of this tournament. So what is left to talk about? While the COVID-19 global pandemic is far from over, this gives us a marque match to look forward to as the 2020 season comes to a close.
From the worst franchise in the league in 2018, the Shanghai Dragons have risen from the affable darlings of the Overwatch League to dominant and a serious threat to the 2020 championship. This roster is packed to the brim with incredible talent that is able to take any metagame and match it’s every demand. If it asks for two hitscan DPS heroes, you have Lee "LIP" Jae-won alongside Bae "diem" Min-seong. At projectile DPS you’ve got Mr. Meta himself, Kim "Fleta" Byung-sun, and Yang "DDing" Jin-hyeok. The list goes on and on. Head coach Moon "Moon" Byung-chul has crafted not only a deep roster but a flexible one. However, their rivals in the west boast a similar, if not, stronger lineup.
As defending title holders, the San Francisco Shock somehow has remained as sharp as ever. While 2020 has been tumultuous for every team in the league, the Shock has undergone some of the most impactful changes, which makes their continued dominance that much more shocking. First came the departure of Jay "sinatraa" Won, someone who was not only an amazing player for the Shock but a strong voice and a leader for the team. Next was the boy wonder himself, Park "Architect" Minho, as he took his flexibility to the Hangzhou Spark. Following him was the addition of former Vancouver Titans player Lee "Twilight" Jooseok who bolsters the support line of an already amazing team.
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With pieces on the move and the metagame becoming rotational with Hero Pools, it was difficult to foresee that the league would see another two-party system like it did last season with the aforementioned San Francisco Shock and the Vancouver Titans. Somehow they both stand as titanic figures glaring down from the top of the mountain. Will there be a new entry into the championship discussion if either team were to be upset or will the Summer Showdown simply further the separation and continue to build hype for the eventual meeting of the two giants? Both teams are just so far out in front that the only fair end to such a chaotic year would be the first and final confrontation between the Dragons and the Shock.
3. Taking Charge
Not only will the Guangzhou Charge take charge as the second-best team in Asia at the Summer Showdown, but they’ll continue to scream with solid and impressive performances for people to notice them.
With the firepower of the Seoul Dynasty and with the air around the New York Excelsior, it doesn’t come as a surprise that the community has not given the Charge their due. Sure, their performances this season haven’t been as dominant as the Shanghai Dragons and there certainly have been weeks where they’ve looked lethargic, but that shouldn’t be used as ammunition against them. 2020 has taken Asia and splintered it off into its own region, and unsurprisingly, it has become densely populated with very strong teams, the Charge being one of them. So this isn’t similar to the west where teams are often seen fumbling against weak opposition, each week the Charge are forced to swim with sharks and often come out the victor.
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The May Melee was an unfortunate misstep. If things go slightly differently, if a one team fight goes in their favour, then perhaps the discussion around who is the second-best team in Asia isn’t as difficult. Their Melee dance partners, the Seoul Dynasty, sit at the opposite end of the bracket alongside the Shanghai Dragons.
This puts the Charge on a collision course with the Dragons if everything goes according to plan. First seed against the second, dominance against consistent strength, the Dragons against the Charge. After putting away the Chengdu Hunters and the winner of New York Excelsior and the Hangzhou Spark, the Charge will lock themselves in as a team to pay attention to and as a gatekeeper to the top of the mountain.
4. The Rematch
After a fairly close game, the Florida Mayhem are looking for the run back against the Houston Outlaws in a rematch from Week 21. The first time both of these teams crossed paths this season was during Week 2, which saw the Mayhem take a decisive 3-0 victory. Down 0-2 in the head-to-head, the Outlaws are going to have an advantage coming in after such a close match.
If a hero pool or a metagame does not suit them, the Houston Outlaws have become the defacto example this season of how well finding your own style can benefit you in the long run. Dramatic irony has a weird way of twisting stories around as this is the very team that was openly criticized for not doing this during the 2019 GOATS metagame after being a team that successfully found creative solutions in 2018. Creativity is going to be an aspect that sees more success with the loser of each round picking the next map in the Summer Showdown. This gives the Outlaws the opportunity to give themselves, at very least, two maps where they can flex some pocket picks.
After their recent match during Week 21, the Florida Mayhem play an interesting role as a foil to the more creative Outlaws. With their rise in the May Melee wielding the Tracer and Ashe composition, the Mayhem have found what works and helped set the trend. However, with the removal of the last hero pool, Genji has risen the ranks and the Mayhem have noticed. With a strange stubborn push, the Mayhem ran a surprising amount of Genji in their match against the Outlaws, nearly costing them the game. It wasn’t until the final map where the Mayhem returned to their tried and true composition and dispatched the Outlaws.
Rematches are easy stories to follow. They happen, a victor is declared, and the loser gets another shot at a later date. In a way, you have the seeds of a traditional story; good guy loser fighting bad guy winner, underdog versus champion. However, this match for the Summer Showdown is much more nuanced. The winner of the Houston Outlaws and Florida Mayhem is sure to be a thorn in the side of whichever team choices to face them in the next round.
5. London’s Summer Flight
With a late-stage flare-up, the London Spitfire looks to be in impressive form with their recent 3-0 victory over Hangzhou Spark in Week 21. This upset has portions of the European fan base elated and for good reason. After the departure of most of their star players in 2019, many pundits had the Spitfire nearing the bottom of the preseason power rankings. However, throughout the 2020 season, London has been a fair competitor, making do with what they have and finding value with the rookie talent they’ve recruited.
Of that graduating class are stand out members Shin "BERNAR" Se-won, Lim "Glister" Gil-seong, and Lim "SanGuiNar" Kyu-min, all of which have had an impressive season thus far. All three of them fit the metagame well and the remainder of their team fills out any holes that could possibly arise. This roster stands as a strong foundation to the team’s success, however, London’s coming of age story might have been foreshadowed well before the Summer Showdown.
During the May Melee, the London Spitfire took the kings of Asia, the Shanghai Dragons, to map five. Now in the Summer Showdown, both teams sit on the same side of the bracket and the only team that separates them is the Seoul Dynasty. Is it possible that a team no one expects to do well upsets a team that has a history of fielding some strange rosters early in a series? London should not be counted out by any means coming into this event.
Images via Blizzard Entertainment