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Are The Washington Justice The Team To Watch At The Countdown Cup?

Images via Blizzard Entertainment

Written by 

Joseph "Volamel" Franco

Posted 

27th Jul 2021 18:01

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With the sweltering heat of the Summer Showdown coming to a close, the playoff clock begins its descent onto the Overwatch League. With only a select number of seeds up for grabs, the Countdown Cup is the last call for any and all passengers prepared to put on a show come September 16th as the Overwatch League travels to Arlington, Texas.

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As seats begin to fill out and as the competition only continues to mount, there is one North American team that stands on the precipice of breaking through and sprinting towards the playoffs—and that is the Washington Justice. Shelve the narratives and set aside your expectations, the Justice have a strong case ahead of themselves leading into the Countdown Cup.

While the Countdown Cup is a fresh state with its own hero pool, things are not expected to change all that much. Early projections don’t have the Countdown Cup’s hero pool changing all that much globally—other than the fact that the Western teams are going to have to find an answer to or adopt the dive centric foundation that we’ve seen to become so successful through the Summer Showdown. This is something the Washington Justice has already shown an aptitude in. Lest we forget Washington’s game five nail biters against the Dallas Fuel to qualify for last month’s tournament.

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Now, painting that as the entire picture would be disingenuous as we’ve seen new iterations from leading teams like the Shanghai Dragons in this realm—and yet the Justice still have the personnel to pilot, in some facet, these new looks. However, we’re getting much too far ahead of ourselves, the fact of the matter is this; the key to a strong Washington Justice lies in a simple truth that the Overwatch League as a whole is learning how to cope with.

There is only one Washington Justice. That mantra must be reflected, in some sense, throughout everything the team does on game day. 

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We’ve heard this time and time again, be it from the narrative around the Dallas Fuel’s May Melee run and from their attempt at the June Joust, from the Chengdu Hunters for years, and from Overwatch League coaches echoing the same sentiment: identifying and playing towards your individual team’s style is going to grant you success. And it just so happens that the Washington Justice are walking into a metagame that should play directly into their wheelhouse.

The Washington Justice have to return to their May Melee form. This was the team that was ranked third in the league for first eliminations with 52.3%. That kind of statistical power directly correlates to team fight wins and positions themselves nicely. And one of the biggest pillars to their 4-0 finish that stage and their statistical success came down to their Tracer performance. 

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This was when Jang "Decay" Gui-un was given carte blanche to impose his will as Tracer—and he did. Through the May Melee, he ranked third in final blows per ten minutes and eliminations per ten minutes, while also placing within the top five in hero damage done per ten minutes. The cherry to top it all off was that Decay led the May Melee in First Elimination rates on Tracer with a 16.5% first elimination rate and an 85% team fight win rate after the first elimination. 

Pair that alongside Kim "Mag" Tae-sung’s Winston, who ranks within the top five across the season in eliminations, final blows, and hero damage done per ten minutes, and Kim "Assassin" Sung-won’s Sombra, whom IBM Watson’s Hero Power Rankings have ranked second overall for the hero, and you’ve got a powerhouse of a lineup. However, that is assuming everything goes without a hitch. There are some problems, albeit light, with this whole thought experiment. 

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The biggest issue lies with the Washington Justice breaking out the Wrecking Ball or shifting Decay towards Reaper, a la the Shanghai Dragons during the Summer Showdown grand final. That shifting of gears can be problematic for teams. Identifying when and where to change compositions is a difficult call to make, but one that shouldn’t put the Justice at too much of a disadvantage in terms of personnel, but they do lose one of their biggest set-pieces to attempt to box out the enemy tank duo. This also could be more difficult due to Lucio’s removal thanks to the Countdown Cup’s hero pool draft. 

Again, the Washington Justice have to return to their May Melee form—and they can. With Winston, Tracer, and Sombra being available, this should play directly into Washington’s hand. And, worst-case scenario, even if pieces of that pool of heroes are pulled from, the Justice doesn’t have much missing in terms of roster flexibility. If anything odd pops up DPS-wise, both Decay and Assassin should have a handle on things. Outside of that, both their tank lineup and supports have been bright spots all season long. Their biggest downside this season has been when Mag has been moved towards slower tempo, rotation heavy compositions that remove the agency this team can impose with their comfort picks.

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Time is fleeting for the Justice, and they have to double-down on their best chances to secure a playoff seed and that ‘best chance’ looks eerily similar to the style they used in their match against the Fuel.

Even looking at the Washington Justice’s schedule in the Countdown Cup, things look positive. Opening with a difficult duo during Week 16, Washington pairs off against both the Houston Outlaws and the Los Angeles Gladiators. While at first, that might strike as strenuous, keep in mind that most upsets happen at the start of tournament cycles. In a vacuum and on even footing, both these matches should in theory be close, but with their position in the schedule and the success the Justice have had at the assumed metagame, they deserve some extra credit.

Then rounding out their Countdown Cup, they head north to battle against the Toronto Defiant and the Vancouver Titans in Week 17. While Toronto has seen a resurgence, both of these games should be fairly straightforward. At worst this is a 2-2 stage for the Washington Justice, however, with their lopsided schedule, it feels more likely to see them advance with a 3-1 record with victories over both Canadian teams and the Houston Outlaws and leaving the loss to a close game with the Los Angeles Gladiators. 

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As long as the Justice invests in their stars, namely their DPS, and crafts compositions that allow them the most impact, then Washington should have a very lucrative Countdown Cup performance—which could easily bleed into playoff seeding.

If the above stands as true and the Washington Justice emerge from the Countdown Cup with a ticket to Hawai’i—whose to say they don’t score any added league points? With how close the race is for the third direct playoff seed in the western division, Washington cannot be counted out. This is a team poised to have the best outside shot of sneaking in at the last possible moments and righting the wrongs of their 2020 Cinderella run. 

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With the dramatic photo finish narrative laid out on the table, with the potential to see stars return to their comfort picks and put on a masterwork display, with the schedule leaning in their favour, how can you not give the nod to the Washington Justice?

It is prime time and the Justice are taking centre stage. If there is any team that is going to make a run, it is going to be the Washington Justice.

 

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The Team Colours Of The 2021 Overwatch League Playoffs

Blizzard Entertainment

Written by 

Joseph "Volamel" Franco

Posted 

15th Sep 2021 18:30

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