...or is Shock back to their old dominant ways?
Knock-out competition lies ahead with only hours separating us from the start of May Melee. During the month of May, teams played four matches. Based on the results, the upper half were seeded into a bracket and are given to choose their opponent. Given the uneven number of teams in each region, the Toronto Defiant will have to play the Vancouver Titans for the last spot in the bracket. For both instances, the brackets were already drawn by teams to allow them to prepare for the opponents they are likely to meet. The draws are likely to be announced shortly after the qualification match on Friday.
Given that May Melee will be played without hero pool restrictions, the forecast of the meta comps we are likely going to see is challenging. Revisiting the composition from the start of the season playing a Mei/McCree comp with Rein and D.Va tank lines is a possibility, though not a strong one. Too much have teams been able to experiment with different meta archetypes for it to converge into this composition once again. Echo comps with Tracer and Sombra are likely but curveballs are to be expected. Whether or not it will be in a dive or a double shield formation will probably depend on the team. Judging by what the Contenders regions play which also regularly scrim OWL teams, Echo dive compositions will have the biggest play share.
Qualifier - Toronto Defiant vs Vancouver Titans
Toronto Defiant (3-0): The Toronto Defiant are likely to walk away with a victory here. Kruise has given them a solid shot caller to rely on, which allows other players to concentrate on their game. The trajectory for the Defiant points upwards with a close loss to the Shock and the Valiant and therefore the rookie roster of the Titans should not pose a problem.
Forecasting the rest of the games in which they will happen is challenging, as teams will likely take their opponent’s styles into consideration when drawing the bracket. I’ve found the following bracket to make the most sense:
The first rounds of the knockout stage appear fairly straight-forward with the exception of the Dallas Fuel vs the Houston Outlaws and the Los Angeles Gladiators against the Toronto Defiant.
Houston Outlaws vs Dallas Fuel
Houston Outlaws (3-2): In the Texas duel, there is often more to consider than current form of a team. On paper, the Fuel are likely the hotter team in the Overwatch League of the two, but in a recent meeting during the Lonestar Clash Challenge, Houston beat Dallas convincingly. While we shouldn’t overvalue the seriousness of participating in an event, it might still give us a slight indicator that there’s more to this match than meets the eye. Especially due to the ability of coaches to strategically pick maps after a loss, I expect the Outlaws to have a better game plan.
Los Angeles Gladiators vs Toronto Defiant
Los Angeles Gladiators (3-1): The two teams come from two diametrically opposed starting points. The Gladiators were considered one of the top teams in North America but lost a match against the Uprising which paints the picture of a team in decline. The Toronto Defiant were one of the worst teams in the league, but recent strong performances against the Valiant and the Shock has their trajectory pointing upwards. That said, the baseline and upside of the Gladiators’ roster is undeniable. On top of their superior firepower, the Gladiators have always been a well-coached team under Dpei that always performed well in playoffs scenarios, with set plays to throw of the opponent.
In the quarter-finals, the only games which will likely results in a close series are the Valiant against the Eternal and the Mayhem vs the Gladiators. Fusion have shown that they have reliably been able to trounce the Reign as hero pools went on and the Shock are a different caliber of a team than the Outlaws.
Paris Eternal vs Los Angeles Valiant
Paris Eternal (3-2): The battle of the wounded. From retirements to coaching cuts to ping disadvantages, this series is a fight of teams who had their fair share of misfortune but have prevailed against it. Paris come into the game as favourites, though by how much is up for debate. If the Valiant get to play a lot of Tracer Sombra compositions, the series could become close as we have seen the lethality of their DPS line up in action on these heroes.
Florida Mayhem vs Los Angeles Gladiators
Florida Mayhem (3-1): It is a terribly difficult task to judge these teams based on their recent performances. The last three matches, Florida had to only punch down against some of the weakest opposition in the league while the Gladiators lost to a surprisingly good performance by the Uprising. Because of that, both rosters are in ranking limbo. Whoever wins this match becomes a top 5 team in North America.
Semi-FinalsSan Francisco Shock vs Paris Eternal
San Francisco Shock (3-1): The match, unfortunately, will happen a week too early as Eternal’s prodigy sp9rk1e turns 18 only on the 31st of May. With him and potentially Xzi coming back to the team, this could’ve turned into one of the best matches this weekend, but unfortunately, it wasn’t to be. The Shock haven’t been dominant in the same way they were at times during season 2 and there are certainly some question marks about the holes their recent roster changes have ripped into the fabric of the roster. At the end of the day, they are still largely the monster that we know them to be, with Twilight as a new recruit to boot. I trust that the Eternal will not just roll over without a fight and will bring it to the Shock strategically too. I could even see Paris keeping an ace up their sleeve if Valiant allows them to, to bust out a prepared comp against the Shock. They feel like a team that is planning to win championships.
Philadelphia Fusion (3-1): I’ll be honest, I’m losing the race against the Mayhem at the moment. While I opted into this challenge with a different strength of schedule in mind, you can’t deny that they’ve likely become a top 5 team in the North American region and for that they deserve applause after having been the worst franchise in aggregate over season 1 and 2. This is as far as I can go with my praise for the Mayhem, because their opponent here might just be the best team in the world. The Fusion have had a phenomenal season start and are looking to challenge the Shock in the finals. If Echo Tracer dive was to be the meta, the Mayhem would be able to play a good game at it, but the Fusion, especially with Eqo on the hero, are cracked.
San Francisco Shock vs Philadelphia Fusion
San Francisco Shock (4-2): Is this going to be the rivalry that will continue for the rest of the season? Are we going to see a similarly epic storyline as the Shock vs the Titans was last year? Can Philly deliver on their promise of a super team? It is likely that strategies will converge as the weekend keeps going. Both teams have publicly talked about instances in which they were able to turn around their composition with only a day’s notice, so if these teams were going to meet each other in the final, it’s likely that they’d have figured out what is best to run through trial and error. It’s also likely that they will see each other on mirrored comps, evening the playing field further. The difference between the veteran players of the Fusion and the Shock is, that one group knows how to win finals, the other has lost both times they’ve gotten there. Do the Fusion need another reminder of what it feels like to lose before they can unlock their potential, much like the Shock did after season 2 stage 1 finals? No matter the case, this series is very unlikely to turn into a snoozer. I think it might become one of the best matches of the season and one you don’t want to miss.
Images via Blizzard Entertainment and slmn