The kings of Overwatch don’t sit on the throne anymore, and that’s okay.

21:00, 01 Jul 2020

Alright, New York fans, let’s all take a nice deep breath. I know it’s incredibly difficult to watch your team lose in the regular season, you’re not used to it. It’s certainly frustrating having to wake up at 7 am only to watch a loss or to lose grasp on a series that only needed one more map. I see a lot of fans on social media desperately searching for answers for the team’s problems. This ranges from "there’s something wrong with this player" to "the coaches don’t coach well enough" and even "don’t play this comp". This is not the type of play we expect from New York, so why don’t they just implement these obvious solutions the team isn’t considering?

Firstly, let’s get everyone to calm down. Last I checked, the NYXL is sitting comfortably in the top five of the Overwatch League standings, and currently sit in 3rd place of the APAC June standings. New York has lost only four matches to teams within the top five with one outlier loss to the Hangzhou Spark last week. Three of those matches went to map five or map six and were more often played closer than not. Furthermore, a lot of their players continue to be statistically at the top of their game amongst the competition in the APAC region.

As a collective, New York fans are some of the most passionate in the League, if you were at the New York Homestand, you know how loud they can get for these players. But as 2020 rolls on, you’re going to start to have to get comfortable with the idea that New York are not going to dominate the regular season. The competition is ridiculously good, it’s true, there are teams that are currently performing better than the NY, but none of this means that the season is lost, or that New York are suddenly a bad team. If you keep thinking like that, you’re going to have a very hard time with the rest of 2020.

New York Excelsior OWL

A NEW NEW YORK STATE OF MIND

New York’s biggest problem has never been performing in their regular matches, it’s been the post-season playoffs and taking the championship. That’s the thing I think a lot of people are missing is this year, the NYXL’s focus and attention is very intently not on the regular season. Yes, every match is important, but they themselves admit a loss shouldn’t mean much to this team. After their first loss of the season against the Philadelphia Fusion, in an interview with GGRecon, Saebyeolbe laid out the XL’s season plans quite clearly.

“The pressure I think we face as a team is the expectation to win the championship, the grand finals. For us, that’s not the problem. The thing is that the team that wins that last match, is going to be the one’s smiling. So, a lot of people can say, ‘oh why is that team not winning’. That’s not what we're focusing on. We can lose, but as a team, we need to come back quickly. It’s a long season. We can lose or win, whoever wins that last game is the winner, that’s our mentality.”

This new direction is a direct response to the biggest thing plaguing New York’s legacy, they’ve been a team capable of taking the championship, but have never actually accomplished even making it to the grand finals. In 2020, the players and staff have constantly said that their belief is “It’s a long season, any team who survives until the end is going to be the team that takes it”.

A TOUGH PILL TO SWALLOW

Of course, it’s not unreasonable to mistrust this line of thinking. People need concrete proof to discern whether or not a team is capable of taking the championship, and right now it looks like the most dominant teams in the regular season are going to be the ones with the best chance at taking the title in 2020. There are multiple ways to look at it so let’s paint it in the historical context. There have been a lot of upsets in the history of the Overwatch League, but in each tournament format, how many of them actually lead to a meaningful title or tournament victory?

  • 2018 Stage 1
  • 1st Seed: NYXL
  • 3rd Seed: London Spitfire
  • 2018 Stage 1 Champion: London Spitfire
  • 2018 Stage 2
  • 1st Seed: NYXL
  • 2018 Stage 2 Champion: NYXL
  • 2018 Stage 3
  • 1st Seed: Boston Uprising
  • 2nd Seed: NYXL
  • 2018 Stage 3 Champion: NYXL
  • 2018 Stage 4
  • 1st Seed: LA Gladiators
  • 2nd Seed: LA Valiant
  • 2018 Stage 4 Champion: LA Valiant
  • 2018 Playoffs
  • Division Leaders: NYXL and LA Valiant
  • 5th Seed: London Spitfire
  • 2018 Champion: London Spitfire
  • 2019 Stage 1
  • Division Leaders: Vancouver Titans and NYXL
  • 2019 Stage 1 Champion: Vancouver Titans
  • 2019 Stage 2
  • Division Leaders: San Francisco Shock and London Spitfire
  • 2019 Stage 2 Champion: Sand Francisco Shock
  • 2019 Stage 3
  • Division Leaders: Vancouver Titans and NYXL
  • 8th Seed: Shanghai Dragons
  • 2019 Stage 3 Champion: Shanghai Dragons
  • 2019 Playoffs
  • Division Leaders: Vancouver Titans and NYXL
  • 3rd Seed: San Francisco Shock
  • 2019 Champion: San Francisco Shock
  • North America May Melee
  • Top Seeds: San Francisco Shock and Florida Mayhem
  • NA May Melee Champion: San Francisco Shock
  • APAC May Melee
  • 1st Seed: Guangzhou Charge
  • 2nd Seed: Shanghai Dragons
  • APAC May Melee Champion: Shanghai Dragons

In its entire history, I’m sure many can agree that there have been only two major upsets that have led to a definitive title win for an Overwatch League team. The London Spitfire’s resurgence in the 2018 Playoffs to take the championship season, and the Shanghai Dragons dismantling of all top three teams to take the 2019 Stage 3 championship. In short, it’s very difficult for a lower-seeded team to win against all odds and take the crown, consistency is what historically wins out in the end. Now, if New York’s plan really is trade out consistency for an undiscernible shot to a deep playoff run, it’s understandable why people would be clamouring for wins and dominant performances now, rather than hoping for wild success later. They have the players to do that and who have accomplished that in the past, so why is it not happening now?

New York Excelsior OWL

ALL YOU CAN DO IS HAVE FAITH

The reality is, fans have absolutely no control over the roster, its coaching staff, or that respective staff’s decisions. All you can do is hope that these are the players and people that will fulfil your hopes and dreams of watching the New York Excelsior lift the Overwatch League 2020 trophy. That being said, of course, no one is excused from criticism. Why the team hasn’t been fielding BiaNcA when every other member has seen playtime? The constant rotation of the DPS players could lead to concerns of instability, and overall the team seems a lot more stubborn and a lot less flexible on the compositions they run. Can fans really trust the coaching staff with such a dramatic new direction under a seemingly unproven head coach? 

Overall, the team has looked messier and less coordinated than their past selves, but there are new pieces to work with and different people are attempting to put those pieces into place. It’s okay for New York to take the time to learn what works best for them, to find out what really is the proper answer to reaching the ultimate goal.

At the end of the day, no one knows what will happen at the end of the season and no one can say for sure what meta and heroes will be the strongest. The one thing that is certain is that each team plays 28 matches this season and you need to be in at least 12th place for a shot at the trophy. The only thing you can do as fans is to enjoy the wins when they come and to not take the losses too seriously, because as coach imt says -  "the season isn’t over until that last game is played."

             

All images courtesy of Blizzard Entertainment

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