Chart Toppers to Bottom Feeders. What’s in store for 2021 Boston?
The Boston Uprising are not off to the best of starts in their fourth season. So far, the boys from Bean Town are 0-3 in their May Melee qualifying matches, with only one map to their name. It was a rough schedule to start their year with their premiere game against a revitalised LA Gladiators, followed by a dominant Dallas Fuel, and then a close-but-no-cigar match against the favourited Washington Justice. For a team full of rookies, that’s a ridiculously tall order.
It’s interesting because, while the Boston Uprising may be winless at the time of writing this, it doesn’t feel like the shades of Boston we’ve seen in the past. This roster feels like it has the potential to grow and burst in ways we haven’t seen since that 2018 squad who accomplished the first perfect stage in Overwatch League history. Unlike the admitted misery of the 2019 and 2020 seasons, Boston are priming to finally put themselves in a position to have a decent run in the league, and maybe even giving the space for these potential upstarts to shine in ways that would exceed expectations.
Since it’s approaching the almost third anniversary of that perfect stage, there’s no better time to revisit the magic that was 2018 Stage 3 Boston, and how the 2021 squad, could potentially live up to that expectation.
Boston’s history in the first season of the Overwatch League is a little obscure or forgotten because as time moved on, they aren’t really considered a part of the major storylines people tend to look back on. Generally, they’re not remembered at the same level as the fall of the NYXL, London’s playoff resurgence, or the 0-40 Shanghai Dragons. Yet Boston’s perfect stage was one of the most uplifting stories to come out of 2018, even if it was a story that didn’t get an exceptionally satisfying ending.
Two sixth-place finishes at 6-4 for the first two stages made the Uprising the literal middle of the pack. They were decently sized fish in a small pond, but not big enough to take consistently take on the top dogs. Overall, they had an admittedly bloated roster, but they did have those noticeable bright spots, especially future stars Tracer-specialist Nam-joo "Striker" Kwon and head coach Dae-hee "Crusty" Park. Those two would obviously become some of the greatest in the game’s history, but at this point in their journey, they’re still trying to find their rhythm on Boston. A good rhythm, but still searching, nonetheless.
It wasn’t until a critical roster loss that plagued the team’s image did things started to look dire for Boston. They lost a core flex-DPS player and were somehow expected to make do with a substitute that wasn’t necessarily equipped to replace them. Going into Stage 3, Boston were expected to probably drop in the rankings, and have no shot at scoring a chance to the stage playoffs. There was no way they could recover from a considerably tremendous loss, and since there was no way they could perform well enough to recover, they could kiss their playoff hopes and dreams goodbye.
But obviously, lightning struck, magic happened, whatever you want to call it, something took place in the Uprising’s laboratory that gives them the will and skill to do the impossible. Both LA teams, a refreshed San Francisco Shock, even the almighty New York Excelsior couldn’t keep Boston down long enough to take the series. Ten challengers in a row, and on May 4, Boston made history as the first team to clean sweep a stage 10-0, giving them the title as the best team in the world, and the favourites to be crowned the new stage champions.
That Stage 3 performance was lightning in a bottle, something inspiring that the squad never lived up to again but set a landmark performance for the rest of the league to follow. Boston’s coaching, team play, confidence, and trust in each other allowed them to overcome everybody and showed that they could prove themselves as players. Unfortunately, Crusty would leave the team in the following days for the San Francisco Shock, leaving a gap in the Uprising’s ability to perform. They would fall short to the NYXL in the Stage 3 finals, meander in Stage 4, and couldn’t bring it together in the playoffs, leading to a disappointing finish to a formerly promising season.
Following the magic from Stage 3, the roster was never able to climb out of this roster rut they found themselves in. In season 2, they placed 19th with an 8-20 record, and in season 3, they could be located at the absolute bottom of the standings with a measly 2-19 match record in the regular season. The following years from 2018 turned out to be abysmal for the Uprising, complete mishandling of the team’s potential and possibilities with its roster.
This year, however, things look different. Their new head coach has a history of success in Contenders Korea, who’s bringing along a couple of friends to come with. Seung-hyun "Lori" Kim looks to have a definitive vision for the Uprising, an actual direction that could take the promising talent into a new era of success. In today’s age, a “perfect stage” would simply mean taking the four matches within a certain month of qualifiers, and if you really think about it, depending on the meta, that’s something completely within the realm of possibility for Boston. 10-0 might be out of the question but ending at the top of the monthly standings seems entirely doable with the level of talent available on this year’s Boston.
In 2021, President of Gaming Chris "HuK" Loranger has another gamble on his hands, but this is the first time in a while it’s looking to take off in his favour.
Images via WCS | Blizzard Entertainment