June Joust Is Houston’s Test Of Their Process - Not Their Results
After resting on a sea of blue and black confetti, the Overwatch League now primes itself for its next set of tests. And for the Houston Outlaws, that crucible spawns from within. After initially besting their regional rivals, the Outlaws were one of the many teams the Dallas Fuel put away on their May Melee title run.
Past that, the Outlaws were riding high as a team that looked locked for a trip to Hawai’i. Sadly, the May Melee will stand as a haunting reminder that the league isn’t a race towards results - but a marathon of the process. However, the June Joust is exactly the clean slate the Outlaws need to truly showcase that they actively are, and should be considered, a top team.
“We’re never making that mistake ever again. It’s never going to happen,” exclaimed Houston Outlaws co-head coach, Choi "Junkbuck" Jae-won. Fresh from their loss to the Dallas Fuel, both head coaches spoke of errors in preparation and that they assumed the San Francisco Shock would have advanced in the bracket during an episode of Let it Rip.
“It’s good that it happened early because we can’t get complacent any more,” Harsha "Harsha" Bandi said. “We know we have to think of every possibility and be prepared for it. So it’s good that it happened early.”
The Houston Outlaws certainly revealed their potential, besting the defending world champions is no small feat and becoming the de-facto leaders in a certain style heading into the May Melee playoffs is a strong vote of confidence. This all begs the question; was this May Melee rush a one-time occurrence? Can the new-look Outlaws find consistency in 2021?
This is a team that came just shy of leading the western division piloting Rush compositions arguably at the highest level in the world. Even past that point, they iterated and showcased their own looks, wielding a Hanzo variant in their victory over the San Francisco Shock, and still being able to hang with strong Winston-centric teams like in their first meeting with the Dallas Fuel.
And yet that team did not show up.
It is undeniable, this feeling of exposure surrounding Houston heading into the June Joust. Four heroes are disabled, the league as a whole have to prepare for a brand-new patch, and Houston is battling back after what looked to be a brilliant start - to say this is a new battleground is an understatement. Yet, it's that honest reset that bursts in like a teacher prepared for war, wielding a surprising pop quiz.
Echoing similar sentiments from their unfulfilled May Melee destiny, this is the time for the Houston Outlaws. June is their time to step forward and show that they are not deterred from their past, their mistakes, or their faults. To show that they’ve learned from those hurdles and have come out the other side changed. This season it isn’t about their results inherently, but the consistency of their structure and that will be the needle that weaves together a new chapter for the Outlaws competitive tale. And from that structure, from that fertile soil, results will surely bloom. However, there is a subtle question mark that orbits the league for similar reasons.
While all of these elements connect with the Houston Outlaws and their fresh summer start, teams like the Los Angeles Gladiators, the Hangzhou Spark, and the Philadelphia Fusion can learn from those same lessons. The same reasons why the Outlaws might rise above can be applied to many of their peers. With that said, there can only be so many teams who ride the tide towards a June Joust playoff spot and unseat those at the top. Not only do the Outlaws have to overcome and refine their process, but they also battle the handfuls of teams preparing to do the same. And that’s where the patience across the season as a whole comes into play.
While cliché, the story of the tortoise and the hare perfectly encompasses the general feeling of what kind of hurdles the Houston Outlaws has to climb. And yet, a fictional - yet wise - volleyball captain fills in the blanks like the puzzle piece sat at the bottom of the box. It is the little things we do every day, that prepares us for those hurdles. Yes, the Outlaws have to brace for a long game, not exhausting themselves too early, but working for work’s sake gets you nowhere. In some sense, it must be guided—sprinting towards results is useful, but it’s the difference between ‘good’ and ‘great’. That’s the test that June ushers in. Your practice, your attitude, your preparation; it all adds up like different paints on a pallet. One without the others is flat and drab, but with all the elements combined, with time and enough effort, they craft a beautiful painting.
In an interview with Boston Uprising’s assistant general manager, Vytis "Mineral" Lasaitis, a wise and subtly obvious realisation was given, one that speaks volumes about teams like the Houston Outlaws.
“I always default to this answer, but as long as you make the playoffs, you always have a shot,” Mineral explained. “The playoff meta is always going to decide whether you make it or not. We’ve seen this every year. So in Overwatch League, I think that’s been proven. As long as you're in the playoff race, as long as you make it, as long as you continuously build that culture, and you work really hard throughout the season you're in with a shot.”
Again the process is what brings the results, it’s the marathon—not the race. However, the final stretch of the Overwatch League’s marathon historically speaking somehow always becomes a small race. To play with the metaphor, the tortoise needs to become the hare at some points in the race, but only during the final stretch. It’s the full-gambit style of play, having clear and defined peaks, a comfortable and confident style, and the fortitude and patience to go the distance that the Houston Outlaws needs to capture if they truly aim to flip the script and take revenge against their domestic rivals.
The Houston Outlaws have shown they have the potential to clear each and every hurdle put in their way. They showcased their style during the May Melee and nearly led the western division with Rush. They still maintain one of the most explosive DPS rosters in the west and have a world-class tank lineup. They check all the boxes for a team that could put the Shock era six feet under, but will they stand the test of time? Have they corrected their course? And can they consistently reorient through the turbulence of the 2021 Overwatch League season?
The June Joust will be a litmus test to who the Houston Outlaws are—not what they can do.
Images via Blizzard Entertainment