We've little to go on, but a lot of confidence in that!

19:00, 15 Feb 2020

Establishing the nature of an upset before any games have been played, especially after an eventful off-season, is not always an easy task. Of course, we have our rough personal hierarchies in mind, formed based on last seasons’ performances and how we evaluate the new pieces brought on. People such as coaches and players aren’t merely added values onto each other, they work in complicated ways, potentially multiplying by a certain factor when the chemistry fits right. Teams growing together and forming units that develop past the value of each individual piece often surprise us, not least because they are at least initially unpredictable. As we learn the value of coaches like Crusty and Packing10, we understand that these individuals bring more to coaching than we are used to, bringing an increasingly quantifiable X-factor to their teams. As they earn their accolades, we too begin to understand their value and how to do the math with them in the equation. Where we don’t have that knowledge just yet, we fill up with the ever so reliable scrimbux. Naturally, the evaluations are wildly different as we saw in heavily differing pre-season power rankings. 

So if you want to engage in the tomfoolery of defining an upset before any of the participating teams have even played a game, you need to find a person with an unreasonable amount of hubris who sets up his own power rankings as a universal baseline. That’s where I come in, trigger happier than GiG on his shift-key. Spouting only the most surface level analysis, having not quite yet fully understood the meta myself, I make up for my flaws with unearned certitude. 

Unfortunately, due to the coronavirus, we’ll only get to see four different teams perform. Weighing up their individual power level and reevaluating those four teams based on what I heard of scrim performance especially after the recent Scrimbux Stockexchange went live, I would place them as follows: Fusion >> Mayhem ≥ Outlaws > Justice. You don’t necessarily have to share that notion and nobody stops you from being wrong. If a team punches up more than one crocodile mouth (scientific denotation of ><), I will consider it an upset. Therefore, the Outlaws beating Mayhem won’t be considered an upset.

Outlaws vs Washington - Lose at speed chess, then roll lower than a 6 on the LiNkzr W20

While not necessarily an upset, Washington beating the Outlaws here would still defy my odds. At times during the pre-season, Outlaws were looking pretty good but as the meta of Rein, Mei, Lucio entrenched on more maps, critics of the Houstonians came out of hiding.

With the meta falling beautifully in Washington’s lap in recent weeks, allowing their DPS players to play on their signature heroes, the first condition for the Outlaws to be beaten here is likely already locked in. Stratus will likely get to play Mei for the entire series while Corey can flex between Widow and McCree which he has proven to be outstanding on, likely occasionally also being forced onto Reaper in some locations. If the Outlaws are trying to fight Corey on even ground, MekO can certainly contain some of the American’s star power, but a lot might come down to LiNkzr matching him. Followers of the Overwatch League know that the odds for that to end well are likely worse than a coin-flip, as the Finn has historically been one of the most inconsistent players, swaying from the best Widow duelist at some parts during season 1 to thoroughly mediocre in others. The Outlaws will arguably hit their stride once Blasé and Danteh are allowed to play any of their admittedly large hero pool and it’s unfortunate that the season start fell on this meta. It’s not impossible that this duo will still play the majority of the maps, which would spell trouble for LiNkzr’s future on this roster. Perhaps the Houston coaches got a more secure plan in stock for us?


However, to focus onto the hitscan role would be needlessly reductive. While we saw the impact someone like a Decay can have on a game, his team still lost despite his pack-muled efforts to carry his team across the finish line. I won’t claim to know the weight of different win conditions in our current meta just yet, but it seems apparent to me that an inferior tankline is at least as hurtful to your team’s chances as an underperforming DPS. With that in mind, there aren’t many scenarios in which Ellivote and rOar should be expected to have Muma’s and MekO’s number. Furthermore, the speed chess version of accurately Mei walling and faking each other out on the cooldown on a team scale seem significantly more important than individual performances. Here, the Justice could theoretically gain from having a more cohesive unit, even though rumours don’t indicate that they do.

New fundamentals, new win conditions - Philadelphia Fusion vs Florida Mayhem

What a team the Fusion are on paper. Every player on their roster has a realistic chance to be considered a top 3-5 player in the league when it’s all said and done, with Sado likely being seen as the only exception here. That said, it wouldn’t be the first star-studded team in esports to fall short of their goals, never finding a common wavelength to operate on. While the team has given off the vibe that they don’t care about every single regular season match equally, their first games at their own homestand are unlikely to be those they lack motivation for. 

At the same time, with the season still so fresh, systems still so volatile and strategies still so unknown, Fusion’s victory is not set in stone just yet. Was the Mayhem to win, however, I would certainly consider this an upset under the context of location, Fusion’s spending and their title aspirations.

While individual standout performances can happen, it’s unlikely to matter in this series in any significant way given the star power of the Fusion. If an upset was to happen, it is much more likely to happen on the back of a meta-related variable. Throughout the offseason, we kept hearing about “scrim bubbles” and their differing metas. With Mayhem having spent much of the offseason in Korea, it’s likely that their meta understanding is at least informed by the Asian scrim bubble. Arguments pointing against that theory are that the Spitfire should also be counted within this specific scrim environment, having stayed and scrimmed many of the Asian teams we’ve yet to see, and their compositions didn’t look significantly different. What we know is that the meta converged shortly before season start, though the extent of its convergence is yet unknown. The second question is if the Asian meta has a competitive edge over the one being played on North American soil. 

Even if all of those seriously evaporate into thin air on match day, even the meta compositions that we saw during the first week could yield some surprising results in this series. In my current understanding, despite the now established concept of much more thought out ultimate rotations and the handling of those resources that we come to understand as Overwatch fundamentals, in this specific meta, a lot revolved around Mei wall placements both in their mechanical execution and in their connect-four like cognition. Not only have we seen stark differences in wall executions, with players like Jaru often leaving wide gaps for opponents to escape through, we’ve also seen acutely aware Mei players who understand just a little bit more how to connect their walls into the specific map geometry given their opponents positioning, cutting more effective slices into their opponents’ formation or taking pressure off their main tank in more advantageous situations. Superior mechanics do not protect you from those knowledge gaps or lack of on the fly thinking. While I think that it’s not likely that either Yaki or BQB is a faster and more effective improviser than EQO, the possibility is there. 

As it takes two to dance, ice wall success is equally on the opposition to fail to avoid it, by moving out of line and having individual players cut off from their team. In this game of connect-four Ice pillars to a choke, just like in the children’s game, sometimes you miss the obvious gaps and a particularly observant opponent might have you trapped before you understood that it was even a possibility for you to lose in that way. If the Mayhem managed to form a cohesive unit this early into the season that moves with an understanding of these fundamentals, the Fusion could be upset in front of their home crowd.

Washington Justice's Stratus in sunglasses

Modern Eschatology - Washington Justice vs Philadelphia Fusion

For the Justice to beat the Fusion today, it is likely more down to the Fusion having been unable to bring their otherworldly talent together. Virtually the only players that can hold a candle to their counterpart is Corey vs either Heesu or Carpe and Stratus on Mei against either Ivy or EQO. The aforementioned explanations of team cohesion in this meta are unlikely to matter as at least judging by scrimbux, the Justice are unlikely to have an edge over anyone in the Overwatch League in this regard. If the Justice want to cause a major upset, it would likely rely on the Justice starting the series off with Corey taking over the first control map and giving the Justice a lead and likely going into the break with an equalized score at 1:1.

During the halftime, former Fusion analyst Beezy would have to step onto the stage and show off his “Totally 80’s” Zarya costume, telling the caster that he made some adjustments to the Particle Cannon. As he fires off a Graviton Surge, the gun reveals itself to be actually capable of firing blackholes, spaghettifying everyone in the venue almost immediately as the blackhole steadily swallows all planetary mass. While players are pulled towards the event horizon, Stratus would have to put on his sunglasses and utter one last sentence “I guess we’re going straight to the Stratusphere, baby!” As the human race gets sucked into the void pit that we have deserved to meet our demise in forever, having societally allowed the invention of truck nuts, something chuckles from a spaceship in orbit. Captain Zrgbl0tz-15 of the K’ang’loblioan empire, whose ship has hovered in orbit for millennia, would have to exude more sulfur gas than usual through his six armpit valves, resembling laughter in his species. “That was clever,” the single-brain-celled invertebrate would have to state, declaring the Justice the winner of the match against the Fusion shortly after. He would have to take home some truck nuts as a souvenir, making them the last relic of our species with the only memory of us being Stratus’ amazingly witty contribution. 

Images courtesy of Robert Paul for Blizzard Entertainment 

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