Remarking on the oddest road to riches in the Overwatch League
The leading narrative surrounding the London Spitfire in the Inaugural Season was that they were a team that could win it all. They certainly had the talent in that 12-man roster of theirs, a hybrid between G.C Busan and Kongdoo Panthera, two of the best teams in the world before the start of the Overwatch League. In the beginning, they delivered as promised, winning the Stage 1 playoffs, and coming in third in the Stage 2 playoffs, narrowly losing to the Philadelphia Fusion in the semi-finals. Then things came to a crashing halt. After Stage 2, the London Spitfire dropped hard, finishing sixth in Stage 3, and finishing ninth in Stage 4. After a disappointing second half of the season, the London Spitfire released five players and were left with a seven-man squad to take on the world. It was with these players, Profit, Birdring, Gesture, Fury, Bdosin, Nus, and Closer, that they would win the Inaugural Season of the Overwatch League and be engrained in memory as eternal champions.
How did they do it? In retrospect, a team that was experiencing the second-biggest drop of the season, to take it all, in the end, is really odd. Yes, they were a team filled with talent with the ability to take it, but the fact that they overcame their immense slump and actually pulled it together? Seems almost unbelievable at this point, but their playoff rebound is something to behold.
IF THERE EVER WAS A META…
A little context as to the meta surrounding the 2018 playoffs is crucial to understanding London’s success. Essentially, the meta centred itself around double-sniper, and Widowmaker and Hanzo were the damage heroes to play. At the time, Hanzo had just received a huge rework with the introduction of his Storm Arrows, an ability that made him not only more viable but more deadly. Paired with a Mercy Damage Boost and an Orisa Halt for his Dragon Strike, and all of a sudden you have the makings of an incredibly high damage powerhouse DPS hero that could take over the game. As a counterpart, Widowmaker was already a hard-carry hero, but her shot charge time and her grapple hook cooldown were at historic low, meaning she could essentially take as many potshots and rotations as she wanted to, as her window of vulnerability was so low. These two heroes were the staples of the playoffs, and any team not running a lineup consisting of players that could dominate on these heroes was certainly going to lose.
If the double-sniper set up ended up being stifled too much by an enemy dive, a team could simply run Brigitte, who’s full potential as a game-breaker was yet to be seen but steadily creeping on the game. Her Shield Bash, Inspire, and permanent rally armour made team fights a nightmare, and basically ensured any traditional dive would be hard countered, or the fights would go on long enough that significant time would be drained off the clock.
Double-sniper mixed with no role lock, a powerful Brigitte, and Orisa’s bedrock playstyle, made it so that this meta was all about enabling your damage players to pound as much as possible. Even a flex-support played Roadhog was fielded in a triple-tank, double-sniper, and Mercy compositions, to contribute to as much shield break as physically possible and utilising the Halt/Hook combination to play around the shields and corners as well. This meta, absolutely gave London the edge over other teams, as Profit and Birdring were without a doubt the deadliest duo with the highest of highs in the League, Gesture’s Orisa and Winston were probably the best in the entire playoffs, and Fury was by far the most consistent off-tank at bailing out his teammates in sticky situations.
FOOL ME ONCE? SHAME ON YOU – SPITFIRE VS. GLADIATORS
The Inaugural Season Champions the London Spitfire are not often remembered for being on the receiving end of the L.A Gladiators’ Great Bamboozle, but they were. In that first match the London Spitfire could just not match up to what the Glads were bringing, and fell 3-0, to go down 0-1 in the series. At first it seemed like London were just going to be incapable of living up to their full potential, Gesture was missing in action, Profit was not getting as much done as he could’ve, and the team looked disconnected. But in between July 11 and July 14, 2018, the London Spitfire found that fire and that confidence, which enabled them to absolutely bring it against the Gladiators, tying the series 1-1. General Manager Susie Kim had this to say going into map three.
Maybe we feel that we got to a point that we’re not scared of Gladiators anymore. We’re going to take it nice and comfortable. We’re going to have fun with this.
It was in this match that London adopted the signature playstyle that would define their 2018 playoff run. They had absolutely no shame or fear whatsoever. Gesture and Bdosin’s Halt/Hook combinations completely stifled teams to a degree that would make Dendi jealous, and Profit ran wild on Hanzo, dominating in the 1v1 and with the Halt/Dragon combo. London plays with the signature swagger and disregard for their opponents that teams can only dream on encapsulating. This was a meta designed for the Spitfire, break your enemy’s mentality by never giving them any respite. You’re going to lose in strategy, in the neutral, and in the 1v1s because the London Spitfire are better than you.
WINGS OUT (OF THE PLAYOFFS) – VS. VALIANT
“Best team in the Pacific? Really? Okay.” – 2018 London Spitfire (probably).
After their win against the Gladiators, Spitfire came into the match against the Valiant with zero cares in the world. On Junkertown, Profit and Birdring flanks were a regular occurrence, and Bdosin’s Roadhog was so oppressive that he would feed into unrezzable positions, and still win the teamfight with his team when he returned. Nus specifically got away with (resurrecting) bloody murder, hardly ever being punished for risky resurrections.
It was at this point, that it was clear that no one was going to go toe-to-toe with the London Spitfire. No one executed the triple tank lineup like Gesture, Fury, and Bdosin could, and certainly, no one was winning the DPS battle against Profit and Birdring. They only really lost a map because the team trolled by running a Bdosin on everything but Zenyatta and trickling into the enemy spawn on their attack.
Unfortunate for the Valiant after such a resurgence in the second half of the season, but this match is not a good look. There is just no effective adaptation from them to put up a convincing fight against London, and enough has been said as to how well the players of the Spitfire performed.
PROFIT, THE OG FARMER – VS. FUSION
It’s the Grand Finals of the 2018 Inaugural Season. The two lowest seeds have crawled their way to the end and are ready to fight to take the title. The unlikeliest of victors, but here they are anyway, ready to put on a show, one of them to be crowned the kings of the inaugural season.
Now that the match has been hyped up as a battle between the best two teams in the Overwatch League, prepare for the most legendary one-sided harvest of a team in a grand final. Yes, even more so than the 2019 Grand Finals, where while that was a 4-0, the Vancouver Titans (may that original squad rest in peace in their place in Overwatch history) put on an infinitely better performance than the Philadelphia Fusion, and it was nowhere near a harvest. It also ended in four maps, 2018 ended in seven where only two or three were close.
Some maps one could say, okay London had the edge, but Day 1’s Volskaya Industries is where the Spitfire took the lead in the series, and where Profit cemented his name in the upper echelons of Overwatch history. Every esport has its moments of sheer incredibleness and excitement, s1mple’s “Falling AWP”, Dota 2’s “The Play”, and Profit delivers two on Volskaya.
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If that doesn’t sum up the series as a whole, nothing will. London at the end of the day played out of their minds, with nothing but sheer swagger, confidence, and disrespect for whoever mistakenly tried to stop them from taking that trophy. A legendary performance for legendary players, truly something to be remembered.
GONE BUT NOT FORGOTTEN
The London Spitfire no longer have the same roster that let them take the Inaugural Season finals, in fact, their 2019 performance as a team left a lot to be desired. Currently, they’re separated amongst other franchises, mainly the Seoul Dynasty, but their performance and explosive attempt at the title should not be forgotten. They may be shrouded by the shadow of the San Francisco Shock, but their 2018 playoff run has to be acknowledged for how well this team came together, to deliver performances appropriate to legends of the game.
Images via Blizzard Entertainment