Perhaps the most action-packed weekend in season 3 is upon us. Can we crown a new best in the world?
The Overwatch League 2020 is back to a regular Saturday & Sunday schedule with slightly more Asian and slightly less North American Overwatch. Almost a handful of franchises have sent their teams over to South Korea. This has created a highly competitive region which will reliably produce decent to great matches week by week. The hero bans also promise a relatively vanilla meta and if teams haven’t forgotten the lessons from earlier in the season, we might be in for the best week of Overwatch in season 3 yet. Shall we indulge?
Considering the Echo ban based on competitive playrate and the new hero not being available in OWL just yet anyway, we’ve effectively eliminated a DPS ban this week. The other three heroes currently out of rotation are Tracer, Orisa and Moira. Because no core hero of the Mei, McCree/Reaper composition is banned, we can safely assume that we’ll get to see a considerable amount of Reinhardt, D.Va, Mei, McCree, Ana and Lucio or a close variation of those heroes. Dive isn’t entirely out of the question especially on 2CP and some Control submaps. As always, we have to consider that teams like the Hunters and possibly the Valiant will go for curveball strategies to be able to punch up. The best teams will likely still stick to the meta that we saw pre-hero pools and occasionally when the bans allowed for it.
Match of the week: Shanghai Dragons vs Seoul Dynasty
12:00 CEST 6:00 EST 3:00 PST (April 26th)
Shanghai Dragons (3-1): We’re in for a treat with this one. With the meta in a fairly vanilla state, both teams face each other on fairly uninhibited grounds. The match will be at its best if both teams only seldomly deviate from Mei/McCree comps, as both teams get to compete on even grounds without any meta-induced and thus random shenanigans. The DPS narratives on both teams are similar. You have a seasoned hyper-flexible DPS in both Fleta and Profit, with the former finally finding his form again. On the other hand, you have highly praised newcomer stories that came out of the pre-season for LIP and Fits. Throughout the pre-season, coaches who had scrimmed these two sleeper picks independently pointed out just how nuts and unheard of their hitscan prowess was, taking over entire blocks on occasion. Some voices out of the North American scene pointed out that the Dynasty might be a bit overhyped in being called the best team in the league and admittedly we’ve only seen then twice. This reputation will be put to the test this weekend against one of the other contenders for this title. Meanwhile, the almost unambiguous opinion in Asian Overwatch is that the Shanghai Dragons are the top dogs. It’s also noteworthy that the Dynasty has had a fair bit more chaos injected into their practice due to having to relocate back to Korea once again. Nevertheless, I predict this to be the weekend where the Dragons crown themselves kings. Yes, ahead of the Fusion.
Seoul Dynasty vs Hangzhou Spark
10:00 CEST 4:00 EST 1:00 PST (April 25th)
Seoul Dynasty (3-1): The Spark have looked quite a bit shaken over the last couple of weeks, not least due to misinterpretations of the meta. But also in matches in which opponents have hand shook on mirroring a composition, the Spark have recently drawn the short end of the stick, with only GodsB and at times Guxue pulling their full weight. On the other side, the Dynasty with just too matches have inspired a lot of confidence in their ability but have yet to produce a body of work this season which could give us solid ground to build an argument on. On paper, the Dynasty are the better roster but they are also in a massive trap week and might not feel secure in showing their entire hand before their match against the Dragons on Sunday. Nevertheless, just by the sheer quality of their roster, they shouldn’t break out in a sweat here.
Guangzhou Charge vs Shanghai Dragons
12:00 CEST 6:00 EST 3:00 PST (April 25th)
Shanghai Dragons (3-0) Much like the game prior, the favourites find themselves in a trap game situation ahead of the barn burner on Sunday. The Charge have shown us the full performance delta they are likely capable of, ranging from struggling hopelessly against the Chengdu Hunters to smashing the Vancouver Titans. Unfortunately for the Charge, they’ve not looked great against the Dragons this season, having lost to them in a clean sweep twice. They themselves will also have to meet the NYXL this weekend, not exactly allowing for them to slack off in their other match. If both teams play around vanilla Mei/McCree compositions, there’s currently nothing to suggest that the Dragons won’t have the upper hand. On top of that, the Charge haven’t shown yet that they are able to out-strategize an opponent based on the composition they are playing, making it unlikely that they will find a meta advantage against the Dragons. Losing neptuNo due to his visa expiring will further hurt their chances.
New York Excelsior vs Chengdu Hunters
14:00 CEST 8:00 EST 5:00 PST (April 25th)
New York Excelsior (3-1): The pendulum of public opinion has swung against the New York Excelsior and they will have to convince the audience of their qualities once more. With timid but sufficient performances against a formerly weak Atlantic Division, confidence in the regular season powerhouse as dwindled, not least due to coaching decisions to field WhoRU ahead of Libero on Mei and SBB ahead of Nenne. It’s unfortunate that Nenne will not be able to participate in the match as he supposedly still resides in the US due to medical issues. In terms of the expected Mei player, I think the NYXL might have realised that the time for building up a rookie player like WhoRU and give him match time has passed, with their immediate competition in the Asian region being much tougher than the old Atlantic Division. Because of that, I fully expect to see Libero return to the starting line-up if the team decides to opt into vanilla meta strategies. Chengdu Hunters most likely won’t be as conservative and will likely find their own spin on the meta once again, relying on dive tanks potentially paired with their deadly Pharah&Mercy duo. A lot of weight will thus be on Saebyeolbe to contain this thread and on the frontline to draw clear rules of engagement to not allow the Hunters to bring the chaos to them. If they manage to bring order to the battlefield consistently, then the Excelsior will smash the hunters this weekend. If the Hunters play Reinhardt compositions into the ever so amazing Mano, I expect a stomp.
Atlanta Reign vs Philadelphia Fusion
22:00 CEST 16:00 EST 13:00 PST (April 25th)
Philadelphia Fusion (3-2) The high-quality matches keep on coming this weekend, no less between the Atlanta Reign and the Philadelphia Fusion. For many, the team in orange are the current team to beat and their match score of an impressive 8-1 lends a lot of credibility to this opinion. Moreover, their meeting is a rematch of a hard-fought battle just two weeks ago in which the Fusion could narrowly take it home of map 5. Interestingly, back then their meta conceptions during those bans had switched, with Atlanta going away from Torbjörn compositions that they had arguably introduced to the Overwatch League earlier in the season, while Carpe played the power dwarf and even scored his 4000th kill on him. While the last meeting of both of those teams ended for the most part in double shield head to heads, it’s unlikely that we will see the same happening this week. I’d want to say that both teams have enough confidence in the skill of their players and their team cohesion to opt into a vanilla standoff but the Reign have repeatedly shown that they are willing to take calculated risks, not least in running creative compositions. This adds a lot of randomness towards predicting the outcome of this series, but a Fusion that is as on fire as they seem to be right now, with a meta that’s unlikely to allow Erster to play heroes on which he could take over a game, the safer bet is the Fusion though not by much.
San Francisco Shock vs Los Angeles Valiant
12:00 CEST 18:00 EST 15:00 PST (April 26th)
San Francisco Shock (3-1): Are the Shock back to their former dominance? A polarising question that we’ve not yet found an answer for. In the third match between the Valiant and the Shock this season, it shouldn’t ever feel close if those high on the Shock want to see their opinion validated. The valiant effort puns write themselves, but it is truly miraculous that a team witch currently only two coaches can still consistently make it close when facing off against the likes of the Shock and the Gladiators. Unfortunately, this has been how far it has come since they had to let go of Stoop and Reprize as the team is currently on a three-game lose-streak. They will once again have to reach deep into their “dishonest” (I’d call it “when live gives you lemons”) bag and come up with a composition in order to give them a strategical leg up. Unfortunately for Valiant fans, the bans don’t help much here and the optimal meta compositions seems fairly straight forward. Can the Valiant surprise again?
Hangzhou Spark vs Chengdu Hunters
10:00 CEST 04:00 EST 01:00 PST (April 26th)
Hangzhou Spark (3-2): The Hunters and the Spark have delivered about equally this season but in the head-to-head, the team around rekindled DPS GodsB have a leg up. That said, the slapping that Chengdu received in their 0-3 defeat at the hand of the Spark saw them disadvantaged by the bans and heavily impacted their performance. Taking away Tracer compositions from the Spark will probably hurt them, though we can expect the Spark to also have a more thorough understanding of the gameplans the Hunters will try to employ, having played them so frequently and with the Hunters gaining more out of that element of surprise than the Spark do. This is to say that the more a team plays the Hunters, the more it is worth investing into figuring out their signature Pharah compositions. An 0-2 week will further establish the belief that the Hunters were the worst team in Asia before teams migrated to the region.
Guangzhou Charge vs New York Excelsior
14:00 CEST 8:00 EST 5:00 PST (April 26th)
New York Excelsior (3-1): With the news that main support neptuNo will have to leave China due to his visa expiring, the Charge will have to rely on Chara to take over. This is arguably a sizeable downgrade but it is likely that this was a calculable scenario for the Charge, allowing them to bring Chara up to speed. It’s challenging to anticipate how these teams will match each other, as the sample size of North American teams now competing in the Asian region is practically limited to the Vancouver Titans whose record, given their current roster woes, doesn’t tell us a lot. If both teams run vanilla compositions into each other, then New York should have the upper hand. This is why I expect the Charge to run nero on Pharah wherever they can or at least be creative in other areas.
Florida Mayhem vs Boston Uprising
22:00 CEST 16:00 EST 13:00 PST (April 26th)
Florida Mayhem (3-0): Hero pools has made it so that there are few certainties in the Overwatch League and very few games should ever be predicted to be more than 70% in the favour of the favourite. The one thing that we can count on in this perpetual falling house of cards is that the Boston Uprising are the worst team in the Overwatch League 2020. Coming off a clean 3-0 against the Paris Eternal no less, the Mayhem have shown some signs to have stabilized. With BQB back on McCree and their signature support pick Brigitte available, there’s nothing in the way of a quick stomp.
Houston Outlaws against Dallas Fuel
00:00 CEST (April 27th) 16:00 EST 13:00 PST (April 26th)
Dallas Fuel (3-2): While unlikely to be on the level of the match between the Dragons and the Dynasty, the Texan dynamic and the recent upswing in performance for both teams still promises to deliver a highly explosive series. Both teams have distinguished themselves from being an absolute bottom tier team like the Uprising certainly are but how high their skill peaks go is yet untested. I can not picture a scenario in which the Outlaws would be able to match the Fuel in a vanilla composition and I don’t know how well containing a Decay, who seems to be on top of his game, would work. Whoever the Outlaws fielded on McCree, be it Blasé or LiNkzr, would likely have his lunch money stolen by Decay. Efforts to shut the South Korean down even in favourable meta situations have failed for the most part and he’s been able to take over maps and even entire matches. With the Fuel now slowly but surely climbing off his back and pulling their own weight, the momentum seems on Fuel’s side. The match is likely to be decided by whatever composition the Outlaws coaching staff decide to run the majority of the time and escaping the mirror seems to be a mandatory start for that. Whether or not if this is feasible is the unknown future that makes this game a must-watch.
Images courtesy of Blizzard Entertainment