Spitfire made it closer than expected, but NYXL's stars shined through.
In the history of Overwatch League, the New York Excelsior vs the London Spitfire rarely disappointed. This year, the English team completely rebuilt and it was doubtful that the team would be able to make it competitive this early in the season. Furthermore, the match was the first meeting of Pavane against his old team he had been a head coach for two years. With that rich history behind it, the match delivered especially on the first two maps where London looked on par with the Excelsior for the most part.
NYXL vs. London Spitfire (3-1)
View recommendation (4 out of 5, “Relatively close, Outstanding performers, big plays”)
Players to pay attention to: Excelsior - JJoNak/Mano/HOTBA , Spitfire - BERNAR/Glister
Not so one-sided now, eh?
On Lijang Tower: Night Market, the teams rolled out with one of the few instances of full mirrored comp we’d see that weekend, running Ana, Lucio, Mei, McCree, D.Va, Reinhardt. Initially, teams kept poking and prodding at one another feeling each other out in the open area off-point with the XL eventually rotating through arch into the cap-zone. Landing his first sleep dart of the season, JJoNak catches JMAC between swings which forces Spitfire to use their wall defensively. As New York collapses, JJoNak hits a fat Bionade while Babel manages to freeze Mano at the right time. The teams trade JMAC for WHORU and the fight commences. Both McCree’s use their ultimate but BERNAR manages to shut down Nenne by shoving him around the corner while Glister kills JJoNak. With that numbers advantage, London take back the point. Trading back and forth, the Excelsior eventually arrive at 99% and the Spitfire only manages to escape their spawn arch choke by a clever rotation from BERNAR. As they get back to the point, the Spitfire manage to put heavy pressure on Mano and eventually kill him. With the main tank now out of the fight, they clean up and win the next fight on the back of a sweet Blizzard eat from BERNAR who also finishes WhoRU off. With the percentages now sitting at 99% each, WhoRU switches over to Tracer to get back to the point. HOTBA, who’d have an outstanding performance that evening as well, catches Babel’s Blizzard that would’ve otherwise likely ended the game. BERNAR, once again shuts down Nenne’s Dead Eye and kills the McCree before he can inflict serious damage. Meanwhile, WhoRU sits in the backline, finishes Highly and prods at Glister, who dies to Anamo finishing him. HOTBA, still demeched gets killed as well. The Spitfire now seemingly in clean-up-mode, WhoRU attempts a final hero play. Pouncing in from behind, he kills JMAC and places his Pulse Bomb on the sleeping Baby D.Va of BERNAR who dies to it. Alone on the point with Babel and Sanguinar, he takes the Mei dangerously close but Babel manages to Ice Block WhoRU’s burst damage with about 30 HP remaining. Eventually, his HP dwindles and the Spitfire take the first submap. What an opener to a match, with WhoRU reasonably close to a play of the year moment here. Watch WhoRU’s moment again here:
Spitfire in control of the series
On Control Center, we get to see our first minutes of Zarya being played. With an adaptation from the core of Reinhardt, Mei and Lucio, NYXL added Baptiste and McCree while London switches to the Baptiste, Orisa and Reaper version. The first few fights are decided by ultimate rotations as the point ping pongs back and forth between the teams. Sitting at 70% point progress, NYXL cleans the Spitfire in front of their spawn arch with a Graviton Surge and Blizzard combo, putting their opponents in one fight territory. With the Spitfire up by one ultimate and especially a Blizzard more to invest, they’ll need to win two more fights if they want to win the submap. JMAC gets cut off after the arch and it looks like it could be the end of it, but Sanguinar on Lucio snuck behind to channel the point while his teammates stall with Babel’s Blizzard. NYXL split to recontest the point while BERNAR gets two kills in quick succession while Highly drops HOTBA. Though Nenne takes the point back and starts overtime, the rest of his team is being cleaned up and the Spitfire get back to the point in time to take it for themselves. The last fight begins with teams poking each other out as Anamo and Sanguinar fill up their Sound Barriers. With both of those ultimates forced, Mano has to step onto the point to trigger overtime. Knowing of the necessity to touch, the Spitfire surround and trap Mano who falls to damage raining down on him from all sides. With this pick, London now collapse onto New York and clean up the rest of the remaining members, taking the first map of the series.
King’s Row - London at home?
On the next map, the teams once again mirror with a McCree, D.Va and Ana adaptations to the core composition. The start of Spitfire’s attack turns into a continuous slicing in half of both teams by Mei walls, trying to find the biggest slice of the hero pie. Both teams routinely deny the other from gaining any huge advantages through these shenanigans and it is on the DPS players to find or create an opening. Nenne showcases such an instance when he manages to Flashbang JMAC over his shield who consequently is killed during the stun duration. Unfortunately, as so often this weekend, JMAC gets too often sliced off from his team, wasting valuable time to progress for his team. The importance of playing close to walls is revealed when Babel completely counters WhoRU’s Blizzard by angling the ice wall against the payload wall on the point in such a way that it protects JMAC while being fully frozen. With the point won by this move, BERNAR hits a two-man bomb in the streets phase of the map which HOTBA immediately answers with a triple kill of his own.
BERNAR would have the number of Nenne for a lot of the match, continuously shutting down many Deadeye attempts and putting the McCree out of position in the process. Upon losing the second point to London, New York take position on the first corner of the third, and separate the Spitfire without giving Babel any way to answer with his own cut, losing the battle of Tic-Tac-Toe right then and there. As JMAC’s health points close in on zero, he’s forced to dance back out of the arch but Mano catches him and the entire English team in a massive Earth Shatter.
Can the Spitfire finish the map?
With two minutes left on their attack, the next fight will be crucial for the Spitfire if they want to finish King’s Row. Unfortunately, a Cheez-Its overlay popped up on the screen during live broadcast, barring us from seeing what happened during the fight. While London apparently lost the first fight, they came back the next time and pushed the cart onto the final stretch, where they’re eventually stopped by the XL.
On New York’s attack, the first fight turns into a shield and wall dance between the teams, that’s only broken up by one of the rare occasions in which BERNAR is outwitted by Nenne. The first two fights in streets go towards London who beautifully outrotate WhoRU’s walls on the back of an again amazing play by BERNAR who first keeps his main tank alive while JMAC takes a Sleep Dart-induced nap on the floor by firing his Self Destruct high into the air above to keep Mano from capitalizing. Glister gets two quick kills while only Babel falls for London initially, though Nenne catches Highly out shortly after. With the fight tied in a 4vs4 and the XL having spawn advantage, BERNAR comes up clutch again and inexplicably gets a double kill with a single melee attack.
Holding onto the 2:0 dream
Eventually, the Excelsior break through streets phase and cap point B despite a valiant effort from Glister and BERNAR. With three minutes to finish the map, London takes the first fight taking 40 seconds of the time clock. HOTBA again knows exactly where to put his bombs and catches out Highly and Babel, the latter because of a slight misplacement of JMAC’s shield. The Spitfire stop the cart 4 metres before capping point and challenge the XL to a fight. JMAC falls early and all hope looks lost as JJoNak hits a MONSTER of a sleep dart on BERNAR who drops down into the pit. The last remaining sliver of hope comes at the hands of Glister who manages to find a kill of Anamo. In a move of desperation, Sanguinar transcends to a Boostio, dancing on the cart with Nano on him. Seemingly in clean up mode, BERNAR spawns back in and, with the help of Glister, takes down an overextended Mano. JMAC rolls out on Wrecking Ball while Babel tries to get to the point as soon as possible on Doomfist. While the ball is taken care off by Nenne, BERNAR hits a Self Destruct on WhoRU and Babel smashes JJoNak into a wall.
WhoRU puts London’s plans on Ice
Thirty seconds and 0.43 metres seperate the Spitfire from going up 2:0 in the series, setting themselves up for a huge upset this early in the season. They are in a pinch though, having lost all their ultimate charge from last fights hero swap, with an Earth Shatter and a Sound Barrier locked and loaded for the Excelsior. Rotating over the left-side high ground, Mano finds a shatter onto BERNAR and Babel, killing the latter in the process. BERNAR is forced to contest the cart and gets caught in a nasty left-click freeze, into Blizzard freeze, into another left-click freeze combo that leaves him stunned for multiple seconds. Anamo finds an angle to boop the Nanoboosted but frozen D.Va off the objective and NYXL push the cart in. Had BERNAR been able to stay on the cart, arguably the Spitfire would’ve had a solid chance to recontest, with Glister already finding a kill. With impending respawn advantage, I think the Spitfire could’ve potentially won this fight, too. WhoRU put those plans literally on ice.
The match continued with a full punch of nostalgia right to the viewer’s feelings. On Horizon, NYXL starts out with WhoRU on Genji, Mano on Winston and Nenne first on Sombra and later on Tracer. Krillin, now subbed in for the Spitfire, gets a greeting aging back from 2017 as Mano, HOTBA and WhoRU collapse onto his Ana, killing her instantly. Again it’s JJoNak who picks up two for himself and New York take first in a clean fight. As WhoRU gets Nanoboosted and pulls out his first Dragon Blade in 2020, Spitfire simply waits it out in and around spawn and gives up the first two ticks of point B. Technically still in one huge team fight, WhoRU builds another Dragon Blade killing off the staggering Spitfire and cleans the point up with a solid 3:38 left on the clock.
On Spitfire’s attack, it takes them two tries to cap A with Glister on Widow staying towards the bottom right of the first choke and posing a threat, which opens up a rotation to the point for the rest of his team. With a big Biotic Grenade, Krillin catches Mano who falls quickly after. Babel cuts off WhoRU with an Ice Wall without Ice Block being available to the XL player. As he falls, the Spitfire initiate the clean up rotation and take point A. During London’s attack onto B, New York always manages to pick off one or two players in each fight, allowing the respawn advantage to keep Spitfire from claiming the point. Nenne, again on Tracer, becomes a real nuisance in the backline, demanding a lot of attention from Glister’s McCree. With overtime ticking in, London finally finds a clean engagement with all their members alive when they hit the point but Anamo and JJoNak find crucial picks onto Krillin and Glister unexpectedly. As new blue spawns flood the point, the Spitfire are barred from taking it.
Mr. Glister, back line twister
Initially coming out with mirror compositions with Widowmaker as the flexible DPS hero, Nenne quickly decides to switch over to Tracer on XL’s attack to shut down Glister in the far back of point A, which he succeeds at. London had allowed for plenty of cart distance to be pushed before they took the first fight, cutting the amount of fight wins XL need on point A down to two. With one of those in the bag, Nenne switches back to Widowmaker and tries to find a duel with Glister above the gate while HOTBA is sneaking around the area to catch Glister out. The plan fails as Mano is anti-naded and shattered, dying to BERNAR in the process and shutting this attempt down. With several ultimates banked, New York engages and manages to kill JMAC and Babel in the process, though Glister manages to trade Nenne and JJoNak. Fortunately for London, Sanguinar has a small 5% ultimate charge lead on Anamo, which turns out to be huge for the English team. While the rest of London manages to stay alive, Glister takes WhoRU’s head off, chaining his third kill in a row. With the fight now looking slightly in favor of the Spitfire, Glister goes deep onto HOTBA towards cliff, who gets demeched in the process but tries to cash in his second life with a remech. As Glister tries to finish the Baby D.Va in the animation, Mano hits him with a long boy charge from downtown, shoving him into the self-destruct kill zone from HOTBA’s mech. Krillin comes up large with another big bionade onto the frontline of XL, keeping the spawn-advantaged reinforcements at bay as Babel’s Mei spikes Nenne in the noggin, forcing XL to disengage.
BERNAR is once again asking for your emotional support
With only 1:20 remaining on the clock and at a big ultimate disadvantage, New York needs to perform some magic here. Trading two ultimates for four, New York show their veteran cool and while they don’t manage to win the next fight, they do turn the ultimate economy on its head while still having plenty of time for a last push. Armed with Blizzard and an Earthshatter, XL go in. WhoRU sneaks his ultimate into the London team by placing it just so barely around the little wall, probably only a few pixels away from BERNAR’s Defense Matrix effect range, very possibly deciding this last fight my mere inches. With JMAC fully frozen, Mano chains his shatter onto him to get into an angle to kill the Reinhardt with his own charge. Without a shield, London succumbs to the pressure. Turn down to 0.25 speed and play “The Sound of Silence” while paying close attention to the closeness of BERNAR’s Defense Matrix to WhoRU’s ultimate. Feeling for you, Berns.
Losing, losing, but winning!
On the first fight into B, Nenne wins the duel against Glister which initiates the cleanup process as both teams engage in a Sound Barrier for Sound Barrier trade while New York capture B on the back of it. Spitfire once again make the choice to take the better position to hold for point C. This had been a reoccurring theme with the Spitfire’s positioning, choosing to make Junkertown, which may require as much as 8 won team fights for the attack, a mere 5-6 fight win endeavour for the XL by taking much more defensive positions and forsaking earlier fight opportunities. On the first fight into C, New York takes middle high ground, forcing a long rotation from London to meet them at the top. In a perpetual state of “kinda sorta losing”, XL get plenty of cart distance pushed in. When eventually Nenne wins another Widowmaker duel against Glister and HOTBA catches Sanguinar between both Mei walls with one of his Self Destructs, XL gain momentum and are only metres away from capping the point. Perhaps not the most exciting fight to look at, but showcases how the Excelsior actually gain while “losing” fights.
With that said, because of New York’s close call on A, the team is now down to last fight territory. Babel finds an angle on Mano and freezes him upon which JMAC lands a four man Earthshatter. While on the ground, JMAC pummels JJoNak, who dies in the process. Without their main healer, New York’s tanks drop dangerously low with HOTBA getting demeched and Mano surviving with a sliver of health as Anamo’s beat comes in. With a counterbeat in progress, London are in the driver seat for this fight, but WhoRU’s Blizzard earns his team a breather and catches Babel off-guard. Still without his mech, HOTBA calls for help from WhoRU who is threatened by BERNAR in the back. HOTBA’s D.Va surviving ends up being the difference maker as the fight continues and BERNAR is taken out. Nenne catches Krillin in the spawn door as Babel tries to get the XL off the cart with his own Blizzard. HOTBA, now remeched, is fully frozen and gets charged into the cart by JMAC who dies before he can finish the D.Va off. Sitting atop the payload, HOTBA plants his Self-Destruct firmly in the middle. As London tries to contest, the mech blows up in their faces, killing three and allowing XL to cap. XL had no business winning this fight and yet they managed to.
Trying to find a solution to Nenne, Glister switches over to McCree. XL’s Tracer largely avoids him though and lands a big Pulse Bomb in the middle of the Spitfire, chunking everyone down heavily which the XL capitalize on and clean up. Now in the last fight position on point A attack, London are down in ultimates and try their luck again rotating towards the payload by scooting around the clip area. A back-and-forth fight develops in which New York ends up winning as they fullhold London on Junkertown.
Too long, didn't read
Overall, a marvellous JJoNak and an ever so hard-to-kill Mano outdance the at times overly excited and trigger-happy Spitfire in a relatively close series. BERNAR showed a standout performance, often frustrating both Nenne and WhoRU in their plans. Glister flashed some of his promise but fell short to Nenne who warmed up as the series progressed. The veteran cool triumphs in the end but not as comfortably as one would’ve expected. Spitfire showed that if they learn to keep their cool over the season, they may just become a force to be reckoned with.
Image via Blizzard Entertainment