Why Are There So Many Upsets In OWL's Summer Showdown?
Well, rip up the notes and throw out convention, Overwatch League's Summer Showdown has proven that anything can happen. Like a fairy godmother going on a drunken wish-granting spree, some of the cereal underperformers in the Overwatch League have suddenly found themselves the proud owners of a second wind.
We mean it when we say that Junker Queen quite literally has caused a reckoning of the league's top teams, opening up a few seats on the train headed to the upcoming Toronto LAN. Pump the brakes and grab your thinking caps, It's time to dive into the Summer Showdown's first week and form some kind of explanation as to how all of these upsets have occurred.
Overwatch League's Summer Showdown was always going to be weird. With the addition of Junker Queen to Overwatch 2 and its subsequent popularity in Overwatch's amateur leagues, it seemed to be the only viable composition to run.
A long-range map favouring snipers? Use Junker Queen.
Something that's the more enclosed and short range? Junker Queen.
A map that features a good deal of verticality?
You get the picture.
However, one subtle detail that the community will overlook is the new map pool. Busan and Nepal have been added to the Control map pool, Junkertown has taken Route 66's position when it comes to Escort, and Hollywood and Paraíso both are new for Hybrid, with the latter being a brand-new map recently added to Overwatch 2. Alone five new maps does not seem like a lot, but when you take into account everything else that has changed, everything begins to multiply.
And while that's all entirely true, what's not explained on the surface is how different this composition is from your average Overwatch League amalgamation of heroes.
Obviously, teams have scrambled to quickly adapt their tank players to Junker Queen, something to also note is that support duos the world over have had quickly had to switch barrings from a flex support-centric metagame to a fairly rare main support-focused one.
With Lucio and Brigitte being the support of choice for the lion's share of the maps, teams that have leaned on their flex support depth have been suffering. However, we have seen heroes change before, and they rarely end up with this many upsets. What's caused such a rift is how unique is this composition's playstyle.
Forgive us, but we're going to have to go under the hood for this one.
Take for example this excerpt from the recent bout between the Washington Justice and the San Francisco Shock. For nearly three straight minutes the objective is untouched as the team's volley abilities back and forth. Now, this is a cherry-picked example, not all games are like this, but this is just a fantastic example of how different this metagame is from the last two.
One holdover is the high impact DPS players have in opening team fights. With Sojourn's ability to find picks through sheer mechanical skill, as well as Genji's own assassination potential, the composition generally can save some defensive cooldowns for follow-up engages or use the resources more reactionary. That's not to say that Junker Queen or Lucio can't make plays, but a large part of these fights come down to the impact of the DPS in the neutral fight, before anyone has a numbers advantage.
Then teams have to explore when and where to use Commanding Shout. With the ability to, at will, increase her team's effective health pool and their mobility is an incredibly strong tool. So in one instance, it could be used as a defensive cooldown to catch the enemy's engage, while in the next fight it could be paired with something like Rally or Sound Barrier or Dragon Blade as an engage tool. These different "modes" or way to view an ability are difficult to fit within a framework or model because of their inherent flexibility.
On paper this might look about as fun as watching grass grow, watching two teams just "spam" abilities back and forth for minutes at a time, but there is a tiny dance being played.
One that's not easily unpacked, even at the highest level.
So this experience reset could also play a role in how topsy-turvy this week has felt.
To put it simply; the Junker Queen composition is too good not to play, but because of how versatile some of the abilities are, this has resulted in a very even playing field, at least initially.
The Midseason Madness champions, the Los Angeles Gladiators have opened the stage 0-2, the Atlanta Reign look to be struggling, and the New York Excelsior look to be fairly competitive with a 2-3 reverse-sweep over the Houston Outlaws. And speaking of New York they're a great example of another reason why there has been such an upheaval to start the Summer Showdown.
Be it because of the midseason break or in anticipation of this rigid Junker Queen metagame, we've also seen teams make some fairly notable roster changes.
The New York Excelsior notably have added main support An "ANSOONJAE" Soon-jae. This come as a breath of fresh air as the team as desperately needed a main support all season long.
While Shin "PIGGY" Min-jun and the Houston Outlaws have parted ways, Houston has added Tomas "Doge" Kongsøre and Joseph "Lep" Cambriani. While the former does have to play on a bit of ping, the latter adds some extra depth to their support line, especially in a main support-focused metagame. Both Doge and Lep should be boons not only for the Summer Showdown but for the remainder of the season as well.
And Rene "k1ng" Rangel fills out the Vancouver Titans as they not only net their first win over the Paris Eternal but take a surging Toronto Defiant to map five. Struggling since the Kickoff Clash, it now feels like Vancouver isn't just a bye-week. Under David "dpei" Pei's veteran presence, the Titans are a team not only worth watching but a team that could play spoiler to their peers come play-ins.
The compound changes with the map pool, the rosters continuously changing, and with the experience reset ushered in by Junker Queen, Summer Showdown could quickly shuffle the deck when it comes to global power rankings.
And, to be fair, we've talked about Overwatch's summer curse before and this season echoes a lot of those same ill omens. With all of these upsets, can a team like the Guangzhou Charge make a stand and capture their second franchise title or maybe a team like the Toronto Defiant can hoist their first in front of their home crowd?
We've seen what the past can hold.
What surprises might this year have to offer?