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Why The Summer Showdown Belongs To The Philadelphia Fusion

Blizzard Entertainment

Written by 

Joseph "Volamel" Franco

Posted 

23rd Jun 2021 17:19

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Three things are certain once the Overwatch League treads through its summer tour; sweltering heat, the initial clamouring of playoff narratives, and underdog upsets. And through the hassle and stress of acquiring visas for their international players, through the integration of their substitutes all the while maintaining a level of competitive stature that they’re known for, the Philadelphia Fusion are the one franchise that is poised to capitalise on the alignment of the summer solstice.

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While that reads as flowery, the proverb holds weight. Thanks to a fairly light schedule, a shift in the metagame, their starters finally coming online and a little help from a summer trend, the Fusion is positioned to capture their first title. Your eyes did not deceive you; the toothless greats, the team that the Overwatch community have deemed serial chokers, the Philadelphia Fusion are going to capture the Summer Showdown title. 

And it all starts with a touch from Lady Luck.

The historical relevance of Overwatch League’s summertime upsets seems nonsensical, but for some reason, it always happens. The Los Angeles Valiant reigned victorious towards the middle of June in 2018 over the dominant New York Excelsior.

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July of 2019 gave us the Shanghai Dragons breaking the mould in a stunning series with the San Francisco Shock. And, funnily enough, during Overwatch League’s 2020 Summer Showdown both the Guangzhou Charge and the Paris Eternal upset and captured their individual regional titles. Be it patches or late-game metagame shifts, the summer months in the Overwatch League always seem to leave pundits and experts gobsmacked. 

This all begs the question; why should the Philadelphia Fusion be considered this time around?

After wading through the chaos and stress that COVID-19 has brought onto the global stage, the Philadelphia Fusion do have something to look forward to; the return of Daniel "FunnyAstro" Hathaway. This isn’t some subtle shade thrown Yang "tobi" Jin-mo’s way, he’s been phenomenal under the circumstances, but FunnyAstro is who they prepared for in the preseason. Philadelphia’s all-star coaching staff chose him for a reason, and they finally have the opportunity to begin to play their hand. And when we take an early look at the metagame coming into the Summer Showdown, perhaps having added depth at support isn’t a bad thing.

Strategically speaking, we don’t have much to work with, however, when we look at some of the Overwatch Contenders teams competing in Asia, we can tease out a strong soapbox for Philadelphia to work from. Assuming that these are the teams most likely to be actively practising against the Eastern division or that they hold a torch to the eventual metagame, we can start to see some trends that favour the Fusion moving forward. 

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From the recent conclusion of Overwatch Contenders: China, McCree paired alongside Tracer or Sombra seems to be the standard go-to for teams outside of Control where Reinhardt and Mei seem to still look competitive. On top of that, Echo still saw her fair share of playtime as well. In no way does not shy itself away from the Fusion’s wheelhouse. With Kim "Rascal" Dong-jun and Josh "Eqo" Corona’s flexibility sat alongside Lee "Carpe" Jae-hyeok’s explosiveness, Philadelphia is positioned well to make a deep summer run. 

For example, if a May Melee style of Rush is deemed competitively viable, you have an extremely strong Mei in the form of Rascal. Don’t just take our word for it, IBM Watson has ranked Rascal the top Mei this season leading into the Summer Showdown. However, that’s not all, he’s Echo was performing extremely well, so much so that throughout June Joust Rascal led the league in solo kills per ten minutes on Echo.

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If there is an instance where 2020 Rookie of the Year, Kim "Alarm" Kyung-bo can pilot Ana you’ve got a world-class threat providing support at all times. During the entirety of the May Melee, Alarm led the league in final blows, hero damage, and solo kill per ten minutes on Ana. 

With McCree being picked so often, you can’t deny Carpe’s performance this year. He has maintained a top-five ranking across finals blows and eliminations per ten minutes, while leading solo kills per ten minutes on the hero.

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Now, detractors and nay-sayers may claim that individual performances have never been something the Fusion have lacked, rather consistent cohesion and playoff pressure have plagued them whenever they approach a clear road toward a title. What makes up the difference now?

First things first, the Philadelphia Fusion have an added week to prepare to see the field and what their peers are going to be playing should be properly considered. Also, note that the league is just coming off quite the polarising hero pool and as such there should be a minor reset in how we evaluate most teams as well as what heroes are considered good. This shift will catch teams off guard and with the calibre of the Fusion’s coaching staff, it’s difficult to ever pin them behind the pack. On top of that, having an added week to finalise your starting roster after bringing on a talent like FunnyAstro cannot be understated. Past that, most of their opponents don’t instil any semblance of dread of fear.

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A rocky start to the season is an understatement for the 2-6 Guangzhou Charge - and at this point, it is difficult to not paint the Fusion as a clear and heavy favourite. 

The 4-4 Chengdu Hunters could easily provide some sense of pushback, but consistency has not been a throughline for the team as of late. They have their flashes of glory, but this head-to-head boils down to a proverbial roll of the dice—and this time around they feel weighted. There feels like a fleeting number of worlds where Chengdu ekes out a win with more and more of the Fusion’s starters making landfall with the team. 

And while they made a run at the June Joust playoffs, the New York Excelsiors’ spot was nearly Philadelphia’s. To be frank, the 3-5 Excelsior still don’t feel online. Be it rookie woes or a failure to find coordination—or a mix of both—the issue doesn’t seem solved and the June Joust did not help matters. However, this is not to say the Philadelphia Fusion have a cakewalk into the summer playoffs.

Any meeting with the Shanghai Dragons should be considered difficult. And yet, Philadelphia can rest their laurels on a strong argument regarding when they face the champions of the June Joust. An early bout with Shanghai should be considered a boon in the favour of Philadelphia when you review their opponent’s performances early on in previous stages. 

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Looking back at the May Melee, it was clear that the Dragons started slow. Their loss to the Chengdu Hunters was convincing, to say the least, and struggling to put away the Hangzhou Spark in Week 3 didn’t build confidence for the tournament stage either. 

Moving ahead to the June Joust, Shanghai suffered a surprising 0-3 loss to the Hangzhou Spark during their first week of play. At this point, there is enough precedent to say that while the Shanghai Dragons are a great team they, like many of their predecessors, need time to refine the ideal. It is clear that this is a team that needs to scale into each metagame. The Dragons need time to find their footing and knowing this, the Fusion should run them close. And while this doesn’t clinch a victory, this should make the match much more manageable and score the Fusion some needed map wins at the very least.

We should also be considered in what format the Fusion started off slow. Dropping sets to the Hunters and the Excelsior was not feasible, but that was during a tricky hero pool. And not only did they rally back, but they nearly completed a six map sweep to capture a June Joust playoff berth. With heroes like Tracer and Sombra back on the table, the Fusion have their entire tool kit to pull from when tackling each of their opponents. This is an attribute they utilised in the May Melee and look how successful they were then. 

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Philadelphia is not averse to running something more their speed. Throughout the May Melee, which looked strikingly similar to what we could see as the metagame this weekend, the Fusion still managed to pepper in more Rush variations across maps where higher tempo compositions were the norm. Take for instance is Volskaya Industries attack with Orisa and Sigma against the Shanghai Dragons during the May Melee play-ins. With that kind of playbook, the Fusion could possibly be returning to a style that sets them apart from their peers. 

With all of these factors coalescing, the Philadelphia Fusion have a clear shot at the Summer Showdown title. The Fusion’s schedule is optimistic, not only are they bringing on board a dominant support, but they have an extra week to integrate him if need be, they're walking into what looks to be a metagame situated within their wheelhouse

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Second to all no longer and silver blood removed, the Philadelphia Fusion should roll into the Summer Showdown with confidence in their step and wind in their sails. This summer has found its underdog, a franchise that has been poised for greatness for years, but somehow each and every time they were approached with their fate they narrowly avoided it. They are the ones who will finally feel the weight of being toothless lifted and replaced with glorious relief. The team that arguably has faced the most trouble due to COVID-19 will find a way to capturing a monthly title. 

The summer belongs to the Philadelphia Fusion. 

 

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The Team Colours Of The 2021 Overwatch League Playoffs

Blizzard Entertainment

Written by 

Joseph "Volamel" Franco

Posted 

15th Sep 2021 18:30

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