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Published on 2018-06-21 03:00 PM

Stage 4 is done, marking the end of regular season play and concluding with a week’s worth of crazy upsets. It was wings out for the Valiant, shields down for the Gladiators, and the New York Excelsior went from ever upward to slightly sideways. Throw out everything you think you know, because after four stages, 20 weeks, and over 200 games, these teams still managed to pull out some surprises at the end.

Week 5 Day 1

Match of the Day

Seoul Dynasty vs. Dallas Fuel

This match was a critical one to both teams but for very different reasons. The Seoul Dynasty’s painful latter stage performances still hadn’t put too much of a dent in their early season dominance. A win here would keep them in the running for a playoff berth. Their opponents had long been eliminated from the postseason, but with the rise of Brigitte and stellar performances from Taimou, Seagull, Mickie, and OGE, the Fuel were looking for their first ever stage playoff appearance. Both teams needed a win and both teams worked hard for that win. But Seoul, looking the strongest they have all stage, managed to beat the Fuel 3-1 — embarrassing C9* notwithstanding.

*C9: where your team wins the fight but loses the objective, usually achieved by stepping off the payload/control point in pursuit of your opponent.

Week 5 Day 2

Match of the Day

Houston Outlaws vs. Philadelphia Fusion

These two teams were putting it all on the line for this match. Both needed a win (a common theme for this week) and both needed other teams to lose later in the week. For Houston, a win against Philadelphia wouldn't quite lock in that coveted 6th place spot. They also needed to win again against the NYXL (doable since the NYXL were kinda phoning it in) and they needed Philadelphia to lose against London, and for Seoul to lose against the Gladiators (or somehow come up with a better map differential than Seoul). For Philadelphia it was easier. Win a map or have Seoul or Houston lose either of their matches.

But the first hurdle for both teams was winning this match.

Houston had a horrific C9 on Blizzard World that likely cost them the map. The error traumatized them so much that they won every single map thereafter thus winning the match — a first for the Outlaws, whose every previous engagement with the Fusion resulted in a loss.

Week 5 Day 3

Match of the Day

Los Angeles Valiant vs. Dallas Fuel

The Los Angeles Valiant were in the same position the Boston Uprising were in during Stage 3, pulling off the performances of their careers and fighting their way to a perfect stage. Looking at the matches this week against the San Francisco Shock and the Dallas Fuel, their legacy of being the second team to go 10-0 was all but assured. They wrapped up the game against the Shock with a neat 3-1 and when it was time to face Dallas, a team that has struggled hard for the first three stages and only recently found their footing, it seemed the boys in blue would likely put up a good fight but come out with a loss nonetheless. Except that didn't happen.

Dallas broke the Valiant. Mickie on Brigitte and Taimou on Widow set the Valiant supports in their crosshairs and tore them apart.

With no solid response to the stunning stopping power of Brigitte and Soon having a rough day on Widowmaker, the Valiant had no way to stop the fire from burning away their hopes for a perfect stage. And while this match didn’t secure Dallas’s spot in the stage finals, it was the critical match that finally allowed them to break into the top four teams, a first for a team that, like Seoul, fell short of so many expectations.

Week 5 Day 4

Match of the Day

Philadelphia Fusion vs. London Spitfire

Both these teams have secured their places in the postseason, but for the Fusion, a 4-0 triumph over the Spitfire would be enough to boot Dallas out of the 4th and last spot for the stage playoffs. For London, however, this match meant nothing. All London had to do was take a single map from the Fusion to dent Philadelphia’s map differential just enough to keep them out of the stage finals.

Though the Spitfire didn’t need to win this game, they tried very hard on behalf of Dallas fans everywhere. It might have something to do with Spitfire star Birdring creating his battle tag in honor of his hero Seagull. But try as they might, the Fusion beat them three maps in a row to secure the victory — but not the one they wanted. Not yet.

On the final map — Watchpoint: Gibraltar — after letting Philadelphia cruise through two-thirds of the map, London somehow summoned enough of a defense to keep Philadelphia from completing it entirely. Now all London had to do was push the payload a little further and Dallas would be secure in their stage playoff spot. London worked hard to push the payload within striking distance of a win. But with respawns in favor of Philadelphia and time running out for London, it came down to an overtime push that lasted a minute and twenty-two seconds. It was nearly a full minute and a half of solid team fighting where if any team stepped off the payload for a heartbeat the game would be over. Fortunately, after ultimate after ultimate was exhausted, London was able to keep Philadelphia away from the payload long enough to win.

Though the Spitfire lost the match, their friends in Dallas were very pleased.

The Stage 4 Finals

Los Angeles Gladiators vs Los Angeles Valiant

With the Valiant’s stunning loss to the Fuel, and the Gladiator’s stunning upset of the NYXL, the warriors in purple snatched the top seed and with it, the right to choose their opponent in the Stage 4 finals. When this rule was implemented back in Stage 3, then top seed Boston used it to pick who they thought would be their softest opponents: the Gladiators. They were right. The Uprising trounced the Gladiators and eased their way on into the Finals match and a guaranteed $25,000.

It stands to reason, then, that the Gladiators would follow suit. Before their last minute takeover of the top spot, the Gladiators were facing down a potential match against the NYXL. The Gladiators had an easy choice, the Dallas Fuel. Win against them, and you’re in the finals, guaranteed at least second place worth $25,000.

Against all wisdom, common and business sense, the Gladiators chose their cross town rivals the Valiant, not only for bragging rights, but for us, the fans. The Battle for LA is bar none the hypest matchup in the League. And even though the Valiant have beaten them in 3 out of 4 engagements and looked strong enough to beat them yet again, the Gladiators chose them as their opponents.

The Gladiators took an extreme gamble and lost, but their choice will go down as one of the highlights of the season, where a team truly lived up to the name bestowed upon them. The Gladiators tried, after numerous defeats, to come back with their shields but unfortunately ended up on them.

Dallas Fuel vs. New York Excelsior

The Fuel had one of the best Cinderella runs of the season. A team who had never won more than three games in a stage were now competing in the stage playoffs. I love that most about the League, every stage there’s a team that stuns everybody right into the finals. The Fuel upset Stage darlings the Valiant 3-1, and with NYXL not performing up to par, there was a real chance Dallas could eek out a win if they could catch their opponent off guard.

They didn’t at first. The NYXL cruised to an easy 2-0 lead, but after the half, the Fuel unleashed an uncontrolled burn, bringing the match down to the last point on the tiebreaker map.

Earlier in the season, the Fuel were one of those drama prone teams. Player controversy, coaching issues, even more player controversy (come back healthy and come back soon Effect!) dogged the team’s every step. That they were able to bring the Excelsior, the veritable kings of the League, to nigh annihilation, is worth celebrating.

Stage 4 Grand Finals

Los Angeles Valiant vs. New York Excelsior

At the start of the season, the Los Angeles Valiant were a solid team, albeit one that was still a work-in-progress. Mid season trades netted them Bunny and Custa, and Space turning 18 added yet another valuable player to the roster. The addition of Custa was critical. The former Dallas player transferred his leadership and shot-calling skills to the Valiant and they’ve been on the rise ever since.

This team was the first to beat the unbeatable Excelsior this stage. Now in the grand finals, people wondered if the Stage 2 and Stage 3 champions and the top team in the League by an insurmountable margin, would allow the Valiant to serve them a defeat again. Would the sandbags stay attached or would the Excelsior finally wake up?

For my money, the NYXL woke up. But they had been asleep for so long, taking losses from the Gladiators, the Uprising, and the Valiant, that it took them a little longer than they thought it would to shake the sleep off. Hubris was their downfall. And excellent timing.

The Valiant would full hold the Excelsior on this map; in fact full holds were the theme for this match.

Every map a team was full held, signifying either a laughably weak offense (that NYXL showing on Dorado was weird, Jjonak on Tracer??) or an impregnable defense (the Valiant held off the NYXL for six minutes on the second objective of Hanamura. New York didn’t allow Los Angeles to even get beyond the first one.)

New York needed a win on Blizzard World to tie up the score 2-2. Saebyeolbe looked like the player who would deliver it to them as he’s often the one who performs best when it’s crunch time. But every time Saebyeolbe was in a position to make something happen, the Valiant, either through excellent healing or excellent timing (or Saebyeolbe’s plain ole bad luck from stepping into a Junkrat trap), would shut him down. The Valiant prevented him from making the clutch plays that’s made him one of the premier players in the League.

All the Valiant needed was a single tick on the point, something they easily achieved with a Roadhog/Orisa/Junkrat composition. And just like that, the Valiant snapped the Excelsior winning streak, a well-earned end for one of the most consistent teams in the League.

Final Thoughts

What a ride! After six solid months of the best competitive Overwatch, the absolute pinnacle of the sport, the regular season is finally over.

Usually when things end there’s a bit of sadness and fondness for times gone by, when you close the book on the past and wonder what happens in the future.

Do you want to know what happens in the future? The finals, that's what.

Overwatch League regular season is over but the league's inaugural year is far from over. Starting July 11th, the race to the grand finals begins with the first playoff matches. And looking at the seedings, these matches are going to be the spiciest yet. See you in New York!

Ash, the first of her name, keeper of Zenyatta lore, protector of Hanzo mains and Mother of Shanghai Dragons, is a content writer for the Overwatch section of MMO-C and Gamepedia.
Published on 2018-06-13 02:00 PM

It’s down to the wire in Stage 4 Week 4, with teams earning their guaranteed spot in the season playoffs, staying in the running, or being eliminated entirely. The Los Angeles Gladiators pull oof the upset while the Shanghai Dragons continue to just upset. Here’s where the teams stand in the penultimate week of regular league play.

Week 4 Day 1

Match of the Day

Shanghai Dragons vs. Florida Mayhem

If there was ever a time, a moment, one final chance for the Shanghai Dragons to put that “1” in the win column, this was it. They were looking better than they ever have and they were facing a Florida team that was struggling more than usual with the benching of Widowmaker savant Sayaplayer. This was their time. They tied the game at the half, then handily 2-0’d the Mayhem on Lijiang Tower, putting them in the lead for the first time ever. The Dragons have literally never been in the lead 2-anything against another team (likely because it’s a rare event they win two maps in the first place.) The dream was looking very real. Until Gibraltar, a map favoring Florida. Then after trading points on Nepal, the Mayhem handily swept the last point, ending the dream and traumatizing the legion of Dragons fans. The Dragons have had some tough losses but nothing hurts like this. Imagine if the Miracle on Ice was won by the Russians at the last moment, that’s what this feels like. The Dragons have two more matches left: the Gladiators and the Dynasty. I don’t see them winning either.

Week 4 Day 2

Match of the Day

Los Angeles Gladiators vs New York Excelsior

Hot off their loss to the Valiant, New York faced their sister team the Los Angeles Gladiators in what promised to be a very close but inevitable Excelsior victory. Plagued by amateurish mistakes (C9 anyone?) and unfortunate ultimate usage, the Gladiators were 0-2 at halftime, turning what was supposed to be a closely contested match into something that was heading toward 3-1 or even 4-0 territory in favor of the Excelsior.

But the Gladiators rallied hard at the half winning the game 3-2. There are two theories on how that happened.

1.The New York Excelsior have already guaranteed their spot in the Stage and Season playoffs. In order to keep their players fresh, keep their strategies secret, and gain insight into enemy tactics, the Excelsior eased up just enough for the Gladiators to take the win.

2. The Gladiators simply out played their opponents to win.

It’s both of course. The NYXL’s seeming lack of urgency in the latter half of the match combined with Hydration’s unorthodox use of Doomfist won the Gladiators the game, serving New York a heretofore unheard of second consecutive loss.

Week 4 Day 3

Match of the Day

Philadelphia Fusion vs. Seoul Dynasty

Watching today’s matches I was more bored than a 2x4. These matches were drier than unbuttered toast. Stale. Predictable. Dull. But, today wasn’t without its bright spots. The Seoul Dynasty upped their walkout game with a new entrance song, WWE style, with new kicks courtesy of those sweet, sweet Nike sponsorship dollars.

Groan about corporate shilling if you want but this, in addition the to Toyota commercials and the copious references to those Sour Patch Kids thunder sticks, is a reminder that if this League is going to be successful it’s going to need that kind of external support from big name corporate sponsors. Also, Overwatch League is a very insular, niche thing. Right now it only appeals to people who already like Overwatch which puts a limit on growth. Crossovers with Korean rappers and putting OWL players on national television and in your cell phone commercials are the baby steps needed to appeal to a broader audience that will keep the League alive and solvent.

They look like they’re about to drop the most fire mixtape of Stage 4

Unfortunately all that swag didn’t translate into a victory for Seoul. In true Philadelphia fashion, they woke up in the second half and reverse swept Seoul 3-2. For a fish, Carpe’s got a lot of space on his back for his team but for some reason he can only perform when the Fusion’s under threat of losing.

The win puts the Dynasty in a precarious post season and stage finals position. They need to win twice (unlikely as they face Dallas and the Gladiators) and they need the Spitfire, the Gladiators, or the Fusion to lose both their matches (also unlikely). Philadelphia, however, is in a much more comfortable but not quite assured spot. They need to win only one game to make it to the postseason, but they have to go through the Outlaws or the Spitfire to do it.

Week 4 Day 4

Match of the Day

London Spitfire vs. Los Angeles Gladiators

Over the course of the season, the Overwatch League has seen the rise of many great rivalries. New York and London, Boston and Philadelphia, Houston and Dallas, LA and….LA. But there’s another rivalry that’s looms large, one that’s never failed to deliver drama on and off the stage: I’m calling it the Trade War.

When the Spitfire traded Fissure to the Gladiators to make room for Gesture to take up the role as the only main tank, they had no idea the kind of pain and suffering such a decision would cause them. Ever since being traded away, Fissure has made it a point of personal honor to beat his former team, and every time they meet, he does.

The match also marks the Gladiators’ second reverse sweep of the week, making them the first team in the league to win their week’s matches in back-to-back reverse sweeps. The win all but ensures the Gladiators a spot in both playoffs, needing just one more win to make it. Thankfully their schedule is fairly easy (they face the Dragons and the Dynasty) so expect to see those shields up.

Final Thoughts

Even though we’re entering the final week of Stage 4, all talk has shifted away from the Stage Playoff race in favor of the Season Playoffs and the Grand Finals. But there’s still the matter of the Stage 4 Playoffs to contend with before we can start making predictions of who will have the honor of losing to New York in the postseason.

Looking at the Stage Rankings, Dallas, Philadelphia, and Houston are still neck and neck and neck for that 4th and final spot, and all three teams have a very tough Week 5 schedule. Houston and Philadelphia play each other then later face the NYXL and Spitfire respectively. Meanwhile, Dallas takes on the Valiant and the Dynasty who, while more paper tigers than they used to be, can still put up a fight if pressed. With the way all these teams have been playing, opponents included, it's impossible to tell who’s going to get their last chance to play for a stage championship.

Ash, the first of her name, keeper of Zenyatta lore, protector of Hanzo mains and Mother of Shanghai Dragons, is a content writer for the Overwatch section of MMO-C and Gamepedia.
by Published on 2018-06-11 05:19 PM

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