Overwatch League 2021: Week 8 Reactions and Analysis

Things are heating up here in Week 8 of the Overwatch League (June 3-6). Two teams are on the glow-up and two teams are maintaining excellence going into the June Joust tournament. Pretty much a microcosm of what we’ve seen from this season so far. Fluctuation and parity abound, but still, a fair amount of consistency to at least keep people sane. I mean, as far as this season is concerned anyway. With that said, let’s try to make some sense of this weekend. Like last time, I’ll only be discussing the teams that qualified for knockouts. So, apologies to teams that didn’t make it.

Dallas Fuel: On Fire

The Fuel are a stupidly ridiculous team right now. What they’ve been able to get away with without having a ranged hitscan player is absolutely disgusting. It’s almost like they hit the jackpot the moment Xzi peaced-out and were instantly blessed with good fortune that defies all conventional logic. Dallas makes me question why any other team bothers to play ranged hitscan at all. Like, the only time it’s ever looked like an issue for them was that one Dorado map against San Francisco and the Hollywood map against the Glads. Maybe a little bit on that Junkertown map against the Glads as well. Even then, they still practically forced Birdring off of Widow and McCree. The point is, though, long-range hitscan has only occasionally been an issue for them and I think this team is getting smarter with how to deal with it.

I mean, it’s either that or long-range hitscan is really just trash all-around right now in the Overwatch League and Dallas is the only team that fully realizes it. It’s not like we saw all that much Ashe/McCree/Widow throughout the entirety of these qualifiers for both the East and West. It’s not like ranged hitscan is dominating the meta. They might dominate a particular map or two, but it doesn’t look like they’re prominent enough to completely earn any particular team a match win. It’s not like the dominance McCree had during the May Melee across most teams.

I mean, hell, it’s not like the Shock won that game solely off the back of Glister’s Widow. He played one map. San Francisco won that game by playing the mirror slightly better than Dallas. And with San Francisco out, it’s unclear if any team still left can play the mirror better than Dallas or even have a better Orisa comp against Dallas’s Neo-GOATS.

Atlanta currently looks like they probably have the best shot, but we won’t know unless that matchup actually happens. Dallas is currently the only team left that has almost completely refused to play Orisa comps for the entirety of the qualifiers for any significant amount of time. They’ve displayed a good understanding of how to dismantle Orisa compositions and how to handle the Winston mirrors. We’ll just have to wait and see if any of the teams left can completely nullify their strategies, or if they secure themselves another tournament win.

Houston Outlaws: Double Ouch!!!

I seriously want to shed a vicarious tear for Houston because boy, getting knocked out in yet another knockout round by the same team in the same fashion is rough in the Overwatch League, especially when it’s your in-state rival. Like, sandpaper across a chalkboard-kind of rough. Like, an asset-flipped indie game on Steam-kind of rough.

The battle for Texas is becoming less and less of a rivalry event to look forward to for both fans of the game and of the teams, and more something to absolutely dread if you’re a Houston fan. I seriously can only imagine how much it stings, especially for the players, knowing how much they improved coming into this season, winning that first match up, and then Dallas just blows up out of nowhere like a meth lab to play spoiler to them twice in a row while making it look relatively easy. I mean, ouch, man. Ouch…

Boston Uprising: Oh, Boston…

So, Boston has to have had the shortest amount of success any team has had so far this season in the Overwatch League. I mean, they come into week 6 killing it. 6 straight maps taken. And then they kind of just drop back down like a rock in the very next week they play. Damn. I mean, in fairness, the Paris match was respectable, and I suppose they had an okay performance against the Glads. It’s just one of those things where you would’ve liked to see them win at least one of their matches. Like, that was the trajectory they were on coming into this week. To see them miss that trajectory by a fair bit is a little disappointing. Especially since their 2-2 record still got them into the knockouts.

Now they have to seriously ask themselves: Did they even actually genuinely improve at all as a team, or was it just the meta power boost and power nerfs that gave them those two wins in week 6? That’s a pretty rough spot to be in, especially when you’re already perceived to be towards the bottom of the ladder. Only time will tell, and who knows what the next tournament cycle’s meta will look like. The Uprising have some work to do either way.

Atlanta Reign: Revealing The Trap Card

Okay, so, I fully believe that Gator was lying his ass off when he was talking about Atlanta having not practiced the Winston comps at all, and I love him for it. The mind games that ensue from saying something like that are just beautiful. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter whether or not they are practicing those types of comps. It sows seeds of doubt into your Overwatch League opponents as to whether or not you actually are. And then, boom, you break it out when they least expect it. Perfectly played by Gator.

Atlanta as a team played really well this week too. I have to say, I appreciate the fact that they did actually incorporate the Winston comps into their looks this week as well. Similar to New York, it was something I hoped they would do. But I also wouldn’t have been surprised if they just keep running the Orisa comps on every map either. The Orisa comps still look to be their bread & butter compositions, but they don’t look half bad on the Winston compositions either. They did only play them on control maps, so I’m still unsure how good they’ll look on other map types. Considering the teams that made it into the final four, though, they may not even be forced to play it on other map types if their Orisa game is truly stronger than New York’s or Shanghai’s.

Dallas is probably the team to most likely force them off of it or just straight up nullify their Orisa comps altogether. Atlanta are hitting their stride in this tournament cycle. That’s for sure. It’s their willingness to adapt that I think will truly put them over the top, though. They’ve already shown some good adaptation. I’m curious to see if they have anything more in the tank.

Los Angeles Gladiators: Not There Just Yet

So close, yet still so far. It’s kind of crazy I’m saying this about the Glads and not the Reign considering how the qualifiers went for both of these teams. That’s how the chips fall in the Overwatch League, I suppose.

Overall, I don’t think the Gladiators should be too upset with the loss to Dallas. It was still a respectable match. Though, it still doesn’t help them to fully shed that ‘gatekeeper’ narrative about them, which I’m sure still doesn’t feel great. Whether they’ll actually be able to do that fully, though, is becoming less and less clear as the season goes on. They’ll still be a pretty good team that will finish with a solid overall record. But if they don’t do something to get them over that hump, then it’ll probably be safe to say that the hype surrounding this team coming into the season won’t be lived up to.

San Francisco Shock: Yeah, It’s Open Season

It goes without saying that when we think of the Shock, we think of a level of excellence established throughout two seasons. We think of the iron grip they have over the Overwatch League. We think of their championship-caliber that always compels us to bet on them, regardless of the circumstances.

This ain’t the case anymore. And that’s not at all a slight to the Shock. It’s a compliment to the rest of the league for thoroughly stepping up to the Shock’s level.

In regular-season matches alone, the Shock have participated in 4 separate matches that have all at least gone to 5 maps against 4 different teams. That’s half of the Shock’s regular-season schedule so far. In previous seasons, the league would be lucky to have one team that could do that in the regular season. That bit of information alone would’ve already made things interesting enough. The fact that the Shock have also now dropped two knockout rounds in a row, in similar fashions no less, is just a bonus, really.

It’d be insanely foolish, not to mention incredibly toxic, to say that the Shock are a garbage team now. These dudes are still 7-1 overall. The mere fact that we just kind of expect the Shock to win everything in the first place is a testament to their history in this league so far. So let me be crystal-freakin’-clear here: The Shock aren’t trash. The rest of the league is now just on par with them. Claiming that the Shock are trash just undervalues the accomplishment made by the opposite team in defeating them. So, shut it and grow up.

Anyway, the issue, as I touched upon a little in the Shock’s week 3 knockout performance, is their disregard for taking other teams seriously. Teams have never demanded them to do that. Now they are. You’d think this team would’ve already gotten the wake-up call. But confidence is a fickle virtue to let go of in a competitive space, and an even harder virtue to balance correctly. I mean, Atlanta’s point B attack on Hanamura literally says it all. Kai’s Ashe comes up with a 3K out of nowhere all because FDGod and Viol2t wanted to peek for God knows what reasons.

There’s probably plenty of other examples you could point to throughout that entire match. The point is, teams are not going to let San Francisco get any with that mess anymore. At least, not to the extent they routinely got away with it in the past. Turning the Shock’s confidence into hubris is the number one goal for any team facing them. If that’s going to continue being a thing for the rest of the season, and there’s no reason to believe it won’t be, then it’d probably do the Shock some good to shift their mindset to a team that’s hungry to prove themselves once more.

Teams are ready to thoroughly punish the mindset they currently have, and this team is starting to lose their mystique and luster because of that; the intangible ‘X’ factor about them that always compels you to choose them in a matchup because of the evidence provided over the past two seasons. This Overwatch League season is truly a different beast, though. If that wasn’t evident before, it damn sure is now. So, only time will tell if this team can actually internalize this.

New York Excelsior: Pulling Out The Tricks

Well, oddly enough, New York did, basically, what I was hoping I’d see from them last week. They played Orisa. Similar to Atlanta, it’s kind of unclear how long they’ve actually been practicing this composition. New York has played nothing but Winston comps throughout the entire qualifiers. Then when knockouts roll around, the Orisa comes out, and it completely booms the Spark.

I don’t really have much else to say but good job. There’s a good chance if New York had taken the Winston mirror against Hangzhou they probably would’ve lost it. I don’t think there was any reason for Hangzhou to assume New York wouldn’t take the mirror either. Aside from that first control map, Hangzhou looked utterly lost when it came to consistently breaking down the Excelsior’s comp. Credit to New York as well. They could’ve easily called the Orisa experiment a failure after that first map, but they kept rolling with it and it worked out. I think this match, overall, says more about Hangzhou than it does New York, but still, good on the Excelsior for coming out and getting the job done.

Hangzhou Spark: You Wet The Bed

On the flip side, the Spark really let this game slip away from them. Yeah, New York kind of threw a curveball at them with the Orisa comps, but it was pretty apparent they didn’t really have a clear and solid answer for it as the series progressed. There were times when Architect hit a big death blossom, or Bernar hit a huge graviton surge. That was about it, though. Outside of that, the Spark had no real consistent idea of how to fight New York’s composition in the neutral. That just can’t happen.

Games like this are the biggest indicator of a team getting by on the convenience of the meta alone, and not really by showing any big adaptations or adjustments within the meta itself. Which, oddly enough, was a problem I had with this team last season in the Overwatch League. This is not at all what you want to see. I think this team really needs to start thinking about how they can genuinely start improving. Waiting for a meta power boost just doesn’t seem to be cutting it.

Seoul Dynasty: Lagging Behind The Meta

Now, contrary to the events of last week, I actually thought Seoul could still win that Chengdu match. All they had to do was just not force the Roadhog so much. And what do you know, they didn’t. Now, I will say that I didn’t expect that series to be a 5-mapper considering how awful the Hunters also looked in this meta. And to be honest, they still didn’t look that much better. So, let’s just say that my hopes going into the second Shanghai match for Seoul were still pretty slim.

And as such, Seoul was promptly rolled, again, by the Dragons. I mean, it was even more one-sided than last time, strangely enough. There really isn’t much to talk about here, sadly. Shanghai just played that game better than the Dynasty from start to finish. They understood the mirror better. They coordinated their abilities better. Shanghai just did everything better. It really does make me wonder if Seoul actually dedicated most of their scrim time before their first qualifiers match trying to perfect the Roadhog compositions. Then, when the Dragons took them apart in their first match-up, they were like ‘Oh, crap, we should probably start practicing something else like Orisa compositions!’ But by that point, it was too late, and Shanghai was already well accustomed to handling Orisa mirrors.

I honestly would’ve preferred if this team tried their hand at the ‘Neo-GOATS’ composition as well with the Winston and the Moira. Couldn’t hurt to try given the state the rest of the Overwatch League is in right now. Whatever the case, Seoul’s overall understanding of the meta to start these qualifiers was flimsy at best. By the time they actually started to conform to it a bit more, it was already too late. Just a sad series of events for them all around.

Shanghai Dragons: Consistency Continues

Not much to say about the Dragons. One quick and clinical match for them this week that says more about Seoul than it could ever say about Shanghai. They came into these qualifiers a little bit rattled by the meta. They then made solid adjustments to once again get them into another tournament. At this point, their loss to Chengdu in week 1 seems like little more than a distant memory.

This tournament gives them a very realistic chance of creating a big lead for themselves in the East. They wouldn’t even have to win it all, necessarily. They could just come in third or second again and any other team in the East will probably have an incredibly hard time catching up to them as the season continues. I’m sure they would very much like some revenge against Dallas as well. I don’t think any Dragons fan would have much to complain about right now.

What did you think of this week’s Overwatch League matches? Leave your comments below!

Last Week – OWL 2021: Week 7
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