Overwatch League Stage Two Playoffs: what we learned
Stage Two playoffs had its fair share of upsets and big moments. While Hangzhou and New York Excelsior were able to breathe life into their games in the quarterfinals, it was the looming danger of SF Shock and Vancouver Titans that really made the difference in this mini tournament. As the GOATS meta becomes perfected almost to a master formula with each map competed on this stage, which teams are capable of running rampant and putting the rest of their competition in the gutter? The truth might Shock you…
Day 1 & 2 – Overwatch Playoffs Quarterfinals
In the very first map of Overwatch League Stage Two playoffs, Shanghai Dragons made waves by stopping the streak of consecutive map wins against San Francisco Shock, but the pressure taken off their shoulders in that first map proved crucial for the rest of the series. SF Shock rallied back with a vengeance as they relied on a full cast of impact players to pull together this victory. Much of the tightness in Shanghai’s roster has been built off the synergy amongst Gamsu, Diem and Coma, but the opposing contingent on San Francisco Shock was just that much cleaner on the night. The series ended in a triumphant 3-1 in favor of SF Shock with little to be desired from their first taste of action.
The Hangzhou Spark sprang into life in similar fashion to that of SF Shock as they dominated London Spitfire in their opening round. London Spitfire took the first map on the backs of Profit and Gesture’s synergy, but the resulting rounds really showed off the teamwork prowess of Hangzhou Spark as they finally hit a new peak potential for their seemingly stunted roster. At their best, Hangzhou have a variety of playmakers that can really set the tone early with a few ult advantages in their favor. But if they can’t get those early skirmishes going the right way, they tend to fall off with the pressure.
On Day Two of the OWL Stage Two Playoffs, NYXL silenced more than a few doubters after they routed a surging Los Angeles Gladiators team in a resounding 3-0 finish. The tempo was set early on as Mano and Meko lead the charge for this New York Excelsior roster that was predicted to fail in this series based on their recent slump these past few weeks. Instead, NYXL shut down the critics and provided the OWL community with a much needed reminder that this team is still capable of overt displays of strength with or without the meta 100% in their favor.
On the other side of the division, Vancouver Titans found a predictable 3-0 finish over the likes of Dallas Fuel as they coolly took their position in the semi finals. While this series didn’t offer the most compelling narrative in terms of competition, the highlight reels were more than adequate with the demolition that followed this series. Vancouver Titans got a necessary boost to their sails with little to no expense on new strategies and skills, and the path seemed set for them to continue their dominating streak all the way till the Overwatch League Stage Two Playoffs Finals.
Day 3 – OWL Stage Two Playoffs Semifinals
Even though Hangzhou Spark achieved a bit of a cinderella dream with their run in the playoffs so far, the smash mouth, aggressive style of San Francisco Shock made sure their run of brilliance was short lived. In another defying of the odds moment, SF Shock swept their competition in a triumphant 4-0 sweep as Hangzhou put up a valiant, but ultimately futile, fight for their lives as San Francisco Shock started firing on all cylinders. The mini advantages in each won team fight started to pay dividends once they accrued ultimate advantages, and SF Shock once again proved their worth as a consistently aggressive powerhouse of a team.
In the second semifinal of the day, New York Excelsior and Vancouver Titans delivered a lively set of back and forth action, but it was the Titans who once again were crowned victorious as they were given the reins to a second straight Finals berth alongside their rivals.
Between Mano, Meko and Libero, NYXL had enough impact players to make Vancouver work for their victories, but it was once again the collective effort of this Vancouver team that makes them so special, and ultimately spurred them on to victory. The stage was set for a rematch of Stage One playoffs, but could SF Shock finally surmount the comeback they needed to put Vancouver Titans away and hand them their first ever series loss?
Day 4 – Grand Finals of the OWL Stage Two Playoffs
In their first real test of the playoffs, the Vancouver Titans, winners of the Stage One Playoffs, were seemingly overwhelmed by the sheer pace San Francisco Shock were able to set early and often against their opponents. Although he’s regularly such an impactful player on his own merit, once Bumper starts receiving a nice amount of focus, his playmaking decisions have been known to falter under pressure and this scenario was no different on Sunday.
Between Super, Sinatraa, Moth and Choihyobin, there was no lack of action to be had from all 12 players on the stage at any given time. San Francisco Shock once again showed they had the discipline, and more importantly the raw talent, to compete with any team in the league this Stage, but they finally put all the pieces together in triumphant fashion with their 4-2 finish of the series. Now that both teams are tied 1-1 in stage finals, the implications for the next Stage are well on everyone’s minds as the Overwatch League officially has more than a few household names to keep track of as this season wears on.