You could be forgiven for looking at this week’s scores and believing you’ve woken up in the Upside Down. But reality will soon take hold, forcing you to realize that, yes, the top 3 teams in the league were beaten, soundly, by teams in the lower half of the standings. Is this the work of the 2-2-2 role lock? Are the higher-ranked teams strapping on the sandbags as we head into the playoff season? Or are the lower-ranked teams just better at adapting to this new meta than their opponents?
Short answer: yes. Long answer: keep reading to find out.
The week started off innocuously enough. The games went just about the way you would expect. The Shanghai Dragons losing to the Toronto Defiant was a bit of an upset but Shanghai has a habit of losing to perceived weaker teams then going on to beat their betters. Remember, the Dragons lost to the Guangzhou Charge during the Atlanta Homestand, then turned around and beat the Grand Final runners up, Philadelphia. The day 1 matches were interesting but nothing to shake the foundations of your Overwatch faith. Day 2 followed with much the same.
Right now, teams are starting to get a feel for the new hero composition that will dominate the stage the same way 3-3 did. Sorry if you thought role lock would bring variation to the kinds of comps we’re going to see. Once the most effective combo is found, teams settle into that rubric with minor variations here and there depending on player speciality and desperation. Two weeks into the stage and we can already tell that most compositions will be built around an Orisa-Roadhog-Mei-Ana core. Get used to seeing the Halt!/ Hook combo ad infinitum.
— Overwatch League (@overwatchleague) April 21, 2018
Days 3 and 4 is when things got interesting. The Florida Mayhem has become somewhat of an anomaly in the League. They’ve gone through several roster and staffing changes and are still somehow unable to make anything work. While they fight with the Washington Justice for the bottom spot on the ladder, the Justice at least perform like a more cohesive unit. But whatever ails them, they were able to put it aside for their match against the London Spitfire.
London must have thought, like the rest of us and rightly so, that this would be an easy way to farm a higher map differential. As such, they did not treat the Mayhem with due care. Players like Sayaplayer, BQB, Fate, and Hagopuen have a greater potential to carry their team now that they are freed from the bleating shackles of goats. In role lock, the individual talents of players will be higher prioritized than the ability to work as a team. You see that in Sayaplayer versus the Spitfire, Erster versus…anybody, and in Corey versus the Vancouver Titans (a match we’ll get to in a moment). Combine this unleashing of individual skill with London’s inability to properly estimate their opponents and you get a match where the literal worst team in the League beats the defending champions.
But that’s not all! The Washington Justice heard it was open season on the kings of the League and decided they wanted in on the action too. Forget Haksal and Stitch, forget Profit and Bridring, the new DPS duo that should strike fear into the hearts of everyone is now Stratus and Corey.
Corey’s Hanzo play was nothing short of transcendent. His performance and Vancouver’s underperformance carried the day for the Justice. They are 3-0 with an upcoming schedule that could easily see them as being the undefeated team of the Stage. It’s too bad there are no Stage 4 playoffs; it would have been amazing to watch them win it.