Though there is still one week left in the Overwatch League regular season, Week 4 was an end of sorts. Teams saw the end of Stage 4 before a long playoff run, the end of their playoff hopes, or, sadly, the end of their season altogether.
There are 12 spots in the playoffs and nearly all of them are spoken for. Some teams simply earned their spots outright, through effortless performances or good old fashioned hard work. Others were eliminated long ago and no matter how well they performed this week, they could not change their fate. Some teams had the thinnest of hopes hinging on big wins for them and big losses for others. While other teams had to be dragged kicking and screaming into the playoffs despite their best efforts to avoid them.
And for two teams, their fate is still up in the air.
The Sure Bets
To the surprise of precisely no one, the San Francisco Shock won their playoff spot long ago, probably as early as Stage 3. Now, like Vancouver and New York ahead of them, the games they play simply serve to arrange which seed they’ll take in the final bracket. Though they swept their only match of the week against Chengdu, they can’t climb any higher than third place. The first and second spots are reserved for the Atlantic and Pacific division champions, and The Titans locked up the Pacific Division title, locking out the Shock.
The Los Angeles Gladiators will pay a second visit to the playoffs though their seed is still up in the air. They lost a hard fought match against Hangzhou, and if they lose again in the Battle for Los Angeles next week, they may slip a spot into sixth place or find themselves relegated to the play-in spots.
The Hard Workers
Sure, the Vancouver Titans are the darlings of the expansion teams, but they sprang into the League fully formed, like Athena from the head of Zeus, from the 2018 Korean Contenders Season 2 champions. If you want a more traditional expansion team success story, full of mishmashed rosters and ragtag players on the up and up, look no further than the Atlanta Reign. They’ve been on a hot streak all season, and they were the only team (before Stage 4 anyway) able to beat the Excelsior — twice. Atlanta’s penchant for beating their betters continued this week when they steamrolled the London Spitfire 4-0. The team credits their success to FRD’s superior Roadhog play, the Halt!/Hook combo proving to be one of the most important tools in a team’s arsenal in this Role Lock meta. If the tradition, short as it is, of outside teams winning the Grand Finals continues, Atlanta would be one of the teams I’d bet on.
The probability of the Paris Eternal getting into the playoffs was infinitesimally low. But a small chance is better than no chance. (Cue Dumb and Dumber meme here.) And, in light of last week’s win against Philadelphia and this week’s win against Shanghai, they were technically doing everything they could to fight their way up the ladder and into the playoffs. However, with the way the win/loss records and map differentials work, Paris’s fate was out of their hands, relying on others to earn a berth.
The Dallas Fuel were another long shot, with a flame’s chance in a snowstorm of making it into the playoffs. Like the Eternal, they were relying on others to fail so they could succeed. Like Eternal, it didn’t work out. And though they played the Guangzhou Charge in the last game, on the last day — in the last regular season game played in Blizzard Arena — this match had a couple of firsts.
First of the firsts came in the roster with the Fuel finally giving the fans what they’ve been wanting all season: Mickie. If this is your first season of the Overwatch League, then you won’t know who Mickie is and you are poorer for it. He was the first recipient of the Dennis Hawelka Award — think of it like the MVP of good sportsmanship — and is a one-man army of joy. Subbing him in for the last map of Dallas’s last game was nothing more than bone thrown to us starving Mickie-less masses and we ate well.
The other first was a little less fun. The hilarity starts on the final map of the match. It’s map 4, it doesn’t matter for anyone. Guangzhou has already secured their spot and Dallas never had a chance. Dallas is on the attack in the second round of Havana, the game pauses. Nothing out of the ordinary, pauses happen all the time. This one seems attributed to Dallas support player Unkoe’s mouse. The game stops, the casters stall for time, the stream cuts to a long break of commercials.
Now repeat this pattern, stalling casters, commercial breaks, and a couple of false starts for an hour.
For Dallas to finish 45 seconds in a map that means less than nothing, it takes a full hour that ends up being some of the best Overwatch League content ever streamed.
Shout out to all the fans that endured that marathon of pain — more than Happy, you were the true Players of the Match.
The Reluctant Winners
It’s been a painful couple of weeks for Shanghai Dragons fans. Since their miraculous Stage 3 championship win, they’ve been on a downward trend that might see them eliminated from playoff contention. They just can’t win a match against teams they’ve beaten before with little problem. They lost against Seoul, cementing the Dynasty in the playoffs, then they lost again to Paris. Shanghai doesn’t have a strong Mei, a hero that’s proving just as essential to team compositions as Zarya did to triple tank/triple support meta a stage ago. Without a good Mei, and with Diem bafflingly on heroes that are not Widowmaker, Shanghai struggled. So much so it was thought that they were eliminated from the playoffs entirely. However, through a quirk of miraculous mathematics, they’re in. How long they’ll stay in is anybody’s guess.
Taking only this stage into account, it’d be difficult to call either Florida or Washington losers. The new role lock saved both these teams, allowing their players to play the heroes they were meant to instead of being relegated to Brigitte/Zarya duty. Funny how when you play what you’re good at instead of what you’re told, you do better. I’ll say it again, it’s a tragedy there is no Stage 4 playoffs and it’s a tragedy we won’t see these teams play each other again, since given their win records against Vancouver and London, they’re the only teams that are a match for the other.
Both teams ended their seasons this week. Florida against the Valiant and Washington against Houston. Washington won their game, while Florida unfortunately did not. Win or lose though, their redemption arcs end here, and for season 3, they’ll be the ones to look out for.
The Wild Cards
There is only one spot left in the playoffs and two teams want it badly. The Los Angeles Valiant and the Chengdu Hunters are the only two teams who don’t know what they’ll be doing in the playoff season: training or playing. Chendu currently occupies the 12th and last spot, but they won’t have a chance to secure it for themselves. Instead the Valiant are in a position to take it from them during next week’s games. A single victory would seal it for the Valiant, but they have to beat the Gladiators or the Shock to do it.