And just like that, the Overwatch League regular season ends with a couple of bangs and a few whimpers too. Over the weekend, the League hosted its final Homestand event, ironically held in LA, where the last few teams finished their seasons and the last spot in the playoffs was finally decided for good and all.
The end of the regular season didn’t really feel like an ‘end’ as all but 2 (and later 3) of the 10 teams playing had qualified for the playoffs. No real opportunity to send off the teams and players we’ve grown attached to these last seven months because we’ll be seeing them again in a week’s time fighting for their chance to go to Philadelphia. But, there were some bittersweet goodbyes to be had, folded into all these matches that mostly served as little better than contests for bragging rights.
Atlanta Reign vs. The World
Going into the Homestand – excuse me, ‘Rivalry Weekend’ (because it’s kind of self-serving to call it a ‘Homestand’ in the same city where 98% of Overwatch League games have taken place) – the Atlanta Reign were solidly in the playoffs…well the play-ins. The play-ins is a smaller, mini-tournament where seeds 7 through 12 compete in a single-elimination bracket to seed the last two spots in the official playoff bracket.
But Atlanta was not content with the mere chance of a playoff appearance. Since their spot was right below the cutoff, they could feasibly break into the playoffs proper, and thankfully, the London Spitfire obliged them.
Aided by their 4-0 beating of London earlier in the stage and London’s middling performance throughout the season, the Reign were in position to snatch the 6th spot from the Spitfire, sending them down to the children’s table with the rest of the lower-seeded teams. The Reign just needed to win both their games, something handily achievable since their opponents were the *checks notes* 8-19 Boston Uprising and 10-17 Dallas Fuel.
Shock vs. Titans: The Struggle Continues
The weekend was called the ‘Rivalry Weekend’ and this season birthed a new rivalry for fans to get hype about: the San Francisco Shock vs. the Vancouver Titans. These teams have gone back and forth throughout the whole season trading blows and titles and so much trash talk. While most of us have our hopes pinned on a dark horse sweeping through the playoffs and upsetting favorites *cough* Shanghai *cough*, I think in our collective Overwatch League heart of hearts we know the finals will end up being Vancouver vs. San Francisco…again. This weekend’s match between the unstoppable Titans and the immovable Shock was a prelude for what to expect in the Grand Finals.
Look at these map wins, look at these scorelines, the high numbers and the back and forth between map wins is a testament to the nature of this game.
The two teams have met twice in the playoffs and twice in the regular season. With this win, the Shock has evened out the records. Both teams are now 1-1 in the regular season and 1-1 in the playoffs. As Thanos would say, “Perfectly balanced, as all things should be.” I have a feeling the playoffs will finally upset this balance.
The New York Excelsior: The Strugglebus Continues
The New York Excelsior is a cypher of a team. They are good, their record and their spot as the Atlantic Division champions solidify this. But this year, against teams on the same side of the talent scale, they are….less good. They made appearances in all 4 stage championships last year and won two of them. This year…no. But their wins and losses are all over the place so it’s hard to pin down the why. This weekend they faced the Boston Uprising and the Vancouver Titans. Despite their wild inconsistency, I will say they performed like the top tier team they’re supposed to be against Vancouver even though they lost. Fl0w3r’s Hanzo and Mano’s D.Va work carried the team in that match but if they’re going to survive the playoffs (especially now that hated enemy Atlanta is in) they’re going to need a full team effort.
The Los Angeles Valiant: We Are…Not Going to the Playoffs.
The Overwatch League is an anime. It’s full of shonen-esque rivalries, underdog triumphs, and the occasional appearance from a magical girl. This weekend, fans of the Los Angeles Valiant were calling upon the anime trope hard to get their team into the playoffs. The Valiant began their season still riding high from last year’s performance. They didn’t win it all but they consistently achieved and managed to snag a stage championship from the jaws of the ever-hungry Excelsior. But all that excitement fizzled when the Valiant did the unthinkable: they lost every game of the first stage. Now their community hashtag #weare7 had a new and unpleasant meaning: ‘we are 0-7’. But much like the shonen hero, the Valiant did a training montage and bounced back, climbing up the standings until they were within striking distance of a spot in the playins. All they had to do was win one game, win and they’re in. The Chengdu Hunters would fall out of the playoffs and the Valiant would snag the very last spot.
All they needed was one win.
Their first opportunity came against their crosstown rivals the Los Angeles Gladiators. Unlike the Valiant, the Gladiators have sat comfortably in the top half of the standings all season. They’re 5th overall and dominant across both of this season’s metas. And they were the easiest of the Valiant’s opponents this weekend.
Predictably, they lost, forcing them to win against the San Francisco Shock in order to get their playoff spot. But isn’t that just like an anime, for a team to lose against an easy opponent only to win against the tougher one in order to achieve the goal?
As epic as a win against the Shock would have been, the Valiant wasn’t strong enough to win even one map against them. They tragically lost both games this weekend, making them the only ‘Homestand’ host team to lose in front of their home crowd. But a loss here doesn’t mean the ‘Overwatch League is anime’ trope is dead. It just means that next season the Valiant, hot off another hyperbolic time chamber training arc, will be the ones to win it all.