Blizzard, the team owners and fans couldn’t have been happier with how the final weekend of the initial stage for the inaugural season of the Overwatch League played out. The weekend was full of exciting games and story lines and kept everyone on the edge of their seats. After a stunning reverse sweep in the final series it was the London Spitfire who emerged as champions and $100 000 richer. Meanwhile Seoul Dynasty, a team seen as the favorite until only a few weeks ago, failed to even qualify for the playoff portion watching the Houston Outlaws take their place instead.
When the fifth week began it was all but certain that both New York and London would be in the playoffs however the third spot was still being heavily contested with Outlaws, Valiant, Uprising and Dynasty all having realistic chances of still qualifying. The Valiant shockingly swept Seoul to conclude the opening night of the week drastically hurting Dynasty’s chances. Seoul has been struggling in recent weeks, far from the team that dominated the first few weeks of play with ease that everyone feared. With a week off between stages, Dynasty will have the time to do some investigating into what has gone wrong.
The next day delivered an equally surprising result, when Houston Outlaws defeated London Spitfire 3-1. Houston had been playing well throughout the stage however this performance was an exceptional one that proved necessary in qualifying for the playoffs, and set the stage for a Saturday that exceeded all expectations.
The day began with an incredible series between New York and London that went the full five games, and was correctly expected to be a preview of the championship match. London was narrowly able edge out a victory on Eichenwalde before New York responded with a narrow victory on Anubis and a decisive one on Ilios. London was able to take game four on Dorado, winning both escort maps on the series to force the deciding match. Game five is always played on Lijiang Tower for regular season matches, and New York was able to decisively win this control map as well. This series highlighted how strong New York is on escort maps, how poor they are in comparison on control maps and how the format of the playoffs will come into play in a major way.
The second series was between Houston and Boston and was just as entertaining and even more consequential. With Houston fighting for their shot at the playoffs, they needed to beat a Boston team that has proved in recent weeks they are serious competition. Again beginning on Eichenwalde, Houston was able to get off to a strong start and get a 3-2 victory. Boston responded to their ability to play spoiler to Houston’s playoff hopes, and took games two and three to force Houston to stare at the end of their stage. Responding to the pressure brilliantly, Houston won a hard fought battle on Dorado 3-2 forcing the game five. Trading the opening two rounds on Lijiang forced a final round to the final game, and Houston was again able to close the game out when it mattered most.
This locked in the rematch between London and Houston, with New York awaiting the victor in the Stage finals. With their victory over London still fresh in their mind, and full of confidence off the back of their phenomenal performance against Boston, Houston entered the series roaring and was able to prevent London from exiting the street phase on Dorado, which they easily passed through themselves getting them out to an early lead. This seemed to awaken London, who won both games two and three in dominating fashion. After Houston was able to again hold London in the streets phase, this time on Eichenwalde, there was hope they could force a fifth and final game. The London defense of the original point proved too strong however, leaving Houston without a point or any chance of taking the series.
After a week full of incredible matches the Stage 1 Championship match had a lot to live up to yet was able to do so brilliantly. The series began on Junkertown, where London was able to fight to push the payload all the way to the end of the map and capture the third checkpoint in overtime. Despite looking like the odds were against them, New York was able to steam roll their way through the map far more quickly and finished with four minutes to spare, granting them a massive time advantage which they used to secure a 4-3 victory. Game two was on Oasis, a control map where London’s struggles were again apparent being defeated 2-0. This quickly put the Spitfire backs against the wall and had New York looking like the Stage 1 champs.
This all changed on Lunar Horizon Colony in game three. Although both teams were able to fully capture the map once, London held strong the second time through while capturing the first point for a second time with 3 minutes to spare giving them 3-2 victory. Game four was a defensive battle on Numbani where London only narrowly captured the payload and failed to make it into the final stage of the map giving New York a rare street phase hold. Despite everything looking like it was set for New York to clinch the series in game 4, London was able to put up a remarkable defensive effort and full hold preventing New York from capturing the payload altogether and forcing a fifth game.
Unlike the regular season matches which all went to a control map for the fifth game, it was instead played on an escort map – Dorado. This obviously benefited London who had struggled with control maps all day long, and they were able to take full advantage. London began on attack and despite some initial delays, was able to roll through two points before finally being held just short of capturing all three points. On defense London at first looked shaky, but managed to prevent New York from capturing the second point for over 4 minutes, thus completing the reverse sweep and becoming the Stage 1 champions.
After the exciting end to Stage 1 players get a week to recharge and prepare for the second stage. Action returns Wednesday February 21st at 7PM EST when the Los Angeles Valiant face off against Seoul Dynasty in a rematch from the first day last week.