This week the Overwatch League Rundown takes a look back at the highlights of Stage 3, looks ahead at the future of the winless Shanghai Dragons, and crowns the Stage 3 MVP.
1) Stage 3 Playoff Recap: Third Time’s a Bore
For the first two Stages of the Overwatch League, the playoffs were full of excitement and great matches. In Stage 1 the London Spitfire came back from a 2 to 0 deficit to shock the NYXL and win the Championships. In Stage 2, the defending champion Spitfire was upset in the semi-finals at the hands of the Philadelphia Fusion, who ended up losing a closely-fought title match against the NYXL. The Stage 3 playoffs were supposed to be the most exciting playoffs to date. With an extra team in the mix and two semi-finals being played, the stage was set for some intense, back and forth games. What actually transpired can only be described as disappointing.
Starting with the semifinals, the first match between the Boston Uprising and L.A. Gladiators featured a fair amount of hype, as even though the Uprising had defeated the Gladiators earlier that week, the teams looked like they would provide a competitive match. That simply didn’t happen as Boston ended up taking the series by a score of 3 to 0 in a match that was only competitive on the first map. Next, the NYXL played the L.A. Valiant and while the Valiant had yet to win against New York, they were sporting a new and improved roster in Stage 3 that helped them capture the 3rd seed overall. However, even with all of their improvements, the Valiant lost 3 to 0 and didn’t really put up much of a fight along the way.
The finals started off with NYXL domination as the club went up by a score of 2 to 0 before Boston began to fight back. On the third map of Volskaya, Boston ended up playing strong, capturing both points. Unfortunately, they only ended with a draw and NYXL ended up winning on the next map to capture the Stage Championships. In many ways, the playoffs ended up going exactly as predicted and that’s a big reason why they were such a let-down. That being said, Stage 3 did show us that NYXL is the undisputed top team in the Overwatch League and that Jong-yeol ‘Saebyeolbe’ Park’s Tracer play really is second to none.
2) Top Playoff Moments: Team Kills,
In the Stage 3 finals, Saebyolbe killed the entire Boston Uprising team and barely broke a sweat doing so.
3) Best Match: Philadelphia Fusion vs. NYXL (Week 3)
The NYXL were coming off of a week in which they had dropped their first match all stage, a close fought 2 to 3 match against the Boston Uprising, and many believed that their reign at the top was over. On the other side, the Fusion had recently beaten the London Spitfire and had also lost only once, in a close fought 2 to 3 match against the Boston Uprising. As a result, the two teams were very much neck and neck entering their match, and it ended up being one of the best games in Overwatch League history.
On the first map Anubis, both teams managed to capture both points in quick fashion but it was the Fusion who managed to win the tiebreaker, thanks in large part to a great stagger by Zenyatta player Isaac ‘Boombox’ Charles. On the next map, the Fusion won yet again, as they managed to push the payload all the way on Numbani while holding NYXL before the second checkpoint. At that point, the NYXL were down but not out, as they had experience coming back against the Fusion. In the next two maps, they managed to squeak out two wins, thanks to the stellar hit-scan play by Pine, while forcing a fifth and final match. On Oasis, the teams split the first two maps and both managed to stake their claim on the points in map 3. With his 99% to victory and the Fusion pushing hard, Do-Hyeon ‘Pine’ Kim came up huge once again as he completed a number of final blows to give the NYXL the win and the reverse sweep.
This match ended up rejuvenating New York, while also sending the Fusion into a bit of a spiral that led to them missing out on the Stage Playoffs. Thankfully, we’re going to get another chance to see these two teams duke it out on May 30th, in a match that could once again hold serious playoff implications.
4) Stage 3 MVP: Nam-Joo ‘Striker’ Kwon
While they fell short in the finals, Stage 3 was very much the place that the Boston Uprising rose to the upper echelon of the Overwatch League. Heading into the season, they were a team that was widely considered to be a bottom tier squad and their performance to date has been nothing short of unexpected. Leading the way for the Boston Uprising all year and especially in Stage 3 has been the play of Tracer main Nam-Joo ‘Striker’ Kwon.
Striker, like the Uprising, was undervalued going into Stage 1 of the Overwatch League and he has improved immensely since. His uncanny ability to stay alive an keep pushes going led to the Uprising winning some fights and matches that they simply couldn’t have done without Striker’s play. While he had a number of standout plays over the course of Stage 3, His greatest moment in Stage 3 is surprisingly easy to choose. It came in a match against the London Spitfire and involved him staying on point alone, and picking up a couple of decisive kills to prolong the match. Boston ended up winning the match 3 to 2 which helped jet-start their 10 win Stage 3 performance. The play was the epitome of an MVP calibre play and by the end of it, Striker was literally being reduced to tears of joy.
Unsurprisingly, he is my vote for the overall MVP at this point, and while other players like Sableyobe and Sung-Hyeon ‘Jjonak’ Bang also have a convincing argument for the honour, no player has meant as much for their team as Striker has for Boston.
5) Personelle Change: Coaches Dae-hee “Crusty” Park, Brad Rajani Leave Teams
Speaking of the Boston Uprising, one of the most surprising moments of this season happened a couple of days ago when their coach Dae-hee‘Crusty’ Park left the team to join the San Francisco Shock. The Uprising announced the news via Twitter, saying that the move came after careful consideration and is in the “best interest of the team, as well as Crusty.” The San Francisco Shock also announced that they are letting go of their coachBrad Rajani in order to make room for ‘Crusty’. The team thanked Rajani in a statement calling him an integral part of “the system we’ve built here in the first season of the Overwatch League.”
This move could have a significant impact on the Uprising going forward, as the team has regularly praised the team’s coaching and linked it as a major aspect of their overall success. As for the Shock, they were one of the best teams in Stage 3 and narrowly missed out on the playoffs. With the coaching change, they could very well place even higher in Stage 4. The Shock play their first game of Stage 4 on May 16th against the L.A. Gladiators while the Uprising play their first match the following day against the Philadelphia Fusion. Coach Crusty will face his old team in week three in what no doubt will be a closely fought match.
6) Will the Shanghai Dragons Ever Win?
0 wins. 30 losses. A combined map differential of -88. It’s safe to say that the Shanghai Dragons have had a tough go so far in the Overwatch League. They began as a roster full of questionable decisions, as the all Chinese team failed to feature some of the top Chinese Overwatch League players. In Stage 1, the team looked positively dreadful and Stage two wasn’t much better. One of their best players was dropped from the team after a scandal involving his girlfriend came to light in what was easily the lowest point for the Dragons, and it looked like they would never rise from the ashes.
And yet there is hope for this squad. In Stage 3, they welcomed a quartet of Korean players in Geguri, Sky, Fearless, and Ado, who have completely transformed the makeup of the team. Geguri and Ado have especially impressed with their D.Va and Genji play, respectively and are more than capable of carrying the Dragons to victory. As for their Stage 4 schedule, they open up with a match against the Dallas Fuel, a team that is very much beatable; and in week three, they play the Florida Mayhem before ending off against the San Francisco Shock in their final match of the season. These three teams are easily Shanghai’s best shot at winning a match and the team definitely doesn’t want to go 0-40 on the season. The Dragons have shown marked improvement and the time in between Stage 3 and 4 will no doubt help them grow even more cohesive as a team. Make sure you’re tuning in on May 16th for their match against the Fuel because you could very well be witnessing some history.
Liked this article and want to read more like it? Check out the Stage 3 Playoff Preview and Alex Handziuk’s interview with Mercy Voice Actress Lucie Pohl.