Today marks the start of the first ever Overwatch League playoffs, as the upstart L.A. Gladiators face off against the mighty London Spitfire at 10:00 PM EST. The teams will battle it out in a best of three match series, with the winning team qualifying for the semifinals next week. Both teams are entering the competition with swagger, and they all have only one goal in mind: Becoming the Overwatch League’s Inaugural Champions.
London Spitfire (#4) vs. L.A Gladiators (#5)
Game 1: July 11th 10:00 EST, Game 2: July 14th 4:00 EST, Game 3: July 13th 6:00 EST
Even before their playoff match kicks off, the Gladiators and Spitfire already have quite a rivalry brewing. The two teams have been involved in tight matches, reverse sweeps and even a blockbuster trade so far this season. While there are a number of great personal storylines between these two teams, the one that takes the spotlight is easily the Gladiators main-tank player Chan-hyung ‘Fissure’ Baek’s quest to defeat his former team. Fissure has made it clear that he was insulted when the Spitfire traded him to the Gladiators back in Stage 2, and the matches between these two teams have had an extra spark as a result.
Unlike the other quarterfinals, the L.A. Gladiators and London Spitfire have only met three times this season, and a result there is a clear favourite among the two squads. Their first meeting took place in week three of Stage 2 and it came fresh off of the London Spitfire’s Stage 1 Championship victory. As a result, it very much seemed like London was the superior team and the Gladiators weren’t given much of a chance of defeating them. And yet they managed to do just that. Led by their newly minted main-tank player Fissure, the Gladiators managed to pull off the 3 to 1 win, and put themselves in the conversation with the league’s top teams. Here’s a clip of Fissure setting the tone in that match:
When the teams met for the second time, it was the Gladiators who once again started strong, and held off a late push by London, as they captured the game by a score of 3 to 2. By the time their last meeting came around, the Spitfire was in the midst of a bit of an identity crisis. The team was struggling in Stage 4, and while they were a lock for the playoffs their play was a cause for concern. That’s why it was so surprising that the Spitfire managed to take a 2 to 0 lead in their Stage 4 match against the Gladiators, and it looked like London was finally going to win a match against L.A. Unfortunately for them the Gladiators didn’t quit and managed to win the next three maps to capture the game and the season series 3 wins to 0.
While Fissure has completely reimagined the L.A. Gladiators it’s an often unheralded player that is the key to the Gladiator’s successful season so far. That player is off-tank player Aaron ‘Bischu’ Kim who is both a gifted D.Va player and overall team leader. Bischu not only possesses a contagiously energetic demeanour that works well in calming down teammates, but he also acts as a translator, allowing for his teammates to thrive as a unit.
When you KNOW they can't leave the cart, send in your Self-Destruct. @BischuGG #OWL2018
On the Spitfire side, it’s all about the duo of Joon-yeong ‘Profit’ Park and Ji-hyeok ‘Birdring’ Kim. The two immediately put the league on notice with their play in Stages 1 and 2, via their lights out skill and seamless cooperation. While they stumbled in Stage 3 and 4, a lot of that had to do with Birdring’s wrist injury that forced him to miss some playing time. The fact remains that when these two are firing on all cylinders they have the ability to win championships for the Spitfire.
The L.A Gladiators have been one of the hottest in the Overwatch League recently, while the London Spitfire have looked rather shaky. That, coupled with their head to head record spells a distinct advantage for the Gladiators. There is the chance that the Spitfire regains their previous championship form, but given how well L.A. has been adapting on the fly, that possibility is very unlikely.
Projected Winner: L.A. Gladiators
What team(s) are you rooting for in the quarterfinals? And which players do you think are going to step up? Let us know in the comments below!
Liked this article and want to read more like it? Check out the article on Whether the Overwatch League Can Survive Expansion and our Interview with Overwatch Voice Actress Lucie Pohl.