After a four-day break following last week’s wild start to the playoffs, the Overwatch League returned to action Friday with a pair of North American losers-bracket matches.
And following last week’s lead, the day was not kind to all of the favorites.
The postseason’s clear Cinderella team stayed alive in a big way as the 12th-seeded Washington Justice won a fourth straight playoff match — and second straight over a top-five opponent — beating the No. 5 Los Angeles Valiant 3-1 series. The Valiant, who earned a reputation as an intelligent and well-coached team this season, seemed like the kind of team that would find a solution to the Justice’s limited but effective playstyle. But Washington showed Los Angeles an overwhelming amount of lethality and decisiveness in its win.
Thus far in playoffs, the Justice have been led by Gui-un “Decay” Jang’s Zarya, who has been posting incredibly high stats. In the first map of the match Friday, though, the Justice played around Decay by not feeding him any energy on Busan, reducing his effectiveness and preventing Washington’s “Pocket the President” strategy from finding value. The Valiant took Busan 2-0 and looked to continue the momentum into King’s Row, but the Justice responded well in a couple of ways — taking the impetus to carry off of Decay and redistributing it to his capable supporting cast to win the map 4-3.
The biggest star in this series was Washington DPS Chung-hee “Stitch” Lee, who turned in an elite performance on Ashe. Stitch was more than capable of dealing with the once-lauded Valiant DPS duo of Kai “KSP” Collins and Johannes “Shax” Nielsen, consistently one-tapping KSP’s Ashe and Shax’s Tracer. With Stitch’s brilliance, DPS Ho-Sung “TTuba” Lee’s clutch Tracer Pulse Bombs and an outstanding performance from the rest of the lineup, Washington showed it could do more than just pocket Decay while he killed everything.
The Justice held onto momentum after the halftime break, riding Stitch to take the Valiant’s map pick of Volskaya Industries, 2-0. Stitch, who finished with some ludicrous stats of 11,869 damage per 10 minutes and 17.3 eliminations per 10, was on fire entering Watchpoint: Gibraltar. The Justice shined while the Valiant, who were visibly reeling after Map 3, couldn’t figure out how to crack the Justice’s defensive hold. The result was a perfect 3-0 win to send Washington to the loser’s bracket semifinals and to send Los Angeles home.
In Friday’s other match, the fourth-seeded Florida Mayhem took out the seventh-seeded Atlanta Reign in a 3-0 sweep. The Reign looked decent early on but didn’t seem to have much going on in terms of strategy, opting into the Sombra-Reaper dive mirror even after the Mayhem displayed a mastery of the composition in both planning and execution.
Atlanta’s players were outmatched mechanically and mentally on all of their hero picks, unable to match the Mayhem’s high-tempo attack. The Mayhem took Ilios 2-1, Numbani 2-1 and Volskaya Industries 1-0 to close out the match.
It was the kind of result that made it difficult to determine whether the Mayhem were particularly impressive or the Reign looked particularly bad. A lack of flexibility might be worrisome for the Mayhem, considering their next opponent is a red-hot Justice team, but the individual talent and cohesion of Florida might be enough to solve the Washington puzzle.
As far as Atlanta goes, though, Friday brought a pretty stunning end for a team laden with high expectations that struggled to adjust in-game.
Up next are a pair of NA games Saturday, with the top-seeded Philadelphia Fusion and No. 2 seed San Francisco Shock facing off in the winners-bracket title match. The Mayhem and Justice will play in the losers bracket, with the winner facing the Fusion-Shock loser Sunday.
–Field Level Media