The first day in which the top seeds in the Overwatch League’s North American playoffs played turned out to be a spectacular one Saturday with a trio of five-map barnburners — including a stunning reverse sweep — forcing teams to go deep into their playbook to avoid getting sent to the lower bracket.
The day didn’t start out like a classic in the making, however, as the top-seeded Philadelphia Fusion took down the sixth-seeded Los Angeles Gladiators 3-0. The Fusion were dominant across practically every role, though that isn’t to say that the Gladiators were playing poorly. Los Angeles showed good teamwork and understanding, but simply couldn’t execute as well as Philadelphia.
The Fusion utilized the DPS duo of Seung-hyun “Ivy” Lee and Hee-su “Heesu” Jeong for the first two games of the series, with Heesu impressing on Sombra throughout the series. Philly took Lijiang Tower 2-1 and Numbani 3-2 before subbing DPS and captain Jae-hyeok “Carpe” Lee in for Ivy to take Temple of Anubis 3-2.
In the next match, the Los Angeles Valiant proved they belong in the discussion of the top NA teams with the franchise’s fifth consecutive win over the Florida Mayhem in a 3-2 blockbuster of a match. The main focus of this matchup was on both teams’ DPS duos, with the Valiant’s hypercarry Kai “KSP” Collins and Johannes “Shax” Nielsen taking on the Mayhem’s all-star caliber duo of Sang-bum “BQB” Lee and Jun-ki “Yaki” Kim. By the end of the back-and-forth match, however, the Valiant’s win came from an unexpected star.
The Valiant dominated Busan 2-0, then the Mayhem dominated Numbani 3-0 to go into halftime. After the break, Los Angeles won Volskaya Industries 4-3 but couldn’t close out the series on Watchpoint: Gibraltar, dropping the map 3-2 and setting up a tiebreaker on Oasis. There, Valiant support Jae-ho “RaiN” Park’s Lucio shined, expertly dodging Sombra EMP’s to keep his team alive with Sound Barriers and using Soundwaves to setup kills for his team. Behind RaiN, LA took the map 2-1 to stay alive in the winner’s bracket.
The Valiant will face the Fusion on Sunday in the winner’s bracket semifinals while the Gladiators will face the Mayhem in the loser’s bracket quarters.
On the other side of the bracket, the defending world champions survived a major upset scare as the second-seeded San Francisco Shock needed a reverse sweep to fend off the 12th-seeded Washington Justice 3-2. This match showed just how adaptive the Shock are in long series, speaking to their experience and playoff acumen. On the other hand, it also showed just how strong the Justice’s bread-and-butter compositions on this patch are, taking it to the regular-season runner-up.
San Francisco rolled out onto Oasis with the Reaper-Sombra dive compositions we’ve seen across both regions, but that failed to stop Washington as the Justice took the map 2-1. Then, the Shock tried mirroring the composition, hoping to mechanically outperform the Justice, but the Justice held on and won that map 5-4 to go up 2-0 at the half. Threatening match point, the Shock took the reins off their players, which worked wonders.
On Volskaya Industries, the Shock let their best players play whatever they were best at, and it turned out to be a match-saving move. Rookie and hitscan DPS prodigy Seonchang “ANS” Lee played his signature Widowmaker to great success, taking Justice heads while support Min-ki “Viol2t” Park’s Zenyatta assisted in taking down tanks with his Orb of Discord and lethal aim. After taking the map 2-1, San Francisco continued its momentum onto Watchpoint: Gibraltar, winning 4-3 to force a Map 5.
The Shock were starting to come alive on Lijiang Tower, subbing in star tank Matthew “super” DeLisi to play Roadhog and Reinhardt. While the Justice fought valiantly, San Francisco’s combination of superior tactics and execution were simply too much to overcome, giving the Shock a 2-1 map win.
San Francisco’s ability to keeps its composure makes it a lethal squad in a playoff bracket where the meta is still being defined. The Shock will look to continue the momentum Sunday against the seventh-ranked Atlanta Reign in the winner’s semis … though the Reign didn’t exactly cruise out of the first round, either.
The Reign’s 3-2 win over the Paris Eternal was by all measures the ugliest match of the day. Perhaps both teams were affected by general fatigue, seeing as there was seven hours of Overwatch before their match — or perhaps neither team had a solid grasp of the current meta. Regardless, both teams stayed true to themselves and their preferred playstyles throughout the series, for better and for worse.
The Reign started with a 2-0 win on Busan, followed by the Eternal bouncing back with a 3-2 win on King’s Row. From there, the Reign went on to take Temple of Anubis 4-3 but got absolutely stuffed when they tried to put the series away on Watchpoint: Gibraltar. Instead, the Eternal pulled off the 3-0 full hold to force a fifth map, on Ilios. There, Atlanta pulled out several tempo swaps from its bag of tricks to catch Paris off-guard and ultimately take the map 2-0 to secure the series win.
The Eternal will play the Justice in an elimination game Sunday.
–Field Level Media