OPINION: Overreactions in OWL’s 2-2-2
With the introduction of role lock in stage four of the Overwatch League fans were anxiously awaiting changes. Changes not just to the meta but changes that could breath new life into teams that struggled to adapt throughout the first half of the season. While stage three saw a number of teams experimenting with team compositions – others stuck to their guns refusing to play to a meta that evolved over the course of the stage.
The “big two” Vancouver Titans and New York Excelsior entered stage four with nothing to lose. Excelsior’s top seed in the Atlantic Division was secured following a 19-2 match record through the first three stages. London was no threat sitting at 12-9 entering stage four. Vancouver’s top six finish guaranteed a playoff berth for the Titans and with a four match lead over the San Francisco Shock the Atlantic’s top spot was the Titans to take.
At the forefront of the evolving meta was the “die-cicle” team composition of Orisa/Roadhog, Mei/Widow, Ana/Mercy. The composition left wiggle room to incorporate Hanzo as the sniper option and could bring in Baptiste/Zenyatta to the support line. The introduction of 2-2-2 has given players the chance to play their primary role as opposed to playing a hero they haven’t honed with years of practice. Three-three compositions left players inhibited to create superstar-making moments. 2-2-2 would give damage players a platform to create flashy plays while still allowing team play to play a big role in those clutch moments.
If stage four has taught us anything though it’s that the level of parity between the teams in the Overwatch League is more apparent than it’s ever been. Throughout three stages there was talk of “the big three” of Vancouver Titans, New York Excelsior, and San Francisco Shock. In this timeline we have the continued trend of former 0-7 teams toppling stage champions, teams eliminated from playoff contention pulling off huge wins over playoff contenders, and teams having found strength in “off-meta” heroes completely throwing their strengths to the wayside. In stage four week three we saw two-thirds of the “stoplight trio” in Florida Mayhem and Washington Justice secure wins over London Spitfire and Vancouver Titans respectively. Both wins drummed up conversation. Were those results signs that Florida Mayhem’s mid-season moves put them in a position to succeed after consecutive weeks of underwhelming performances? Could Washington Justice’s DPS duo of Corey “Corey” Nigra and Ethan “Stratus” Yankel mask the issues that plagued the Justice throughout three stages?
While much of the league discussion will revolve around teams looking to advance to the play-in tournament following stage four there’s a handful of games throughout that wouldn’t factor into playoff seeding. Sunday’s match between the top ranked Vancouver Titans and the nineteenth ranked Washington Justice was just that. The Titans opted to run a mirror composition despite Corey’s superstar-making performance on Reaper and Hanzo. Corey’s Hanzo performance was the strongest showcase we’ve seen in Overwatch League to date. In the four maps Corey secured 119 eliminations to only 17 deaths which was enough for a 7/1 kill to death ratio. Haksal fell silent after dicing up the Florida Mayhem last week on Genji posting the highest dragonblades eliminations in a series (27) and averaging 10.9 dragonblade eliminations/10 minutes. Haksal’s Genji was nowhere to be seen in the series against the Justice.
When up is down, left is right, and the rule book is thrown out the window how much should us, as viewers, read into the results? Should the Titans hit the panic button after suffering their first 0-4 loss in Overwatch League? Inconsistencies have plagued a majority of the Overwatch League teams this stage and one win (or loss) does not define a team. One more week should give us a clearer picture but the reset button will be hit once again come playoff time as balance changes and Sigma enter the fold.