Welcome to Match Notes, a weekly column by staff writer Bonnie Qu that looks back on each week of the Overwatch League.
This week’s entry is about the games that took place from June 3-6. For official match results, check out the Overwatch League website. For everything else, look here.
THIS WEEK’S PATCH NOTES
The good folks over at the Overwatch League are constantly figuring out ways to make things as balanced as possible. This means tweaking the relative strength of various teams and players from week to week, with varying results. This year, they’ve generously agreed to send us some of their official patch notes every week so that we know exactly what changes have been made.
LOS ANGELES VALIANT
Developer’s comment: We thought that would be hilarious, and it was.
NEW YORK EXCELSIOR
- Passive ability change: “Potential” is now “Performance”
Developer’s comment: When the season began, we all agreed that the raw potential of the NYXL was too great to be amped up fully from the start, lest they become over-tuned while we were still figuring every other team out. But, for the sake of storyline and to throw those poor New York fans a bone, we’ve finally allowed them to deliver.
- Anti-Shock ability restored
Developer’s comment: One of the most unbelievable moments of the 2019 season was when the Atlanta Reign defeated the San Francisco Shock in season playoffs. Since then, we’ve held back from doing anything like it again because we were worried it would cheapen the impact of the first one. But, this tournament we thought, “screw it.” It’s been long enough. We can do it again.
Winners and losers are a natural part of competition — though not always in the way one would think. In this section, we go over who experienced the triumphs, defeats and epic highs and lows of professional Overwatch this week.
VICTORY: THE VALIANT (?!)
I wrote last week that the stage was set for a fantastic week of qualifiers, and they definitely didn’t disappoint. Though the West division saw the majority of the upsets and close matches last week, it was the East division that housed the most exciting matches this week. This was due, in large part, to the Hangzhou Spark homestand; the first live event with a crowd that we’ve had since the Covid-19 pandemic forced their cancellation early last season.
It was incredible to see players actually take the stage again, facing outward at a sea of people all dressed in pink. The homestand led to some of the most memorable matches all season. There was the exhilarating and close match between home crowd Hangzhou Spark and fan favorite Chengdu Hunters. There was the Dragons’ astounding opening map against the Seoul Dynasty, where main support Lee “Leejaegon” Jae-gon scored a record-breaking ten environmental kills. And, there was the match between the resurgent Philadelphia Fusion and the 0-8 Los Angeles Valiant; a match that would inexplicably determine the June Joust final four.
Beforehand, most people (rightfully) assumed that the Fusion sweeping the Valiant was a foregone conclusion. But amazingly, the Valiant, playing in front of a Chinese crowd, were able to take a map off the Fusion. That single map caused the Fusion to lose their spot in the knockouts to the New York Excelsior — who would eventually defeat the Spark on their home turf to make it to the final four. No doubt the cheers of the live crowd gave the Valiant the strength they needed to grip the Fusion by their ankles and drag them down into elimination hell. You can’t make this stuff up, folks.
DEFEAT: THE UNDEFEATED TEAMS (AGAIN)
Once again, we’ve reached the final four of a tournament. And, once again, the teams that went undefeated during the qualifiers will not be attending. Anyone else getting deja vu?
The Los Angeles Gladiators, San Francisco Shock and Hangzhou Spark were all 4-0 going into knockouts. All of them were defeated in unceremonious fashion. The Gladiators fell to May Melee champions Dallas Fuel, who are headed to Hawaii for the second time in as many tournaments. The Shock were swept by the Atlanta Reign, who are finally proving that they have what it takes to break out of the mid-tier. The Spark lost to the NYXL, who only barely qualified for knockouts thanks to the Valiant’s inexplicable map win.
It’s unclear why undefeated teams keep stumbling when it comes to the knockout round. It can’t all be due to strength of schedule; the Gladiators defeated Atlanta in the qualifiers, after all, and the Shock defeated Dallas. The Spark were also victorious over the Dragons mere weeks ago. Perhaps completely doing away with predictability is just how the scriptwriters keep us all on our toes.
WHO GAMED THE HARDEST?
Every player in the Overwatch League is, by definition, a gamer. But, sometimes, one rises to the top as the most gamer of them all. Whenever this happens, it’s worth celebrating. Each week, we’ll be picking the one player we think gamed harder than anyone else.
OH “PELICAN” SE-HYUN (ATLANTA REIGN)
Can I be honest? I like Pelican a lot. I’ve always liked him, ever since he was just a kid playing in Contenders Korea as part of O2 Blast.
I’m always glad when a player that I followed through Contenders makes it to the Overwatch League. And I am especially glad when they do well, as Pelican has. The Reign had a slow start but they’ve shown up big time in the June Joust, with Pelican at the forefront. Echo has been nearly ubiquitous in the current meta and Pelican’s Echo is probably one of the best in the league. His quick thinking and sharp mechanics make him a force to be reckoned with, and he works seamlessly with the rest of his team.
There were a lot of good showings this week. But, arguably, no player had such a consistent impact on their team’s performance as Pelican had. The force and magnitude of his gaming this week has earned him the official honor of having gamed the hardest. Let’s see if he can keep it up in Hawaii.
- Leejaegon (Shanghai Dragons)
- Kim “Sp9rk1e” Yeong-han (Dallas Fuel)
- Kim “Bianca” Dong-wook (New York Excelsior)