The 2020 season of Overwatch League kicked off this weekend with Homestand games hosted by New York Excelsior and Dallas Fuel. It was an explosive start to the third season as each team proved the work they’d put in throughout the off-season, with surprises and upsets around every corner.
Toronto Defiant vs. Paris Eternal was first up, playing Control on Lijiang Tower as their first map. It was a slim victory for Paris, mostly thanks to Ki-hyo “Xzi” Jung, whose amazing Symmetra plays led his team to a 2-0 cap, including a 0-100 cap on the Night Market map. On the second map, Eichenwalde, Toronto subbed in Lane “Surefour” Roberts. The DPS legend didn’t get much playtime with the LA Gladiators last season, but he started his time with Defiant with a bang, dominating the game on Reaper.
Surefour’s Reaper and Young-seo “KariV” Park’s Ana were an unstoppable duo and working together with the rest of their team; they took the map. Paris’ aggressive gameplay was very useful on a more static map, such as Lijiang Tower, where they could back Toronto into a corner and attack them in one go, using heroes such as Moira.
However, when faced with Toronto’s wildcard plays, they lost their balance, as seen on the third map, Horizon Lunar Colony, when they lost control of the high ground. Nicolas “NiCOgdh” Moret, on Mei, desperately tried to increase Paris’ chances, and his ice wall managed to split Toronto in half long enough for his team to cap the point. Ultimately, though, Toronto were too strong for them, especially with DPS legends Surefour and Brady “Agilities” Girardi on Sombra and Doomfist, and the Canadians took the series 3-1.
Next up was New York Excelsior vs. London Spitfire. After a disappointing second season, all eyes were on the former Inaugural Season winners to see if they could start a redemption arc, and London did just that on the first map, Lijiang Tower, which they won. Recruit Gil-seong “Glister” Lim made some outstanding plays on McCree, which continued onto the second map, King’s Row.
This map was extremely close, with both teams continually pushing each other, like a game of cat and mouse. New York’s Hong-joon “HOTBA” Choi hyped up his home crowd by landing insane D.Va bombs throughout the game, leading to a win for the Excelsior. After two more wins on Horizon Lunar Colony and Junkertown, New York took the series 3-1 on their home turf.
Moving over to Dallas for the evening, fans got to watch last season’s runner-ups Vancouver Titans and Los Angeles Gladiators face off. Aside from intense matches, this was a special game, due to the return of Ryu “Ryujehong” Je-hong, with Vancouver, and Kim “Birdring” Ji-hyeok, with the Gladiators. Both players were assumed to retire from Overwatch, especially following Ryujehong’s emotional outburst on stage last season while playing for Seoul Dynasty.
Another player that stood out during the series was Roni “LhCloudy” Tiihonen, a tank player for Los Angeles. He contributed significantly to the Gladiator’s win on Nepal, as his confidence helped him charge his opponents and defend his team on Reinhardt. The Gladiators were looking set for another victory on King’s Row, with Indy “SPACE” Halpern killing it with the D.Va bombs – a frequent occurrence on this map, it seems – and Vancouver unable to cope with the speedboosts and Moira orbs being thrown their way. However, halfway through the match, the Titans woke up and switched to a more mainstream meta (they were playing Zenyatta and Brigitte before), securing them the map.
After three more maps with some insane plays, such as a four-kill Death Blossom from Birdring and some of the best Dragonblades ever seen in the League from Vancouver’s Hyojong “Haksal” Kim, the Titans took the series 3-2.
The final game of Saturday saw Los Angeles Valiant and Dallas Fuel battle it out on Dallas’ home turf. Fans and analysts alike wrote Valiant off following a disappointing second season, but they blew any doubts out of the water by beating the home team. LA’s Kai “KSP” Collins made a name for himself as an expert sharpshooter throughout the series, clicking head after head-on heroes like McCree and Widowmaker.
After Dallas took the first map, commentators joked about the “cursed” teams that win the first Control map but go on to lose the series, and that couldn’t have rung truer. LA Valiant won Blizzard World, Horizon Lunar Colony, Junkertown, and eventually the series, in what was arguably one of the best and most exciting games of the day. Caleb “McGravy” McGarvey continued the new League tradition of popping off on D.Va, landing several six-man D.Va bombs.
Something that aided the Valiant greatly in their victory is the fact that they weren’t afraid to take the fight to their opponents. If given a choice to either bide their time or charge, they will choose to dive in. This was a risky play, but it paid off as they won 3-1. Their victory was remarkable because a team of rookies, some of whom were unseen in the League before this season, took down a team full of well-established talent.
McGravy commented on the series afterward, saying, “We’ve been the underdogs since preseason.” He went on to say that this is a “personal victory” for him, as he played for Dallas’ Academy team, Team Envy, for about a year but was never signed to their League team.
Sunday’s games kicked off with two European teams facing off, London Spitfire and Paris Eternal. Both teams were looking to redeem themselves after losses the previous day, but, much like their match against NYXL, London fell flat, and Paris took the series 3-0.
The series started on Nepal, on which Paris wrestled control of and dominated. They made great use of the closed spaces around the capture points, with NiCOgdh on Mei blocking out their opponents with Ice Wall. Also, on the first map, Brice “FDGod” Monsçavoir hit some insane Lucio boops.
The second game of the day was Boston Uprising vs. New York Excelsior, the home crowd. Things were looking good for Boston on Oasis until the Excelsior woke up and realized that they were going to have to fight for the map. It was a quick fight, with New York dominating the map, dividing the Uprising to pick them off. On Blizzard World, Boston fought tooth and nail to even make it to point B, before they were stopped short by New York’s defenses.
A standout player from this map, in particular, was Jong-ryeol “Saebyeolbe” Park, who has been named one of the best DPS players in the world, as well as the best captain in the League. His McCree plays contributed primarily to pushing Boston back, preventing them from capping the next point, even when there was less than a meter to push the payload. He used his flashbangs to stop enemies in their tracks before finishing them off.
The final map, Anubis, was again looking promising for Boston. Despite a messy and uncoordinated first attack, they managed to take both point A and point B with around 30 seconds left in the timebank. But then it was New York’s turn. They took both points with over 5 minutes left, meaning that the Uprising didn’t stand a chance in the second round. New York finished the game with a clean 3-0 sweep.
Next up was the mighty Vancouver Titans vs. the reformed LA Valiant. The Valiant was still feeling confident following their victory against Dallas Fuel from the previous day, and this translated into their gameplay. They were set to win the first round on Lijiang Tower after running up a 99% on the capture point, but the Titans managed to flip it at the last moment and keep a solid defense, taking the round.
Los Angeles also started very well on the second map, but their short time as a team showed when Vancouver managed to wrestle control, even after they lost a team fight. The Titans took the map. On Blizzard World, Vancouver wasted no time and completed the map with three minutes left in the timebank. It was looking unlikely that Valiant could beat that, but they managed to push the payload to the final point with an impressive four minutes left in the bank.
Now it all came down to the second round. LA hit point A but were unable to go much further, and despite their best efforts, the Titans broke through their defenses and took point B, taking the map. Although they were unable to win the map, the Valiant had some great plays, and their defense was strong. One highlight was Kyle “KSF” Frandanisa on Mei. He used his Blizzard to freeze every Vancouver player on the payload so his teammates could finish them off, cleaning up the point and stalling his opponents.
On Anubis, Vancouver went through to take point A and B without much resistance. LA took point A in pretty good time, but the Titans’ defenses were powerful, and it took them until overtime to capture point B. Vancouver then won the map, and the game 3-0, by fully holding in round two.
The final game of the weekend saw Dallas Fuel take on reigning champions San Francisco Shock. After their loss to LA Valiant on their home turf yesterday, Dallas were looking for a win to redeem themselves in the final game of their Homestand Weekend. It seemed like the odds were stacked against them, pitting them against one of the strongest teams in the League, but the Fuel were willing to fight.
Shock took the first round on Oasis, but in round two, they managed to wrestle control of the point, finishing the round with a slim victory of 100-99. The final round looked to be just as slim, with the point flipping teams in the blink of an eye, but Shock came out on top, taking the map.
San Francisco took this energy to Eichenwalde, where they completed their round with three minutes left in the timebank. Fuel also made an amazing start, making it through the Shock’s defences with little difficulty, but they found themselves unable to break through to point C, meaning that last year’s champions took the map. Fuel’s progress was thanks in part to Gui-un “Decay” Jang’s insane accurate hits on McCree, which he also showed fans on the first map.
The tables very quickly turned on Horizon Lunar Colony, as Dallas entirely held San Francisco on point A in the first round. Determined not to let their opponents take a map, the Shock put up an immense fight in the second round, but eventually, the Fuel are able to take point A and win the map. However, despite their great form on the previous map, on Havana, Dallas got pinned in spawn for almost the entire round, and when they did break out, they were unable to get to point A, meaning that the Shock (who completed the map with 15 seconds left) took the series 3-1.
It was an explosive first weekend of Overwatch League Season 3, and fans can look forward to similar intense gameplay next week. The second weekend of the 2020 season kicks off on Saturday 15 Feb. at 1pm PT with Florida Mayhem vs. Houston Outlaws, hosted by Philadelphia Fusion.