Perception is one matter, one factor of the mind. And most importantly, perception is built upon bias and the view of one, making the human a perfectly fallible analysis. Analytics and data, however, are not mere perception, but a basic fact which provides context. However, those analytics and publications must be interpreted using perception. The implication is indicative the analyst can use data to tell what objectively happened, but forecasting using data is still entirely forecasting using bias.
What does the above have to do with the Overwatch League? One week into a new League and hyperbole is the prominent tale. Two weeks in, questions take the headline. Three weeks in, and finally the analytical trends are developing to provide fundamental facts about who the top, middle, and bottom tier teams are. Consistency, execution, and challenges are all taking shape for some, while incoherent communication and strategy has taken the lead for the other pack. The Overwatch League Stage One Week four will further embellish the current sweep of trends; then again, anything can happen in the thrilling air of competition.
Overwatch League Stage One: Week Four – Exquisite Excelsior
Recap of Stage One, Week Three
Week three of play in the Overwatch league was a fundamental lesson that trends in this league cannot be found in the mere perception of a whim. Certain teams, the New York Excelsior for instance, quietly boasted hyper efficiency in the first few weeks. Hence, in week three they were able to blow holes in the technique and strategy of the formidable Seoul Dynasty. Meanwhile, teams such as the Dallas Fuel boast a prominent roster on paper, but utter lack of discipline in fights have granted them a measly 1-5 record.
Day one came around to have the expected results taking the spotlight – the London Spitfire cleaned up the San Francisco Shock 3-1; the Seoul Dynasty 3-1 over the Shanghai Dragons; the Los Angeles Valiant 3-2 over the Los Angeles Gladiators.
The first ‘Battle for L.A.’ was the most entertaining match of the day. The fights came often, and the Gladiators took an early 2-0 lead, forcing the Valiant’s MVP’s Brady “Agilities” Girardi to pave a comeback. He continuously forced the Gladiators’ tanks in to bad positions, totaling 64 kills to 40 deaths. On a wholistic scale, the Gladiators had moments of great team play, but the Valiant have a roster focused on usurping others with powerful use of their ultimate abilities.
Thursday was a battle of finesse and strategy. The Boston Uprising revolted against the London Spitfire in a ruckus 3-2 victory, while the Philadelphia Fusion beat the Excelsior 3-2. The Uprising victory was an interesting anomaly in the data; perceptually the Spitfire were always one step behind of the Uprising. Down the stretch, it will be interesting to study if the Uprising are a formidable threat, or merely the recipient of a bad Spitfire run.
Friday was host to the Excelsior displaying their efficiency in a 3-2 win over the formidable Dynasty. The Fusion escaped the Dragons 3-2, and the Fuel swept the Shock 3-0. The Shock had a dismal kill to death ratio of -28, epitomizing their frantic offense. Andrej “babybay” Francisty was the only player to obtain a kill ratio above 10 (+20). The Fuel may not be the most coherent team, but they got to the point first, and landed a numerable amount of first kills.
Saturday saw expected regression of the Fuel in a 3-2 loss to the Boston Uprising. The Valiant timely took care of the Florida Mayhem 3-1, and the Houston Outlaws pushed the Gladiators around in a 4-0 sweep which featured 141 kills to a mere 63. When the Outlaws are let loose they can truly push opponents around.
Stage One Week Four Power Rankings
After three weeks of play, data, and insight into communication on the floor, the power rankings heading into week four are starting to bury themselves safely in trends. Teams that began Stage One wallowing in their own mistakes are still doing so, and teams that have been overcoming adversity are still consistent.
No team helped themselves more than the New York Excelsior this week. They not only beat the Seoul Dynasty, but showed stringent team chemistry in the fight. Their 2-2-2 combination and starter chemistry were devastating. Further, on the season they have shown timely ability to adjust when they make mistakes. That austere play is sustainable as a system and puts them in the number two seat.
The Fusion and Outlaws also earn a jump for being stalwart systems. The Outlaws may end up jumping the Valiant by the end of the season for their resilient defense and emphasis on manipulation. They are a true wild card threat and have usurped poor pre-season perception. The Fusion continue to impress with fantastic handling of individual fights.
The Dallas Fuel had high expectations heading into the season, but since then, have shown utterly incomprehensible lack of communication on the floor. The potential is there, but the stringent adherence to any cohesive attack is non-existent. Potential and skill does not matter unless the Fuel learn how to coordinate with one another.
The Boston Uprising earn special note as they have shown the potential to be better than number eight. They are only a few decisive moments away from a 3-3 record, but something is holding them back. On the upcoming Friday, the Uprising and Los Angeles Gladiators will play in a match which should provide clarity; the winner will receive a bump to hold the proverbial, “First team out of the wild card,” standing.
- Seoul Dynasty (Hold)
- New York Excelsior (Up from four)
- London Spitfire (Hold)
- Philadelphia Fusion (Up from five)
- Los Angeles Valiant (Down from three)
- Houston Outlaws (Up from 10)
- Los Angeles Gladiators (Down from six)
- Boston Uprising (Up from nine)
- San Francisco Shock (Down from eight)
- Dallas Fuel (Down from seven)
- Florida Mayhem (Hold)
- Shanghai Dragons (Hold)
Free-Agency and Trades
The business and analytics of esports have merged to create a remarkable point for the Overwatch League: free-agency and trading. With the signing period opening on January 22, teams have been able to sign new players to commence playing when Stage Two opens on February 21. The prospect of new players and an ever-evolving league are exciting enough; the implications of the depth in rosters and statistical analysis to the League is enthralling.
(Hypothetically, transitioning teams could add more context to each player’s performance to the point a PER – efficiency within certain heroes and teammates – could be developed).
There are teams currently, the Uprising as an afore mentioned example, who have been able to boast an understanding of strategy, but do not own that final piece to make them a competitive, playoff roster. There are teams who show up well against one typology, and then are embarrassed against other typologies. Within free-agency, those teams now have the chance to shift their focus and truly take advantage of supporting their best figures.
Consider also that as the game updates, the meta will be changing between stages. One set of players who works well in stage one, may not work as well in stage two. Thus, teams will need to adjust to avoid falling into the gap of mediocrity. A playoff team must be able to fight against any opponent.
The perspective of trading is also enticing, especially considering the emphasis on team chemistry within the league and how that might create rivalries. The Los Angeles Valiant are a team who have heavy all-stars, but teeter when the demand for a team attack is made. Hence, to become a true playoff team, they could look for that all essential support piece in a complementary asset swap.
The Shock are another team who may be able to net several consistent players for the services of Babybay. Missing Babybay would hurt the Shock, but currently their lack of competitiveness with him means they will not be headed anywhere fast. Backloading their roster with a wider variation of tactical sets could help them progress.
Finally, the Dragons and Mayhem are teams who ought to obtain dynamic talent across the board. They will be bigger movers in free-agency opposed to trading, unless one of their players would make a quaint substitution on a top tier team. They need to explore the depths of the amateur league to find the ‘Franchise Face,’ for a lack of better terminology.
Regard, all teams have a cap at 12-players. Thus, those whom do not have 12-player sets may seek to be the biggest free-agent movers, while teams who have full rosters may be more involved in trades.
Trading will begin on February 11, one day after Stage One ends. Both free-agency and trading ends on an April 3, one day before Stage Three commences. At that point, rosters will remain constant through the rest of season one.
Breaking Down the New York Excelsior
Mentioned several times throughout now has been the efficiency of the Excelsior – a quiet team, simply executing with a phenomenal structure of performance. Their plan is not anything awe inspiring (the execution is inspiring) but revolves around setting up attack through a systemic, thoughtful pattern.
Their tanks Tae-Hong “Meko” Kim and Dong-Gyu “Mano” Kim lay a foundation, their DPS Jong-Ryeol “Saebyeolbe” Park sets the tone with offense, and supports Jun-Hwa “Janus” Song , Yeon-Jun “Ark” Hong, and Flex Bang “JJoNak” Seong-Hyuh provide the momentum for the team to work their way to victory.
A traditional two, two, two six-man rotation ran 95 percent of the time makes them an inspiring notation for those who love tradition. They take their strategy to any team and execute with scary precision.
In their 3-0 victory over the Valiant, the Excelsior needed only 223 kills to take the victory, a margin of +46 overall. Only one Valiant player, Envy, had an impact rating above 1000. Furthermore, the Excelsior often struck first with a total first kill difference of +13, compared to the Valiant’s -13. They win fights, then quickly get to the task at hand by ensuring their supports are persistently obtaining ultimates – JJoNak finished with 4.27 ultimates per 10 minutes as Zenyatta, and 5.5 per 10 minutes as Ana.
The emphasis on wholistic healing and ability to dominate through the team oriented 2-2-2 strategy was further emphasized against the Dynasty. The entire match they featured a six-man starting set that was so functional, only Mano netted an impact rating below 1000 – he still finished with 953. Meko had 11 first kills, best of the match, supported by JJoNak’s 6.4 ultimates per 10 minutes as Moira, and 3.75 as Zenyatta. Saebyeolbe, however, was incredibly agile as Tracer, finishing at 11.66 kills per 10 minutes.
Combine the speed and decision making of Saebyeolbe with their principled nature for utilizing ultimates when necessary (the percentages of utlimates used outside of fights are astronomically low per Winston Lab) and the implication is a team which knows how to structure an attack and time everything. They work as one cohesive unit, and that is truly scary heading down the stretch of the season.
Best Matchups to Watch
With three matchups per day, and each match ranging from 90 minutes to two hours, here is the (predicted) best match to watch each day of the week. (All times are in Pacific Standard Time)
Wednesday January 24th – Los Angeles Valiant vs. Philadelphia Fusion (4PM)
The Los Angeles Valiant have a stunning roster, but the Philadelphia Fusion are fundamentally excellent at executing in aligning matchups. Fundamentals and execution usually trend to be better in sports, and the Fusion have an opportunity to take notoriety by winning the opening match of week four. The matchup will show if the Valiant have the propensity to restructure their strategy four weeks into play.
Thursday January 25th – London Spitfire vs. Seoul Dynasty (6PM)
The London Spitfire suffered a disappointing loss to the Boston Uprising in week three, their first of the season. The loss may have been more telling of the Uprising’s ability to analyze strategy than the Spitfire themselves. Aptly, the Spitfire and Dynasty will be playing to showcase two of the best teams in the league. The game will not only be an exquisite study of technique but offer insight into how sustainable the Spitfire can be at covering up the weaker points punched in them last week.
Friday January 26th – Los Angeles Gladiators vs. Boston Uprising (8PM)
Both the Gladiators and Uprising are facing the ‘first team out’ of the wild cards slot come playoff time. Thus, they will be battling for that honor in the current setting. Long-term, however, either of these teams could restructure through free-agency and be a surprising last team in. Hence, Friday night could be a launch pad the winner looks fondly upon.
Saturday January 20th – Boston Uprising vs. Los Angeles Valiant (1PM)
Saturday will finish with a matchup just dripping in upset material. The Uprising have been efficient on the season, able to manipulate opponents. That might be a factor of the league still being only three weeks young, or it may be a factor of the Uprising’s understanding of how to analyze film and matchups. No matter, the Valiant have a chance to finish week four on a high note and dismiss any notion of drop in performance. The Uprising have a chance to show they are more than a team peaking in prime-time opportunities with a wholistic win.
Main Image: Battle For L.A. (Activision-Blizzard Press Center) Photographer: Robert Paul