With the final week of the first stage of Blizzard’s Overwatch League is upon us, we have a number of marquee matchups on our hands. Each of the ones listed below will affect the current standings and decide to a varying degree who goes to the Stage 1 Title Matches to fight for the hefty bonus of up to $100,000. Perhaps even more importantly, they will help viewers gauge where each of the team’s power level’s at. Below, you’ll find four matches and the context for each of them that every Overwatch fan will enjoy, as well as important context for each of the matches. Without further ado, let’s open with the most exciting of all!
New York Excelsior (7-1) vs London Spitfire (7-1) — there can only be one!
This set has the potential to be not only the best for the stage, but also a preview of the Stage 1 Title Matches Grand Final. The current #1 and #2 teams in the standings, which are also the two teams who’ve looked best lately, will go head-to-head to determine who will be waiting in the aforementioned final next week. As far as high-level Overwatch matches go, it doesn’t get much better than this!
London has been working on meshing together the previously two separate lineups ever since the preseason’s end. Last week, they finally looked like they’ve made progress as they delivered a convincing performance in the sweep over the RJH-less Seoul Dynasty. While the latter had struggles of their own and didn’t quite look at their best even when the captain and superstar support rejoined the rest, London were also looking much more coordinated than they’ve done so far in the league. Additionally, Ji-hyuk “birdring” Kim seemingly got the better of Byung-sun “Fleta” Kim as Dynasty’s superstar dealer didn’t have the backup he’s used to. This week will be the true test for whether head coach Beom-joon “Bishop” Lee has finally figured out how to use all the talent at his disposal, as, if he hasn’t, NYXL’s coaches will have found the weaknesses and exploit them.
On NYXL’s side, this is about taking the No. 1 spot in the standings as much as it is about the ability to claim that they’ve proven that they’re the undisputed best team in the world, even if it’s only for a week until they’ll have to potentially defend. The squad’s core of players has been considered an elite team ever since they won IEM Gyeonggi in December 2016. However, they’ve never been able to claim that they’re the best in the world as the tournament didn’t feature some of the other elite teams and they haven’t won another tournament since then. If they beat Spitfire on Saturday, they’d have beaten almost everyone in the Overwatch League, including all of the elite teams, on top of claiming the #1 spot. At least for a week, they will finally be able to say they’re the best and no one will have the right to claim otherwise.
The matchup is scheduled to start at 11:00 on February, 10th, local time (PST). This time table may be able to help you figure out when it starts for your own time zone.
Philadelphia Fusion (5-3) vs Boston Uprising (5-3) — to the loser goes the mediocrity
Coming off of last week’s red-hot run, the Boston Uprising are opening the second day of the week in a match that could end up being the best series of the week, or a 4-0 blowout in favor of either side. The team has turned from what initially looked only like an opportunity for anti-fans to take shots at Chris “HuK” Loranger, into one of the most exciting teams in the league. This has happened in large part thanks to Jonathan “DreamKazper” Sanchez — who, in my opinion, continues to die too much to propel the team much further — evolving as a player and being able to create picks for the team, as explained here by Moirai. After a rough start, last two weeks have seen then pick up four wins, two of which are against Spitfire and Valiant, both top tier opponents.
Philadelphia, on the other hand, has been performing less consistently. Excluding London stomping on them and their own sweep against Dallas, they’ve been playing relatively close series with everyone. Regardless of whether you’re the NYXL, who are second in the standings but some would call the best team in the league, or the Shanghai Dragons, who are dead last, the Fusion will play you close. Even last week’s 0-4 loss against the Valiant saw them neck and neck for the first half of the series. With this being their final tough match for the stage, they’ll be certainly looking to make it count as a win here would likely see them start Stage 2 with a 7-3 record.
Whom to keep your eyes on?
All the focus in this matchup will be on the damage dealers — George “ShaDowBurn” Gushcha and Jae-hyeok “Carpe” Lee vs DreamKazper and Nam-joo “Striker” Kwon. Due to how focused Overwatch is on teamplay and everyone contributing, both squads have had multiple players have their moment of shine, but the two duos are the main thing that propelled each of the teams to the third-best record in the game. The Russian’s deliberate style of play will go against the American’s all-out aggression while the two Koreans duke it out on the Tracers for what will hopefully end up being a blockbuster of a five-maps match! While their teammates will need to play well enough to enable them, each of the duos playing well is an important element of their respective team’s potential win.
The matchup is scheduled to start at 14:00 on February, 8th, local time (PST). This table may be able help you to figure out when it starts for your own time zone.
Houston Outlaws (5-3) vs Boston Uprising (5-3) — let’s see who’s the best … non-Korean team … potentially.
After poor starts, throughout the last few weeks both of these squads have come into their own. Even though the Outlaws lost a close match against an ailing Seoul team, there’s a lot for their fans to be happy about. First and foremost, they took what is widely considered the third best team in the league — and a favorite to win the whole thing — to five games without Jiri “LiNkzr” Masalin, one of, if not the, best players on their team and a key performer within the current metagame. Even though most of their other recent performances have been against lesser teams, they’ve been showing growth ever since week 1 and that can be seen best in Jake’s level. He’s still extremely dangerous on the Junkrat, but fans have seen them do better and better as a cog within the Outlaws’ system on other heroes, as weeks pass by.
And while DreamKazper and Carpe can match Houston’s dealers, the Outlaws tanks will have a clear advantage, which the Uprising doesn’t have clear answer for. This might contribute to the series ending up a one-sided sweep. Additionally, even though the Outlaws have to prepare for London — who are stronger team than Boston’s other opponent this week — they have to do so only on five different maps for their two matches. Boston on the other hand, have to prepare for seven maps and underestimating either opponent could
The matchup is scheduled to start at 13:00 on February, 10th, local time (PST). This table may be able to figure out when it starts for your own time zone.
London Spitfire (7-1) vs Houston Outlaws (5-3) — discount Goliath against not-quite David
Whereas the first two matchups of squads who are roughly within the same tier trying to take on each other to see who’s the top dog, this series is about the boys in green trying to take down the current #1 in the standings. If they manage to do that and subsequently overcome Boston, they’ll prove that they have a place in the discussion for the best team in the league, but also, perhaps more importantly, have a chance of being in the stage 1 title matches. For the last to happen Seoul would also need to lose at least one of their series this week, which is unlikely but possible.
London has already shown in the set against Boston during week 3 that they’re vulnerable to a lower-tier teams and Houston has been looking like a full advantage of that. Things get better, as each of the squads has to prepare only five maps this week, excluding Lijiang Tower as the potential decider. London are undoubtedly coming in as a considerable favorite, since they have both the superior firepower and versatility. However, if LiNkzr is in play, Houston will be looking to take advantage of their superior teamplay and they’ve been performing as good as any Western team has since the start of OWL. The boys in green will be the underdogs, but far from a harmless David to Spitfire’s not-quite Goliath.
The matchup is scheduled to start at 18:00 on February, 8th, local time (PST). This table may be able help you to figure out when it starts for your own time zone.
Honorable mention: Los Angeles Valiant vs Seoul Dynasty — the matchup is scheduled to start at 20:00 on February, 7th, local time (PST). This table may be able to help you figure out when it starts for your own time zone.
Photo credits: Activision Blizzard
About the author:
Hello, readers! I go by the ID RadoN and I’ve been watching different esports since I found out about the industry in 2009. The titles I follow closely for the time being are Overwatch, CS:GO and Quake, while occasionally dabbling in some other games as well. If you wish to reach out, follow future content, or simply know more about my thoughts on esports and gaming, you can find me on Twitter at @RadoNonfire.