In the first of what we hope will be many reports into the competitive Overwatch scene, our very own barking mad bibliophile, Jammy, cast’s his furtive eyes over the events at Blizzcon this past weekend.
Blizzcon was a whirlwind of surprises for Overwatch. New skins, a new map and a new hero. One thing that was a little less surprising, (spoilers, duh!) was a South Korean victory.
It wasn’t all plain sailing though. Here’s my take on the weekend.
Friday kicked off with the biggest disappointment of my life. First match was The United Kingdom (England plus MikeyA) vs Sweden (Original Misfits).
Going in, it had all the ingredients for a very close match. The UK performed astoundingly in the group stages, going through all 12 maps without a loss and eventually booting Chinese Taipei from the competition rather comfortably. The synergy between ex-EUnited co-stars, BoomBox and Kruise, thrown in with the Esports veteran of RealZX, clutch D.Va bombing Smex, The Raging Winston himself, Christfer and surprisingly effective underdog of MikeyA really carried the team past expectations in what was some of the most enjoyable watching (I’m not biased, I swear!) of the group stages.
Sweden went in with team controversy left, right and centre. They went into the group stages leaving cocco absent, picking Reinforce on main tank, with both CWoosH and Manneten able to flex into the role when required. Going into the final stages, Reinforce had been removed to fit in Snillo as a main hitscan DPS, leaving CWoosH to pick up main tank role. For supports Sweden ran with Zebbosai and the veteran Chipshajen, leaving Tviq on DPS. In my mind, team UK had the edge. Boy, was I wrong.
It became clear from Oasis, the first map, that team UK was unpracticed. After losing a single team fight they reverted back to the tried and tested Tracer/Genji composition that was very prevalent in the Dive meta of previous competitions. Unfortunately for them, team Sweden looked ready and quickly shut down all attempts for team UK to gain ground.
This was the story through all 3 maps. Team UK had lost the edge they carried through the group stages and were completely shut out by team Sweden ending in the only 3-0 of the final stages. As an excuse I would like to offer the lack of time the team had to practice together, as both BoomBox and Kruise were caught up in the collapse of EUnited at Contenders, with the rest of the team fighting for places in the Overwatch League. Ultimately though, Sweden was the better team by far that night, leading to an easy victory.
Final Result: Broken heart
Actual Result: Sweden 3 – 0 United Kingdom
For the next match, I got to size up which of our English speaking cousins would take retribution on Sweden; Australia vs. Canada.
Australia were running with Aetar and IEATUUP on DPS, Trill on tank, Kiki running flex and finally an RQT, Gunba support combo. No one part of this team was standout, but the synergy between them was awe-inspiring to say the least.
Canada had a few more household names, noticeably fan favourite XQC on main tank, Roolf and Joemeister on support, Agilities and Surefour were DPS with MangaChu running a Pharah/D.Va flex.
Initially, things were looking a little shaky for Canada. After securing a quick cap on 1st point Oasis, just as swiftly losing it to Australia, Agilities picks up an epic 4-man Dragonblade carrying Canada to take 1st.
Unfortunately we saw the only C9 of the competition on point 2, leveling the map which eventually fell to Australia’s favour in the last moments leading to a 1-0 score in favour of the Aussies.
Australia went from strength to strength leading to their win on King’s Row, despite Roolf’s heroic Valkyrie opening leading to an impressive Tac-Visor by Surefour.
Moving to Hanamura, Canada finally put all their pieces together. Securing the map after both teams went into time bank, managing the full hold second time round.
Our Canadian brethren continued full steam, Winning over Junkertown and providing us with a very impressive 2-0 victory on Nepal.
Final Result: Australia 2 – 3 Canada
China went into the competition the rank 1 seed, calculated using the player’s individual SR and for the first time leaving South Korea off the top spot of something. Unfortunately for them, they ran into Ro- I mean France in the Quarterfinals.
China ran with Eileen and Leave as the main DPS duo, zhufanjun and YuanFang2 on support leaving YaoYao and Time on tank and flex roles respectively.
The French roster was made up entirely of Rogue and came as no real surprise. Soon and AKM made up one of the most ferocious DPS duos in the competition, Unkoe and Winz ran support with Knoxxx as Tank and Nicogdh flex. There had been an abundance of drama among the team in the lead up to the World Cup, with the climax hitting them during Contenders as they ungracefully fell out of contention much earlier than expected. However, the team looked determined to excel as they entered onto the stage for their last competition as a unit, before spreading their wings and heading off to different OWL teams.
This was one of those matchups we all wanted to see in the group stages. Two incredibly solid teams, either of them had the potential to see South Korea in the final if the brackets had fallen differently. Nevertheless, from a viewer’s perspective, both teams delivered high standard Overwatch in what was my third favourite match of the tournament.
After losing out the first map, France managed to sweep the final three, notably pulling out a full 3 cap on Junkertown with only a minute in the time bank. Watching AKM on Bastion as they pull off the tried and tested Pirate Ship strat on Junkertown’s bounty of a payload is a sight to behold and well worth looking up if you were unlucky enough to miss it.
The match wasn’t all France as an honourable mention goes to China’s Eileen who did some fantastic shotcalling, noticeably on Nepal, to focus down some key threats France produced. Altogether, a fantastic game.
Final Result: China 1 – 3 France
To close off the quarterfinal night we had the most anticipated match of the tournament: The United States of America vs South Korea.
Before the match even began we, the viewers, were met with one of the greatest betrayals of all time, with caster Montecristo playing the ol’ shirt swicheroo leaving the American crowd bamboozled and honestly the viewing public in awe at such a move. It was a great piece of casting that generated even further buildup for the match ahead. Full props to Montecristo and the casting team.
I feel neither team here needs an introduction, but I’ll give one anyway. USA were unsurprisingly running with Rawkus and Adam on support, FCTFCTN and CoolMatt69 on tanks leaving Jake and Sinatraa on DPS.
Their opposition, South Korea, only had the one surprise pick with Mano instead of Miro on main tank. Tanking alongside was the best Zarya in the world, Zunba. Top-class Tracer and 90’s hair wearer, Saebyeolbe, joined by possibly the world no.1 DPS Flow3r in the offensive roles. Finally, the highest DPS output Lucio, Tobi joined renowned Ana no.1 Ryujehong on support. It was honestly no surprise, with such a star studded line-up, that South Korea were firm favourites to win the competition.
That being said, the Mercy meta proved to be in the US’s favour. First map was Nepal and Adam’s Mercy prowess shone through as he made more than one hero play, alongside some fantastic initiation picks by Sinatraa, to cap Nepal first.
South Korea were not out just yet though, as they utilised an impeccable deathball strategy in an attempt to neutralise the deep diving Sinatraa and focus down the US tanks to cap Nepal second.
Closing off the map, Nepal third tipped in the favour of USA after some highly contested point swaps. Superior Mercy play by Adam ended up more effective than the more traditional Lucio/Zenyatta combo by Tobi and Ryujehong causing the US to out-sustain South Korea for the final overtime cap. It was close, but first map went to the USA.
Map two was Eichenwalde which ended up going to SK who managed to stop the US just short of point 3. SK looked a lot more comfortable this time around, finally starting to find their rhythm as their focus shifted off their hindered dive-comp supports and onto their star DPS, Flow3r.
Hanamura was possibly the most exciting map of the series. After a fairly quick cap of both points by the US, Flow3r started the SK attack with the unconventional Widowmaker hero pick, to which the US had no answer.
I couldn’t describe the skill Flow3r showed using words. Even taking burst damage multikills into consideration, Flow3rs Widow cleaned up more of the opposition in a short amount of time than any other player in the tournament as he quickly dispatched the US team one headshot after another.
Both teams pushed into a round 2 timebank, SK attacked first to find the US team purposefully breaking sight-lines in an attempt to neutralise Flow3r’s Widow pick, with great success. Even then, SK showed great ultimate economy as they staggered ults to capping both points with a little time still left in the bank.
The US was not to be deterred, having Jake really shine through with his Soldier 76 play, clearing SK on point A with a well-positioned Tac-Visor while Sinatraa managed a fantastic prediction-stick onto Flow3r.
Moving onto point B, Jake positioned himself perfectly on the high ground and despite Zunba’s attempts as D.Va to shut him down, managed to carry team USA into capping point B in overtime.
South Korea had the time advantage as they attacked round 3. After looking very steady in the opening, Saebyolbe pushed a little too far towards the US spawn, leaving his team to succumb to a persistant US counter-attack. Hanamura ends in a draw.
Unfortunately for the US, South Korea steam through Watchpoint:Gibraltar, holding the US off just before point B and Flow3r utilising his impressive Widowmaker skills to roll the payload the full distance in a very short time. South Korea now held the lead.
Oasis was to be the final map in this series, where the fatigue of previous matches caught up to the US. Flow3r, once again, was a shining star for the Korean team leading to a total lockout across both stages. GG team USA.
Final Result: South Korea 3 – 1 USA
Saturday kicked off with the first of two semi-finals, this time was Sweden vs. Canada.
I was looking forward to this match for numerous reasons. First of all, I was excited to see Surefour and Tviq, two DPS stars with similar strengths and playstyles, battle it out for superiority. I was to be disappointed (If that’s the word) in this regard, certainly on Nepal, as Tviq took to competing with Mangachu on the Junkrat, a popular pick in the current meta.
A handy box popped up on the screen to tell us Mangachu was beating all competition on damage and rip tire kills with the hero. An interesting point here is how each team elects to mitigate the damage caused by facing a Junkrat in the close corridors of Nepal, with Sweden choosing to use Winston bubbles and Canada Orisa shields, it was interesting to see the Junkrats fall first on both teams, just to get rezzed back up by their mercy.
This highlighted the effect running a Mercy into almost every map. The ability to stop a snowball from hitting as hard proved necessity. Allowed the elongation of the initiation phase in each fight and maintained the key threat from the team. This gave a huge disadvantage to any team not running her (Looking at you, SK!).
This is why it took Surefour’s S76 hitting a perfect helix rocket onto Chipshajen’s Mercy to enable Canada to take the point and eventually Nepal went to Canada.
The next two maps both went to Sweden’s favour, and despite looking close, the score was anything but, with Tviq still utilising Junkrat on the close corridors of King’s Row, leading to a 3-1 point score stopping Canada just short of securing streets and despite some excellent Zenyatta play by Roolf Manneten’s Roadhog was unstoppable allowing a 2-1 point score for Sweden on Hanamura.
I, for one, was at the edge of my seat. Rooting for Canada to defeat my enemies of Sweden after the Quarterfinals (I’m still bitter!) Thankfully, the DPS duo of Surefour and Agilities really came together over the last two maps with Agilities securing a Dragonblade in almost every team fight and Surefour beating out Tviq across S76 and Tracer, It was a pleasure to watch this Canadian team as they took Watchpoint 3-2 and finally Oasis 2-1.
The Second semi-final was an exciting match between France and South Korea. Opening on Oasis, we witnessed what was possibly the best Pharah play by AKM who consistently beat out Flow3er in the sky allowing France to cap Oasis 2nd, but it wasn’t enough to win the map. SK take Oasis.
Both teams took the payload to the end of Numbani, South Korea with an extra minute on the second push as they hold out France on point A before swiftly capping it themselves on their second push. 2-0 South Korea.
France push first on Hanamura, eventually capping point A with thanks to phenomenal Tracer work by Soon who managed to get the upper hand on Saebyeolbe and put constant pressure on SK’s backline. First push on point B looked promising for France as they quickly carried their momentum forward from point A, only being shut down by more excellent work by Flow3r on the Widowmaker. Attack ends just shy of 50% cap.
South Korea could not find a rhythm on their attack, initially opting for the Mercyless Lucio/Zenyatta combination they play so well, they were out-sustained by Unkoe’s Mercy who worked hard to keep the key French players alive.
In desperation, Flow3r switched onto another unconventional hero with Bastion, which would have almost definitely worked had Soon not managed a clutch Pulse Bomb stick onto Tobi, who had switched into Mercy himself. Fighting the French on Hanamura was the only time in the competition South Korea failed to gain a point. 2-1 to the Koreans.
Unfortunately for the French, they were knocked out of the Semi-finals on Watchpoint: Gibraltar as a sterling South Korean defence finds holding ground on the corner for last point. Fatigue setting in for the French, the SK team had no trouble pushing the cart all the way to ensure their place in the grand finals.
The battle for bronze was between the villainous Swedish team and the recently defeated French team, in what would be the final time the members of Rogue would fight together in a major tournament.
Unfortunately for the French, despite taking Nepal with a clean 2-0 and forcing yet another draw on Hanamura in the third map, Sweden’s defensive capabilities proved too much for the offensive French despite some excellent work by AKM who, by the end of the tournament wins my personal MVP.
Fatigue from back to back matches showed as France got shut down without taking so much as first point on Gibraltar then just clinching a round win on Oasis only to be overwhelmed by the Swedish coordination. Bronze goes to the Swedish team as they defeat France 3 -1.
Anticipation builds for the final between South Korea and Canada, a best of seven that, unfortunately for the Canadians, saw South Korea finally find their stride and look more like the team we expected going in, that was clearly shaken by the changes in the meta.
The team focus moved away from Flow3r, as we saw Ryujehong return to Ana and provide a true spectacle. After sweeping through the first three maps thanks to impeccable support play by Jehong and Tobi, we see Canada eventually take Junkertown with the Bastion/Orisa ‘Pirate Ship’ strategy that had proven effective throughout the competition.
Numbani showcased some of the best play by the Koreans throughout the World Cup with Ryujehong securing more than one multikill with Ana’s grenade and shutting down Canada with perfectly timed sleep darts, opening them up one by one to be focused by Flow3r’s McCree and Saebyeolbe’s Tracer. Despite the long matches, South Korea looked top form by the end of the night seeing a solid 4-1 victory over Canada and rather unsurprisingly taking 1st place
The World Cup finals were the first example of the “Mercy” meta on the western Overwatch scene and the implications were obvious. We first saw the UK struggle to shake their cohesion from previous metas but the most obvious was just how uncomfortable South Korea were running a Mercy compared to their more comfortable Lucio/Ana combination, which they only fell back on during the finals vs. Canada electing to force a Mercy through the opening matches in order to benefit from the resurrections.
Noticeably, hero picks were a lot more diverse now Dive wasn’t as prominent. Junkrat was used to great effect and more teams elected to run a Soldier 76 or McCree, replacing Genji on many different maps.
Although, this also slowed the gameplay down considerably as the inclusion of Mercy led to teams having to take two initiations on most engagements and the lack of dive-orientated DPS allowed for less pushes onto points with the time given.
The World Cup also showcased the new spectator features Blizzard have introduced for their competitive matches, ahead of the Overwatch League and my, they were amazing.
The inclusion of team ‘Uniforms’ allowed the spectators to easily differentiate different teams, the new replay technology allowed us to view the action from more optimal viewing points to greater understand the movement of each hero during an engagement. There was one point, on Junkertown, where we were shown an excellent sleep dart from Ryujehong onto Agilities’ Dragonblade that just looked beautiful and greatly increased the production value of the stream.
showing statistics of each player periodically, as well as a nicely implemented overhead view helped us to understand each player’s involvement across the matches, but more noticeably it helped the casters themselves follow the action leading to some of the best commentaries I have ever seen in an Overwatch competition. If the level of casting shown this weekend is carried over to the Overwatch League, then they’ve certainly got a follower in me.