With last night bringing the end of the regular season of this inaugural season of the Overwatch league, the fight for the championship is on. Six teams will be fighting for the championship trophy and a one million dollar prize pool. Many, many predictions form the preseason have been proven extremely wrong. Both Seoul and Dallas, two teams who seemed like they were guaranteed a spot in the championship series are out of the playoffs, Boston and Philadelphia both have locked in their spots to keep playing, shocking preseason pollsters everywhere. However, throughout the entire season, one team has been a shining beacon of victory in the league. That is the New York XL.
New York during the regular season was by far the most dominant team. Only losing 6 matches all season and ending the regular season with an astounding +83(!) map differential. For reference, the LA Valiant, who finished in second place this season, racked up 13 losses and a +36 map differential. New York has completely dominated the regular season, but, we aren’t in the regular season anymore. This is the post-season and the rules have changed. The format is the most important change for the XL this post season however. The post season will consist of series against the opponent rather than just one game. This may play against New York because they will have more time to be dissected by their enemy. A season’s worth of play has shown that they are not invulnerable, and being able to learn something from New York and applying it to them the next day may prove to be one of the most invaluable resources a team can have. Giving more time to plan and experiment.
They have been shown to be beatable, especially in stage four. New York doubled their loss count in the final leg of the season. Putting that into perspective, New York lost 30% of their matches this stage and showed that this was not their best meta. The XL are the team with the biggest target on their back and all of the focus for many of the teams will be on stopping this squad. That could prove difficult though, as this team is tight, winning two of the first three stage championships, and participating as the number one seed in the only playoffs that they didn’t win.
The playoffs are a rogue’s gallery of problems for the XL however, as they’ve proven to be susceptible to the top teams in the league. The London Spitfire is the only team to have beaten the XL in a stage playoffs, taking the very first one home at the beginning of the season. Philadelphia played a very tough stage championship against the New York in stage two with their surprising victory over the Spitfire in that playoff. And, while those two are fearsome in their own right, they have nothing on the Boston Uprising and the LA Valiant. Boston was the first team to go 10-0 in a stage and started their own rivalry with New York, beating the later out at the chance for that distinction. That was a stage and a patch ago however, and the uprising have struggled hard in stage four, limping into the overall playoffs off of a 3-6 stage four, where their flaws were exposed in a big way. The biggest threat to the XL, however, are the LA Valiant. After adding Custa from the Dallas Fuel, since the trade, spanning two stages, LA has only lost four matches. That’s right, since the mid-season point, in stages three and four combined, both teams have the same record.
The valiant have only gotten better too. Jumping to an impressive 7-3 stage three and improving even more in stage 4, winning all 9 of their 10 matches. This includes beating NY multiple times over that span, an impressive feat for any team in this league. The stage playoffs look to be the best test yet for the Valiant as they go in to these playoffs as the second seed and with no real way of knowing who they are going to play until the Gladiators chose who they want to play against. That could set up an early match between the Valiant and the XL however, as both are teams you look to avoid if you can.
The stage playoffs, however, don’t mean a thing when it comes to the postseason. As there has never been a real playoff series in the Overwatch league before, there are no stats to draw from or make predictions based off of. The only real clue we have is LA and NY’s past performances in these one game playoffs. NY has dominated, as stated before they have only lost one game and have won more stage playoffs than they have lost games in those situations. The Valiant can’t say that, losing their only game in the stage playoffs to the juggernaut Excelsior, this obviously doesn’t bode well for a team looking to make a name for themselves by pulling off the biggest upset in the Overwatch League’s short history. LA has only improved as time has gone on, adding integral players to fill the right gaps and their other members stepping up to the plate in a big way, Soon especially, elevating his play to All-Star status.
This post-season is shaping up to be the most exciting chance to see awesome competitive Overwatch yet. Every team has given New York a run for their money not just in the regular season but also in these playoff situations. Every team in these playoffs have proven they can beat the XL, the only question remains if there is a team that can beat New York in a best 2-of-3 situation. I believe there is. It will not be easy by any means, however, whether it be London, Boston, or LA, it is impossible to say that these playoffs are going to be a stomp. New York may lose a match or two, of course they are still going to be the obvious favorite going forward, and with good reason. But, something in my gut is telling me that the New York Excelsior will not win the overall championship. Who actually would win it instead of them is a mystery, but after an entire season of leading the pack, they are the only team to have remained this consistent. I just think its time that the best teams finally catch up to them. Maybe they won’t though, maybe the Overwatch League already has its first Dynasty, (not you Seoul) and we could see the rise of superstars Saebyeolbe and Pine. Time will tell, let’s just hope for the best Overwatch we have seen to date.