Friday, 27 July 2018

Gladplanes High: The Good, The Bad & The Ugly. Playoff Review & Grand Final Preview

After seven long months of trials and tribulations, jaw dropping plays and C9’s and finally a stage win and then forced moral and team rebuild. The London Spitfire are an Overwatch League Grand Finalist and it’s been an extraordinary journey on the way to this point. After a strong start to the season, teams play slowly deteriorated to the point that it came down to one of the final weekends for them to be confirmed as a playoff team. This post will review the teams performance in the playoffs so far and review the Grand Finals that starts tonight.

The Overwatch League playoffs have mixed the traditional playoff formats from both esports and regular sports. Each playoff series is three best of five map match’s, this means that if you won the first five map match 3-1, you’d be 1-0 up in the series and one game away from winning the series. The first team to win two matches, wins the series and progresses to the next round all the way up to the finals in New York City’s Barclays Centre. The lowest seeds play the highest seeds and with the Spitfire finishing as the fifth seed, they were required to play the fourth seeded Los Angeles  Gladiators in the quarterfinals. So get those Gladplane, post them high and get prepared for the playoff review and final preview to begin.

Quarterfinals at Los Angeles Gladiators 
12th July: Game One Result: 0-3 Gladiators 
14th July: Game Two Result: 3-0 Spitfire
                    Game Three Result: 3-0 Spitfire 
       Spitfire win series 2-1

The Good
Games two and three were completely different beasts compared to the first game and I use the term beasts as an accurate description, as the Spitfire looked they found the form that helped them win the first Overwatch League Stage. Profits consistently good play as a Supportive DPS enabled the rest of the team to flourish especially when he used Hanzo and paired up with Birding’s Widowmaker to lethal effect. This allowed both Gesture and Fury to provide both constant harassment of the Gladiators backline pressuring them back and away from the rest of their team, but also peeling for their own supports to protect them from harm. It was this constant pressure that forced the Los Angeles Gladiators to look uncomfortable without Fissure and try to fix this by constantly subbing in both Bischu and Void to no effect.

Also another key turning point outside this being the perfect meta for London was the fact that NUS’s shot calling was perfect in games two and three. London had struggled to time composition switches correctly in the regular season ,but they seemed to have turned the corner when it mattered the most.

The Bad

It was a tale of two teams when you look at game one compared to games two and three. With the Spitfire likely having expected to play against Star Main Tank and MVP Runner-Up “Fissure” Baek who ended up being benched prior to the playoffs started. The Gladiators took advantage of this and with iRemiix in at the Main Tank role and smashed the Spitfire with both his more cautious and supportive playstyle but also the surprising tactics that they employed, like the route taken on Kings Row. Outside of Profit, the team never got going and were seemingly outclassed at every moment.

Whether it was just the nerves the players had just going into the playoffs themselves, the still lingering thought process the players may have had due to the Gladiators have a 3-0 regular season record against the Spitfire, or the fact that they just had a slow start that they couldn’t recover from. Game one was atrocious to watch and really put a lot of people on edge going into game two on the Saturday.

The Ugly

After the game one lose there was a small but consistently loud part of the fan base that had been questioning the teams coaching stepped it up a level, by suggesting that the players were getting mis-coached and that they didn’t have a clue with what they were doing. They were also the group that were usually suggesting that Bishop shouldn’t have been fired. So you can only imagine how hilarious it was for the same people to turn around so quickly and say that there 100% behind the team. While both the coaches and the players at times have had fault, the conduct of this small group at times as been pretty ridiculous and to go to the lengths that some of them had, was a step too far.

Semi-Final at Los Angeles Valiant

19th July Game One: Spitfire 3-1
21st July Game Two: Spitfire 3-0
Spitfire Win Series 2-0

The Good

The boys started off hot and continued to roll as they took advantage of being an extra week of games compared to the Valiant's extra week of preparation and an extra nod needs to go to coach Agape who's the teams strategic coach as he's really brought the players together in playing as a team to be on the same page in executing team compositions. This is clearest in the teams recent and drastic improvement on Oasis. Their ability to hold and control the point has gone up ten fold and when they do happen to lose it, they are instantly changing heroes to fit their executions perfectly. Seeing as Control was their worst map type they have gone and won four out of five Control game types. 

The Bird is back, he may be doing it for Dad in Dallas Fuels Flex Seagull, but he's found the insane peak in ability he has at the perfect time. He controlled Soon's Widowmaker to the point that on LiJiang tower, Soon wasn't trying to compete with him. This meant that extra focus needed to be put on the Stage One MVP and this allowed his teammates to shine. 

There's a reason why Fury has been unanimously voted as the best D.Va player in the Overwatch league and legend has it that with each Dragon Strike Fury consumes using D.Va's Defence Matrix, the more his power grows. Fury's positioning was second to none when it came to timing the Hanzo ultimate and while Space was highly praised for helping turn the Valiant's season around, he was schooled in the art of D.Va in this series. 

Bdosin has been known as one of the best Zenyatta's in the league throughout the regular season, he showed that his ability to flex on to other heroes is underrated by pulling out the Roadhog for maps like Junkertown and hitting hook after hook with ease. He also surprised everyone when he pulled out the Tracer on Eichenwalde and his sneak ability was on point, as he hit Pulse bombs from unexpected angles.

The Bad & Ugly 

I'm going to be honest, with how well they boys played in this series there was no moment I thought that they played ugly throughout the entire series. The only bad that I could say was the fact they weren't able to win 3-0, 3-0 and go undefeated all the way to the Grand Finals. That said, winning a playoff series 6-1 against the team that had gone nine and one in the stage four regular season to have gone on to win that stage is incredible. 

Grand Final Preview

At the time this is posted we will be just shy of an hour before the first match of the Grand Finals begin and if you take a look at the meta we're currently in and the two teams in the final in the London Spitfire and the Philadelphia Fusion, we couldn't of had a better pairing. Both teams suit this meta perfectly as Birding has popped off as if he has found a second wind and Profit's consistent play means that if London win the finals and he's not the MVP, he'd of been robbed. On the other side we have regular season MVP candidate Carpe and the player who really helped enable his DPS partner to be able to play to his fullest in EQO show that the team everyone thought would end in last place, were the seasons dark horse. 

While the DPS match up is going to be a show of the two best partnerships, battling it out to prove they're the best in the league, the advantage else where is with the Spitfire. While Sado and a combination of Hotba and Poko have been consistently, especially Hotba since his introduction to the team. Gesture and Fury in their current form are the best Tank line in the league and now they've found their footing together, it's incredible to think that this was a team that struggled. The Fusion will need to cause Fury to peel for his supports more and force him out of position to gain the upper hand here, but seeing as Fury is at his best when playing defensively, it's no easy task to manage. 

Finally it may have taken NUS four stages to feel comfortable, but he's finally at a stage where it's clear to see that he's the point guard of this team and he's calling the right executions at the right time. His Mercy positioning has massively improved and the hesitance he showed early in the season is gone. Neptuno his counterpart is not someone to take lightly though and if there's anyone who deserves the most improved player award this season, it's the guy that's gone from not being able to play Mercy, to the most prolific battle Mercy in the league. 

The most interesting match up with the supports is that between Bdosin and Boombox as statically, Bdsoin has had the upper hand over Boom the entire season. Boombox however, is a big game player and since the stage two victory against London in the playoffs there, he's shown that he can hang with the best Zenyatta's in the league. Boombox is going to need to step it up a gear in these finals and be able to match Bdosin's composition flexibility. 

For me this is the best Grand Final that we could of had as we have the best DPS cores in the league going against each other and that little bit of spice in the fact that London want to avenge their current losing streak against Philadelphia in playoff matches. Despite how well both teams have played, if London shut down EQO's ability to enable Carpe to the fullest. London will then be able to contain and restrict Carpe to keep him out of the game. It will be close but I'm going to go with a London 2-1. 

Finally, not matter what the result, as a fan of the Spitfire and how stupidly loyal I've been to them throughout this season. I just wanted to say on a personal level, thank you for the year you've brought us and thank you to the organisation themselves. If it wasn't for you I wouldn't be able to produce the content I do, I wouldn't be in the position I currently am and I wouldn't be expecting to fly off my sofa with big play. Good luck and GLADPLANES HIGH.   

(You can find more Overwatch League and London Spitfire articles on Twitter by following @haloofthoughts)(Picture Credit; C9 Robin) 

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