Friday, 19 July 2019

How London Grounded Themselves In Stage 3 & Need To Take Flight In Stage 4

When you think of how good the London Spitfire is, your first thoughts are likely taking you back to stage 1 and 2 of 2018, the incredible stomping during the playoffs when they took aim at the Gladiators, Valiant and Fusion on their to winning the inaugural season and the fact they have at least 3 world-class players in their positions in Fury, Gesture, and Profit. 

It's very unlikely you're going to think much about their performances in the 2019 season because despite showing signs of flight in stage 2, which ended when they stalled their engines against the Hangzhou Spark. London has not been the team we all expected this season and while the introduction of the 2-2-2 composition lock can't come quickly enough, the Spitfire has wasted a golden opportunity to dominate here in stage 3.

With the teams being informed about the composition lock for stage 4, it actually allowed them to gradually move away from standard Goats into trying different compositions. The first being Sombra Goats and the other was 3 DPS compositions. It was astonishing to see London not stick with Sombra Goats or 3 DPS composition for as long as they should have in stage 3. Considering that they were both compositions that were perfect for the DPS players they have and would have given the Spitfire their best chance to win.

While it would have resulted in Fury, who has been the Spitfire's best player this season, being benched for the stage and that is a compelling enough counter-argument. It would have allowed London to play a composition that the team would not only have been comfortable for them to play but would have utilised the strength and depth that they have in their DPS player. It would have likely resulted with London being one of, if not the top team going into the playoffs. Instead, their reluctance to change compositions until it was too late, meant that the Spitfire missed their 4th stage playoffs in 7 attempts.

Whether there was little chemistry between Guard and the starting 6 he would have played with, I honestly can not understand the thought process that London's head coach Kwang-Bok "Coach815" Kim had when deciding not playing Guard. Guard's ability on Sombra is notorious throughout the league and there are numerous people inside the league that agrees with the line of thinking that he is the best Sombra player the Overwatch League has. So how is it that multiple General Managers from the league's other teams, can see what London was missing when asked about the Spitfire’s problems, but that a coach with 815's experience could not.

A key example of this was during the first game versus the New York Excelsior, who are a team that excels in picking up new meta’s quickly and using them well during the regular part of the season, managed to put the returning Sayoelbe on Sombra and benched their star off Tank MeKo to allow them to play this meta. London played Sombra goats on the games first map Illios with Profit instead of Guard. When they lost that first map, they reverted back to standard Goats for the rest of the game and got ran over by the Excelsior.

In their second game against NYXL, London did venture into the realms of 3DPS. However, they forced both Fury and Profit on to heroes that they are not known for. Had the team chosen to play Guard, it would have meant that while Birdring could focus on playing Widowmaker, Profit would have been able to play Pharah, a champion that he has improved on quite considerably since stage 4 last season and it would have allowed Guard to be the Sombra specialist that he is known for. 

On maps such as Eichenwalde, London moved Birding on to Hanzo while Fury played Pharah and Profit, who played Hanzo during the end of season playoffs in the 2019 season stayed on Sombra. In this situation, it would have been more beneficial to have had Profit on the Hanzo and Guard to have played Sombra. I am not sure what the overall reason for the lack of Guard was, but it seems that potential errors like not playing Guard in his perfect meta, or underestimating the Spark as they did in stage 4 after a 6-1 regular season, have cost London multiple times this season. 

While stage 3 and most of this season has to be seen as a disappointment, compared to the levels of performance that were expected of them. Stage 4 gives London the opportunity to redeem themselves and show some of the reasons why they are the reigning and defending champions of the Overwatch League. With the Goats meta finally going and the 2-2-2 Role Lock coming into force, London will be able to play around the strength and depth they have in the DPS position, both Bunker and Double Sniper (the meta that London won the 2018 season on) are the top candidates to take over as the new meta, and they are compositions that London excel at!

London will be able to see Profit on his famous, Genji, Tracer and Hanzo, will be able to see Birdring return to Widowmaker, the hero that he was able to play to an incredible level during stage 2 of 2018, allow Gesture to get away from Reinhardt and on to Orisa or Winston, which he is more comfortable on and Fury who can learn and play any hero as well as Profit does likely to pick up Roadhog for the Halt & Hook combinations that are a sight to see if Bunker does make an appearance.

They should also be able to use stage 4 as their springboard away from the play-in tournament places and into the top 6, to qualify for the end of season playoffs. Their schedule is one that allows them to do so as well. With Dallas, Toronto, Guangzhou, Florida, Vancouver, Houston and Atlanta before a bye week, they have a good chance to have a good stage with only the renewal of the Haksal/Bumper & Gesture/Profit rematch from the Apex season 4 finals. London has little to no excuse to not be automatically playing in the end of season playoffs. Even if they make the play-in tournament, this season will be seen as a failure if they don’t win it all.

(You can find more Overwatch League related content on Twitter @haloofthoughts)
(Picture Credit: Overwatch League & London Spitfire)

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