After four stages, the demise of fan-favorites like the Seoul Dynasty and Dallas Fuel, and the rise of the New York Excelsior, the inaugural Overwatch League regular season has come to a close. With playoffs on the horizon, we take a look at the quarterfinal matchups and see who is poised to win and advance.
Boston Uprising vs. Philadelphia Fusion
The Boston Uprising is a slow-starting team where meta shifts are concerned. When the Mercy nerfs first hit, Boston struggled to adapt until the end of Stage 2, taking almost an entire stage to play anywhere close to the level of which the team was capable. Stage 3 was the team's "New England Patriots" moment where they ran the table in the regular season only to fall in the finals to the New York Excelsior. Stage 4 brought another patch change that Boston had difficulty adjusting to, especially with a decrease in Tracer play for Kwon "Striker" Nam-joo. Boston isn't consistent but does have players who will steadily grind until they figure out a solution that works for the team. During Boston's undefeated regular season stage, the team was peerless on Assault (Temple of Anubis, Volskaya Industries) thanks to Striker and excellent protection from the tank line of Noh "Gamsu" Young-jin and Lucas "NotE" Meissner. The team will have to find this coordination again while adjusting their DPS line of Striker and Stanislav "Mistakes" Danilov to reworked Hanzo with stable Widowmaker play in order to make a playoff run.
While the Uprising was enjoying an undefeated season, the Philadelphia Fusion slipped in Stage 3. Following an unexpected appearance in the Stage 2 finals, inconsistent play plagued Philadelphia in Stages 3 and 4. At times, Philadelphia will look like a top Overwatch League team, especially when various members of the team's talented DPS line -- Lee "Carpe" Jae-hyeok, Josue "Eqo" Corona, Georgii "Shadowburn" Gushcha, Simon "snillo" Ekström -- begin shredding opponents. However, the team has struggled not only to stay consistent but to have solid coordination from map to map, especially with the late-season introductions of Choi "Hotba" Hong-joon and Kim "SADO" Su-min to the starting lineup. With so many talented options, Philadelphia has more raw talent available than Boston, and if this matchup becomes an all-out brawl, the edge is certainly in Philadelphia's favor. On paper, Eqo and Carpe are also the stronger duo with the introduction of reworked Hanzo and the continued dominance of Widowmaker in various compositions.
Signs point to a stronger map pool for Boston especially with Volskaya Industries and Junkertown back in the mix, which are two of Philadelphia's worst maps. Yet, it's difficult to tell how quickly Boston will have adjusted to the new patch changes prior to playoffs until we see them onstage. With a phenomenal DPS line and increased coordination between Philadelphia's most recent additions to the team's tank line, Philadelphia should be the more flexible team if they can remain coordinated throughout the entirety of the series.
London Spitfire vs. Los Angeles Gladiators
Apply all of what was said about the Philadelphia Fusion's raw talent but inconsistent coordination and increase it tenfold for the London Spitfire. Individually, London is one of the few teams with the mechanical talent to match the lineup of the New York Excelsior. This has made them particularly frustrating to watch since Stage 3, when the team's overall synergy appeared to nosedive. Initially a powerhouse combination of the GC Busan and Kongdoo rosters, top-tier players began to leave London in Stage 2 starting with tank player Baek "Fissure" Chan-hyeong, who will sit opposite his former team on the Burbank Arena stage as part of the Gladiators. This was followed by the departure of coach Lee "Bishop" Beom-joon. Come Stage 4, London knew that the team needed a change and more focus and settled on one set lineup to improve communication and coordination. The results were mixed, but London has now had a few weeks offstage to improve. London's success will depend heavily on how well the team has increased its synergy during the time off.
It's easy to point to Fissure as the entire reason why the Los Angeles Gladiators are not only here in the playoffs but are one seed higher than the London Spitfire. He's a strong MVP candidate based on what he's done for this team, which rose past supposed playoff locks like the Seoul Dynasty to become one of the Pacific Division's most improved lineups. Yet, while Fissure was certainly a catalyst, the Gladiators wouldn't be here without immense effort from the entire team. The Gladiators' improvement as a unit after Fissure's arrival is one of the more impressive and interesting stories to come out of the back half of the Overwatch League season. Now the Gladiators are one of the more flexible teams in the league with a few offbeat picks that only they seem to be able to make work. The only hiccup in the Gladiators playoff game plan will be the supposed decrease in aggressive tank play that has accompanied the Hanzo rework, but if any team can still play aggressively around their main tank, it would certainly be the Gladiators with Fissure.
This seems clearer to call than the Boston-Philadelphia matchup, but London is impossible to count out given the team's talent. However, based on their most recent performances, the edge certainly goes to the Gladiators who have steadily improved as a unit since Fissure's arrival, with increased coordination that London has yet to show with its own lineup.