From our first entry into understanding why teams throw, thanks to the Houston Outlaws, we learned that not only can fans and analysts misunderstand the game, but players can too. In the Outlaws case, fans and analysts were trumpeting the talking point of how Houston looked dominant with a DPS heavy lineup, but when the games got tighter and they had to swap to 3/3 they got smushed by the Titans. What fans, and some vocal analysts, didn’t realize was how heavily favored 3/3 is on the Rialto, Paris, and Eichenwalde.
When Outlaws’ Projectile DPS player Jake took to Twitter, it became clear that both spectators and participants had a fundamental flaw in their grasp of the game.
Let’s start by saying, first of all, everybody involved is wrong. The viewers and analysts are wrong to suggest that “just go 3DPS” is a viable strategy, as there is no other way to effectively attack the Titans on Paris, Rialto or Eichenwalde, barring extenuating circumstances. Had we seen the Outlaws try this, the Titans elite defensive style of Winston GOATS featuring Ana would have flattened them. Instead, we saw the Outlaws struggle through Rialto, and Paris, but with a rather good showing on Eichenwalde. In my map analysis of the Titans and Outlaws match, I correctly surmised that Paris and Rialto would be easy wins for the Titans while Busan and Eichenwalde would be the two closest maps in this series and the Titans would need to take one of them at least.
If you’re asking why I bring this up now, aside from bragging rights, it’s because we don’t know the quality of advanced statistics that are used by organizations. Esports are so young that the players and organizations haven’t yet figured out the tricks used by traditional sports teams to hedge bets and give themselves the best odds to win. Judging by the map stats, which I hope the Outlaws coaching staff is looking at, they had a clear pathway to victory against the Vancouver Titans. Jake’s tweet shows a huge problem with the Outlaw players mentality and mental fortitude as well as their coach-ability.
How does this connect to Jake’s tweet? Well he makes it clear that if the Outlaws were to play a 3DPS strategy against the Titans it would be preemptively accepting defeat and a hail-mary strategy. Jake’s tweet also implies that as a competitor, he can’t stand the idea of not playing 3/3, which is by far the best strategy on almost every map in the game. Seeing as how I, someone who has never played professional Overwatch and hasn’t had any coaching experience aside from getting my friend Matthew to Grandmaster solely by telling him what heroes to play, was able to figure out that the Outlaws’ best chances of winning this match were to win game 1 and 3, why didn’t the Outlaws coaching staff catch this?
Eichenwalde is a great map for Houston and their 3/3 lineup did quite well against Vancouver, but Paris and Rialto were so far out of reach for them. Why is “a hail-mary strat” here such a bad idea? Why is Jake too proud to do whatever it takes to win? Why aren’t they prepared to make the sacrifices, like in a game of chess, to win the war? The Outlaws won on Busan and statistically they were very close on Eichenwalde, almost winning there too. If the Outlaws weren’t too proud to play a cheesy Bunker or 3DPS lineup, they could have taken this win rather easily, or at least pushed it to 5 games in a legendary Hunters-esque match with how hard Linkzr and Arhan popped off on Busan. With their one win and an attempt at going 3/3 on Eichenwalde, they just needed to clutch one other map, but the Outlaws weren’t willing to sacrifice their pride for the greater good.
This same theme of sacrifice came up again in April 20th’s matchup between the London Spitfire and the Boston Uprising. Coming into this match, the Uprising were having a somewhat successful stage. With a record of 2-1, and a +1 map differential, they were right in the middle of the discussion of potential stage 2 playoff participants. Their week 3 matches included a back-to-back against two strong teams, the Spitfire and the Titans. The required record to make the stage playoffs is 4-3 with a good map differential so this was an important win for the Uprising. Their remaining 3 matches are against the Titans, the Gladiators, and the Justice. With a likely win over Justice, they will have to steal a dominant win from one of the Titans, or Gladiators. If I were the coach of the Uprising, I would have advised the team to not prepare at all for the Titans match and instead cram doubly as hard for the far more winnable tilt with the Spitfire. Instead, they got 4-0’d by London and they refused to lose the battle for a chance at winning the war. Then, when they played the Titans the next day, they put up a good fight but once again lost by a score of 4-0. Interestingly enough, they weren’t too proud to use a team composition of 3DPS like the Outlaws and they showed that 3DPS is capable of putting up a good fight on Paris after all. The Uprising proved that 3DPS on Paris isn’t a hail-mary strategy and they were really close to full holding the Titans on point A. Boston played well, which is exactly the problem, they were still completely outclassed, even after competing Gibraltar with over 4 minutes in the time bank, they got held on point A on the second push and lost 4-0.
On April 20th, the Florida Mayhem, just like the Outlaws and Uprising, showed the Overwatch world that they, as a team, are also not infallible. The Outlaws were exposed as a team too proud to do whatever it takes to make the playoffs, the Uprising were exposed as a team who lacked the critical thinking to prioritize the Spitfire game over the Titans game, thinking they had a chance to win both and the Mayhem were exposed as a team who does not understand the finer details of a GOATS mirror. They are guilty of the highest of crimes. They pretended to know why Ana is good.
That did not go how the Mayhem wanted it to. Before we can go into depth here, we need to understand what Rock Paper Scissors can teach us about GOATS. Sombra is one of the ideal counters to GOATS and usually the Zarya player is the one who is able to flex onto Sombra, this works out nicely as Sombra destroys Zenyatta, so the flex-support will swap to Ana. The Mayhem understand that Ana is better than Zenyatta against Sombra, but they don’t seem to know why. In the above clip, Hagopeun uses his Nano-Boost ultimate and selects Swon as the recipient. When Swon jumps into the Dragons to initiate the fight, Gamsu immediately Earthshatters the entire team and ends the fight.
Wait a sec, Ana was supposed to be good against teams that run Sombra, so how did the Dragons just clap the Mayhem when they had Nano-Boost? The answer here, is a lot simpler than it appears, the Mayhem are really bad and they don’t know why Ana is actually good. When a team attacks a protected area, like on a Hybrid or Assault map, the goal of the team is to stick together as close as possible, this makes Graviton Surge a devastating ultimate as it’s easy to catch the entire team, so having a Zenyatta with Transcendence is a must. Like we said earlier in Overwatch RPS, since the Zarya player usually is the one who plays Sombra, this is a handy trade. Sombra is quite good against Zenyatta and with no Graviton Surge, means no need for Transcendence. Enter: attack Ana.
At 3:59, during the Titan’s attack on point B, Eileen jumps into the middle of the objective while Bumper is in a corner fighting Happy and Hotba, then Eileen becomes visible to use his EMP. Bumper, hearing Sombra take off her invisibility cloak, immediately uses his Primal Rage and Twilight, who was so far back he was out of EMP sightlines, responds by using his Nano Boost onto Bumper. Bumper is a giant angry monkey filled with nanobots and he uses his arm swipes to swat the Charge away from his team, protecting them from Guangzhou being able to collapse onto them. When Bumper eventually gets low health, Slime immediately uses his Beat to give Vancouver the endurance to survive the fight. Bumper splits the Charge in half with his body and at 4:14 he forces Chara to use his beat so that the team doesn’t die, the Titans know that since Guangzhou isn’t running Zenyatta they have no other healing ultimate so they fake a retreat and Rio pushes, 4 seconds later Seominsoo throws down a Graviton Surge and Jjanu combos with his bomb which forces the rest of Charge back so they can’t support Rio or they will all die. They kill Hotba forcing the retreat and they wait until Rio respawns for the Charge to all jump on the objective but it’s too late and the Titans take the objective. Beautiful, when the Mayhem did everything wrong, the Titans did everything right.
There’s more to the story though, as the Titans regularly use Ana when defending.
For the Titans aggressive style of GOATS, Twilight’s elite Ana skills are a boon. Back to the Outlaws, we see above how insane Ana’s biotic grenades are, when used in conjunction with Bumper’s dive into the back line. Twilight’s pick of Ana is also placing a bet that the other team could try and play Sombra and the Titans will still have all the answers. This type of hero selection is similar to how pre-Bunker, Pharah was a suboptimal defense hero solely because a good Widowmaker, McCree, or Soldier 76 would make for an easy counter and once the surprise is out of the bag, it’s very easy for an attacking player to switch onto those heroes. Just like with Ana, it would be very easy for the Outlaws to switch to a more dive focused Sombra team composition which could sneak around the Titans and have their way with a lonely Zenyatta player in the backline who’s only way to heal players is through special abilities.
In the words of English poet Alexander Pope, “to err is human” and it proves true in all forms for Overwatch players. The Houston Outlaws were too proud to try and sacrifice pride and some map wins to possibly take down the Titans, the Uprising were too greedy to sacrifice a likely loss to try and guarantee a playoff berth, and the Mayhem walked into their match with the Shanghai Dragons lacking the knowledge of how 3/3 Overwatch works at it’s core. Do I really blame either team for this? No, they’re mostly kids and they’re allowed to make mistakes. What this does speak to is how much work is still ahead for Overwatch, not necessarily for players skill levels, but for their strategic thinking.