The San Francisco Shock were the best team in the Overwatch League’s second stage. They played elite Overwatch all 6 weeks and were rewarded with the Stage 2 championship crown, so it’s even more surprising now that we need to take a look at what they do wrong, especially against the Houston Outlaws, the team who this entire post series was inspired by.
While many OWL tier lists vary, it’s clear that the Shock, Titans and NYXL are in a league of their own. The league’s top 3 teams vary greatly in play styles, but they are the only 3 teams to have completed a 7-0 stage. In addition, when you consider top 3 players in any position, all 3 will likely come from one of these teams’ starting lineups. The problem with these three being so far ahead of the competition is that the teams below them will follow their actions as gospel. Don’t believe me? Let’s take a look.
After their first match of Stage 2 Jake, of the Houston Outlaws, said that his pride as a competitive player is more important than winning. He was lambasted by Overwatch media for missing the point, then the Outlaws went without a win throughout the entire stage. Their stage was rather difficult, 5/7 of their opponents ended up making the playoffs that, while also playing the Fusion, a higher quality mid-table team. The real problem with their Stage 2 performance is that they only won 4 maps, 2 of which were against the Guangzhou Charge, an equally bad team. The Charge only won 2 matches in Stage 2, against the Outlaws and weirdly, the Reign right in the middle of their wins against NYXL and their solid performance against the Titans and Shock.
Now that we know low tier teams try and emulate the elite teams, we can trace the current Sombra Goats (Soats? Mexican Goats? Cabras?) popularity to a single match. At a time where the big 3 looked immortal, one team did the impossible. The Seoul Dynasty, in preparation for the Stage 1 playoffs, put their entire starting lineup to rest and opted to run their unpracticed second lineup and managed to walk away with a win that shocked the Overwatch world. While the Dynasty lost the battle, failing to take a single map off the Titans in the next round of the playoffs, they won the war. Cabras became the go-to method to unseat the top teams in the league. While Super, the Shock main tank, claimed that Sombra is a crutch, that doesn’t matter to the 17 teams in the league who can’t keep up with the big 3.
Yes, it’s true that the Shock have been one of the two best teams in the league in the first two stages, but their excursion into Stage 3 has made them look downright bad. While they were able to eek out the close win against the Atlanta Reign, the Houston Outlaws turned the script on it’s head with a win. The Outlaws are a team who have been under performing, but they looked dominant at times against the Shock. The San Francisco squad wasn’t able to adjust to Danteh’s Sombra play at all, leading to shutouts on Havana and Ilios. With the exception of Horizon: Lunar Colony, the Outlaws won every map that Danteh played. In addition, Assault is tied for their worst map type, with a 1-3 record on H:LC. It’s interesting to note, in the Outlaws’ week 1 tilt, they lost to the NYXL in 5, but didn’t opt to run the Sombra strategy aside from on Numbani, a map they won. This leads me to believe that the NYXL learned from their Stage 1 playoff failures and are much better equipped to handle that now. The Shock on the other hand, we know are a team who learn from losing, but they’ve never been upset by a Sombra strategy before, and it shows.
When it comes to playing GOATS, the Shock’s starting lineup is the least flexible among the big 3. The major offenders here are unfortunately the most important to having a roster that can swap things up on the fly. Super and Viol2t are an amazing tank and flex-support, but their main strengths are on Reinhart and Zenyatta. To the naked eye, this doesn’t seem like a problem, but when you consider it more in depth, who are the heroes that get shut down the hardest by Sombra’s hack ability? Unfortunately for the Shock, the answer is Reinhart and Zenyatta. This is why we see the Titans run a Winston based defensive GOATS roster with Ana as support on Assault and Hybrid maps, so they don’t open themselves up to a first fight hack and then get snowballed for the rest of the map. When it comes to main tank comparison, Super is definitely among the best in the league but compared to Mano, his Winston doesn’t keep up and the Shock’s supports can’t keep him alive as effectively as the Titans do with Bumper. That doesn’t even mention Viol2t, who is a top 3 Zenyatta in the league, but pales in comparison to Jjonak and Twilight’s Ana play.
Now that the Outlaws upset the Shock using Sombra, it’s very likely we see the rest of the bottom tier teams pivot to the same style thinking it can get a free win over a top tier team. The problem here, is that the only big 3 team who isn’t prepared for Sombra is the Shock. NYXL already had a playoff upset against Sombra in Stage 1, so they’ve had far longer to figure out how to counter her and the Titans knew ahead of time what to do against her. Likely from their time in Korean Contenders, they came to OWL well equipped to handle the hacker and as early as first stage we saw the Titans play Winston and Ana defensively to keep EMP at bay. Instead of huddling up behind a blue rectangle, the Titans opted to open up the court a little more, with the team out of melee range, they are less prone to damage and if an EMP does go off, fewer of them will be in range. When they do get hit with an EMP the Titans jump to action, using Primal Rage and Nano Boost to keep the enemy team at bay, using Winston’s physicality as a shield and unlike Zenyatta, Ana’s healing is done with her gun and not her hacked abilities.
The Shock need to get their act together fast, other teams saw what Houston did and will be looking to emulate that same strategy. Sure, Sombra may be a crutch but it appears useful if the stage champion loses to a team with zero wins in that same time frame. If the Shock can’t flex onto Ana and Winston well enough, they need to figure out a new plan of attack because in stage 3 they look extremely vulnerable.