For the first time in the Overwatch League’s short history, the playoff cutoff is 2 losses. Last year, both the LA Valiant and Dallas Fuel both got into their playoffs with records of 6-4 in stages 3 and 4. Sure, it was a 10 game stage, but it’s roughly the same as going 4-3. This stage is also the first of the year where there isn’t a clear favourite going into the playoffs. In the second stage the San Francisco Shock were going off a 7-0, 28-0 stage into a playoffs that was far weaker in the bottom tier of teams. NYXL looked like the team to beat in the first stage as well, until people realized they can’t play against aggro teams and they got dismantled by the Seoul Dynasty.
#1: New York Excelsior
In terms of pure skill, the NYXL are probably the best team in the league. They’re one of three teams that employ truly elite players at every single position. As a team they are calm, cool, collected and they feast on unorganized teams. Their only weakness is as a team they often play too patient so when they face up against an aggressive team like Dynasty, Titans, Shock or Reign, they don’t really do much while the enemy team runs at them. They rely too much on Jjonak’s ability to frag out and not enough on combined pushes. In stage 3, these weaknesses were less prevalent as the addition of Saebyeolbe on Sombra gives them a new avenue to attack with. Instead of waiting for the enemy team to make a mistake, which the truly elite teams like the Shock and Titans just don’t do, they can run Sombra into the backline and just do that thing where she instantly wins the fight. Saebyeolbe is definitely an elite DPS player, but his Sombra play has been lacking and they haven’t faced any really good teams this stage. NYXL really needs to have a good playoffs to prove they still belong in the discussion of top 3 teams.
#2: Vancouver Titans
Oh hey, we know these guys! If the Titans have one thing over the other top teams in OWL, it’s their insane hivemind. It feels like this team can do things that no other team could ever dream of. Likely due to their extensive history as a group they always seem to know where the other players are and they don’t need to pre-plan strats, they just understand the game on a whole other level. They are a joy to watch and we’re lucky to be able to watch these kids play together every week.
#3 Hangzhou Spark
To the casual viewer, the Hangzhou Spark might appear like they came out of nowhere to join the league’s top teams in stage 3, but in reality, this team is stacked with top tier talent. Many casters and Overwatch minds had them as a top team coming into the season but their Stage 1 was incredibly underwhelming. Guxue is among the most mechanically skilled Winstons in the league and their playstyle is well suited against less organized Sombra teams like the LA Valiant and the Houston Outlaws. In the Stage 2 playoffs, they were able to upset the London Spitfire and another strong playoff showing would do a lot for this team to solidify themselves as a top team in the league.
#4 San Francisco Shock
Finally, we have the Stage 2 champions the San Francisco Shock. The Shock are coming in at a bit of a disadvantage as the only team in the playoffs that doesn’t have a dedicated Sombra player. Not only do they not have a dedicated Sombra player but they don’t seem interested in playing Sombra at all. While they are a very skilled team, they opt to play Baptiste instead of Brigitte which leaves them even more open to Sombra strategies, while Super is certainly a skilled Orisa and Reinhardt, his Winston is the worst among the top 4 teams. To add to that, the Shock flex support Viol2t doesn’t seem to be able to play Ana at all and her play is at a record high this season. Teams with elite Ana players like the Titans and NYXL opt to use Ana’s nano-boost to protect the team from being pounced on while EMP’d and the Shock doesn’t have this angle of attack. If the Shock expect another long run in the stage playoffs, they’ll have to bring their A game and can’t afford to falter even slightly. Without Sombra’s fight ending ultimate on their side, they need to show up and play absolutely perfectly.