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If fans had to crown one team as the shining champions of the Overwatch League’s second season, the San Francisco Shock would likely be their pick. The Shock have won a stage championship, toppled the Vancouver Titans, and bypassed all expectations of their team.
The Houston Outlaws are ranked 17th in the league and are one of the few Overwatch League teams to log a “winless” (0-7) stage. Beating the third-ranked San Francisco Shock seemed completely impossible—until now.
On June 13, the Houston Outlaws beat the San Francisco Shock with a 3-2 scoreline. The Outlaws ended their eight-game losing streak and the Shock’s 11-game winning streak in one match. It was impossible until it wasn’t. Even some of the Outlaws’ players were confused as to how they managed to take down the reigning champions. Here’s how the Outlaws were able to pull off their massive upset.
It’s difficult for any team to bounce back from a 0-7 stage. The label of “winless” gets into players’ heads and brings down the team’s morale. For their first match of stage three, the Houston Outlaws faced the second-ranked New York Excelsior. While they lost the match, they were able to push the nearly-undefeated Excelsior out of their comfort zone.
With a 2-3 scoreline, the Outlaws proved that they were able to at least compete with the top teams in the league. Analysts, casters, and fans were impressed. The confidence gained from nearly beating the NYXL bolstered them to this week’s win against the Shock.
Focusing on DPS
The Houston Outlaws are reliant on DPS players to carve their way through enemy teams. While their tank line has often been commended for their talent, especially main tank Austin “Muma” Wilmot’s smart plays, the success of the Outlaws has largely come from their damage-dealers.
Jiri “LiNkzr” Masalin nearly carried the team last year with his Widowmaker and McCree play, taking out key enemy supports with flashy sniper headshots. Jacob “JAKE” Lyon earned the “Jakerat” nickname for his top-tier Junkrat play, as well as his projectile hero expertise. And their newest player, Dante “Danteh” Cruz, formerly of the San Francisco Shock, was brought onto the team as the Tracer expert the Outlaws lacked in season one.
The current triple tank, triple support team composition strips the Outlaws of the big plays they were built around. They stood no chance against the nearly seamless triple-triple of the San Francisco Shock. The Outlaws tried to mirror the Shock’s composition on Eichenwalde and were completely demolished. Putting caution to the wind and letting their DPS players shine, regardless of the meta, led to their victory against the Shock.
Leaning on comfort picks
Houston excelled on Control maps like Nepal and Ilios during their battle with San Francisco. One thing that stood out was their tendency to rely on “comfort picks” during these maps. Players leaned on heroes that they’re historically the best at, regardless of what characters the triple-triple meta implored them to play.
JAKE soared as Pharah, a projectile hero closer to his skillset than the Brigitte necessary for the triple-triple composition. LiNkzr was allowed to utilize his deep hero pool, flexing to Doomfist and Zarya on the same map. Even support players like Shane “Rawkus” Flaherty made significant improvements when allowed to lean on their comfort heroes. The Ana anti-heal grenades from Rawkus were a key reason why the Outlaws were able to win so many close teamfights on multiple maps.
Danteh is an entire reason why the Outlaws are winning games, especially against his former team, the San Francisco Shock. While Danteh was originally known for his Tracer play, his Sombra expertise has become a critical part of his team’s newfound success.
Despite being the newest player added to an already-established team, his ability to work within the team’s structure to enable their plays is something the Outlaws need to take advantage of. Danteh repeatedly used Sombra’s EMP to allow his teammates to decimate the Shock. Even when he’s sneaking around and taking on enemy teams by himself, he’s constantly hitting the right targets (supports, off-tanks) and playing intelligently.
The Outlaws seemingly have realized how crucial he is to their success. JAKE revealed in his post-game interview that Danteh originally wasn’t supposed to play the final tiebreaker map. “We actually brought out [strategies] we’ve never tried before, and never played Danteh on that map,” JAKE said. “We just had the faith that was what they couldn’t deal with.”
With this win, the Houston Outlaws have proved that they’re an actual contender in this stage of the Overwatch League. While they’re still ranked 18th in the league, they’re now ninth in the stage standings. Their remaining opponents for the rest of stage three are teams that fall near or below the Outlaws’ current stage ranking. Even Overwatch League statistics producer Ben “CaptainPlanet” Trautman had a revelation about their future in the league.
The Houston Outlaws’ next game is against the Paris Eternal on June 20 at 7:45pm CT.