Barriers are back in business: Overwatch League weekend preview (July 31 to Aug 2)

Teams have 99 problems, but this week, Hero Pools isn't one of them.

Photo by Robert Paul via Blizzard Entertainment

The race to next week’s Countdown Cup tournament will continue this weekend with more Overwatch League teams try to rack up wins. This week’s games, which take place from Friday, July 31 to Sunday, Aug. 2, are the last chance for many teams to climb the leaderboard for a more beneficial seed.  

The North America region, which includes 13 teams, has been predictable as two former tournament champions, the Paris Eternal and San Francisco Shock, fight it out for the top seed. Asia, which includes seven teams, has been a roller coaster over the past few weeks with unlikely upsets, including a buffed Chengdu Hunters running the leaderboard. 

Teams like the Chengdu Hunters benefited enormously from the meta set forth by Hero Pools selections the past two weeks. But Hero Pools won’t be active this week or during the Countdown Cup tournament next week. The meta will likely return to a double shield setup with ample Genji and Tracer play. 

It’s been sweep city in North America for two weeks, but some games this week set up the potential for upsets across the board. 

Los Angeles Valiant vs. Houston Outlaws 

These teams have had bad luck in the Countdown Cup, suffering from the quick, coordinated meta dictated by Hero Pools. This match, on July 31 at 4pm CT, finds both the Valiant and Outlaws somewhat freed from the necessity of having a top-tier Genji player. 

Houston lives and dies by its DPS line, namely Dante “Danteh” Cruz’s ability to carry on Sombra or Tracer alongside any of his flex or hitscan teammates. Similarly, Los Angeles builds most of its strategy around hitscan prowess from Kai “KSP” Collins or Sombra destruction from Johannes “Shax” Nielsen. The Sombra showdown potential between Danteh and Shax is enormous and should act as a good palate cleanser for fans tired of Dragonblade duels.

New York Excelsior vs. Shanghai Dragons 

On Aug. 1 at 7am CT, fans of the Asia-Pacific (APAC) region get to see how deeply the meta has affected two of the region’s top teams. The New York Excelsior are still reeling from inconsistent results during the Countdown Cup, defeating Summer Showdown champions the Guangzhou Charge a week after being defeated by the Chengdu Hunters. Shanghai remain steadfast but had a close call with a 3-2 match against the London Spitfire two weeks ago. 

The Excelsior have been relying heavily on Kim “Haksal” Hyo-jong, one of the best Genji players in the Overwatch League, and will likely continue to do so. Shanghai, on the other hand, have widely refused to play the Genji game. The team has put more stake into high-quality Sombra play from Lee “LIP” Jae-won and the perpetual clutch potential of DPS Kim “Fleta” Byung-sun. If LIP can continually shut down the DPS line of the New York Excelsior, this could be another easy win for Shanghai.  

Toronto Defiant vs. Vancouver Titans 

We’ve been blessed with a few “Battle for Canada” showdowns during the 2020 Overwatch League season, but they feel different every time because of meta changes. Both Toronto and Vancouver are teams that live or die by their ability to play toward a tournament’s specific meta. On Aug. 1 at 4pm CT, they’ll be thrown back into a potential Summer Showdown setup. 

Toronto are regularly able to defeat teams on the lower end of the leaderboard, such as the Washington Justice, nearly entirely on the back of Brady “Agilities” Girardi’s Genji play. Vancouver and Toronto have both been unable to dethrone top North American talent like the Philadelphia Fusion, becoming victims of the Countdown Cup’s many sweeps. 

Without Hero Pools in play, Toronto might be allowed to run the same hero setup that got them to the semifinals of the Summer Showdown. Vancouver, meanwhile, should be focused on cohesion and coordinated dives, which may throw off whatever Toronto is planning. 

Dallas Fuel vs. Atlanta Reign 

This match, at 2pm CT on Aug. 2, will be a battle between two teams who are mostly trying to fight themselves. Dallas and Atlanta have struggled with incredible inconsistency during the Countdown Cup, making mistakes that their enemies have instantly capitalized on. While the marquee may say Fuel vs. Reign, the real winner will be the team that cleans up its act the fastest. 

Both teams have jumped wildly around meta choices during the Countdown Cup, sometimes opting to play into the necessity of a Genji focus and sometimes throwing caution to the wind. The interesting showdown here actually isn’t between DPS players, who have been inconsistent across the board. It’s between tank players. 

Dallas have relied on the cohesion between main tank Noh “Gamsu” Yeong-jin and off-tank Lucas “NotE” Meissner to carry the team through any amount of positioning mistakes. Similarly, no matter how bad a game Atlanta is having, Blake “Gator” Scott and Xander “Hawk” Domecq tend to produce results. Keep an eye on the off-tank fight to see who gets more mileage out of Sigma. 

The Overwatch League Countdown Cup continues on Friday, July 31 at 2pm CT. The Philadelphia Fusion will be taking on the Dallas Fuel to kick off the weekend.