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Even hardcore fans can admit that this season of the Overwatch League has been hard to watch at times. A single team composition dominated every match, the same four to six teams consistently won games, and upsets were few and far between.
Thankfully, stage three has taken all of these issues and thrown them into the pit on Ilios Well. If you’ve tuned out of the Overwatch League, stage three playoffs are your chance to get back in on the action.
The games, which begin at 8pm CT on July 11, are the least predictable of any set of matches this season. Teams will be bringing their wildest strategies and most talented players to score a win. Most importantly, these playoffs couldn’t be more different from the season’s earlier postseason runs.
No one is invincible
Stages one and two were all about two teams, and two teams only: the Vancouver Titans and San Francisco Shock. In the stage one playoffs, Vancouver looked invincible. They took the championship and only looked mortal next to the Shock. In stage two, San Francisco really was invincible, taking the league’s first “golden stage” by not dropping a single map and then toppling the Titans. Watching the Shock and Titans battle it out in the stage two grand finals was exciting, but 18 other teams were left in the dust.
In stage three, no team is invincible. The Shock were defeated by both the Houston Outlaws and the Chengdu Hunters. The Vancouver Titans’ 19-game win streak was broken by the Los Angeles Valiant and they’ve struggled against lesser teams. The strongest team in stage three is the New York Excelsior, who haven’t yet made it to a semifinal playoff game in season two. The ladder has been turned on its head, which makes these playoffs a whole lot more exciting.
The “green team” redemption arc
Everyone loves an underdog success story. Both the Houston Outlaws and Los Angeles Valiant, referred to as “green teams” by fans and social media, logged 0-7 stages earlier in the Overwatch League season. “Winless” stages would break the spirit of most teams. But the green teams stood back up, re-evaluated their strengths, and succeeded.
Dante “Danteh” Cruz and Johannes “Shax” Nielson have shined on Sombra for the Outlaws and Valiant, respectively. Houston started to rely heavily on the DPS players that built the team and the rest of the league has followed suit, letting their own damage-dealers out of “Brigitte jail” for the first time in months. Both “green teams” are looking to make it to the semifinals (or better) after being written off as failures. How’s that for inspiring?
Wild cards with aces up their sleeves
After the kings and the underdogs come the wild cards. The Shanghai Dragons have made their second stage playoffs of the season thanks to a star DPS. Shanghai will bring Yang “DDing” Jin-hyeok, possibly the most lethal Pharah and most annoying Sombra in the league, to help them net a playoff win against the Excelsior. Former Toronto Defiant off-tank Lee “envy” Kang-jae is also making big plays for his new team.
The Hangzhou Spark are the true wildcards in this stage’s playoffs. In stage three, the team went 6-1 and left nothing but demolition in their wake. Sometimes, the Spark make miraculous comebacks and take advantage of player’s mistakes. Other times, they’re wildly inconsistent in executing their well-laid plans. Hangzhou just beat the Los Angeles Valiant in a 3-2 game two weeks ago, and now they’re up against them in the quarterfinals on July 12. Depending on which Spark shows up, they could make it to the semifinals.
Seoul Dynasty, meanwhile, has been the only team in Overwatch League history to successfully play musical chairs with a roster. Before the sudden retirement of main tank Baek “Fissure” Chan-hyung, Seoul use every player from its twelve-man roster in games. They were the first team to sub out an entire six-player team between maps. Even now, Seoul’s opponents never know exactly who will end up on the stage. That exact level of surprise could lead them to upset the Shock at 10pm CT, July 11.
It’s anyone’s game
The absolute best part of the stage three playoffs is that anyone can win. The quarterfinal and semifinal games aren’t a waiting room for the inevitable San Francisco Shock and Vancouver Titans grand finals. Fans won’t be looking at their watch for a 4-0 game to be over. Team compositions and strategies are so far across the board right now that analysts are having a hard time picking clear front-runners. These will be the most exciting games season two of the Overwatch League has seen. Get hyped.