The Last Stage Playoff of the Season Kicks Off This Week
The dust has hardly settled from the final matches of the Atlanta Homestand and it’s time to talk about the Stage Playoffs again. The eight playoff teams have been finalized and the first match ups have been released. The teams competing to be the Stage Three champion are: The Houston Outlaws, Vancouver Titans, Shanghai Dragons, New York Excelsior, Seoul Dynasty, San Francisco Shock, Los Angeles Valiant, and Hangzhou Spark. For some of these teams, such as the Titans and Shock this is very familiar territory. For others like the Outlaws and Valiant though, these are uncharted waters. With even the best teams picking up L’s this stage the matches this week are going to be exciting.
The Top 8 of Stage 3 are set!
This Stage could be anybody's. #OWL2019
Who do you think is walking away as the Stage 3 Champions next week? pic.twitter.com/dPqAb1HsGM
— Overwatch League (@overwatchleague) July 8, 2019
A Look at the First Round
Thursday July 11th
Houston Outlaws vs. Vancouver Titans
Houston is riding high this stage. Despite losses to both the Mayhem and NYXL they have played head and shoulders above where they sat at the end of Stage Two. Outlaws have won against the Shock, last stage’s champions, and the starting six are looking the best they have all season. For Houston their biggest weapon is their high spirits that success in this stage has brought. If they can keep their morale up, then the position experts in LiNkzr and danteh will make any opponent bleed.
Speaking of bleeding, the Vancouver Titans had their only regular season defeat this stage, showing that even a god-king like
RunAway the Titans can bleed. This team has taken the loss seriously, tightening up their play across the board. Even with DPS tricks coming back into league play this is still the best GOATs team in the league. Possibly the hungriest for the stage win too, as after the Stage Two finals loss to the Shock they will be looking to get ahead of their California rival in the final stage playoffs.
Shanghai Dragons vs. New York Excelsior
New York has found themselves in an odd position. Their place at the top of the table has been taken from them by not only a nearly undefeated expansion team, but a much stronger Shock. They have finally managed to kick their old curse that cost them a loss per stage last season, now they just need to find the playoff wins they had in 2018. Kings of the defensive style, they have been at the mercy of the GOATs meta as much as any team with some of their stars on the bench for much of the season. That’s changing however as DPS and fan favorite Saebyeolbe has been coming back into the starting lineup. NYXL stands poised to remind the league that they belong on the top.
The Shanghai Dragons now sit at the eighth position on the table with a respectable 12-9 record. The revamped team is making their second stage appearance but both times now has come in at the eighth slot. They seem to be able to beat most opponents they play for the first time, as they beat both the Valiant and Charge in first meetings this stage only to fall to both when they played again. With the way these two teams have been playing it’s actually a little hard to have a definitive favorite.
Friday July 12th
Seoul Dynasty vs. San Francisco Shock
The Dynasty have quietly been working their way up the table. A 12-9 record isn’t unique but a map differential of +17 puts them ahead of the other teams with that record. Having already found the stage playoff berth that eluded them last year the Dynasty have adapted well to the GOATs meta. Unfortunately, as teams are starting to find DPS workarounds to the 3-3 comp they might not be in the best position going forward.
The shock have been humbled recently, first by the Outlaws then by the Hunters. These defeats shouldn’t be taken to mean they are on the decline however. This is still a team with some of the best players in the league on it and more importantly a team determined to show it. After losing the Stage One finals to Vancouver they redoubled their efforts to come back and dominate in Stage Two and the final. In terms of Stage titles they are 1-1 with their Canadian rivals, and you can bet they are going to be looking to get ahead, whatever it takes.
Los Angeles Valiant vs. Hangzhou Spark
Like the Dynasty the Spark have been quietly been doing good work. Their 14-7 season record puts them firmly in fourth place. The boys in pink made it to their first playoff last stage and managed to defeat defending league champs the London Spitfire. After beating an opponent like that how could the Valiant, a team they defeated already this stage, give them any trouble?
For the their own part the Valiant’s presence in this list is a testament to how much this team has turned themselves around since the start of the season. Valiant became the first, (but not the last) team to go 0-7 in a stage. This stage they’ve managed a 5-2 record and one of those victories came against the best team in the league. Many of those Stage One losses it should be noted came closer than what the scoreboard shows. The Valiant are starting to finally play as the sum of their parts if not more, and could make things hard for the Spark.
Things kick off on this Thursday evening at 6 PM Pacific time with the first playoff game pitting the Houston Outlaws against the Vancouver Titans. With the last stage title on the line, you won’t want to miss any of these matches. You can watch the Overwatch League on the official twitch channel.