The first week of Overwatch League playoff matches is complete. Though the analyst desk favored the Boston Uprising early on, it was the Philadelphia Fusion who ultimately came out on top in that matchup. For the Los Angeles Gladiators, everything started out par for the course against the London Spitfire, opening their series with a swift 3-0 against the team they had their way with all season long. However, London came back strong and surprised everyone, finishing the series with back-to-back 3-0’s to advance to the semifinals.
This Wednesday, July 16, Philadelphia and London will begin the semis against the New York Excelsior and Los Angeles Valiant, respectively.
Possible internal issues for the Gladiators
The Overwatch community had to pick their jaws up off the floor when it was initially announced that the Gladiators were going to start Luis “iRemiix” Galarza Figueroa over Chan-Hyung “Fissure” Baek in the playoffs. Fissure was instrumental in getting the Gladiators into the postseason, with many people (myself included) giving him first vote for the Season One MVP. As usual, it was esports journalist Rod “Slasher” Breslau who attempted turn a stone over for confused fans everywhere:
Source: Fissure has been unhappy on the Gladiators since joining and his own commitment/practice to the team has waned going into playoffs, prompting his benching by LAG not that his teammates aren’t trying. Wants out of LAG to an all-Korean team.https://t.co/S0DZ26Y1j7
— Rod Breslau (@Slasher) July 12, 2018
Slasher’s initial report falls in line with Fissure’s comments earlier this season, where he supported fellow Korean and ex-Dallas Fuel star Dong-Jun “Rascal” Kim’s sentiments that playing on a mixed roster can be very frustrating. However, Fissure insisted that Slasher was just trying to stir up some drama, and that the reality was much more benign:
Fissure explained a bit about the 'controversy' regarding his absence in the OWL playoffs (summary): pic.twitter.com/GUusf6uDyi
— Robin311 (@tisrobin311) July 12, 2018
It could very well just be that the Gladiators opted for a tank that was more team focused. The new Hanzo has been a sore spot in this meta for tank players in the playoffs, so it wouldn’t be too difficult to assume that the Gladiators went with a more reactionary tank that played better with the group. However, my main concern with this is that iRemiix has long been known as a tank with positional issues.
As we saw in games two and three, iRemiix was often caught far out of position which resulted in rally-killing deaths and awful respawn staggers. It was just like watching games from earlier this season, where iRemiix would go down early or at the most inopportune times. Perhaps Fissure is a much more aggressive tank, but he usually maintains line-of-sight for his backline and can manage to stay alive during tricky fights.
Only the Gladiators and Fissure know the actual truth of the matter, but it’s still too difficult to say whether or not Slasher’s sources are totally off base. Regardless of the meta, for a team in the Gladiators’ shoes to bench their star tank player for the most important matches of the season, it would seem as though something truly disappointing or troublesome would have to had happened.
London slays their demons
The London Spitfire looked like a totally different team in games two and three of the quarterfinals. They made Los Angeles look silly over and over again, no matter what they tried to change. On King’s Row, the Spitfire even put support player Seung-Tae “Bdosin” Choi on Tracer to help combat a dual sniper setup, and it worked perfectly.
Maybe it took a few dramatic meta shifts and some much-need time off, but the London Spitfire we saw last week are the powerhouse team that everyone knew they could be. By defeating their “kryptonite” of the regular season, the Spitfire have the confidence and momentum to make the Los Angeles Valiant fight for every map this week.
In a postgame conference, several Spitfire players said that they hope to take on the New York Excelsior again in the Grand Finals. While they have their work cut out for them, this is looking like a much more plausible reality than it did at the end of the season. The Overwatch League semifinals kick off this Wednesday with the Philadelphia Fusion taking on New York at 5:00 PM PST.