Overwatch League 2021 Playoffs Preview
The biggest event of the Overwatch season is on its way later this month, with eight teams facing off against each other in a playoff tournament to see who will claim the coveted title of Overwatch League 2021 champion. Over the past year, Overwatch teams have competed in four events (May Melee, June Joust, Summer Showdown, and the Countdown Cup) to determine who would make it to playoffs. After the regular season, play-ins were held for both regions to determine last chance spots. Now with play-ins concluded, everyone has their eye on the Overwatch League’s playoffs.
Match Pedigrees in the Overwatch League’s 2021 Playoff Quarterfinals
Throughout the season, these teams have gotten an understanding for each other despite the League’s competition being relegated to online play. The San Francisco Shock have made it to their third playoffs after back-to-back wins last year and the year prior. The Dallas Fuel has always been a fan favorite, but they often struggle at the playoff stage throughout their career. Both Chengdu and Shanghai look to be the first Asian franchises to win the Playoffs, with the Chengdu Hunters hosting a fully Chinese squad at the event.
Let’s take a look at some of the match-ups that we’ll be seeing during the Overwatch League 2021 playoffs.
Chengdu Hunters vs. Atlanta Reign
Historically, Atlanta and Chengdu have not had many interactions. Their most recent match was at the Countdown Cup where Chengdu knocked Atlanta out of the tournament in the loser’s bracket finals. A snapshot of both teams shows incredible degrees of individual talent (such as Reign’s Kai and Chengdu’s Yvetal) but Chengdu’s ability to mount an iron-clad defense around key choke points and reactively bundle together when they’re down players will make it challenging for the Reign to push pick-based momentum. The Reign’s main tank Gator is best known for helping popularize the GOATS team composition, so he can be trusted to rally his team around a solid composition and execute it. However, creativity and individual skill will be met with Chengdu’s flow-state like maneuvering and fluid positioning.
Washington Justice vs. Dallas Fuel
The Dallas Fuel reunites several of Element Mystic’s roster and includes former New York Excelsior’s Pine, known for his immaculate hitscan play. The team did well throughout the regular season, winning the May Melee and solidifying second and third place for themselves in subsequent tournaments. The squad seems a touch lost without Lucio, as evidenced by their desperate clinging to 6th place overall to qualify for the Regional Knockout stage, only to get knocked out by last year’s champions The San Francisco Shock.
Personally, the Fuel are the favorite in this matchup. Their games against Washington have been close, but the Fuel have managed to pull victory out of a hat each time. However, Washington does stand a chance if Dallas aren’t able to adapt their play to the current meta.
Los Angeles Gladiators vs. The Philadelphia Fusion
Both these teams haven’t encountered each other throughout the Overwatch League 2021 season, mostly due to The Philadelphia Fusion’s struggle to find footing once playoffs come around. The Gladiators seem to have shaken off the onus of previous years’ inability to make an impact as they’ve cemented themselves near the top of the Western division time and time again.
Fusion still seems to be relying on DPS player Carpe to drive the Fusion forward in matches, but middling performances throughout this year may finally exert themselves on the Fusion’s captain and leave the team in the lurch.
The Fusion shouldn’t be completely counted out as they’re no doubt hungry to make it to the grand finals of the Overwatch League’s 2021 playoffs. Their match against the Gladiators may be the most exciting to see as a surprise upset from the Fusion seems entirely possible.
Shanghai Dragons vs. The San Francisco Shock
In terms of prestige, this match may as well be the main event of the Overwatch League 2021 playoffs. The two-time Overwatch League champions will be facing off against the strongest team in the Eastern division. There’s little doubt that the Shanghai Dragons will want to eliminate The San Francisco Shock early to prevent surprises for them later on during the tournament.
The Shock’s roster includes several players from their championship-winning line-up, including support player Viol2t and tank player Smurf. ChoiHyoBin’s aggressive D.va plays have been good for San Francisco, as they can rely on him to confirm kills and create momentum.
There’s little doubt that this match will be the one to watch. While Shanghai’s performance over the year trumps the Shock, the Shock have what it takes to go all the way for the third time in a row.
The Overwatch League always gets exciting near the end of the year as the matches bring more stakes than any other competition. It’s a shame that league play has still bene relegated to online matches, and that teams will have to play with an absent of live audiences, but the pedigree of matches we’re sure to see while more than make up for it.