Don’t mind me, I’ll just be here, throwing my playoffs predictions into the garbage. In the words of Watchpoint caster Malik Forte, “Calling this a monumental upset would be a monumental understatement.” The Overwatch League quarterfinals kicked off tonight, and this first match is definitely a match to remember.
Match 1: Seoul Dynasty wins against New York Excelsior, 3-1
This match wasn’t just the biggest upset of the entire season—it was arguably one of the biggest upsets in Overwatch League history. Everyone—me included—were downright positive we’d see the undefeated NYXL pull off a victory in the first playoffs match of the season.
NYXL’s cracks really started to show on Hollywood. Their usually phenomenal tank line—MekO, Mano, and Nenne—just seemed off their game from the start. Mano was the first pick in too many team fights, and MekO and Nenne struggled to get the same value out of their ultimates that we’ve come to expect. Michelle’s switch to Sombra on Seoul’s attack round was the final nail in New York’s coffin. Michelle’s well-placed hacks, usually on MekO, herded the payload and Seoul to a victory on Hollywood.
After a rough start, NYXL seemed to be pulling it together on the third map—maybe thanks to some words of support from surprise guest Levar Burton. The showdown on Volskaya was one of the most exciting I’ve seen this season. While fans and commentators alike screamed themselves nearly hoarse, New York and Seoul traded point for point. Surprisingly, Seoul pulled out a four-DPS composition on their attack rounds. Fleta’s Pharah made a triumphant reappearance, pouring out damage on NYXL’s tanks and repeatedly getting picks on JjoNak. 3-3 is a powerful meta, to be sure, but it doesn’t really provide a way to counter a Pharah as adept as Fleta.
Largely thanks to Fleta and Michelle’s coordinated efforts, Seoul won a full five points off NYXL. New York tied up the map by literally the skin of their teeth. In overtime, MekO’s last-ditch Self-Destruct netted him a quadruple kill, giving NYXL just enough breathing room to charge onto the map-winning point. Despite having no ultimates to help them flip the last point, NYXL scored an early pick onto Munchkin and survived a massive EMP from Michelle. With help from two support ultimates, New York established enough of a presence on the second point to win Volskaya 6-5. It really looked like they might pull off a reverse sweep.
And I’d be remiss, of course, to not give a nod to JjoNak’s ridiculous stall as Mei. A triple kill on Mei in professional Overwatch, at the height of the 3-3 meta? Come on.
But map 4, Rialto, was Seoul’s time to shine. On their attack round, Seoul managed a hard-won three points. Their defense round looked a little sloppy right up until the difficult final stretch. I don’t think it’s an overstatement to say that Michelle was an absolute maniac on this map. I lost track of the number of full-team hacks he pulled off. He absolutely terrorized MekO and Mano, chasing them down relentlessly and executing quick kills with some impressive tracking. His real strength, though, was in his ability to charge up his EMPs with shocking speed and efficiency. Thanks largely to Michelle’s excellent play, Seoul held off New York on Rialto and secured a spot in the semifinals.
Perhaps the most talked-about play in this entire series will be Nenne’s bizarre Graviton Surge onto an empty wall at the very end of Rialto. With only seconds to spare, a well-placed Grav could have won NYXL the map. But without that Graviton to open up space at the end of the map, NYXL rolled to a halt just meters short of their goal. The “LUL”s, as the kids say, are already rolling in. Poor Nenne.
Here’s a clip from Nenne POV. Much better: https://t.co/TUDvgrIwJ3
— Cynthia Ⓥ🐾 (@_cynthaquil) March 22, 2019
While this looked like a mistake on the main stream, Nenne’s plan is more apparent from his POV. He was actually trying to disable Michelle. Michelle played Sombra for the majority of the match, and got exquisite picks on JjoNak and MekO, especially on Rialto. Those well-placed hacks cost NYXL team fights before they even got started. Michelle finished with 124 enemies hacked by the time all was said and done. Nenne anticipated that Michelle would try an EMP from behind, and gambled that placing a Grav on the left flank would hold the Sombra back. It wasn’t a gamble that paid off, but it also wasn’t as poor a play as the stream made it seem.
NYXL definitely wasn’t at the top of their game tonight. However, Seoul also figured out how to exploit Excelsior’s few weaknesses—namely, their reliance on JjoNak. Michelle’s switch to Sombra broke through a lot of New York’s strategies, and won him MVP of the match.
In the end-of-game interview, Seoul support Ryujehong marveled at how great it felt to see his team emerge victorious against their long-time rivals. Given the opportunity to respond to rival JjoNak’s past jabs, Ryujehong was gracious, stating simply: “We did it. We won.” JjoNak’s damage and healing did surpass Ryujehong’s, but he also enjoyed a full ten minutes more playtime than his role model.
Seoul have lost all five of their previous matches against NYXL. Their first victory over NYXL comes not a second too late, and we’ll look forward to seeing how they fare against…
Match 2: Vancouver Titans win against Boston Uprising, 3-0
Overwatch analysts can breathe a sigh of relief. In the second match of the Overwatch League quarterfinals, the Vancouver Titans were their spectacular selves. The Titans seemed to win this series almost without breaking a sweat. Boston attempted to go toe-to-toe with Vancouver, playing the 3-3 mirrored meta.
Bumper came away as the player of the match, and it’s no surprise. After the high-energy nail-biter that was Seoul versus New York, the Vancouver Titans delivered a steadfast victory against Boston.
Seoul will face off against Boston in the first match of the semifinals on Saturday. Tomorrow, Philadelphia Fusion will face off against Atlanta Reign. San Francisco Shock will battle the Toronto Defiant. After New York’s defeat, we’ll see how well our predictions hold up for the remainder of the quarterfinals.
Did your bracket just get broken? Be sure to let us know in the comments below! And stay tuned for more playoffs coverage.