Dynasty v Outlaws one of the most important matches for stage playoff implications. Going into the match Houston was actually ranked higher, and that was off the back of Seoul losing a surprising defeat to London (0 people picked a London 4-0 according to HighNoonPickem.com) and a hard fought though closely lost 3-2 match to NYXL. Back to back losses incurred by the overwhelming favorites in the league since before it began, was a dip in public perception to say the least.
On the flip side, Houston was coming off of an impressive 19-1 map score after suffering 2 early losses. The heavy favorite trending downward facing off against the underdog trending upward. This was going to be the battle to decide if streamlined NA teamwork and momentum can outperform the sheer skill and pedigree of the Korean roster. Everything points towards this being a dead heat with the real tiebreaker being the battle of the titans: Linkzr v. Fleta…
So much for that as Linkzr was out sick. Once that news broke, myself and many others started to lose faith in the so called “New Sheriff in town” (I know it makes no sense, love the meme though). The hopes for a Western team taking down the Dynasty were now resting in the hands of Clockwork, who is fresh off a win vs San Francisco Shock. It looked grim.
Before going forward, I want to answer a few no-brainers so you don’t think I’m ignoring the elephant in the room.
Would Houston have had a better chance with Linkzr? – Almost certainly yes
Did Houston get unlucky by having their star player get super sick when it mattered most? – Absolutely
Was Clockwork as good as Linkzr usually is? -NOPE
Did Houston lose a chance at the stage 1 playoffs because Clockwork pooped his pants? – Not a chance, but here’s where I’ll pick up.
Clockwork did a fine job. He was put into one of the hardest spots ANY player could be put into: being asked to take Fleta head on. Clockwork did not win that battle, but he also didn’t throw the entire match with is performance. I think that the problem was at the strategy level, not the player level. Houston kept a similar game plan to what they would have had for the match WITH Linkzr. Yes, there were some instances where Clockwork ran Pharah, which Linkzr doesn’t, but it would have been Jake instead. Instead of coming up with a new game plan for their team with Clockwork, they instead tried to fit a square peg into a round hole.
We saw the Outlaws have success on the maps where Fleta wasn’t able to flex his hitscan prowess, or when the Outlaws over compensated for Fleta. The times that happened, Dynasty really looked weak. The problem was that it took Houston too long to realize that this was the case. That strategy error along with Houston not having the practice time with Clockwork on Horizon or Control maps was not good, but put them in a winnable spot. The real closer being that when Houston really seemed to have a chance to close it out, they had to face Zunba’s Legendary Zarya.
I understand that it’s very easy for me to pass judgement after the fact, and I don’t expect them to come up with an entirely different gameplan day of. However I think this does teach us an important lesson in Overwatch League. Even a single player change can require an entirely different strategy. Linkzr may have been able to go toe to toe with Fleta in a way that Clockwork wasn’t able to, but if Fleta was dominating Houston still would have needed to adjust in the same way that they eventually did. Being able to make these types of changes with little notice, or better yet on the fly, will be the hallmark of a truly successful team in the long run of the Overwatch League.
Let me know what you think in the comments or tweet at me @the_blevins
Check my writing out at https://medium.com/@TheBlevins as well!