Week 16 was no ordinary week. That’s right folks, its tournament time! The May Melee tournament, a single elimination bracket where teams compete for prize money and placement prizes (additions to their win count). There is a lot to talk about so let’s get started.
News and Blues
Before we really get started on the tournament there are a few bits of news that I think I should mention. I’m not going to spend a lot of time on these as I want to keep the focus on the tournament.
- Washington Justice drop General Manager bawlynn and Bani – the wording in this press release from the Justice is extremely questionable.
- Boston Uprising sign mikeyy – mikeyy is a tank player who was on NA Contenders teams such as Noble and Skyfoxes. I believe this signing is to add another main tank as a backup for Fusions as Axxiom is still on medical leave.
- Vancouver Titans sign sHockWave – sHockWave is a DPS player who played for the EU Contenders team Raspberry Racers. He will be joining another teammate from RR (KSAA).
- Toronto Defiant sign zYKK on a 14-day contract – zYKK is a DPS player who played for the NA Contenders team Third Impact. Rumours are that Toronto DPS player Surefour is on a mental health break which is why he wasn’t fielded for Toronto’s matches this week.
I should mention that Overwatch League tournaments have different rulesets from regular season games and in this case North America and Asia had slightly different rulesets as well.
From the bracket page (bold emphasis is mine):
- Hero Pools suspended for all tournament matches—all heroes will be available.
- Matches are first-to-three map wins until the finals, which will be first-to-four maps.
- Higher-seeded teams pick the first map.
- The losing team of each map picks the next map in the series.
- In case of draws, the team that picked the previous map picks again.
The North America specific rules:
- Qualification: The 12 vs. 13 seed match does not count for prizing.
- Knockouts: The 5-7 seeds get to pick their opponent, with the 5 seed selecting first.
- Quarterfinals: The 1-4 seeds get an automatic bye to this round, and the 1-3 seeds get to pick their opponent from advancing teams, with the 1 seed selecting first.
- Semifinals and Finals: Fixed matchups based on progression through the bracket.
The Asia specific rules:
- All seven teams qualify with no qualification match.
- Quarterfinals: The 2 and 3 seeds get to pick their opponent, with the 2 seed selecting first.
- Semifinals and Finals: Fixed matchups based on progression through the bracket with the 1 seed getting an automatic bye into the semis.
That’s a lot of rules but the most important one to keep in mind is that there are no hero bans/pools in this tournament which means that everything is on the table which means that teams can start relying on their comfort compositions without too much worry.
As mentioned earlier, there are no hero pools to talk about this week. Teams were able to field any of the heroes in their compositions. There were a couple type of compositions that were staples throughout the tournament, dive and double shield. Some teams focused on the dive style and signature Tracer players to make critical picks, Florida Mayhem is a example of this. They relied a lot on Yaki’s incredible Tracer skills and they did so with great success.
Double shield also meant that we saw a lot of Reinhardt and that means we saw critical Reinhardt vs Reinhardt matchups. One example of this was the Paris vs LA Valiant match where a Reinhardt powerhouse like BenBest faced off against the LA Valiant’s Dreamer. It was a battle of two styles. BenBest played a more conservative main tank style whereas Dreamer played a more risky style where he went for risky shatters. It was definitely quite fun to watch as someone who plays a lot of Reinhardt.
We also saw some key Widowmaker matchups on certain maps. DPS players like ANS (San Francisco Shock), Carpe (Philadelphia Fusion), BQB (Florida Mayhem), Decay (Dallas Fuel), and Fleta (Shanghai Dragons) were players that had incredible moments playing Widowmaker where they turned the outcome of fights all by themselves. Extremely fun to watch these players hit those key headshots.
Oh where to start with this week. There were a lot of games (36 hours of game according to Emerald Gao) and a lot of it was interesting to watch. I am going to pick a few matches from each region to talk about and these are the ones that I think are worth watching if you don’t have the time to watch all 36 hours of tournament (understandable).
Toronto Defiant vs Vancouver Titans
This was the first match of the week and it proved to be a banger of a match. No better way to start the week than a Battle for Canada. Going into this I expected Toronto to 3-0 the Titans in their current state. However I didn’t account for a wildcard and that was Vancouver’s new DPS signing sHockWave who made waves and proved that he was a OWL worthy player. His Echo play was certainly much better than the Defiant’s new DPS signing zYKK.
Can we talk about there are two new signings here and both of their first games in the Overwatch League is a qualification match to get into a tournament? High stakes are putting it mildly. I am curious to see what zYKK can do in the Overwatch League if his two week contract is extended to a longer one.
Paris Eternal vs Boston Uprising
This one was another pleasant surprise. Boston Uprising continue to show improvement in their game play and this series resulted in a reverse sweep where I found myself cheering for Boston to win the series and advance in the tournament but alas it was not to be. Paris were able to win the tiebreaker match. I hope the Uprising continue to show this kind of improvement.
Paris Eternal vs Los Angeles Valiant
This one is another banger. An extremely back and forth six map series (there was a draw) that ultimately resulted in the LA Valiant moving forward. This series is definitely worth the watch. It has the aforementioned Rein vs Rein matchup between BenBest and Dreamer. A series where the tournament rule of loser of a map picking the next one resulted in the back and forth nature. I am not a fan of either team but definitely a heartbreaking result for Paris fans. So if you are one of those, steel yourself.
Atlanta Reign vs Florida Mayhem
This one is spicy. Before going into the series Atlanta player Dogman talked some trash on Watchpoint and said “GG, losers” referring to the Mayhem. So did the Atlanta Reign back up the trash talk in game? I am happy to report that no they did not. In fact, Florida stomped Atlanta in a 3-1 series where the one map win for Atlanta might as well not exist. Florida was just the better team. This post-game tweet from Albert Yeh (Mayhem’s General Manager) is perfect.
By god, I want more of this kind of trash talk in the Overwatch League. Give me all the spice.
San Francisco Shock vs Florida Mayhem
This is the grand finals match so I would recommend watching it last. This was a fantastic match. Going into this Florida Mayhem definitely felt like the underdogs. The Shock had obliterated the rest of the teams they faced in the course of the tournament and they looked unstoppable.
I am happy to report that while the Mayhem did not end up taking the win in this series they put up one hell of a fighting in a 4-2 series that was closer than the score line suggests. A fantastic performance from the Mayhem all around. Every one on the team was firing on all cylinders, their team synergy looked fantastic. Special shoutout to Yaki’s performance on the Tracer which was phenomenal. In my heart, Florida Mayhem are the winners in this tournament in the way that the team has improved significantly from the past two years of mediocre performance. The glow up is real and folks, you do love to see it.
Seoul Dynasty vs Guangzhou Charge
Going into this I was favouring the Charge to win and move forward due to Seoul’s terrible performance over the past few weeks. To my pleasant surprise, this was a rejuvenated Seoul Dynasty in an extremely back and forth series with a 3-2 win for the Dynasty. An upset to be sure as the Charge were the top seeded team in the Asia region and Seoul was at the bottom.
New York Excelsior vs Shanghai Dragons
You really don’t need to watch this particular semi-finals series. I know I said that I would only talk about series worth watching but this one was such a disappointing series that I feel compelled to talk about it.
Going into this, I expected a close series between two teams that were close in seeding but instead what I got was an extremely disappointing performance from the Excelsior. The Excelsior looked completely lost throughout the series, like they were unprepared for what the Dragons were throwing at them. The result was that the Dragons burned the Excelsior to a crisp in a 3-0 sweep that is not worthy of being a semi-finals series.
For shame New York, for shame. I expected better, I hope this is not going to be a ongoing trend for them.
Seoul Dynasty vs Shanghai Dragons
This was the finals for the Asia region. A historical match, one of those ones where I wished I had watched it live instead of in a VOD yesterday.
Before I watched this particular series’ VOD I already knew who had won and the series score. I knew it was a close series but watching the series really showed just how much of the match was on a knife’s edge.
Setting the stage — Seoul Dynasty won the first three matches and after a particular egregious C9 from the Dragons on map 2 (Blizzard World) it felt like the Dragons were demoralized and it looked like it was going to be a clean 4-0 sweep for the Dynasty which I don’t think anyone going into this series expected.
After that third map, there remained no margin of error for the Dragons. If they wanted to win this series they would have to win four more maps in a reverse sweep the likes of which are considered almost a myth in Overwatch esports because it is a feat that not only requires extraordinary mechanical performance but also extraordinary mental fortitude in an extremely high pressure situation.
Every map after the third one had me on the edge of my seat. I watched league veterans like Fleta and Fearless have some of the best performances of their Overwatch careers. I watched rookies like Leejaegon and Lip perform their roles well under this extremely high pressure situation.
Watching this series reminded me of a particular Eminem song, ‘Till I Collapse:
The Dragons did it. They reached within themselves and pulled out the inner strength. Their performance and victory in this series was the epitome of “it’s not over until its over”. Watching the reaction of the Dragons’ players after they won the series made me tear up. In fact I’m tearing up while I write this.
This is that good shit. I implore anyone who even has a casual interest in Overwatch esports to watch this series. It showcases perfectly why I enjoy watching professional Overwatch.
As a fan of the Dragons since their 0-40 inaugural season, it has been amazing to see this team rework themselves and climb to the top. Between the Shanghai Dragons and the Florida Mayhem I am spoiled for choice when it comes to redemption narratives in the Overwatch League.
Overall, I would say this has been an incredible week of Overwatch esports with historical moments that showcase the best that the scene has to offer. There were definitely some lows in the tournament but the highs were so high that I keep forgetting the lows even happened.
The tournament format led to some fantastic narratives for multiple teams, we even got our fair share of reverse sweeps, C9s, and spicy trash talk. As a side note, y’all please stay on the objective, the C9s are killing me.
Overwatch League is taking a two week break! I definitely could use the break after a fun but exhausting week of tournament format matches and I’m sure the players could use the rest as well.
See y’all in two weeks!