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Four Big Questions for the June Joust

Bradley Long

After a phenomenal opening act with the May Melee, the stage is set for the OWL’s second tournament of the season, the June Joust. We’ve already seen unexpected upsets and spectacular highlights, but can it match the intensity of the previous tournament?

Kickoff Clash Dallas Fuel

Photo courtesy of Dallas Fuel.

With Hero Pools shaking up the meta and new blood making their mark in the Regional Knockouts, everything feels completely up for grabs. Dallas is looking to snatch another title and cement their status as the league’s top contender, but Shanghai, New York, and Atlanta won’t go down easy. Before the action kicks off, let’s check out one question for each team in the June Joust.

Can anyone actually exploit the Fuel’s holes?

During the May Melee, there were two sets of rules for OWL teams, one for Dallas and one for everyone else. After losing hitscan star Gihyo “Xzi” Jung days before the season began, the Fuel crafted a completely unique identity. They played heavily around Euiseok “FEARLESS” Lee as their carry, constructing comps and plans for their superstar main tank. Along with supportive picks like Ana and Sombra, that meant superstar DPS Yeonghan “SP9RK1E” Kim spent a lot of time on Tracer, not exactly his comfort pick.

In the Summer Showdown, they’ve continued along a similar route. This time, however, they’ve shifted their focus from FEARLESS to the DPS line, particularly whichever player is on Echo. In a meta that features extended teamfights and heavy sustain, Echo’s burst damage is critical, and both SP9RK1E and Dongha “Doha” Kim have been stellar.

For all their success so far, the lack of hitscan threat means the Fuel are relatively predictable, SP9RK1E’s Genji and Doomfist shenanigans aside. They don’t really have the option of playing Orisa comps like their opponents, sticking exclusively to Winston.

In a tournament situation, that type of inflexibility becomes a liability. Loser’s map pick means a team can often force Dallas into uncomfortable positions. Escort and hybrid maps in particular could give the Fuel trouble, so they’ll need to be near-perfect on the maps that favor them. If teams can learn from the Gladiators and counter the Fuel with specific setups, Dallas might finally suffer for their roster gaps, at least until Do Hyeon “Pine” Kim arrives after the tournament.

Can a young NYXL rise to the occasion?

Let’s be brutally honest here. No one is giving New York any shot at claiming the June Joust crown. Rightfully so, considering the experience and talent gap they’re facing. The Excelsior are without a doubt the youngest and least proven squad remaining.

On top of that, they’ve clearly been the worst performer of the four in the June Joust Qualifiers and across the entire season. After going winless in the May Melee, they squeaked into the Knockouts before pulling off a surprise upset over the Spark, leaving the crowd at the Hangzhou Homestand in stunned silence.

They’ll need to channel that energy once again if they want to avoid a swift exit from the bracket, but this time the competition will be much stiffer. Big performances out of both DPS will be an absolute must. Youngwoo “Flora” Yim and Seungwoo “FEATH5R” Lee stepped it up against the Spark, but we’ve yet to see them really match top-tier DPS stars.

The biggest problem for NYXL will likely be their compositional choices. Their slow-paced Orisa comps worked well into the Qiulin “Guxue” Xu and the Spark, but they struggle when it comes to playing proactively. Teams with a better command of tempo will give them trouble if they don’t change their comp to suit their opponents. Simply being competitive would be a big win for such an underdog, but even just the experience of playing in the pressure-packed tournament environment should be great for a team that’s still learning the ropes.

Can Shanghai extend their dominance past the East?

Over the last two seasons, there hasn’t been a more consistently excellent team than the Dragons. Since reshaping the roster prior to 2020, they’ve been the unquestioned kings of their region and a consistent threat to win tournaments. The June Joust will be the third time the league has taken two teams from each region to compete for a title, and Shanghai is the only team to have made it every time.

Despite their dependable quality, the Dragons are yet to seal the deal when venturing outside the East bubble. That’s not to suggest that there’s something wrong with Shanghai. Rather, the question starts to become whether the East might be holding them back.

Shanghai Dragons

Photo courtesy of Shanghai Dragons.

Going on two seasons, the region has been unable to consistently field teams that can push the Dragons over an extended period. There have been flashes in the pan – Guangzhou in last year’s Summer Showdown, Seoul at times, Philadelphia earlier this year – but no lasting threat and certainly no more than one at a time.

The West this year at least has broken out of the pattern of one untouchable juggernaut. The Shock are still great but have faltered in Knockouts. Dallas is explosive, but their 5-3 regular-season record proves their vulnerability. Shanghai really hasn’t faced the same level of competition in either the Qualifiers or the June Joust Knockouts.

Undeniably, Shanghai is still good enough to win one of these tournaments. This time around, they’ll have to go through the Fuel and their old teammate FEARLESS. Not an easy task, but that’s what it takes to go from regional powerhouse to champion.

Is Atlanta actually a contender this time?

Historically, Atlanta has always been a team on the verge of greatness. Mostly that has just meant a team sitting above the morass at the bottom of the standings, good enough to finish mid-table but no higher. Even when they seemingly breakthrough – their 2019 Playoff nailbiter against the Shock comes to mind – they flame out immediately.

That’s why it feels so hard to trust the Reign now. They have another big upset over the Shock under their belt, but it’s still just one game no matter how impressive it was. In the June Joust, we’ve seen fourteen maps of Atlanta looking very solid – beating bad teams with ease and going even against good competition – and three maps of the Reign going supernova against the two-time defending champs.

Atlanta Reign Pelican Kai

Photo courtesy of Blizzard Entertainment.

If the Atlanta that shows up in Hawaii is the Qualifier version, they’ll give Shanghai and Dallas close matches, but probably go out in second or third overall. That would already be the best showing in the Reign’s history.

If, however, we get Knockout Atlanta, they might just be the favorites to win the whole thing. Against the Shock, they were flexible, coordinated, and decisive in a way we’ve never seen from the Reign. They have a bona fide superstar in Sehyun “PELICAN” Oh on the Echo, and a team around him that understands their roles in the meta to a high degree. Don’t let the past cloud your judgment on Atlanta: this is a new Reign.

The June Joust kicks off on Thursday at 9 PM ET as Atlanta takes on NYXL on the OWL Youtube channel.