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Shock and Fusion Secure NA Playoff Slots

Aaron Alford  | 
Shock

Fusion and Shock will compete against Seoul and Shanghai in October for the 2020 Overwatch League Championship. (Robert Paul for Blizzard)

San Francisco Shock and Philadelphia Fusion secured the two available NA slots in the Overwatch Grand Finals Weekend set to start on October 8th. The two teams were the top seeded North American teams coming into the playoffs, and had a relatively smooth ride through the bracket.

The Washington Justice and the Florida Mayhem also put together noteworthy playoff runs, earning third and fourth place respectively. Although their seasons have come to a close, both teams can be proud of what they accomplished. Justice were particularly impressive during the bracket play. The team ended up winning more matches during the playoffs than they won during the entire regular season. Their redemption narrative was thrilling to watch, even though it came to an end in the losers bracket finals against Fusion.

Shock earn their trip to Korea through winners bracket

San Francisco went undefeated in the winners bracket to advance to the final four Grand Finals Weekend in Korea. The second seeded Shock defeated Washington Justice, Atlanta Reign, and Philadelphia Fusion to advance. Over the past week of competition, the 2019 champions have been laser focused on claiming their second Overwatch League Championship in a row.

Shock’s first match against Washington Justice turned out to be their biggest test. Justice were the 12 seed, however they flourished in the playoff meta. Bolstered by the addition of Gui-un “Decay” Jang to their lineup, Justice developed a composition based around Decay’s Zarya which proved to be very difficult to answer. Washington went up 2-0 at the half, giving themselves three match points. They very nearly won the match, but Shock were able to pull off their first reverse sweep in franchise history to save their place in the winners bracket.

In the upper bracket semifinal match, Shock faced Atlanta. Atlanta upset Paris Eternal in a thrilling 3-2 series in the first round of the NA playoffs, showing they are capable of punching above their weight class. There was also additional hype surrounding the semifinal match, as a kind of callback to the last year when Reign, led by Andrej “babybay” Francisty, gave Shock their only loss in the 2019 playoffs. Reign fans had hopes for another upset, but during Friday’s match, Shock were able to very easily overcome Atlanta’s off-meta strategies to send them to the losers bracket.

In the winners bracket final, Shock faced the top seeded Philadelphia Fusion. Fusion had a great season and even defeated Shock during the makeup matches leading up to the playoffs. Coming off that win, Philly entered the series feeling very confident in their ability to defeat San Francisco. However, San Francisco very quickly put Fusion in their place, defeating them in a dominant 3-1 series. Fusion made a number of crucial mistakes during the match which likely cost them the win. Meanwhile, Shock DPS Seonchang “ANS” Lee and Nam-joo “Striker” Kwon continued to put out monster DPS performances, offering Philly no mercy.

Shock will now look to claim their second Overwatch League title in a row next month.

Fusion advance to final four via losers bracket

Fusion put on a great playoff performance to qualify to the final four. They won their winners bracket matches all the way up until they faced Shock in the winners bracket final. After losing to Shock in a 3-1 bout, Philly was sent down to the losers bracket final where they faced the Washington Justice. They swept Justice on Sunday to earn their place in the Grand Final Weekend.

The playoff meta worked in the Fusion’s favor in many respects. The current meta rewards high levels of team coordination and high tier Sombra play; the Fusion are capable of both. Hee-Su “Heesu” Jeong’s Sombra has looked very good throughout the first several rounds of competition. Fusion have been favoring Seung-hyun “Ivy” Lee and Heesu for their DPS line, even though Jae-Hyeok “Carpe” Lee is considered one of the best DPS players in the world. Fusion coach Dong-gun “KDG” Kim explained in comments made to Hotspawn that “Carpe is a good player, but we need Ivy and Heesu’s synergy.”

As the top seed in the bracket, Philly had arguably the easiest path to the top to success. They received a bye through the NA knockout matches to the double elimination bracket. Their first playoff match was against the L.A. Gladiators, who they easily swept aside in 3-0 fashion. Su-min “Sado” kim earned the player of the match for his clutch plays as Winston. Winston is Sado’s favorite tank to play, so he was definitely in his element during that match.

They followed that victory up with an equally dominant victory over the Los Angeles Valiant in the upper bracket semifinals. They ran the same divey brawl composition they had used against Gladiators and continued to look spectacular during the match, clutching out team fights, coordinating carefully, and making very few mistakes.

Fusion advanced to play against Shock In the winners bracket finals on Saturday. Fusion came into the match looking very confident, but they ended up making numerous mistakes while the Shock played a relatively clean match. Those mistakes cost Fusion essential teamfights. For example, on Watchpoint Gibraltar defense, both Sado and Heesu left the cart at the same time near the very end of the map. This C9 cost them the map. While Philly’s performance against the L.A. teams emphasized their consistency, their performance against Shock showed that there are still cracks in their armor. Philly either wins together through excellent teamwork, or they lose.

Philly faced the 12 seed Washington Justice in the losers bracket finals on Sunday. There was a lot of anticipation for the match, since Justice have proven to be a very real challenger in the playoffs, despite their abysmal regular season record. Justice even nearly beat Shock, performing better against Shock than Fusion did earlier in the playoffs. However, Philly was determined to redeem themselves and bounce back strong, and that is exactly what they did, defeating Justice in a 3-0 sweep.

During the match, Fusion not only continued to hone their preferred Sombra dive composition, they also showed tremendous flexibility in answering Justice’s unique Zarya + Roadhog composition. At various times throughout the match, Fusion showed off a look featuring Sigma and Roadhog as the rank line backed up with double snipers. This strategy was able to effectively neutralize Washington’s strategy, really for the first (and last) time in the playoffs.

Fusion have been to the grand finals of multiple title events, and have always come up short. But this might be the year that everything works out. They have shown flexibility, top tier coordination, and the talent to defeat any team in the league. Only time will tell if that translates into success in October.

Washington’s redeems their 2020 season with cinderella run

After an abysmal season, Washington Justice managed to turn things around during their playoff run. They placed third in the NA playoff, only barely missing the chance to attend the grand final in Korea. Although they won’t be earning an Overwatch League championship this year, they did show that with a few roster adjustments, a favorable meta, and the right outlook, even the worst Overwatch League teams have a chance to turn things around.

Justice finished their Overwatch season ranked 19th with a 4-17 record. They were the second to worst seed in the North American bracket, with only Boston Uprising below them. However, Justice took advantage of an Overwatch League roster construction rule change to pick up Decay, who is considered one of the best DPS players in the world.

In the knockout matches, we got our first glimpse of Justice’ 2020 playoff strategy. It was composed of Decay on Zarya, Hyeon-Woo “JJANU” Choi on Roadhog, with a Mercy and Ana support line. The strategy was built around keeping Decay alive, and teams really struggled to answer it.

Their first match in the main playoff bracket was against San Francisco. Most people expected Shock to dominate, but the match ended up being very close. Shock struggled to slow down Justice’s deathball composition. Justice very nearly set the fastest offense time ever on Kings Row against San Francisco. In the end, Shock were able to turn things around and secure the reverse sweep, but only by the skin of their teeth.

In the losers bracket, Justice had a long path to tread. They got off to a good start by defeating the third seeded Paris Eternal 3-0. They then advanced past the L.A. Valiant in a 3-1 series, following that win with a 3-0 victory over Florida Mayhem. They made their way from the start of the losers bracket all the way to the losers bracket final, where their luck finally ran out and they were eliminated by Fusion on Sunday. Fusion figured out Justice’ compositional strategy and had the team coordination to finally shut it down.

Although Justice’ season came to a close on Sunday, their last two weeks of competition featured an inspirational redemption arc. Admittedly, Decay had a lot to do with their turn around, but it was still impressive to see an underdog who usually wouldn’t even qualify for playoffs pull off a convincing run in the 2020 playoffs.

Mayhem make deep run into NA playoffs

Florida Mayhem were eliminated from the Overwatch League playoffs by Washington Justice in the losers bracket semifinals. Although the loss was certainly disappointing, Mayhem still finished the season with their heads high and a fourth place position in the NA bracket, which is more than most people expected from the team going into the 2020 season.

Florida were eliminated from the winners bracket in the first round by Los Angeles Valiant in a very close back and forth 3-2 series. Both teams played a Sombra + Reaper centric dive composition. The goal of the Sombra dive composition is to create enough chaos to enable Sombra to charge her EMP’s which are then used to win aggressive, fast-paced teamfights. As a result, success is reliant on team coordination. During the match, Kai “KSP” Collins’ Sombra along with Valiant’s tankline proved to be more explosive and coordinated than Jun-ki “Yaki” Kim Sombra with Mayhem’s frontline. That coordination gave Valiant the upper hand, but not by much.

Florida bounced back from that loss in their first game of the losers bracket. They crushed the Los Angeles Gladiators in a 3-0 sweep. During this series Sang-bum “BQB” Lee and Yaki really seemed to hit their stride, looking much better than they did against Valiant. Yaki in particular stood out during this match, pulling off more than 70 hacks throughout the short three game series and showing why he was a 2020 MVP nominee. The win against the Glads provided some momentum for the team, as they trudged onward through the bottom bracket.

Next, Mayhem ended Atlanta Reign’s season in the losers bracket quarterfinals with a 3-0 sweep. Interestingly enough,Tae-hoon “Edison” Kim, DPS for Atlanta Reign, pioneered the aggressive frontline Sombra style which has become standard during the playoffs. For his part, Edison played well throughout the series, charging more EMP’s than Yaki. Unfortunately, Atlanta consistently failed to follow up their EMP’s with kills which proved to be their fatal flaw. Mayhem, on the other hand, were able to win teamfights using their EMP’s, which made all of the difference.

Mayhem were finally eliminated by Justice during their losers bracket semifinal match. The match was not close, with Justice taking the series 3-0. Justice’s unique Zarya + Roadhog composition proved too much for Mayhem’s dive style. Florida chose to focus on killing Decay, the centerpiece of the composition. However, in seeking to kill the king, they left themselves vulnerable to Hyunwod “Jjanu” Choi’s deadly Roadhog as well as Justice’s surging DPS line Chung-hee “Stitch” Lee and Ho-Sung “TTuba” Lee.

Although Florida’s season has come to a close, placing in the top four of the North American bracket is something to be proud of. They had a great season and should walk away with their chins up.

Aaron Alford
Aaron Alford
Aaron is a 25 year old esports journalist who has worked with dotesports.com, upcomer.com, qrank.gg, among others. Aaron completed a Master's degree in Communication from the University of Dayton in 2018 (Go Flyers). Aaron has also worked as a national circuit debate coach and communication manager for emerging technology companies.