Following an up-and-down start to the tournament, Los Angeles Valiant enter the Overwatch League’s playoffs in good form having recently won Stage 4 of the regular season.
Valiant’s solid start
Stage 1 brought a solid start for the Valiant as they narrowly missed out on the playoffs due to map differential. Yet during Stage 2 their regression was clear to see as their flaws and limitations became more pronounced and other teams such as the Philadelphia Fusion and the Los Angeles Gladiators began to improve vastly.
The Valiant would fall to a 4-6 record, prompting a change in their Support position as LA traded for Custa from the Dallas Fuel, a player well known for his shot-calling even during the Fuel’s struggles.
Alongside the acquisition of Custa would come the single most important transition for Valiant: SPACE becoming eligible to play. A star unavailable for the first two stages due to the age restriction, SPACE’s impact on the team was immediate with a 4-0 victory over Seoul Dynasty kicking off their Stage 3 bid.
The Valiant would eventually make their way into the playoffs with the same 7-3 win-loss record they achieved in Stage 1, falling to the eventual champions, New York Excelsior, in the semi-finals.
Rising to the top
The Valiant once again reinvented themselves during Stage 4, leaning less on the play of Bunny due to the reduction in value in his primary hero, Tracer.
The further development of Fate and SPACE as a Tank duo led to them becoming one of the best frontlines in the league during Stage 4. Coupled with the versatility and consistency brought from the likes of SoOn and Agilities, Valiant now had the foundation to achieve something special.
During Stage 4 Valiant asserted themselves as the best team in the league, even with doubters boasting that New York had merely taken a step back due to clinching the number one seeding for the overall playoffs.
The end of the round-robin brought the Valiant their first loss of the stage, yet they continued to shine in the playoffs, taking down the stage’s top side, Los Angeles Gladiators, before cleaning up against Excelsior in the stage finals.
Spitfire launch fightback
Battling it out with the Valiant in the semi-finals are London Spitfire, who are coming off a whirlwind victory in the last eight.
London looked all but out of it during their first match against Los Angeles Gladiators, getting swept by the California-based team, who were without their best player, Fissure.
All hope had seemingly disappeared for the Spitfire, yet a complete turnaround in the next two best-of-five Map Matches saw them sweep the Gladiators twice over, looking absolutely dominant in a throwback to their Stage 1 championship form.
Birdring finally returned to his former glory during this series, completely limiting Surefour in the Widowmaker battle.
DPS the key
The key match-up for the Valiant and Spitfire lies within the DPS, with each team having clear, determined roles for each damage dealer.
The Valiant roll in primarily using the combination of SoOn and Agilities, with SoOn on Widowmaker and Agilities as the versatile playmaker. Originally known for his play on Genji and Pharah, the depth of Agilities’ hero pool appears to be endless, standing out on Brigitte ever since her introduction to the game.
On the flip side is Birdring on Widowmaker for London, with Profit providing the flexibility. Profit somehow remains one of the most underrated players in the entire league, with star performances on an absurdly-wide hero pool.
The adaptation to the hero switches will be key, with each side looking for any incremental advantage they can get to push them into the Grand Final.
Grand Final awaits
New York Excelsior or Philadelphia Fusion await in the Grand Final series to be played at the end of the month.
The difference between first place and semi-final elimination is a cool US$900,000 so LA and London have all the incentive in the world going into what looks to be a fascinating match-up.
The Valiant start as narrow favourites – 1.613 with Dafabet. The Spitfire can be backed at 2.340 to progress.
The odds suggest it will be New York awaiting the winners in the final. The Excelsior are 1.212 favourites in their semi-final, with Philadelphia offered at 4.480.