Contenders North America Recap: Week 3

Woaaahhhh we’re (over) halfway there 🎵. It’s Week 3 of North American Contenders, and we can start thinking about playoffs. XL2, Second Wind, ATL Academy, and Fusion University have already secured their playoff spots and their domination of games this week shows that. Other teams gave us a reason to keep rooting for them – namely, First Generation, Uprising Academy, Team Envy, and NRG Esports, none of whom made it easy for their competitors this week. And yet other teams…better start planning their pity parties. As far as individual matches go, keep reading to get the full recap.

Tuesday, December 11 – Group A

Fusion University vs. First Generation (2-1)

This week’s opening match was a doozy. Fusion University and First Generation were both undefeated coming into this match, and both wanted to leave that way. The series was the first truly competitive one for reigning champions Fusion University, and the first heartbreaking loss for First Generation.

Lijiang Tower began the way many Contenders matches tend to: double GOATS, with the team who captured the point first taking the map. But on Control Center, during the second round, things got interesting. Fusion’s Changsik was repeatedly isolated and targeted by First Gen’s frontline, leading the latter team to take the point to nearly 99%. However, not to be outdone, Fusion’s Elk began a sneaky backcap as Lucio. His antics forced First Gen to turn and face him…which meant they didn’t notice Bernar’s D.Va dropping a bomb behind them. The resulting 3k wiped First Gen, and Fusion ended up taking the first map with similar tactics. Hybrid went much the same way – First Gen was stopped halfway to point B on Hollywood, and Fusion simply managed to push  the payload farther.

Hanamura made the difference for First Generation. (There is, in fact, some talk that Fusion University, having a clear series win in their hands, decided to change up their compositions and not play as seriously as they could have.) Fusion’s Na1st opted for a Mei on Defense; First Generation was unable to come up with any counters, and therefore unable to take Point A. Fusion University’s attack composition included Pharah, Hanzo, and Wrecking Ball. While this reeked of “light throwing,” First Generation effectively shut it down regardless. Hooey’s D.VA and Robdab’s Zenyatta, for example, focused down Na1st’s Pharah so hard that the pick was rendered useless. Add in huge Earthshatters from Nomy at the opening choke, and Fusion University also failed to take a tick on Point A. It was a strange draw, but still a draw.

Fusion University attempted a quadruple DPS defense on final map Route 66, which was quickly shut down by Zaprey’s quick switch to Soldier 76 (yes, a Soldier pick in 2018). After switching sides, First Generation was then able to full hold Fusion University and take the map. While the game was an impressive showing from both teams, it highlighted the true heartbreak of this series: if First Gen had been able to take even one tick on Hanamura, they’d have forced Fusion U into a map 5, and may even have taken home a win.

Match MVP: First Generation’s Hooey. Even though they lost the match, Hooey’s superior D.Va play shut down so many key picks from Fusion U that they had to stay on their toes.

ATL Academy vs. Kungarna (4-0)

Sometimes, you see a match in the schedule and think to yourself, “wow, that’s going to be an easy game,” and are totally surprised instead. Sometimes, the underdog team rallies and brings in genius strategies they’ve never tried before. Sometimes, the little guys make the big boys quake in their boots, and shake the very foundations of the leaderboard.

…This was not that game.

ATL Academy showed their dominance over Group A with consistent play and ability to out-think Kungarna’s attempts at wild composition changes. Lijiang Tower went to 3 rounds, if only through stellar play by Kungarna’s support line; Mohr’s Zenyatta hit a clutch right click on his counterpart in Dogman, creating a domino of stagger kills that let his team take Night Market. There’s also the argument that ATL running double main tank GOATS on Night Market helped Kungarna take the round.. Numbani and Dorado were both easy wins for ATL, who full held Kungarna by using dive GOATS and attacking that fantastic support line. Another day, another round of successful double main tank play from ATL.

The real wild ride came from Hanamura. ATL quickly took both points with a standard composition and gained a 6 minute time bank. Kungarna then chose to attack with a Hanzo/Genji dive setup…into an Orisa/Bastion/Mei defense from ATL Academy. Kungarna’s Wub dealt with this by swapping to Symmetra and teleporting his team directly to the point, bypassing all of ATL’s damage. Kungarna took both points with a 1:30 time bank, forcing a Round 2. Unfortunately, ATL could not be fooled twice; they shut down the teleporter strategy and full held Kungarna in the next round. This was, quite honestly, the most unorthodox, “memiest” fight so far in NA Contenders…and it was Kungarna’s best showing. Coincidence? Probably not.

Match MVP: ATL Academy’s Saucy. Thank you for playing Bastion and spicing up this match.

Uprising Academy vs. Mayhem Academy (3-2)  

Reading the schedule before the season began, I expected this to be a match between titans: two Academy teams with stacked rosters finally facing each other. However, at this point in the season, it was a matter of regaining pride: both teams entered with a 0-2 score. Uprising Academy’s relatively competitive play handed them the win, but we also saw some actual life from Mayhem Academy.   

The first map was, to be blunt, a GOATS showdown. Mayhem took Uprising to round 3 on Lijiang Tower, finding success on Night Market by aggressively targeting Uprising’s Fusions and Swimmer. Uprising brought it back on Control Center, though, with a few genius bombs from Crakinlakin, and ultimately took the map. Mayhem redeemed themselves on Hollywood, playing aggressively and forcing Uprising to rethink their strategies. Uprising tends to play a reactive style, and that lack of aggression lead to them being full held on Hollywood for an even map count at halftime.   

On Hanamura, both teams took both points in round one with comparable time banks. Uprising Academy attacked first in Round 2, struggling at first but building up nearly 6 ults to storm Point B and finish out the map in overtime. On their attack, in contrast, Mayhem Academy showed signs of questionable communication; their shield tanks were split from the team on Point A and there was little follow-through for multiple Earthshatters from FCTFCTN. Mayhem did take Point A, but they wrapped around the lakeside to try and take Point B before the clock ran out…only to be thrown into the water by one single right-click from Swimmer’s Lucio. Uprising won Assault with style.

In this match, Uprising experienced significant issues with escort-based maps, and Route 66 was no different. Mayhem set the pace with expert tank play, completing the map with extra time thanks to FCTFCTN’s aggression and Manneten’s D.Va Self-Destructs. Uprising struggled to complete the map in overtime, and Mayhem simply played aggressively and walked all over Uprising in their Round 2 attack. Surprisingly, this match went to a three-round Map 5 on Nepal, in which both teams seemed to finally wake up. Village went to Mayhem thanks to a 6-man Earthshatter from FCTFCTN; Sanctum went to Uprising, who finally figured out the need to play patiently against Mayhem’s aggression. Asking’s Zarya melted through the competition on the final Temple. Uprising finally looked back to form, taking the series.

Match MVP: Uprising Academy’s Asking and Swimmer. Asking’s consistent Zarya play is a weekly bright spot for the team. Swimmer plays a stellar Lucio, using the hero to his full potential as an annoying, distracting, and deadly support.

Wednesday, December 12 – Group B

NRG Esports vs. Gladiators Legion (2-1)

In contrast to yesterday’s match between Mayhem Academy and Uprising Academy, this match managed to be the “Academy vs. Academy” match we really needed.

NRG Esports easily took first map Lijiang Tower (2-0) with superior tank play from Stand1 and Smex, who always seemed to know the Legion’s next step before they made it. On Numbani, Gladiators Legion continued running a double main tank GOATS setup (with Panker on Reinhardt and Gods on Winston), but NRG knew what to expect from them. NRG stalled out the Legion’s attack long enough to push them into overtime, countering the double main tank tactic with a dive GOATS setup. While the Gladiators successfully took all 3 points, NRG’s consistent dives against supports Roolf and Pookz allowed them to finish with a much faster time (over 2 minutes in the timebank) and quickly complete a Round 2 win. NRG’s ability to not only predict Legion’s tactics but also capitalize on their mistakes allowed them to put up an impressive 2-0 record at halftime.

Legion’s luck changed on Hanamura, where DPS Far hit an absolutely ridiculous headshot with Widowmaker onto Byrem’s Zenyatta from spawn. Using this advantage, they aggressively pushed in and snowballed, managing to take both points with a 5 minute time bank. Not to be outdone, NRG brought out Ezire’s Brigitte to stun their way onto Point A, and relied on Stand1’s aggressive push to take Point B with a similar time bank. During Round 2, NRG again managed to take both points with superior coordination and sneaky Smex D.Va Self-Destructs. Legion also took both points, thanks to Dalton’s Zarya microwaving most of NRG. In Round 3, both teams subsequently quickly took Point A but failed to nab Point B. “Drawnamura” struck again.

Last map Dorado was a chance for Gladiators Legion to bring home some pride, and bring it home they did. Even with multiple mistakes (layering support ultimates, overextending), they outsmarted NRG and managed to shine during overtime. Both teams completed the initial 3 points, but the Legion held tight after Point A in Round 2 and showed they still had some fight left. With a 2-1 scoreline that included multiple multi-round maps (phew), this was a competitive and interesting series.  

Match MVP: Stand1. NRG’s main tank stood up to his counterpart Panker and managed to win the tank mind games, one after another.  

XL2 vs. Skyfoxes (4-0)

You know how, after a breakup, some people get inspired to cut off all their hair, buy a new wardrobe, and move across the country? That was Skyfoxes this week. After losing 0-4 two weeks in a row, Skyfoxes opted to swap to a full Korean roster and coaching staff in an attempt to stay competitive. While they did better than usual, they could not stand up to a solid and prepared XL2. This match ended up being a pretty good metaphor for how buying a new wardrobe does not fix your internal issues after a heartbreak…or multiple heartbreaking losses.

New Skyfoxes DPS Claris was a shining beacon on Lijiang Tower, running a terrifying Pharah and McCree on Gardens that stood up to his counterpart Logix. However, some things never change: Skyfoxes had the ability to take the first round, but a loss of coordination immediately after allowed XL2 to take advantage and nab the first map. Numbani, on the other hand, was less a showcase of Skyfoxes’ problems and more of a shining example of XL2’s advanced coordination and confidence. While Skyfoxes’ Kalios hit multiple huge Self-Destructs to wipe out XL2 and push the payload nearly to the end of the map in overtime, the team had no chance against XL2’s aggression on attack. Logix’s Zarya and Cloneman16’s Reinhardt simply walked fearlessly all over their opponents to take all 3 points.

Hanamura and Route 66 ended up being maps that just let XL2 have a good time. While Skyfoxes’ Kalios, NoName, and Claris did their best, there’s just something about XL2 that lets them get into their enemies’ heads. Take the pentakill D.Va bomb from Woohyal on Hanamura. Skyfoxes never mentally recovered from that blow; while they took both points in overtime, XL2 stopped them in Round 2 by whipping out a Bastion. Route 66 was simply a replay of Numbani – while Skyfoxes yet again took 3 points, they never moved the payload during Round 2. XL2 literally brought out a Bastion and Symmetra to close out the series with a 4-0, and I’m pretty sure nothing describes this match better than that.

Match MVP: The D.Vas on both teams. XL2’s Woohyal and Skyfoxes’ Kalios seemed to be having their own Self-Destruct competition, and it definitely created some much-needed tension in the match.  

Second Wind vs. Team Envy (3-1)

This was one of the more anticipated matchups of the week. Second Wind have been on fire, coming into Week 3 with a 2-0 scoreline. While Team Envy entered with a 0-2 scoreline, both of those lost matches were hard-fought and nowhere near being stomps. Both teams were looking to prove themselves for vastly different reasons. This was one of the more entertaining matches of the week, even if only because the casters had to say Frill vs. Trill about 800 times.

While Second Wind took Lijiang Tower, Envy made the map competitive by outsmarting Second Wind’s picks. FRDWNR tried bringing out the Mei on Control Center, but Envy eventually learned to outheal any potential for damage. Numbani, in contrast, was much more heartbreaking for Team Envy. They managed to hold Second Wind before last point thanks to some huge ults smashed by Trill, but questionable choices during their attack (layering support ults, Crimzo failing to use Transcendence) showed that their coordination may not yet stand up to Second Wind’s, who went 2-0 before halftime.

Horizon Lunar Colony is not the normal choice for Assault, and we saw nothing normal on this map. Team Envy ran double main tanks on their attack round, relying on Jaru’s expert Brig stuns to take both points with a 5 minute time bank. Second Wind’s attack…got weird. Real weird. After being delayed by a 3k Junkrat Rip-Tire from Fischer, Second Wind brought out Frill on Symmetra. With well-placed barriers, Frill managed to build up enough energy to microwave the entirety of Team Envy, granting his team both points. Round 2 went similarly; huge ults from Trill let Envy storm through their attack, while Symmetra play gave Second Wind a similarly powerful push, but in overtime. Envy needed one tick, which they took aggressively even after a quad kill from SW’s Mirror on Zarya, claiming a map win.

Route 66 was entirely Second Wind’s map as they rolled through Team Envy. Mirror’s Zarya melted through supports and CarCar’s Lucio threw Envy’s tank line into oblivion multiple times. However, their aggression briefly backfired when Second Wind pushed their whole team into Envy’s spawn to prevent them from delaying last point…and left no one on the cart. That complete oversight was both the first genuine C9 of this season and Envy’s miracle chance to win, but Second Wind simply had the better ult economy and ability to read Envy’s moves. Envy is no pushover – and never has been – but in this case, their play fell short one more time.

Match MVP: Second Wind’s Frill on Symmetra. What seemed like a “meme” pick allowed Second Wind to remain competitive on a map in which Team Envy had the upper hand. Also, it was really fun to watch.

Week 4 Predictions

Group A, Tuesday 12/18

First Generation vs. ATL Academy (2-3)

Probably the best match this week, between two teams who have been insanely competitive this season. ATL is still on top, though.

Uprising Academy vs. Kungarna (4-0)  

Uprising showed a lot of promise this week, and they should be able to knock down Kungarna.

Fusion University vs. Mayhem Academy (4-0)

It’s a clean 4-0 for FU if they take it seriously. Maybe a 3-1 if they decide to play quadruple DPS again.

Group B, Wednesday 12/19  

Second Wind vs. XL2 (3-2)  

The two best teams in Group B take each other on before playoffs. Spicy and unpredictable, but Second Wind may unseat the kings.

Team Envy vs. NRG Esports (1-3)   

NRG has shown a gift for being able to predict the moves of their opponents, and Envy is often predictable.

Gladiators Legion vs. Skyfoxes (4-0)

If Skyfoxes rally and manage to read Legion as well as NRG did this week, they could nab their first map win. If not…sorry, guys.


Liz is an educator and huge nerd from Chicago, IL who specializes in humor writing and personal essays. Her favorite thing is Overwatch esports; her second favorite thing is pretending iced coffee is a meal. She can be commonly found banning people on Twitch, running Discords, and making bad life choices at Target. Follow her on Twitter!
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