Contenders North America: Week 4 Recap

Four down, one to go. After a short break for the holidays, North American Contenders returns with the final week in the regular season. While Group A’s playoff group is pretty solidly decided, Group B is still a middle ground toss-up that will come down to map differential. Remember that, due to the holiday, Week 5’s matches are on Wednesday and Thursday instead of Tuesday and Wednesday. (I can only assume this switch is because nobody wants to be playing competitive Overwatch hungover.)

Group A: Tuesday, December 18

ATL Academy vs. First Generation (3-1)

For three weeks of competition, ATL Academy has gone undefeated, dropping only one map to Mayhem Academy. First Generation has built a reputation as a spoiler team, exceeding expectations and going 2-1 before this week.

First Generation lived up to the prediction of being ATL Academy’s first real challenge, especially on first map Ilios. ATL’s tanks and support played extremely aggressively on both Lighthouse and Well, and were instantly punished by a prepared and coordinated First Generation. FG took the first map and solidified their position as one of the best opponents ATL had faced in Season 3 thus far. However, all good things must come to an end; ATL could only be fooled once.

On Numbani, First Generation was able to take a quick Point A on their attack, looking to repeat their success on Ilios. But ATL’s aggressive pace paid off much better on this map, pushing First Gen into spawn. Saucy even threw a Zarya Graviton Surge directly into the spawn door to wear First Gen down for a full minute, and stopping their payload progress just meters after Point A. While First Gen was able to hold off ATL’s next attack, they couldn’t hold forever, and ATL evened the score to 1-1 at halftime.

ATL has a reputation of making Hanamura a weird map, which they lived up to in this matchup. ATL ran a Bastion/Mei defense while First Gen ran a Pharah/Hanzo attack. Once First Generation was able to deal with a Bastion, ATL threw Saucy onto Tracer (in 2018?), who proceeded to target First Gen’s healers like they’d had homing beacons glued to their faces. First Generation only took one point due to the strength of ATL’s defense, and ATL was able to double down on their attack to take the map. Route 66 involved a few fights that should have been First Generation’s to win; ATL was team-wiped once thanks to their hubris, as they tried a full rotation into spawn on defense. However, the mental wear and tear on First Generation was already evident, and ATL was able to defeat them 3-1.

Match MVP: ATL Academy’s Saucy, who showed absolute mastery on three different heroes (Zarya, Tracer, and Bastion) and ran circles around First Generation.

Uprising Academy vs. Kungarna (3-1)   

This matchup represented Kungarna’s last hope for making it into playoffs, assuming they could  take every map from Uprising Academy, who have had a mid-tier record themselves (1-2). Unfortunately for Kungarna, Uprising knew better than to make it easy.

Ilios looked like a standard matchup between Kungarna and a well-prepared enemy team. Kungarna ran double main tank into Asking’s legendary Zarya, who focused down main tank Duplicate. Coupled with Uprising’s Swimmer knocking half of Kungarna off the map, it was  a foregone conclusion that Uprising would take this map. Hollywood painted a similar scene; on Kungarna’s attack, Uprising offtank Crakinlakin got a 3k Self-Destruct. It was an opening that gave his team the space they needed to brutally spawn-camp Kungarna. Uprising Academy only needed one tick on Point A to take Hollywood, and they easily managed that to take the series 2-0 at the half.

Uprising managed to fall on Hanamura, where Kungarna took advantage of some unbelievably bad choices to secure the map. Both teams took the full two points in Round 1 with comparable time banks; Round 2 was where it all went to hell. Uprising was so split on their initial attack that Kungarna’s Lucio, Insomniaq, was able to take out main tank Fusions alone. Crakinlakin threw a “YOLO Bomb” – or a D.Va Self-Destruct aimed nowhere – into Point B and got, accordingly, nowhere with it. Because of wasted ults and bad communication, Kungarna was able to secure both points of Hanamura. Thankfully, Uprising managed to get back in gear for Route 66. Asking’s Zarya play once again saved the team, with clutch Gravitons that punished Kungarna’s aggressive pushes.

Match MVP: Both team’s Lucios. Uprising’s Swimmer hit consistent headshots, and Kungarna’s Insomniaq spent his time booping people into the line of fire time and again.

Fusion University vs. Mayhem Academy (3-2)

This game was the Overwatch version of nearly hitting a pole while parking at the grocery store: too close for comfort. Fusion University has gone undefeated the entire season, but managed to drop two maps to Mayhem Academy…who have won 0 matches this season. At the half, Mayhem even looked like they could take the series. But Fusion University, being who they are, brought it back with a reverse sweep.

Ilios and Hollywood stood out as being rare hiccups in Fusion University’s normally-stellar coordination. Control of Ilios flip-flopped back and forth between teams, and Mayhem forced a Round 3 onto Lighthouse…in which Fusion University neglected the point entirely during overtime. Aggressive plays, coupled with targeting of healers and Fusion’s main tank Changsik, led Mayhem to victory on Hollywood. Manneten and Epzz worked together to demolish Fusion U and steamroll through on attack, letting Mayhem take all 3 points. Fusion University were able to capture the first two points, but were spawncamped before Point C by an aggressive Mayhem.

Whatever Fusion University did during halftime – regroup, chug coffee, meditate – it worked. Hanamura once again got weird, as Mayhem attempted an attack with Shax on Hanzo and Apply on Pharah. But Na1st’s Mei ruled once again, stalling opponents and burning through Mayhem’s time bank. While both teams took both points in Round 1, Mayhem whiffed on Round 2 as Na1st’s Pharah burned up their tank-heavy composition. Similar clutch plays helped Fusion University take Route 66. Alarm played out of his mind on Zenyatta, hitting headshots left and right to help his team full hold their opponents. However, Mayhem’s Apply on Pharah almost led to a similarly amazing full hold, as Fusion U yet again made mistakes with ultimate usage. Fusion University rallied, though. They worked to focus down Mayhem’s DPS carries and took Route 66, taking us to a map 5.

On Nepal Village, both teams flipped the point back and forth until Fusion’s Alarm and Na1st demolished enough of Mayhem to take the first round. FU took Sanctum first due to Na1st’s brutal Roadhog hooks, but Mayhem’s excellent ultimate usage, like Apply’s playmaking Gravitons, led them to take the round. However, in the end, Mayhem gave up too much space to a bloodthirsty Fusion University on Shrine. Na1st and Alarm deserve all of the awards for being able to bring back a match that was far, far too close for a championship team.

Match MVPs: Fusion University’s Alarm and Na1st. Alarm retains his status as one of, if not the, best Zenyattas in Contenders. Na1st’s hero pool continues to be both deep and terrifying, drowning his competitors no matter what he brings out.

Group B: Wednesday, December 19

Second Wind vs. XL2 (3-2)

This match was, undeniably, the best match of Contenders NA Season 3. Both teams headed into this game with commanding 3-0 scorelines. Second Wind, an unsigned organization, have proven that they are just as capable as their Academy team combatants. However, XL2 have dominated the rest of Group B the entire season. This was, honestly, a playoff game before playoffs even started.

Ilios began this epic showdown, as both teams ran double main tank onto Ruins. Second Wind’s Akawa and XL2’s Cloneman16 went head-to-head, but Second Wind managed to bully XL2 off of the point in time to take the first round. On Lighthouse, XL2’s Logix distracted Second Wind long enough as McCree for his frontline to demolish the team and take Round 2. Second Wind brought it back in style on Well, on which the supports shone. Haku staggered multiple members of XL2 with Zenyatta headshots, and CarCar’s Lucio threw people into the hole like they belonged there.

Not to be outdone, XL2 rallied for Hollywood and Hanamura, taking advantage of their veteran team status and using their coordination for good. On Hollywood, SW played too aggressively, and XL2 took advantage of that to immediately dive onto main tank Akawa. There was a truly epic stall by Second Wind on their attack round thanks to Dogman’s Transcendence; however, they only took two ticks on Point A, and XL2 was able to top that on their attack. Hanamura was another example of XL2’s coordination. Insane ultimate usage and support domination lead to them full holding Fusion University.

XL2 began Route 66 by holding aggressively, but were swiftly displaced by a 4k Self-Destruct from FRDWNR. His killstreak only continued as Second Wind pushed the game into overtime right before Point A. Not to be discouraged, Second Wind managed to push nearly to the end of the map entirely during overtime. XL2’s attack was strong, but Second Wind was stronger; after XL2 took Point A, Second Wind pushed in to spawncamp them, forcing XL2 to use support ultimates to even walk out the door. Second Wind held their opponents before Point B and forced a Map 5, as expected. What was less expected was Second Wind’s domination on Nepal; Akawa and Mirror on Reinhardt and Zarya, respectively, shut down XL2’s DPS on Village. Second Wind ran dive GOATs on Sanctum and, thanks to huge boops by CarCar and repeated staggers onto XL2’s Goliath, brought home a win to end this exciting series.

Match MVP: Second Wind’s CarCar, whose Lucio play was both distracting and devastating for XL2. His stellar play could be one of the reasons he was recruited from Second Wind to an Academy team shortly after this match.

Team Envy vs. NRG Esports (4-0)

It was difficult to follow up the showdown that was Second Wind vs. XL2, but Team Envy and NRG Esports did their best. The result of this match was rather surprising; Team Envy had a 0-3 scoreline coming into this week against NRG’s 2-1. But all of Envy’s matches have been devastatingly close, and NRG’s wins were arguably against weaker teams.

Ilios went to Team Envy after a 3-round brawl between tanks; Trill and Sharp on Zarya juggled NRG’s supports, but struggled to stand up to main tank Stand1’s play and offtank Smex’s stellar Brigitte. On both Ilios and second map Hollywood, both teams brought out a double main tank setup. On their Hollywood attack, NRG’s Kevster on Zarya melted through Envy’s frontline as Stand1 took out the backline as Winston. However, Envy responded by taking 3 points with similar methods. During Round 2, Envy managed to push the payload just past point A. NRG attempted to go the same distance, but even a clutch Graviton from Kevster could not help them finish out the map.   

NRG Esports took Envy to Horizon; this was a questionable choice, because Team Envy tends to have a lot of fun (and success) on Horizon. Fischer runs a terrifying Junkrat on defense, but NRG’s Kevster brought out the Tracer to mess with his normally uncontested damage. Both teams managed to take both points, but Envy had the larger timebank. While NRG put up a valiant defense, they were unable to make progress on their own attack, and Envy took Horizon. Route 66 was a little heartbreaking for NRG, as they managed to push nearly to point B during overtime…and  then promptly abandoned the payload. A genuine C9 signified the end of the match for NRG, and the first win of the season for Team Envy.

Match MVP: Team Envy’s Trill, who finally got the backup and opportunity to smash some good ults.

Gladiators Legion vs. Skyfoxes (4-0)

While the rest of the Contenders teams at the bottom of Group B are grasping for playoff contention, the Skyfoxes are simply here to bring some form of redemption to their 0-3, 0 map win season. Gladiators Legion has similarly struggled to find their footing during this season, but unbalanced or no, they were still able to take down the Skyfoxes with ease.

On Ilios, the Skyfoxes put up some semblance of a defense, but Legion main tank Panker and support Roolf cornered the Foxes and took both rounds with little resistance. By playing aggressively, they were able to put Skyfoxes on the back foot. Numbani was also a field day for Gladiators Legion, who steamrolled through Skyfoxes by utilizing excellent ultimate combinations and capturing all 3 points with a huge timebank. Skyfoxes, in contrast, failed to even take the first point. However, some members of Skyfoxes, like offtank Kalios and supports Verbo and Luna, definitely did their best to make something happen.  

The Skyfoxes managed to wake up a bit after halftime. While Gladiators Legion was able to take two points of Hanamura with a huge 5-minute timebank, Skyfoxes also took both points thanks to NoName’s devastating Zarya. Skyfoxes managed to take another two points in Round 2 in overtime, capitalizing on blocked shatters and whiffed ults from Gladiators Legion. It wasn’t enough, though, and Gladiators Legion rallied to take both points, again, with a large (4 minute) timebank. To win Hanamura, Gladiators only needed a single tick on Point A, and it was an easy win.

Gladiators Legion kept up their aggressive play on Route 66, but it came back to bite them as Skyfoxes were able to stall them out until overtime on Point C. However, even though NoName went Bastion as a last-ditch effort on Skyfoxes’ Route 66 attack, it wasn’t quite enough.

Match MVP: Legion’s Panker is still a main tank to be feared, as he showed with expert shatter blocks and charges.

Playoff Standings

For Group A, ATL Academy has gained top seed with a flawless season. Fusion University has another guaranteed spot. First Generation and Uprising Academy are also all but guaranteed. Mayhem University, despite not gaining a playoff spot, will not be relegated to Contenders Trials; Academy teams are offered a spot in the first season of Contenders 2019 whether they earn it or not. Kungarna, however, will be sent straight back to Trials.

In Group B, Second Wind and XL2 are sitting pretty at the top; Second Wind has taken a first seed. The middle ground of Group B will likely get very interesting. While the Skyfoxes are also going back to Trials, the map differential between NRG, Gladiators Legion, and Team Envy are so close that hard to tell, even now, who will move on.

Week 5 Predictions

Group A – Wednesday, January 2  

Mayhem Academy vs. Kungarna (4-0)

Mayhem Academy has come alive the past few weeks. While neither of these teams has a chance at playoff contention, this one is for pride, and Mayhem will bring it home.

Fusion University vs. ATL Academy (2-3)  

By far the best match of the week. The two top seeds in Group A go head to head; Fusion U has stumbled in past weeks, and ATL can take advantage of that.

Uprising Academy vs. First Generation (3-2)  

The two middle seeds of Group A are trying to raise their standings in playoffs, and will be out for blood. Uprising Academy has a chance if they highlight and enable their best players.

Group B – Thursday, January 3  

Team Envy vs. Skyfoxes (4-0)

This is Team Envy’s chance to get into the playoffs. If they score a 4-0, which they should, they’ll be banking on losses from NRG and Legion to sneak their way into the postseason.

Second Wind vs. NRG Esports (3-1)

While Second Wind should easily be able to take this match, NRG will have to scrape up any map wins they can get to stay in playoff contention. They may not make it regardless, however, after going up against this team.   

XL2 vs. Gladiators Legion (3-2)

Of all the teams fighting to get into playoffs, Gladiators Legion may be the most determined to get there. If they rally and play around their expert tank line, they could take two maps off of one of the best teams in group B, and make their playoff dreams come true.  

Liz
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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