Contenders North America: Week 5 Recap

In the final week of regular season North American Contenders competition, we saw teams secure miracle playoff positions and keep their dreams alive. Group A was a predictable bunch, where top teams continued their dominance and renewed the hype for the postseason. Group B was an entire other animal; three teams’ playoff dreams came down to map count and last-minute spoiler plays to confirm seeding.

Stay tuned later in the day for the really good stuff: playoff predictions. 

Group A: Wednesday, January 2

Mayhem Academy vs. Kungarna (3-1)

Both Mayhem Academy and Kungarna entered into this match with no wins to their name in this season of Contenders. They’d both been knocked out of playoff contention relatively early in the season, so this match was purely for some kind of redemption.

On Busan, Manneten’s Zarya and Epzz’s Zenyatta allowed Mayhem Academy to repeatedly bully Kungarna off the point and take the first map. Kungarna woke up during Hollywood by utilizing their last-minute offtank substitute Hotdate to repeatedly target Mayhem Academy’s tanks. Even though it was tied at the half, Mayhem Academy utilized their superior coordination and ultimate usage to roll through Kungarna on both Horizon Lunar Colony and Route 66. Mayhem Academy closed out their season with a single win; Kungarna has since rebranded back to Phase 2 and has let mykl go from their coaching staff.

Match MVP: Mayhem Academy’s Epzz. His Zenyatta is consistently phenomenal, hitting headshots and cleaning up kills that his DPS can’t quite finish. Both Epzz and Apply deserve awards for carrying Mayhem Academy this season.

Fusion University vs. ATL Academy (4-0)  

In true contrast to the previous match, this was a competition of champions. Fusion University and ATL Academy have gone undefeated in this season of Contenders; as the two top seeds in Group B, their goal was to steal the first place seed from their competitors and ensure an easy trip to the finals. Many analysts, including myself, said this would be a close and thrilling series. However, Fusion University was here to remind us why they’re champions, dropping ATL’s egos down a few notches.

On Busan, ATL Academy took a swing at the oft-misused double main tank composition, but was unable to stand up to Fusion U’s stellar coordination. ATL Academy showed their usual aggressive, confident style on Numbani and took Fusion University to two rounds; however, Fusion’s Na1st on Pharah was unconquerable in the end. Na1st again served as a pain in ATL’s behind on Hanamura, when his Mei repeatedly denied ATL’s wild Bastion/Symmetra-based strategies.

While ATL’s Dogman showed he can still play the Zenyatta headshot game with Alarm on Route 66, Fusion University’s quadruple DPS composition allowed them to take a larger time bank. Even though both teams took three points and moved to Round 2, Fusion’s coordination held off ATL and gave them the match. A 4-0 is not what ATL Academy wanted going into the playoffs, but it’s exactly what Fusion University planned out.   

Match MVP: Fusion University’s Na1st, whose DPS shenanigans (as Pharah, Mei, and more) have proven that Fusion U doesn’t have to rely on former DPS carry Whoru to remain championship material.

First Generation vs. Uprising Academy (3-1)

This was, quite possibly, the most evenly matched series of the day. Both teams came into the match with 2-2 scorelines, having beaten the same teams (Mayhem and Kungarna) and fallen to the two top teams. Uprising Academy and First Generation battled it out for third place seed placement, and a little bit of pride, in this match between two mid-range Group B teams.

Busan began with a quick first round win by Uprising Academy, whose newly signed offtank Punk (of Team Australia fame) was throwing bombs and capitalizing on Nomy’s aggression left and right. However, First Generation rallied around their main tank and took Busan after a reverse sweep in the final two rounds. Hollywood was another back-and-forth map in which both teams completed a full capture in overtime, but Uprising Academy held off First Generation’s second round attack. The match was tied at halftime.

Hanamura was a prime example of how simple Assault maps can easily escalate to 45-minute sagas; Uprising and First Gen took Hanamura to three rounds of play, with First Gen’s Zaprey on Zarya eventually allowing his team to take 6 points to Uprising’s 5. After that level of exhaustion, it was easier for First Generation, and Hooey’s Self-Destructs in particular, to push the payload past Point B on Dorado. Uprising couldn’t complete the same feat and fell to fourth in playoff seeding.

Match MVP: First Generation’s Nomy. While he functions as a deeply aggressive main tank, especially as Reinhardt, his team repeatedly backs him up to enable his huge shatters. He’s the best example of the fact that OWL-level talent can rule the game in Contenders.

Group B: Thursday, January 3

Team Envy vs. Skyfoxes (4-0)  

This match served as Team Envy’s best chance to keep their playoff dreams alive. Skyfoxes have had a disappointing, win-free season, and Envy needed to take at least 3 maps from them to ensure a chance at playoff competition. Luckily for Envy, they’ve had close games and a recent win against NRG Esports under their belt, and they managed to put Skyfoxes out of their misery in a timely manner.

Skyfoxes started Busan with a quadruple DPS setup, possibly the most adventurous setup from Group B all season; however, Team Envy quickly swapped to dive and Jaru decimated Skyfoxes as Sombra the entire map. Numbani can best be described by a direct quote from ZP: “This reminds me of a 3 a.m. ranked game where no one is in voice.” Envy spawncamped Skyfoxes for nearly the entire map, despite offtank Kalios’ best efforts to carry his team.

Hanamura stood as one of Skyfoxes’ best chances to run something crazy and make it work. Unfortunately for them, Team Envy has been practicing, and Fischer in particular ran through the team as Zarya. Route 66 was Skyfoxes’ last chance to take one single map this season; they pulled out a Bastion and briefly confused Team Envy, who brought back Jaru’s terrifying Sombra. It was the easiest 4-0 of Team Envy’s season and the end of a disappointing lack of organization for Skyfoxes as a whole. The only hope is that Kalios, supports Verbo and Luna, and DPS Claris have shown their individual skills enough to get rescued by other teams next season.

Match MVPs: The viewers, for having to watch Skyfoxes suffer for five weeks.

Second Wind vs. NRG Esports (3-1)

What began as an important match turned into a win-or-die playoff showdown for NRG Esports, who needed to take a 3-1 win in order to compete with Gladiators Legion and Team Envy on map count. It was an impossible dream to take down the previously undefeated Second Wind. However, with Second Wind having lost CarCar’s stellar Lucio to an Academy team as they juggled the “Ellie” player scandal, NRG was able to capitalize on Second Wind’s lapse in domination.

Offtank FRDWNR brought Mei out for Busan’s MEKA Base, freezing and isolating the members of NRG; while NRG pushed to a Round 3 map, they forget to stay on the point during Temple, and Second Wind looked to be up to their usual sweep shenanigans. Those came to a halt on Hollywood, where repeated missed ults and unusual lack of coordination led NRG to complete the map when their enemies could not. Hanamura can be seen two ways: either a complete embarrassment for Second Wind, who got fullheld off of Point B, or a huge ego boost for NRG, who rolled through Point A with one push and took the entire map. Route 66 had Second Wind pushing the payload just past Point A, but it was not far enough to hold off NRG’s dream 3-1 upset.

Match MVP: NRG’s Ezire, who has consistently managed to play one of the most terrifying Brigittes in Contenders.

XL2 vs. Gladiators Legion (3-1)  

After Envy took home a 4-0 and NRG pulled off a stunning upset against Second Wind, Gladiators Legion had only one chance to make it into playoffs: win against one of the top teams in Group B. XL2 also held the fate of playoffs in their hands. If they defeated Gladiators Legion on three maps, they would allow Team Envy to make it into playoffs; any less than that, and the Gladiators would make it automatically. Luckily for Team Envy, XL2 was in prime form, and didn’t come into this series to sandbag.

Gladiators Legion managed to take Busan in three rounds thanks to Panker’s main tank heroics and XL2’s need to adjust to roster changes, such as Tizi subbing in for Cloneman16. XL2 worked out the wrinkles during Hollywood, where both teams completed the map but Gladiators Legion failed to make any headway during Round 2. On Horizon Lunar Colony, XL2’s coordination and stellar tank play managed to hold the Legion from completing the map. By the last map, Dorado, XL2 gave Team Envy fans the best gift of all: a full hold onto Gladiators Legion that also held them from playoffs.

Match MVP: TiZi, who stepped in to fill Cloneman16’s big main tank shoes for XL2. He managed to mesh well with the team and remind us why they’re still a force to be reckoned with.

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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