Wednesday, July 11th. The Gladiators faced off against the London Spitfire in their first playoff match.
Moving as a single unit, the entire Los Angeles Gladiators team snuck right by their competition on King’s Row, creeping further and further away as the unaware London Spitfire stood guard on the point. Seemingly heading towards enemy spawn, they suddenly took a sharp turn and started climbing upwards, on a journey back to the point. As they surprise-attacked Spitfire and piled onto the point from such an unexpected location, Surefour picked off the caught off guard players from across the map.
And with a maniacal laugh from Surefour, they did it. Success. The Gladiators had captured the point with the single greatest play in Overwatch League—and it was only the first week of the playoffs. It became known as The Great Bamboozle, and it solidified the Gladiators as the team with the crazy plays.
It’s no surprise that such a quick-thinking team was able to secure a spot in the quarterfinals. And according to Gladiators DPS João Pedro “Hydration” Goes Telles, the team was “very confident” and prepared going into their match with London Spitfire that first day. But the Gladiators were usually “prepared” in a different way than most expect.
Going in Blind
“We weren’t focusing too much on what Spitfire was doing,” explained Hydration. “We just reacted on the fly – We were going in blind.”
At first, this strategy really aided the Gladiators. But once Spitfire caught on to how the Los Angeles team played, they were able to counter them and pull ahead. The Gladiators eventually lost to the Spitfire, 2-1.
It left the Los Angeles Gladiators with a lot to think about going into Season 2… Sort of.
Since the Gladiators were still on break at the time of my interview with Hydration, he told me the team had not yet started discussing Season 2 at all.
What is the team’s goal going into the second season?
Do you know if you guys will have any particular strategies or things to focus on going into the second season?
“Don’t know yet.”
Will there be any roster changes?
Maybe that’s for the best, though. The Gladiators seem to shine when they’re not hell-bent on a singular plan. When they’re not sticking to the script. This tactic became their go-to after a Stage 3 match against NYXL, when a win narrowly slipped through their fingers.
“When we watched it all back after the match,” Hydration recalled, “you could see that victory was literally one play away on multiple maps. If we had just done one single thing differently… We started really focusing more on adapting after that. Swapping heroes. Better comps.”
Despite rumors that Fissure was benched at the quarterfinals for unsportsmanlike behavior or a refusal to play for a non-Korean roster, the team has stated that it was their new focus on adaptability that made them choose iRemiix for that final match. Fissure tweeted out himself that he “fit better in [the current] meta.”
Adaptability. That’s the strategy Hydration has begun working on while waiting for the rest of the squad to come back from break and start discussing Season 2. Until then, Hydration is practicing with Wrecking Ball.
“He’s a new hero. Kind of niche. I feel he might be playable,” he said earnestly. “He’s a very strong hero, especially when paired with Doomfist and Winston. The capability of diving across the map. And he has a relatively long stun when he does it, too.”
Just another trick up the Gladiator’s jerseys. Kind of like when Hydration started dominating the Florida Mayhem with Doomfist. With a staggering 400 HP, Hydration was flattening the defending team, who had not been prepared for such anti-meta choices. If there’s one thing that the rest of the Overwatch League should know when facing Gladiators next season, it’s to expect the unexpected.
Or risk getting bamboozled.
“I’m happy with how we did this first season,” said Hydration, “especially considering how it started. I want to thank the fans for staying with us throughout the season.”
We Don’t Dwell on the Past
It’s hard not to be a Gladiators fan. There’s something to be said about a team that doesn’t stick to the status quo and isn’t afraid to try out something brand new on the Blizzard Arena stage in front of hundreds of thousands of viewers.
As a new team, the Gladiators didn’t have the best communication at the start of the League, said Hydration. But thanks to their coaches, they started to streamline their call-outs and get everyone on the same page. With better communication and the addition of Fissure, the Gladiators started to show their true potential, and were able to better implement their one-of-a-kind strategy of, well, not having a strategy until they’re in-game.
That loose strategy was also a way for the Gladiators to adapt to the League’s undesirable schedule, that has had many players exhausted to the point of possible retirement after just one season. With little time to practice between games and even fewer moments available to study other teams’ footage, sometimes the Gladiators had no choice but to react on the fly.
Hydration echoed many players’ sentiments, stating that the schedule is something that Blizzard can “definitely improve on” going into the second season. With more time to rest, maybe the Gladiators would have more time to study the constantly-changing meta. Maybe they’d be able to study that team’s past performances and have more time to perfect counter-strategies.
But do we really want that?
“We don’t dwell on the past,” Hydration said earlier in the interview, noting that it’s how the team stayed positive during times when they weren’t performing up to par. That’s not really their style.
The beauty of the Gladiators is their swift reactions to what’s thrown at them in-game. Their skillful improvisation. They go in with a positive attitude each match, not too worried about what may be thrown their way. Because they’ll throw something right back.
“We come up with some goofy strats sometimes,” Hydration laughed. “We do crazy plays, we play Doomfist. What’s not to love?”