Stage 3 has begun with a…well, kinda a whimper. Shanghai’s new roster didn’t solve their winless issues, but may have been eye-opening to fans and players alike just how hard language barriers are to overcome. Seoul limped into the Stage, dropping 4 maps to the LA Valiant, whose mid season tactic of ‘burn it all down’ when it comes to their roster may have preened the toxicity out to return the Valiant to their Stage 1 standards. With the last game of the night, San Francisco Shock took on the .500 Los Angeles Gladiators for an inter-state rivalry match to either assert LA dominance over their brethren from the bay, or begin the push for SF to climb the ladder.
Shock – Sinatraa, Super, Nevix, Danteh, Moth, Sleepy
Gladiators – Shaz, Big00se, Silkthread, Bischu, Fissure, Asher
Super finally turned 18 and made his OWL debut today for the Shock, and Sinatraa came out again in place of Babybay, pushing Iddqd further back onto the bench. The Gladiators debuted their new DPS player Silkthread, whom they acquired from cross-town rivals LA Valiant in a late pickup as the transfer window was drawing to a close.
Map One – Volskaya Industries
Super came out on the Winston and claimed the first two kills of the match, as the Shock committed entirely to the dive composition. The first point fell into Shock hands about as quickly as I wrote that first sentence. I seriously hadn’t really looked at the screen much other than a quick view while writing so far. Luckily for me, the initial Shock push towards point B failed, as Asher wrapped around the outside to take out Sleepy on Zenyatta and Fissure’s Winston proved enough to push back the rest of the Shock. While the match slowed a bit at that point, it was short-lived. The next 2 minutes were one prolonged fight, shifting seemlessly from one team’s favor to the other, but ended with the LA Gladiators grabbing advantage, pushing the Shock off their point. In the next attack, and the next, and the next, the Shock attack crashed like waves against the breakers of the Gladiators, but the Gladiators stayed strong to repel attack after attack. Finally the Shock broke through, taking out the enemy Zenyatta and pulling the trigger on a fully committed dive onto the point, quickly dispatching the Gladiators and claiming the 2nd point with 1:15 left in the time bank.
Asher’s Widowmaker pushed the Shock back as they respected his ability to snag head shots, and the Shock began their defense within the small building right at the front of the point. The Gladiators quickly forced the Shock from their foxhole, forcing their enemy to scatter and devaluing the Moira pick on the Shock side. Honestly, Silkthread’s Tracer was a surprise, as the Gladiators gave the Widowmaker to Asher, and it worked. The Shock defense was paper to the Gladiators, as they grabbed both points with 5:34 remaining on the clock.
The Shock started off on the attack as we progressed into round 3 of Volskaya, and again, the attacking team seemed to get the best of the defenders on point A. The Shock pushed through the Gladiators defense with minimal resistance, losing their tanks at one point, but taking the initiative to the Gladiators and capturing point A. Point B was much slower, as far as having less than a minute to attack goes, and after a back and forth battle in which both Zenyatta’s used their transcendence and both Winston’s their Primal Rage, Silkthread cut through the Shock attack, utilizing his Dragon Blade ultimate to stop the Shock from taking even a single click on point B.
Los Angeles’s attack looked much the same as their first, but the Shock chose to dive the slow push this time. Unfortunately for San Francisco the dive didn’t provide them with an advantage, as they lost their main tank without grabbing a kill in exchange. Los Angeles again pushed to grab point A within nearly record time, giving themselves nearly 5 minutes to take point B. The Shock seemed to be fine with giving their opponent that time to work with, and rightfully so it seemed, as they maintained Ultimate advantage and repelled attack after attack from their purple clad adversary. Sinatraa’s Tracer was a joy to watch, as he dove in and out of the Gladiators, at one point snagging himself a double kill but giving up his own life in the process. The first map of the match seemed destined to end in a draw, but finally Fissure on Winston was able to take out both Supports with a single Ultimate, and then positioned himself perfectly to take out Danteh’s Sombra, as the Sombra seemingly Blinked back to safety from the frontlines, thus pushing the advantage overwhelmingly into Gladiator favor and securing the map.
LA Gladiators 4-3
Super is good. No seriously, this kid is freaking GOOD. His tank play could be the thing that pushes the Shock over the edge as a winning team. Unfortunately for the Shock, Fissure might just be better.
Map Two – Numbani
Gladiators subbed in Surefour for Silkthread with the only roster move between Maps 1 and 2.
Numbani often sees a Widowmaker on the defence, but the Gladiators chose to go with the Soldier:76 instead, and while that might not have been the problem, their defense folded within seconds. The Shock showcased their dive abilities, as Sinatraa’s Tracer dove the backline time and time again, dropping Supports like Tom Brady drops passes in Superbowls (forgive me for taking a shot…there has been far too much draft talk lately for my liking). The Sombra/Tracer combination on the Shock side proved nearly impossible for the Gladiators to handle without the advantage of quick respawns, as the Shock pushed nearly to point C with minimal resistance. Finally, the Gladiators righted the ship, holding the Shock from getting those final few meters and maximum points. Surefour took to the McCree, forcing the Gladiators to adapt and create more distance between themselves and the Shock. The strategy worked, as the Gladiators defense burnt over 5 minutes to keep their hopes alive for their switch to the attack. The Sombra/Tracer combination seemed unable to target the backline, as the Gladiator tanks kept the Shock at an arm’s length. Finally, the Shock dove in, utilizing nearly perfect Ultimate synergy, as Sombra EMP’d the Gladiators, hitting nearly the entire purple team, and the kill feed immediately lit up as Shock member dropped the Gladiators one after another to finally grab the final point. This shouldn’t be seen as a failure by the Gladiators defense however, as the take left San Francisco with only 10 seconds on the clock for a potential 3rd and 4th rounds.
The Gladiators’s attack began differently from the Shock, as Surefour took Widowmaker, and the Gladiators took an approach around the far left side of the point. San Francisco was able to hold off the LA attack at first, but the Finnish Supports Shaz and Big00se kept their tanks alive, and allowed Surefour’s Widowmaker space to push the Shock back and ultimately take control of the payload. The Shock’s defense, while giving up control of the payload, regrouped and presented a formidable stall as the Gladiators attempted to push towards point B. The Shock really looked the better team here, as they forced the game into Overtime as the Gladiators pushed towards point B. Finally, the Gladiators took the point, giving themselves 1:30 to push towards the final point and an opportunity to tie the game up. Sinatraa’s Tracer may evolve to challenge SBB as the greatest Tracer in the League, as his constant movement and spamming of bullets dropped enemy after enemy. Danteh’s Sombra could very much be the new standard as well, as he hacked dozens of enemies. The clock flashed overtime for about 30 seconds, as our casters couldn’t draw breath while the fight raged on. The Gladiators looked poised to take the point time and time again, but the Shock seemed poised to do the unthinkable and hold off the inevitable capture. Hack after hack came through for both sides, as deaths littered the screen, but the fight just continued to rage. Nobody seeemed to be able to grab the advantage, until finally, the disjointed defence of the Shock fell, and the Gladiators took the point to force a 3rd/4th round.
LA’s attack started out well, as Surefour’s Widowmaker took out Bischu with a ridiculous head shot, but the attack began to fizzle as the Shock defenses again proved too impressive for the Gladiators to overcome.
The Shock could run Sinatraa’s Tracer and Danteh’s Sombra every map and have potential to pull out the victory. This duo came out firing on all cylinders and the Shock quickly pushed their adversary from the point to clinch map 2 and draw the match at 1-1
San Francisco Shock 4-3
Danteh hacked 63 enemies, with 33 coming from EMPs on Numbani, While Sinatraa eliminated 51 enemies, only dying 7 times on Tracer…The Shock are the much more interesting team to watch of these two, as their seemingly unrefined game play breeds excitement. This could also be the reason for their lack of success through the first half of the season however, as their game play leaves holes for other teams to possibly exploit.
Map Three – Illios
No substitutions were made this map. Perhaps SF Shock have found a roster they are willing to stick with through thick and thin with the addition of Super and Sinatraa.
LA Gladiators came out with a triple tank composition, which they immediately switched off of, as the Shock ripped through LA. Sleepy’s Coalescence, paired with Danteh’s EMP, and Sinatraa’s damage output kept the Shock ahead of the Gladiators, as they caught LA in a tight corridor melting the Gladiators one after the other. The Shock were all smiles, as they took the first point 100-0 as Danteh’s Sombra continued to dominate the field.
Round 2 saw the Shock come out with what is becoming their signature close range composition, as the Gladiators took the battle to the Shock, electing for the CQC style of play as well. Sleepy’s Moira was the talk of this point instead of Danteh or Sinatraa, for once, as the Support player seemed to always have his ultimate within reach. The Gladiators took the point first, getting themselves 45% before the Shock were able to take control gaining 86% themselves, as Super on Winston stalled out the Gladiator’s retake of the point, giving themselves over 20% more than they seemed able to garner. After the Gladiators retook the point, SF was able to ultimately retake and grab themselves both the point, and the map win, giving themselves the advantage in the series 2-1.
San Francisco Shock 2-0
Sleepy on Moira finished Illios with over 10k healing and more damage than Danteh on the Sombra.
SF Shock – Babybay for Sinatraa. Sinatraa’s Tracer has been prolific, but Junkertown is a Widowmaker map, and there are few players more skilled at Widowmaker than Babybay.
LA Gladiators – Silkthread for Asher
The Gladiator defense came out in force for Junkertown, as Surefour’s Widowmaker kept distance to keep the Shock at bay, while Silkthread’s Junkrat and Shaz’s Roadhog pushed through the Shock attacks. Finally, the Shock were able to push through the bridge, and towards the first point on the heels of some impressive picks by Babybay and a dive by Danteh to clean up the Gladiator defenses. The push towards point B started well for the Shock, as they pushed to point B and grabbed control giving themselves 3.5 minutes to push the final point, with 5 ultimates to begin their attempt. The Shock were able to push the payload about ⅓ of the way to it’s destination before the Gladiators defense stopped them cold. Attack after attack broke on the Gladiator defense, but the fights continued to shew in the advantage of the Gladiators. Even when the Shock seemed poised to win a fight, the Gladiators were more than happy to pull back, as the Shock had nearly ⅔ of the way to push. However, as the clock reached Overtime the Shock were able to continue their push to the final point, as they outlasted the Gladiators and took control of the final point. To repeat the casters, ‘The Shock game may not be pretty, but apparently it works’.
The Gladiators showed a possible dual snipers composition, and initially started with the ‘Pirate-ship’ look, with Fissure on the Orisa and Shaz on the Bastion, but they transitioned quickly away to a half Pirate-ship, have traditional composition, Shaz remaining on the payload as Bastion behind the shield’s of Orisa, but the rest of the team on their usual heroes. The composition kinda had the feeling of a ‘Jack of all trades, master of none’ as they had all the weaknesses of both styles, with minimal advantages of either. The Gladiators committed to their initial plan, electing not to change off their heroes, and it seemed to pay off as they pushed to take the first point as the clock reached 1 minute, resetting itself to 3.5 as they began their push toward point B. The point A-B portion of Junkertown was…odd, for lack of a better word. Neither team really looked like they were comfortable, let alone like they could grab the advantage. With a major fight lost, the Gladiators elected to change up their game plan, switching to a full dive composition. Unfortunately for the guys in purple, their new style was a massive shift, while the Shock didn’t need to change a thing. This gave the advantage to the Shock as they cut the Gladiators down one by one to finish the map off for a victory not only on the map, but in the match itself.
San Francisco Shock 3-1
Match Score: San Francisco Shock 3-1
Danteh’s Sombra was a force to be reckoned with. He was able to Hack 110 enemies, with an average of 3.2 per EMP blast. I really think as this stage progresses Danteh will be the measuring stick for all Sombra players, the meta is definitely in their favour here. Let us not forget though, this was Super’s first game in the OWL and his play brought forth an entirely new SF Shock. The availability of Super has elevated the Shock to a team that could possibly make a push towards if not stage playoffs, into a Season playoff position.
Match Score: 8.25/10
The third match of the night proved to be the most entertaining, as the LA Gladiators and SF Shock kept it close. The Shock may not play the cleanest game, but they have some of the most interesting gameplay in OWL and could quickly establish themselves as a fan favourite with their playstyle and overall likeability in general. The Gladiators will need to find a way to keep their tanks alive, as Fissure is arguably their best player, and when he falls, the team falls around him.