By Steve Toroni
Stage 1 is complete and the London Spitfire have come out on top as the very first champion in Overwatch League history, as they took down both the New York Excelsior and the Houston Outlaws in title matches in Week 5. After coming off two straight losses to Houston and New York in Week 5, London had their work cut out for them as they dropped to the third seed in the Overwatch League standings. The Outlaws looked to prove that they were deserving of the number two slot, finishing Stage 1 with seven wins and three losses, while the Excelsior set out to continue their success as the number one seed in the league.
Stage One Title Match
London Spitfire Vs. Houston Outlaws
The Houston Outlaws started things off in front during map one. Being the aggressor early and anchored by Jake “Jake” Lyon as Junkrat, the Outlaws swarmed the payload to move onto the second phase of map one. That is until Jee-Hui “Gesture” Hong achieved his Primal Rage. Gesture was able to do some damage and bide time for his buddy, the sensational Ji-Hyeok “Birdring” Kim, to clean up the rest of the Outlaws hovering over the payload. It was containing Birdring that would be the focal point of Houston’s’ strategy for the remainder of map one as Jake continued to terrorize as Junkrat and Jiri “LiNKzr” Masalin countered Birdring’s Widowmaker beautifully. The Outlaws took map one.
The second map was brilliantly played by London. Their ability to adjust on the fly was apparent as Birdring switched to McCree and Jun-Yuong “Profit” Park took over as Tracer. Profit was just too quick for Houston (Jake switched to Soldier: 76, which was not very effective), finishing map two with 24 eliminations, one death, and 15 final blows.
Profit as both Junkrat and Reaper was a force for London in map three. The Spitfire won again in decisive fashion. LiNKzr as McCree and the Outlaws put up a fight in map four, doing their best to neutralize Birdring. who was countering with his own McCree. In the beginning stages of the map Austin “Muma” Wilmot as Orisa dropped a cleverly timed Protective Barrier in front of Birdring Peacekeeper shots to keep LiNKzr alive after being stunned by Stunbang by the London player. Even with stellar teamwork and a committed strategy, Houston fell three to one and London took the $125,000 prize.
Profit was all over the highlight reel, coming away from this three to one victory over Houston. Renowned as one of the most feared and respected gamers in the Overwatch League, Profit thrived in clutch moments in this match. As Tracer and Reaper, Profit was able to finish off Houston at the end of rounds with multiple kills. But it was his consistency as Junkrat that delivered for the Spitfire time and time again with RIP-Tires seemingly dropping from the sky, wrecking the Outlaws’ attack. Profit’s relentless style of play gave him 10 RIP-tire kills and 17 Concussion Mine eliminations on the match that contributed to 15,048 total damage inflicted on Houston.
London Spitfire Vs. New York Excelsior
New York demonstrated that they would not hold back against a London team that they had beat only a few days prior to this match. The Excelsior came out with a three-tank meta which felt very old-school. Seong-Hyun “Jjonak” Bang was relied upon in map one to be self-sufficient as Roadhog since New York was running with only one support. Jjonak, who is listed as a Support player, committed to the role of Roadhog in an attempt for New York to be more offensive and inflict more damage. Able to self-heal, Jjonak did not need a Support hanging around. which allowed Yeon-Jun “Ark” Hong to focus on healing his other teammates as Mercy. Although London was ahead three rounds to zero, the Excelsior came back and won four rounds straight, thanks to some superb play from Jjonak.
New York was interchanging Jong-Ryeol “Saebyeolbe” Park as Tracer and Do-Hyeon “Pine” Kim as Widowmaker and both players played absolutely lights out. Map two ended with both teams having 99 percent of the zone captured as it went into overtime. Saebyeolbe went ballistic and wiped out the entire London Push, which was capped off with a timely elimination of Birdring that sealed the two-map lead for New York.
The turning point in this match came at the Horizon Lunar Colony where Saebyeolbe remained in play as Tracer. London made the adjustment to have Birdring run Junkrat with Profit as Tracer and this made them faster and able to counter New York’s aggressive play.
Although Saebyeolbe continued to be a factor, London figured out how to neutralize him with Birdring able to go back to Widowmaker, inflicting damage from long distance. He made it difficult for the Excelsior to sustain their attack and the Spitfire tied the series up at two maps a piece.
Birdring’s Genji and Profit’s Junkrat sealed victory in the final map. Profit sent a RIP-Tire that eliminated the last of New York’s push which brought the match to overtime where the London Spitfire held the Excelsior to become the Overwatch League Stage 1 Champions.
None other than Birdring can be as disruptive and versatile in the Overwatch League. His adjustments and ability to make him proficient with multiple heroes make him a dominant force. He had a ridiculous 54 kills as Widowmaker in this match (to only 15 deaths) and 33 of those eliminations were final blows. The impressive Birdring excels with many heroes, but none as glamorous as his Widowmaker, as he was able to inflict 28,363 damage points on New York, making it a long day at the office for the Excelsior.