The Fusion Could Not Topple the Excelsior, but they still made a major OWL statement
By Steven Toroni
In Stage 1 of the Overwatch League, two organizations stood out as outliers in terms of both individual talent and team chemistry: The London Spitfire and the New York Excelsior. The two were on a collision course to meet in the Stage 1 Final, where they ended up facing each other for an incredible match in which London outlasted New York for the 3-2 victory.
The Excelsior suffered just their second loss of the season in that Final against London. Their other loss? That came in Week Three of the regular season in Stage 1 to the Philadelphia Fusion. Philly was a team that flew under the radar in the first Stage of the Overwatch League, as the Fusion finished the five-week slate of matches with a 6-4 record. Their win against the Excelsior was certainly not a fluke, as they were also able to beat the Houston Outlaws – the team that faced London in the Semifinal of Stage 1- but the Fusion finished Stage 1 in seventh place and out of playoff contention.
The Philadelphia Fusion was able to bounce back in Stage 2 and were third best in the standings behind London and New York with a 7-3 record. The finish got the Fusion into the Semifinals. in which they defeated London 3-2. Their reward was a chance to face the New York Excelsior in the Stage 2 Final, where they had an opportunity at a $100,000 prize pool and to solidify their legacy as one of the best teams in the short history of the Overwatch League.
Teams such as the Seoul Dynasty and the Los Angeles Valiant were favored to reach the Semifinals to compete with London and NYC in a title match in Stage 2. But before the first match of Stage 2 began, the Philadelphia Fusion – along with the entire OWL – had to make serious adjustments.
Overwatch is a first-person shooter in which success relies heavily on it’s meta. The “Dive Comp” has been the standard for the Overwatch League and has been utilized since the beginning of of Stage 1 in January. This team composition reflects speed and mobility in order to “dive” into the enemies backlines in order to achieve objective while taking out support heroes quickly.
The standard Dive comp meta consisted of a Tracer and a Damage Per Second (DPS) hero such as Genji, along with two tanks (usually Winston and D.va since they are the most mobile tanks) with a Mercy and Zenyatta as support. Prior to Stage 2, however, the Mercy was nerfed so that her Ultimate -the Valkyrie- would pretty much be rendered useless. The new patch decreased the cast time from 20 seconds to 15 while eliminating the extra Resurrection Mercy would get while in Valkyrie. Along with the significant bump to her Ultimate, Mercy’s Guardian Angel was decreased by 50 percent, making her slower than she was, even though her flying ability was not taken away. The debuff would be too much for teams to justify the consistent use of Mercy, so in came Lucio to the standard meta in OWL.
The Calvary is Here
One key to success for Philadelphia in Stage 2 was the stellar Lucio play by Alberto “Neptuno” Gonzalez Molinillo. During the course of the five weeks of matches in Stage 2, Neptuno was first among players that used Lucio in hero damage done per 10 minutes (4,337), Final Blows per 10 minutes (3), and Eliminations per 10 minutes (13.3). Combined with Isaac “Boombox” Charles (who primarily ran a lethal Zenyatta), this support team made a reputation for itself in Stage 2 as one of the most feared support duos in the OWL. While successful teams like London and Seoul rely on their stellar DPS play, the Excelsior exceed in their support team with the best Zenyatta in OWL, Seon-Hyun “Jjonak” Bang and Yeon-Jun “Ark” Hong running the other support spot. Neptuno and Boombox being able to excel with support-play was the first piece put in place for the Fusion becoming a serious threat to the Excelsior and Spitfire
Most of Philadelphia’s success in Stage 1 in terms of DPS play was due to Jae-Hyeok “Carpe” Lee as Tracer. Carpe’s ability to maximize the mobility and skills of Tracer makes him a threat to opposing team’s support players and he is the obvious leader to the Fusion attack. Watch how Philadelphia comes out before their matches- Carpe is always the guy leading this unit- virtual reality or otherwise. In Stage 1, The Fusion primarily paired Carpe with Georgii “ShaDowBurn” Gushcha as the flex position and he proved to be a solid player in that role in the OWL. But, Philadelphia knew they needed more help when battling against such prolific OWL DPS players such as London’s Jun-Young “Profit” Park or New York’s Hae-Seong “Libero” Kim.
Neptuno was not the only Fusion player in Stage 2 to finish in elite company. Philadelphia acquired a prodigy in Simon “Snillo” Ekstrom, who was only 17 when Stage 2 began in February. According to his Twitter page, Snillo turned 18 on March 2 and he became an intricate part of the Fusion’s success in Stage 2. Adding Snillo, who plays the Tracer exclusively, gave Philadelphia the ability to pair him with Carpe, who could run Widowmaker where he is also exceptionally productive. There were even matches like Week Four against the Shanghai Dragons, where Carpe simply did not play. In that match Snillo and Josue “EQO” Corona were tremendous in executing the Dive comp to perfection with the Tracer/Genji combination. Snillo was brilliant in his limited playing time and joined elite company with Profit and New York’s Jung-Ryeol “Saebyeolbe” Park in the 100 and Two Club as he was able to achieve 142 final blows and a ridiculous 3.02 kill/death ratio.
The debut of EQO created a huge buzz in the Overwatch League after Stage 2, Week One against the Boston Uprising. Both teams had a lot to prove going into Stage 2 and had aspirations of a competing for a title match. In what was thought to be a competitive matchup, the Uprising had no answers for EQO and Carpe, who raised the eyebrows of the likes of the New York and London as they made it clear that they would be a dominant force moving forward. In that match, EQO had 94 eliminations as Genji with 51 final blows for a total of 37,047 damage inflicted. With Neptuno, EQO, Snillo, and Carpe- the Fusion were able to put together a terrific Stage 2 performance that took them all the way to the Final in improbable fashion.
Stage 2 Title Matches
The Semifinal of Stage 2 was some of the most exciting Overwatch action to date in the OWL. Both teams started in the traditional Dive meta, but the Spitfire have consistently shown the gall to make changes to their lineup in the attempt to catch the opposition off guard. Once London took the lead after the first match, however, it was Philadelphia that made the first major move at Nepal during Map Two. EQO switched to D.Va and Gael “Poko” Gouzerch went from D.va to Zarya while their talented tank Joona “Fragi” Laine jumped from Winston to Reinhardt. In the congested contesting point of the Control game mode, the Fusion extended themselves to a huge lead with Fragi unloading on London players as they entered the finite space.
It was Carpe that shined for the Fusion in the Semifinal, however, as his Tracer out-performed the great Profit. As Tracer, Carpe scored 51 eliminations with 25 final blows and only eight deaths. The 19-year old Carpe not only contributed as Carpe, but he had a significant role as Hanzo, Widowmaker, and McCree. EQO took over D.va duties until the final map, where he was relieved by Snillo. With Snillo, Carpe thrived from outside the trenches as McCree and Widowmaker displayed accuracy that led the Fusion to achieving their first OWL title match victory.
The Fusion fell to the New York Excelsior in the Final 3-2. The gallant effort and execution by Philadelphia was not enough as New York earned the $100,000 grand prize when many thought they should have in Stage 1. Saebyelobe proved to be the superior Tracer in the OWL and Hae-Seong “Libero” Kim was dominant as Widowmaker inflicted 10,756 total damage with 25 kills, 14 final blows, and only three deaths. Even in defeat, the Fusion can hang their hat on the reputation they have built and the $25,000 prize that is given to the runner-up.
Despite the loss to NYC, the future is bright for the Fusion. It is apparent that the two powerhouses of Stage 1 have now been joined by the Philadelphia Fusion to establish a clear-cut Big Three in the Overwatch League. OWL fans will be clamoring for the once-regarded underdog to claim its glory in Stage 3 as a champion.