By Matthew Gozzip Community Editor
“Cowards die many times before their deaths; the valiant never taste of death but once.” In “Julius Caesar,” Caesar is not afraid to be seen even though a sacrificial ceremony indicated that something foreboding would happen if he appeared. Retreating even in intense adversity is a humiliating action that is comparable to death.
Shakespeare must be rolling in his grave watching the undefeated Los Angeles Valiant dominate in Stage 3 of the Overwatch League. The Valiant are 5-0 and have recorded an incredible 17-3-1 map record, including a 12 map win streak to start the season. After a highly entertaining 3-2 victory over their crosstown rivals the Los Angeles Gladiators (more on them later), the Valiant are at the top of the standings.
Before the start of Stage 3, CEO Noah Whinston and head coach Byung Chul Moon made a slew of personnel changes to create cohesion rather than rely on individual talent. Fan favorite flex support uNKOE, tank specialist Envy and talented DPS specialist Silkthread were not retained despite their strong performances so far in the season. On top of that, GrimReality stepped down from his role as a player to be an assistant coach with the team. The move has created a fascinating coaching fusion between the technical acumen of Moon and the laidback nature of GrimReality that many other teams do not possess.
Roster mainstays Kariv and Agilities have emerged as legitimate superstars after having their roles freed up. Kariv, a rarely used flex support in the first two stages, took over the position and has been a pesky Zenyatta, picking off enemy DPS often. Agilities periodically split time with Silkthread, but is now one of the faces of the franchise, forming a powerful DPS tandem with the lethal hit scan specialist SoOn.
Right down the block, the Los Angeles Gladiators are forming an uprising of their own. A middle-of-the-pack team in Stage 1, the Gladiators surged their way to the top of the rankings in the next stage, nearly missing out on the playoffs by two map wins. At one point, the team rattled off a four-game winning streak against a formidable lineup of the Houston Outlaws, London Spitfire, Los Angeles Valiant and the Florida Mayhem.
The addition of tank specialist Fissure from the London Spitfire made a huge impact as far as allowing the rest of the Gladiator frontline to succeed. The tank play overall has appeared at times to be indomitable with the stellar play from flex tank Bischu, who really emerged as one of the best players in the entire league. Bischu, who is fluent in Korean and English, is the catalyst for communication since Fissure is not well-versed in English. This peculiar arrangement has allowed both players to shine as Bischu has been one of the best D.Va’s in Stage 3.
It seems that every player on the Gladiators is a flex player to some degree, outside of just the simple roles of offense, tank and support.
Strange is commonplace with the Gladiators, as they have been attempting to break meta frequently. DPS specialist Hydration is choosing Doomfist periodically, a hero that is not often picked in the Overwatch League due to his lack of utility. Regardless, Hydration’s creativity feeds the rest of the team. The depth of the roster has allowed the team to further play around with lineups including a triple DPS lineup of Widowmaker, Sombra and Tracer with only a sole support from Lucio, who was played by Hydration despite his reputation as DPS. It seems that every player on the Gladiators is a flex player to some degree, outside of just the simple roles of offense, tank and support.
The Gladiators are currently the fifth-ranked team in Stage 3, only one spot from the playoffs. Four of the top five teams are American-based, a statement that nobody could have predicted after the sheer dominance of the Korean player-laden teams. The Overwatch League is developing into a contest of not just simple technical skill but all-around communication. For most of the beginning of the season, the London Spitfire, Seoul Dynasty and New York Excelsior overpowered the competition with their immense skill.
It seems that many teams are figuring out the formula, notably the Los Angeles Teams. After tough results against their opponents for the first two stages, the Valiant and the Gladiators aren’t backing down from the challenge, rather facing death head on.