The stage is set. Five weeks after Gritty led the Philadelphia Fusion out to their season kickoff match against London, the Stage One Playoff field is now locked in stone. See below for the final standings of Stage One:
Heading into the Playoffs, the Vancouver Titans have supplanted the NYXL as the top team to beat, while Seoul and Boston snuck in at the last second to nab the last two spots (albeit Seoul is tied with San Francisco). While the above picture shows some pretty obvious winners, there are some this picture doesn’t show. Let’s analyze!
- Seoul Dynasty & Boston Uprising – Congratulations to two of the biggest bubble teams throughout this stage on coming up clutch with wins against London and Dallas respectively to sneak into the back end of the playoff field. While Seoul is arguably the bigger winner here by shutting out the defending champions, Boston made for the more memorable match by going all the way to overtime on Map 5 to knock out the Dallas Fuel and nab the last spot in Stage One.
- Vancouver Titans – This almost seems too obvious to put down, but they get a call out here because they took the top seed. NYXL can absolutely argue that they are still the stronger team based on strength of victory with wins against four playoff-bound teams (San Francisco, Toronto, Seoul, and Boston) compared to Vancouver’s one (San Francisco). Regardless, Vancouver is still the one with the better seeding after flattening all who stood before them.
- Washington Justice – True, they are not in the Stage Playoffs, and true, they were a textbook example of a “bottom feeder” during this Stage. Regardless, they got their franchise’s first match win ever, proving that Shanghai did not pass their dubious title down to an expansion team this year. Does it matter that the win came against another bottom feeder in the Florida Mayhem? Nah, just let Washington have this victory and prepare for Stage Two.
- Texas Teams – Not every bubble can stay together when it comes to playoffs, and two Texas-sized bubbles just burst. Let’s start with Dallas who were so close to pulling out a spot. Entering this week, they were 4-2, had a +1 map differential, and were sitting in fifth place overall. After losing by an Overtime on Map 5 on Nepal, Dallas fell to 4-3 and lost all tiebreakers with a 0 map differential. This brings us to Houston. To be fair to Houston, they had a lot of stuff they needed to go their way to even get in, which didn’t happen, but losing 3-1 in a must-win matchup was a killer for them. All they can do now is look forward to Stage Two, and pray that it is more Dive-benevolent.
- Chinese Teams – Another stage, more absences from Chinese teams. It was one thing when Shanghai was the only Chinese team last year, but this year they entered with 3 new teams in the Hangzhou Spark, the Guangzhou Charge, and the Chengdu Hunters. Hangzhou entered the season with high expectations but floundered after starting 2-0. The turning point came when Houston demolished them on Busan in Week Two, as the Spark went 1-4 in matches from then on (including the Houston match). Chengdu, while always trying to find a unique approach to a very formulaic meta, never really got it to gel, and wound up at the bottom of the country’s teams with a 3-4 record and -8 map differential (to be fair they did beat Atlanta this weekend, so there is at least some sign of hope). Shanghai didn’t play this week, but their win last week against London did end up mattering (see final loser). Finally, we have Guangzhou, who had a towering matchup with the Titans this weekend. It was one thing that they lost but to get swept? That was not a good look, and hopefully at least one of these teams can get over the hump in Stage Two.
- London Spitfire – My, how the mighty have fallen. Hot off the heels of coming up just short of a win against Shanghai, London proceeded to get their clocks cleaned by Seoul in a 3-0 romping, completely knocking London out of the Stage One Playoffs. Even though London has shown the resiliency and capability to overcome failure, that doesn’t mean anything for Stage One now. I know this is probably one of my favorite phrases to use at this point, but all they can do now is start planning for Stage Two.
Anyone who follows OWL online will know that they do a weekly top 5 plays of the match. Even though Muma had an amazing Earthshatter on King’s Row, it didn’t lead to the win they needed. On the other hand, the Fusion came together to save their Carpe and win a team fight early on, also in King’s Row (I swear there isn’t an intended pattern building here). This week’s title goes to Dogman from the Reign. In a do or die match, Dogman, playing as Ana in an uncommon turn of events this Stage, led the charge towards a full squad wipe on Rialto to win the map, the match, and take a playoff spot.
Writer’s note: There will be a playoff preview coming before the matches this week. Stay tuned!