All tiebreakers, as inconsistent as they were, are done. We now know the seeding and the schedule for the Stage One Playoffs. After five weeks of playoffs, we have our first taste of the 2019 postseason experience.
The format is simple: a single match elimination story. First team to win on three maps wins the quarterfinals match, and then the semifinals and finals are first to win on four maps. Also, this weekend is likely the last we see of the GOATS meta barring a future update that heavily buffs tanks because the mega-patch that introduced Baptiste is now live across all platforms. Before we look at the matches, let’s look at the individual teams.
#1 Vancouver Titans: Who would have thought that signing the majority of a championship team would have worked? Vancouver signed the 2018 Korea Contenders Champion team, RunAway, to their roster, and that success has clearly translated. Leading the charge has been the Titans’ main tank, Bumper.
It was hard to watch a Titans match without seeing Bumper rack up multiple kills with Winston’s Ultimate, Primal Rage. Fellow tank teammate Jjanu, made a name for himself with numerous D.Va bombs throughout the stage. Their one outlying downside is that only one win has come against a team that made these Stage Playoffs (San Francisco). If there was a weekend for proving the Titans’ doubters wrong, it’s this one.
#2 New York Excelsior: You can put your “shocked” faces away, I know they’re fake. Aside from being knocked out of the first round in last year’s playoffs, the NYXL have always been the premier OWL team.
Lead by their reigning league MVP/memelord Jjonak, the NYXL were undefeated in stage one, only getting stuck in the second slot due to the Titans’ higher map differential. Despite their lower seeding, the NYXL has more experience than the Titans in the Stage Playoffs (they were the only team to make every Stage Playoff last year), they have more experience against the Stage Playoff field (they beat Toronto, San Francisco, Seoul, and Boston throughout Stage One).
Now that the far away division leaders are out of the way, let’s look at the remaining contenders:
#3 Toronto Defiant
Out of the three expansion teams to make the Stage Playoffs, it makes perfect sense that Toronto would be the middle child. Toronto is not the overt powerhouse that Vancouver has established themselves as, but they’ve still shown resiliency when the chips are down (see season-opening reverse sweep against Houston). When compared to other teams, especially the next team, they have higher quality losses to New York and Atlanta this Stage, both of whom made the playoffs. If they can take the next step to be considered with the division winners, they could be a force to be reckoned with for the rest of the season.
#4 Philadelphia Fusion
One coin-flip later, and the Fusion gets the fourth-spot after a strong 5-2 Stage with a +5 differential…at a glance. First and foremost, Philadelphia’s two losses came from the Dallas Fuel and the Florida Mayhem. Second, they don’t have as top-tier of a resume the teams above them do, meaning it’s easy to see how they come across as unconvincing to some. Philadelphia has one win against a playoff team (Atlanta) while also needing five matches to beat the winless LA Valiant. As is the same with many teams that made the field, this is a put up or shut up time for Philadelphia.
#5 Atlanta Reign
They may not have the best record, nor do they have exclusively quality losses, but the Altanta Reign absolutely have the most spunk and creativity of the league. Led by their trash-talking support, Dogman, and their franchise face, Dafran, the Atlanta Reign have scrapped their way into the playoffs with trolling, creative, and Reddit-inspired play. They can be hot or cold, picking up match wins against Toronto and steamrolling a Paris Eternal while still hot while also getting shut out by the LA Gladiators.
#6 San Francisco Shock
San Francisco is far more than their #6 seeding suggests. On one hand, they ended Stage One with a 4-3 record and +5 map differential, but on the other hand, they swept through the tiebreaking match, are highly regarded as one of the best teams in the league despite their record, and had a notably difficult schedule (two of their losses came from each of the division winners). Furthermore, in winning matches, they pulled out a +12 map differential. The only match they didn’t win still went to five games against the LA Gladiators. Even though they’re in the lower half of the bracket, expect to hear them making noise.
#7 Seoul Dynasty
Seoul, like Atlanta, has fought their way into the playoffs after some bad losses, albeit to quality opponents (Dallas, Boston & NYXL). Unlike Atlanta, they don’t have any wins against any playoff teams. Working off the success of off-season acquisitions, Fissure and Michelle, Seoul has patched up their main flaw from last season in poor tank play, but that won’t mean much if they can’t come up big tonight against the NYXL.
#8 Boston Uprising
Last, but not least, Boston, a team that finally strung together consecutive wins in the last two weeks of the stage with a 4-0 rout of Florida, and a super squeaky escape from Dallas in the final week. The former knocked Dallas out of the playoffs and let Boston slide into the last spot. Even with some quality wins against a near playoff contender, Dallas, and against the aforementioned Seoul, Boston has some glaringly bad notes on the stage. Most notably, Boston has the dubious distinction of being the first team to ever lose to the Shanghai Dragons, (though the Dragons do deserve some credit for getting themselves to a 3-4 record). If Boston can keep their current hot streak up, they could go on a deep playoff run, but simultaneously, they have to face the top-seeded Titans.
Now that we’ve met the contenders, let’s make some predictions. Writer’s note: The quarterfinals are a Best-of-5 match, and the semifinals & championship are a Best-of-7 match.
Thursday, March 21st:
- Seoul Dynasty vs. New York Excelsior at 9:00pm EST: 3-0 NYXL. Seoul will have to pull a magic rabbit out of a hat to stop the unstoppable force of the Jjonak-led XL.
- Boston Uprising vs. Vancouver Titans at 11:00pm EST: 3-1 Vancouver. As hot as Boston is, they are much closer to the teams that Vancouver feasted on than potential kryptonite for the Titans.
Friday, March 22nd:
- Atlanta Reign vs. Philadelphia Fusion at 9:00pm EST: Atlanta 3-2. Atlanta barely lost to Philadelphia in Week One, so they are coming in with a vengeful goal in mind.
- San Francisco Shock vs. Toronto Defiant at 11:00pm EST: San Francisco 3-1. If there’s any non-division winning team that can go all the way, it’s San Francisco.
I will make my predictions for the semifinal stage after the quarterfinals are done, and so I can save face when my champion pick gets bounced tonight or tomorrow. Get excited!