The 2019 Overwatch League playoffs are finally upon us. Twelve of the world's best teams are set to do battle in the coming weeks for the chance to steal the crown away from the inaugural champions, the London Spitfire. However, six teams are going to be competing for two direct playoff seeds in the Overwatch League’s first play-in tournament. Not only will this event be interesting due to how the patch might affect the game, but the potential matches we could see are very likely to set the pace of the entire playoff bracket.
Charge vs Hunters | 1-1 (4-5)
It is difficult to really put the Hunter over here and I think this is going to be a massive uphill battle. Using the Map Skill Rating created by Twitter user @Chockrit the Charge are stronger on all game types. The only problem is that Chengdu has to play their three worst Control maps; Lijiang Tower, Ilios, and Busan. The Charge has a small edge in the head-to-head seeing how their loss was during the first week of Stage 1 without Nero. I don’t put much weight into the fact that it was during week one, I think both parties could suffer from week one jitters. The only thing I worry about with the Charge is how quickly the Charge can adapt to the new meta. They do tend to thrive when Happy can play Snipers. However, HOTBA is going to be someone to look out for. Throughout his stay in the Overwatch League, HOTBA has been incredibly flexible and I trust that he will quickly be able to jump right into the new patch on whatever is needed. Similarly, Nero and Rio should be right alongside him in terms of what heroes the new patch is going to call for. The only thing that I think Chengdu has going for them is the fact that it’s pretty difficult to prepare for them. All season long they’ve played with their own style, pair this up with the new patch and it’s going to be a dice roll on what the Hunters pull out. Even saying that, the Charge also have shown some curveball, unorthodox, aggression much in the same style of the Chengdu Hunters. There is a good chance that the Charge comes out on certain Control maps just as colorful. Using the map performance data on over.gg, the Chengdu Hunters have an edge over the Guangzhou Charge if they can reach Escort. They have a 75% win rate on Watchpoint: Gibraltar to the Charge’s 33%, they have a 50% win rate on Dorado to the Charge’s 0% (0-3), and the Hunter’s have a 67% win rate on Rialto to the Charge’s 20%. This potentially is going to be a strong lifeline for the Hunters to give them some breathing room going into the rest of the set.Elsa could possibly be moving to play the Symetra on some maps due to his experience playing it this season, could see a return of LateYoung or Jiqiren on flex tank. However, there is always an outside chance that we see Chengdu rely on their comfort picks to try and brute force an awkward matchup. Throughout Stage 4 they forced Ameng on the Wrecking Ball constantly, not because it was somehow a sleepy counter-pick, but because he’s that potent and comfortable on the hero.The way I see it, the first Control is going to be key. I don’t see a world where Chengdu wins on either Assault or Hybrid and it’s going to be a tough ask to have the Hunters take both Control maps. I can see the Hunters finding unorthodox looks that might shake up the metagame, but I don’t see the Charge--a team that has shown a similar style--being caught off-guard. I’ve got the Charge advancing either in a 4-2, with losses on first Control and Escort, or taking the first four maps convincingly.
Dragons vs Philidelphia | 1-4 (7-15)
The two team’s historical record doesn’t mean as much seeing as how the season two Shanghai Dragon are completely different and head and shoulders above their counterparts. That said, this season the two teams have only faced off against each other once during the regular season during Stage 3 Week 5 at the Atlanta Homestand, where Shanghai took the series 3-1. The match was fairly close, no one side looking all the dominant and I think that sets the tone for the series as well.What really stands out to me is that the Philidelphia Fusion are going to start this set very slowly, which puts them at a tempo disadvantage. Fusion have a 38% win rate on Assualt and a 39% win rate on Control. With those two game types being your first two games, that doesn’t bode well for you as the match returns to Control and is followed by Assualt. However, that doesn’t mean Shanghai is perfect.The Shanghai Dragon struggle on Hybrid, boasting a surprisingly 35% win rate. Fortunately for the Dragons, they are dodging their two worst maps, Hollywood and Nepal. With their Stage 4 slump in full effect, the Dragons are going to need every ounce of practice they can get to capitalize on the chaotic nature of the new patch. Both teams have very distinct styles that are focused around their star DPS players. Either team has an opportunity to come out swinging much like the Charge and the Hunters, with a composition that allows their DPS to shine. DDing could be featured on his signature Pharah, EQO has a number of picks that he has shown, and Carpe is almost always a threat in the game. As cliche as it sounds, this match is going to really come down to who is best on the day. No one clearly has an edge and both teams ended Stage 4 on a sour note.The way I see it, Shanghai most certainly wins Control and Philly takes them to Temple of Anubis, but I don’t see that being all that successful. Either way, Fusion likely takes Hybrid and Escort seems to be anyone's game. That already puts the ball in Shanghai’s court as they return to Fusion’s weaker gametypes. There is a world where this just becomes a dogfight and it’s anyone's game, but from their seasonal performance and their record with this map pool, I think Shanghai is going to take an early lead and ride that momentum to the play-in semifinals, 4-1. Joseph “Volamel” Franco has followed esports since the MLGs of 2006. He started out primarily following Starcraft 2, Halo 3, and Super Smash Bros. Melee. He has transitioned from viewer to journalist and writes freelance primarily about Overwatch and League of Legends. If you would to follow his thoughts you can follow him at@Volamel.Images courtesy of Blizzard Entertainment.