Over the weekend, the Washington Justice became the embodiment of Overwatch League playoff chaos. They are other teams’ spoilers and the playoff Cinderellas. They’ve gone from one of the worst regular season performances to knocking out one tournament champ and almost knocking out another. And although their chances of ultimate triumph are still mathematically slim, they are this year’s fan favourite to win it all.
The Washington Justice is an Overwatch League expansion team added in the 2019 season. In their first year, they took over the mantle both the Shanghai Dragons and Florida Mayhem had held as one of the worst teams in the League, ending the season with single digit wins. Although this year they performed admirably and endeared themselves to fans by becoming Foster’s Home for Unfairly Released Players, they still ended the regular season with only four wins. But they are, right now, the scariest damn team in the playoffs.
The carnage started with the Dallas Fuel. Earlier in the year, Dallas released DPS player Gui-un “Decay” Jang long after the signing period for players had closed, leaving Decay without a team until the period reopens again in the off-season. However, since the grand finals will take place in Asia (we don’t know where exactly yet, though it’ll likely be South Korea) the League head office introduced a rule that allows teams to temporarily sign free agents who will be able to travel with the necessary visas. Only one team took advantage of this rule: Washington, using it to snap up Decay and his prized DPS performance. After making quick work of the Vancouver Titans in the first round of the playoffs, Washington faced the Dallas Fuel, bringing Decay back onto the field against his former teammates. Washington slaughtered Dallas 3-0.
— Overwatch League (@overwatchleague) September 4, 2020
In the new role lock environment, it’s easier for one player to win for a whole team. When Washington announced Decay’s signing, I knew he had the potential to put that team on his back and hard-carry. What I didn’t expect is that Decay is more than a carry (make no mistake, sometimes he did carry); he’s the final missing puzzle piece Washington needed to click.
The individual talent on the Washington squad is some of the best and most well-known. Stitch and Jjanu were teammates on the famous RunAway squad of 2018. Aimgod’s talents as a healer were woefully under appreciated when he played for Boston. Ark is an Overwatch support veteran who played with the New York Excelsior when they were still a team to be feared and respected. Without Decay, all these talented players struggled to perform together. Decay seemingly brought out the best in his teammates. They’re very close to winning as many games in a two week stint as they have in the entire regular season.
Fans saw that talent this weekend when the team pulled together at the last possible moment against all possible odds to save their attack run on Numbani versus the Paris Eternal. That Numbani map against Paris will go down in Overwatch League history. Paris defended against Washington and were seconds away from completely shutting them out when everyone on Washington put up the performance of their lives: A clutch biotic grenade from Aimgod, Jjanu’s necessary hook and kill onto the enemy D.Va, Decay switching to an emergency Wrecking Ball to make it back onto the point in time to keep the Overtime timer running.
Washington won the point at the last second, and Paris was never able to stop them again. They cruised the payload through the entire map, finishing it with time to spare. Then, when it was Paris’s turn to attack, Washington stopped them from even completing the map.
The Eternal never recovered. It was like that Simpsons meme where Bart says, “Look, Lisa you can actually pinpoint the second when his heart rips in half.”
The Paris Eternal are the Summer Showdown champions, beating the San Francisco Shock for that honour. They were the #3 seed and favourites to be in or at least near the final four teams. And now they are gone, bounced out by a #12 seed, that, in a normal world, wouldn’t have even qualified for the playoffs in the first place.
Of course, the only reason Washington met Paris in the losers bracket was because San Francisco put Washington there in a close, down-to-wire reverse sweep. Like the Shock did last year, Washington is poised to tear a bloody swathe through the losers bracket, their next opponents being the Los Angeles Valiant and whoever loses in the Philadelphia Fusion/San Francisco Shock match up. If they keep clicking like they did last weekend, and if Decay keeps pulling off impressive performances, I have no doubt that Washington and San Francisco will meet again, this time in the Winner’s Finals. (Not the Grand Finals obviously, because one of those spots is reserved for my Dragons.)