You know how parents quantify the passage of time to an excited child in the number of sleeps? Well, instead of sleeps, I am two Shanghai Dragons wins away from getting my first tattoo. That’s because the Overwatch League Grand Finals tournament kicked off earlier today — much earlier today as, for the first time ever, the finals will be held in Korean primetime — and my Shanghai Dragons are just two wins away from taking the throne.
The double-elimination tournament features two teams from the North American region — 2019’s champions the San Francisco Shock, and 2018’s runners-up the Philadelphia Fusion — and two teams from the Asia Pacific region — 2020’s regular season Shanghai Dragon and the Seoul Dynasty. For the next two days, these four teams will fight their way through the bracket and if Shanghai wins it all, I’ve got a date with a tattoo artist.
As important to the playoffs as these teams’ win records are their storylines, and 2020 is a redemption song for a lot of them. The Philadelphia Fusion is back to avenge their inaugural-season grand-finals loss to the London Spitfire. After two years of failing expectations, the Seoul Dynasty have finally made it to Overwatch’s biggest stage. The Shanghai Dragons, once one of the losingest teams in all of competitive sport, are on the cusp of completing the glow-up of the century with a grand-finals win. Meanwhile, the San Francisco Shock look to continue their dominance and become the first team to win back-to-back titles.
I’m not going to complain about the early match times as Europe and Asia have suffered for two seasons under North American-centric scheduling, but I’m so sad that these games are in the morning because it’s way too early to drink. And if the matches today are any indication of what fans can expect the rest of the weekend, I’m going to want to drink.
That said, my Dragons performed well — better than what I admittedly expected. Early in the covid-19 crisis, the Overwatch League head office decided to unevenly split the league into two regions: 13 teams in North America and 7 in Asia Pacific. With almost twice as many teams in NA as in APAC, I was worried Shanghai would be out of their depth. And while the APAC teams can put up a good fight, NA just has a larger pool of more talented teams. Shanghai was a big fish from a little pond finally swimming in open shark-infested waters. The Fusion, on the other hand, have had to hone their skills against heavy hitters like Paris, San Francisco, and the two Los Angeles teams. Philadelphia also has an absolutely terrifying DPS lineup with Carpe and Heesu and they can claim 2020’s Rookie of the Year — support player Alarm. With this 3-0 victory over Philadelphia, Shanghai proved they are the team to fear.
Defeating a team like the Philadelphia Fusion 3-0 is practically unheard of, in fact, the only 3-0 defeat Philadelphia has suffered this year (of the two defeats they suffered at all this season) came at the hands of last year’s winners the Shock. Despite a few tense moments in the opening map, Shanghai put their foot on Philadelphia’s neck and did not let up. Philadelphia endured two back-to-back full holds in which Shanghai would not let them score a single map point.
You love to see it.
But my happiness at seeing that Shanghai can hold their own with the big boys promptly crumbled into dust when I saw who their next opponents would be: 2019’s Grand Champions, 2020’s May Melee and Countdown Cup winners, and the final boss of the Overwatch League: the San Francisco Shock.
The Shock stumbled in their match against the Seoul Dynasty, almost getting reversed swept until Seoul committed two tragic, unforced errors back to back, causing them to lose the fifth and final map. Since Seoul is another APAC team, maybe them almost beating San Francisco is proof enough that the Shock are fallible. Or maybe coming incredibly close to losing will be the shock (heh) to the system they use to tighten up their weaknesses.
The match between 2020’s two best teams kicks off tomorrow at 5:00 a.m. eastern time. That’s too early to drink and too early to yell, but I apologise in advance to my neighbours and my dog nevertheless.