As the final games of Overwatch League’s first-ever Stage get underway, a larger prize looms in the evening: Stage One will crown a champion on Saturday night, and the winner of the first five weeks of Overwatch League will split $100,000.
Update: London will face Houston at 8 p.m. Eastern, and the winner will take on NYXL at 10.
Here’s how it works: Overwatch League’s regular season is divided into four stages. At the end of all these stages is a traditional six-team playoff, but the stages are a way for other teams to take a crack at glory and prize money. On the final day of each stage, the second and third place finishers will play for the right to meet the top-placed team in the Stage Final. Winner gets $100k, while the loser still nets $25k.
After three games on Saturday, the Stage Title matches begin at 8 p.m. Eastern, with the Final scheduled to begin at 10 p.m. Eastern.
The stages will allow teams that struggled early to rebound and still contend for cash this year. For example: San Francisco Shock started their OWL season slowly, but wrapped up their Stage One by playing tough with Seoul Dynasty and knocking them out of Stage Final contention. . They may not be able to climb the standings for a playoff push, but the Stages give them a chance to compete for money throughout the season.
It’s a good format, and one that has produced excellent early-season drama. Heading into the last weekend of Stage One, seven of the 12 teams were eligible for a top-three finish. That number has dwindled on the final day, when suddenly Map Differential will play a large role in the standings.
Here’s how Overwatch League looks before Saturday’s games.
There are three regular season games today. Here’s how they impact the standings:
NYXL vs. London Spitfire
The two top dogs. If London wins, the teams will both go through to the playoffs. If NYXL wins, Spitfire drops to the land of three-loss teams, where they’ll need to pray that their map differential is strong enough to carry them through the day.
Houston Outlaws vs. Boston Uprising
It’s fitting that the two hottest teams in Overwatch League are meeting on the last day of the Stage with financial implications. Uprising have the worst map differential of the three-loss teams, so they need to win by more than two maps to move ahead of Valiant in the standings.
If Houston wins, their outstanding map differential comes into play. A seventh win would see them vault the standings, and they would guarantee themselves a spot in the Stage One Playoffs.
Boston need the most help in the playoff picture. If London only loses by one map, Boston will need a 4-0 sweep to keep their hopes alive. Regardless, they’ll need at the very least a convincing victory.
Florida Mayhem vs. Philadelphia Fusion
Fusion were swept by Boston in a Super Bowl revenge game earlier this week, so their playoff hopes are over. It’s a good barometer for future stages, as it’s becoming apparent that close wins can hurt a team in the long run when it comes to the standings. Fusion get a consolation prize in beating up the Mayhem before taking a short break before Stage Two.
Stage One Title Matches Prediction
Despite my rising fandom for underdog Boston Uprising, it’s hard to pick against Houston at this stage of the competition. They were a player down for their loss to Seoul, and that’s the only reason they’re not a playoff lock right now. Jake gets all the DPS credit, but LiNkzr has been on a tear since recovering from an illness. I like Houston to handle Boston and advance to the Title matches.
In the first Title playoff in Overwatch League, Houston will beat London. The Spitfire are still struggling with finding their “optimal” lineup, and have struggled to string together strong performances in recent weeks.
That sets up a Stage Title with Houston taking on NYXL. These teams met during the first week of the season, and Houston was tossed aside 3-1. The Outlaws responded to that loss with four straight 4-0 wins, setting them up for their playoff push on Saturday. There’s an extra revenge narrative here, but NYXL will take the cash. They have the best Tracer (Saebyeolbe), Zenyatta (JJoNak), and McCree (Pine) in the league, and all three will make an impact in the final.
Prediction: 3-1 NYXL