By: Ian McCafferty
A couple days ago we published a preview on the Pacific Division with a section on the Valiant, since then Valiant have shipped off three players and the team will look very different when matches start later this week. So we’re going to take a bit of a deeper look at the Valiant as they are right now.
There was a time not that long ago where the best non-Korean team in the Overwatch League was the Los Angeles Valiant. They had gone 7-3 in Stage One, knocked off Seoul in Week Five and even came a map away from a reverse sweep against London. They were a Houston Map Five win against Boston from making the stage playoffs and they were solidly in the top tier of OWL.
Stage Two started and they took a 4-0 loss to Seoul in a Dynasty revenge game of sorts, but that was a rejuvenated Seoul squad playing on a new patch. Valiant would recover and win their next three matches, but in retrospect, a draw with the Dragons and losing maps to both Shock and Fuel (before their end of stage turnarounds) was an early warning. Meanwhile, the strange roster decisions had already started, with Kariv being moved to a DPS role. Kariv shone in his new role, showing off a large hero pool and some impressive Widowmaker play. But it was a strange move given the fact that they already had three other DPS players on the bench and Grimreality hadn’t even played yet.
Then came the losses, first a nasty 4-0 to the Gladiators in the Battle for LA. But they recovered well enough, beating Houston 4-0 the next day. Despite the victory, the DPS saga continued, as Kariv would be subbed in and out for Agilities and Silkthread disappeared from the lineup altogether.
There was still a new low for Valiant to reach however. The infamous “In-n-Out” video was ill-timed and ill-judged, scapegoating Agilities with the team’s poor performances and revealing disputes between players. Some transparency is always welcome, but these backroom issues are not the stuff to make public and hardly ever endears management to fans. It was bad when it happened and even worse after Fusion parodied it on their twitter.
Next, there was a loss to the Mayhem in a match that really wasn’t even that close. Close losses to Boston and Philadelphia followed and then finally a brutal 4-0 at the hands of NYXL mercifully ended the stage with the Valiant sitting at 4-6.
Now just a couple days before the start of Stage Three, UnKoe is gone to Dallas and Custa will be the new starting support aside Verbo (or Kariv since that hasn’t really been handled yet). Meanwhile, Envy, who’s been with the team since their Immortals days, was released with his replacement most likely being Space, who just turned 18. This all after they already acquired Bunny from Seoul Dynasty. With Grimreality moving into a coaching position and Silkthread joining the Gladiators the team lacks flexibility at DPS and cover in the tank roles. A few illnesses and the Valiant will look very short handed.
It’s unclear what we can even expect from the Valiant in Stage Three at this point.
Right now the starting lineup is probably Soon, Bunny, Fate, Space, Custa, Verbo/Kariv. They may still bring in Agilities to play Genji, but his play wasn’t all that impressive towards the end of the stage. Grimreality is a coach now, Silkthread is gone and Kariv will probably still come in at DPS. So the Valiant bench has been thinned down to one DPS, one DPS-support flex and Numlocked, who plays main tank. If they don’t sign anyone to be a bench flex tank Numlocked may very well have to start learning D.va. But according to him, he’s not even a part of scrims or film review, so it’s unclear if they even want to play him.
Valiant probably slot right around Shock and Fuel right now just due to the fact that we have no idea what to really expect. It appeared as if the roster was going to go Korean focused, but then Envy was released so that wasn’t the case. Now they’ve completely thinned the roster down to nine players and unless they make some serious signings soon they will have very little flexibility in Stage Three and beyond.
They still have plenty of talent in the starting lineup, but they had plenty of talent before all these roster moves. The hope here has to be that the new players gel with the remaining roster and that helps deal with all the internal strife. Most notably the decision to trade UnKoe for Custa appears to be a move in that direction. According to Mickie, Custa essentially took on a team captain role for the Fuel and by all accounts, he’s very positive and a great teammate. Valiant will probably be hoping that he can inject some of that positivity into the roster.
If nothing else, he comes with the jokes.
Whatever the case may be for Valiant moving forward, a loss to Seoul on Wednesday isn’t a death knell for the team, but a loss to Dragons later this week very much could be.