By: Ian McCafferty

The first day of Stage Three was full of surprises. Valiant picked apart an uncoordinated Seoul squad, Shock looked rejuvenated and Dragons weren’t completely in sync yet. The matches were solid, but Shock vs. Gladiators would prove to be a step above.

Dragons 1 – Fuel 3

This was supposed to be the match where Shanghai finally broke through and got their first win, it didn’t exactly go as planned. Even though the entire desk picked Shanghai to win, Fuel came out fast and were fairly unchallenged through the first three maps. The new players from Shanghai looked good, but clearly the team cohesion just isn’t there yet. A win on Junkertown showed some of those signs of life for Shanghai, while Fuel got the opening win they needed.

Volskaya – 2-1 Fuel

The Dragons came out with their five new players and attacked first on Volskaya. Their first push died after UnKoe picked Daemin, second push when Daemin was sniped by AKM and the third push was killed by an EFFECT pulse bomb. Dragons finally took the point after Fearless used primal to knock UnKoe off and pressure AKM. Ado got two with a blade to finish the fight.

On the Point B defense, AKM switch from Widow to Sombra and Dragons were unable to snowball since they used so many ults to take Point A. From then on it was the Sombra show. AKM ended the next Dragons push with a EMP and double support kill. Dragons followed up by nearly taking the fight with a primal and Dragonblade again, but EFFECT got three kills and Dragons didn’t even get a tick.

On the Dragons final push, AKM forces trans before the choke and then used EMP to kill both supports again. AKM Charged an EMP every 83 seconds during the Fuel Point B defense and was constantly pressuring the Shanghai support line.

Shanghai essentially needed a full hold to take the first map and manage to wipe Fuel right out the gate with an aggressive defense. But then EFFECT followed up with 5 kills to get the point on Fuel’s second push.

Then the Fuel just snowballed using their ults and easily took Point B. Fuel finished the map with 126 Elims and only 22 deaths while Dragons went 54-48 on map one.

Numbani – 2-1 Fuel

Dragons attacked first again on Numbani and appeared to take Point A on their second dive, but Fuel managed to stagger well enough to allow for an AKM Quad visor and a team kill. Dragons were stuck at 93 percent. But Shanghai came right back and Ado got a triple with his blade to finally take the point.

It looked like Dragons might push it all the way through Point B, but the payload stopped when Effect killed both Sky and Altering.

AKM switched to Sombra after Point A and ended a Dragons push with an EMP, then the final Dragons push was shut down by a transcendence when Ado bladed and finally one last EMP.

Dragons tried an aggressive defense again, and it failed spectacularly as Fuel win the fight and quickly take Point A. An EMP from Sky stops the Fuel 20 meters from the Point B, but Fuel came back and just easily pushed the Dragons back.

Map two ended with Fuel at 123-27 and Dragons at 78-46. Meanwhile EFFECT went 68-5 in the first two maps.

Ilios – 2-0 Fuel

EFFECT picked up right where he left off in the first half, killing two right away and allowing Fuel to cap the point quick.

Quad blade from Ado finally gets Dragons the point with Fuel at 93 percent. Pulse bomb on Mickie wins Dragons the next fight but EFFECT killed both Dragons supports in the final push, Ado died while trying to pop blade and Dragons couldn’t recover fast enough to get back to the point. Round One Fuel.

The first fight on Ruins was a skirmish with both sides losing players, but AKM managed to pick Altering, Fearless and Daemin and give Fuel early control. 

A nice team push from Geguri, Ado and Sky took the point for Dragons and they would hold it nearly to 80 percent. But AKM was playing near unpressured, he picked Altering when he had Beatdrop, not once but twice. He managed to finally get it off, but by then the Fuel had already flipped the point and were at 99 percent. EFFECT and AKM cleaned up and the match went to Fuel.

Junkertown – 2-1 Dragons

Dragons attempted to run the Pirate ship with Bastion but AKM managed to hook Sky off the payload and kill him.

Then Dragons nearly got full held but won an Orisa standoff in Overtime to finally take Point A. Fuel stopped the payload with an AKM EMP and a Seagull Riptire, but Dragons still pushed forward as they reached overtime again on the back of Daemin on Widowmaker. But the push would finally be stopped halfway through point three thanks to yet another EMP.

Fuel came out on attack with double snipers and just blasted through the Dragons all the way until halfway through Point B when Sky managed to kill EFFECT and Fuel had to fall back for a comp change. Gone were the double snipers in were Tracer Sombra and Seagall on D.va.

The new comp would not be enough as Dragons stonewalled Fuel for the next three minutes. The hold was highlighted by an enormous Whole Hog from Fearless while inside one of the small hallways and a crazy stagger from Ado while Dragons regrouped and stopped Fuel four meters from the checkpoint.

Fearless was insane on the Roadhog this entire map and that’s what allowed Dragons to take Junkertown.

Los Angeles Valiant 4 – Seoul Dynasty 0

The Los Angeles Valiant had a….. tumultuous last few weeks to put it lightly. Sporting almost an entirely new roster Valiant shocked a Seoul squad that didn’t play Ryujehong, Tobi or Zunba and looked discombobulated all night. Aside from a couple pushes on Numbani off of Fleta blades, Valiant stonewalled every Seoul push and easily capped points when it was their turn to go on the offensive.

Valiant ran out Agilities and Soon on DPS, probably because Bunny isn’t yet ready to play on stage and they had Custa and Kariv as their supports. For Dynasty it was their “B-Team” with Fleta, Gambler, Gido, Xepher, Munchkin and Miro.

Anubis – 2-0 Valiant 

Valiant came out of the gate ablaze. They slowly pushed in on Point A and managed to get control off a few picks, but Dynasty managed to stall and get there entire team back, only to get shredded by a Dragonblade from Agilities. Then the snowball was on. Hero switches from Seoul reset ults and then a sick stick on Miro from Soon and another blade from Agilities took Point B for Valiant.

Then Valiant followed it up with an impressive full hold. Soon on Widowmaker kept Seoul pinned down at choke, Seoul could never really dislodge Fate’s Orisa from the high ground and the only big push they made was ended when Agilities found both supports with a riptire. Shockingly the match started 1-0 LA.  

Numbani – 3-2 Valiant

No subs for Dynasty and well….. it was probably the wrong decision. Agilities came out on Pharah and pretty much just zoned Seoul off Point A leading to a quick Valiant cap. Seoul never stopped Valiant in the second stage of the map with a botched EMP from Dynasty indicative of their play so far. The third portion of the map looked a bit better for Seoul, but Agilities finished it off with a triple kill on Soldier

It looked like Seoul was about to get full held again on Numbani as none of their pushes made much progress and they botched an EMP once again, but Fleta saved the day with a big Dragonblade. Seoul took Point A and quickly moved through Point B, taking it on another Fleta Dragonblade. But it wouldn’t be enough as Seoul would get stonewalled on Point C. Fleta’s blade only managed to get Custa and the rest of Valiant cleaned up. An impress first half was complete.

Nepal – 2-0 Valiant

Easily the most entertaining of the four maps, the two teams ran dueling triple tank comps with Reapers on Village. Soon dropped down on Seoul with a death blossom from the high ground and then in the ensuing fight Munchkin did the same exact thing getting a 3K with his death blossom. Valiant would grind back the point with another death blossom and manage to hold on for a round one win.

On Sanctum Seoul only won one fight, where Fleta got two picks on Widow, while Space’s Roadhog and Soon’s Widow essentially ran the show. Valiant were never particularly pressured outside of their one lost fight and Seoul was zoned off the point by a Halt from Fate at the end.

Junkertown – 3-0 Valiant

Valiant would continue to play well in their current composition, Space’s roadhog carried the team through Point A and despite getting held almost the entire time bank before Point B, the Valiant managed to ride the payload all the way to 3 points in OT.

LA ran triple tank on D and completely stonewalled Seoul on the first choke point. Soon killed Munchkin literally the second the round started and that was a pretty good metaphor for this map as a whole. Easy 4-0 Los Angeles

San Francisco Shock 3 – Los Angeles Gladiators 1

This was supposed to be the best match of the day and it delivered. For Shock, Super is very good. I’m not sure it can be overstated how much better Shock looked with Super on main tank. Combine that with Danteh’s Sombra and Sinatraa on Tracer and suddenly this team is looking scary. The Gladiators did not roll over by any means, but just too often they didn’t have an answer for the Sombra and in a close match that proved to be the difference.

Volskaya – 4-3 Gladiators

San Francisco came out running dive and it’s just astounding how much better their dive is now with the aggressive play from both Sinatraa and Super. A quick cap of Point A was followed up by a long stall on Point B from Gladiators, but Shock would finally take it with just the use of a Sound Barrier with around a minute left.

Gladiators quickly took Point A themselves with Silkthread on Tracer and Asher on Widow and just barged their way onto Point B. Silkthread took care of both Shock tanks and it was just a matter of time as LA took both points with 5:34 left.

It was very interesting push on Point A for San Francisco as Super dove the high ground causing both Fissure and Bischu to peel and opened up the rest of the Gladiators to a ground attack. Shock would take Point A and get to 3 points, but with not much time left would be stuck at three.

Shock decided to run Sleepy on Moira to defend Point A and were dealt the same result as when they tried it earlier. Gladiators moved to Point B with 5 minutes left in the time bank. Despite Shock’s best efforts, the time bank was just too much to overcome. Shock beat back three straight Gladiators attacks, but with 1:30 left Fissure killed both Shock supports and Danteh, giving the point and the map to Gladiators.

Numbani – 4-3 Shock

Shock were not discouraged by their loss in map one and came out scorching hot on Numbani. Running a Tracer Sombra DPS comp they stormed Point A and continued to just decimate Gladiators all the way through the checkpoint. Gladiators finally turned the tide once Shock were bearing down on the finish with a few timely picks, but Shock made it there so quickly they had almost six minutes to work with. Gladiators nearly pulled it off, but the Shock ground it out on the back of Danteh’s Sombra and finished the map with 10 seconds.

Gladiators slow pushed onto Point A for their attack and despite a bit of a grind took the point first try. But the payload stopped almost immediately after Fissure was hacked and melted by Nevix and Danteh. For the next five minutes Danteh and Sinatraa were just causing nightmares for the Gladiators supports and LA just barely reached the checkpoint in OT. But the 1:30 Gladiators had would prove to be enough as a last-gasp push on the back of a Surefour EMP wiped Shock and after a nearly minute-long stall from Shock in Overtime, it was tied 3-3.

With only a minute to attack, Gladiators made the best of a poor situation but losing Bischu early in the fight certainly did not help. They nearly turned the tide in their favor, but a Nevix D.va bomb zoned Fissure off the point for long enough for the Overtime tick to burn down and Shock to execute a full hold.

Shock followed by taking the tick they need in under 30 seconds. Danteh deleted Shaz, Sinatraa took out Surefour and the rest of the team cleaned up as the match was tied at one apiece.

Ilios – 2-0 Shock

Shock began to take control of the match on control. On Lighthouse Gladiators ran triple tank instead of Pharmercy because Hydration was still on the bench. With Shock running dive they just cut through the LA Tank comp on the point and capped it easily. Gladiators immediately switched back to dive with Surefour back on the Sombra. But it wouldn’t matter, Sinatraa and Danteh were just on fire and shredded through the Gladiators time and time again. Round 1 Shock without a single percentage going to LA.

Gladiators would fair a bit better on well, taking the initial fight and finally garnering some percentage. But as Shock returned a botched EMP from Surefore would open up the fight for San Francisco and flip the point back. Meanwhile, Sleepy’s Moira was a menace picking up final blow after final blow on the Gladiators. Los Angeles would briefly take the point back with the Shock at 86 percent but one last Danteh EMP would shut them down for good and give San Francisco the lead.

Junkertown – 3-1 Shock

Shock started on attack and brought in Babybay cold off the bench to play Widow. Meanwhile, Gladiators were running triple tank with Shaz on Roadhog and only one support, Biggoose on Mercy. After some initial trouble, Shock broke through after Babybay picked Fissure and forced a rez. Shock pushed through Point B with ease thanks to Babybay forcing Gladiators to stay out of sight lines and finally ripping off a 3K when they were forced to contest the payload. Gladiators would stop Shock on the way to point C all the way until overtime, where a timely Nevix stall and a rez onto Super allowed Shock to overwhelm LA with a late Transcendence and push the payload all the way to the end.

Gladiators attempted to run Pirate Ship with Bastion and were aided by an early pick on BabyBay, but the payload stalled before it could reach Point A. Shaz stayed on Bastion with only a minute left but that would wind up not mattering as Surefour opened the way with two kills and his teammates cleaned up the rest. Gladiators looked to have an easy Point B after claiming the high ground but a BabyBay snipe onto Silkthread and a double kill from Nevix’s D.va bomb turned the tide with under two minutes left. Finally, the Gladiators switched off of the Bastion and back onto dive. The match would be decided when Shock managed to win the penultimate fight without using either support ult, leaving them with a Valkeyrie and a Transcendence for the LA Overtime push. An early pick on Surefour all but sealed it and Shock cleaned up for a 3-1 map and match victory.

 

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