I’m afraid I have to open with a bit of bad news, which is that the Overwatch League seems to be returning to its regularly scheduled triple-tank, triple-meta programming. From talking to players from various teams over the first two weeks of Stage 2, I’ve gotten the sense that most professional teams will always approach winning as a matter of efficiency, choosing to master the comp with the greatest chance of success rather than take risks on stylish but risky strategies. That’s why the three undisputed best teams in the league right now—Vancouver, New York, and San Francisco—don’t really deviate from 3-3 comps. They don’t need to; their best 3-3 is good enough to repel basically every attempted counter from anyone not named the Chengdu Hunters.

The big three are sitting pretty at the top of the table, but there’s plenty to talk about throughout the league in Week 2.

1. They did it—the Los Angeles Valiant finally broke through for their first victory of the 2019 season, grinding out a 3-2 win over the struggling Atlanta Reign. There have been longer winless streaks in the league, of course, but support Scott “Custa” Kennedy said that the drought took an extra toll on a team that had become accustomed to success, making them less sure of themselves onstage. Star veterans were visibly frustrated, while new starters felt like they weren’t able to show their full potential.

“You saw it in maps two and three [against Atlanta],” Custa said. “The third map, we just didn’t play ourselves, and that goes back to the mentality of, we’re scared to lose—we’re not playing to win at that point, we’re playing to not lose, and that really showed.”

A lot of the hesitation manifests itself in the team’s in-game communication, which Custa identified as the team’s biggest area of concern. “We had Izayaki coming in, who doesn’t speak a lot of English,” he explained. “We have KSF, who’s generally a pretty quiet guy, so the dynamic of the team sort of shifted, and [3-3] is a very communicating sort of composition, so I think that really hurt us. That’s something we’re still trying to work through and still trying to fix.”

The in-game hiccups haven’t quite gone away, as we saw in the Valiant’s 2-1 loss to the Gladiators in Sunday’s Battle for LA, where the lack of proactive decision-making cost the team at key moments of the match. Still, as Custa said, it feels like a little bit of weight has been lifted: “Hoping it helps the mentality moving forward.”

2. In-game communication was also a topic that Dallas off-tank Lucas “Note” Meissner brought up when I spoke with him after his debut with his new team, a dominant 4-0 win over the Toronto Defiant on Saturday. He described the Fuel’s shotcalling structure as more of a “shared effort” than what the Boston Uprising are known to do, and overall, there’s a more organized in-game approach: “Dallas are a lot less aggressive, not super heavy on hard engages, and [put] a lot more thought into how we’re playing before rather than just going in and putting it down to basically the mechanics after that.”

Note has fit in perfectly since his arrival, helping the Fuel go 2-0 to begin Stage 2. He’s even had the opportunity to show another facet of his game, with a few cameos on Tracer, Hanzo, Orisa, and Zarya. While it’s a new look for Note in the Overwatch League, he told me that before turning pro, he would go out of his way in ranked to play everything exceptD.Va.

“I just played everything except my main role,” he said. “I would get into ranked and see—how much can I avoid playing D.Va? How much can I play Soldier, Winston, Hanzo, Tracer, tons of random heroes? I’ve played an absurd amount of Zenyatta in ranked—probably more hours of Zenyatta in ranked than some Zenyatta players have.”

His ranked behavior comes from personal enjoyment. “I can’t do repetitive tasks very much without getting bored, so playing the same hero over and over is just not as interesting as playing all the characters.” He laughed a little before adding, “Of course, it’s nice to be ready for when your team says, ‘Hey, so you want to play Tracer?’ Like, sure, I’ve trained my life for this.”

3. Dallas was one of two teams that didn’t play their first match until Week 2. The other was Houston, who faced a herculean opponent right out of the gate—the Titans. Although the Outlaws managed to take the first map, the rest of the match was fairly one-sided in favor of the reigning stage champions. Despite the lopsided result, one thing that stood out was the Ana matchup between Vancouver’s Ju-Seok “Twilight” Lee and Houston’s Shane “Rawkus” Flaherty.

Sleep Darts everywhere! In fact, according to stats producer Ben “CaptainPlanet” Trautman, the two of them combined for an incredible 52 Sleep Darts in that match. For the curious, here are the top four single-match individual Sleep Dart totals from Stage 2 so far:

  • Greyy vs. Chengdu, Week 1 (29)
  • Jjonak vs. Mayhem, Week 2 (28)
  • Twilight vs. Houston, Week 2 (28)
  • Rawkus vs. Vancouver, Week 2 (24)

4. More on Ana: she’s been played more in Stage 2, as teams experiment with both triple-tank, triple-support variations as well as DPS-heavy comps, which means high-impact plays on both offense and defense. Here’s a brief look at some of the standout Ana specialists in the league, taken from CaptainPlanet’s numbers.

Seong-Hyun “Jjonak” Bang stands out offensively—is anyone surprised, given how he plays Zenyatta?—while Rawkus stands out for his healing, despite having played just one match so far. Twilight is simply good at everything. And Je-Hong “Ryujehong” Ryu, the Ana god himself, remains a level above when it comes to Sleep Dart accuracy.

Hero damage done/10 mins Healing done/10 mins Enemies slept/10 mins Biotic Grenades/10 mins Defensive assists/10 mins Offensive assists/10 mins
Twilight (Titans) 4,452 (2nd) 8,717 (4th) 7.07 (5th) 7.65 (2nd) 15.90 (1st) 11.89 (2nd)
Jjonak (NYXL) 5,151 (1st) 7,375 (11th) 6.95 (6th) 9.04 (1st) 14.15 (4th) 14.68 (1st)
Aimgod (Uprising) 3,317 (12th) 9,205 (3rd) 6.77 (7th) 6.45 (4th) 14.50 (3rd) 10.31 (6th)
Unkoe (Fuel) 3,081 (14th) 10,351 (2nd) 3.91 (15th) 5.86 (5th) 15.38 (2nd) 11.23 (4th)
Rawkus (Outlaws) 3,203 (13th) 10,587 (1st) 7.85 (2nd) 3.93 (15th) 10.47 (7th) 6.54 (16th)
Ryujehong (Dynasty) 4,451 (3rd) 7,102 (13th) 8.74 (1st) 5.34 (6th) 9.72 (9th) 8.26 (11th)

5. Time for some superlatives!

First, the Titans now have six top-five map completion times, including two of the top three on Rialto. This week’s speedruns came against Seoul, on Anubis and Eichenwalde. Vancouver plays this game like they’re running late for an appointment, and it’s never not entertaining.

Second, it’s rare for a single player to ace the entire opposing team, but that’s what Atlanta’s Jun “Erster” Jeong did on Sunday against Washington with this Tracer pop-off (and a little help from an EMP). One little Pulse Bomb did all that. Dream big, kids.

Lastly, there were a couple of incredible defensive stands on Hanamura this weekend. The Philadelphia Fusion kept the London Spitfire at bay for 5:10 on Point A in the time-bank round, while the Valiant survived a 4:37 onslaught by the Gladiators, a hold that included multiple impeccably clutch plays like this one:

6. As teams like Dallas, San Francisco, and the LA Gladiators rise in the standings, I’d like to spare a moment for the teams that showed so much promise in Stage 1, only to start Stage 2 with a sputter. The biggest slide belongs to the Guangzhou Charge, who are 0-4 and look like a timid shell of themselves. We’re starting to see the flip-side of this roster’s youth as they’re been swept in each of their last five matches.

Speaking of Atlanta, they’ve only managed one win out of four tries so far, largely due to some tumultuous roster changes that have stripped away much of the dynamic playstyle that we saw in Stage 1. Toronto is going through a similar thing—bringing on a ladder star like Jin “Im37” Hong was a leap of faith, but it will take time to fully integrate him into a regimented pro lineup like the one that got the Defiant to the Stage 1 playoffs.

Toronto’s remaining schedule is pretty difficult, as they have to face both San Francisco and Vancouver, and it’s possible we won’t see them return to form until Stage 3. Meanwhile, the Week 3 matchup between Atlanta and Guangzhou on Sunday should reveal a lot about the resilience of both these teams, especially because they each have tough matches earlier in the week.

7. During halftime of the Chengdu vs. Shanghai match on Friday, Shock main tank Matthew “Super” DeLisi was asked for his prediction. Without hesitating, he said the Dragons would win, and even teased the next map, which was King’s Row: “They do some nasty stuff, very non-conventional.”

That, they did. Overall, Super’s faith in his frequent scrim partners paid off, as Shanghai had an answer for nearly all of the Hunters’ offbeat strategies. In two meetings thus far, the Dragons have been able to handle Chengdu easily, and team captain Young-Jin “Youngjin” Jin told me after the 3-1 victory that he doesn’t find them particularly difficult to prepare against.

“Chengdu is known for their DPS, so we just looked at the roles and what they all play, and came up with counterstrategies,” he explained. “We anticipated everything they played except for what they did on Paris.”

Anticipating is one thing, but executing it is another. While the individual skill on Shanghai’s roster is obvious, the team hasn’t always been able to live up to their potential—or their scrim results. With a 1-2 record in Stage 2 and a 4-6 record overall, there’s still a lot of ground to make up if the Dragons want to be a playoff team.

So what’s been the issue?

“Maybe when we’re onstage, nerves get to us and we start to make mistakes or forget what we practiced,” Youngjin said. “We still haven’t been able to show what we’re capable of based on how well we play in our scrims. On a scale of 1-10, we probably haven’t even shown half of what we can do.”

The Shock have likely seen Shanghai’s 10/10 performances. Hopefully they can show the rest of us soon.

Week 3 kicks off on Thursday, April 18, at 4 p.m. PDT, when the New York Excelsior (11-0) take on the Philadelphia Fusion (7-4). Watch all 2019 season matches live and on demand on overwatchleague.com, the Overwatch League app, our Twitch channel, MLG.com, and the MLG app.