Picture this: you’re watching the Overwatch League with your buddy. It’s Hollywood, and your favorite team is playing. They’ve had some rough patches attacking the first point so far, but now they have six ultimates banked. “Surely,” you say to your friend, “they’re going to win the next fight.”
“How!? HOW!?” You exclaim to your friend as the team inexplicably loses the fight. “They had six ultimates, they should have won!”
Your friend shrugs. “Six ults, you lose!”
“But five ults, you win... yeah yeah, I know,” you grumble.
The “six ults you lose, but five ults you win” phenomenon is a phrase that originated amongst Korean fans that has—like many useful sayings—leaked into all of Overwatch. It describes the exact situation above, where the Toronto Defiant lost what surely should have been an easy teamfight win on paper.
When teams accrue six ultimates before a teamfight, some mystical force seems to cause teams to overthink, underplay, and for all intents and purposes totally beef it when it comes to spending the fruits of their labor. For some reason, this mysterious power also enables teams with five ultimates to always defeat those with six. This phenomenon happens often enough to have become a meme, but is it actually a measurable, demonstrable thing? (Would I be asking this rhetorical question if the answer wasn’t yes?)
Let’s start with a zoomed-out view. The first thing we need to do is determine how often teams who begin a teamfight with six ultimates charged go on to win the ensuing teamfight. For fun, let’s also show the win rate for all other discrete count of ultimates charged as well. To keep it relevant, I’ll just look at the 2019 Overwatch League season.
|Ultimates Available||# of teamfights||Teamfight win rate|
Two things become very apparent: having more ultimates banked before a teamfight is better than having less, and there are actually very few instances where teams actually have the full six-pack before a teamfight begins. The “six ults, you lose” phenomenon already looks a little suspect: teams with six ultimates before a teamfight win 69% of the time.
But there are other ways to peel a teamfight, so maybe there’s still something to “six ults, you lose.” This data ignores the number of ultimates banked by their opponents—something that should affect teamfight win rate as well. Let’s take those 35 “six ults available” teamfights and split them by “opponent ults available.”
But before we do that, let’s play a game: can you predict who wins this teamfight?
Do you have your guesses ready? Below, I’ve presented the win rates for each of the 35 teamfights where one team had six ultimates banked, split by each opponent’s ult count:
|Opponent ultimates available||# of teamfights||# Teamfights won||Teamfight win rate|
|*If both teams have six ults banked, one of them must win and one must lose.|
Back to the Justice vs. NYXL teamfight from Stage 2: it was the one teamfight in 2019 where a team with zero ultimates defeated a team with six. Watch it below:
This example is just crazy enough to make me believe in “six ults, you lose.” How else could the NYXL lose to the Justice with such an advantage? Regardless, the data suggests that outside of this single outlier, it does not matter how many ultimates your opponent has if you have six ultimates: you have the advantage if you have six ults banked. The data also gives a bit of credence to the latter half of the phrase: “...but five ults you win.” Indeed, having five ultimates is the best if you want to defeat a team with six. This makes sense on paper—it’s the smallest possible difference in ultimates, and only one of those has even happened this season.
However, banking ultimates is still just one half of the equation for teamfight wins. After all, what’s the use of having six ultimates if you don’t use them? Let’s dig into teamfight win rates for teams with six ultimates, but split by how many ultimates they used during that teamfight:
|Ultimates used||# of teamfights||# Teamfights won||Teamfight win rate|
By and large, most teams with six ultimates banked used all six of those ultimates, and some even used more! Even with a small total number of teamfights, we can make a guess as to why a team might lose a teamfight with six ultimates.
On one hand, teams only won two out of five teamfights where they had six ultimates banked and used less than three of those ultimates in the ensuing teamfight. These teams likely suffered early first deaths in the teamfight and decided to conserve their ultimates to fight another day—just like the NYXL vs. Justice example above.
On the other hand, we have teams who used six or more of their banked ultimates. These teams won 15 out of 22 teamfights—still a positive win rate, but less than 100% nonetheless. Perhaps these teams used all their ultimates but failed to definitively eliminate the enemy team, leaving them out of position and out of weapons.
Let’s dig even further into the individual six-or-more-ults-used teamfight losses and try to see what we can find:
|Team||Team ults used||Opponent||Opponent ults used|
|Paris Eternal||6||Los Angeles Gladiators||8|
|San Francisco Shock||6||New York Excelsior||6|
|Toronto Defiant||6||San Francisco Shock||9|
|Toronto Defiant||7||Philadelphia Fusion||7|
|Houston Outlaws||8||Guangzhou Charge||4|
|Los Angeles Valiant||8||Houston Outlaws||6|
|Paris Eternal||8||Washington Justice||8|
|Toronto Defiant||8||Paris Eternal||6|
Two things jump out once again. The first: five out of eight losses came to an opponent who matched or surpassed them in ultimates used. These teamfights were likely huge back-and-forth brawls, where both teams emptied their chambers and then some. The second: seven out of eight of these teams rank in the bottom 14 of the league, and the Shock’s teamfight loss came to another top-three team. Perhaps all there is to “six ults, you lose” is the strength of the team in question? Let’s check each team’s teamfight win rates with six ultimates banked to find out:
|Team||Teamfights with six ults||Losses||Teamfight win rate|
|New York Excelsior||5||1||80%|
|San Francisco Shock||3||1||66.7%|
|Los Angeles Valiant||1||1||0%|
|Los Angeles Gladiators||0||N/A||N/A|
If the Mayhem and Justice (the two teams at the bottom of the season standings) have yet to lose a teamfight with six ults, “six ults, you lose” can’t solely be based on team strength. Between Paris, Toronto, and Houston however, three teams hold nearly 64% of all six-ult teamfight losses that have occurred this season. For most teams, it seems like losing a teamfight with six ultimates charged is a fluke. But for these three, maybe there’s something more to it. At the very least, now I’m really excited to watch Paris, Toronto, and Houston’s ultimate banks throughout their matches. Each time they reach six, they’ll have a chance to either break the curse, or continue the phenomenon. Will their six ults win or lose?
Get ready to track ults with CaptainPlanet as the Houston Outlaws kick off Week 2 at 4 p.m. PDT against the San Francisco Shock. 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.