With the Stage 3 Playoffs starting on Thursday, I confined my rankings to stage playoff teams.
1. Vancouver Titans (20-1)
Going into the Stage 3 Playoffs, the Titans are my top team due to their consistent domination and their ability to recover from their sole season loss against the Valiant. Vancouver plays aggressive and fast, and that characteristic will be a big boon for them this week. With Chung-Hee "Stitch" Lee seeing some playing time in the lineup with his Sombra, the Titans will look to secure their second stage title.
2. San Francisco Shock (16-5)
The Shock won the Stage 2 title and successfully managed a “golden stage” (not dropping a single map for an entire stage), yet they feel like a bit of a dark horse entering the Stage 3 Playoffs. Dong-Jun "Rascal" Kim’s ability to play the best Baptiste in the league means that San Francisco has an interesting card up their sleeve, and they’ll have to deal with the ever-popular Sombra compositions in an interesting way.
3. Hangzhou Spark (14-7)
The Spark are more traditional in terms of their triple-tank, triple-support usage than most teams in the Stage 3 Playoffs, but Kyeong-Bo "GodsB" Kim has shown us more and more of his Sombra capabilities recently. Pair that up with Qiulin "Guxue" Xu’s Winston, which is the best in the world, and you’ve got a rock-solid duo able to take down either the Titans or the Shock.
4. New York Excelsior (19-2)
Perhaps the Excelsior deserve more credit for their undefeated record in Stage 3—but given that a lot of their matches were unconvincing, it’s hard to see them competing with the top teams when it truly comes down to it. Some might know the Excelsior for their inability to perform during elimination matches, but this time around I think it will come down to sheer skill alone. Jong-Ryeol "Saebyeolbe" Park is a great Sombra, but New York has shown some weaknesses during Stage 3.
5. Los Angeles Valiant (8-13)
Going into the Stage 3 Playoffs, the Valiant secured a top-five spot on the back of their great understanding of the new meta. Johannes "Shax" Nielsen’s Sombra has revitalized the Valiant roster along with Russell "FCTFCTN" Campbell’s main-tank play and, most importantly, Young-Seo "Kariv" Park’s spectacular Ana. I don’t think the Valiant are favorites against any of my top teams for now, but as they showed us against the Titans earlier this stage, they definitely have the ability to score some upsets.
6. Seoul Dynasty (12-9)
It’s hard to assess how good the Dynasty will be moving into the Stage 3 Playoffs, as they now only have one main tank to lean on, but still, Min-Seo "Marve1" Hwang has impressed me this stage. The way that Seoul dealt with Chengdu’s wild-west hero switching in Week 4 is reassuring, and if they can overcome San Francisco’s tank play in the quarterfinals, Seoul might be able to compete with some of the DPS-heavy teams as well.
7. Shanghai Dragons (12-9)
With star-caliber players like Jin-Hyeok "Dding" Yang and Min-Sung "Diem" Bae serving as the sharp end of the spear, there's certainly a possibility for upsets in Shanghai's matches—but their two losses against the Valiant in Week 3 and the Charge in Week 5 discourage me from rating them higher than this. Skilled Winston players with an adept Sombra on their side have proven to be able to shut down multi-DPS compositions, but the Excelsior are still heavy favorites when the teams play on Thursday.
8. Houston Outlaws (8-13)
The Outlaws are my lowest-ranked team, and while it might seem unfair with them taking down a team like the Shock, their weak strength of schedule was a big reason why they qualified in the first place. Said upset against San Francisco was an impressive feat that springboarded Houston up the rankings, but a horrible loss to the Mayhem almost fully negated it. While the Outlaws have shown the ability to upset opponents this stage, they are not favorites in any potential matchups.
The Stage 3 Playoffs start on Thursday, July 11, when the Outlaws take on the Titans at 6 p.m. PDT, immediately followed by a clash between the Dragons and the Excelsior. 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.