What’s the sound of a meta shifting? Is it the euphoric yelling of a beleaguered team as they rip their headsets off following an improbable win over the stage champions? Or is it the stunned silence shared between six players as their dream of an undefeated season slips away? Or maybe it’s more like rumbling underfoot, a seismic shift that unsettles everything in its path, toppling giants by accident. Whatever happened in Stage 3, it was bizarre and beautiful—the most unforgettable five-week stretch in Overwatch League history thus far.

It all resulted in a thrilling, unpredictable stage playoffs and a cathartic crowning moment for the Shanghai Dragons. Along the way, we debuted some slick third jerseys, revealed the game’s first-ever player-inspired skin to celebrate Seong-Hyun “Jjonak” Bang’s MVP season, and descended upon Atlanta for another triumphant Homestand event.

Catch up with some of the Stage 3 highlights below, and we’ll see you back on July 25 for the home stretch of the 2019 regular season!

THE BIG YEE-HAW

Let’s trace the tumult back to its source: the very first match of Week 2, when the Houston Outlaws stunned the world with a 3-2 win over the San Francisco Shock. Triple-tank, triple-support wasn’t working for the Outlaws—an ignominious 0-7 record in Stage 2 would attest to that—so they made the call to simply play their comfort heroes. It nearly worked against the NYXL in Week 1, and in Week 2 they were rewarded.

It wasn’t the smoothest match for Houston—their two map losses were total wipes. But there on the screen was Jake “Jake” Lyon on Junkrat and Pharah, Shane “Rawkus” Flaherty on Ana, and Danteh “Dante” Cruz running circles around his former team on his signature hero, Sombra. As a group, they looked much more confident, and in the tiebreaker map—historically a point of futility for the Outlaws—they simply overwhelmed the Shock with their DPS picks, including a surprise Doomfist from Jiri “Linkzr” Masalin.

There were many other thrilling matches in Stage 3—I might have ascended to a higher plane during NYXL vs. London, for example—but this was where the chaos originated. The first domino to fall. The first yee-haw that sent us on a thrill ride over the next four weeks and into the playoffs.

—Emerald Gao

LIGHTS OUT

I often get asked, “Which ultimate is the best?” Well, the answer is simple—it’s EMP—but determining why is the hard part. The problem with ultimates in Overwatch is that teams love to play the same compositions against each other, and often use the same ultimate in the same teamfight. If both teams use EMP in a teamfight and one team loses while the other team wins, how do you know how strong EMP is?

I answered this question by examining teamfights where only one of a given ultimate was used, and then determining the win rate under those conditions. A simple solution for a simple statistic. With that in mind, here are the top five ultimates from a teamfight win rate perspective this season:

Hero Ultimate Teamfight win rate
Sombra EMP 63.1%
Pharah Barrage 60.8%
Orisa Supercharger 59.2%
Widowmaker Infra-Sight 58.9%
Zarya Graviton Surge 58.7%


It’s worth noting that this ranking has not held true for the entire season; Orisa and Widowmaker were involved in very few teamfights in Stage 1, for example. I’ve theorized in the past that Patch 1.34, which went live with Stage 2, may have affected triple-tank, triple-support more than we gave it credit for, and the rise of Orisa and Widowmaker’s ult effectiveness demonstrates how counters to 3-3 rose over time.

However, teams didn’t really start leaning into different comps until Stage 3, which brings me to the stat of the stage. Sombra, Pharah, Orisa, and Widowmaker have the highest teamfight win rates with their ultimates this season. Can you guess how much time the Shanghai Dragons played those heroes in the Stage 3 Playoffs, compared to every other playoff team? 

Hero SHD usage in playoffs Other playoff team usage Differential
Sombra 54.8% 57.8% -3.0%
Pharah 93.1% 20.0% +73.1%
Orisa 46.5% 16.4% +30.1%
Widowmaker 35.5% 4.8% +30.7%

And the only reason the Dragons played less Sombra is so that their DPS duo could play more Pharah and Widowmaker. Shanghai didn’t just break the meta—they solved it. 

—Ben “CaptainPlanet” Trautman

FINDING YOUR PEOPLE

The Overwatch League community has always been one of our greatest sources of pride, and a big reason for that is the passion and warmth of the fans who have made Blizzard Arena Los Angeles such an inviting place for people to return to week after week. To celebrate Pride Month, superfan Alex Parrish shared his story of becoming a fan, being drawn to the arena, and what makes the community uniquely inclusive.

FIVE FOR CLIPPING

Everyone loves aggressive supports, right? We’ve got a Mercy on the loose and an Ana unleashed in the five highlights that got the most engagement across our social media channels in Stage 3. Plus, DPS returned to the field of play in a big, big way. Take a look:

PHOTO OF THE STAGE: PRIDE AND JOY

In this photo, captured by Robert Paul immediately after the Los Angeles Valiant upset the Vancouver Titans in Week 3, the uninhibited joy on Indy “Space” Halpern’s face could power a small city, and you can almost feel the bone-rattling impact of the hug he’s giving Kyle “KSF” Frandanisa. Some more context: Space hadn’t played in the match—his D.Va wasn’t needed for the SombrAna comps that LA had been running; instead it was Johannes “Shax” Nielsen (caught in a joyful moment of his own in the background) who played a starring role in the victory that day. That hardly seemed to matter for Space, a heart-and-soul player for the Valiant, as he was the first to rush the stage and jump on his teammates after their spectacular triumph over the league’s best team.

Stage 4 gets underway on Thursday, July 25, when the Houston Outlaws (8-13) take on the Paris Eternal (8-13) at 4 p.m. PDT. Watch all 2019 season matches live and on demand on overwatchleague.com, the Overwatch League app, ourTwitch channel, MLG.com, and the MLG app.