With the play-in tournament about to start, we’re pitting Jonathan “Reinforce” Larsson’s seasoned analytical mind against stats producer Ben “CaptainPlanet” Trautman’s SOLOQ system to predict which teams will advance. It’s a clash of observation vs. data, analysis vs. statistics, man vs. machine (sort of)!

The Statistician: Captain Planet

As a quick refresher, SOLOQ (Simulation of Overwatch League Outcome Quantities) builds off the OLE (Overwatch Elo) system and uses teams’ Elo ratings as inputs to its simulation. By using OLE to determine win probabilities within a simulation like SOLOQ, I was able to make somewhat well-educated guesses about playoff probabilities.

However, because SOLOQ uses OLE in its inner workings, it also means that it has the same weaknesses as OLE—namely, that it is more uncertain of teams’ strengths at the beginning of a new patch rather than the end. As humans, we can hear rumors, interview coaches and players, and take on all sorts of other inputs to adjust our mental assessment of team strength. All OLE and SOLOQ can use as inputs are how well a team has played in recent times, on what was hopefully not a massively different patch. This has served it fairly well throughout the season. Now, if I have any hope of beating Reinforce’s predictions, I have to hope that the same teams who were strong on Patch 1.38 are also strong on 1.39.

Now to the task at hand: before I even begin the SOLOQ simulation, I had to apply the usual reduction towards the system average to all the play-in teams that gets applied whenever a patch occurs. After doing so, here are the Elo values that were fed into SOLOQ:

Team Seed Elo
Charge 9th 1,111.8
Dynasty 8th 996.1
Fusion 10th 978.7
Hunters 12th 963.9
Spitfire 7th 948.3
Dragons 11th 933.4

This is already fairly interesting, as the Spitfire look very out of place as the 7th seed with the second-lowest Elo entering the play-ins. If we were to predict who would make it out of the play-ins solely from this table—without looking at the bracket, without even running SOLOQ—it would appear that Guangzhou and Seoul would prevail. However, Seoul have a bye in the play-ins, and would play the Charge should they advance from the first round. Therefore, any success by the Charge would come at the cost of the Dynasty. This means that things may be more interesting than the initially appear. Let’s find out exactly how.

Because SOLOQ is primarily a framework for making predictions based on OLE’s input, it can be applied to the results of a simple bracket like our play-in tournament. As each iteration of SOLOQ completes, it spits out a unique identifier for any possible combinations of paths through the tournament. By aggregating counts of these unique identifiers, I can then find the most common, most likely outcome predicted by SOLOQ. That outcome is the one you see below:

This outcome occurred in 21.13% of SOLOQ simulations, the most common by a good margin. The next most common unique path through the play-ins involved the Dragons defeating the Fusion, but still finishing off the Spitfire in the semifinals, with a 13.55% likelihood. To break it down a little further, however, here was each team’s chance of making it through by any path:

Team Likelihood of making playoffs

Charge

57.66%

Spitfire

37.79%

Fusion

35.46%

Dynasty

31.21%

Hunters

15.34%

Dragons

14.42%


Now THAT is interesting. Even though the most common path to playoffs involves the Fusion and Charge advancing, the most likely two teams to make it to playoffs in the aggregate are the Charge and the Spitfire. This goes to show how dominant the Charge have been lately. The Spitfire and Dynasty should, on paper, have an advantage of making playoffs due to the byes they received from their regular-season seeding. Indeed, this is exactly why the model has the Spitfire reaching playoffs more often than the Fusion and Hunters, even though they ended Stage 4 with lower Elo: those two teams’ success comes at the cost of the other.

However, the same is not true for the Dynasty. The Charge’s immense head start in Elo makes them a heavy favorite to defeat the Hunters, and therefore run headlong into the Dynasty, likely defeating them as well. Therefore, while my bracket entry says the Fusion and Charge make the playoffs, SOLOQ’s aggregate favors the Spitfire and Charge. Only the latter prediction is competing against Reinforce, but I’m excited to see how they fare against each other as well.

The Analyst: Reinforce

Hunters vs. Charge
While I do not think that the meta as it’s played won’t change much, we’re in for a lot more barriers and shield spam. Mei will most likely remain a priority due to her ability to wall off potential targets. In Stage 4, Guangzhou displayed a great understanding of the meta, and with flank strategies likely becoming less prevalent due to Sigma’s flexible barrier, the straightforward play of the Charge will only be enhanced further.

Hong-Jun “Hotba” Choi is known for his great versatility as an off-tank, and I think ultimately the 2018 grand finalist will be the X-factor on Sigma as this Guangzhou team looks to pull off a playoff run.

Winner: Charge

Dragons vs. Fusion
Shanghai has not adapted well to the introduction of role lock, and going into a Sigma meta that will include even more barriers and tactical ability usage, rather than explosive damage play, I can’t see them adjusting in time for the play-in tournament.

While Philadelphia has struggled to bring out the best of Jae-Hyeok “Carpe” Lee and Josue “Eqo” Corona, the team’s ability to push its limits in elimination matches as well as their quick adaptation to last year’s playoff bunker meta has me believing in coach Elliot “Hayes” Hayes and his squad. They did not excel in a wild Stage 4 meta that often required teams to flex depending on map design and counter-compositions, but if the Sigma meta settles and a singular predominant composition makes itself known, Philadelphia could go far.

Winner: Fusion

Spitfire vs. Fusion
While I predict that the Fusion will spark hope by taking down the Dragons in the first round, I’m afraid that Jun-Young “Profit” Park and his crew will be too much to handle in the following round. While Profit’s Mei is scary and all, I think Jun-Ho “Fury” Kim will be the real MVP for Spitfire team as they look to secure a playoff spot.

Fury has been rated as a superstar off-tank for quite some time now, and I expect him to adapt well to Sigma. Knowing that Jae-Hui “Gesture” Hong is still a fantastic Orisa, London might be a force to be reckoned with.

Winner: Spitfire

Dynasty vs. Charge
Analysts and fans alike have turned to Guangzhou and Atlanta as potential playoff underdogs, but is Seoul also a bit of a dark horse? While a loss to Philadelphia to end the regular season did not look good on paper, the Dynasty did play a great five-map match against Guangzhou in Stage 4, and with Byung-Sun “Fleta” Kim moving to the Mei role, they could do some real damage.

Alas, I believe the turnaround will be too fast for a Dynasty team that has yet to hit a hot streak. Guangzhou, coming off a comfortable win over the Hunters, will look to strike hard and true once more and secure their slot in the top eight.

Winner: Charge

The play-in tournament kicks off on Friday, August 30, when the Charge take on the Hunters at 6 p.m. PT. Watch the 2019 Overwatch League playoffs live on overwatchleague.com, the Overwatch League app, our Twitch channel, and on Disney XD and the ESPN app.