Around the Map is The Meta‘s weekly, rapid-reaction roundup of the preceding seven days’ best esports events.
Header illustration by Gareth Damian Martin
So much in competitive Overwatch is still up for grabs. It’s not clear which teams are going to be able to hold onto their streaks, a new patch is changing things up with huge Zenyatta buffs, new hero Ana, and One-Hero Limits, spectating is still so hectic, and the high-priority tournament schedule is still yet to be established, but darn if that variability doesn’t make it fun to pay attention to.
ELEAGUE and FACEIT’s Overwatch Open is the game’s biggest tournament so far, and they’re running qualifier brackets every weekend from now until late August. In North America at least, I suspect it’s going to be less about who qualifies and more about what order they qualify in. This weekend’s NA bracket was something of a repeat of the BTS Overwatch Cup qualifier two weeks ago: EnVyUs remains a truly monstrous team, coming off of seven consecutive tournament wins, and just behind them, the Code7 squad TSM just picked up, Cloud 9, and Luminosity follow. EnVyUs didn’t have a great outlook in April, having disbanded before the beta was even over, but picking five new players and reforming around DPS player Talespin turns out to have been an excellent choice. In the last two months they’ve dropped a single match. Which means that behind Talespin and near-continuous Zenyatta play from Chipshajen, they took TSM three matches to none.
That 3-0 score doesn’t tell the whole story, to be honest—EnVyUs had a shaky start, and Team SoloMid moved the payload a significant distance in a short time with the help of JKW’s bulky Reinhardt and Joemeister on Lucio. Once Talespin switched to Reaper, though, he pulled off two incredibly clean ultimates, with the second netting him five eliminations. You can see him anticipate the opportunity and take a couple seconds to prepare for it, and it really is a thing of beauty. Since respawn timers in Overwatch are constant, it benefits players to kill enemies at staggered timings, forcing them into inefficient play when they respawn. If you wait for everyone to get back up, you’ve wasted time, but if you jump in without your whole team, you’re not on an even playing field. Take a look at that clip again—he kills five heroes, but still ends up with some delay in there.
The European side of this tournament is a little more up in the air following a Misfits victory over ANOX. Another team with a solid record, Reunited, didn’t make it to the top four. They almost certainly will next week though. Actually, I’m stoked for the Overwatch Open finals at the end of September, not just because it’s the biggest Overwatch event so far, but because it’ll be the first time North American and European teams got head-to-head offline. I’ll be excited to watch strong teams like Misfits and Reunited shakeup the currently very stable North American hierarchy. Maybe we’ll even get one of the iG squads in there soon.
Dota 2 brings out the armchair strategist in all of us. The draft, especially. Why did ______ keep picking ______? Why didn’t they ban ______? In the wake of this weekend’s Starladder I-League Championship Cup Tournament Event (or whatever it was called), you might find those gaps most often filled with Puppey, Mirana, and Huskar, respectively. Perhaps you might come across, in a Wendy’s booth someplace, a North American man not just bleeding but crying blue, blubbering about PPD’s midlane selections while with trembling fingers changing his r/Dota2 flair from EG to OG. (It’s only a one-letter difference, at the end of the day; plus Moonmeander is North American, and Crit is borderline… let the rationalizations begin.) But I’ve resolved to cease commenting on drafts. I suggest that you do the same, unless you are at least 7k MMR. Maybe Puppey wanted Na’Vi to get Huskar, that last game! Sure, it didn’t WORK. But that doesn’t mean he didn’t have a plan. He’s better than you. He’s better than me. Maybe we should let him do his thing.
Besides, can you blame the guy for repeatedly picking Arteezy Mirana when Canada’s most illustrious Juicy J enthusiast kept making plays like this?
Anyway, as a Secret fan, I’m choosing to take this tournament as a step in the right direction. Secret crushed Na’Vi three games in a row, if you count the winner’s bracket finals, then built huge leads in two more, only to throw them away. Which happens. In the final game, they got Huskar’d. Which also happens. Maybe they got outdrafted. But they played better than they’ve played in months. Bulba looks like a much better fit than Universe. I’m optimistic that Team Secret will learn from this experience and go into The International a stronger team.
EG, my second-favorite team: they had an off tournament. That’s fine. They’re still a slightly improved version of last year’s TI-winning powerhouse. (Aui is great, but Zai playing the 4 role at his peak was the greatest player in the world.) This sounds like spin—I mean, the team that eliminated EG from Starladder was named F.R.I.E.N.D.S., which tells you pretty much everything you need to know—but it’s really just that, for once, I am choosing to be optimistic. It isn’t healthy to get bummed out every time your favorite teams faceplant.
You hear that, guys? I’m sticking it out here. I’m no Fair Weather Fan. Any time now, guys. Any time you want to start winning again, you just go right ahead.
FABe’s big win at the EU finals this weekend was no surprise. Pretty much every Pro League commentator on the broadcast called it in advance, and their penultimate best-of-seven series of the day wound up a 4–0 shutout against the X-Men, who just could not seem to keep their cool. Twitch chat was alive with no end of trash talk from the North American audience, but the truth is that I can’t imagine a more impressive team, in terms of Sunday’s meta, than FABe.
Between Mose’s aggressive flag running, TuFoxy’s map awareness and long-range Magnum precision, and Respectful’s controlled slaying—these guys have had other folks’ attention for a while, maybe, but now they’ve definitely made a fan out of me. Mose was playing perfect Halo, which is a real treat to see no matter who’s playing, and the sheer excitement on display was charming in itself. These guys have only been playing as a team for a brief time, and already they’re bringing incredible teamwork and restraint to the FABe roster.
All due credit to X-Men, however, for putting a significant crack in FABe’s flawless finals record during the grand finals bracket. It was nice to see them put up a fight on Fathom Flag in game one, given how well FABe had handled that same scenario earlier in the day, and Jimbo was dropping some truly colossal multi-kill plays.
You hate to see hope renewed by a decent team only to be quashed after six very respectable games, but FABe earned the win yesterday. I saw some general miscommunication happening, and at times it seemed like some of the EU teams simply weren’t talking enough, but it could be that these teams rely on their coaches for direction somewhat more than American teams.
In any case, it was a thrilling broadcast; you gotta love it when you’re given a reason to wake up at six a.m. on a Sunday. I’d love to catch more European Halo streams now that we’ve seen just how exciting the EU Pro League can get.