The Overwatch World Cup's Santa Monica qualifiers showed the power of a versatile DPS

Last weekend, the final round of qualifiers for the Overwatch World Cup took place in Santa Monica, California. The USA and and the UK both won spots at the Blizzcon finals in the end, though Germany and Taiwan had good runs as well. From highlights to meta discussions, let’s take a look at what happened on location in Santa Monica.

USA vs. Brazil: The value of versatility

The home team was up first on Saturday as they took on Brazil to open up the event. Chants of “U-S-A” and the thunderous assault from those inflatable, noise-making clacky tubes greeted team USA as they took the stage. Matt “coolmatt69” Iorio acknowledged the fans with a few waves of the American flag before the team sat at their stations. Their opponents, mostly from Brasil Gaming House, had a few loyalists in attendance as well. Having only won a few minor tournaments and facing an overwhelming home crowd, Brazil had an uphill fight on their hands.

Hollywood was the first map of the day, and it would set the stage for how the rest of the maps would unfold between these two teams. Brazil had no answers for anything team USA threw their way, and they threw a whole lot at them. Whether it was Jay “sinatraa” Won switching between Zarya and Tracer, Jake “JAKE” Lyon jumping on anything with a gun, or Shane “Rawkus” Flaherty showing the importance of all-star Flex Support, USA chose all of the engagements and had Brazil pinned in the spawn room a time or two. Perhaps it was JAKE’s switch to Bastion at the end of Hollywood that punctuated this match well before its conclusion. Jeremy Wong, Head Coach for Arc6, says, “Yeah, whenever a team switches to Bastion, it’s letting the other team know they’re better than them.”

Jake "JAKE" Lyon Image: Damian Alonzo

Of course, you could use JAKE as a pro DPS case study at this point. LG Evil’s frontman and Overwatch theorist played Soldier, Pharah, Tracer, Genji, Sombra and, yes, Bastion, during USA’s dominance of Brazil. Having a player of this caliber opens up so many tactical options mid-match. For example, when Team USA was having a little trouble in the final stretch of Hollywood, sinatraa and JAKE switched off of Zarya and Soldier and onto Tracer and Genji, respectively. By stepping more into the meta on the fly, USA’s struggles ended almost immediately as they went on to win the round. His Pharah game was on point as well, making JAKE one of the hardest carries on both Ilios and Horizon. There’s nothing this guy can’t do well.

Team versatility didn’t stop with JAKE. Team USA was able to play around some picks by Rawkus as well. On the ruins of Ilios, USA had Rawkus on Widowmaker while JAKE was on Sombra and Adam “Adam” Eckel stayed on Lucio. He was able to lock down the left side of the map while the rest of the team went to work. Rawkus also brought some phenomenal Ana play to the table which had a lot of fans cheering. His sleep darts were on point, one of which was on a baby D.Va that created an awful spawn stagger for Brazil. 

The USA defeated Brazil with a decisive four-to-zero shutout.

The real test for the American team will come at Blizzcon, where they will face competition from the likes of Canada and South Korea. Many people still think South Korea will walk away with the Cup, but perhaps Team USA will be able to defend their home turf at Blizzcon later this year if they continue to play with confidence and flexibility.

Reactions and thoughts on the meta

One fan I spoke to, JT, felt as though Rawkus was the anchor of Team USA. Dressed in appropriate stars-and-stripes attire, JT was one of several fans in attendance with a full-sized American flag. He was lucky enough to have the entire team sign it after their match. 

“Oh, it was definitely Rawkus,” JT said when asked what the highlight of Team USA’s match was. “I loved when he switched to Ana even though she’s not really meta right now. He’s so good with her that it doesn’t matter. He’s kind of like Ryujehong (Lunatic-Hai’s star support player from South Korea). He’s that dominant.” JT hopes to see Ana force her way back into the meta since she helps counter Doomfist fairly well. With an exciting kit at her disposal, that would be a pleasure to see. 

Team USA fan JT showed his support with a full-size American flag. Image: Damian Alonzo

I did manage to ask Rawkus why we don’t see much of Ana these days, and his explanation was simply, “D.Va. Defense Matrix.” The look of disappointment on his face didn’t go unnoticed.

Coolmatt69 echoed Rawkus’ sentiments, saying, “D.Va’s just everywhere right now, so Ana’s hard to use.” 

Jeremy Wong was vocal about his dislike for D.Va’s over-representation. “At this level (pro Overwatch), it really comes down to which team has the better D.Va, and it shouldn’t be that way.” 

With teams already practicing with Doomfist, we’ll see if both Zarya and Ana get some more time on the field. The combination of the newly improved Graviton Surge with both Doomfist and Biotic Grenade could be a favored strategy in the near future.

Issues with professional Overwatch have changed, but not gone away

Most stops of the Overwatch World Cup have been very well-produced, and Santa Monica was no exception. Blizzard did a fantastic job with a converted airplane hangar, and fans and players alike had nothing but good things to say about it. The hype is there for Overwatch, but for many players, this marks the end of their journey. Not much is known about what’s going to happen to the enormous pool of free agents once Overwatch League begins, few teams have been scrimming, and there have been no discussions of anything other than Overwatch Contenders Season One. 

Coolmatt69 is one of many players who has experienced the ups and downs of professional Overwatch over the last few months. He was on the Fnatic roster when the organization decided that it would no longer be pursuing Overwatch for the foreseeable future. 

“I’m with FNRGFE right now,” he said. “Just, like, a bunch of free agents and shit.” I offered my sympathies, saying that hopefully things improve before Overwatch League. He laughed and shook his head, “Yeah, me too.”