It is the last week of Stage 2 and two, possibly three, teams are vying for their first chance at the stage playoffs. At 7-1 with a +20 map differential, the Excelsior look set to finish as the first seed and will likely be joined by the familiar 6-2, +14 Spitfire (who play the struggling Fuel and Dragons this week). Week 10 performances by OWL’s two other 6-2 teams, the Gladiators (+12) and Dynasty (+9), will likely decide the third seed (as the 4-3, +5 Fusion hope for a miracle). While the Gladiators currently have the map differential tiebreaker advantage, they have to deal with the improved Fusion and Uprising this week. Coincidentally, Seoul faces the two teams that L.A. struggled against, but ultimately defeated, in Week 9: the Outlaws and Mayhem. Elsewhere, San Francisco and Florida’s Tracers seem to have woken up as Houston’s remains a mystery, the L.A. Valiant look worryingly close to approaching Dallas Fuel entertainment levels, and Shanghai’s new Korean teammates are finally here. The top four and bottom two of the league feel relatively settled, but recent form has meant some big shifts around the middle six. This should be a big week that both decides who competes for this stage’s $125,000 prize pool while putting a number of team trajectories to the test.

*Unless otherwise noted, all data pulled from Winston’s Lab*

12. Shanghai Dragons

shanghai dragons roster ranking record

Both of Shanghai’s DPS (Diya and uNdead) are gone and the team won just 26% of its fights in Week 9 while finishing 0-2, 0-8 on maps, and without a single player notching a positive K/D ratio. But, some of the team’s cavalry has arrived and the Dragons can finally start building around its new Korean main tank Fearless and DPS ADO while waiting on Geguri and their new coaches. It is hard to know who will play DPS alongside ADO and Fearless, but off-tanks MG and Xushu have gotten some projectile DPS minutes so one would be a decent bet. This week they face a starving Outlaws squad and the dominant Spitfire, so don’t expect an immediate turnaround, but at least Shanghai can start creating an identity as they eye Stage 3.

11. Dallas Fuel

The Fuel may no longer be cowards, as Rascal was finally given some starting minutes, but they are still losing. Dallas failed to win a single map against the Uprising and Fusion in Week 9 as the team settled on support- and tank-lines while giving aKm and Rascal each one crack at starting alongside EFFECT. The Chipshajen and Custa support duo died an average of 29.5 more times than their counterparts, Taimou himself died an average of 17 more times than his counterparts, and EFFECT was the only Fuel player to pull off a positive K/D all week. The team’s play is as much of a mess as its comms as Dallas regularly gets more kills than it wins fights (got 15% less eliminations than opponents in Week 9 while losing 19% more fights), suggesting major synergy issues. And it’s gotten to the point where serviceable main tank sub cocco (who actually enjoys the role) is saying he wants to play on stream while opponents publicly question the team’s bizarre lineups. It should only get worse before it gets better as Week 10 matches the Fuel against the teams that gave Seoul two losses in Week 9: the Excelsior and Spitfire. Here’s to hoping we get to see more of Rascal (who had the team’s second highest K/D in his match), a return to HarryHook’s Lucio, and maybe some Seagull D.Va as Dallas hopes to evolve for Stage 3.

10. Houston Outlaws

Tracer is the most important hero in Overwatch right now and the Outlaws are a step behind. While GM Flame and reasonable fans are sure the team will be fine long-term, it is not pretty right now and the team knows it, opponents know it, and both the eye-test and statistics show it: Outlaws Muma and LiNkzr explained that “the lack of an on-paper Tracer specialist is holding us back,” opposing support Moth explained after their win over Houston that the Shock “felt that we could exploit their Tracer line,” and while the Outlaws only averaged 1.5% less eliminations than their Week 9 opponents, they won 6% less fights with their Tracer line averaging a 0.73 K/D on the week — much less efficient than the opposing Tracers’ 2.3 K/D. While Houston’s tank- and support-lines seem to have found their grooves, the DPS only looks good with Jake on Junkrat and LiNkzr on Widowmaker. Despite a very close loss to the Gladiators, the Outlaws have to be downgraded heavily for the moment after a big 3-1 loss to the Shock and no obvious short-term solution in sight.

9. Los Angeles Valiant

The Valiant went from blaming their rowdy English coach to fighting amongst themselves without a coach to underperforming with their new coach in losses against the Mayhem and Uprising last week. Roster and coaching turnover mean drama even for great teams (e.g. the Warriors after adding Kevin Durant), and the Valiant are no exception. New starting support Verbo revealed that he felt unfairly blamed: “I’m tired of being pointed at. Screw that shit,” and former starting DPS Agilities seems to have faced the same issue: “I had to take a lot of criticism and a lot of feedback and they didn’t do it in the nicest way so it was hard on me mentally.” The team is so out-of-sync that they managed to lose to the Mayhem 3-1 despite winning 4% more of the game’s fights as they tried returning Agilities and Kariv to their former starting roles. After team CEO Noah Whinston dramatically laid pressure onto Agilities ahead of his starting opportunity: “This is the shot. If this doesn’t work then it will be really hard to build that bond up again,” the Canadian DPS posted a beastly 2.6 K/D. Unfortunately, the poorly coordinated team only won 20% of the maps that Agilities started on DPS while winning 50% of the maps where Kariv did. Already dealing with English, French, and Korean language barriers — the Valiant’s internal drama compounds coordination issues (leading to an ugly 0.8 K/D for main tank Fate on the week), but at least the team is ironing its issues out sooner rather than later.

8. Florida Mayhem

The Mayhem actually look great right now. Their DPS duo is finally popping off and their small roster seems to be paying off as the team coordinated smoothly in their 3-1 victory over the Valiant and 2-1 loss to the Gladiators in Week 9. While TviQ is demonstrating a wide, adaptable hero pool — Logix has fully come into his own and really impressed on Tracer against the Valiant and their own star Tracer SoOn when he posted 36 eliminations and 7 deaths (4 more eliminations than SoOn on 11 less deaths). Bolstered by DPS and off-tank play (Manneten out-dueled L.A.’s D.Va Bischu by posting 13 more eliminations on 5 less deaths in their loss), Florida is on the rise and should be tested by Shock and Dynasty this week.

7. San Francisco Shock

As Danteh continues to impress, Sleepy maintains his high level of play, and new support Moth seamlessly replaced, and improved upon DhaK’s Lucio play — the Shock’s biggest investment is finally eligible to play: Mr. 150K, Jay “sinatraa” Won. San Francisco had a strong Week 9, despite a seemingly neutral 1-1 record and going 4-4 on maps, as they kept it really close against the Spitfire (won 1% more fights, only landed 3% less eliminations in the 3-1 loss) and continued Houston’s struggles (won 8% more fights in the 3-1 win). After Danteh popped off against the Outlaws and led the Shock in player rating both matches last week, it will be interesting to see if the team replaces him or BabyBay with their new starting DPS Sinatraa in Week 10.

6. Boston Uprising

Boston was slumping and sent their main tank Gamsu back to Korea for a break. Now the team looks rejuvenated upon his return as they posted two strong weeks consecutively. They may have faced the struggling Fuel and Valiant in Week 9, but those teams feature star Tracers and the Uprising’s Striker still finished with 128 eliminations and a nutty 2.9 K/D. Boston won 62% of its fights in Week 9, its Tracer and Winston players look great, and DreamKazper’s Widowmaker is starting to improve. The team is on the come-up for Stage 3, but their Week 10 matchups will be telling as they face the improved Shock and the playoff-hopeful Gladiators.

5. Philadelphia Fusion

The Fusion bounced back from the league’s toughest Week 8 schedule with the league’s easiest matchups last week against the depleted Dragons and new-look Fuel. Philadelphia took advantage of that opportunity by giving young Tracer Snillo all of Carpe’s playing time as him and Eqo combined for 291 eliminations on the week (on only 67 deaths for an absurd 4.3 K/D) and the team won 73% of its fights. The DPS rotation is a little bonkers, Fragi didn’t feed, and Boombox managed to post a wild 2.2 K/D as Zenyatta. There is a very slim chance that the Fusion can sneak into the Stage 2 playoffs so look for Carpe to return this week in a very important matchup against the 3rd seed Gladiators.

4. Los Angeles Gladiators

After flying up the rankings once Fissure arrived, the Gladiators have a target on their back and it showed in some tight Week 9 wins against the Outlaws and Mayhem. The team won just 51.5% of its fights on the week and won each game by one map, but they still pulled it off and maintained their spot in the Stage 2 standings. L.A. has shown some impressive hero flexibility (especially in a Mystery Heroes-esque Ilios showing) with resident troll and DPS Hydration running Lucio and support Shaz on Tracer, but they have struggled with consistency and minor mistake issues. Regardless, wins are all that matters as the team continues to mesh with its new main tank and the Gladiators control their own playoff fate in Week 10’s huge matchups against the Fusion and Uprising.

3. Seoul Dynasty

Undefeated against non-Korean teams in Stage 2, the Dynasty got a wake-up call in Week 9 as they lost to the Excelsior 2-3 and the Spitfire 0-4. Zunba continues to look like the best off-tank in the Overwatch League this stage after leading the team in Week 9 K/D (and going 51-30 against the Spitfire for the Dynasty’s only positive K/D) and the support-line looks great (Ryujehong’s 0.6 K/D even outdid JJoNak’s 0.4), but the team’s DPS and main tank seem out of sync. The New York match was incredibly tight, but New York’s DPS had 29 more eliminations than Seoul’s (with only 3 more deaths). The London match was a stomp however, as no one on the Spitfire died more than 31 times and only one player on Seoul died less than 31 times. Fleta and Munchkin each struggled (combining for just 60 eliminations while their counterparts posted 91) alongside Miro’s Winston (20 less eliminations and two more deaths than his counterpart Gesture). Seoul missed the Stage 1 Playoffs and now they need to dominate the Outlaws and Mayhem this week if they want a chance at $125,000 and an opportunity to prove they outrank the league’s top two Korean teams.

2. London Spitfire

After messing with their lineup for weeks, the Spitfire seem to have settled on a rotation as they only played seven players in Week 9. The team let Hooreg play instead of Birdring against the seemingly lowly Shock and won 3-1 in a tight match before moving on and bringing Birdring back for a sweep of the Dynasty. The tank-line seems to have joined its DPS duo as one of the league’s scariest after Woohyal cemented himself as a premier off-tank last week and the support-line is starting to look consistent now that the team has settled on Nus joining Bdosin’s aggro Zenyatta. Hooreg had a rough go at DPS, posting a negative K/D against the Shock, but he did go 3-0 on his trademark Pharah so that gives London an interesting situational specialist as they finish this stage out and walk into the playoffs after facing the struggling Dragons and Fuel.

1. New York Excelsior

It is tight at the top, especially since London easily swept a team that the Excelsior needed five maps to best, but New York’s synergy and consistency remains their edge. Despite trying out some interesting Hanzo on Gibraltar and a double-sniper strat alongside Janus on Hollywood in Week 9, the team pulled off its win against Seoul before quickly dismantling Shanghai. The support-line is otherworldly, the tank-line is dominant, and Saebyeolbe continues to look like one of the league’s leading MVP candidates — especially after out-dueling Seoul’s Tracer Munchkin in Week 9 (SBB’s K/D: 2.5, Munchkin’s: 1.5) and tying SoOn for league leader in final blows for Stage 2 with 404 (on 96 fewer deaths). If Libero can maintain his current level of play across such a wide hero pool, most crucially on his improved Genji, then NYXL should be able to win the $125,000 it just barely missed in Stage 1.

*Words by Théo Salaun aka Tepojama who accepts questions, feedback, and new pick-up lines through Twitter DM and mentions*

*Featured image by Robert Paul for Blizzard Entertainment*