Playoffs are upon us. If it feels like the season only just started, it’s because it just did.
If you have been sleeping under a rock for the last 5 weeks, or the season came by so fast you missed it, or are just wanting to read another article on Contenders Australia, let this be your guide to the Season 2 Playoffs.
First, the patch. While regular season has been on 1.24, playoffs will be on the highly debated 1.26 patch. Patch 1.25 saw Doomfist, McCree and Orisa get buffed, while Symmetra got another rework. While Symmetra is the only hero with 100% win rate in Contenders (2 from 2, Isurus Gaming in South America and XL2 Academy in North America), she has always been lackluster.
She’s ditched her old identity as a support, and is now a DPS. Her reworked ultimate spawns a linear shield which spans the entire map, with her teleporter being moved to a regular ability. In addition to this, her primary and secondary fires have been buffed, but she can only spawn 3 turrets now.
Patch 1.26 saw buffs to several hitscan heroes, nerfs to Hanzo and Widowmaker, a slight Sombra rework and the introduction of Wrecking Ball aka Hammond. Bastion, McCree, Mei and Soldier: 76 all had their damage dropoff reduced significantly.
WATCH: Wrecking Ball aka Hammond in his first competitive appearance.
As for nerfs, the double sniper meta has definitely been hit. Widowmaker had her damage dropoff increased while unscoped while Hanzo has an increased cooldown on his Storm Arrows.
Sombra was also reworked and can now stay invisible permanently, but can’t contest objectives while invisible. The addition of Wrecking Ball brings another tank into the fray, with interesting grapple mechanics and two types of movement. We saw the first Wrecking Ball in competitive in the Australia vs Hong Kong showmatch thanks to Trill with lots of success as a main tank, but his identity will still be tested throughout playoffs.
With Patch 1.26 also going live just this Wednesday, there will be a lot of experimentation. This means we could see a few upsets by teams surprising each other with new strats, or a lot of hard stomps through mis-execution and running weak comps. With a spot at Melbourne Esports Open on the line, this could make for some of the best Overwatch all year.
Sydney Drop Bears v SereNity
Group A’s first seed Sydney Drop Bears are coming off the back off the first perfect 20-0 season in Overwatch Contenders history. They will be looking for the perfect 30-0, and there’s not much that’ll stop them. SereNity are the unfortunate team to have to face the wrath of the Drop Bears first.
As caster Kale “Genome” Morton put it, “SereNity are the lemon and herb to Sydney Drop Bears’ Carolina Reaper.”
“SereNity deserve a lot of credit for their improvement both throughout Season 1 and 2, but the Sydney Drop Bears are going to reap the rewards of their intense preparation.”
Community contributor Matt “Mert” McGuckin also agreed with this sentiment, and although “SereNity’s ability to put up a strong fight in every one of their regular season matches has been commendable”, there’s little hope.
“Bringing in ColourHex during the offseason patched up the majority of the Drop Bears’ most notable weaknesses, securing their position at the top of the scene. The Drop Bears should sweep this match and advance to Melbourne Esports Open with plenty of confidence.”
Ducky: SDB 3-0
Genome: SDB 3-0
Mert: SDB 3-0
Kanga Esports v Legacy Esports
This is looking to be a tight matchup. Legacy haven’t had the smoothest season, with the newly recruited off tank “Kiki” taking a step back just as the season started, forcing the roster to adapt throughout the season. Kanga on the other hand have looked incredibly strong in a tightly contested Group B, only dropping 1 series to Dark Sided.
Genome attributed a lot Kanga’s success to new coach Maid. “He’s been putting in huge hours behind the scenes, and some of the Kanga players look like they could be part of the next crop of top national players.”
“Legacy struggled to even front a roster in the final week of groups, and they are coming into playoffs under-prepared with a big ol’ target painted on them.”
Mert also follows this belief. An improved Kanga with JungleJazz and ChroNoDotA “has gelled well, allowing the team to greatly improve upon their Season 1 performance.”
“For Legacy, Shifting Straawbella to off-tank was a move made out of necessity rather than strategy, and Dench’s technical difficulties forced the team to forfeit their final regular season match.” With these role swaps and technical difficulties plaguing Legacy’s season, Mert is confident Kanga “will most likely defeat the talented but hamstrung Legacy in four or five maps.”
Ducky: Kanga 3-0
Genome: Kanga 3-1
Mert: Kanga 3-1
ORDER v Masterminds GC
In my pick of the quarterfinals, an in-form ORDER comes up against a fast finishing and quickly improving Masterminds. A roster shakeup didn’t reap the rewards for Masterminds, who didn’t have a finalised team until days before the season, while ORDER will want to bear the fruits of their labour under new head coach Rqt.
For Nicholas “Project” O’Brien, Dark Sided’s coach, ORDER and Masterminds will be close. “I would have said ORDER losing to Masterminds in the finals of last season was an upset.”
“ORDER have long been a fragile team, but with more support staff behind them, they’ll become an even scarier prospect in playoffs.”
Kevin “AVRL” Walker, caster for Contenders Pacific and Australia, also holds confidence in ORDER. “Masterminds, while rising to the occasion in the regular season, now face a team far more prepared and better equipped to continue their playoffs run. With ORDER now under the wise tutelage of Rqt, they have made massive strides to make a solid playoffs run.”
Based on Masterminds’ roster revamp after their Season 1 grand finals appearance, AVRL stated that “luck has been less kind to Masterminds in Season 2. They only retained 1 player between Season 1 and 2, and the expectation for any iteration of the Masterminds roster is high due to their long lasting success in Australian Overwatch. With the weight of the Masterminds name on top of them, however, the quarter finals may be where their ship finally sinks.”
Ducky: MGC 3-2 (I have a bet with Genome I must uphold)
Project: ORD 3-1
AVRL: ORD 3-0
Dark Sided v Tainted Minds
Tainted Minds have come a long way in 1 season. Going from 0-20 to playoffs qualification is no mean feat and deserves recognition. However, facing top seed Dark Sided, who are out for revenge after last season’s disappointing semi finals loss to eventual winners Sydney Drop Bears, a lot is going to have to go right.
Project, being Dark Sided’s coach, knows them better than anyone else, and expectations are high. “We obviously expect to win but with Hammond being introduced and seeing substantial playtime in other regions, anything could happen.”
“Expectations for Dark Sided were high based on Season 1 results,” said AVRL, “but there were some questions surrounding their ability to maintain dominance early on in the sesaon with some surprising map losses.”
“However, Dark Sided silenced all doubt with their 4-0 sweep of Kanga in Week 5, and this unfortunately means bad news for Tainted Minds.”
There’s still positives Tainted Minds can take out of their Season 2 performance, though. “Tainted Minds have made significant improvements since Season 1, and they should have high hopes for Season 3 and be extremely proud of their run.”
Ducky: DS 3-0
Project: DS 3-0
AVRL: DS 3-0
You can catch the Quarter Finals of Contenders Australia live later today at 12pm AEST on Twitch, with Sydney Drop Bears and SereNity fighting for the first spot at Melbourne Esports Open.