New faces vying for Overwatch League stage playoff spots

Overwatch League Power Rankings through April 23 (4:53)

The Overwatch League Power Rankings roll on as LA Valiant push their way into the Top 5. Emily Rand joins Phil Murphy to reveal which team fell out of the rankings, as well as a new challenger to NYXL at the top spot. (4:53)

The typical dominance of teams with all-South Korean rosters seems to have waned at the start of Stage 3. Both London and Seoul are lower in the stage standings than they've ever been at the end of a week. Meanwhile, New York, while still boasting a 5-1 record, has already had more one-map wins (3) than it did in Stage 1 or Stage 2 (2). This has opened the door for teams that haven't seen much time at the top of the standings.

The Boston Uprising took sole possession of first place in the Stage 3 standings after defeating the Spitfire and the Dynasty, both in one-map wins. It was Boston's Overwatch League-high ninth and 10th such wins of the season. Prior to this stage, the highest Boston had finished a week in the stage standings was fifth.

The Los Angeles Valiant dropped a close 3-2 match to the Spitfire this week, dipping its Stage 3 record to 5-1. The Valiant will look to avoid replicating its Stage 2 performance where it also had a promising start but finished the stage 0-4 in the past two weeks. The strong Stage 3 start has also served to close the gap on the Pacific Division leaders, Seoul Dynasty. The Valiant finds itself only one game off the division lead and already possesses a better map differential. Overtaking Seoul would mean a first-round bye in the post-stage playoffs.

The San Francisco Shock seems to have found its stride. Wins against Dallas and Philadelphia gave San Francisco its first 2-0 week as well as a team-best three-match win streak. Sitting in sole possession of fourth place would currently qualify them for the stage playoffs under the newly revamped qualifying process. Big matches against the New York Excelsior and London Spitfire loom ahead in Week 4.

We talked at length about the various strengths of Boston last week. This week, we aim to dive deeper into the recent successes of the Valiant and Shock.

Sending a Bunny to space

The Valiant's release of Kang-jae "Envy" Lee was perhaps the most surprising move between stages. According to Winston's Lab, Envy was the top rated D.Va over the first two stages (1,137 player rating). Why did the Valiant release what was potentially its best-performing player to date? Space, a D.Va main, was not eligible to play in Stage 1 or 2 due to age restrictions. He has celebrated turning 18 by taking the league, and Stage 3, by storm. According to Winston's Lab, his 1,285 player rating on D.Va not only outperformed Envy but also rated the highest of a player on any hero in Stage 3 (minimum one hour played).

According to Winston's Lab, Space has the highest kills per 10 minutes (7.6) and the fewest deaths per 10 minutes (3.4) among D.Va players. His 2.25 K/D ratio on D.Va clearly leads the league, with the next closest D.Va, London's Seung-hyun "Woohyal" Sung, a far cry away at 1.74.

The Valiant also made waves by signing Joon-hyuk "Bunny" Chae from Seoul between stages. Although he currently has the least playtime among Valiant roster members, Bunny has certainly shown off when given the opportunity. His 10.1 kills per 10 minutes and 62.6 percent fight win rate lead the team in Stage 3. Look for the new addition to start getting more time as he gets more familiar with his teammates.

These roster changes have led the Valiant to new highs in teamfighting. According to Winston's Lab, the Valiant owns the best teamfight win percentage in Stage 3, at 60.4 percent. Not only is the Valiant demolishing the Stage 3 league average (46.5 percent), but continuing this rate would give Los Angeles the best percentage of any team in any stage thus far (Stage 2 -- New York Excelsior, 57.4 percent).

San Francisco Shock awakens

In September, it was reported that the San Francisco Shock (owned by NRG Esports) signed Jay "sinatraa" Won to a $150,000 yearly contract. Coming off an impressive showing in the Overwatch World Cup, fans were no doubt excited to see what sinatraa and his Tracer could do in the league. The only problem was that sinatraa would not become eligible until Week 5 of Stage 2 due to his age, leaving Dante "Danteh" Cruz as the team's main Tracer player.

According to Winston's Lab, through Stage 1, Danteh ranked ninth out of 13 Tracer players with at least two hours of playing time on the hero. This subpar performance, combined with the Shock's poor record in Stage 1, kept Shock fans waiting for sinatraa to make his debut.

However, since the start of Stage 2, Dahnte improved. According to Winston's Lab, since the start of Stage 2, his 9.4 kills per 10 minutes on Tracer rank fourth out of 13 players (minimum four hours played). In that time, he has contributed to 30.4 percent of his team's total kills, most among those Tracer players and nearly 6 percentage points above his rate from Stage 1 (24.6).

Another unsung performer for the Shock has been Nikola "Sleepy" Andrews. He has averaged 6.4 percent of his team's first kills and 9.6 percent of his team's first deaths while playing Zenyatta, which ranks fourth and third, respectively, among 11 players (minimum 10 hours played). Sleepy and Seong-hyun "JJoNak" Bang are the only Zenyatta players to rank in the top five in highest first-kill percentage and lowest first-death percentage. Anytime you can compare yourself to JJoNak, it's a good day.

San Francisco is also starting to excel in getting picks. According to Winston's Lab, since the start of Stage 3, 9.9 percent of its teamfights end after a single kill of an opponent, second-highest in the league. It also has the lowest single death teamfight percentage in the league, at 6.2 percent. It follows that Min-ho "Architect" Park's Widowmaker leads Stage 3 with 10.3 kills per 10 minutes (minimum one hour played).