As the former champions destroy their toughest opponents at a breakneck pace, we question if anyone can take them down.
Over the past few weeks in the Overwatch League, the San Francisco Shock has built an Infinity Gauntlet of victories against highly-competitive North American teams. To the rest of the league, they seem immortal. They seem inevitable.
After a series of brutal sweeps, fans and analysts have nervously looked around, pondering one thing about the 2019 Overwatch League champions: Can any team in North America actually beat the San Francisco Shock?
The Summer Showdown tournament bracket begins on July 3 and the Shock will enter the arena with a 13-game win streak. The Los Angeles Gladiators and Los Angeles Valiant beat San Francisco in March as teams emerged from their COVID-19 hiatus, but the Shock have been undefeated for a full three months since then.
The team has continued winning despite massive roster changes, from the retirement of 2019 MVP Sinatraa to the transfer of top DPS Architect to the Hangzhou Spark. Even after throwing a new addition into the mix by way of former Vancouver Titans flex support Twilight, the team hasn’t skipped a beat. In fact, they’ve somehow grown into a more powerful monster.
Recent games, and a shiny new Overwatch League record for sweeping every other team in the league over three seasons, have done nothing to disprove the possibility that North America is ill-equipped to topple the kings.
Paris, Philadelphia, disappointment
When the Summer Showdown qualifier schedules were released, fans were overjoyed to see the Shock pitted against two of the biggest talents in North America. The Philadelphia Fusion and Paris Eternal have spent most of the 2020 Overwatch League season battling each other in tense, map-five matches for Atlantic Division supremacy. Both were set to face San Francisco in the Summer Showdown qualifiers.
Everyone expected close, competitive, wild matches against the top Atlantic talents. In reality, the Shock’s matches with Paris and Philadelphia could be combined to equal the match length of an average competitive series.
The Paris Eternal fielded their young DPS superstar, SP9RK1E, alongside hitscan Xzi, who was coming back to the lineup after neck surgery. Before they faced the Shock, Paris had been experiencing an undeniable upswing. Analysts thought the match would be a chance for SP9RK1E to hone his talents against the best.
Instead, San Francisco hitscan ANS shut down dreams on his signature Widowmaker. Xzi found little room to work as he was stopped at every corner by ANS or Striker on Tracer. Even SP9RK1E, wielding a Genji so deadly it would later slice through the entire Los Angeles Valiant, could get nothing done. The match was an absolute sweep, ending in under 32 minutes.
After the disappointment that was Paris, fans and analysts expected the most out of the Philadelphia Fusion match on June 28. In the Atlantic Division, the Fusion were nearly undefeated aside from a few scrapes with the Eternal. Despite a loss by the hands of the Florida Mayhem during the May Melee tournament, Philadelphia seemed to be the strongest North American team and the region’s best hope of taking the Shock down a notch.
The June 28 match ended with a 3-0 sweep and a game time of 32 minutes and 50 seconds. Something in Philadelphia’s circuits broke in battle against the well-oiled machine of the San Francisco Shock. Even likely 2020 MVP candidate and usual Fusion carry Carpe got nowhere, constantly shut down by San Francisco flex Rascal on both support and DPS. By all considerations, it was an absolute disappointment on Philadelphia’s end.
Magnitude of dominance
The onus was on Paris and Philadelphia, as the other top teams in North America, to put up the best fight against the San Francisco Shock. Instead, they objectively put up some of the worst defenses against the Shock. Of San Francisco’s last five matches, all but the team’s May Melee match against the Florida Mayhem ended in under 33 minutes. Not only is San Francisco seemingly immortal, but the boys from the bay are speedrunning the Overwatch League.
Compare the Shock’s performance with the other top contender in the Overwatch League, the Shanghai Dragons. The Dragons have been kings of the Asia-Pacific (APAC) region for the past few months, hitting a stride comparable if not equal to San Francisco’s. Shanghai are on a nine-match win streak, including their win in the May Melee tournament.
The difference is the relative level of competition in the APAC region. Shanghai had to claw their way back against the Seoul Dynasty to take the May Melee trophy, engineering a reverse sweep never before seen in the Overwatch League. APAC teams seem to ebb and flow, having weeks of genius and faltering afterward. Shanghai have dropped numerous maps to teams on their best weeks, keeping everything interesting.
Shanghai seem powerful but mortal thanks to the incredible amount of talent in the APAC region. For some reason, the conference has done better at reading the strengths of top contenders and developing strategies to counter. Due to the San Francisco Shock’s enormous amount of experience or preparation, or lack thereof in opponents, the team has developed what feels like an impermeable shield.
One last hope
During the May Melee, one team emerged from seemingly nowhere as a top talent: the Florida Mayhem. Long considered a “meme team” by most of the league in past seasons, the acquisition of new talent and the leadership of head coach KuKi has brought the Mayhem to a peak few fans thought possible. The Mayhem took two maps off the San Francisco Shock in the May Melee grand finals, frustrating the well-practiced team with wild flanks by emerging star Yaki.
This is a sentence that might make any Overwatch League fan from the previous two seasons do a double take, but it’s true: North America’s best chance at defeating the San Francisco Shock is now the Florida Mayhem.
In a post-game interview, Shock main support Moth said his team was hoping to face the Mayhem in the Summer Showdown after the team’s impressive performance last time around.
Florida’s few failures have resulted from unorganized aggression, something the team will have to rein in before they can topple the Shock. If San Francisco have one weakness, it’s in responding to unknown and unplanned compositions. For the Mayhem, it’ll be imperative if the team digs deep and gets wild to throw the Shock off their marble pedestal. If they don’t, the Shock may continue unhindered toward a likely grand finals showdown against the Shanghai Dragons.
The Summer Showdown tournament bracket begins on Friday, July 2 when the Dallas Fuel take on the Paris Eternal at 2pm CT.
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