Inflection Points: A South Korea vs. USA Post-Mortem
Overwatch is a game of inflection points. You might remember the term from math class, but inflection points are more commonly used to define turning points in important events. They are instants in time when the seemingly inevitable is evaporated replaced with a separate, previously unknown outcome.
We, the Overwatch community, experienced one such important event at BlizzCon: the Overwatch World Cup. However it was the unknowable, inconceivable, but ever-hopeful reality – the dream of Team USA defeating South Korea – that evaporated into the inevitable: South Korea’s defense of their 2016 World Cup title. It was surprising that the USA could weather the Korean storm at all, that they could convince the world that their path was legend. Legend it could have been, but this was the real world…not an anime. With surgical precision and clutch timing, South Korea dismantled the American Overwatch dream. It’s time to see how they did it.
Eichenwalde Final Point, USA Attacking
Following their surprise 2-1 victory on Nepal, Team USA found themselves staring into the deep recesses of Eichenwalde’s castle, teeming with swarms of South Korean bullets and bombs. USA had relied on a powerful deluge of Junkrat grenades from Jake, a huge Self-Destruct from Coolmatt69 that killed Mano, and clutch Resurrects from Adam to break down Eichenwalde’s gate; now they needed to reach the foot of Balderich von Adler to match the Koreans’ attack. This next engagement would be USA’s best shot at reaching their goal: winning the fight at the gate had left them ahead on ultimate economy and with momentum to spare. Jake kicked things off with a big Concussion Mine + RIP-Tire kill:
Saebyeolbe stuck Jake’s body, but his efforts were erased by an Adam Resurrect and he was summarily executed by Rawkus’ Zenyatta. Jake then finished off the de-meched Zunba as Team USA pushed the cart uncontested around the bend.
Team USA was far ahead on ultimates, lives, and positioning at this point – a situation they had prepared to exploit. Much like Sinatraa and Dafran in the days of Selfless’ peak, they pushed their advantage with a little thing called a spawn camp:
FCTFCTN, Sinatraa, and Coolmatt69 bee-lined to the spawn doors to simultaneously pick off stragglers and prevent Korea from leaving their spawn. The Koreans wisely retreated to regroup, but this gave the U.S. more time to push the cart uncontested. Korea even split up their forces, but the Americans held strong: sealing off both doorways with their tanks and Jake’s grenade spam. As the cart reached mere meters from its final destination, the Koreans desperately blasted out the gates in unison in a last ditch effort to contest the cart. The tanks made it…
But Saebyeolbe and Tobi were less lucky, catching face-fulls of Jake’s grenade spam
As Rawkus’ Transcendence faded, Mano took matters into his own hands by beating him to death with Primal Rage:
The position where Rawkus dies will become important later, but while this was going on Jake was still wreaking havoc near the cart, punishing Fl0w3r’s kill on Sinatraa by blowing up his Junkrat rival. He immediately RIP-Tire-d, which de-meched Zuinba and led to the most amazing stalemate that I have ever seen in Overwatch.
The sheer number of mind-games happening in this instant in time is insane. FCTFCTN and Zunba are the only two people on the cart, but FCTFCTN is unable to kill Zunba because of Zunba’s soon-to-explode Mech. Mano and Coolmatt69 cannot help Zunba and FCTFCTN with their 1v1, because they would both be exploded by the bombs as well. Adam is also busy Resurrecting Sinatraa out of line of sight from the bombs. Finally, the combination of Adam Resurrecting Sinatraa and the D.Va Bombs seem to be preventing the Korean players from leaving spawn as well. It is a beautiful, complex, and fleeting web of positioning and pressure that only Overwatch can deliver.
Neither D.Va bomb resulted in a kill and the fight began to flip into Korea’s favor. Korea’s support ultimates came online, and USA sacrificed positioning as Adam flew far, far back into the back-line to resurrect Rawkus.
This positioning plus Ryujehong’s Transcendence allowed Korea to bully the U.S. – minus the ulting FCTFCTN – off of the payload, splitting their forces and leading to a Rawkus’ second death:
Team USA’s attack soon evaporated and South Korea was wise to conserve their ultimates while beat them back. Future attacks by the U.S. were smashed by a Korean squad that had advantages in positioning, spawn, and ultimate economy. So what went wrong with the best chance Team USA had to take Eichenwalde?
Inflection Point 1
Did you notice that Rawkus used his Transcendence the instant the South Koreans moved to the cart? In many cases, this would have been a great idea. USA was ahead on ultimates and using Transcendence would have protected their players while Korea had not yet charged their own support ultimates. Nine times out of ten, this means the U.S. wins this fight.
However, Rawkus could not have planned for or expected that Jake would simultaneously pick off Tobi and Saebyeolbe – and later Fl0w3r – making Rawkus’ Transendence seem inefficient at best. If Rawkus had saved his ultimate here, he might not have died to Mano and could have provided the extra support needed to take out Zunba and push the cart the final distance. Or, after the D.Va bomb stalemate, he could have used it to continue the stalemate against Ryujehong’s Transcendence to allow Team USA to maintain their position on the cart.
Inflection Point 2
FCTFCTN cannot see the future, but if he could, he might have wanted to use his Primal Rage earlier against Zunba:
Shortly after this moment, Jake exploded Zunba with his RIP-Tire, forcing Zunba to Self-Destruct earlier than he may have wished to. Zunba being Zunba, his Self-Destruct still somehow landed in a perfect position to keep FCTFCTN from killing his Pilot form. However, Zunba was similarly cornered by Coolmatt69’s own Self-Destruct on the other side of the cart. To FCTFCTN’s credit, he did manage to nearly kill Zunba:
50 health remaining, feelsbadman
Had FCT Primal Rage-d, he might have been able to kill Zunba faster, or at least to knock him into the range of Coolmatt69’s Self-Destruct. But, this would have put FCTFCTN at risk of dying to Zunba’s own Self-Destruct.
Was there a better way? Like FCTFCTN, Jake cannot predict the future. But had he known there would be a 1v1 stalemate on the cart, he might have tried to suicide on top of Zunba, leaving FCTFCTN and Coolmatt69’s D.Va Bomb alone to push the cart home. Hindsight, or future-sight, is 20:20.
Hanamura, Team USA’s third attack
In what many, including myself, have since dubbed “one of the greatest matches in Overwatch’s history, Team USA was sitting in a winning position. After both teams ran twice laps around each other, the U.S. full held on Korea’s third attack, leaving them with only a single control tick to claim. This attack would be a race to charge ultimates, the first team to reach 100% would find themselves in the driver’s seat. Fl0w3r was that first player to charge his ultimate, but Team USA had other ideas:
If you’re racing to charge your ultimates, it’s best to make sure you are not picked off first. Jake also solo-ed Saebyeolbe with a big Helix Rocket direct hit then did most of the damage that led to Fl0w3r’s premature death to Coolmatt69. Up 5v4, with Adam’s Valkyrie about to come online, it looked like Team USA had this fight won.
Until they didn’t. Saebyeolbe returned from spawn and transformed into a one-Tracer wrecking crew. He focused Adam, paused briefly to stick Sinatraa, then finished off Adam in the span of about four seconds:
Fl0w3r returned from spawn with Barrage to blow up Coolmatt69, then Ryujehong unceremoniously ended Jake’s fun, and USA’s hopes of taking the point.
How could such a great start in such shambles?
Inflection Point 1
Did you notice Tobi nearly dying in the brawl?
The U.S. did a great job of pushing onto the point while under Adam’s Valkyrie. Coolmatt69, Jake, and FCTFCTN were just 25 health from focus-firing Tobi down and more than likely winning the point. But something went wrong. When Tobi was at his lowest health total, Mano had dropped a Winston shield blocking Jake from finishing him off. No worries though, FCTFCTN was ready to pounce with a Winston leap + Tesla Cannon to finish him off … right?
Moments like these are why Zunba was chosen for the World Cup. Winston has been a meta tank for so long now that most pros that play heroes with knock-back effects like D.Va and Lucio know to save their knock-backs for Winston’s leaps, to disrupt their landing and intended target. By Rocket Boosting into FCTFCTN, Zunba changed his leap direction and kept the Winston floating in the air longer than intended. This gave Tobi time to escape around the wall and within Ryujehong’s line of sight for healing:
btw, can we get >720p VODs uploaded? yikes
The U.S. then focused their attention to Korea’s tanks instead of Tobi, who had weathered the onslaught by the slimmest of margins. For most of this fight, Discord Orb was stationed on Korea’s tanks, rather than Tobi. This could have due to limited line of sight since Discord Orb cannot go through Winston bubbles. However had Tobi been discorded, he likely would have expired during this brawl with or without Zunba and Mano’s heroics. Discording the tanks did lead to Team USA winning the tank vs. tank battle, however, so it was an understandable decision.
Inflection Point 2
Team USA picked off Fl0w3r and Saebyeolbe, charged and used two of their ultimates before Korea (Valkyrie and Tactical Visor), and still lost the fight. The results of this fight taught me one overarching lesson: not all ultimates are created equal. As soon as Jake popped Tactical Visor, Ryujehong achieved Transcendence and prevented the young American from wiping the defenseless Korean roster, both tanks having been incapacitated a moment earlier. This allowed Tobi to walk through a rain of bullets to resurrect Mano, who then proceeded to save his Primal Rage until after FCTFCTN’s own wore off. This bought Korea enough time for their DPS duo to return from spawn and, along with some charged balls from Ryujehong, wipe the U.S. off the map. Let’s list out each ultimate chronologically, and detail the consequences of those ultimates:
It is clear that South Korea was getting far more value out of their ultimates than Team USA. Team USA obviously had the momentum going into the fight, but since they failed to capitalize with kills on Tobi or Ryujehong, South Korea’s DPS were able to return from spawn to save the day after all of USA’s ultimates had been mitigated by Korea’s supports and tanks.
Had USA killed Tobi, charged their own Transcendence, or even sent one player to delay Saebyeolbe and Fl0w3r’s return, they might have had a better shot at surviving. For all of Korea’s non-DPS heroics, they were not really killing USA’s players outside of Rawkus’s unfortunate Self-Destruct death. If Saebyeolbe or Fl0w3r had been delayed even a second, Sinatraa and Coolmatt69 might have been able to hunt down Ryujehong instead of dying when the duo returned. But this is likely only a pipe dream. Team USA was fighting on a point with over-time active and likely had no players to send hunting for respawning Korean DPS. Ultimately, USA did not get the same value out of their ultimates allowing South Korea to hold them to a draw.
Watchpoint: Gibraltar Point 2, Team USA attacking
On Watchpoint, the series was still tied following the Hanamura match of ages. Team USA found themselves less than two meters from capping the second point in the hangar. There was a flurry of abilities, ultimates, and deaths and when the dust settled South Korea stood atop the payload victorious. but how did it all go wrong for the U.S.? How did this:
Turn into this?
Here on Watchpoint, Team USA’s tanks once again demonstrated their gate-sealing techniques. We saw it on Eichenwalde, where FCTFCTN, Coolmatt69, and Sinatraa pushed up to prevent the Koreans from leaving spawn while their backline pushed the cart uncontested. We see it again here, with Coolmatt69 body-blocking the non-Fl0w3r Koreans in a way only Coolmatt69 can do:
We should not be surprised that Team USA tried to gate-seal whenever they had the chance, with Coolmatt69, master of body-blocking on their roster. However, Korea was able to de-mech Matt and reach the payload to prevent a point capture. How did they blow up Coolmatt69 so quickly? There were a couple of factors. First, Rawkus was not on a support and Adam was nowhere near him:
But all of the healing in the world might not have kept Coolmatt69 alive, given who was shooting at him:
Team USA was able to kill Fl0w3r, but not before he de-meched Coolmatt69. FCTFCTN might have been able to drop his barrier on top of Fl0w3r, but he likely would have ripped through it immediately. If Rawkus was on a healer and he and Adam were both keeping Coolmatt69 alive through the barrage of bullets, USA might have been able to push the payload the final two meters.
That’s a lot of “might”s. Maybe this was just an impossible dream. Part of the reason Adam was even out of position in the first place was to resurrect Sinatraa, who then did most of the work to kill Fl0w3r. All of South Korea was focused on killing Coolmatt69 and all of Team USA was focused on killing the people killing Coolmatt69. USA needed Coolmatt69 to gate-seal because they were behind on ultimate economy and it was the only advantage they had in this fight. Once Fl0w3r’s Bastion got involved, this was not a race they were able to win.
South Korea easily matched USA’s distance behind Fl0w3r’s incredible Widowmaker on their own Watchpoint attack run. They then smashed a mentally fatigued USA squad on Oasis, where the Americans experienced uncharacteristic lapses in decision-making that the veteran Korean squad was more than happy to exploit. The U.S. had a tangible chance to defeat South Korea on Eichenwalde and Hanamura, which would have given them the match win. However, the Americans’ forward momentum was destined to stop and turn to Korea’s favor at these points of inflection. Outcome aside, here are some things I noticed about both teams during their battle:
Team USA had practiced and nearly perfected tank-based gate-sealing of choke-points while the rest of their team worked on the objective. This, and other set plays were key to their ability to compete with the Koreans
While Team USA their set plays, South Korea seemed to have less “prepared” plays and operated more out of instinct – knowing how to react in the moment as a team
Korea was not prepared for how good Jake’s Junkrat was, but adjusted well
Team USA was not prepared for how good Fl0w3r’s Widowmaker was, but also adjusted well
For all of Korea’s DPS heroics, their supports and tanks were often the players who put Korea in the position to make comebacks
Team USA’s supports had positioning issues at times that Korea took advantage of
Korea seemed to bully the crap out of FCTFCTN, which led to him not getting as much work done on Winston as he might have wanted to. Though, FCTFCTN played Orisa quite well on Sanctum
Hope you enjoyed this (lengthy) analysis!
Until next time,