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With hardship after hardship before the Overwatch League even began, all eyes have been on the Philadelphia Fusion during the opening week to see what they are capable of. From controversial player signings, a social media flub that turned #pdomjnate into a popular meme, and not making an appearance to the Preseason, the Fusion have had more hurdles than any other franchise before the matches could even begin.

When the team was announced back in November, many were shocked to see that Philadelphia had signed Korean player, SADO to the roster. This pick was controversial because SADO had been a known booster back home (“boosting” being aiding those in lower skill ranks to rise higher than they should be in competitive ladders). Weeks later, Blizzard officially imposed sanctions on him, keeping SADO out of competition for 30 games, or Stage 4 of Season 1 in May. SADO’s apology letter.

Soon to follow, the Fusion had to make the unfortunate announcement that they would be unable to attend the Preseason event due to logistics problems in getting team members to Los Angeles. It’s easy to imagine what these problems could be when the players represent nine different home countries, the most diverse cast of players in that regard. In fact, these difficulties kept many on the team from even being able to show up to the Arena until this last weekend before the season started.

phillyEnter.jpgPhoto credit: Robert Paul for Blizzard Entertainment

A fusion of players.

This week, representing the starting lineup for Philly in their match against the Houston Outlaws was Fragi and Poko tanking, Boombox and neptuNo playing support, and Carpe and Shadowburn rounding out the DPS. The only change we saw this weekend was Dayfly taking over for neptuNo when the Fusion faced off against the London Spitfire. It was a curious change that meant trading in one of their strongest shotcallers for someone who hadn’t had much of a chance to practice with the team yet.

Absent were Joemeister, known more for his Lucio play, a hero that’s not too popular in the current meta, and both Eqo and HOTBA. Eqo is seen as a “carry” (extremely strong player) for many fans, so maybe we’ll see him next week, likely stepping in for Carpe if he plays as they share some of the same hero pool. No word on why HOTBA wasn’t used, but it could be the team felt Poko was the stronger choice for this opening week. Lastly, we didn’t see snillo because he won’t turn 18, minimum age to play in OWL, until his birthday in early March.

When asked about their biggest weakness during a press conference, the team agreed that communication would be something they need to work on, but also felt that since Overwatch has consistent terminology across all regions, they didn’t expect it would be the most difficult hurdle to overcome. What they felt they most needed was just time and experience playing together.

Kings of the hill?

Fusion came out of the gates on Dorado looking strong against fan-favorite, the Houston Outlaws, but the Texas team didn’t make it easy for them. Alternating victories throughout the series, a tiebreaker was required on a control map (king of the hill), a type Fusion had earlier won 2-0.

While they did win the series and there was some visible teamwork, it was clear the team was winning with brute force, relying heavily on individual, mechanical skill to win rather than using a cohesive strategy. For example, on Dorado, Carpe was able to reach 27 eliminations/ten minutes opposed to Linkzr’s 16, and on Oasis, Shadowburn had a 25% rocket accuracy against JAKE’s 19%. Fragi and Poko’s in-your-face style meant that they were able to force the engagements on their terms against the unprepared Houston defense on multiple occasions.

carpe stats.pngTracer stats on Dorado from MLG stream

This reliance on skill versus cohesion came back to bite Philadelphia in their fight against the more coordinated London Spitfire on Saturday. After a hopeful two points on map 1, Junkertown, Fusion seemed to lose their will to fight after failing to push the payload to the end of map after failing to adapt their hero lineup to fight the very dive-oriented Spitfire. The Londoners were ready for Fragi’s aggressive Reinhardt and Poko’s D.Va dives, repeatedly shutting them down, and by the time Fusion made the counter picks, it was too late and the map was over.

On map 2, Horizon Lunar Colony, Fusion could barely leave spawn after Birdring repeatedly hit stray and staggered picks, causing Fusion to eat over a minute just sitting around and waiting for respawns. In their final pushes, they made the questionable decision of diving into the heavily defensive Spitfire lineup of Orisa, Junkrat, and Roadhog.

By the third map, Illios, Spitfire had clearly broken the Fusion, forcing errors out of Fragi by keeping him separated from his team, and making Poko stay behind in vain attempts to defend his healers while Shadowburn and Carpe struggled to make space. On Numbani, the last map, the frustration was in their faces in as they threw themselves into the waiting Spitfire defense that shut down all of Fusions powerless attempts.

When it comes to the support players, Boombox, neptuNo, and Dayfly are strong, but this week they were, “Just doing their job,” and didn’t have any moments where they truly shined. This isn’t to say they weren’t playing at the top of their game, but outside a few amusing Battle Mercy moments from neptuNo, or powerful saves from Boombox’s Transcendences, they were playing as expected at a pro level, doing just what they needed. Hopefully in the coming weeks we’ll be able to see something like the sniper play that Boombox is known for on Zenyatta.

Conclusion

On their opening day, Philadelphia were able to rely on their sheer mechanical skill to help win, but fights were still too close for comfort and the victory could have gone either way. When they faced off against London Spitfire, a team with much more coordination won the day and the Fusion looked powerless.

With months of lost time, but powerful players and strong determination, this untested team came out better than expected, but still have much to prove to their fans. With some time and practice, Fusion stand a good chance at pdomjinating in all of their matches on the road to the finals.

fragi-small.jpgPhoto credit: Robert Paul for Blizzard Entertainment

I talked to Fragi after the Spitfire match and expectedly, he was feeling down after that, but was a good sport and answered a few questions about Fusion’s future.

Week 1 is done. Overall, how do you things are for the Fusion?

I think it’s like, all right. It’s only the first week. We got one win under our belt, even with the little preparation we had, so it’s just going to get better from here. We’re feeling pretty hopeful for the future. I think things are going to get better really fast for us.

What should we expect to see out of Fusion in the coming weeks and months?

Definitely our cohesion should get better, everything should just get better really fast. For basic things we are not on the same wavelength yet, so when that gets sorted out, I think we will get that much stronger really fast.

Cover photo credit: Robert Paul for Blizzard Entertainment