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Has Saebyeolbe’s Return Ushered in a New OWL Meta?

MichaelKelly

MichaelKelly

Wed 3rd Jul 2019 - 8:32pm

In case you missed it, Jong-ryeol "Saebyeolbe" Park returned to the OWL stage for the New York Excelsior a few weeks back and, since he made his triumphant return to the Blizzard Arena, his presence has been felt far beyond the NYXL’s games. In fact, Saebyeolbe has played a massive role in transforming the current OWL meta as a whole.

So far in Stage 3, Saebyeolbe has played in all of NYXL’s matches, making a serious impact throughout the squad’s currently-perfect stage. However, in order to understand Saebyeolbe’s greater sway on the league as a whole, it’s important to look back to the first match of the stage for the Excelsior. Saebyeolbe made a surprise entrance during the contest against the last-place Houston Outlaws partially through the match, right before the second map - Horizon Lunar Colony. From there, the rest is history.

New York had lost on Ilios to Houston’s triple tank/triple support composition - a loadout that the Outlaws had typically struggled to find success on this season - quickly forcing the Excelsior to switch up its strategy. After substituting Saebyeolbe into the game, opting for a “Sombra GOATS” composition as opposed to the traditional “GOATS” loadout - one that features Sombra instead of D. Va - the Excelsior’s fortunes shifted immensely.

Saebyeolbe and the team managed to take the series by a score of 3 maps to 2, while the NYXL captain led his team on Sombra to its first victory of the stage.

Now, as we progress into the latter half of the 2019 OWL season, it’s becoming more and more obvious that the “GOATS” composition that has ruled the league for the better part of the year now is here to stay. And while every team in the Overwatch league has done their best to perfect the strengths of the comp, only a few at the top of the standings have managed to consistently best their competition with 3/3 in their pocket. And while the NYXL has managed to perform incredibly well throughout the regular stages of the season, exerting dominance over the rest of the league, the team has been rolled over time and time again by squads who have played “GOATS” in a better fashion during both of this year’s stage playoffs.

However, with teams growing sick of the composition ruling the meta and many franchises realizing that the season is coming down to the wire, the squads that haven’t been able to challenge San Francisco and Vancouver at the pinnacle of the Overwatch League are changing up their strategies moving forward, hoping to secure a spot in the playoffs come season’s end.

The NYXL is one of those teams, and as much of the league realizes the success that New York has found with the Sombra switch-up, perhaps changes could be in order and a toppling of the 3/3 composition that has been a mainstay in professional Overwatch for so long now could be on the horizon.

The Houston Outlaws have already proven that a new approach to the meta could be a viable strategy for some of the Overwatch League’s contenders, in addition to plenty of other teams alongside them, and of course the resurgent NYXL. If we take a look at Houston’s massive upset over the reigning stage champions in the San Francisco Shock, it’s clear that while the traditional GOATS composition was used effectively throughout some points of the match, it was constant mix-ups and brute force that pushed Houston through the series’ most pivotal moments.

Right out of the gate, Houston featured the same “Sombra GOATS” comp that NYXL used to bury them a week earlier, while progressively adding more and more chaotic flair into the mix as the first map - and the series - went on. Not only did the Outlaws run a Sombra-Doomfist combo at one point on Nepal, but the team put together a composition featuring 4 DPS heroes on the series’ second map, Horizon Lunar Colony. Throughout the majority of that map, Houston relied on true burst damage above all else in order to break through the meaty 3/3 loadout that the Shock brought to the table.

Houston’s Horizon performance showcased its lineup on heroes like Pharah, Widowmaker, Sombra, and Soldier: 76 effectively pushing through the shields and constant heals that the Shock were dishing out. And while the Outlaws weren’t able to take the map, the variety and diversity that the team put out in front here was enough to provide an element of surprise to the series that the Shock had a tough time corralling. From there on out, the reigning champs were stumbling, trying to find an answer as the series pressed on into a 2-2 tie.

Later in the series, on the tiebreaker map, Ilios, the Outlaws featured Sombra again in the same comp that New York was able to take them down so stylistically with just a week prior. Needless to say, it’s obvious that the Outlaws are taking a page out of their opponents’ books, using tactics that previously beat them to their favor -  a strategy that has stood true not only throughout Overwatch’s history, but the history of many esports, as well.

And they aren’t the only team doing this sort of thing. The London Spitfire utilized Sombra GOATS against New York just this past weekend alongside heroes like Pharah, Hanzo, Widowmaker, and Tracer, giving hope to fans that perhaps the traditional DPS role isn’t dead after all. And despite the fact that London lost that nail-biter of a match to the Excelsior by a map score of 3-2, the match was a win for competitive Overwatch, as it might just be the tipping point that sends the 3/3 composition on its way out the door.

If anything, this renaissance of DPS heroes and creative compositions all stems from Saebyeolbe and his willingness to deconstruct the Outlaws all the way back in the first week of the third stage. The idea that you don’t have to play the meta to beat the meta has been sweeping over the entirety of the Overwatch League, and if the NYXL didn’t sub in Saebyeolbe all the way back in week 1 of Stage 3, perhaps we wouldn’t be seeing this revolution against the age of GOATS at all.

Nevertheless, it’s becoming obvious that we might just be entering a totally new meta of professional Overwatch, and with Stage 4 around the corner, we could see things take a totally new turn quicker than we might imagine - all thanks to New York’s captain.