The Overwatch League's Countdown Cup, the penultimate tournament ahead of the OWL Playoffs, was competitive in the North American bracket but less so in the Asian bracket. The No. 1 seed Shanghai Dragons went 7-0 in a sharp, flawless performance.
The Dragons were underdog darlings in the league's inaugural season, as they went 0-40 as the only Chinese team in the OWL. Then, in 2019, they rose to 13-15 in a shorter season but couldn't make a major playoff run. Thus far in 2020, Shanghai's revamped roster leads the league at 23-2 and has come first, second and first again in the past three tournaments.
For this weekend's tournament, the Dragons played one lineup consistently: Fleta and LIP at DPS, Void and Fearless at tank, LeeJaeGon and Luffy at support. Thrown directly into the semifinals thanks to a No. 1-seed bye, Shanghai swept the New York Excelsior and Hangzhou Spark consecutively, earning the team a smooth $60,000 in prize money and additional placement help for September's $4 million OWL Playoffs.
North American Knockout Stage
Friday, August 7
Atlanta Reign 3-0 Vancouver Titans
Dallas Fuel 3-2 Washington Justice
Toronto Defiant 3-1 Los Angeles Valiant
Toronto Defiant 2-3 Los Angeles Gladiators
North American Quarterfinals
Saturday, August 8
San Francisco Shock 3-0 Dallas Fuel
Florida Mayhem 3-0 Atlanta Reign
Paris Eternal 3-1 Los Angeles Valiant
Philadelphia Fusion 3-0 Los Angeles Gladiators
North American Finals Bracket
Sunday, August 9
San Francisco Shock 3-1 Florida Mayhem
Paris Eternal 1-3 Philadelphia Fusion
San Francisco Shock 4-2 Philadelphia Fusion
Saturday, August 8
Guangzhou Charge 2-3 New York Excelsior
Hangzhou Spark 3-2 Seoul Dynasty
Chengdu Hunters 3-0 London Spitfire
Asian Finals Bracket
Sunday, August 9
Shanghai Dragons 3-0 New York Excelsior
Hangzhou Spark 3-1 Chengdu Hunters
Shanghai Dragons 4-0 Hangzhou Spark
Full schedule and standings available here.
Against New York, Shanghai proved what is the true differentiating factor between great and unstoppable teams in Overwatch: team synergy. The team acquired Fleta from the Dynasty to start 2020, and many wondered if his superstar days were behind him. But, paired with their rookie DPS, LIP, the duo's chemistry and hero flexibility was disastrous for the Excelsior in the semifinals.
With LIP landing a clean EMP and Fleta following up with a Dragonblade, the Dragons disabled and diced the Excelsior up.
Against the Spark, other Dragons got their time to shine. Fearless is one of the team's sole mainstays from the disastrous 2018 season, but his redemption arc impresses more and more each tournament, as he demonstrated perfect Winston mechanics by juggling an enemy Zarya off the map before abusing high ground to avoid death while still applying pressure with his Tesla Cannon.
Later, it was the rookies who showed out. LeeJaeGon, the 18-year-old main support prodigy from RunAway, went big brain by scouting the flank on Volskaya Industries and immediately booping off the teleporting attackers. That foresight and execution as Brigitte completely derailed the attack.
And finally, the 18-year-old LIP simply clicked skulls to end the Spark's hopes. And to make matters worse, the professional sniper recognized the game was won after he notched three clean headshots and proceeded to finish with some flair, trolling the observers and simply spinning around.
At present, Shanghai looks like the best team in the Overwatch League. Losing 2-4 to the Charge was worrisome in the Summer Showdown, but its performance was unflinching during the Countdown Cup. Like the best team in North America, the San Francisco Shock, the Dragons have depth at every position—making them feel meta-proof and impossible to counter.