This article is part of our Overwatch series.
Just like Noan Whinston planned it, the Los Angeles Valiant are now sitting at the top of the Overwatch League standings two weeks into Stage 3. From being on the verge of a ridiculous flame out to undefeated. Just how did this happen?
Last we met, I broke down the myriad of roster moves that the team made prior to the start of Stage 3 to give a little bit of a broad scope of the transactions taking place in Los Angeles. Now, it’s time to look a bit closer at a couple things that have played a direct role in this team going 4-0 to start Stage 3.
Communication is key
It was clear that something was missing from this team in Stage 2. They seemed completely out of sorts at any given moment and ended up with a disappointing 4-6 record because of it. Seemingly on a dime, the Valiant have completely reversed its fortune in Stage 3, and a big part of that comes down to their communication.
While many were pegging new support Scott “Custa” Kennedy as the savior in terms of communication and shotcalling, it turns out that the answer to clearing things up on this team came from a different source entirely. Speaking with DPS Terence “Soon” Tarlier after Wednesday’s win against the San Francisco Shock, he told me that the team’s coms have been much cleaner of late. Why is that, you ask? It’s thanks to none other than off-tank Indy “SPACE” Halpern.
SPACE’s predecessor, Lee “Envy” Kang-jae, used to “talk and spam the communications a lot,” while SPACE is “more clean” in terms of communication. With so much happening at any given moment in Overwatch, constant chatter from one single person could be more harmful than good, particularly if the discourse doesn’t provide the necessary information. The fact that this was the first thing that Soon responded with when I asked him what has made the team so much better in Stage 3 is incredibly telling, as it’s obvious what kind of negative effect Envy’s communication had on the team. With a cleaner line of communication, the Valiant are able to better navigate teamfights and it has manifested itself in a 4-0 start. But that’s not the only thing that’s got the Valiant feeling good these days.
Keeping up with the meta
Whereas this team seemed to struggle with adapting to the meta and finding lineups that worked well in Stage 2, they have done so with impressive ease in Stage 3.
Much like the communication piece, the team’s continued success in-game is in large part thanks to SPACE. Rather than being “hyper aggressive” like Envy was, Soon explained that SPACE has the ability to be both aggressive and defensive, which allows their Zenyatta and Mercy to keep the team alive easier. This is a common problem that we’ve seen over the last couple weeks as many tanks are tending to dive a bit too hard and are leaving their teams out to dry because of it. SPACE’s ability to know when and when not to overcommit keeps him healthier longer, which frees up the supports to then focus their healing and attention on the DPS core.
More than that, Custa seems to give the team more flexibility than ever at the support position. Whereas you would see Benjamin “Unkoe” Chevasson mainly stick with Zenyatta, Custa can play a variety of heroes. “He can play Lucio, he can play Mercy, he can play Ana,” said Soon. This means the team can vary up its playstle at a moments notice without needing to swap out players.
It’s not just the tanks and supports that have brought improvements, however. With Tracer specialist Chae “Bunny” Joon-hyuk in tow, Soon is freed up to play other hitscan heroes like Reaper, McCree, or Widowmaker. When the team was just running Brady “Agilities” Girardi and Soon, the latter was basically forced onto full-time Tracer duty. Now, the team can play much more situationally, as we saw against the Shock on Wednesday. Bunny was in for maps like Volskaya Industries and Blizzard World, while Agilities was brought in for his Pharah on Ilios. We’ll see how much playing time Bunny ends up with moving forward, but the results have certainly spoke for themselves thus far.
Another interesting wrinkle that we’ve seen with this Valiant squad of late is Soon’s preference of Reaper over Sombra. While many teams have been leaning on Sombra heavily over the last few weeks, Soon isn’t too impressed. “She can do invisible, but gets shot one or two times and recalls. Then she’s useless,” Soon said about the popular hacker. He’d much rather play with Reaper, who he feels brings more damage and can contend better with other heroes his opponents might run. Plus, “Sombra is easy,” according to Soon. Ain’t nobody got time for easy heroes.
All in all, it looks as though Whinston’s plan to have an incredibly versatile roster is paying off in spades. Whether this will stand when they face tougher competition -- such as the Gladiators and Spitfire this week -- remains to be seen, but for now, the proof is in the pudding and they are sitting on top of the standings with an outstanding 14-1-1 record.