This article is part of our Overwatch series.
Stage 1: 7-3 (4th Place)
Stage 2: 4-6 (8th Place)
Stage 3: 7-3 (3rd Place)
Overall: 18-12 (5th Place)
The Los Angeles Valiant continues to be confounding to many (myself included). Just look at their final records from each stage. They are the epitome of inconsistent but, despite their issues, they are still locked into a postseason playoff spot heading into this final Stage.
That being said, if you take a look at their records thus far in the season, there is a bit of a pattern there. If that is any indication, fans could be in for a rude awakening once Stage 4 gets underway as the team is due for another clunker of a Stage. I wish that I could qualm those fears and say that the Valiant will get out there and dominate the competition in Stage 4, but I’m afraid that that may not be the case. While the Valiant have weaknesses just like every other team in the OWL (okay maybe not the New York Excelsior because they look near unstoppable at this point), there is one in particular that I want to look at.
Meta changes are an achilles heel
The major outlier to what has been an otherwise fairly strong debut season for the Valiant was Stage 2. After coming up just two maps short (they tied the London Spitfire in record, but lost the map differential tiebreaker) of a playoff spot in Stage 1, the team turned in an incredibly lackluster showing during Stage 2. Gone was any of the crisp play that had led the team to a surprising win over the Seoul Dynasty and a close 3-2 loss to the Spitfire over the course of the first Stage and in its place was a disjointed and haphazard style of play that at times made even the Dallas Fuel look good.
The main source of their struggles were due to the massive shift in the meta between Stages 1 and 2. With Mercy being nerfed, teams were forced to adjust to a vastly different meta in a short amount of time. One day Mercy was the strongest and most impactful hero on the map and then just 12 days later, the Valiant were forced to change up their playstyle. Rather than simply switch out heroes, Los Angeles opted to go in a completely different direction, putting support Park “KariV” Young-seo on DPS while leaving Benjamin “uNKOE” Chevasson and Stefano “Verbo” Disalvo at the support positions. They started off the Stage by getting thrashed 4-0 by the Dynasty (the same team they had just beat 4-0 two weeks prior), which set the tone for their eventual 4-6 finish.
Thankfully for the Valiant, the meta didn’t change too much in Stage 3 and that, combined with a major roster overhaul, allowed the team to enjoy success. They finished 7-3 again and made the playoffs, only to get easily beat 3-0 by the New York Excelsior. Now, that alone isn’t really cause for concern, considering that the Excelsior are the best team in the league. What is a cause for concern, however, is what is looming over the start of Stage 4: another drastic meta shift that goes by the name of Brigitte.
The new support hero, introduced into the game back in March, has been dominating the Overwatch meta ever since her release. For all intents and purposes, we’ve got another Mercy on our hands, in that Brigitte is one of must-picks that we most likely be seen in a bevy of different team compositions. Over the last month, she has a 21 percent pick rate in quick play (second highest of all supports behind Mercy). More importantly, since her inclusion in the latest competitive season, her pick rate is 25 percent among all ranks and 31 percent in the Grandmaster rank (both highs in the support position). So yeah, she’s strong.
As such, the meta is expected to be quite different than what we’ve seen in the last three Stages of competition. The Valiant don’t do well with meta shifts, as we’ve also seen. This has all the makings of a situation where the Valiant once again stumbling off the blocks in Stage 4.
That being said, there is some reason to believe that things could be different this time.
Roster moves have made this team stronger
I’ve gone into the laundry list of roster moves that they made to start Stage 3, so I won’t get too deep into who is who on this team now. I will say that these moves have allowed the team to enjoy a level of success that they haven’t had to this point in the season. Sure, they finished Stage 3 with an identical record to Stage 1, but I would say that they’re run in Stage 3 was even more impressive.
In Stage 1, Mercy was a necessary crutch that allowed teams to make more mistakes since she could be there to rez her teammates in more situations than are possible on the current patch. Moreover, they didn’t have some of the pieces they have now in flex tank Indy “SPACE” Halpern, DPS Chae “Bunny” Jun-hyeok and support Scott “Custa” Kennedy. It’s the latter and SPACE that could be the difference in the Valiant overcoming its meta shift issues and rising to the challenge in Stage 4.
While Envy was certainly a good flex tank, SPACE has arguably been even better. He seems to fit extremely well with his teammates and, most importantly, knows how to be vocal without overdoing it, which was a problem with Envy. With Brigitte possibly taking the place of D.Va in some of the new meta compositions that we’ve seen in quick play (LUL) and on ladder (that’s more like it), SPACE has to be the difference for this team. He will need to take the reigns of this new hero and navigate her right out the gate. It’s also possible that SPACE might have to slot into the Zarya role, with her also being a large part of this new meta. Either way it goes, SPACE will need to be flexible in his role and be ready to step into different shoes in Stage 4.
Speaking of flexibility, Custa brings that to the support duo. While he may not be a master in any one support hero, his ability to play different heroes, as SoOn told me a few weeks back, will continue to give the Valiant some flexibility in what compositions they run. With Brigitte bringing some possible changes in compositions going into Stage 4, having support players that can switch to different players over the course of a given match is a must, and Custa will be a key part of that. That’s not to say that KariV won’t also play a large role in things, though, as he could very well slip back into that DPS role depending on the composition that the team decides to go with. However it shakes out, both DPS players and their respective hero pools will surely come into play in this final Stage.
The Valiant might be in the playoffs as of now, they are only two games ahead of the Houston Outlaws and Los Angeles Gladiators, meaning that there isn’t a ton of room for error in Stage 4. They can’t afford to slip up and go on a 1-5 stretch like they did in Stage 2 if they want to make it into the playoffs. They certainly have the pieces to do that, but the question becomes whether those pieces can keep it together under the pressures of a new and evolving meta.
Stage 4 Prediction: 6-4