OWL playoffs preview: Doomfist takes center stage as eight teams vie for title

Arda recaps Overwatch League play-ins (2:01)

Arda Ocal breaks down the Seoul Dynasty and London Spitfire's performances during the Overwatch League playoffs play-ins. (2:01)

The meta that has emerged from last week's Overwatch League play-in round is one that makes Contenders Korea fans wish that Element Mystic's Doomfist extraordinaire, Kim "Sp9rk1e" Yeong-han, were in the Overwatch League. Doomfist has become the premier DPS hero option. Here's how Doomfist, and the introduction of Sigma, could affect the top six teams going into the playoffs.

6. Atlanta Reign

Record: 16-12 | Map W/L/T: 69-50-1 | Map Diff: +19

The Atlanta Reign enter the playoffs fresh off an undefeated stage and the coming-out party of Jeong "Erster" Joon as one of the league's best DPS players. Atlanta's rise coupled with the London Spitfire's inconsistency meant an unlikely top-six spot for the Reign and a first-round matchup against the heavily favored San Francisco Shock.

"I think Shock is a really good team," main tank Park "Pokpo" Hyun-jun said after the Reign clinched their playoff berth. "But I think there is a world where we can beat them with the momentum we're carrying into playoffs."

That momentum might come to a sudden halt, depending on how well Erster performs on Doomfist against the Shock's Jay "Sinatraa" Won. The Reign could be in a bit of a sticky situation with Erster as their strongest Pharah and Doomfist, meaning that their Pharah-Doomfist compositions could be outclassed by a Shock mirror with either Kim "Rascal" Dong-jun or Park "Architect" Min-ho on the Pharah with Sinatraa's Doomfist. Pharah-Doomfist wasn't as common from team to team in the play-in rounds as Doomfist-Reaper or other Doomfist-hitscan combinations, but the best teams in the league, including the Shock, will have that flexibility.

Stage 4 showed the world just what the Reign, and Erster, were capable of. If they want to move forward in the playoff bracket, they'll need to find the consistency that has eluded the team throughout the 2019 season.

5. Los Angeles Gladiators

Record: 17-11 | Map W/L/T: 67-48-3 | Map Diff: +19

Another team that might be faced with a Pharah-Doomfist composition question is the Los Angeles Gladiators. Fortunately for the Gladiators, that particular test of DPS flexibility won't likely be an issue in their upcoming match against the Hangzhou Spark. With both Lane "Surefour" Roberts and Jang "Decay" Gui-un playing DPS alongside João Pedro "Hydration" Goes Telles' Doomfist, the Gladiators have Doomfist-hitscan compositions covered. Kang "Void" Jun-woo is likely to be on Sigma duty with Gye "Roar" Chang-hoon on Orisa or Winston, depending how dive-oriented the Gladiators want to become.

Much of this meta is up in the air. Given the different looks we saw from the Pharah-focused Shanghai Dragons, the odd adherence to Reaper-Mei from the Philadelphia Fusion and Junkrat-Symmetra from the always entertaining Chendu Hunters, the main constants were Sigma and Doomfist. This should be a harbinger of Hydration's return to a starting DPS spot and a Gladiators victory over the Spark in the first round.

4. Hangzhou Spark

Record: 18-10 | Map W/L/T: 64-52-4 | Map Diff: +12

Throughout their time in the Overwatch League, the highly touted Hangzhou Spark roster has shown flashes of brilliance. Although it took a while for the Spark to become strong in the triple-triple/GOATS meta -- likely due to communication issues between Chinese main tank Xu "guxue" Qiulin and the rest of the South Korean roster -- once they did, they became one of the best teams in the league. Similarly, in Stage 4, it took a few matches for the Spark to adjust to the 2-2-2 role lock, but once they found their footing, they looked strong.

That formula might not apply in the current meta, which is heavily reliant on Doomfist as a primary DPS hero and the flexibility of teams around their tank slots while playing Sigma. The tank position is where the Spark have communication issues due to a language barrier, and that doesn't bode well for their adjusting quickly to Sigma, even disregarding the team's history of being slow to adapt to a new patch.

Another question for the Spark is who will play Doomfist. Neither Kang "Adora" Jae-hwan nor Kim "GodsB" Kyeong-bo is known for their Doomfist, which could mean a return of flex player Song "Sasin" Sang-hyeon to the starting lineup, though not much is known about the strength of his Doomfist either.

3. San Francisco Shock

Record: 23-5 | Map W/L/T: 92-26-0 | Map Diff: +66

One team that doesn't have to ask "Who is going to play Doomfist?" is the San Francisco Shock. Sinatraa, and his Zarya, have been sidelined since the death of triple-triple/GOATS. Doomfist likely means his return to the starting lineup alongside Architect or Rascal, depending what DPS combination they want to run.

The most impressive strength of the Shock is the team's depth. With the deepest bench in the Overwatch League, the Shock can play anything, and they proved this with a surprisingly seamless transition into the 2-2-2 role lock of Stage 4 after being one of, if not the league's best triple-triple/GOATS team. The Shock have been the most consistent team in the 2019 season and are understandable favorites to not only beat the Reign but also take the title.


Record: 22-6 | Map W/L/T: 78-38-3 | Map Diff: +30 | Atlantic Division winner

Although the London Spitfire didn't exactly look indomitable against the Shanghai Dragons, they enter their match against the New York Excelsior as favorites due to the NYXL's dismal playoff reputation and shaky Stage 4. This is despite a significantly stronger regular-season record for the NYXL, thanks in large part to the triple-triple/GOATS meta that dominated Stages 1-3. Like the Hangzhou Spark, the NYXL don't have the best history of adapting to meta changes quickly -- not just in 2019 but also in last year's inaugural season.

Interestingly enough, the player on the NYXL roster most known on Doomfist is likely Kim "Pine" Do-hyeon, who could start if one of NYXL's other DPS players doesn't pick up that hero for this series. If NYXL wants to go far, it might suit them to return to a more dive-heavy look reminiscent of some of their inaugural season compositions or, like Shanghai in play-ins, run more Pharah compositions than the average team.

1. Vancouver Titans

Record: 25-3 | Map W/L/T: 89-28-0 | Map Diff: +61 | Pacific Division winner

The phrase "Haksal Doomfist" is about to inspire the same awe from Overwatch League fans as it does from fans of the team when they were known as the RunAways in Korea's Contenders circuit. Doomfist's prevalence in the meta couldn't have come at a better time for the Titans, who looked decidedly more fallible following the 2-2-2 role lock. Kim "Haksal" Hyo-jong will likely take center stage not only for the Titans but also for the entire league, given how important Doomfist is in the current meta.

A more interesting question for the Titans will be how they play around Sigma and whether they want to flex Park "Bumper" Sang-beom onto other main tanks with Choi "Jjanu" Hyeon-woo. This meta allows the Titans to play as aggressively as they wish and should suit them well.

Despite the fact that the Seoul Dynasty looked significantly improved during their play-in run -- to the point that, if they find consistency, they could go far even if knocked into the losers' bracket by the Titans -- it's difficult not to pick the Titans in their first-round match.

Play-in teams: London Spitfire and Seoul Dynasty