Season 2 of the Overwatch League has been a mixed bag for Fusion fans, to say the least. Although the team got off to a good start in stage 1, the rest of the season hasn't exactly been sunshine and rainbows. Stage 2 saw the Fusion faced with a fairly stacked schedule, including matches against Shock, Spitfire, and back to back games with NYXL. There wasn't too much hope of coming out of that schedule with a positive record, but there was still room for improvement going into Stage 3.
However, improvement is not exactly what we got, as the Fusion got off to a stumbling start. When asked about their problems, the players and coaches all came back with the same answer, "We just aren't playing as well on stage as we do in skrims." Although the Fusion managed to finish the stage with a positive record their map differential took enough of a hit to drop them out of playoffs and straight to the bottom of a 5-way tie going into stage 4.
While Playoffs are certainly still within their reach by seasons end, they have an uphill battle ahead of them. The landscape of the league is changing thanks to the 2-2-2 role lock being implemented, but whether this is a benefit or detriment of the Fusion has yet to be seen. In order to get an idea of Philly's roadmap to playoffs, we need to take a look at their remaining games and how role locking could affect the matchup.
What we learned this week
In their first role locked matches of the season, the Fusion gave up wins to the Guangzhou Charge and Chengdu Hunters. Both opposing teams have come to life in the new meta, giving their best performances of the season and playing to their strengths. While Chengdu has always been a strong DPS team, even in the full swing of GOATS meta, the newfound success of the Charge was a surprise.
For fans of the Fusion, the first thing to keep in mind is that it's still very early in the meta. The Fusion played in the first two days of stage 4 preventing them from scouting any competition, or having any meaningful amount of practice against these newfound comps. Considering the amount of improvement we saw from them, even between their first and second game, it's not unreasonable to think that we will be seeing a far more synergized Fusion going into week 2.
The other consideration is that the Fusion have a high number of new comps they are attempting to field while having no time to fine-tune their compatibility. Carpe alone ran Reaper, Tracer, Widowmaker, McCree, and
In their first match of week 2, the Fusion will face off against the new and improved Houston Outlaws. Despite a terrible first half to the season, the Outlaws are back, and better than ever with season 2 pickup Dante "Danteh" Cruz finally able to show off his tracer skills.
For the Fusion to pull out the victory here, it may end up coming down to the DPS. You'll be hard-pressed to find a more talented Orisa than Muma, and Poko is already playing outside his comfort zone on Roadhog (and the occasional Reinhardt), so the tank matchup may in fact be lost before it begins.
To get around this, the pressure will be on Carpe to outduel Jake, and Eqo to run control on Danteh. If done well, we may see a match where every fight starts as 5 vs 6 in favor of the Fusion. Of the victories needed, this match may not be the hardest win, but it's certainly not the easiest.
Robert Paul for Blizzard Entertainment
The Defiant remain somewhat of a question mark in the league. It was hard to predict how they would perform on any given day in the GOATS meta, and that remains true with role locking. While the pickups of im37 and Logix certainly add strength to their DPS line, the team is coming off an 0-7 stage, and even with their top tier DPS line, I'd be hard-pressed to put any faith in the Defiant's ability to upset the Fusion. I still hesitate to call this a free win for Philly, but if I were them, I might prep a bit harder for their next opponents.
Like many teams in OWL, the Eternal have been sitting on two star DPS all season with no opportunity to utilize their skills. This stage, fan favorites SoOn and ShaDowBurn have been able to come center stage and flex on the rest of the league. In their first game against the Houston Outlaws, the Eternal claimed 32 eliminations on Blizzard world 25 of which belonged to SoOn. This level of dominance is part of what made SoOn famous, and with no sign of slowing, we can expect a similar performance against the Fusion.
The key to victory in this match may lie in the Fusion's (and more specifically Carpe's) ability to shut SoOn down early and carry as much momentum as possible through the match. In the Fusion's match against the Charge, it looked as though the DPS players were still trying to shake some of the rust off after a year of GOATS. If they manage to achieve a return to form, the Fusion have a solid chance to take a much-needed win off the Eternal, but it won't be easy, and it probably won't be convincing.
As proven by the Shanghai Dragons in the stage 3 finals, Vancouver is, in fact, susceptible to DPS comps. With this in mind, along with the growing concerns about the Titans' ability to smoothly transition metas, a match which would have once been considered an instant loss for the Fusion may be winnable. Considering the individual strengths of its players, I highly doubt that Vancouver will ever be considered bad, but now they at least seem to be mortal.
The good news is, Bumper is finally being forced to play something other than Reinhardt. With one of the Titans' major strengths removed from consideration, it once again comes down to how well the DPS will face off with each other. Even with all this going in the Fusion's favor, this challenge may very well be the toughest they will face prior to playoffs.
Of all the teams fighting for a playoff spot, none mirror the experience of the Fusion as closely as the Dynasty. Two teams that have identical match wins, star Widowmakers, incredible support lines, and D.vas that can place bombs with the best of them. Considering this, both teams ultimately have the same win conditions when they meet at the end of the season, kill the DPS.
Fleta's Widowmaker along with Ryujehong's Ana are going to be immensely threatening, and while Carpe is certainly capable of winning that Widow duel, it may be down to Poko's inexperienced Roadhog hooks to handle the Seoul backline.
Of all the matches the Fusion have ahead of them, Seoul is easily the hardest to predict. The team has been wildly inconsistent basically since the orgs inception, however, it's hard to deny the individual skills and talents of the Dynasty players. It's somehow appropriate that the ultimate gatekeepers of Fusion's playoff spot may, in fact, be the team that most closely.
With the start that the Fusion have had this stage, things are looking rather grim, but that is no reason to give up hope. Of all the matches yet to be played, only the Titans look to have a clear advantage over Philly in terms of previous success. With a 4-3 record, a play-in spot seems likely, and considering the amount of time Fusion will have to adjust to this new meta, that seems like an entirely possible outcome.
For fans that have hopes of seeing the Fusion play in Philadelphia at Grand Finals, don't give up hope, the Fusion boys certainly haven't, so neither should you. One way or another we have an exciting stage still ahead of us, now it's just a matter of seeing if my poor little heart can handle the stress.
How can the Fusion still make playoffs? Overwatch League Roadmap originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia