It’s been eight months since Matthew “super” DeLisi has been home to Philadelphia. Since then, he’s been living in California with his team, working to three-peat as champions of the Overwatch League.
Just about a week after the San Francisco Shock ring ceremony where players got their 2020 championship rings, the team headed to Hawaii to compete for a third.
The Shock are a beast of a team, and they have been for a long time. They are the first back-to-back champions in the Overwatch League, and earning a three-peat would solidify their legacy.
“I feel like the Shock is already cemented as one of, if not the best, team in Overwatch, but winning a third one would definitely send the message home,” super said.
Hyobin “ChoiHyoBin” Choi wants to cement the Shock as a dynasty team with a win in the 2021 grand finals.
“When teams go on a three-peat dynasty, there's something so significant about that, and there aren’t too many teams that have done that, and I think it's going to be very meaningful if we're able to accomplish that,” ChoyHyoBin said.
General manager Chris Chung is thinking about the bigger picture when it comes to being one of the best esports teams.
“It's something that would definitely not just put us up there as one of the best teams in Overwatch, because I think we are one of the best teams in Overwatch, we're already there, but one of the best esports teams out there that is involved in a league. That would be something very meaningful for all the players, all the staff and everyone that's in NRG, and it's something that we definitely would like to think about,” Chung said.
The Shock look to take down the Shanghai Dragons first
To get to the grand finals this year, they’ll have to face the scariest team in the East Region, the Shanghai Dragons, who picked the Shock as their first opponent in the playoffs. They’ll face off on Tuesday at 10 p.m. ET in the first round of the double-elimination bracket.
One of the biggest challenges for every team in the playoff bracket is adapting to the meta that each region has settled into. Because the only opportunity for teams to meet across regions has been through the tournaments, not all teams have had the experience of playing a team in another region.
Super and ChoiHyoBin aren’t too worried about meta differences. They both told Nerd Street that they expected every team to have a meta that was different, but that they were good at adapting and had a deep hero pool that allows them to adapt quickly if there is a trend they are seeing.
“I’m pretty sure every team is going to try to come up with something surprising, but we are just going to go with the flow and adapt if there is a situation that we can adapt to,” ChoiHyoBin said.
All North American teams must travel to Hawaii to compete
In addition to preparing for the scariest team in the East and making sure they are competition ready, the Shock must also travel. Every NA team is headed to Hawaii to compete in the playoffs so that the online latency is much lower when competing against teams based in Asia. This presents a challenge to the players, coaches and staff of each NA team since travel is often long and stressful.
“Luckily for us, we had practice with it last year. Going through quarantine in Korea was not fun. We spent 14 days in a hotel room with not great food or setups or anything that was ideal. So I think we are a little bit more well prepped for this than other teams are,” super said.
Last year for the 2020 grand finals, the Shock traveled to South Korea to compete in the grand finals. Not only was it difficult for the players to deal with, but it was also a logistical nightmare that the Shock staff had to deal with. Everyone on the team and the staff overcame it, and it was worth it when they won the grand finals for a second year in a row.
“Traveling to South Korea, with all the logistics that we could not probably have foreseen, it was just one of those things where you just had to go through it,” Chung said. “I'm really proud of my players because they've handled it so well. I don't think any of them really complained too much. I don't think enough credit goes to the players and staff from last year for the Shock because they had to practice in their quarantine hotels, which is not an ideal situation to be in.”
How far will the Shock go?
The bracket on the Shock’s side is pretty nasty, but then again all eight of the teams that got into the playoffs are championship contenders. Luckily, the best team in the West Region this year, the Dallas Fuel, are on the opposite side of the bracket.
Looking at record alone, the Shock have the same win/loss record as the Dragons, and they also have won the most maps among teams in the league, but they barely made it into playoffs as they got there via the play-ins.
Although that doesn’t necessarily mean anything for the playoffs, it does mean that they were unable to win high-pressure matchups throughout the season since they never qualified for any of the tournament weekends.
If they can get past the Dragons, that means they’ll go on to face either the Philadelphia Fusion, who are looking good coming out play-ins, or the Los Angeles Gladiators, who have been riding a train of momentum lately, winning their last seven games in a row.
The Gladiators and the Shock have met three times this season, and the Shock have lost two out of the three encounters, although their matches were always close.
So while the Shock have had an overall great season so far, anything can happen in the playoffs, and the Shock are one of the teams that every team in the OWL knows they cannot underestimate.
Lead photo credit: Overwatch League