Despite last week’s ‘speedbump’ (by which we mean Blizzard’s servers having a panic attack all the way through game night last Thursday,) the playoffs for the NUEL’s Overwatch division is still hotly anticipated, by teams and viewers alike. I conducted a few mini-interviews with the Captains of the top teams to find out more about the players at the top of the standings…
1. York’s Underwatch
Zreak, Moose, Derf2000, itspaddyd, Jklol21, Gmoon, z7k, Burakkuada
I’ve done an interview with these players in the past. Their team spirit was incredible. The secret to this team’s phenomenal success is that they genuinely seem to like each other. I won’t discuss them any more than I have. Read that interview to find out more!
2. Aberdeen’s Reservoir Hogs
Chlorine, Bebop, Yahaha!, Sloom, Devotion, Katsune
Aberdeen opened their season with a phenomenal game against Sheffield Hallam and their momentum hasn’t stopped since. Team Captain Chlorine was keen to show that four members of the team were friends before coming to university. Like Underwatch, their success hinges off that synergy, along with star tank Sloom‘s incredible hero diversity. A normal human might already view the team’s inaugural season as a success, but Chlorine is aiming for nothing less than a tournament win: Aberdeen have lost once this season, to Underwatch, and they’re coming into playoffs with a point to prove.
3. Keele Kings
Timestream, Smashley12, omnitoaster, Stricklen, Jäger, matt, Simon,
This lineup actually has two previous NUEL Champions for Keele Squids (Keith ‘Timestream’ Ng and Alistair ‘Omnitoaster’ Semark.’) Keele is looking to defend that title with four new members. To that end, TimeStream has worked hard to improve Keele’s Overwatch infrastructure with a Facebook group to share tips and strategies. This lineup is relatively new and has played together since February. They’re intimidated by the more familiar names present in this season’s top eight, but confident that their luck from the regular season will hold.
-4. Cambridge Cavalry
Mokyr, TauNeutrino, Tantalau35, Xefox, Aerux, df1, Skyaxe
Cambridge, by contrast, is one of the most consistent names in NUEL’s top eight, and has been fielding a relatively consistent roster since the tournament began. Their NUEL speciality is KOTH maps: most teams avoid the map type as much as possible against Cambridge. Their big pick-up this academic year was Xefox, who works his magic in the main support role. Their plan is to ‘take every game as it comes’, and their consistency allowed them to beat current season leaders Underwatch in the semifinals last season. Underwatch got revenge on King’s Row earlier this month, but still cite Cambridge as their main rivals: fingers crossed the two teams get to meet in the playoffs.
-4. Bristol dreadnought
This team has unfortunately not played for the last few weeks: their Captain mentioned that some players had lost interest: perhaps Bristol return next season.
Tephrite, Silva, Wobbles, Aeolus, ISBI, TManTom, Chapo
Brighton stopped just short of making the playoffs last season. Team Captain Tephrite uses a relatively common 2-2-2 NUEL composition, with support player Aeolus as a sub. TManTom has earnt Tephrite’s MVP for this season for his Reinhardt and Winston play. Tephrite’s Junkrat might have been important to the meta, but TMan’s ability to create space for the DPS, as well as to call targets and positioning has been key to Brighton’s success. Brighton’s greatest issue so far has been underestimating their enemy: their inconsistencies come when they don’t play to their strengths. Nonetheless, the whole team is delighted to be playing in a more professional environment, without the toxicity and poor matchmaking associated with Overwatch competitive.
7. Birmingham’s UoB Ares
SubSoldier, Subsidium, Orion, Kirkmania, NinjaDog, Wavedash, Blackjesus
Birmingham’s another old hand to the NUEL. The university’s first team comprises of the core four from UoB Poseidon. Captain SubSoldier and Vice Captain Kirkmania want to highlight the increasing quality of competition over time as strategies and players have matured. Birmingham’s not-so-secret weapon is Kirkmania. Good ult usage isn’t exactly scarce at the top of the NUEL leaderboard, but Kirk’s exceptional Pharah play may very well be the key to Birmingham’s potential success in playoffs. Many of the older rosters have rivalries with each other, and Birmingham is no exception. They want revenge on Keele in particular for knocking them out of the finals of the Spring ’17 split, and, like most teams, have serious issues contending with Cambridge’s KOTH plays. Birmingham’s solution to this problem last split was to ban all four KOTH maps outright: as good as any, I think.
8. Imperial’s IC9 LUL
lood, freshlumpia, Zelco, COSMOS, TSG,ȒǾNƗŊ, Silverhusky,
Imperial placed fourteenth at the end of last season, but their roster shuffle has been extremely successful. Their record of six wins and two losses has them aiming at a top five finish for the Spring split, but they haven’t yet got a high enough seed to confirm a playoff spot. Their success might hinge on their game record tonight. They’ve focused on beating local rivals UCL in the past, but previous success in NUEL and Varsity tournaments have proved them to be the dominant London university (at least where Overwatch is concerned.)
The action continues at 7PM Thursdays. That starts today for the final week of the Swiss format. Word on how semifinals and quarterfinals will be combined is unclear so far.