In about a week’s time, York’s Underwatch will travel to the Red Bull Gaming Sphere in London to face Imperial’s IC9-LUL on home turf. IC9 might have had a slightly easier bracket, but they’ve also proven they’re working hard to unseat York: a team that has been completely dominant all season long. Do Underwatch bleed?

York’s team haven’t dropped a game this NUEL regular season, but their loss to Swansea in week one of the King of the North qualifiers demonstrates clear vulnerabilities. Regular season NUEL caster Rooc points out that Underwatch ‘aren’t unbeatable’. He also notes previous losses to less strong rosters like the old Birmingham Zeus team. The common factor in both of these upsets was strong tank play, and that’s good for Imperial. IC9 Tanks Ronin and Lood have put up MVP performances all season. Their excellent performance over the semi-finals was one of the biggest reasons for IC9 Zelco’s success on Tracer.

underwatch win kotn 2018: image courtesy of jon chia

The forecast for rosters on finals day? Thicc. Underwatch are famed for their tank play too, and frequently run quad-tank strategies. EU Contenders has shown that tank strategies are often countered well by simply swapping your roster to even more tanks. Contenders Caster Dezachu notes that Sombra and Tracer will be extremely effective in eating through the frontline too. ‘I’m really curious to see if any of the players have been utilising the deadly duo to their full extent or if tank comps will reign supreme.’

Team Captains Mokyr and Chlorine, of Cambridge and Aberdeen respectively, faced our two finalists in playoffs. They both emphasized the value of coordination. ‘[IC9’s] dive was super co-ordinated and their tracer was really good at harassing our back line.’ Zelco being given space to work is essential. Underwatch’s tanks are extremely important to the team’s consistency: Zelco needs space to do his thing on Tracer if Imperial is to succeed.

Imperial’s other DPS, TSG, is another player with weight on his shoulders. Pharah’s a good counter to tank-heavy compositions, and it’s been the answer most teams have had for Underwatch throughout their regular season. It has yet to be properly effective, due to Z7k’s hit-scan play, but TSG showed his impact during playoffs. Stream Producer Sunkern agrees: ‘the pharmercy combo between TSG and husky is their best shot’. Pushing Underwatch onto unfamiliar territory map-wise will be extremely difficult: they don’t seem to have a weak point: even a win on Blizzard World will prove extremely difficult, seeing as it was the map on which Underwatch won King of the North. For IC9, Numbani will be important. It’s the team’s most consistent map throughout the regular season, and they’ll be looking to get it into the pool.

The Red Bull Gaming Sphere Awaits: Image Courtesy of Red Bull

That said, exam work will be, as always, the hanzo main ruining the otherwise perfect comp of practise. Other distractions are hardly worth mentioning in other esports, but this is the NUEL, where IC9’s Team Captain is still working hard on a medical degree, and Underwatch’s head is in his final year. Both teams have huge demands on them both in-game, and out. The scarcity of practice on both sides means the finals will be as equal a playing field as IC9 are likely to get. As Dezachu put it: ‘we love a good underdog story in the UK and IC9 will be looking to be the stars of this story!’

Imperial’s IC9 LUL will be facing York’s Underwatch on the 28th April at the Red Bull Gaming Sphere. Tickets are available now.