The final day of the Countdown Cup felt like a showdown a season in the making. But in the end, the team that entered the weekend with the highest seed stood tallest Sunday.
The top-seeded San Francisco Shock (22-2) topped the Philadelphia Fusion (23-2) 4-2 in the finals, winning their second tournament of the season, following their victory at the May Melee.
For the Fusion, it was the second straight finals heartbreak, after they fell 4-2 to the Paris Eternal last month in the Summer Showdown.
The day had the makings of a battle of titans, as the only other teams to reach tournament finals -- the Eternal and Florida Mayhem -- also qualified for Sunday's semifinals.
The Shock opened the day against the fourth-seeded Mayhem (15-6), who impressed in their 3-0 win over the fifth-seeded Atlanta Reign on Saturday. While the Mayhem looked like a top team in this series, the Shock showed that they were in a league of their own by hanging 3-1 series win.
Florida started strong with a 2-0 win on Busan, led by DPS Jun-ki "Yaki" Kim's Genji. But San Francisco was quick to adjust. Like on Saturday, the Shock utilized their deep bench well, rotating players in each position. As such, the Mayhem couldn't easily predict what the Shock were going to do, and were swept up in San Francisco's fast pace.
The Shock responded from the loss on the opening map with a 5-4 win on Eichenwalde to send the series to a 1-1 tie at the half. San Francisco's momentum continued to build as they went on to take Hanamura 2-1 and Havana 3-1 to secure the series win. While Florida couldn't keep up with San Francisco's talented bench in a long, playoff-atmosphere series, there are a scant few teams in the Overwatch League that can. Look for the Mayhem to continue making noise heading into the postseason.
On the other side of the bracket, the third-seeded Fusion took out the second-seeded Eternal (16-6) in a 3-1 series win. The result gave the Fusion a bit of revenge for their loss to the Eternal in the Summer Showdown finals.
Philadelphia looked strong on brawl compositions, featuring a DPS lineup without MVP candidate and team captain Jae-hyeok "Carpe" Lee. Instead, the Fusion played the duo of hitscan Hee-su "Heesu" Jeong and flex DPS Seung-hyun "Ivy" Lee, who worked well together. What's more, the Fusion's other MVP candidate, rookie support Kyungbo "Alarm" Kim, had a great showing throughout the series as Ana, making clutch plays to turn the tides in Philly's favor.
Paris started hot with a 2-0 win on Nepal, but could never quite recapture the momentum after that. Philadelphia adjusted its strategy by playing compositions that could outlast the Eternal's aggression, namely by shutting down star DPS Yeong-han "SP9RK1E" Kim. After Map 1, the Fusion went on a tear, taking Numbani 3-2, Hanamura 2-1 and Havana 2-0 to cap off the series.
While the Eternal looked shaky against Philadelphia, this young roster still shows plenty of promise heading into the postseason. Depending on how the meta looks, though, Paris might run into issues if SP9RK1E can't play his best heroes and if rookie DPS and MVP candidate Ki-hyo "Xzi" Jung gets shut down.
In the finals, the Fusion and Shock started with a burst of energy, with the Fusion taking a 2-1 win on Busan. The Shock responded with a 4-3 win on King's Row as both teams took turns swapping between Sombra-dive and brawl team compositions. After the break, though, San Francisco started to step up, neutralizing the Fusion on Temple of Anubis for a 1-0 win.
Philadelphia responded on Watchpoint: Gibraltar for a 1-0 win with punishing dive compositions, forcing Shock DPS Seon-chang "ANS" Lee onto an uncomfortable pick for him in Sombra. After that, though, the 2019 World Champions seemed to figure out how to best attack the Fusion. For as much as the Fusion wanted to push the tempo and be the aggressor, they couldn't stop support Jooseok "Twilight" Lee from taking over the series.
Twilight was a machine on Ana, taking risky flanks to hit massive Biotic Grenades and landing clutch Sleep Darts on Ivy's Genji during Nano Boosted Dragon Blades. The Shock took Oasis 2-0 to force match point and closed out the tournament with a 3-2 win on Numbani.
The Fusion have come up painstakingly close to winning the last two midseason tournaments, but the lack of results must be frustrating for such a talented roster. The Shock, on the other hand, looked well-polished and ready to go for the upcoming playoffs, proving that they are the best team in the American region.
Week 28 of the Overwatch League starts on Friday with three matches
--London Spitfire vs Seoul Dynasty
--Florida Mayhem vs Vancouver Titans
--Los Angeles Gladiators vs Dallas Fuel
Overwatch League Season 3 standings, with match record (W-L), map record (W-L-T) and map differential:
1. (Pacific East) Shanghai Dragons, 26-2, 56-15-1, 41
2. (Atlantic South) Philadelphia Fusion, 23-2, 56-19-0, 37
3. (Pacific West) San Francisco Shock, 22-2, 47-12-2, 35
4. (Atlantic North) Paris Eternal, 17-6, 44-28-0, 16
5. (Pacific East) Guangzhou Charge, 18-7, 44-39-1, 5
6. (Atlantic South) Florida Mayhem, 15-6, 40-25-0, 15
7. (Atlantic North) New York Excelsior, 15-7, 47-26-2, 21
8. (Atlantic South) Atlanta Reign, 10-7, 37-23-0, 14
9. (Pacific West) Los Angeles Valiant, 10-9, 33-36-0, -3
10. (Pacific East) Hangzhou Spark, 11-11, 33-40-2, -7
11. (Pacific West) Los Angeles Gladiators, 7-9, 30-33-4, -3
12. (Pacific East) Seoul Dynasty, 8-11, 21-35-2, -14
13. (Pacific West) Dallas Fuel, 7-10, 28-34-0, -9
14. (Atlantic North) Toronto Defiant, 8-12, 31-42-0, -11
15. (Atlantic North) London Spitfire, 6-10, 24-36-0, -12
16. (Pacific East) Chengdu Hunters, 8-14, 33-47-1, -14
17. (Atlantic South) Houston Outlaws, 6-15, 32-50-3, -18
18. (Pacific West) Vancouver Titans, 4-12, 16-38-0, -22
19. (Atlantic South) Washington Justice, 3-16, 21-51-1, -30
20. (Atlantic North) Boston Uprising, 2-17, 14-55-3, -41
--Field Level Media