The debut event for Blizzard’s new Esports Arena in Burbank Studios kicks off with the European semifinals. Misfits come in as firm favourites after a near perfect regular season but both Gigantti and 123 finished with dominant map records too. Cloud9 EU, on the other hand, will be outsiders looking to cause an upset. While an upset is unlikely, this is the first time these teams are facing off at LAN with these rosters and with limited offline events in Overwatch's recent history it’s uncertain how each team will perform on the big stage.
The Contenders format will change for the playoffs, moving to best-of-five semifinals. For a full overview of the Conntenders playoffs format check out our Viewer's Guide.
The prediction games will rage on into their final moments too, where Mert currently holds onto a two-point lead thanks to plenty of perfect scores. With six games over the course of this weekend, there is still time for it all to change. Our analyst's musings can be found below.
Saturday 7th October 19:00 CEST / 10:00 PDT / 02:00 KST
Misfits come in with a staggering 27-2 map win-loss ratio, while Cloud9 EU actually lost more maps during the regular season than they won. The odds are certainly stacked against the Cloud9 EU squad but with their spot in the Overwatch League potentially outsourced to Koreans, they will be keen to prove they can compete at the highest level.
Most people are probably expecting a quick 3-0 from Misfits given their dominant displays and Cloud9’s lacklustre end to the season but LAN is a different kettle of fish. I expect Cloud9 to step up here and make a game of it, especially MikeyA who has been their star player this season and has a history of playing better on LAN, both from the Overwatch World Cup and previous games. If MikeyA can get regular picks on the exposed Zuppehw or the often aggressive Zebbosai this could enable the rest of his team to win some team fights.
This does also rely on the Cloud9 tanks and supports fixing their coordination problems but this should be less of an issue. If all of these factors come together they stand a fighting chance. Saying that they are still playing the best team in Europe and while Cloud9 will make it competitive I find it hard to see them beating Misfits.
Misfits were the best team in the European side of Contenders by far this season and this should be amplified when they play in a LAN environment. C9 have talented pieces but Misfits can match these with their own stars and have the ability to retain their effectiveness when flexing to different lineups. Overall, C9 EU should not have any significant advantages they can capitalize on to take a map.
I believe the top 3 in EU are well above the rest of their Contenders competition. With Misfits being the best of that group, I expect them to cruise over C9 despite their good season. They might take a map or two in a fight to prove themselves, but I think it's more likely Misfits sweeps them.
I love the guys on Cloud9, but I don't see any teams beating Misfits at this event bar an NA vs EU showmatch at the end. The team is simply too far ahead of the rest of the competition. Manneten has quietly become one of the best flex players in Europe, and the team's DPS duo is unmatched. Unless Cloud9 has some hidden strategies on Hollywood (a historically strong map for Misfits) or Eichenwalde, I cannot see them taking a single game during this set.
Saturday 7th October 21:00 CEST / 12:00 PDT / 04:00 KST
This game was set up to be the best semifinal from either region but visa issues for Tonic has meant that they will instead have to use Nomy. This is a devastating blow for 123 as they come into their first major LAN, especially considering Tonic was one of their best players this season. Not to take away from Nomy who is one of the most talented tank players available and has kept the flag meta alive but restricted practice time and experience with the Mexican tank could prove fatal due to the proficiency of their opponent.
I might have fancied 123 for an upset here given when these teams met in Regular Season, 123 were using iPN instead of bock1 and the game was still very close. However, 123 have been stricken down by player availability once again. The replacement, Nomy, is certainly talented but to memory, I cannot remember him playing Winston much. I am sure he has had plenty of practice with the new San Francisco Overwatch team but it is still an unknown, which casts doubts. The removal of King’s Row from the map pool means we’re less likely to see Reinhardt played too.
What is known though is that 123 and Nomy will have very limited practice time together before going on stage this Saturday and with the strength of Gigantti at the moment I think this will spell the end of any possible upsets.
I would have predicted this match going to Gigantti even if 123 weren't limited by Tonic's absence. The revamped roster of Ninjas past should be free from any suggestions of a LAN curse and have proven to be a formidable opponent when at their best. 123 were strong this season but perhaps a little over-hyped due to their dominant performances against weaker teams. With Tonic missing in action due to visa issues, they are missing the backbone of their play. Nomy may be a talented player but his effectiveness will be greatly reduced due to the team's extremely limited time to practice with him. It's a shame that 123's play will be hampered so greatly by something completely out of their control.
A week ago, I might have picked 123 to win in a tight series. Without Tonic, however, I think they will be playing at a severe disadvantage to Gigantti for the second time this season. Nomy is a very good tank, and I'm happy to finally see him on LAN, so I think the team might still take a map off the Finns, however with such limited time to practice with their new tank, I can't see them winning the series against such a strong team.
Gigantti vs 123 should have been the closest match of the weekend, but Tonic's absence should really impact the team. I think that 123 might still be able to take Volskaya Industries because it can force Gigantti to play a different style, but the team's overall skill level should still be higher going into the event. Nomy likely has not been given enough time to mesh, and 2 days of scrims are not enough to build it.