While we may be lacking for recent hardware in a few of the major sports, last weekend should serve as a strong reminder that Berkeley is still home to champions, as a group of six UC Berkeley students emerged victorious in the TESPA Collegiate League: Overwatch Finals.
By beating Rutgers in the semis, and the University of Toronto in the championship round, they took away a good chunk of the $100,000 prize pool, too.
As CGB’s head Overwatch enthusiast – I am a low-mid Diamond tier support player with a couple hundred hours clocked in the game -- I thought it only right to do what I do best: go into way, way too much depth on something that really only interests me and maybe a small segment of readers, but write the hell out of it all the same.
At its core, Overwatch is a 6 vs 6, objective-based shooting game. Depending on the specific map, that objective may change, but it will always be one of these three: a) both teams are working to maintain control of a point, b) one team is attacking a pair of points and the other attempts to defend both for the allotted time, or c) one team is escorting a payload — think a cart — to the end of the map by standing near it, and the other is attempting to stop them within the time limit.
In order to arrive at your team of 6, there are 23 different heroes available to choose from, including dwarves, robot monks, teenagers in mech suits and more, each with their own playstyle. A successful team will pay careful attention to its hero composition, striking a careful balance between survivability, situation specific usage, and attacking power, while also being reactive to the opposing composition.
Most teams use one to two support (“healer”) characters, one to three tanks (“tanks” because they absorb damage and initiate fights), and one to two DPS/other (“assault” characters that do damage, or match-up specific choices).
Here are the members of the UC Berkeley starting lineup, and their respective specialties:
Kyleflol – support
Th3Chowst3r – support
Stighl (that’s pronounced Style) – assault/flex
SlurpeeThief – tank
Alined – assault/flex
Syeikh (that’s pronounced Sick) – assault/flex
Because e-sports recapping doesn’t really have a set format yet, I have described the action below in the way that seems generally intuitive to me – enough to tell you what’s happening, but trying not to bog you down. Highlights are attached where relevant, full game footage is in the first link below.
Game footage begins at 3:45:00
Kings Row – Objective: capture a point to unlock the payload, then escort the payload to the end of the map in the allotted time. Other team tries to stop them.
Berkeley starts first on attack, with SlurpeeThief – playing Reinhardt, a knight with a shield – leading the way. The Bears would follow his giant hammer to unlock the payload less than a minute into the game.
They then push the payload all the way to the end of the map without too much resistance from Toronto and actually finish with 4 minutes to spare. The key sequence here occurs inside the factory, with Stighl playing as the rocketeer, Pharah, assisted by both Chowst3r and Kyleflol. It turns out he’s pretty good at living up to his moniker, and he dominates this section with razor sharp rocketing.
Once the teams switch sides, Toronto gets their turn on offense, and the Bears mount a decent defense at first, holding out for nearly 3 minutes before Toronto gets their payload unlocked. Still, the True Blue trudge on, and while they face stiff opposition in the factory phase against Stighl’s slick shooting as Soldier 76 and SlurpeeThief’s tank play, they do finish the map with :41 seconds to go.
At this point, because both teams finished the map with time left over, they are allowed to run through it again, although Cal has the advantage, having 4 minutes to get as far as they can, while Toronto has only their allotted :41 seconds (rounded up to a minute).
In OT, the story is largely the same as it was in regulation – the Bears shut down Toronto’s minute of attack thanks to a big play by Alined, who switched out for the ice and snow-based defense of Mei. His Blizzard ability catches multiple True Blue players with 10 seconds to go to secure the shutout.
For their attack in overtime, the Bears quickly take the first point behind Stighl – back in the skies as Pharah and accompanied by Chowst3r for support -- and with it, a 1-0 lead in the Best of 5 series.
Eichenwalde - Objective: capture a point to unlock the payload, escort the payload to the end of the map in the allotted time. Other team tries to stop them.
Toronto plays defense first here too, and immediately improve on their Game 1 performance – the True Blue are able to win a few of the early engagements to slow Cal, and eventually fully hold in the castle phase of the map. Despite five different attempts at the final section, the Bears are ultimately denied by Toronto’s selective teamfighting, and end their turn on attack with only two points completed.
However, with Toronto on attack and Cal now on defense, the Bears do what Sonny Dykes could never seem to — they pitch a four minute shutout using Alined’s Mei to wall off key areas and Syeikh to clean things up as Soldier: 76. The result of this is a scoreless Toronto attack, meaning that the final score of Game 2 is 2-0, and so too, is the Best of 5.
One more victory will clinch the series for the Bears.
Lijiang Tower – Objective: both teams fight to control one point; first team to win 3 points wins the game.
…and clinch the series they did. There would be no blown leads, no unnecessary drama – the Bears swept Lijiang Tower 3-0 for the crown, the glory, and the scholarship money.
The True Blue played gamely, but in Game 3, the high individual skill levels of the Berkeley players really started to shine:
· Whether it was as speedy gunner Tracer or the rocketeer Pharah, Stighl shredded Toronto essentially at will, outplaying and winning his one on one matchups, and even two on one matchups. It did not matter what character he opted for -- he made consistent game-changing plays behind his ultimate abilities, particularly with his Pulse Bomb on the first point.
· Alined, playing cybernetic ninja Genji for Game 3, helped snuff out any hopes of Toronto comeback with a clutch Dragonblade attack on the second point – when Toronto was hoping to cast Mercy’s game-changing Resurrection ability, they were denied by Alined’s impeccable aim and timing.
· SlurpeeThief was nearly unkillable as the Gorilla, Winston all series, harassing Toronto’s more vulnerable characters into submission, and his refusal to die on the third point of Lijiang Tower ended up clinching the win for Berkeley.
· Syeikh played Zarya for most of Lijiang, and keyed many attacks behind Graviton Surge — if you saw a giant vortex in these clips, that was usually Syeikh’s work to initiate the fight, nailing the Toronto players together for Cal to shoot down.
· It is here that I will say that despite their relative lack of mention in these three games, Kyleflol and TheChowst3r were also extremely strong on support themselves, making sure that everyone was appropriately kept alive and using their healing abilities to tip the scales of each fight. [Gotta show love to the support positions. Much like the offensive line or the holder and long snapper, they are rarely noticed if they do their jobs correctly.]
And so, with all that said, the Bears leave San Diego as college Overwatch champions, securing the school’s seventh total e-sports title since 2009 [4 in Starcraft, 1 in Heroes of the Storm, 1 in Defense of the Ancients, and this one, in Overwatch].
Oh, and about $6000 each. Take that, parents who said all the computer time would never amount to anything!
If you are interested in joining an Overwatch group on PS4, hit me up at @aguynamednam. The Golden Roadhogs — a roughly 12-15 deep crew — are always looking for members! Especially if you play DPS.