It’s that time! The inaugural match of the Washington Justice is up against the New York Excelsior, one of the Overwatch League’s best teams and reigning division title holders. With a near flawless season under their belts already, the Justice had a long way to go to prove they could win against the best.
Map 1: Ilios
NYXL began the map playing extremely aggressively, immediately pushing into the Justice’s core and spreading them open, splitting their push and wiping them out one by one starting with Gido. Neither Janus nor Sansam were able to effectively set up any kind of major tank play or soak up enough to enable a push of any kind, and NYXL took the first point 100-0. The second round began much more balanced, both teams exchanging solo kills between them. However, Gido popped his Zenyatta’s Trance too early and NYXL finally managed to break through after it was done- wiping him out almost immediately and then collectively rolling over the rest of the squad. Both teams began utilizing GOATS at this juncture, compared to DC’s using Zarya (Corey), Rein (Janus), and DVa (Sansam). However, the after getting team killed, the Justice attempted one final push with 89% of the point controlled in their favor. Their only ultimate available was Fahzix’s Lucio, as the rest of the squad could only slowly build more (Sansam’s DVa had the closest in the 80s). New York managed to use their own DVa ult to take him out, unable to use barriers, and the rest of the team slowly fazed out, unable to take the point in the end. NYXL won round 2 100-89.
Map 2: King’s Row
Round one, the Justice took the high road to the point and began to play footsies on the point, both teams inching forward and back and constantly contesting. Both teams were attempting to hoard ultimates. New York eventually took down Corey and Gido, once again, popped his ult too early, wasting the push as Nenne’s Zarya gravitated the team and forced them back. In another push, half the Justice got taken down after popping ults, Janus unable to taken any of them down before dying himself. In the final push of round one, NYXL pushed the Justice back constantly and forced them into unwinnable situations- almost nobody had an ultimate at this point, and then New York sealed the deal by eliminating Ado and Gido and wiping out almost any chance for DC to make any more of an effort to get on the point. The Justice were unable to pop the payload at any point in the round. The Excelsior’s properly timed patience paid off in droves.
In round two, NYXL only needed a single point to win the map. New York followed a similar strategy, taking the side path to the high ground onto the point. Unfortunately, New York proved they were more in sync than DC by executing their own game plan perfectly against them, and the scrambling Justice split their defense after New York pushed onto the point. When the defense were too separated to push back, they failed to contest the point and New York swept them in almost no time at all.
Map 3: Horizon Lunar Colony
Hyeonu came in for Fahzix for this map, and there were no other substitutions. Libero’s Pharah smartly began raining down rockets upon a hiding Justice, who pushed back under cover. Libero, however, got sniped and the Excelsior only managed to take down Hyeonu. The Justice began resetting their defense and although New York’s push managed to get 92% of the objective point, the Justice came back and clamped down to remain stable for an extended bout. For the second time, the Justice teamkilled the Excelsior and managed to come out swinging, scrappily taking down the crucial pieces of the Excelsior’s best roster. The Justice played extremely impressive in the first round- coming out and absolutely rolling over the Excelsior- preventing even a single objective point and never allowing them to even get a teamkill on DC. Janus played like a man possessed in this round, popping his Rein ult at precisely the right moment to prevent any major final push from NYXL mere steps away from the point.
The Justice’s offense came out literally swinging, taking out Mano’s Winston almost immediately. The Justice then started wiping out members of the Excelsior as if they were made of paper. Mado made a timely error and was easily taken down and the Excelsior’s defense toppled right over- the Justice began popping ults and steamrolling a lackluster defensive effort from the NYXL. Similar to round one, you could see the plan NYXL wanted to execute, and then you saw the Justice take that plan and twist it around, sending them into an absolute scramble they could never recover from. It was excellent play from Janus that led the team in both of these rounds, allowing many pivotal moments to turn to the Justice’s favor. Corey with his Zarya was also very impressive after a similar less-than-stellar performance in the first two maps.
Map 4: Rialto
The Justice began round one on offense on Rialto and really needed to play carefully, not allowing themselves to get caught in NYXL’s strategy. Their push was met with immense resistance and some clever play from NYXL, attempting to bait and flank the less squishy members of the Justice roster. While it wasn’t a full teamkill, the Excelsior did manage to take out most of DC, forcing the Justice to retreat off the objective and regroup. A second push was met with the Excelsior back in prime formation, taking possession of a corner. Meko then landed a big bomb- taking out 4 of the Justice with DVa’s ult. However, DC managed to fully come back and entirely teamkill the Excelsior, allowing them to make the payload reach the first checkpoint. It was a scary moment, particularly after that DVa ult that went against them very heavily. After the first checkpoint, Corey made a gutsy play attempting to push with Zarya and take out JJoNaK’s Zenyatta. Although DC gave him a bit of a window, the Excelsior caught on and punished him. The rest of the team faltered afterwards. NYXL’s playreading and ability to punish allowed them to close out the round with little resistance, as the Justice spent most of their resources in a team fight that went against them moments before. This meant that DC needed to play perfect defense in order to close out a win.
JJoNaK made a temporary change to Pharah in a likely attempt to boop DC out of position and allow NYXL to make a push. DC didn’t fall for it and continued to play perfect defense. However, DC played too much respect and Gido popped a Zen Trance way too early, wasting his ult and giving New York prime position. New York continued their aggression and after turning the corner, the Justice attempted to come down with as much hell as they could muster. However, Hyeonu’s Lucio barrier didn’t give DC enough cushion as New York began to also rain hell upon the Justice, managing to knock off four of the roster before executing one more for good measure and forcing Corey back, taking the second checkpoint and winning the map for the match win.
There’s no easy way to say this. The first half was absolutely terrible. Janus was almost completely ineffective no matter his tank choice, and Sansam was not much better. The only player to really make any real impact seemed to be Ado, who consistently posed a threat to the Excelsior without letting himself get taken down consistently. While the Excelsior were busy teamkilling the everloving hell out of the Justice, DC only managed to get one team kill in both the first two maps. In round two, they only managed… six eliminations and no team kills. Their strategy seemed to be in place, but the execution was always divided, and New York simply had to waltz in and wipe out one side at a time. Round two of map two was, by far, the Justice’s worst performance yet- even worse than messing around in the scrim against the Shock- as they showed a flawed defensive split that is likely a result of incorrect communication or a last minute change in game plan.
While the second half fared much better for DC, the Justice showed that they do have what it takes to compete with the best. That third map was absolutely dominated from start to finish by the Justice in a manner that was unexpected from… everyone, really. Their gameplan was executed perfectly and New York crumbled beneath it with their experimental play. Janus, in particular, stepped up and began contributing heavily in both the final maps. In Rialto, their major flaw seemed to be giving up too much of the objective for free out of respectful play, and their execution consistently mismatched the situation.
All in all, the Justice showed that they are a flawed team. In a lot of ways, it reminded me of play from the first season- a lot of teams struggled to properly coordinate good strategies and select the right targets as they felt out the meta of both the game and season at the highest level of play. For DC, this match felt like that. You can clearly see that they do have the capability to play at the highest level, but they need to fine tune that gameplay and execute it properly if they plan on winning. Chalk it up to nerves, or perhaps just still not being used to playing with each other at the highest official level. Luckily, the season gives them plenty of opportunities to refine that gameplay and then take home some wins, so let’s hope this match can serve as part of that learning process rather than be an indicator of future defeats. In the Overwatch League, it’s trial by fire and to learn by doing. For a first match against one of the most dominant teams in the entire League, DC showed they do have what it takes to win, but they need to find the way to get those results consistently if they plan on taking it all by the end.