New York Excelsior Rolls Through OWL Week 2

New York Excelsior Rolls Through OWL Week 2

Out of a long weekend of brutal matches, none were quite as painful to watch as New York Excelsior’s series against the Houston Outlaws. Already ranked toward the bottom of the league this season, it was bad enough that Houston lost—it was worse that they lost 4-0. And worse yet, they lost so hard that they only managed to secure a single map point, managing to push the payload to the first checkpoint of Route 66 in the final map of the series. As NYXL fans screamed themselves hoarse in the stands, the Outlaws players gripped their heads and pounded fists against their gaming stations.

Don’t get it twisted—I’m a long-time NYXL fan, and I’m thrilled to see them doing so well this season after their disappointing crash in stage four last year. But it was rough to see a team with Houston’s energy and fanbase eat such a huge loss and plummet back to the very bottom of the standings. They’re heading into next week with a win-loss record of 1-3. The New York Excelsior now enjoy a commanding lead in the Overwatch League standings, having gone 4-0 with a map differential of +8.

New York Excelsior

NYXL celebrated a stage 3 championship in OWL season 1 last year. Blizzard Entertainment

What makes New York Excelsior so good?

New York has everything going for them—a wickedly brutal tank line up, arguably the best Zenyatta player in the league, and an array of DPS players with seemingly endless hero pools. The 3-3 meta that is currently so popular in professional play is doing huge favors for NYXL’s play. It gives ample opportunities for mekO (D.Va) and Mano (Reinhardt) to synergize their already powerful tank play into some absolutely ludicrous fights. The team’s new draft, Nenne, has proven to be an excellent Zarya player, and on Sunday his Gravitrons set the scene from some of mekO’s biggest D.Va ults to date. mekO finished up Hollywood on Sunday with a Self-Destruct that yielded a quadruple kill—pretty much unheard of in professional play, where a D.Va ult that nets a single kill can tip entire matches.

It’s impossible to talk about NYXL’s strengths without talking about JJoNaK. This Osan-born player is an absolute terror on Zenyatta. He was also named last season’s most valuable player. As commentator Soe Gschwind-Penski laughingly noted on Sunday, JJoNaK is supposed to be a healer, but he pours out as much damage as he does healing; in fact, he currently averages as much damage per ten minutes as his team’s main tanks.

JJoNaK’s stats as of the end of Stage One, Week 2, as shown on the Overwatch League official site.

In their match on Sunday, the Houston Outlaws did everything they could to neutralize JJoNaK early into each engagement, with some success. However, even when JJoNaK went down, Anamo was there to keep his team’s tanks in good health. Anamo has been a remarkably consistent Lucio player this season. While he lags behind JJoNaK in healing per ten minutes by nearly three thousand points, Anamo has one thing JJoNaK doesn’t—he dies less frequently than anyone else in the entire league, averaging only 1.92 deaths per ten minutes. A healer that can keep himself alive as well as his whole team is a real gem, and we can look forward to more excellent synergy between Anamo and JJoNaK as NYXL moves into week three of Stage 1.

JJoNak greets his fans. Image credit: Robert Paul for Blizzard Entertainment.

What’s it going to take to beat NYXL?

Because it plays so well into their existing strengths, as long as the 3-3 meta reigns supreme, New York Excelsior is going to be tough to beat. Last season, their inability to adjust to a meta change made them stumble in stage four, so NYXL doubtlessly spent the off-season making their players and strategies much more flexible.

Houston Outlaws attempted a switch to a more DPS-heavy composition to oppose NYXL on Sunday, opting for a Pharah-Mercy combo that’s a rare sight in professional play these days. When that wasn’t enough to overcome Nenne’s quick switch to McCree, however, the Outlaws fell back on the 3-3 team composition, and NYXL rolled over them.

Houston Outlaws players and manager gracefully concede defeat on Twitter (24 Feb 2019)

While the execution wasn’t perfect, the Outlaws might have had the right idea. We’ve seen some sharp meta-disrupting play on Sombra this season. Because NYXL tends to win fights using extremely well-timed ult combinations, it might take an equally sharp EMP to slow down their momentum. New York Excelsior’s future competitors may also switch to team compositions that feature heroes that can quickly dispatch Excelsior’s support line. A fast and accurate Reaper, Tracer, or Sombra might be able to tip fights in an opponent’s favor before Excelsior’s supports can build their match-making ultimates. However, Excelsior knows this already, and they do a superb job of protecting JJoNaK and structuring their play around his needs as Zenyatta. Even this early in the season, it’s clear that any team that wants to stop New York Excelsior is looking at a steep uphill battle.

Related: Shanghai’s Curse is Lifted: Overwatch Highlights, Week 2

What’s your read on NYXL this season, and which teams do you think have what it takes to get past this season two giant? Let us know in the comments below!

Written by:Kaidan McNamee

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