19 January 2018
They say everything’s bigger in Texas and I bet Dallas Fuel fans wish that was so. Because right now, the supposed “rivalry” with Houston Outlaws – the other OWL representative from the Lone Star state – is anything but. Houston came into their anticipated match-up with the Fuel just 24-hours after stomping the league’s cellar dwellers, Shanghai Dragons. But if you wiped the color schemes and names from the jerseys of both the Dragons and the Fuel, I’m not entirely sure that anyone could tell the difference between these two sides based on their Week 2 showings – not exactly where the Western favorites expected to find themselves at this stage before the season began.
Houston’s win over Dallas was hardly ever in doubt. After being held on the first point in Junkertown to begin the match, Dallas failed to register even a single tick on Horizon’s Point B and found themselves quickly down 0-2. Houston continued the beatdown on Oasis and finally Eichenwalde and came away with a 4-0 map score to even up their OWL record at 2-2 to close out Week 2. Dallas, on the other hand, will be going into their Friday evening matchup against the impressive London Spitfire with a goose-egg in the win column.
So what exactly are the factors that are contributing to this poor run of form to begin the Overwatch League season for Dallas?
Today, I’m going to call upon some video and statistics to highlight several issues I’ve noticed regarding the ultimate management of Dallas’ support players. For starters – and this should be blatantly obvious to anyone familiar with Dallas’ support players’ – the issue is not a matter of mechanical deficiency on anyone’s part. Chipshajen, Custa, and Harryhook are all very gifted talents and have been consistently successful support players in Overwatch. Instead, the problems we see coming out of the Fuel tend to fall in the “decision-making” column. Stacking support ults, failure to track opponent ults, and outright poor ultimate timing are three areas that I’ll look to explore in more detail below.
One of the reasons that Overwatch can be difficult to analyze is because overarching team strategies may not be easily identifiable without access to the team communication feed. We often want to simplify the reason a team fight was won or lost by pointing to the performance of a single player, when in reality it’s just not that easy. Many simultaneous actions are happening both on and off the screen and while it may be convenient (and appropriate) for the casters to celebrate that huge Dva 4K that just happened, it’s also very likely that the ulting Winston who knocked 3 players out from under their own Winston bubble and into the mech explosion will go unrecognized.
Conversely, support ultimates are more of a known commodity. We know that there are optimal scenarios in which Zenyatta’s ultimate should be used – especially once the player sees the enemy team comp and weighs their ultimate threats. Transcendence is terrific in offsetting Tactical Visor. It doesn’t help against a Rip-Tire’s burst damage. We know that a Mercy’s Valkyrie is ideal for erasing an early mistake but should be kept in the user’s back pocket if bringing a teammate or two back still leaves you with an overall number disadvantage.
Sometimes, poor support ultimate management can highlight a larger team issue, like when Dallas attacked Point B on Horizon Lunar Colony against Houston (beginning at 3:15 in the video above). Chips built up his Transcendence with 5:20 left, but he didn’t use that specific ultimate until there was exactly 1:00 remaining. Holding on to a key ultimate like Transcendence for over four minutes sure sounds like mismanagement by Chips, but the fact is that Dallas rarely found themselves in a position where they made it onto Point B with a numbers advantage. Jake had a new Rip-Tire for what felt like every single Fuel push and was so good at opening up fights by using his ultimate to record the first kill. Dallas were not dealing with Jake on the high ground, and until they did, Chips’ Transcendence was practically useless. Finally, with about 1:00 remaining, Dallas decided they were going to pour everything into their next push. Unfortunately, Cocco was deleted so early and Custa was not able to find the resurrect even with Valkyrie. When Chips finally did cast his ult, it was used to dually offset Rawkus’ Transcendence and provide healing for Seagull’s ulting Genji. But because Cocco was lost so early in the fight, Dallas were never really able to find balance in the fight.
The clip above from Oasis University is a great example of Dallas’ poor ult management (among other questionable decisions). After taking the initial fight, Dallas sets up behind Cocco’s Orisa shield in a fairly aggressive position just outside of Houston’s choke point. The mere sight of Jake’s Genji flanking toward the high ground on the left (at 1:20) leads to the Fuel calling for a disengage through the right mini room and back behind the point.
Take note of the team compositions here: Neither team is running Lucio, but the Outlaws have a decidedly more mobile lineup featuring Tracer, Genji, Winston, and Dva. The Fuel on the other hand are running pure anti-dive with McCree, Junkrat, Orisa, and Roadhog. But most importantly, the Outlaws made zero changes for the second team fight. The Fuel knew the hero makeup of their opponents and yet they still reacted to the Houston push as if they had no idea that the dive was coming. At 1:25, Muma dives into the retreating Fuel and all-out chaos ensues. Dallas’ tanks stop dead in their tracks in an attempt to react to Muma. Meanwhile, Linkzr and Jake continue their wide flank to the left and Linkzr manages to find Custa’s Mercy alone in the back. Ideally, Effect might have been able to help Custa by tossing his flashbang but he was already trying to deal with Rawkus who got into a terrific position to spam orb damage through the right room.
Dallas should immediately know that this fight is lost. Their team is split and Mercy has already fallen. Rawkus eventually lands the kill on Effect, Muma and Coolmatt finally overwhelm Cocco, and Dallas should be resetting. Seagull, however, lands a kill onto Jake (who gets resurrected) and immediately tries to ult with his Rip Tire. At this point, Dallas is at a 3v6 disadvantage and don’t have their Mercy but Seagull still pulls the trigger on his ult. He does manage to kill Jake for a second time, but Boink cancels once again with a second resurrect onto the Genji.
Dallas really could have used that tire to initiate their next push given how difficult it is to engage with such a slow composition, and knowing that Boink had just used Valkyrie to bring Jake back twice, it should have been an easy team fight win for Dallas who now have both support ults up. But the next team fight wasn’t an easy win.
It becomes clear that no one on the Fuel is tracking Jake’s ult because their team approaches the chokepoint without Chips who was still respawning from the last fight. At 2:06 in the above clip, there is a great shot from Jake’s perspective in which the audience can clearly see that Chips is nowhere near the rest of his team. What Dallas should have been doing was anticipating Jake’s Dragonblade and moving in with Chips so that he could have countered with Transcendence. Instead, Custa casts Valkyrie in hopes of offsetting damage, but Effect falls and Jake continues on toward Chips and Seagull who are both isolated away from Custa. Custa manages to revive two, but Dallas is still a player down here.
The next fight is not much better. At 2:50, Linkzr sneaks in behind the Dallas side who were looking to engage through the right hallway and pesters Chips enough to force the Transcendence out. It was a very odd position to use the ult because Custa was right there and could have simply kept Chips up with healing. Dallas then tries to use the transcendence to push to the point and even manage to pick Jake en route, but by the time they get there, Boink has already resurrected Jake and casted Valkyrie to blanket the Outlaws with healing.
A second example of bad ult management from Dallas shows up at the 6:15 moment of the video above. Coming up on 1:00 remaining in their Point B attack on Eichenwalde, the Fuel are going into what looks to be the final team fight with both support ultimates while Houston only has Transcendence. It’s also important to note that Bani is just 30% to his next Valkyrie and Dallas should be aware of that. The Fuel actually lose Effect to a Junkrat mine almost immediately at which time they should simply disengage and get ready for one final fight – there is still over :50 remaining. Instead, Custa elects to cast Valkyrie here and pick up Effect… except for the fact that he doesn’t. Custa uses his Mercy ultimate but can’t manage to get in close enough to get the resurrection. Credit Houston here for denying Custa the opportunity to bring Effect back, but the ultimate should never have been used in the first place.
If that wasn’t bad enough, Chips appears to overlap his Transcendence so that Dallas can engage, but at this point Dallas has to realize that Custa is not going to be able to resurrect Effect. Any benefit Dallas hoped to get out of their Transcendence was completely offset when Rawkus responded by casting his own. When the smoke (or in this case, two glowing monks) clears, Dallas is looking at an even 6-on-6 with no support ultimates and :20 seconds remaining.
The above statistics from Winston’s Lab further reflect Dallas’ support ultimate mismanagement in their match with Houston. The statistics have been sorted to reflect each player’s ultimate efficiency (yellow highlight). In calculating a player’s ultimate efficiency on a specific hero, Winston’s Lab basically compares two numbers: the percentage of team fights the player’s team wins involving him, and the percentage of team fights the player’s team wins in which they used their ultimate. So, for example, if a Mercy player has a positive ultimate efficiency, it means that player’s team was more likely to win a team fight in which he casted Valkyrie. Conversely, if a Lucio has a negative ultimate efficiency, it evidences the fact that his team lost a higher percentage of fights in which he used Sound Barrier compared to those he didn’t.
To the right of the yellow column, you will also see another statistic (“UOOF”) that tracks the percentage of ultimates that were used outside of team fights. Chips was forced into using Transcendence outside of team fights a staggering 37.5% of the time. Houston were so aggressive in pressuring Chips in the backline that they forced him into casting Transcendence prematurely almost half of the time!
And in case you haven’t figured it out yet, this table with 15 player names was not filtered by team. This table that references the 15 worst hero performances from yesterday includes 14 players from Dallas Fuel, while the lone appearance by an Outlaws player was Muma’s Orisa (who was likely just placing his bongo preemptively before a Dallas engagement). So while the purpose of this piece was to highlight poor ultimate management from Dallas’ support players, it’s definitely also worth pointing out how bad the entire team has been in this regard.