Image: Blizzard / Houston Outlaws

12 January 2018


For my first Overwatch League regular season Player Grades Report, I am going to spotlight the Houston Outlaws, a team who I found to be particularly captivating during the preseason despite coming away win-less. In having to go up against the strongest opponent pairing of any side (Dallas and Seoul), one could make the case that the Outlaws were a mere one or two team fights away from a 2-0 preseason showing.

I mentioned in my preseason Power Rankings that Houston has one of the most balanced lineups in the league and features a tank duo in Muma and Coolmatt that many believe are among the best OWL has to offer. I also stated that this team would go only as far as LiNkzr and Jake could take them and that it would take consistently high-level performances from these two if Houston has hopes of beating out the likes of the Dynasty, Fuel, and Valiant in their division.

LiNkzr, coming off an outstanding Contenders run, and Jake, who proved to be the heart and soul of the American side at the World Cup were very impressive in the preseason – especially going up against Dallas. LiNkzr showed up Taimou on Widow and Jake’s Soldier and Junkrat play went virtually unchecked for most of the day. Along with Muma and Coolmatt, they consistently put Chips’ Mercy and anyone else in the Fuel backline under pressure – something that I thought was lacking against Philadelphia. 

Unfortunately, LiNkzr and Jake didn’t have great showings to open up the season, and the Outlaws dropped their opener 3-2 to the Philadelphia Fusion. But I’m also here to tell you that their performances weren’t nearly as bad as some were trying to make them out to be. Jake got better as the day went on – especially on the final two maps and LiNkzr – who didn’t exactly shine on Tracer – put in some real work with McCree and Widowmaker. Also, from an optics perspective, it certainly didn’t help that their counterparts Shadowburn and Carpe looked very impressive on the other side of the stage.

Unlike in their preseason matchup with the Fuel, the Outlaws were dreadful in punishing Philly in the team fights where they secured the first pick, and this falls partly on Muma and Coolmatt. Jake played Junkrat for nearly 40 minutes and scored the first kill in 34% of the team fights over that stretch – the most by any one player for either team on a single hero that was played for more than 7 minutes. LiNkzr also played McCree for 26 minutes and landed first kill nearly 25% of the time.

And yet Houston showed zero follow-up pressure, especially from their tanks. Coolmatt’s K/10-D/10 on Dva was 7.03-6.41 over 48 minutes and Muma was 6.03-5.03 over 49 minutes on Winston with neither accounting for more than 19% of Houston’s kills. Poko’s numbers (10.04-4.66, 23.33%) on the other hand were particularly impressive given how little his tank partner Fragi impacted the match. Muma and Coolmatt were simply not aggressive – at least not as aggressive as they needed to be, especially in situations where LiNkzr or Jake managed to land the first kill in a team fight.

Houston also needs to address their control point woes. The Outlaws failed to establish point control on both Oasis maps, as well as, on Lijiang Tower’s Command Center. And even when it looked like they were bound to secure the opening point on Night Market, the Outlaws inexplicably allowed Shadowburn, Poko, and Fragi to flip a 3v6 into a team fight win for Philly. Houston should also pump the breaks on running Boink’s Lucio on Control Point maps in the current meta. The Outlaws won only 10% of the team fights featuring Boink’s Lucio. If you’re a team that is going to run Lucio into a Mercy on control point maps, you’d better be quick and deliberate with your dives while pressuring the enemy Mercy to not allow for revives. Otherwise, you’re going into every team fight at what equates to a 6v7 disadvantage. And when you’re a team that is having a difficult time following up on eliminations (as pointed out above) or deleting the other Mercy, the one thing you can’t afford to do is give the other team those free revives without having any available for yourselves.

The final group of numbers that really stood out to me were Houston’s support ultimate efficiency. In measuring an individual’s ultimate efficiency with a hero, Winston’s Lab compares the percentage of team fights that the player’s team won when he uses a specific hero and subtracts that number from the percentage of team fights that player’s team won while using his ultimate. Ideally speaking, you would hope that casting an ultimate would increase your team’s chances of winning the team fight, which would be displayed in a positive ultimate efficiency stat. Otherwise, if a player is consistently finishing matches with a negative ultimate efficiency with a particular hero, it is probably a good indicator that the ultimate is not being used optimally.

Rawkus spent close to 46 minutes on Zenyatta last night and Bani played 44 minutes of Mercy. Rawkus finished the match with -11.11 Zen ult efficiency while Bani ended with -10.31 on Mercy. Comparatively speaking, Boombox’s Zen was +9.82 and Neptuno’s Mercy was 25.97 (!!!). You probably don’t need me to tell you that this isn’t a good sign for Houston.

As always, my player grades will be based on a traditional 1-10 scale, with a rating of 5-6 indicating an average performance. This grading system is meant to be critical. When rating players, I will be considering their individual performances within the context of their overall impact on the match, as well as, how they perform relative to both their past matches and other players playing similar roles/heroes. My analysis is based on multiple VOD viewings and review and statistics made available courtesy of Winston’s Lab, unless otherwise noted.

Individual Player Ratings:

Muma – [ 6 ] Muma’s performance was more a product of Houston’s gameplan than a referendum on his skill. The Outlaws were far less aggressive in nearly all facets of the match, but none more so than their passive approach to tank play. Jake and LiNkzr put Houston in advantageous positions numerous times throughout the course of the night with early picks, but Muma and Coolmatt failed to achieve much follow-up in the Fusion backline. Pressuring Neptuno became an afterthought, allowing the enemy Mercy near free reign to bolster Philly’s attacks with Valkyrie’s healing, and Muma almost never threatened Boombox in the way Fragi was pressuring Rawkus (while you can make the case that Fragi was picked far too often, he at least forced Rawkus into several wasted ults outside of team fights). Conversely, Boombox was not pressured into using Transcendence outside of team fights even once. Shadowburn also went relatively unopposed on Genji and looked to get maximum value out of his Dragonblade on almost every occasion.  

Rawkus – [ 3.5 ] Rawkus did not have a good opening day performance by any stretch. The casters did a great job highlighting Shadowburn’s Dragonblade discipline when it came to waiting out Rawkus’ Transcendence, which only compounded how stubborn the latter looked in refusing to deploy his ultimate to counter anything else. And even when Rawkus finally decided to cast Transcendence, it rarely impacted the outcome of the team fight. Nearly 10% of Rawkus’ Zenyatta ultimates were cast outside of the actual fight (compared to Boombox not wasting a single Transcendence), and his ultimate efficiency of -11.11 was significantly worse than Boombox’s +9.82. Translation: When Rawkus was playing Zenyatta, the Outlaws were actually less likely to win a team fight in which Transcendence was cast. To his credit, Rawkus ran Sombra to attack Horizon and his EMP opened up a quick Point A capture for Houston.

Jake – [ 5.5 ] Jake had a rough start to the match, especially on Dorado. His early Soldier ult that netted 3 kills while defending Point A was blown out of proportion by the casters, as nearly 90% of it was eaten up by Poko and the remaining shots conveniently found three 1-hit squishies that were going to drop regardless. In fact, his soldier finished Dorado with the lowest impact rating of any hero according to Winston’s Lab. His ult usage was also suspect on Dorado. He got zero value out of a late Tac Visor while defending Point C, and on attack, Jake was deleted by Boombox after popping Dragonblade and triggered a junk tire right next to the payload that got interrupted almost immediately.  Jake was also very underwhelming on Oasis where he spent the majority of the round trying to (unsuccessfully) keep Shadowburn’s Pharah at bay. It is well-established that trying to push Pharah onto the Gardens point after failing the initial push is a near impossible task, so I was surprised to see Jake sticking with the hero for the full round. As expected, he never really made it through the central choke while Shadowburn went almost untouched. Jake did pick up some of the slack on Eichenwald and he managed to secure plenty of early picks in fights throughout the night – unfortunately, Houston proved incapable of capitalizing in those situations. Jake’s Junkrat was very understated, finishing the night 32.48% of Houston’s kills – the highest percentage across both teams for heroes played more than 10 minutes (38:04).

LiNkzr – [ 6.5 ] There was a noticeable drop-off in LiNkzr’s Tracer play from the Contenders playoffs and OWL preseason, and it’s  hard to push LiNkzr’s rating very high when his Tracer isn’t working out. Houston won only 42.86% of the team fights that featured LiNkzr on Tracer, but his impact went up significantly when he swapped onto Widowmaker (58.33% FWin%) and McCree (58.06% FWin%). That’s all well and good, but Houston needs better Tracer play to survive in this meta, and since it doesn’t look like that’s ever going to come from Clockwork, the onus is on LiNkzr to perform. One of the reasons Houston’s tanks had virtually no impact was because the team had to switch up their play style once it became apparent that LiNkzr’s Tracer wasn’t going to cut it. The McCree pick was meant to work in tandem with Muma and Coolmatt to counterdive Shadowburn, Fragi, and Poko, but that approach wasn’t very effective. In fact, one of the early takeaways from OWL has been how ineffective counterdiving play styles have been (see Dallas Fuel). In the past, counterdiving worked against teams with relatively weak dive lineups, but the corralling of top-tier talent within OWL means that there are more teams who will run direct dive and run it well. If you don’t have a top tier Tracer player in OWL right now, I don’t see how your team can hope to win. It would be really nice if Clockwork could spell Jake and run Tracer, because LiNkzr is flat out nasty with Widow and McCree.

Coolmatt – [ 5 ] Like Muma, there isn’t much to say about Coolmatt’s performance other than the fact that he never really made an impact. After Houston moved off of LiNkzr’s Tracer, Coolmatt was often reserved to the fringes of team fights, trying to stifle the aggression of Shadowburn, Fragi, and Poko who were causing chaos in his backline. Poko managed to get 12% of first kills whereas Coolmatt contributed to only 2%, a clear indicator of Houston’s overall lack of aggression. If you want to be in the conversation for one of the best Dva players and one of the best tank pairings in OWL, this kind of underwhelming performance isn’t going to cut it. Although it’s going to be very difficult for Houston’s tanks to make much noise if they don’t fix their own Tracer problems.

Boink – [ 4 ] Houston can’t run Lucio with Zen in the current meta, and it’s as simple as that. In the 9+ minutes with Boink on the Brazilian beat-maker, the Outlaws won only 10% of team fights – all in Control Point maps. Boink himself didn’t necessarily play that poorly, but in concert with the theme of this report, Houston weren’t successful enough in disrupting Mercy or following up on early picks to , which allowed Neptuno uncontested revives. Until this Mercy kit is reworked, I don’t see the point in running Boink and Rawkus together.

Clockwork – [ 2 ] Clockwork had the tall task of subbing in to the Tracer role cold and going up against Carpe who already had two maps under his belt. Tracer is a rhythmic hero that requires a little burn before players start to feel like they are in gear, and this was made apparent on Oasis when Houston got completely rolled. Neither Houston DPS player carried much weight, but it was especially apparent with Clockwork when his counterpart from Philly was making such a clear impact. In fact, Clockwork’s Tracer was the only hero pick to produce a negative Impact value according to Winston’s Lab, coming in a full 300 points below the next closest hero (-69 compared to Fragi on Reinhardt at 256). Clockwork was also picked off first in a staggering 33% of team fights on Oasis.

Bani – [ 5.5 ] Bani was killed first in 8% of team fights over 44 minutes while playing Mercy, whereas neither Rawkus nor Boink were picked first in 10:41 of their combined Mercy play. On the whole though, Bani was clearly the best support option on this day and otherwise did a mostly good job staying out of enemy sights with Mercy. One particular area of concern, however, was his ultimate usage with Mercy. As mentioned above, Bani’s ultimate efficiency was -10.31, whereas Neptuno’s Mercy finished with 25.97. It also felt like Bani was using Valkyrie outside of team fights so that he could then fly in to make two revives, often in situations where bringing two teammates back wouldn’t have leveled the playing field. Neptuno, on the other hand, used his Mercy ults in a more active capacity to utilize the AOE healing for keeping his team up in a fight.  

Spree – [ 5 ] Two rounds of Lijiang hardly feel like enough time to offer a grade for Spree, especially when Houston didn’t exactly look committed to the Zarya pick on Command Center. Jake was picked by Carpe early, and Philly’s triple-tank comp easily overwhelmed an Outlaws team that never threatened to take the point. Despite indicating that he’d rather not play her, Spree’s Dva effort on Night Market was respectable, albeit over a very small sample size. In 5:16 of Dva play, Spree finished Lijiang Tower with a K/10-D/10, PTK of 11.39-7.59, 24% – numbers that are far closer to Poko’s output than Coolmatt or Muma.

Mendokusaii – [ N/A ] Did not play.


Dave is the Creator and Editor-in-Chief for The Benchmob. He primarily writes about Soccer, the NBA, esports, and Pop-Culture.