With Finland’s gift to esports, Jiri "LiNkzr" Masalin, out due to illness, and secret weapon "Humblekusai" unable to attempt a league debut due to wisdom teeth issues, one could be forgiven for doubting Houston as they entered their match against the San Francisco Shock on Wednesday night.
Carrying a strong 16-map win streak into the match, the Outlaws had been chalking their success up to a return to their "core" roster, which they were now without against a scrappy Shock squad brimming with raw talent.
Houston support Daniel "Boink" Pence revealed that his team had just about as much notice about LiNkzr being out for the night as the rest of us, and that they quickly practiced with their DPS sub Matthew "Clockwork" Dias before their match. Boink said that bringing in a new DPS is not as easy as it may look from the outside. Different players have different tendencies—they call differently, position and take up space differently. And the way to control that in a competitive setting?
"You want to boss them around," Boink explained. "You want to be like, ‘Go here, do this,’ because they’re not going to be used to the way you play in game, because no matter how much you watch, it’s going to feel completely different when you’re actually sitting there playing." However, the Outlaws were very pleased at how well Clockwork fit into their game plan, and Boink said that they didn’t really need to boss him around at all.
When it comes to the Shock, Boink believes their weakness lies in their support players, observing that Daniel "dhaK" Martinez Paz and Nikola "Sleepy" Andrews don’t look comfortable using Mercy.
"I think Sleepy plays [Mercy] slightly better, but he also plays a better Zenyatta," Boink said. "So they have to figure out how they want to do that. They’ll be much better next meta, as soon as they don’t have to run Mercy as much. It’s more their trade."
The 3-1 series win over the Shock was bittersweet, that pesky 1 in the scoreline ending their win streak at 18 maps.
"It always feels bad to lose a streak like that," Boink said. "It was a really good run. It was an OK way to end it—we played things that maybe we shouldn’t have or we didn’t think about as much, we had a sub in. So all things considered, it was a fine [map] loss to have."
The Outlaws’ five-match win streak also puts them in a great position as Stage 1 ramps up to its conclusion, giving them a strong map differential—the first tiebreaker in the overall standings—over other contending teams.
Tomorrow night, the Houston Outlaws are taking on arguably the Overwatch League’s final boss—the Seoul Dynasty. Boink says that his team is aware that people expect them to lose the match, but the odds are as strong in the Outlaws’ favor as they could possibly be.
"We just have to take as many maps as we can off Seoul," he said, emphasizing the importance of map differential. "I think we actually have a really good chance to win it because it’s a lot of our strong maps. I’ll take that. We had a lot of our weak maps [against the Shock]. I’d rather have weak maps today and then good maps against Seoul to give us the best odds of winning."
If nothing else, there is one thing the Outlaws can promise for their marquee match against the Dynasty on Friday night: "We want to put on the best show we can," Boink said, grinning. "There’s no way that won’t be a good match."