The fourth week of Stage 2 kicks off this weekend, where eight teams will take to the stage in the Allen Event Center for the Dallas Fuel Ultimate Weekend. Leading up to the event, we'll be talking about each of the teams, their background, and where they stand going into the games.
There's no better to kick off ESTNN's Ultimate Weekend Primer than the team hosting the weekend itself. The Dallas Fuel have been through a lot since they first came into the league. They've had multiple PR disasters, had to find a new head coach, and have been forced to deal with a revolving door of players. Thankfully for Fuel fans, the team is finally finding their feet. They currently sit at 8th place in the standings, sitting below the cut off line for the season playoffs. Coming into their homestand weekend, they’re looking rather strong compared to some of their opponents in attendance.
New Players and New Coaches, Oh My
That isn't to say they don't have their weaknesses, however. The team recently traded their flex player, rCk, to the Boston Uprising, for the Uprising's flex tank, NotE. Additionally, their explosive DPS star Effect retired. That's a big one. Effect’s flexibility is something that the Fuel can replace easily. The team is still getting to know their new flex tank, and seeing where he fits into the team’s cohesion and what else he can play is essential to their success.
The Fuel also released Assistant Coach Cocco and took on the Paris Eternal’s head coach, daemoN, in his place. DaemoN has become the tank coach for the Fuel, meaning he will work closely with OGE and NotE to improve their skills. Considering the fact Paris had a somewhat rough Stage 1 but came out of the gates swinging, it remains to be seen how this addition will fare over the rest of the league.
Tank play is their Forte
The Fuel have some very good strengths though. The team picked up main support Closer in the off-season, who came from the London Spitfire, the Season One champions. Closer has gelled well with flex support, uNKOE, and the two look like a valuable pairing for the team. Main tank OGE’s aggressive style has paid off for Dallas, managing not only to protect his team, but pulling off some flashy plays in the progress. It’s safe to say that the Los Angeles Valiant and the Houston Outlaws should be careful coming into their matches against the Fuel during the weekend.
The Hangzhou Spark came out of the gates swinging in Stage 2, with wins (and D.va bombs) dropping all over the place. But now the Spark's momentum has come a grinding halt, and it’s slightly worrying. They’re sitting at 12th place in the league standings, and they barely eeked out a win against the Guangzhou Charge last week, and even the Charge forced them to a fifth map. Their current record is 5-5, which isn’t terrible, but with how much talent is oozing from the team, it’s rather disappointing.
Cohesion and Communication – Classic Issues
It’s quite hard to actually say what’s wrong with the team. The team has now solidified their starting lineup, with the only rotations being between DPS players Krystal and Adora after each map. Krystal will play the team's Control and Hybrid maps, while Adora switches in for the Assault and Escort maps. They are beginning to regain their early season form slowly, but it’s not fast enough. They simply aren't picking up the wins they need to make a playoff push. The team doesn’t look very coordinated, nor do they seem to be communicating very well. These are issues that the team need to rectify in order to regain that dominance they had at the very start of Stage 1, where they were on form and swinging their way through teams.
A Wild DPS Player Appears!
There are a few shining spots in the gloom for the Spark though. If flex tank Ria can improve his positioning and start to work better with GodsB's Zarya for a combo, then his D.va Self-Destructs can be devastating for the enemy team. We've seen how a well placed D.Va bomb can swing the tide of a map in a teams favor, and the Spark are no different. Another cornerstone for the team is the previously unknown DPS player, GodsB, who has cemented himself in the starting line-up. His has been dominant during the matches where the Spark have pulled out wins during the earlier weeks of Stage 1. Unfortunately for the Spark, there are some tough opponents during this weekend. They’d be wise to prepare for their matches against the Paris Eternal and the Chengdu Hunters.
The Chengdu Hunters are like if you went into a restaurant and told the waiter to surprise you with what food you wanted. You’re never sure what you’re going to get. Could you receive Elsa’s team wipe as Symmetra on Hanamura? Or perhaps JinMu taking down seven players in a row as Doomfist to win an entire map? Maybe you’ll get YangXiaoLong getting three kills as Widowmaker instead. You won’t be able to predict it. The Hunters are full of surprises.
But what you can predict, however, is that the team is very, very good at what they do. The Hunter's original issues started out because the team didn’t have their whole roster, and they still don’t. Main tank Jiqiren is still stuck in China battling with visa issues, so the team is still missing a piece. Until then, their main tank is the yottachad himself, Ameng. But that isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as Ameng has shown that he can flex over to other tanks. He's even proficient at playing Wrecking Ball, which is why we see so much of it from Chengdu.
Cracks in the Armor
That strength can be a weakness though, as teams have been able to figure out how to counter and shut down Ameng. By doing this, the Hunter's opponents have managed to take the upper hand and the victory in some of the recent matches. Chengdu currently sit at 14th in the standings with a 5-6 record, but they’ve only recently picked up the pace in Stage 2. And as the Shanghai Dragons and Los Angeles Gladiators demonstrated, once you figure out how to counter the strategy the Hunters are playing, it can be hard for them to fight back once they’ve switched over.
Photos VIA: Robert Paul for Blizzard Entertainment