It’s here! The first match for DC of Stage Two features a showdown with one of the expansion stars, the Toronto Defiant. Unfortunately for the Justice, the Defiant would deny them a win.
Map 1: Oasis (Control)
Both the Justice and the Defiant came out with… non-GOATs line-ups? This is a result of the recent patch that is implemented in this stage that took aim at the GOATs meta, as multiple other teams also diversified their roster to bolster that hero inclusion. While both teams did have some good back and forth, DC Justice never really were able to get off the ground and do any concrete damage, only taking the point a couple of times and never getting above 50% of control. Toronto took both points with a bit of difficulty.
Map 2: Hanamura (Assault)
This map is notoriously difficult for the attacker side, and the changes in the meta did alter the composition somewhat, but both teams boiled down to a similar strategy when on defense: utilize Bastion and Orisa to control the flow into the point, defend against an incoming Sombra and prepare for the EMP, prepare to deal with a Hanzo. While the Justice did initially make some stellar plays to defend the first point, they eventually allowed a bit too many ticks and the Defiant eventually managed to push forward to the second point. However, the Justice had burned so much time off the clock that Toronto was unable to take the second point, and the Justice found themselves in a somewhat favorable position after the first round.
Unfortunately, they were unable to capitalize. On the attack, DC was unable to generate any consistent pressure and their pushes forward were constantly negated by likewise stellar plays from Toronto. Towards the end, there was a good push forward by the Justice to the point, but it wasn’t enough and DC was unable to even take the first point. The map went to Toronto in pretty convincing fashion.
Map 3: Blizzard World (Assault/Escort)
IM37 was subbed in for Asher for Toronto. The Defiant really came out swinging, pushing aggressively and taking the first point to unlock the payload and force DC into a completely defensive position. At this point is where the tide turned for the Justice, however- the squad managed to pull together a sequence of good stalling plays, often forcing the Defiant to overextend forward and play into better defensive positioning from the Justice. Multiple pushes forward were negated by DC with good picks that left Toronto vulnerable and unable to push forward, but Toronto eventually managed to get enough of an Ultimate built for their Reinhart, who Shattered four of the Justice at once. While it resulted in zero deaths, DC was left extremely weak, and during a slight retreat, multiple Justice were sniped down in their tracks. Sansam attempted a last-ditch effort to get at least a pick on the payload, which was inches away, but his Mech Destruct failed to get a single one, and Toronto wiped out the survivors to secure a full first round win.
On the attack, DC decided to go ahead and copy that aggressiveness, forcing Toronto into unfavorable position and then initiating the payload with ease. This is where Corey decided to go ahead and dominate with Hanzo. Seriously, he went on a tear of just utterly dominating the entire Defiant team for well over a minute- if he wasn’t getting kills, he was weakening them so much that his teammates were able to easily pick them off. He eventually switched to Widowmaker and continued to go ahead and follow a similar strategy. After the Defiant appeared to adjust to him specifically, the Justice then switched to a full 3-3. Due to the late switch, the Justice found themselves down on resources and unable to mount a proper comeback. Even though a near-full wipe in favor of the Justice temporarily turned the tide in their favor, the Defiant had a Sombra EMP and the Justice had no counter for it. That EMP would be crucial to take out half of the Justice and let Toronto wind down the clock, securing a third map for the Defiant and a series win.
Map 4: Junkertown (Escort)
While the Justice came out with the double-sniper setup, the Defiant had every intention to break it up. In a bit of a strange twist, the Justice played a much more controlled game in this map, struggling but keeping up with the Defiant as they made multiple pushes while responding with plenty of aggression on their own push come time for their offense. When the Justice made it to their offensive end, they were able to get numerous timely picks that kept the Defiant back and having to retreat, and evenly paced their way to victory even though it took Overtime rounds to get there. During Stage One, Escort maps were the bane of this team, but in this particular round, the Justice looked much stronger and controlled, eventually taking the map from Toronto in Overtime.
I did warn you to not expect a win from this match. That being said, the Justice roster that showed up for this match was considerably different from the team of Stage One. The standard 3-3 did get used fairly often in this match, but it was not nearly the standard for the game as it was before, and that flexibility that the Justice have with their roster really came into play at multiple points in this match. Corey had himself a game tonight, especially when using both Hanzo and Widow. He played extremely smart with both snipers, and only got picked off a few times when playing them. Most of his Hanzo ultimate pressure was negated by the Defiant relying on Baptiste, but considering how quickly he ended up headshot sniping Toronto, it almost didn’t even matter. With the changes in the meta that allow that variety, it was honestly super-cool to watch both teams mix up their composition.
That did not change the overall outcome of the game, however. Many of the problems the Justice had last Stage were still here, albeit much lower in frequency and much improved in comparison. Toronto did win in convincing fashion, true- but it’s not as though the Justice were a cakewalk team. Their defensive positioning was not swiss cheese like it was last Stage, and the squad appeared much more controlled and in charge. Their picks were more accurate, and their ultimate economy was exponentially better managed. ArK’s presence seems to be improving their performance, even if it’s not quite perfect yet. While the team was still adequately utilizing the 3-3 comp, their individual abilities in other team compositions showed off their flexibility much better. The end result wasn’t quite up to snuff to compete with a strong team like the Defiant, but it was a significant step forward.
Ultimately, I think the team managed to succeed in taking a step forward that they desperately needed. The overall performance was so much stronger than it was before, and it was actually enjoyable to watch Corey sneak behind the Defiant and start laying a ton of arrows and charged sniper shots at their heads before they even knew what was happening. There is still work to be done, but this type of non-blowout loss is much easier to bear when the team manages to play well and keep pace with their opponent. The team’s map losses almost exclusively came down to the last play, which is a good sign that their ability to maintain pressure is increasing significantly and that they’re making smarter plays overall- even on map types where they struggled previously. Here’s hoping that progress continues onto the next match.
DC will next take on the Chengdu Hunters on April 7th @ 8:15pm EST. This one is a match they have a more realistic chance to win, and continue to work on that team synergy. We can only hope for the best.