In the continuing story of The Tale of Two Halves, the Justice found themselves unable to dominate the second half to equalize the match and make it into Overtime after losing in almost record-setting speed in the first half.
Map 1: Busan (Control)
The Justice immediately rolled out with a “safe” 3-3 formation, not taking any real strategic risks, while the Dragons played a bit more with their roster, rolling out a Sombra (Dding) that continuously gave the Justice problems. There was no real major obstacle that the Justice presented in the first round, barely getting 10% of the point before getting rolled over- even after a Moira and Winston got added to their roster. Shanghai took control in the first round.
DC continued to struggle against the Sombra, who EMP’d them into oblivion and led to a near team kill. Shanghai continued their dominant play while the Justice almost refused to lead a coherent effort against the Dragons, once again only taking the point once before almost immediately getting forced off- again falling victim to another Sombra EMP, although the results were slightly better the second time. The Dragons easily walked over DC and secured a full first map.
Map 2: Paris (Assault)
DC made an early mistake after converging onto the first point to defend and falling out of position. After one fell, the rest of the team fell shortly after save for one, who retreated away while Shanghai focused on the point. DC continued to fall apart at the seams, their defense absolutely crumbling to the Dragons’ pressure and it tied a record for one of the fastest rounds on Paris in favor of Shanghai. 2-0 at the end of the first round for the Dragons.
On their attack, the Justice were near team-killed twice in both their opening pushes. Diem as Zarya quickly built up 70+ energy and basically never looked back, constantly peppering the Justice with energy blasts while Dding hacked and EMP’d the team in short order. With seconds left, the Justice finally managed to get a few kills and then sweep the first point, moving onto the second and getting a 6 man EMP for their effort. This would be a pattern the Justice never shook- despite managing to get a couple picks, the Dragons responded by splitting the squad and then taking down 3 almost at the same time, pushing the rest back and forcing a full retreat. DC would never recover and ended the map not even on the second point at all- Shanghai prevented Overtime by killing Janus as Wrecking Ball and completed their stall to win the second map easily.
Map 3: Blizzard World (Assault/Escort)
In a bit of a twist, DC actually came out looking pretty solid defensively, making smart picks and even forcing Shanghai to retreat a few times. Even though the Dragons made a push onto the point and took down Janus, the team played back and then punished the Dragons for lacking DVa, nearly team killing them and forcing another retreat despite giving up 2 ticks. It was an impressive display of perfect defense, as Shanghai only looked seriously threatening once, and the Justice timed their response perfectly to completely wipe the floor with them for relying too much on Sombra. It was perfectly played and executed, you could almost be mistaken for thinking you were watching a different team on stage. No points for Shanghai going into the Justice’s offense.
It actually looked like the Justice wouldn’t utilize the standard 3-3 at start, but Shanghai held back and they quickly switched off dual snipers to go back to 3-3. It took some time, but the Justice eventually figured out the great defensive structure that Shanghai was utilizing, eventually forcing just enough space in their defense to force through, making pick by pick until it was too late for Shanghai to return to play defense. Gamsu came very close to interrupting their plans, but was taken down en route to secure the first map win for the Justice. Sleepy, in particular, was pretty crucial to the offensive effort here.
Map 4: Gibraltr (Escort)
Holy hell, talk about defensive effort here. The Justice walked into this map clearly not playing around, even when confronted with a Doomfist that was initially pretty successful. In fact, the Dragons got pushed past the final seconds, requiring Overtime to reach the first checkpoint, where the infuriating inability of the Justice to clinch came back to bite hard. Despite having a perfect opportunity to ruin the push for the Dragons, DC fell apart- Corey wasted his Grav, and the Justice began to get picked apart until it was too late to counter. Despite the Dragons making it aaaaalmost to the second checkpoint, DC finally managed to bottleneck them into a corner they couldn’t escape, raining down ultimates (with Sansam picking up 2 kills from his mech destruct) and securing some pretty good position for themselves to even the game. They just needed to get to the second checkpoint.
Their offense… was not great. They kept getting pushed back, almost required Overtime to make the first checkpoint, and then promptly gave up strategic position and repeatedly wasted ultimates to drop the match right at victory’s door. They were so close to securing that map win to tie it up, but the history of the inability to clinch once again bit them and cost them the chance to win the match. They lost the map and the match as hopes dwindled even further.
This might be the most disappointed I’ve been all season. At multiple points, the Justice have shown they can cut it close and chase even the greats of the League. That was not really the case tonight. Even when the play was solid, it was not overwhelmingly so- they never appeared to be totally in control at any point of the match. Over the course of the match, their weaknesses with the 3-3 setup became more and more apparent, and it was a curious choice as to why they remained using the setup despite the numerous nerfs it faced coming into the stage.
The first half was abysmal play from DC, while the second showcased what seemed to be an entirely different team. I don’t know what changes they implemented after halftime, but it worked. Had the entire match been played up to that caliber, they might have actually walked away victorious, but in a worrying pattern for the season, they lost after it was far, far too late. Nearly everybody had moments during that second half that could be great highlights, but everybody had fault in that first half’s poor performance.
Honestly, I’m running out of things to say about how badly this team has performed this season. The story is the same each time. The adjustments are not enough. The highlights are too infrequent. Nobody can step up or step in and save the team performance here. Everyone needs to be better, and everyone is failing to get there. Whether you lose by inches or a mile, a loss is a loss, and DC is way out of contention to even be taken seriously in OWL right now.
The Justice end Stage 2 on Sunday at 4:45pm, being hosted by the Boston Uprising. It’s their last chance to walk away with a win in this stage. Can they do it?