The Washington Justice have finally found their metaphorical feet in Stage 4 of the 2019 season of Overwatch League and currently sit at the top, undefeated so far.
An undefeated stage isn't unheard of. The Vancouver Titans and New York Excelsior have two undefeated stages this season already; San Francisco Shock have one and are currently undefeated in the stage as well.
The fact that they're ranked 19 out of 20 overall in the season tends to differentiate them as a team, ultimately.
The Justice are one of the eight expansion teams to join OWL for the 2019 season, alongside Atlanta, Guangzhou, Vancouver, Chengdu, Paris, Hangzhou, and Toronto. Despite their talented players and staff, the Justice have struggled from the beginning; in stages 1 and 2, their win-loss record was 1-6. In stage 3, they fell to 0-7, losing 22 of their 28 maps, tying 4, and winning on only 2 of those maps.
It wasn't to say that the Justice weren't trying. They changed out staff and brought on new players, trying different team compositions and generally working hard to be better. However, their performance seemed to be getting worse.
Yet, they had managed to make the transition to "undefeated" anyway. Simply, the 2-2-2 lock came in and the meta shifted overnight.
The meta, or generally the best team composition, for stages 1 and 2 was triple-tank, triple-support, or GOATS as players call it (named after the team that first really made the composition popular). Stage 3 also ran quite a bit of 3-3, with many teams opting for triple DPS comps, usually featuring Sombra. The Justice tried this too, but they failed to do as well as other teams like New York and Shanghai. With their losses in stage 3, the Justice were already eliminated from the season playoff.
However, OWL introduced a new role lock system in stage 4. The 2-2-2 lock, with 2 of damage, tank, and support, had been live on the player test region of Overwatch for a while, and was heavily favored and encouraged by most players. And with this new meta, players on the Justice were allowed to finally truly shine in their strengths, while other teams that had been strong in the 3-3 meta seemed to be floundering, looking almost lost.
With the meta on their side, Washington has been steamrolling over the other teams in the league. While their wins over Toronto, Florida, and various other bottom-ranked teams were only slightly surprising, it was their third match of the stage that really convinced everyone that they are currently one of the better teams in this meta. The Justice soundly beat the Vancouver Titans 4-0, a feat no one had managed in nearly two years.
The core roster of the Titans had been playing together for a year, winning Korea Contenders before the entire team was signed on to Vancouver. They continued their dominance, losing only one game in the regular season, and even then, they had never been swept until they played against Washington.
It was that resounding victory over the number one team in the league that convinced everyone that the Justice were not to be underestimated this stage. Lead by DPS players Corey "Corey" Nigra, and Ethan "Stratus" Yankel--backed up by Junhwa "Janus" Song and Hyang "Sansam" Gi Kim on tank, and Yeonjun "ArK" Hong and Gido "Gido" Moon on support--the Justice have made their unforgettable mark on the stage.
Although they're still not out of the gauntlet yet, as they have two matches left in the season. They will next be playing against the Atlanta Reign and Paris Eternal. However, with the strength of their roster and the strength of the meta behind them, it's very possible that this bottom-ranked team can finish on top in the final stage of the 2019 season.
You can follow the Washington Justice on Twitter. Additionally, their matches can be viewed live on the OWL Twitch channel, Thursday through Sunday, starting at 4 PM PST on Thursday and Friday, and noon PST on Saturday and Sunday.