The Los Angeles Valiant ended Week 3 as the only undefeated team in Stage 4; to do so it needed to beat the New York Excelsior, a team that was also undefeated this stage and riding its second 10-match winning streak (Boston is the only other team to win 10 straight matches). The Valiant now finds itself in the midst of a season-high seven-game winning streak and is in second place in the season standings.
After up and down Stages 1 and 2 for the Valiant, we'll break down how consistency and a new meta have helped the team take its game to the next level.
Last week we discussed New York Excelsior's elite support duo, Bang "JJoNak" Seong-hyun and Hong "ArK" Yeon-joon. This week we look at the Valiant's contending duo, Park "Kariv" Young-Seo and Scott "Custa" Kennedy, as perhaps the biggest reason for the Valiant's upset and recent success.
Early on, most Valiant fans would not expect their team to have one of the league's best support duos at this point. In Stages 1 and 2, the Valiant struggled to find consistency and used a three-man support rotation of Kariv, Stefano "Verbo" Disalvo, and Benjamin "uNKOE" Chevasson. In an attempt to settle its backline, the Valiant even tried to move Kariv off the support role and onto DPS for a few weeks. However, the answer to Los Angeles's support problems lay in Dallas.
Between Stages 2 and 3, the Valiant acquired Custa from the Dallas Fuel in exchange for uNKOE. Custa was immediately put into the Mercy role after the trade, freeing up Kariv to focus his playtime on Zenyatta.
Custa has flourished in his new role. Since the trade, he has the third-most minutes on Mercy (13 hours and 20 minutes) and ranks fourth out of 14 Mercy players with at least five hours playtime since Stage 3 (1145). The consistency is a sharp contrast to his role on Dallas, which had him flexing between Zenyatta and Mercy.
Since the trade, Kariv has also found success with his consistent focus on Zenyatta. According to Winston's Lab, Kariv has the fourth-most minutes on Zenyatta (12 hours 51 minutes) and the fifth-highest player rating on the hero (1114) among 12 players with at least five hours playtime on Zenyatta in that span. He also accounts for only 7 percent of his team's first deaths, the lowest rate among those 12 Zenyatta players.
In the first three stages, the Valiant also struggled to find steady and strong play from the most used DPS heroes of the meta (Tracer, Genji, and Widowmaker). In Stage 4, the meta shifted because of the addition of Brigitte. Triple-support (with one DPS and two tanks) now has a 24 percent pick rate this stage (29 percent in Week 3) and many of the popular dive heroes from Stages 1-3 have had steady drops in pick rates during this stage.
One of the benefactors of this shift has been Pharah, whose pick rate has gone from 9 percent to 16 percent this stage. This makes her the fourth-most picked DPS hero in Stage 4, compared with the seventh-most in Stages 1-3. Perhaps more importantly, her 55 percent league-wide win rate is the highest among heroes played at least two hours this stage.
The Valiant has been taking advantage of this by getting great play out of Brady "Agilites" Girardi on Pharah. The Valiant has played Pharah 23 percent of the time in Stage 4, the second-highest rate in Stage 4. Agilities has played one hour and 19 minutes on the hero this stage, more than any other player, and his 1153 player rating ranks second among all Pharah players.
With Pharah, Agilities has accounted for 39 percent of the Valiant's final blows while playing this stage. That is the second-highest percentage of a team's kills by any hero played at least one hour in Stage 4.
The Valiant puts its perfect stage record on the line Thursday against the London Spitfire, the only team in the league the Valiant have yet to win a match against (0-2). This should be another good opportunity for the Valiant to solidify its spot as one of the top teams in OWL.