In this corner, the undefeated phenomenon, the terrifying Titans of Vancouver. In that corner, the star-studded, Super-powered Shock of San Francisco. And in the clash between the two, the greatest match in the history of the Overwatch League.
The Vancouver Titans won the Stage 1 Championship, defeating the San Francisco Shock 4-3, in a match that set the bar for all future championships. In completing OWL’s first-ever undefeated stage, the Titans definitively established themselves as the best team in the league, but San Francisco’s incredible play announced their arrival as one of the top overall teams. As the Titans’ official twitter said, we will surely be seeing them again.
Before we jump into the maps, I want to say a quick word. While one could read these recaps instead of watching a match, the full experience remains the best. Sometimes the match summaries can indicate a game that’s not really worth watching. This is not that game. This is the most evenly-matched and high-quality matchup of the entire 3/3 meta, and it deserves your view. Think of this recap more as something you can come back to in the future to help relive the joy of our Stage 1 Championship, not a substitute for experiencing that joy.
Map 1: Nepal
Since the last time we played them, the Shock have solidified a roster, the same as the Titans, so there were no substitutions throughout the entire set. San Francisco plays Moth and Viol2t on support, Choihyobin and Super on off/main tank, Sinatraa on Zarya, and Rascal on Brig. The corresponding players for the Titans are Slime, Twilight, Jjanu, Bumper, Seominsoo, and Haksal. Each squad was extremely confident in its strength running 3/3, and throughout the series we saw very few deviations from a standard 3/3 mirror.
The game started out on Village, where the two teams smashed into each other on the point. In the Reinhardt and Zarya war, Vancouver eventually came out better, gaining the first capture of the series. They made the best possible use of it, taking the ult advantage and cycling to run all the way to 100% without any interruptions.
On Sanctum, it was the opposite story. Bumper had to play his less-preferred Winston, and found himself horribly squishy. San Francisco was clearly targeting him, and he was the first death in half of the fights, which robbed the Titans of capacity to fight on the point. This time it was San Francisco winning every fight and winning 100% to 0, setting up a third and deciding round.
Shrine turned on two key plays. San Francisco capped the point first, but in the fight that Vancouver took at around 30%, they seemed to gain an advantage when Super was killed first. The Shock delayed, first with a trans from Viol2t (which was intended to save his main tank), then with a grav from Sinatraa that kept everyone locked in. The Shock were trying to retreat when Seominsoo caught them all in a grav, prepared to beam them all to death… but Super had just returned with shatter, and dropped it on the forward-charging Titans. In an instant, the dynamic shifted, and the Shock rushed back onto point like sharks smelling blood in the water. Vancouver had never flipped the point, which meant San Francisco built to 89% before they were temporarily expelled.
The second turning point was when Bumper made a bizarre positioning error, rotating alone to the wrong side of the central obelisk, which left a path wide open for Super to hit a five-man shatter. The Titans were wiped and couldn’t summon magic for the final fight, dropping the first map of the series to the Shock.
Titans 0 : Shock 1
Map 2: Numbani
The Titans elected to go to Numbani, where they defended first. It was an inspired choice. San Francisco’s first attack gained some advantage when Super again connected on a big shatter, and while the Titans didn’t lose any members, they were forced to trade a tick on the point for the necessary space to heal up and reset cooldowns. That done, they reengaged with Rally, targeted down Sinatraa, and never looked back. The Shock never again threatened the point, largely due to the exemplary play of Haksal on Brigitte. He never died, and was constantly in the right spot to interrupt when the Shock tried to follow up on ultimates or gain position.
That set up an easy attack phase, with a target at only 44%. Cognizant of the victory condition, the Titans built up a full stock of ultimates, threw them all into the same fight, and swept the Shock off the point.
Titans 1: Shock 1
Map 3: Temple of Anubis
Now it was San Francisco’s turn to choose a map, and they elected Anubis, a map on which Vancouver had previously struggled. Vancouver played a scary game on their defense, going low on health while their opponents built up nearly to 90%. A lost fight would have led to a huge snowball, but Sinatraa was picked first and the Titans managed to hold. From there they took a series of dominant fights which made a full hold look very possible. It could have been, were it not for Super and Choihyobin. A clutch shatter bomb combo got two kills, and Choihyobin added a third by killing Jjanu right before he could remech. That not only killed off half the Titans squad, but with the point already nearly capped, it let the Shock rush straight to Point B. Without enough time to set up, Vancouver were brushed aside, and suddenly a full hold had turned into a double cap with a respectable 3:16 remaining.
Seominsoo carried his team to victory on Point A, beaming enemies to death and giving the Titans more than 6 minutes to cap B. But Anubis B has been an Achilles heel for Vancouver all season, and against their toughest opponents the old bugaboos reappeared. Bumper found clever shatters, but the follow up was never there. If it wasn’t Bumper dying first, it was Seominsoo, on a map where both roles are particularly critical for a victory. Finishing off enemies was a constant challenge. The final capture came through with only 48 seconds remaining, putting the Titans behind.
They did their level best to put themselves back on top. Vancouver crushed the Point A fight, forced out ultimates from the Shock, and scrapped their way to 2 ticks on Point B despite Jjanu dying nearly immediately at the start of the final fight. His return on Hammond was key to giving Titans staying power, and while it didn’t result in another map completion, considering the starting timebank things were looking quite good for the Titans.
San Francisco gained A rather easily, giving them 2:40 to hit 70% on Point B. They found their chance with a minute left, taking out Jjanu, Bumper, Slime, and Seominsoo to set up a clearly won fight. Except, somehow, it wasn’t. From a lost position, the Titans magically traded well and didn’t relinquish any control at all, bringing things to a final overtime fight.
Sadly, Vancouver’s luck ran out. Having somehow won a lost fight, in this final brawl they managed to lose what should have been a won fight, once again dropping to a Choihyobin bomb–this time, because Slime used Sound Barrier too early. It was an unfortunate end to a map that the Titans had worked so hard to recover.
Titans 1 : Shock 2
Map 4: Dorado
Vancouver’s map pick was Dorado, where they would be first to defend. In a shift of strategy, their target of choice was no longer Sinatraa but Super, who repeatedly dropped as a result of the Titans’ aggression. The Titans nearly got a full hold, but Choihyobin managed a clutch eat onto Seominsoo’s grav and Bumper died shortly thereafter, buying the Shock a bit more time. But Dorado is a map with increasingly difficult points to complete, and with only 2:30 remaining the Shock wouldn’t get many opportunities. The Titans cleverly parked themselves on the cart early, and it didn’t matter that they lost fights because the clock was continually running. As so often happens, the Titans held strong in front of Point B, and the Shock struggled valiantly but were unable to win the single fight they got.
Vancouver’s attack encountered none of the same frustrations. Super once again was killed first and San Francisco demonstrated no capacity to fight with him down, giving the Titans Point A and about 5 minutes to complete the map. They tried something, which was either a failed rotation or a set play, in which Rascal functioned as bait and Super shattered when the Titans engaged on him. But Seominsoo killed Rascal immediately, and Slime used barrier to keep everyone alive, allowing Vancouver to sail into B without much difficulty at all.
Titans 2 : Shock 2
Map 5: Ilios
Ilios started on Lighthouse, and Moth found a boop on Twilight to open the point for his squad. The Shock built to 85% before surrendering the point, and the Titans overcomitted ultimates (particularly support ones) in the second fight. Seominsoo found a grav, but Bumper’s shatter went straight into Super’s shield. With the enemy still able to act, and no support ults to defend against one of Super’s patented in-grav shatters, the Titans couldn’t find the cleanup and were themselves taken out. San Francisco took the first round in convincing fashion.
On Ruins, Sinatraa got off to an amazing start. Quickly building 100 charge, he blasted through Bumper’s shield and Jjanu’s mech to give his team first cap, and Vancouver couldn’t find the advantage until the very last fight. Finally, at 99%, the Titans flipped the point off the back of Bumper’s big shatter. Running it all the way back was a big ask, but the boys in blue were up to the task. Once again, killing Super was the key, as every time he died the Shock looked incapable of continuing to fight.
That brought us to Well, which featured the biggest divergence from 3/3 in the whole match. The Orisa/McCree composition has been a staple of Vancouver’s strategy here, and Seominsoo’s McRightClick style of flashbang, roll, delete was highly effective. San Francisco were lucky to gain some control in a fight they were losing, slowing the Titans’ capture progress by about 25 seconds. That was enough to force an additional fight, where the Shock dislodged the hard bunker and gained control. Swapping to Winston 3/3, the Titans only needed one fight to take the win. However, they did the worst possible thing: take a long, drawn-out fight that they still lost. The timing weirdness induced by San Francisco’s lucky take earlier meant the Titans only returned from the spawn doors at 90% capture, and they were forced to use trans just to touch the point. That’s a terrible way to start out, and the Shock punished them, securing the victory and putting the Titans on the brink of their first loss.
Titans 2 : Shock 3
Map 6: King’s Row
With no margin for error remaining, the Titans went to King’s Row. Fans were feeling increasingly nervous, so a performance like the defense on Dorado or Numbani would have been appreciated. Instead, San Francisco ran over the Titans and tried to spawn camp the Titans just as they had during the regular season. Vancouver was wise to their tricks and stayed grouped in the back, but they were less wise to the more basic question of how to beat Shock in a heads-up fight. Even when they did win, it was through large investments of ultimates, and San Francisco leveraged their advantage (and an extremely unlucky miss on a charge from Bumper) to unlock Point B. The Shock ran all the way to the Titans’ spawn and the payload nearly floated to the end of the map behind them, but just in time Vancouver broke the chokehold and pushed them back. In the final fight, San Francisco was looking for a grav bomb combo, but Haksal came up clutch and stunned Choihyobin in the middle of a pack of Titans. Low on mech health and forced to boost away, he dropped a self-destruct in a useless position and got no kills, neutering the best plan San Francisco had for completing the map. The Titans would have to nearly complete the map, but a good attack run would give them the map victory.
That attack run once again featured a key play from Haksal. Slime used his barrier, and when Moth went to respond with his own, the Brigitte stunned him out of it and gave his team the point. Haksal in general played like a man possessed on this map. The observers stayed focused on Seominsoo, who was constantly running forward on the heels of his teammate as he charged from Point A nearly to the end of the map without so much as a pause. A desperation shatter bomb combo from San Francisco bought time with the Titans only 0.74 meters from victory, but they would not be denied forever. Slime made the play when he knocked Viol2t off the map during trans, and the other members of San Francisco crumbled without the huge healing output of a Zenyatta ultimate.
Titans 3 : Shock 3
Map 7: Rialto
After so many maps, it all came down to this one. Bumper opened on Winston, which was surprising, and Vancouver struggled without a strong barrier to hide behind. Even after swapping, the Titans struggled to stabilize, only partially doing so on Point C. That final phase was an improvement over A and B, but the Shock were merely slowed in their progress, finishing the map with time left on the clock and causing widespread despair among the Titans faithful. Had they really come this far only to fall at the final hurdle?
One of the marks of a great team is that they rise to the occasion. The Titans didn’t just win their attack: they won in such a way that no one would think of questioning their dominance. Vancouver completed the single best round of a map in Overwatch League history. A perfect attack run, in which not a single Titans player died, didn’t just beat the Rialto completion record: it wiped it from existence. Vancouver rolled into the finish line with 4:26 on the clock, nearly a full minute ahead of the record they had just set against Seoul. The crowd went wild, and even the players leapt to their feet in exuberance.
Vancouver had ascended to another level, and San Francisco were unable to follow them to those glorious new heights. The second attack phases were a formality, with the Shock stopped at the very first corner and the Titans coasting to a well-deserved victory.
Titans 4 : Shock 3
Player of the Match
I’m strongly tempted to award this to the entire team for their attack phase on Rialto. Every player performed his role at the highest possible level, and there’s not a team in the world that could stand up to that level of performance. And yet, there’s one player I want to highlight, who was the first to hit that transcendent level and who carried his team to victory.
When the chips were down, Haksal refused to lose and made all the plays to bring his team home.
Those who didn’t follow Runaway may not know that Haksal has been the core of this team since its very inception way back in the first season of Korea’s APEX tournament. Other players have come and gone, but Haksal has been the one throughline for the whole history of the squad. More than that: his magnificent Genji made him the star player in every meta up until 3/3. It’s fitting, then, that at long last he found a way to showcase his star qualities on Brigitte. This is a hero often considered to have a flat ceiling at the pro level, one who must be played competently but who cannot win a game on her own. In this match, Haksal found a way to break that ceiling. More than any other player, this victory belongs to him, and belongs in the pantheon next to his heroic nanoblades, barrages, and rip tires.