Now crowned as the Stage 1 Champions, the Vancouver Titans begin this stage as the acknowledged top dogs of the Overwatch League. Let’s just take a second to appreciate how nice “Stage 1 Champions” sounds.
Gonna be even better when it’s “Season 2 Champions.”
Before we get too far ahead of ourselves, we have a few more stages to go. Stage 2 kicks off this week, and the Titans get a game on the final day against the only Chinese team they’ve not yet faced, the Hangzhou Spark. You know the Titans will approach it with a bit of extra motivation, as they have to prove that Runaway is the greatest-ever hot pink Overwatch team, and not these johnny-come-latelies.
While Vancouver has never before played Hangzhou, the players opposing them are familiar: the Spark are an odd melange of players from a few unremarkable Korean teams, along with two stars of Team China from OWWC 2018. The core of the squad is the old X6, represented here by the tank duo of NoSmite and Ria, Bebe on support, and GodsB on DPS. Support player Revenge is from Seven, as is hitscan DPS Bazzi and projectile DPS Adora. iDK, also on support, is Korean but most recently played in China for Lucky Future Zenith, where he faced off against main tank Guxue and flexy DPS Krystal. Rounding out the roster is new addition Sasin, formerly of Foxes, who has followed the same path as Seagull and transitioned from DPS to Dva.
The Spark had a respectable showing over the course of Stage 1, defeating both the Shanghai Dragons and LA Gladiators (also the Valiant, but no credit for that). Matches against the Shock and Defiant showed there was still a gap to overcome, but the Spark put up a good fight and looked to be solidly middle-of-the-road.
Unfortunately, the team had sabotaged itself with a disastrous showing in Week 2. Hangzhou had two very beatable opponents, the always-mediocre Houston Outlaws and the can-we-please-play-DPS-again London Spitfire. We’ve seen stronger teams struggle in 2-game weeks, since it’s hard to prepare adequately for multiple opponents, but at the least the Spark should have managed one victory here. Instead, they dropped both matches 1-3, torpedoing their chances of a Stage 1 Playoff.
But for the season, their position isn’t awful. The range of 4-3 and 3-4 records goes all the way from #5 to #16 in the league, so any team with that record is right in the hunt for, at least, the lower half of the playoff positions. A strong run could push them up into the playoff sphere.
But I don’t think that run starts here. The meta is still uncertain, but especially in the first week I’d expect a lot of 3/3 to still be played: even if the balance changes have made that style no longer dominant, teams have so much more experience running it that it will likely be the default. Hangzhou’s strengths tend much more towards a divey, DPS-centric style, and they’ll struggle dramatically trying to match Vancouver’s 3/3.
I think some changes have happened, and I expect Hangzhou to try at least a trial balloon of a more dive style. That might win them a map, but the Titans can beat them at 3/3 and at dive.