After two rather easy wins over the Seoul Dynasty and the Houston Outlaws, the Vnacouver Titans have a 3-0 record and are pushing for the OWL record for most consecutive wins. But in this stage, with the strong teams nearly exclusively playing against weak ones, that ‘s only good enough for a 4th-place position. Vancouver find themselves behind the 4-0 New York Excelsior, the 4-0 Los Angeles Gladiators, and the perfect-map-record 3-0 San Francisco Shock.

That perfection will likely continue for the Shock, as they get to face the collapsing Toronto Defiant and the very average Hangzhou Spark. The Titans, though, get a pair of interesting opponents in the Dallas Fuel and the Boston Uprising.

Dallas are, at least for the moment, also undefeated, having won convincing victories over Toronto and Paris. After mostly discarding the old EnvyUs roster and making intelligent trades for uNKOE and NotE, the Fuel are now one of the most successful mixed rosters in the league. Main tank OGE has his confidence back and is staking a claim as a top tank in the league, and his coordination with NotE looks much better than it was with rCK. The DPS lineup seems to have settled on Zacharee and aKm, who synergize nicely on Brigitte and Zarya, even if Zach’s capacities in a new meta are yet to be demonstrated. The support duo of uNKOE and Closer is individually skilled, tracks ults well, and enables big plays from OGE. All in all, it’s an exciting time to be a Fuel fan.

There are three problems for Dallas in going up against the Titans. The first is timing: they have a 2-match week, and the other team is Seoul. The Dynasty seem pretty much even with the Fuel in terms of skill, which means winning that match will require a lot of prep work. With Vancouver a cut above both of those teams, and Dallas looking at a possible playoff berth in the 5-8, non-undefeated part of the bracket, it may be better allocation of resources to focus on beating the Dynasty. If the Fuel invest too much in the Vancouver match, and consequently lose to Seoul, that might be their playoff chance out the window.

The second problem is Zacharee. In the current meta, he’s been the main Brigitte player, and has come under fire for sometimes poor play. Part of that is that everything Dallas does is under a microscope: they’re one of the most popular teams in the league, and came in with such high expectations that recalibrating has been difficult for the fanbase. But another part is his play–Haksal he is not. And that extends to a new DPS meta. Zach looked impressive during his stint with Fusion University–but considering that’s the only organization in Overwatch that can match the dominance of Runaway, it’s not hard to look good when your team is stomping all the competition. Zach can play lots of DPS, but his ability to do so at the OWL level is not yet established. In either case, the Titans should have a real skill advantage at this position.

The third problem is Dallas vs. Fuel. This is a roller coaster of a team, one that constantly cycles between giving hope to the fanbase with good performances, and collapsing like an underdone souffle for undeterminable reasons. Two good games in this stage are encouraging, but they provide no guarantee at all that the Fuel won’t suddenly regress to a soloqueue team.

After last week, I’ve learned my lesson on predictions. The Titans are clearly the better team, but the Fuel have the strength to wrestle a map away somewhere.

Vancouver will win this one 3-1.

The second match of the week is against a team the Titans already faced in the Stage 1 Playoffs, the Boston Uprising. After the NoterCK trade I mentioned in the Dallas section, the Uprising’s roster is slightly different, but it remains essentially the same as the one Vancouver bullied a couple weeks ago.

As was the case then, Fusions is probably the best player on the roster, with AimGod also deserving a shoutout. The rest of Boston is hard for me to analyze because they suffer from what I call “Padres syndrome.” The San Diego Padres are a perennially bad baseball team, but it’s hard to imagine ways to make them better, because compared to itself, the team is well-balanced. That is, each player is just about as good as the next within the team–it’s only once you go outside the team that you realize there are better players on other squads.

So it’s not that, say, Colourhex is a bad DPS player, or that he’s clearly worse than Blasé (or that Blasé is clearly worse than Colourhex). It’s that, when I look at other teams, I see Carpe and Profit, or Sinatraa and Seominsoo, or even Happy and Baconjack.

And of course, when I look at the Titans, I see a team that outclasses Boston at basically every position. Vancouver’s 3-0 victory in their last meeting was anything but surprising, and there was no point at which it felt like Boston might even be close to nabbing the win. Sure, the meta has shifted a bit, but I see no reason to think that will change the fundamental disparity between the two teams.

Vancouver is just plain better than Boston. An extra map is only going to make that more clear.

The Titans win it 4-0.