For three of the four maps in this series, the result was exactly what you would have expected, with the Vancouver Titans mercilessly (and Mercy-less-ly) steamrolling the Houston Outlaws. The Titans’ greatness at running 3/3, paired with Houston’s general ineptness at that style, led to an utterly predictable result.

But one of those maps did not go as planned. Houston’s multi-DPS setup stymied the Titans, and whether that was up to Vancouver not taking the matchup seriously or a deeper flaw in their playstyle is the first thing the coaches should dig into. Every player on the Titans is capable of being a star in a divier meta, but in today’s match they certainly didn’t show it.

Map 1: Busan

Vancouver came into Busan with Stitch at the keyboard instead of Seominsoo, but the thunder was stolen by the Houston Outlaws, who with no prior indication put in Arhan for his first action in roughly forever. He was joined by Linkzr and Danteh to create a triple DPS look, which was certainly a refreshing use of the players at Houston’s disposal.

We started on Mecha Base, where Linkzr, on Widowmaker, used the high ground surrounding the point to land shot after shot. But Twilight kept his team alive, Muma was picked first, and the Titans took first control. Next, Bumper dove deep for Linkzr, got him, then popped Primal Rage seemingly for no reason. Maybe he was more perceptive than we suspected: Danteh’s Sombra uncloaked right as he used the ability, and despite being hacked he was able to get the kill there as well. Houston took the point back at 84%, which left the Titans needing only a single fight to retake, but they wasted time fighting with half the team present, allowing Houston to build to 99%. For the final fight, Linkzr played ring-around-the-point with Bumper, constantly rotating away from the pressure being applied and hitting one key headshot onto Twilight. Denied critical healing, the Titans melted in the face of the other two Houston DPS, and it was the Outlaws who came away with the first point win.

Sanctuary was similarly dangerous, due to its long sightlines. Houston went for a Torbjorn Orisa bunker but with a Soldier 76 and Sombra alongside, which is an unusual style to put it mildly. The fact that it worked is down to two things: the Titans playing like a soloqueue team, and Linkzr’s astonishing abilities on hitscan heroes. Just as his Widowmaker carried the Outlaws to victory on Mecha Base, so did his uncanny aim on Soldier deliver them the win on Sanctuary. He was helped in this by a stream of Titans feeding themselves one by one into his clutches. Throughout the entire map, including both stages, there was precious little of the precision target selection that usually characterizes the Titans’ play. Instead, they were picked apart, and Houston took a shocking win on the Control map.

Titans 0 : Outlaws 1

Map 2: Paris

After a forgettable showing on Sombra over the course of a lost map, Stitch was taken out and replaced by Seominsoo. Aftera  dominant showing on Widowmaker and Soldier over the course of a won map, Linkzr was taken out and replaced by Coolmatt. Performance, clearly, is not the driving factor in these decisions.

The Titans were on defense first, and instead of running a bunker composition as has been common on Paris, went for a Winston 3/3.Houston opted into the matchup, pitting their Zen against Vancouver’s Ana, and meeting with little success. A Reinhardt swap didn’t fix the primary issue, which was that Twilight hit a biotic grenade or a sleep dart in every fight, and oftentimes both. This wasn’t the only issue with Coolmatt’s play on Dva, but it might have been the most consequential.  Houston only touched the point once, in the final fight, and didn’t manage a single tick of progress.

The multi-DPS style on the first point had made Vancouver look mortal, but now they were in their comfort zone. With the well-earned confidence that this map was essentially already won, they went for a weird bunker-buster strategy to remove Houston’s Orisa/Bastion setup. Haksal came out on Symmetra, used teleporter from a hidden position to bypass the firing zone. A brief pause to reset cooldowns later, they stormed up the ramp, Bumper charged Arhan away, and the Titans had tied up the series.

Titans 1 : Outlaws 1

Map 3: Eichenwalde

Vancouver opened on the attack, and recognized that Arhan’s Pharah needed countering. Seominsoo went for a Soldier, but instead of waiting for him to take out the flying menace, they rotated through the castle walls into the high ground of the tavern. This let them take the fight from a superior position, so that Arhan was unable to use his barrage. It came out in the first fight of the streets phase, paired with an EMP, but Seominsoo’s tactical visor and the proximity of spawns meant that Vancouver won the fight despite losing more players. That set up a last-ditch defense at the castle doors, where the Outlaws were able to split the Titans and hold firm. Vancouver took their foot off the gas at this point, which was emphatically demonstrated by Bumper’s insistence on doing his best Winz impression (I sit on ze payload) instead of, you know, joining the fights. The fights weren’t unwinnable, far from it in fact, but Houston rallied at key moments on the back of Rawkus‘ biotic grenades, which were every bit as impactful here as Twilights‘ had been on Paris.

On their attack, Houston opted into a 3/3 mirror against Vancouver. Attacking A, they should have won in the first fight when they picked Seominsoo to start, but the Titans magically battled back. Though Houston took the point in the next fight, the lost time would prove critical. Twice more on the streets phase the Outlaws took early advantages, only to watch Vancouver turn it around and repel them. Bumper was the key to victory, charging and shattering his way across the map with impunity. With little time left, the last fight arrived quite quickly, and Bumper first hit a gigantic 5-man shatter to give his squad the advantage, then built another shatter within 20 seconds to lock down the remaining enemies.

Titans 2  : Outlaws 1

Map 4: Rialto

Houston was first to attack the map on which the Titans own the 2 fastest times in OWL history. That must have been a frightening prospect for the Outlaws, who once again felt it best to try a 3/3 mirror. One successful fight, in which they killed Seominsoo and then Bumper, would have delivered them Point A against any other squad. But the Titans kited back to spawn expertly, avoiding any further stagger kills, then returned across the bridge for a last-second contest. Coolmatt, trying to break their formation, launched a self-destruct into the backline. That wasn’t a bad idea, but it ended up being a bad play since it gave Seominsoo a chance to throw out his graviton without fear of it being eaten. The Titans collapsed on the locked-up opponents, sending them back to spawn and firmly staking their claim to the cart. Two more minutes of ineffectual attack later, Houston had been full held, setting up an easy win.

The Titans were able to deliver that win without much trouble. They methodically built ults, Seominsoo’s graviton took out Danteh and Coolmatt, and when the Outlaws tried for a last-second contest Bumper was able to drop everyone with a shatter. Jjanu’s bomb, perfectly timed as always, exploded directly above the stunned members of Houston, netting him a 4k and his team the victory in the map and the series.


Titans 3 : Outlaws 1

Player of the Match

Sometimes I award Player of the Match to whoever was most instrumental in bringing the Titans to victory. At some point, I may have to award it to the player who did best in a losing effort, but since this is a Vancouver blog that hasn’t happened yet. And then there are times like today. The match quickly went from nerve-inducing after the loss on control to a lighthearted stomp, and I want to reward the player who most exemplified that feeling.

Bumper defined this match, for good and for bad.

The enduring of this match for analysis purposes should be the final fight of Mecha Base, as Bumper fruitlessly chases Linkzr around the entire perimeter of the control point. His inability to close the distance on the enemy Widow was partially why the Titans weren’t able to win this map.

But the enduring image of the match, to me, are the times when Bumper would be charged offscreen in one direction, only to return moments later countercharging Muma back into the waiting arms of the Titans. It happened on Eichenwalde and on Rialto, and was hilarious both times. Bumper’s play was goofy, going for low-percentage charges because they would be amazing if they worked, and against a Houston squad that didn’t even force Vancouver to try all that hard to win, that was the best playstyle to keep me interested in the unfolding match.