Day 1 of the Stage 2 Playoffs was the day of the underdog. The Shanghai Dragons finally made the Shock bleed and put up a good fight throughout; the Hangzhou Spark did more than that and knocked off the #2-seeded London Spitfire.
Day 2 of the playoffs was the opposite. First, the NYXL soundly walloped the Los Angeles Gladiators. Then it was Vancouver’s turn. Was it even possible to win more decisively than a 3-0?
Answer: yes. Vancouver won effortlessly, incidentally. While Dallas gave it their very best effort, I’m not entirely certain the Titans noticed they had opponents to play against.
Map 1: Oasis
As the higher seed, Vancouver was given first map choice, and the casters didn’t understand why the team would select a map where DPS compositions are possible. This reflects a lack of caster understanding of the Titans’ mentality: you put the uncertain map first to calibrate your expectations. If Dallas play well and take it, the better maps will come up at the end of the series. Meanwhile, if Dallas are still stymied here, you know they pose no threat and can mentally check out while you stomp them.
Both teams went for a 3/3 on Gardens, with Vancouver isolating OGE to get the first cap. With ults to use for every occasion, they built easily into the 70s before a hairy situation arose. Bumper was pushing forward to capitalize on a grav but failed to shield against Note’s bomb. Jjanu lost mech and it looked like the Fuel would retake in the 6v4 fight. Instead, the Titans countered every ability and ultimate out of Dallas, Slime booped 2 off the edge, Bumper returned with a flank shatter, and the Titans took the map 100-0.
Into University, Haksal traded 2 for 1 to again secure the first control. bwas booped forward to his doom for about the 50th time in the match, and once again it took until the 70s for Dallas to have a good fight. At its scariest, the Titans were locked into a grav, Bumper and Jjanu were dead, and only Closer was down for the Fuel. Then Seominsoo killed AKM. Slime killed Zacharee. Haksal was killed, but Seominsoo got the demech on Note and came within fractional seconds of roasting OGE to death, with Twilight striking the final blow. Bumper and Jjanu returned, postured aggressively to knock Dallas totally off the point, and just like that the Titans had taken the first map.
Titans 1 : Fuel 0
Map 2: King’s Row
It was here, and only here, that this match turned into something resembling competitive Overwatch. The Titans, defending first, actually conclusively lost a poke war, which Dallas was able to snowball all the way to the gate of point B. Finally Seominsoo’s grav gave Vancouver the stabilization they needed, in a spot where we’ve seen the Titans hold forever. It looked like that would happen, with the Titans snuffing out every push until the final fight, where Note found Twilight with a bomb. That brought the fight into Point C, where the Fuel took out Bumper, Twilight, and Jjanu in quick succession. It was time for someone to be a hero, and that man was Bumper. Returning to the fight on Roadhog, he hooked AKM off the map, then did the same to OGE in mid-charge, then found Zacharee, then used whole hog to take out Unkoe.
With the Fuel stopped just short of completion, the Titans had a win in their sights. The attack run started out with a speedrun, as Slime once more booped OGE forward to his death to take the first point immediately. Dallas then had everything go right: positioning in the archway chokepoint, AKM hit a grav, both Slime and Haksal were taken down (while using rally, no less). STILL the Titans found a way to win with a grav and a trans to keep everyone healthy.
Finally, in front of Point B, the Fuel had the only two good minutes of play they would experience in the entire match. For 3 whole fights in a row, they managed to find first picks. Unfortunately for them, this is the Vancouver Titans, and your first picks don’t matter. After being stymied in the first two fights, Haksal stunned OGE out of his charge and Slime got the kill while Twilight used trans to keep everyone alive. Bumper had the world’s freest earthshatter, which he of course took advantage of to unlock Point C. In the final fight, the Fuel couldn’t summon any roadhog-based magic, as instead the Titans split the fight into 3 separate pieces and won each of them.
Titans 2 : Fuel 0
Map 3: Anubis
This is the worst map for Vancouver, so it only made sense for Dallas to pick it. What they couldn’t know was that there exists a force more powerful than the Titans’ struggles on this map: Vancouver’s desire to be done with this nonsense. The Titans played as if they were insulted to have to still be here, with Haksal leading the way. Not a single Titan died across the entire 4 minutes of their defense, which rather obviously meant the Fuel didn’t get any ticks either.
The Titans are known for two things on Anubis: sometimes looking weak, and running quad DPS with Bumper on Hanzo. After their full hold, guess which one they brought out?
Hint: it’s the fun one.
Bumper has clearly been practicing. First, he knew that climbing the front archway is much easier from the defender’s side–not that that meant he could actually execute it, but still. Second, his use of storm arrows onto OGE got not only a first pick, but also a solo kill onto his opposing main tank. Whether that was because Bumper wanted to get into his head, or because OGE was the only target large enough for him to hit, I will not say. In any case, things fell apart quickly for the Fuel, bringing an end to the series after less than an hour.
Titans 3 : Fuel 0
Player of the Match
At some points, this match felt like a manifestation of genius, with the Titans making astonishing calls on committing to fights and were at every junction proven correct. At other times, it felt like an advertisement for “One Simple Trick To Win Your Overwatch Matches!” if that trick were displacing the enemy Reinhardt.
There’s a common denominator behind both of those points, and his name is Slime.
Vancouver didn’t win Oasis 200-0 in a perfectly clean fashion. There were at least 3 instances where Dallas seemed to hold the advantage, and where a call to disengage could have been made without looking in any way bizarre. But Slime’s game sense is on another level, and every time he realized that his squad could still win. But it’s not as if he was just a caller–he was also instrumental to those wins. The highlight play was his double boop on Oasis Gardens, but the highlight montage was of him booping OGE forward into the waiting arms of the Titans over and over and over again. At no point did Dallas demonstrate any ability to stop him from getting that critical job done, which meant the Titans were more or less at a permanent advantage in terms of having a main tank. Considering the NYXL showcased the same weakness in their losses to Masaa and the Atlanta Reign, that might bode well for the Titans’ immediate future.