While the OWL viewers had fun taking in the first-ever Homestand weekend, the Vancouver Titans were… well, I don’t know what. Not playing in official games, that’s for sure.
So having sat idle, they now get to finish out the Stage with a 2-game week, which pits them first against the Toronto Defiant and then the third-time-rematch against the Seoul Dynasty. And while the Titans have already locked in a spot in the playoffs, the results here will determine their final seed, which is very much not locked in.
If the match against Toronto had taken place during Stage 1, it would have been a marquee game. But since starting out 5-2 and tying for 3rd seed, the Defiant have fallen off a proverbial cliff. Their record this stage is a miserable 1-4, which it’s hard to argue isn’t deserved. Their falloff in form was obscured by a week 1 in which they beat the Washington Justice and lost a close 3-2 against the Boston Uprising–but since then they’ve lost three more matches in a row and looked poor doing it.
I must admit, I’m surprised by the Defiant. On seeing the roster, I thought they would do well in a dive meta and poorly in a 3/3. Instead, they managed to do well during the first stage, when 3/3 was the only comp you could run, and their falloff in form has corresponded to a meta shift which has allowed DPS compositions to exist again.
That in mind, I can’t help but think about the one change in personnel the team has made since Stage 1. Everyone’s favorite OWL speedrunner IM37, who went from unsigned to starting roster in something like two weeks, replaced Stellar as the team’s hitscan DPS. But because 3/3 is still often necessary, he has spent much of his time on Brigitte, where he has been less than impressive. The other change has involved Yakpung spending more time on Winston, but considering that was his preferred hero during his time in Korea, I’m skeptical that this change would be responsible for a negative trend in performance.
The other members of the team have stayed the same: Ivy is the projectile DPS and Zarya player who is capable but not exceptional on either role; Envy is a high-tier Dva; Neko is a solid Ana but nothing to write home about on Zenyatta; Roky is a very solid main healer whatever form that takes. That is to say, this isn’t a roster that can beat you with its star power. Instead, it needs to win with superior coordination. That’s been lacking both in the specific Brigitte/Main Tank relationship, and between the team as a whole. The shotcalling has looked timid, and the team’s ability to stay grouped has been a consistent issue. Strong opponents like the Shock and Excelsior have torn them apart due to this tendency, but even relatively weaker opponents like Philadelphia have been able to execute a winning strategy in the same manner.
If there’s one thing the Titans excel at, it’s coordination. Whether it’s moving in lockstep during a standard 3/3 engage, or somehow working together in a chaotic fight where everyone is split, Vancouver is somehow always on the same page.
This is going to be a near-repeat of the Defiant vs. Shock match, with the Titans playing the part of the 4-0 victors.
Later in the week, it’ll be time to once again take down the Seoul Dynasty. After a 4-0 win in the Stage 1 Semifinals, the Dynasty made noises about getting revenge during Week 2. Instead, Vancouver utterly dominated them for three maps, then checked out early on Rialto, which accounts for the final 3-1 scoreline.
There’s two ways to interpret what’s happened since then, the right one and the wrong one. The wrong one is to point out that Seoul have won 3 in a row, setting themselves up for another playoff berth. The right way is to note that the Dynasty have lost two matches this stage, suffering a 3-2 defeat at the hands of the Gladiators and the aforementioned 3-1 pummeling from the Titans. Their 3 victories, meanwhile, include one impressive 4-0 against the Fuel, one “do you want a cookie?” victory over the Outlaws, and a nailbiting 3-2 victory over… the Los Angeles Valiant.
In other words, Seoul is 3-2 with one actually impressive victory, and would you look at that, do you know who else beat the Fuel 4-0? That’s right, it’s the Titans. Trying to argue in favor of Seoul based on results comes down to pointing out that the Titans lost a map against the Outlaws, which is a long way from convincing.
The Dynasty aren’t a bad team–far from it. But they’re just not on the same level as Vancouver. This is Seoul’s third bite at the apple, and I expect it to go much like the first two.
The Titans will dominate 3 maps, then get bored, and Bumper will set a record for most time spent emoting in a match en route to a 3-1 victory.