In the first week of Stage 3, the Titans are facing off against two teams that are polar opposites. Coming into Season 2 of the Overwatch League, many saw Atlanta as a team that would be outside the playoffs, while the Gladiators were seen as a powerhouse team that could be playoff contenders all year. In typical fashion, the opposite happened. Atlanta made the Stage 1 playoffs while the Gladiators fell short, Atlanta also lost a key player in Dafran while the Gladiators added an insane player in Decay. When things normalized and Atlanta fell out of the playoff picture in Stage 2, why then were they able to defeat NYXL while the Gladiators couldn’t make anything work in the playoffs?
From what we’ve seen so far in Season 2 of the Overwatch League, there are two ways to defeat NYXL. Either you run an aggressive Sombra GOATS team and beat them with EMP or you run a more traditional GOATS team and run directly at them. The Reign opted for the GOATS and run strategy, which paid off both times these teams faced off. In the Stage 2 playoffs, the Gladiators tried the same strategy but were never able to run at the Excelsior with the same aggression as the Titans and Reign did.
There’s a reason that among teams who have won a playoff round this season, most of them are aggressive teams. The Titans, Shock, Dynasty, and Spark are all teams who aren’t afraid to run at you. The two less aggressive teams who have won playoff rounds are the NYXL, who defeated the equally passive Gladiators and the Philadelphia Fusion. The Fusion are a weird case, where they have some very skilled players, but because of the meta, elite players like Carpe aren’t put in a position to succeed. The Fusion were able to defeat the Reign in the playoffs because their players are so much better than Atlanta’s, however when the Fusion had to face off against the Shock, it was a clean sweep in favor of the Shock.
All this being said, which team will give the Titans the bigger challenge this week? In this Owl’s opinion, I’d say that the Reign will put up more of a fight. Not only are they the more aggressive team, but the Titans historically falter when playing multiple teams in a single week. In stage 1, both times the Titans played a double feature, one of the matches went to game 5, fortunately they did get their act together in Stage 2. The Titans lost some extra maps they probably should have won, but they seemed a lot more prepared than in Stage 1’s extra map wins against the Charge and Hunters.
The Shock were taken to their limits against the Reign in a match that can only be described as a clown fiesta. The Shock look like they may have relaxed too much over the break while the Reign were hungry to get back in the playoffs. Hopefully the Titans have been practicing, because if they need a map to shake off the rust, Atlanta might never take their foot off the gas. Statistically speaking, the Titans and Reign are both 50% winrate on the first map Nepal, 2-2 and 1-1, Hollywood is equally close, 3-1 and 3-0. Paris and Watchpoint: Gibraltar on the other hand are blowouts in favor of the Titans. Not only are the Vancouver squad drastically better on map types, but Atlanta is 0-3 on Watchpoint and 1-2 on Paris, while the Titans’ only loss this season on either of these maps was to the Shock in the Stage 2 finals. Still, while none of the Reign’s map type win percentages are above 60%, they seem to play to their opponents level where they can beat elite teams while still losing to average and below average teams.
The LA Gladiators on the other hand, had exactly one elite map type in Stage 2. They sat around 90% winrate on Hybrid maps, but when you look over the whole season, they also don’t have any map types where they win over 60% of the time. Ilios, the first map in this tilt, has been a tough location for the Gladiators, they have a 1-1 record this season but an awful 4-11 record all-time. Other than Ilios, the teams are pretty close in terms of single map win percentages. 3-0/2-0 on Paris, 3-1/2-0 on Hollywood, and 2-1/2-1 on Watchpoint: Gibraltar. While these teams are similar enough statistically, their play isn’t close, the Titans are a far better team with better players who play a better style of Overwatch. The Gladiators can’t even opt to play Sombra goats because Decay’s Sombra hasn’t been up to snuff at the OWL level yet.
If the Titans show up to Stage 3 prepared, they win both of these games. If they come in rusty, they will need to shake it off quickly as both of these teams are hungry after disappointing stages. This first week will be the most critical games for the Titans if they want a third 7-0 stage in a row and it’ll be interesting to see if the team has the mental strength to bounce back into shape after a long break.