In the first week of Stage 2, I called the Hangzhou Spark a bad team. That’s because in the first week of Stage 2, the Hangzhou Spark were a bad team. Hangzhou had a pathetic first 6 weeks in the Overwatch League, but they finally seem to have gotten their act together. They were one of the first Chinese teams to make the playoffs with Shanghai Dragons, however they did so in part due to the Seoul Dynasty having an incredibly difficult schedule. It still came down to the wire due to the Spark’s horrendous map +/-. In Stage 2, the Spark went from one of the most underachieving teams in the league to a playoff threat. They were able to take down the London Spitfire, an admittedly underperforming team, before getting destroyed by the Shock, just like everyone else.
The Dallas Fuel on the other hand, were unable to upset their first round opponent, the Vancouver Titans, hey that’s us! The Fuel sneaked into the playoffs thanks to an incredibly easy schedule. They lost to the Titans and Dynasty while beating the Defiant, Eternal, Valiant, Outlaws and Mayhem. They also are a team who badly need upgrades in the player department. The Fuel have a near elite tank duo in Note and OGE, Zacharee is currently one of the more underwhelming Brigitte players in the league.
One of the biggest takeaways from Stage 3’s first week is that the Titans came away unfazed from their finals loss and subsequent long break. While the Shock succumbed to the time off the Titans were able to somehow turn up the intensity on their already impressive 19-1 (16-0 in league standings) season. The Titans showed they still had their hive-mind activated and with dominant wins against two of the league’s better teams they firmly positioned themselves back at the top of the league’s power rankings.
While the Shock started slow, being taken to map 5 against the Atlanta Reign, the Titans were off to the races fast with two dominant wins. On the heels of Atlanta’s roller coaster tilt, the Titans were able to offer a far better showing. We saw things briefly grind to a halt on Paris, but following that, the Titans ramped up the intensity again to clear out Hollywood and Watchpoint: Gibraltar. Atlanta right now is struggling to break out of the mid-table teams with a mediocre performance in Stage 2, they do seem to play to their opponents skill level. Their last 5 matches involved a close loss to the Shock, two wins against the NYXL, a good showing against the Titans and a 3-1 loss to the Guangzhou Charge. To say one of these teams is not like the others is a huge understatement. The Reign were held pointless on both Busan and Rialto while Hanamura and King’s Row were absolute barnburners. The teams split the middle maps with records of 7-6 and 8-7. This team definitely has potential.
If comparing the elite teams match ups against Reign isn’t enough, the Titans also earned their third OWL record against the LA Gladiators. The Gladiators played elite bunker Overwatch on their best map, then fell apart on the other 3. Despite their tendency to lose against good teams, the Gladiators are still a top 6 team in the league, so the Titans having such a huge win over them is pretty impressive. With another week of elite play, it should be no doubt in anyone’s mind that the Titans will be back on top as the best team in the league, especially if the Shock fail to show up again against the Outlaws or Dynasty this week. The Outlaws are widely seen as one of the worse teams in the league, but they still did pretty good against the NYXL last week, while the Dynasty are a good team in their own right with their own upset to NYXL in the Stage 1 playoffs.
When the Titans show up big against the Fuel and Spark, they’re going to reassert themselves as the league’s best team. They haven’t dropped a map to either of these teams yet this season and with all eight maps this weekend, it’s likely we see that trend continue. The Spark aren’t particularly inspiring on Oasis (3-2), H:LC (0-2), Numbani (0-2), the last point however is up in the air. Escort is when the Titans tend to forget they are playing and statistically it’s the Spark’s best map type with a 71% win percentage, but neither of these teams have played on Havana before, so they could sneak a point at the end. That being said, their Assault (38%) and Hybrid (24%) showings have been pathetic this year, the Spark’s style of play doesn’t play very well against the Titans and they are particularly unlucky in the map pool this week.
The Fuel are in similar hot water, Ilios, Volskaya, Eichenwalde and Dorado are all among the best maps for the Titans. Vancouver’s roster has reached elite status on all of these maps, with a combined record of 14-1, the only map loss was on Ilios to the Shock in the Stage 1 finals. For additional context, the Titans roster hasn’t lost on Volskaya Industries in over a year. The Fuel, much like the Spark, have the unfortunate luck of being average at all the maps picked while being pitted up against the league’s best team. Volskaya Industries in particular is free real estate for the Titans, while they are likely the best team in the league here, the Fuel are 0-3-1, while only sporting a 24% win rate on Assault maps total this season. Yes, Ilios (2-0), Dorado (2-1) and Eichenwalde (2-1) do have better records, but their play on these maps has been uninspiring.
It’s likely we see what happened in the Stage 2 playoffs happen again for both of these teams this week, taken out by a far superior team.