Ready Set Pwn

Author: Fyandor (page 1 of 7)

Stage 3 Week 3 Preview: Hunters and Valiant

This week, the Titans take another look at two teams they haven’t seen since Stage 1, the Chengdu Hunters and the Los Angeles Valiant. Outside of our comfy little bubble of being the best team every week, others have been rising and falling, and these two teams exemplify the different directions that can go. Los Angeles have ascended from the “will they even win a game?” tier into a respectable mediocrity. Meanwhile Chengdu have fallen from heights of promise into a spot where they just don’t look competitive against anyone at all decent.

In other words, both of these teams are pretty bad, and somewhere within the two victories the Titans will clinch an appearance in the play-ins, which is the sort of idle thinking you can do when nothing important will happen in the week’s matches.

Since we play them first, let’s start with Chengdu. The team that pioneered Hammond-and-3-DPS compositions has had a few bright moments where things almost came together. Never forget that Chengdu is one of only two teams to take the Titans to a map 5 in a normal series, and that that was a fully-deserved result. Vancouver struggled mightily against the aerial prowess of Jinmu and the bizarre hamster-ball tactics of Ameng, and the two maps Chengdu won were actually quite lopsided in their favor. A key part of that series was another moment of potential: Ameng, the Hammond one-trick, swapped to Rein and went toe-to-toe with, or even outclassed, Bumper. Suddenly it looked as if the Hunters would be able to use both whacky triple DPS and standard 3/3 at high levels: what more could you need to fear a team?

Alas for them, it was not to be. The multi-DPS, impressive as it looked, has struggled to get map wins because of how objective-unfocused it was. Ameng’s star turn on Reinhardt turned out to be overperformance, and the long-awaited arrival of their original main tank, Jiqiren, didn’t prove to be the solution either. Chengdu are now stuck in a weird spot. Triple DPS has uses, but mostly around a core of solid 3/3 play, and the team isn’t strong enough either with Ameng or with Jiqiren in to provide that base, plus they have yet to show a strong-looking Sombra composition. They’re 1-2 this stage, with losses to the Valiant and the Guangzhou Charge, neither of which indicate a team ready to challenge for anything. I’m still a bit scared of them mechanically—this team’s individual skill is just nuts—but their coordination has actually gone backwards, and without coordination you aren’t beating Vancouver.

The Titans are better, and the Hunters won’t get as close as they did last time. 3-1 Vancouver.

The Valiant, meanwhile, have improved dramatically, although I’m going to give myself credit for the brilliant insight that it would be better to have a Lucio player play Lucio than a main tank. Paycheck please.

Since putting Custa back into the main lineup, the Valiant have, well, stopped losing every single game they play in. They’ve dug themselves into an awful hole for stage playoffs, with their record still stuck at 5-12, but at least those 5 wins are coming somewhat recently. Solidifying a Zarya player in KSF has given important consistency, even if he’s not on anyone’s short list of best Zaryas in the league. Agilities has learned to play brig, and weirdly is on the short list of statistical best performers on the hero (I’m serious, it’s true). I still take that with a mound of salt because come on, but it’s better than him being bad by both statistics and the eye tes. New main tank FCTFCTN is probably less individually-skilled than Fate, but the team as a whole works around him better. And benching Izayaki so he could intently meditate on how to not press Q at the worst possible time has paid real dividends, with Kariv outputting the same amount of damage and also occasionally healing his teammates. All these adjustments have meant the Valiant are no longer complete garbage, but they’re now comfortably mediocre.

That’s not enough to hang with the Titans even a little bit. 4-0 Vancouver.

Stage 3 Week 2 Postgame: Titans vs. Spark

If you didn’t watch, you might see the 3-1 scoreline and think the Titans were their usual dominant selves against Hanzhou. You would be mistaken.

Of all the games Vancouver has won, this was easily the closest to disaster. The Titans spent the entire match playing on a knife’s edge, and the Catholic church is currently looking into canonizing all six members of the team after they demonstrated an ability to work miracles. To be perfectly honest, I think the Titans deserved to lose this match 3-1 instead of winning it.

Map 1: Oasis

This was the one map the Titans easily deserved to win. On Gardens, their superior pressure earned them easy fight victories up to 97% control. The Spark dug deep and invested every single ultimate they had in order to retake, which was successful, but the Titans lost the battle to win the war. They returned with a stockpile of ultimates, Bumper’s shatter pin onto Adora was the opening pick, and the final fight was easily won.

On University, Bumper’s attempts to put on pressure was punished by Bebe, who got a discord onto him and then found a brief window of dropped shield to take him out with a right click. Hangzhou took the point first, but in the next fight Guxue’s shield was blasted down by the Titans, who seized the advantage to secure the wipe and flip the point. Once again, easy fight victories built to a final overtime fight, in which Slime twice removed Guxue by dropping him into the center point. When Seominsoo locked the Spark in a grav, Ria tried to defensively self-destruct, but accidentally dropped that in the hole as well—and since this isn’t golf, that was an awful thing for his team. Totally unthreatened by the misplaced bomb, Vancouver wiped everyone in the grav, then everyone outside, taking the first map handily.

Titans 1 : Spark 0

Map 2: Horizon Lunar Colony

Vancouver were first to attack, and went for their Sombra look, with Seominsoo on the hacker and Jjanu flexing onto Zarya. It… didn’t go well. EMP took more than 2 minutes to build, and didn’t even ge to to be used because Adora bashed Seominsoo out of it. Bumper hit a heroic shatter to save the day, but that wasn’t encouraging for the efficacy of the plan. On point B, Seominsoo took too long to find an opening, then when it was finally used only a single enemy was hacked. It was Bumper, again, who came up clutch for his team, securing the second point on the back of another tremendous shatter. Seominsoo had spent about 6 minutes playing Sombra, and only hit a single target across 2 uses of EMP—not good stats.

Vancouver tried for the same composition on defense, of which I am not a fan because of how easily the enemy can snowball you. The first fight was effective, but the second was a clown fiesta. Bumper died on a charge, then Seominsoo’s EMP was used but got not value without a swinging Rein, then Jjanu’s grav got no value for the same reason. Hangzhou took A easily and ran onto B for the snowball. Ria tried to zone Vancouver off the point with a self-destruct, which worked out even better for him when it took out Jjanu. Then Seominsoo’s EMP at least hit most of the enemy, but two Titans were already down and IDK was waiting around the corner with a sound barrier, so in the end it accomplished nothing.

That put the Titans at a disadvantage in the timebank round, which they exacerbated by having Haksal die first. Then, despite entrenching themselves on point, both Slime and Haksal were taken out during a trans, and Seominsoo’s no good very bad day continued when his grav was eaten. In the final fight, Ria’s bomb took out two to seal the nail in the coffin. Even with Jjanu getting a 2k bomb of his own, it was a bridge too far, and they were stopped at about 47%. Against a 5 minute timebank, that was nigh impossible, and at least they didn’t play with our heartstrings by drawing it out overly long. Bumper died first, Seominsoo was next, the match was tied.

Titans 1 : Spark 1

Map 3: Numbani

Captain Planet (the OWL stats guy) apparently doesn’t believe in jinxing things, because before the map even started he flashed a stat on the screen. The Titans roster has not lost on Numbani since October 2, 2017, which in Overwatch terms is actually forever ago. After the first two minutes, it looked like that string of victories would easily continue: multiple won fights had given the titans a bank of 6 ultimates, putting them in position to potentially extend the hold for the full time. Instead, Guxue was able to charge Slime to death out of a graviton, and then swing away on Bumper. The Titans quickly stabilized, and once again with 2 minutes on the clock had a superior ult bank. But a clever rotation from Godsb and Adora took Haksal by surprise, stunning and deleting him to give Hangzhou the upper hand.

The Spark leveraged that advantage very, very, very slowly. Despite being a player up, they basically didn’t commit to a fight, instead wiggling around the payload in a bizarre game of musical chairs. Vancouver was never quite able to evict them, as they might well (in retrospect) have been able to, but the clock had been sent nearly to 0. When Vancouver won a fight in the tunnel with only 18 seconds remaining, Bumper pushed forward to find exit kills with his team. However, the Spark retreated brilliantly, and they had a secret weapon: Ria was hiding in the upstairs, ready to fly onto the cart and trigger overtime. Surprised that they had to go back, the Titans didn’t capitalize on Seominsoo’s grav and failed to kill a weakened Adora when they had a chance. Instead, he used rally, Guxue killed Bumper, and the Spark came within 2 meters of completing the map.

That was less good than one might have hoped, but the Titans have always excelled at attacking on this map. Their first push showed why: Guxue dropped in to swing and was melted before he knew what was going on, the rest of Hangzhou fell in quick succession, and the cart was on the move.

Not for long, though. Seominsoo pushed forward to try to get charge and/or kills, but was unceremoniously killed for overextending, which seemed innocuous but ended up being huge. A tremendous 5 minute timebank was whittled down to nearly nothing as, fight after fight, members of the Titans were dropped first.

It wasn’t anyone in particular: in order, they lost Seominsoo, Haksal, Seominsoo, Jjanu, and Bumper. It was just that Hangzhou focused their targets perfectly, while Vancouver seemed utterly disjointed. I particularly look at Seominsoo’s grav, used after Bumper had died and multiple other members of his team had been killed off the resultant shatter. Finally Vancouver took out Guxue, and to their credit they seized the opportunity with gusto, charging forward to eliminate the Spark. A lost fight on C brought the time down to 15 seconds, ensuring that any completion would be in overtime. But Seominsoo’s big grav was followed up on, and intelligent ult usage meant there was enough in the tank to emerge victorious from the scrap at the very end of the fight. That said, right until the end of the map, it absolutely felt like an incoming loss for the Titans, who were outplayed aside from the 3 fights they somehow managed to win the map with.

Titans 2 : Spark 1

Map 4: Havana

Attacking first, the Titans again tried out a Sombra composition, and again struggled to accomplish anything with it. Seominsoo at least built EMP faster, but didn’t catch Bebe with it, and Bumper was stunned out of shatter when he tried to extend the fight as trans ran out. After two minutes of abject failure, swaps came through to return to a 3/3, which did bring them to the end of A with about 30 seconds remaining. Matching self destructs devolved the fight into chaos, but the key was Seominsoo dying when Godsb did not. Without a Zarya, the Titans were far behind in damage output, and they succumbed with a meter remaining on the push for A.

From that position, winning seemed impossible. Hangzhou had only managed to hold because their forward defense had held for more than two minutes: the Titans couldn’t count on the Spark to be anywhere near as ineffectual as they themselves had been.

This time, it was 3/3 from the beginning. As usually happens, Vancouver held in an aggressive forward position, but only brought the clock down to 3:00 before the payload moved. Plus, the Spark WERE playing a Sombra composition. Even if the Titans hadn’t been able to find value, EMP is supposed to be a fight win button, and Hangzhou could probably get two of them, which would be two opportunities for a map win. The first one was used to wipe the whole team, but Twilight stayed out of range and contested the payload while everyone else was dying. He was staggered, but had bought crucial time for his team to get one last touch. Everyone streamed out of the doors, Seominsoo hit a big grav… and Bumper died. But Twilight, returning late, sniped Godsb, reversing the positions from the previous round. Seominsoo, still alive, put out so much damage that the Spark couldn’t engage well, and this close to the end of A, traded kills favored the Titans. Hangzhou had to retreat, but there was still a minute left and the second EMP was charged.

That’s when the biggest mistake of the map was made. Ria flanked around the side, ready to fly in with an EMP and seal the map. His teammates pressed forward, engaging the Titans in a 5v6 that would be inescapable when their movement abilities were rendered useless by the EMP.

But the EMP never came. Ria had, instead, accidentally translocated to a safe location far from the fight, leaving Adora to be killed and the rest of Hangzhou pushed back. When they returned, Seominsoo locked everyone up with a grav, and the EMP was used defensively. There is a reason that is not a normal sentence. The map-winning ult was wasted in that situation, and instead it was Vancouver who were able to secure opening kills onto Adora and IDK, winning the fight, map, and match in the process.

FINAL SCORE

Titans 3 : Spark 1

Player of the Match

I started awarding Player of the Match because I wanted to highlight exemplary performances during the match. Sometimes, it’s for the player whose moment of heroism turned around a lost fight; sometimes it’s the player who was consistently good across the match; sometimes it’s the player whose ability to flex opened up a new and interesting composition.

Today, I’m adding a new rationale: the winner by default.

Twilight didn’t have a superstar game today, but he’s basically the only one who actually played well.

I don’t want to be mean here, but explaining this decision requires a bit of it. Seominsoo’s Sombra was just plain bad today, to the point that I seriously think the Titans deserved to lose this match because of it. Without a dva player, Bumper failed to moderate his playstyle, and aside from his earthshatters on Horizon that kept the map from being a complete humiliation, his impact on the game was mostly visible on the wrong side of the kill feed. Haksal has developed a bad case of “getting-picked-first-itis.” Jjanu and Slime were mostly silent. Twilight, today, felt a bit like the Jjonak of his team: the only good fights Vancouver ever had came when he managed to discord and kill a key target.

Stage 3 Week 2 Postgame: Titans vs. Fuel

GG matchmaking. For some reason, the Vancouver Titans of the Overwatch League faced off today against a Contenders team called the Dallas Fuel, who…

Hold on, I’m getting word that the Fuel are, in fact, an equal member of the Overwatch League.

Could have fooled me.

The Titans eviscerated Dallas in one of the more crushing 4-0 matches I’ve ever watched. This is always fun to talk about. Let’s go.

Map 1: Ilios

Right off the bat on Ruins, the Titans made their biggest mistake of the entire match. Jjanu used his boosters to take a side angle, but Zacharee was waiting with the whipshot to knock him off the edge of the map, forcing an immediate Titans disengage.

I say that was their biggest mistake because from here on out, Vancouver was nearly flawless. They quickly regrouped, pulverised a separated OGE, and took point with only 14% capture progress accrued. From there, the Titans won fights in every way possible. Sometimes Twilight found a long range pick and forced a disengage. Sometimes they countered the Fuel’s ults with ones of their own. Sometimes they just ran straight at the Dallas frontline and bowled them over. It didn’t matter—every strategy was perfect. The only deaths the Titans suffered were a pin on Twilight while he used trans, for which OGE had to charge off the map, and one when Bumper charged off the map to eliminate Zacharee.

After that shellacking, the Fuel swapped to a Sombra composition, and considering how badly they’d been beaten, you couldn’t blame them. But not only are such compositions weaker when EMP isn’t available—of which the Titans took full advantage, smashing every neutral fight—but Vancouver was even able to counteract Note’s EMP with a huge trans from Twilight. This time, the Fuel only managed a single kill across the entire map.

Titans 1 : Fuel 0

Map 2: Volskaya

Attacking first into a 3/3 mirror, Bumper and Seominsoo didn’t rotate together, which let AKM beam down his Zarya counterpart. The opening fight was lost, but Bumper did his best to turn the fight and, when it became clear that wouldn’t happen, to at least build up ult charge. He actually beat OGE to shatter, which was critical for the next push.

First blocking OGE’s shatter, Bumper and the rest of the Titans were caught in a grav. Twilight used trans, so OGE charged Haksal and secured the kill, which for a brief moment seemed like a win for his team. But with the opposing shield no longer in front of him, Bumper saw his opportunity, hitting a massive shatter that allowed his team to take out AKM. The cleanup got him nearly to another shatter, and as soon as he finished it during the first push onto B, he hit an equally-impressive shatter. Dallas immediately were forced into stall mode, and delayed valiantly but completely in vain, leaving the Titans with a hefty 4:21 timebank.

For their attack, the Fuel opted for a Sombra comp, but again ran into trouble when faced with the aggression of the Titans. Every time, Vancouver would find ways to split apart the five-member core of the Fuel, while denying out Note’s EMP for nearly 3 minutes. When it finally came out, EMP did break their first-point defense, putting the remaining members in a tricky spot. For a moment, it seemed they might try to contest short-handed: then they thought better of it and scrambled to return. Seominsoo barely made it into the safe haven of Point B before the Fuel came around the corner. Sensing an opportunity, AKM caught him with a grav, but the rest of the Titans were ready. Slime used barrier while Bumper used his shield, preventing the kill that might have started a snowball. Instead it was Haksal who found the opener on OGE, stopping a great chance for the Fuel.

Another great chance for the Fuel were equally squandered. Note hacked a lot of members with EMP, but Seominsoo was able to laser down Closer and Unkoe despite being locked in grav. Finally in a third fight, Bumper tried to follow up a grav but was shattered to the ground and instantly deleted, opening the door for Dallas to complete. But by the time stalls were done, their timebank was nearly 3 minutes worse than Vancouver’s, and far shorter than the time it had taken for them to capture Point A the first time around.

It was less time than they needed to take A the second time around as well. Twilight played Ana to counter the Sombra comp, which Dallas then countered by swapping to Dva. But despite the defense matrix being present, every single bionade Twilight threw hit home. The first push was a wipe due to a well-placed nade, then a nano Bumper found the entire Fuel team inside a small room, which is basically every team’s nightmare. Not a single tick was gained, and Bumper was feeling really good.

And when he feels good, it’s time for him to go DPS. Today, it was Widowmaker, and he was legitimately the most impactful member of the team. Besides his presence forcing the Fuel into a side room off the point, he was connecting with key shots, including a beautiful headshot onto Unkoe. He was so hot, in fact, that after that kill he grappled directly to the left into the icy water of Volskaya Bay, just hoping to cool off. Lucky for him, the rest of the team made sure to secure the point, putting the Titans well ahead in the series.

Titans 2 : Fuel 0

Map 3: Eichenwalde

During halftime, I was having a conversation about what the most iconic maps are for the Titans and for Runaway. I submit that it’s Rialto for the Titans, but if you include Runaway I think it’s got to be Eichenwalde. This led to me saying that I wanted to see a map record on Eichenwalde, which I suppose is greedy but seemed eminently possible based on how the series was going.

Spoiler: the Titans didn’t get a map record. But they came darn close. The Fuel were more akin to speedbumps than an actual opposition force. Their worst fights were immediate wipes, while their best fights were wipes that the Titans had to work slightly harder for. Apart from a single victorious fight for Dallas on a Point C defense, the cart never rolled backwards the entire map. The final time was 2:19, with a 30-3 elimination advantage.

Twilight opened the defense on Ana, clearly anticipating a Sombra, and was surprised to find himself staring down a standard 3/3. He stayed on it just to use nano, but ended up getting to build and use two before Dallas got moving and he had to swap to Zen. That didn’t come online in time to counter AKM’s grav at the end of B, but once the Fuel entered the castle the value became apparent. The extra damage provided by discord orbs was tremendous, providing enough power to stop Dallas in their tracks for 3 minutes. Finally, Note ate a grav and the Titans were unintentionally out of position, giving Dallas one final chance to complete the map.

But Twilight had something to say about that, too. He hid in a side room behind the Fuel and let them sail nearly all the way to the end before emerging to snipe Unkoe for an opening pick. Then he used trans to save his teammates caught in a grav, which combined with Slime’s sound barrier gave everyone time to return to the fight. With Bumper and Seominsoo returned to the fray, and Unkoe still across the map, the Fuel melted right before the end point, giving the Titans a win on the map and in the match.

Titans 3 : Fuel 0

Map 4: Dorado

The only question for this map was if the Titans would actually try to win, because it was clear that the Fuel were irrelevant to that conversation. If Vancouver wanted to get a 4-0, there wasn’t anything anyone on Dallas could do about it. As it turned out, this looked like an opportunity to give Rapel some playtime and once again try the Sombra comp that has looked so hit or miss thus far.

What’s interesting is that, far from feeling like an EMP-based strategy, it’s tended to feel like a Bumper-based one. Despite having less support than normal, Bumper seems to play at a higher level when his team tries this strategy. He unlocked Point A by shattering and killing most of the enemy team even after Jjanu died, then won the first fight of B when he managed to stay alive with almost no health while the rest of his squad cleaned up kills. Seominsoo finally had another ult at the end of B, which made it easy, then it was Bumper time again when he hid and flanked with shatter. Unfortunately Jjanu was countercharged, resulting in his death, and from here the Titans got kind of sloppy in their attacks.

Twice they got into majorly advantageous position, but each time they failed to focus targets effectively and ended up succumbing to the closer respawn at the end of Dorado. In the end, a Jjanu grav secured a team wipe, and despite losing their supports for the third push in a row, there was just enough HP left on the Titans to finish the map.

On defense, the Titans returned to a normal 3/3 (except, of course, that Rapel was the Zen instead of Twilight). They held aggressively forward, so that it took Dallas 2 minutes to reach the fountain, but once there they found an opening kill on Bumper. When AKM followed up with a grav, Dallas made short work of the Titans, working out to a reasonable pace considering Vancouver had only completed in overtime. On B it was the same story, as the Titans spent 2 minutes spawncamping before losing a fight, then failing to stabilize at the final gate. It was bizarre to watch Vancouver dominate the “junk” fights at the early part of a point, then put up no resistance at the end, but it ended up working out fine. As had happened on A and B, the Fuel were thrown back from C right at the entry, with precious little time remaining. When Seominsoo’s grav and Bumper’s shatter won a fight with only 30 seconds remaining, the Fuel had to enter scramble mode to even touch the cart—but Closer on Lucio had been the last to die, which meant they were just a bit slower than might have been expected. No one reached in time, delivering the Titans an easy fourth win of the match.

FINAL SCORE

Titans 4 : Fuel 0

Player of the Match

In the other match this week, the Titans were largely outplayed by the Hangzhou Spark, and though they managed the win in the end, it was a sloppy affair in which no one played particularly well. This match was the exact inverse: everyone on Vancouver was solid in an entirely justified 4-0. But I have set myself the task of picking out someone in particular to highlight, and I think there was one player who rose above the rest.

It’s been a while since Bumper had a really good game, but today he showed what top-tier main tanking looks like.

The thing about Bumper is that he seems to excel at all facets of main tanking in this meta, especially when he gets to play Reinhardt. He does little things right, like angling his shield while stuck in grav to protect someone who’s been shattered (watch Eichenwalde C defense for an example). He puts himself in front of teammates to make sure they don’t die—his contribution to Volskaya B defense prevented a Fuel snowball when Seominsoo was caught retreating. And his firestrike accuracy is phenomenal, especially on Dorado C defense.

But really, the biggest play a Reinhardt can make is an earthshatter. And today, Bumper was hitting them left and right. Bumper has always been good at charging his ultimate quickly, but sometimes—like in the previous match against the Spark—they haven’t amounted to much because he’s hit nothing but shields. I don’t know if today’s improvement was specific to OGE or if the coaches noticed something he could change to improve, but the results were clear as day.

Stage 3 Week 2 Preview: Spark & Fuel

This week, the Titans revisit two teams they’ve already faced in the Hangzhou Spark and the Dallas Fuel. In each of those previous matches, Vancouver took home 4-0 victories, and developments since then don’t make me think those results will be meaningfully different this time around.

The first match is against Hangzhou, a team who I think are a real dark horse to find their stride and become a powerhouse. It is, admittedly, hard to justify that based on their results—they missed playoffs in Stage 1 and snuck in in Stage 2. But their roster has a lot of talent, and they definitely deserved to be the #4 team in the Stage 2 playoffs. The gradual meta shift into allowing DPS compositions to exist should be good for them: GodsB is basically Carpe again, Krystal might be the best DPS player from China, and Bazzi is a monster on hitscan. Guxue is a star on Winston, and when paired with the defensively-minded Ria on DVa, he can carry the team. The support line is more fine than phenomenal, but you hardly have time to see them before the DPS have ripped your face apart.

Of course, I’m wasting my time a bit theorycrafting the optimal Hangzhou Spark dive composition. For the moment, 3/3 is still king, and the Spark are a decent if unexceptional squad by that metric. Maybe we’ll get to see some DPS and have a skill-off, maybe we won’t, but the Spark aren’t going to be the victors in a 3/3 mirror. At least they have cool posters.

The Titans are just plain better, they won 4-0 once, and they’ll do it again here.

The other opponent is the Dallas Fuel, who look like the perfect team to be the lowest seed of the playoffs. They’re not bad, but they’re not all that good either, instead looking like a physical incarnation of the concept of “fine.” Adding Note to the roster has been a real improvement for them (imagine if they’d just kept good Dva player Seagull…) and AKM’s Zarya has proven surprisingly serviceable along with his good DPS play. But unlike Hangzhou, there are no stars here, and the team coordination just doesn’t approach the level Vancouver deploys every match. There’s not a composition or map or anything that seems like it would put the Fuel in the driver’s seat of a match like Paris did for the Gladiators.

Vancouver will outclass the Fuel in every way, and set at least one map record in the process.

Titans vs. Gladiators Postgame

Against likely their strongest competition this stage, the Titans emphatically demonstrated their dominance over the Gladiators in a 3-1 smash. Los Angeles snatched a win with their cheesy Paris bunker comp, but everywhere else it was all Titans, all the time.

Map 1: Ilios

The match kicked off on Ruins, where the Titans immediately made a statement by gluing down their W keys. The frontline battle was over in a heartbeat as Roar was focused down, then the chase was on for Vancouver, who easily grabbed the first cap. Over successive fights the Gladiators managed to pick off Twilight and then Bumper, but the Titans were able to slow down play to such a degree that control only flipped at 99%. It was actually surprising how long it took for Vancouver to retake, as they botched what should have been an easy wipe with grav and no countering trans. Instead, they flipped, weren’t able to consolidate, lost control again, and finally won the last fight at 99-99 to take the first round.

Lighthouse seemed to start the same way, but the Gladiators actually caught the Titans tanks too far forward and got first cap. Undeterred, the Titans came back and solidly won the next fight, building to 59% before losing control. Once again, a lost fight in no way affected Vancouver’s confidence, as they fought so aggressively that Shaz was forced to use trans early, saving his team for a few more seconds but leaving them helpless in the face of Seominsoo’s grav. As Vancouver built to 99, the Gladiators came in for one final fight and seemed to gain the upper hand. Seominsoo tossed in what seemed to be a poor choice of grav, and Jjanu committed self-destruct to it, but with Roar still alive that play seemed destined to fizzle. To the rescue came Haksal, who found the shield bash at the exact right time to remove the Gladiators’ protective barrier. The self destruct killed 2, Haksal and Slime cleaned up, and the Titans got a quick 2-0 on control.

Titans 1 : Gladiators 0

Map 2: Paris

In their last game against the Dallas Fuel, the Gladiators had showcased the best version of the Paris bunker composition yet seen, which managed a full-hold against the Texan team. It was pretty clear they would run it again, so Vancouver’s attack made a couple interesting modifications.

Twilight played Ana for heal denies, and Slime flexed to Baptiste to provide more burst healing and the invulnerability field. But the unique wrinkle was placing Haksal on Symmetra and sticking with it: he was on the hero for the entire attack phase, which I’m pretty sure is the most Symmetra we have ever seen on the big stage.

Things got off to a bad start when it took Haksal 30 seconds to set up a teleporter, only for it to be instantly destroyed, and then Slime was killed while the team rotated through the parking area into the hotel on the right-hand side of point. Despite that, the primary objective was still achieved—when the Titans moved onto the point, Los Angeles wasn’t able to redeploy their bunker in time, and Vancouver picked them apart to take first point.

But from there, things actually went bad. Roar managed to kill Haksal on the first approach, then Hydration (playing Orisa) was able to damage boost the bastion right after Symmetra’s ultimate was used, burning it away within seconds. Despite Sym wall, Nano, Earthshatter, Grav, and Self-Destruct being invested, the Titans came away with no progress whatsoever, prompting a swap to more standard 3/3. Recognizing that composition’s weakness at closing distances, the Gladiators played constant ring-around-the-point with Vancouver, ensuring that Surefour could dish out serious damage before being eliminated. With only a minute left, the Titans had finally built another grav and used it to force the Gladiators to stand, fight, and die, but the good timebank was dramatically whittled down.

On the defense, the Titans put Bumper on Winston to counter multi-DPS compositions, but it felt like the inverse of most Titans games—this time they were the ones struggling as hard as they could just to barely break even. The first push was rebuffed, but Bumper’s jump was punished by a Hydration barrage which Twilight wasn’t able to sleep in time. That slight window was all Los Angeles needed to take the first point with a similar time to what Vancouver had managed, but they rolled on to second with a critical advantage: Surefour hadn’t had to use EMP to take first.

In the end, the threat of EMP was more valuable than the actual ult. Seominsoo forced an engage with a grav, but Shaz’s bionade kept his team alive and led to quick eliminations of all 3 tanks, even through sound barrier. The Gladiators easily took the point with about 4:30 remaining, and the writing was on the wall.

When the Titans failed their attack run, thanks to yet another excellent nade from Shaz (who was without a doubt the carry for the Gladiators on this map), a tie was the best Vancouver could hope for. But defending Paris for more than 4 minutes is a daunting task, and despite their best efforts the Titans couldn’t keep it up forever. Shaz killed Bumper, Hydration denied the rez with a concussive blast, and the Gladiators had tied up the series.

Titans 1 : Gladiators 1

Map 3: Hollywood

Back on a map where bunker composition hasn’t been shown to work, the Titans returned the match to a 3/3 mirror. Their defense on first was nearly ironclad, repelling every push with ease until Void was forced to self-destruct and accidentally got a double kill. That meant the Gladiators at least got to see the next part of the map, but they only had time for two pushes, and the Titans found pickoffs that reduced the opportunity to a solitary final attempt. Later support ults from the Titans, and a big shatter from Bumper, stopped the Gladiators dead halfway through the West World portion of the map.

That was an easy attack run to defeat for Vancouver, who always look strong on this first point. After being thrown back once, Vancouver rotated through the cafe, taking such a superior position that many of their ults didn’t even have to be used. That meant a big bank for the streets phase, where Bumper and Seominsoo immediately cashed in shatter and grav to net a clean fight win. LA had to scramble a defense far more forward than is really comfortable, which was a set up for failure. Forced to contest, they took massive damage, and were unable to cycle contesting the payload, which rolled into the victory box even before any kills had been recorded.

Titans 2 : Gladiators 1

Map 4: Gibraltar

Sometimes, teams set records for fastest completion, and we call that a dominant performance. That is, of course, warranted—being the very fastest to finish a map indicates a strong run—but it’s not the only way of showcasing dominance. One of the others is in kill/death ratio. This, of course, doesn’t correlate 1:1 with Overwatch success (any solo queuer could tell you that) but there is a pretty strong relationship.

I say all this because, on this map, the Titans decided to put the series to bed. Recounting fight wins here is pointless, because on their offensive run Vancouver not only tied the fastest attack run on Gibraltar (a 4:18 time), but did it in flawless fashion, recording 24 kills and 0 deaths.

Forced to somehow respond to that, the Gladiators basically didn’t. First fight: wipe 6-0. Second fight: wipe 6-0. Third fight: wipe 5-0 (Void fled back to spawn). Finally, in the last fight of the map, Los Angeles managed kills on Twilight and Bumper, and for a second it looked like they would at least take Point B. Instead, the Titans returned in force, wiped their opponents, and brought to a close one of the most one-sided affairs we’ve ever seen, with Vancouver recording 47 kills to Los Angeles’ 2.

FINAL SCORE

Titans 3 : Gladiators 1

Player of the Match

Make no mistake, Vancouver crushed this matchup. Everyone on the Titans played well, with Gibraltar standing out in particular as a map where everyone deserves credit for the victory. But I’ve set up this means of highlighting one player’s contribution, and when I thought about it, the choice ended up being pretty clear-cut.

Jjanu was his usual outstanding self on Dva, and also showed he plays a pretty mean Zarya.

In terms of Dva play, you know what to look for. Clutch self-destruct to turn around a fight? How about the one on Ilios Lighthouse, or the one on Hollywood attack that didn’t net kills itself, but forced split positioning from the Gladiators which made them easy pickings for the rest of his team? Eating gravs, as per usual he munched a couple that might otherwise have been big plays for the opponents. Absorbing damage was clear throughout, as the Titans won poke battle after poke battle due to his superior use of defense matrix.

But what I loved was his Zarya play. On two different maps, the Titans put Seominsoo on Sombra, in what looked like a continued test run of changing up their look in the event it would be helpful. That left Jjanu to flex onto Zarya, big shoes to fill when the Titans are used to having the best in the business occupying that role. I’m obviously not ready to anoint him superior to SMS, but from what we saw he would be an immediate upgrade for a lot of teams, and not just garbage tier squads like Mayhem—even London would be improved if he were to join. With good bubble usage, good energy preservation, and good gravs, the team remains strong when he flexes onto that role.

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