Ready Set Pwn

Author: Fyandor (page 2 of 7)

Titans vs. Reign Postgame

Hot on the heels of a near-victory over the San Francisco Shock, the Atlanta Reign had a second chance at taking down one of the league’s top teams. The Titans, though, proved too strong, winning 3-1 in fairly convincing fashion. The Reign can hold their heads high after this performance, but the gap between them and the top teams is still evidently present.

Map 1: Nepal

The match started out on Shrine, where Seominsoo immediately made his presence felt. He killed Erster and Masaa in quick succession, earning the Titans a first cap, and things somehow only got more aggressive from there. Despite allegedly being on the defense, it was the Titans who continually engaged onto the Reign and sent them back to spawn. Atlanta got the upper hand in one fight, but had to use all of their ultimates to do it, which set the Titans up for an easy return Q-fest that earned the victory.

Village was a continuation of the same. Vancouver’s aggressivity earned them quicker ult charge and repeatedly brought members of the Reign low. Even when that didn’t result in kills, it forced disengages from the Atlanta team, dragging out the time between fights. Finally, the Reign flipped, but the Titans returned and caught everyone off the point with a grav, taking control back. Nearly the whole of Atlanta were on fractions of their total health pools when Dogman came up with a hero trans to turn the fight and re-establish control. But that used up Atlanta’s stockpile of miracles, and the Titans easily won the final two fights to take the round without much fanfare.

Titans 1 : Reign 0

Map 2: Paris

Atlanta’s defense put Erster on the Baptiste instead of Brigitte, to which the Titans reacted by running their quad DPS composition. This time, Haksal wasn’t able to find free environmental kills, and Seominsoo’s EMP was countered perfectly by Atlanta’s intelligent rotation plus Dogman’s trans. As has seemed to be the case more consistently, the multi-DPS suffered from being easy to eliminate but still lacking in killing power. Vancouver did break through eventually, but it was on a knife’s edge, and probably wouldn’t have happened if Jjanu hadn’t used his Hammond to boop Pokpo off the map.

That forced a low-time reset onto 3/3 for Vancouver, which necessitated multiple econ pushes to build the necessary ults. Up against an Atlanta squad that had used very little on the first point, they were wiped quickly in push after push. Only in the final overtime fight did Vancouver finally have enough resources to win the fight, but a completion with no timebank was not encouraging.

The only path to victory for Vancouver was a strong defensive hold. In preparation for a multi-DPS comp, the Titans put Bumper on Winston, which did get Atlanta to make the desired switch, but didn’t work out in terms of actual play. Bumper’s primal rage built too slowly, and then he was killed by a self-destruct dropping directly onto his head, putting the Titans in a deep, deep hole. Another death, once again before he could use primal, nearly spelled disaster on Point B, but Jjanu’s grav eat and 3k self-destruct saved the Titans for the moment. When Seominsoo was taken out in the subsequent fight, it made winning nearly impossible, and Atlanta finished with more than 3 minutes remaining.

Because the Titans had finished in overtime, their best possible result was now a draw. But once more, Bumper’s Winston was stunned and killed for the first pick, and there was no way back into the fight for Vancouver, who quickly gave up the first tick and lost the map.

Titans 1 : Reign 1

Map 3: Hollywood

It’s been a while since we saw Hollywood North, which the Titans clearly missed. On defense first, they put up a dominant performance. They won the first fight so convincingly that Bumper had already built a shatter, which gave him a chance to pull his famous “sneaky shatter” play. Haksal then dropped from the sky with a rally as the Titans engaged for another wipe. Atlanta’s only good look in the round came when Daco ate Seominsoo’s grav, which led into a hugely protracted fight. The Reign managed two ticks, but the Titans thrive in chaos. They found the necessary kills, stabilized into a ball, and dealt with the staggered Atlanta players as they came in one by one to close out the full-hold defense.

Vancouver went for a rotation into café, but got into trouble when Haksal died first. They struggled with getting picked first throughout the attack round, as both Bumper and Slime also fell victim to it, but the pressure of being perfect was too much for Atlanta to bear. Despite taking out Bumper, the rest of the team was so low on health that Seominsoo was able to beam them all to death, the Titans got both ticks, and Canadian dominance over Hollywood was reestablished.

Titans 2 : Reign 1

Map 4: Gibraltar

Vancouver got to attack first this time, and put up a less-than-stirring performance. It was only a mistake sound barrier from Masaa that that gave them an opportunity to take A–he used it to counter a self-destruct even though his team was able to hide, and its absence was sorely felt when Atlanta were forced back due to their low health bars. Point B was another struggle, which was won in more solid fashion, but not before a lot of time had been burned. Finally on C the Titans made the necessary plays: Haksal pounced on Babybay, who dropped a grav as he died, and Bumper charged Dogman out of the fight, opening a chance for the Titans to remove Pokpo. Atlanta tried for a desperation reset, but couldn’t fight as 6, and a series of Vancouver ultimates cut them down, securing the cap just before overtime.

Atlanta solidly won the first three fights of the map, securing A and getting nearly to B before a last-ditch contest by the Titans stabilized, in a way only they can. Jjanu came out first to contest with his mech health and a self-destruct. As soon as it was used, the rest of the team jumped around the corner, with Slime’s sound barrier covering their approach and Jjanu’s remech. Haksal rallied, Twilight used trans, and Seominsoo locked up the Reign in a grav that they never saw coming, securing an easy kill onto Erster. Bumper’s shatter closed it out, and Vancouver had stabilized.

The Titans did a good job building ults for the next fight, but Atlanta had enough to counter, which meant the Reign took Point B with about 3 minutes remaining. A won fight for the Titans cut that in half, a won fight for Atlanta brought them over the finish line with about 1:30 remaining, and we went to another timebank round.

 This time around, the Titans attack was nothing short of stirring. After trading supports 2 for 2, Bumper charged Daco into the remnants of his squad, the Titans got the kill, and Atlanta’s defense was scrambled. Their contest at the end of A suffered heavily from the poor positioning brought on by that late kill. Bumper was taken out in the next fight, but Twilight wasn’t done, using a trans to save his team before scoring a quad kill onto the Reign. The absolute last fight of the round finally went Atlanta’s way, but the Titans had parlayed a minimum timebank into nearly a full completion of the map.

The Reign had a heavy task ahead of them, and the Titans knew it. Armed with a brilliant push, they put Seominsoo onto Sombra with a very simple gameplan: build EMP, use it to win a fight on point, win the round. In essence, the Titans were changing the name of the game. Winning fights didn’t matter, so much as delaying them did. Of course, a fight win was still worthwhile–the Titans won the first two, bringing Atlanta into overtime before they had even managed A, but Babybay’s grav went down before Seominsoo could counter it with an EMP and suddenly things looked less rosy. The Titans had used nearly all their ults without winning, and now Seominsoo had to get another EMP. By the time he had it on third point, Dogman had his trans ready, which nearly countered the game plan. But Pokpo was taken down anyway, Jjanu (on Zarya) burned Daco out of mech to hit a free grav, and Atlanta’s push was ended along with their hopes of winning the round.


Titans 3 : Reign 1

Player of the Match

This was an odd match to select a specific player from. The Titans won mostly convincingly, but struggled enough that it seemed no one had an exemplary game. I feel like every player had precisely one highlight moment and otherwise was good-not-great. But since I do have to choose, there was one player who was a little above the curve.

Seominsoo’s Zarya has somehow gotten even better than it was previously, and his Sombra flex worked out just fine.

The Titans are very, very good at winning shield battles. In fight after fight, they were able to take superior positioning from the Reign as a result of stronger pressure, and a lot of that comes down to Seominsoo’s Zarya. It’s hard to say without statistics, but my feeling today was that he was holding energy and doing damage at even a higher clip than before, which put the Titans in advantageous positions every time there was a neutral fight.

His flexibility was also a big plus. On the last map, Vancouver knew they only needed to win a single fight, so it made all the sense in the world to put him on Sombra. All three times, he hit big EMPs onto nearly the whole of the Reign, which twice gave his team the win.

Stage 3 Week 1 Preview: Reign & Gladiators

Another stage dawns, but this time with an unfamiliar feeling–for the first time in their history, the Vancouver Titans are returning to the Overwatch League stage in the aftermath of a loss. Their defeat at the hands of the San Francisco Shock in the Stage 2 Finals has cemented a Shock-Titans rivalry as the definitive storyline of this season, but settling that score will have to wait for the Stage 3 playoffs. In the interim, the Titans need to regroup, identify the issues that led to that loss, and figure out how to fix those to regain their top spot.

This week, they’ll be trying out new tricks against the Atlanta Reign and the Los Angeles Gladiators. It’s not about winning, per se–at this point, I expect the Titans to win against any team that isn’t the Shock or the Excelsior–but instead about how they do that winning.

The Atlanta Reign are the unluckiest team in the league for this first week, as they’re going to have to play the Shock and then the Titans in quick succession. I’m not even sure what you do, as the coach, in that circumstance: typically you would prepare for the weaker of the two teams, but in this case there just isn’t one.

Atlanta’s roster is a very mixed KR/NA/EU one. Their tankline was the former Element Mystic duo of Pokpo and Daco, though recently they’ve swapped Dva play to frd as a result of something happening with Daco (though there were plenty of rumors, I haven’t seen anything definitively explaining the change). The DPS duo has mostly been Babybay and Erster, and the support line has had Masaa on main support and either Dogman or Kodak on flex support.

It’s hard to talk about Reign without noting their utterly incongruous results. The Reign are 7-7 in overall record, which makes them seem like a perfectly average team. Let’s look at the list of teams this average squad has defeated! Atlanta have defeated… The Florida Mayhem. Washington Justice. Houston Outlaws. Paris Eternal. Toronto Defiant. New York Excel… wait, no, that can’t be right, I must be reading this wrong.

Let’s see here… April 19, 3-1 score, winner… Atlanta Reign. Ok, so I guess they did win. But what’s this, they played NY again on May 4, where I’m sure the Excelsior got the revenge win. Flip to that day… Hold on a second. Atlanta won again, 3-2?

Yes, indeed they did. This team, which has lost to Boston, Chengdu, Guangzhou, Gladiators, Fusion, Spitfire, and even gave the LA Valiant their first victory, was able to twice defeat the 3rd-best team in the league. A lot of the credit for that goes to the support line. Atlanta has a very weird setup, where Masaa is (in my opinion) one of the best Lucios in the league, while both Dogman and Kodak have been impossibly inconsistent at flex support. But when it came time to play NYXL, both Masaa and Dogman played out of their minds. The Atlanta Lucio zoned Anamo out completely, and seemed to hit boops to displace Mano on every single attempted push. Meanwhile, Dogman was, for the day, the top dog (I know, I know) over Jjonak. It was his right clicks that found opening kills, and his trans usage that kept his teammates alive.

All of this is to say, Atlanta are clearly a weaker team than the Titans. But if you beat NYXL twice, that’s not an accident. There is talent on this roster, and when it’s firing on all cylinders, they can be dangerous. However, Vancouver is not NYXL, and I don’t think they can be exploited in the same way.

The Titans should get this one 4-0.

The other matchup is against the LA Gladiators, who by the standings are the stronger opponent, but are in my estimation less dangerous. LA has, thus far, mostly feasted on weak teams, and owe their 5th-place position in the standings to a fortuitous win against the Shock during the very first week of the OWL season. With the exception of that win, the Gladiators have done a great job beating the teams they were expected to beat while losing to the ones they were expected to lose to. That leaves them, deservedly, somewhere in the tier of “playoff alsos,” teams #4-8 in the league who can compete against each other but fall clearly short of the Titans/Shock dominance tier, or even New York’s “close-but-not-there” tier.

Their roster is another successful mix of the world, for which Bischu deserves a lot of credit. The support line is three Finns–BigGoose, Shaz, and backup Ripa–who have to coordinate perfectly with the all-Korean tank line of Roar and either Bischu or Void. The DPS duo is the American Hydration and the Korean Decay, further complicating strategizing and calls. Fortunately, Bischu speaks fluent Korean and English, and despite probably being the inferior Dva choice when Void is also on the roster, when healthy he has been the starter because it keeps the whole team more coordinated.

That’s fitting for the Gladiators, a team for whom it’s hard to identify a star. The support line is strong but not particularly flashy–you rarely see them make a big play, so much as you feel their impact when the Gladiators find little edges in fights. After Fissure’s departure, the tankline functions similarly, effectively pushing forward and creating space in a way that doesn’t show up on highlight reels. The closest thing to a star is probably Decay on Zarya. His addition took the team from a marginal squad, forced to make do with Surefour on Zarya, to a powerful unit that can beat pretty much anyone outside of the top 3.

This is a great matchup for the Titans in the first week. The Gladiators are strong enough to mostly play standard 3/3, to just about the highest standard Vancouver can find in an opponent. If mistakes are still being made, LA will at the very least try to exploit them, which is precisely the feedback Vancouver will need. If the Titans aren’t on their game, I could even see the Gladiators taking us to a map 5. But I think Vancouver will be playing hard.

A 3-1 Titans victory seems most likely.

Stage 2 Finals: Titans vs. Shock Postgame

In the end, just like we all knew it would, it came down to a rematch. The Vancouver Titans, winners of the Stage 1 Finals, had dominated the league, going 7-0. But their dominance was outshone by the even better performance of the San Francisco Shock, who went not only an undefeated 7-0: they became the first team ever to win every single map during the stage.

And in the Stage Finals, that tiny superiority shone through. The San Francisco Shock gave the Vancouver Titans their first-ever loss, a 4-2 defeat at the hands of an opponent who fully deserved it. This had to happen eventually, and while I wish things had gone differently, I’m happy that this first loss was an unimpeachable defeat. The Titans didn’t throw the game away or get surprised by something weird and cheesy–the Shock just plain played better. In beating the Titans, San Francisco have done more than make Vancouver bleed: they’ve incarnated what is sure to be a tremendous rivalry between these two teams, who are a class above the rest of the league.

Map 1: Lijiang

In the last Stage Finals, San Francisco had pulled out a close 2-1 victory, and with most observers thinking they had found another gear during this stage, that meant stealing a control map would be a huge win for the Titans. Starting out on Control Center, it was the Titans who took the first cap on the strength of Seominsoo’s Zarya. Kills flew fast and furious for both teams as they jockeyed to displace the opposing main tanks. Seominsoo seemingly built grav much faster than Sinatraa, but the Titans struggled to capitalize because of San Francisco’s support ultimates. Finishing kills on the slippery Choihyobin in particular seemed difficult, which meant Slime, Rascal, and Viol2t could rack up ult charge by healing their dva for 600+ hp. Viol2t also had no difficulty in finishing his own kills, as he found some pickoffs at key moments that blunted Vancouver’s attack, delivering the first round to his team.

On Night Market, both teams pulled off highlight plays before the point was even capped, with the Titans coming out on top. But in the very next fight, Bumper went too deep right after Seominsoo’s bubble was down, leading to his death and a point flip. Throughout the map (and in fact the match), San Francisco’s coordination looked slightly cleaner–Seominsoo had a grav countered by a Choihyobin dva bomb, but Jjanu’s attempt to do the same directly afterwards was unsuccessful. Vancouver did manage to retake and build to 99%, but San Francisco blocked both perfectly and took the advantage and the cap. Sinatraa used grav to block everyone off the point, no one could begin overtime, and San Francisco took the series lead.

Titans 0 : Shock 1

Map 2: King’s Row

A quick kill onto Haksal broke the Titans’ first-point defense immediately, and in a protracted archway fight they once again failed to finish off weakened targets. Seominsoo’s grav got nothing, while Sinatraa’s led to a team wipe, forcing a defense right in front of B. A flying Bumper shatter bought a moment of respite, but the Shock seemed to have ultimates on cooldown, which they used in the next fight to split Vancouver’s positioning and eventually pick off weakened Titans individually. That gave them more than 4 minutes to push through C, and San Francisco needed almost none of it, continually staggering Vancouver and finishing with a 3:20 timebank.

On the attack, a brilliant flank shatter from Bumper gave the Titans a first pick, and the Shock foolishly committed all of their ultimates to contest, which gave Titans a stronger ult bank for the snowball. The silver lining was that the first fight had taken nearly 2 minutes, but by essentially losing out on all of the Point B contest, the Shock were put firmly on the back foot. The payload arrived at Point C with the clock just below 4 minutes, and the Titans’ final timebank of 3:11 was for all intents and purposes identical to San Francisco’s.

That sent the map to timebank, where Vancouver attacked first. Seominsoo killed Rascal first, which should have set up the same scenario as the early pick on Haksal. Instead, Super snuck a shatter right past Bumper, who dropped shield at exactly the wrong moment. The Titans still had ult advantage, and ran directly in to win the subsequent fight, but time burned is always time burned. More sloppiness was on display when Twilight and Slime used their ults at the same time while trapped in Sinatraa’s grav. They won the fight, but in retrospect only one ult was necessary. Slime never built another barrier even after Vancouver won a fight at the end of Point B, so when Twilight died first on C without getting to use trans, the Titans had no tools to bring the fight back. It was still an impressive overtime push, but at this high level these little edges matter.

For their second defense, Vancouver dominated the poke battle, forcing Viol2t to trans before Seominsoo’s grav. San Francisco eventually won a fight by bare inches–Bumper’s shield was the slightest bit too small to block damage onto a shattered Haksal–but lots of time had been burned. Vancouver took an aggressive fight in archway, and despite losing they had enough time to return for an overtime defense at the end of Point B. Once again it was Seominsoo’s quick gravs that won it, as the Titans’ Zarya locked up half the enemy team so that Haksal’s flail could deliver the knockout punch.

Titans 1 : Shock 1

Map 3: Paris

San Francisco decided to go to Paris, where they have the two fastest completion times. Vancouver threw out the first curveball of the series, putting Bumper on Winston instead of Reinhardt. Both teams unleashed a storm of ultimate after ultimate, trying to gain a tiny edge or to nullify an opponent’s attempt. The Titans weathered three of these assaults in a row, draining the clock nearly to nothing. A desperation charge from Super started overtime, but the final fight was more of a whimper than a bang. Vancouver, somehow, managed to hold San Francisco to just over two ticks, setting up a very winnable attack phase.

The Shock had to know a victory was unlikely, but they gave it their best effort. Their standard 3/3, after all, is the equal of Vancouver’s–maybe they could pull off the greater miracle. But the Titans showed us something amazing: that quad DPS composition they run is a serious strategy. Needing only two ticks, they elected to blast San Francisco off the point from a distance, and everything went according to plan. Haksal popped up over the rooftops on Pharah, snuck a concussive blast in between defense matrix uses, and knocked Choihyobin off the map while his boosters were on cooldown. Dva might have been the absolute worst hero to lose in that situation, as the flurry of damage could now be directed into the Shock without any nullification. Kill after kill followed, putting the Titans in the lead for the series.

Titans 2 : Shock 1

Map 4: Gibraltar

Reeling from a crushing defeat on Paris, and needing a victory to bring things back, the Shock opted next for Watchpoint Gibraltar. Attacking first, they pushed the cart within a meter of A before any real fight was joined. The Titans finally engaged,but took heavy damage. With Seominsoo and Bumper taken low and forced to retreat into a corridor for health, Haksal was left to stand alone on cart, and Super jumped on the opportunity to delete him, earning the Shock a cap without requiring any ultimates. That signaled the beginning of an ominous trend for the Titans: San Francisco stopped being afraid of their ultimates. Midway through B, Seominsoo caught nearly everyone in a grav, but Viol2t determined it wasn’t even necessary to use transcendence. As it turned out, he was right, and the Titans were unable to engage and get kills despite having locked up their opponents. Vancouver nearly stabilized with a scrappy fight at the end of B, but that unused transcendence came into play for San Francisco and barely let them push over the line into C, with more than 5 minutes on the clock.

Despite briefly stabilizing on C, Vancouver threw it all away in the very next fight. Twilight’s aggressive use of trans didn’t net any kills, leaving Seominsoo to die in an enemy grav, and Slime’s sound barrier dropped too late, as the fight was already lost. One last rabbit was pulled out of a hat to prevent the capture at 3:00, but Vancouver’s supports were constantly having to use ults first, and the Shock got the third point with about 1:30 remaining.

The Titans tried a bizarre loop around strategy which only resulted in two consecutive team wipes, whose only redeeming feature was Seominsoo building a grav. Once again, though, the Titans hardly even engaged into the clumped up enemy when it was used, and it required a monstrous shatter from Bumper to finally get the payload away from spawn. A perfunctory fight at the end of A was an easy cleanup for Vancouver, but San Francisco started holding strong inside the hangar. A shatter from Super, a grav from Sinatraa, and San Francisco won two easy fights before Vancouver broke through. Even so, the timebank was already going to be better for the Shock, and the Titans weren’t able to get kills until the last fight with 30 seconds remaining. A scattered final defense was easily run over, giving Vancouver the cap–but it was only in overtime, meaning the Shock would have a 2:38 timebank against the 1:00 of the Titans.

The timebank round was where the series turned. A series of mistakes from the Titans lost them the map, and put the Shock in a driver’s seat which they would never thereafter relinquish. The first mistake was a lack of target focus: Haksal stunned Choihyobin into a wall away from his team, but not everyone threw their damage into the enemy mech, allowing him to escape. The Titans nonetheless won a fight in the car wash, but they failed to peel for Twilight, who was taken out late by Rascal, denying him crucial percentage towards trans. At the gates of A, Bumper found a first pick onto Rascal, but the rest of Vancouver was caught in a grav by Sinatraa. Without healing from trans, the low-health members of the team tried to rotate around a corner, which broke line of sight for both Slime’s sound barrier and the trans that Twilight finished building right as Haksal and Seominsoo were taken out, ending the push.

It was a tough ask, but Gibraltar is known for full holds, and the Titans were certainly still capable of getting the win. Unfortunately, the mistakes continued on the defense. Bumper was roasted to death in the car wash, putting Vancouver in a difficult position. They had to regroup and return, but Moth was ready: he spotted Seominsoo trying to take a high ground position a fraction of a second too early and booped him off the ledge, leading to another immediate kill and the map win for San Francisco.

Titans 2 : Shock 2

Map 5: Oasis

Oasis was a statement map. Things started on Gardens, where things started out dire for the Titans. The Shock absolutely crushed two fights, then were barely displaced in a third, by which time the control progress had built to 91%. Worse, the Titans had had to invest everything to get the flip, which meant they had no ultimates to cycle for the long hold. Instead of holding an advantage, the Titans had to play on even footing, and quickly lost it. Bumper was taken low, forcing an early trans just to keep him alive, which then wasn’t available for the full engagement. Seominsoo was dropped low, tossed out a grav, but was firestruck down just before Slime’s sound barrier was used. There was no recovering, and the Shock took a clear-cut win in the first round.

Next up was City Center, where Vancouver were nearly bullied off the point before making a last-second contest. Despite all being low health, they kept the Shock at bay long enough to recover, and in fact found the first kill onto Super, which eventually snowballed into a surprise first cap for the Canadian team. But Super found his revenge in the next fight when he jumped to a side angle and hit nearly a full-team shatter to give his squad the flip. That’s the only way to take this point quickly, as the Titans found to their dismay. Despite a first kill onto Sinatraa, they were unable to press home the advantage, and the Shock wrested back the upper hand in what turned into the final fight of the map.

Titans 2 : Shock 3

 Map 6: Blizzard World

The Titans were one defeat from a loss, but they had been there before. Last Stage Finals was also a 2-3 situation, but in that case Vancouver had managed to win maps 6 and 7 to get the victory. Backs against the wall, needing a win on a hybrid map, they went for… Blizzard World.

I’m not a big fan of this decision, nor were a lot of the people I watched with. Just the day before, New York had put up their best performance against the Titans on this very map, and Eichenwalde was the other option. Nonetheless, I was hopeful there was a plan developed since the previous day.

The first two fights were encouraging, with the Titans engaging aggressively from the high ground and building ultimates faster than their opponents. But all that advantage was for naught. Seominsoo caught the whole team in a grav, but Super hit a brilliant counter shatter that laid low most of the Titans roster. Twilight was killed before being stunned, preventing him from using trans, and the Titans were wiped in the blink of an eye.  

The pattern of strong fights then a wipe replayed itself on second point. On the strength of a few team wipes, the Titans drained the timebank from 4 minutes down to a final fight with 30 seconds to go. But Haksal was picked early, and the Titans invested the entire ultimate bank to no avail, giving the Shock another lease on life. Sinatraa did his best to throw that away by whiffing a grav directly onto the back of the cart, a mistake that should have cost his team dearly. It appeared it would when Moth was taken down first, but Choihyobin and Super bailed him out by eating Seominsoo’s grav and landing a monstrous shatter in quick succession. Instead of holding early in Point C, the Titans finally evicted the Shock right before the end.

Vancouver’s attack looked strong until Viol2t intervened. His discord orb dropped Bumper terrifyingly low, forcing the Reinhardt to retreat. Seominsoo rotated to the other side of the point, giving Viol2t an easy angle to snipe him with a right-click volley and snuff the first push. Next up, it was Sinatraa’s turn. The Titans once again took an advantage in the fight, this time bringing things all the way down to a 3v2 scenario, but Sinatraa built his grav at lightning speed. That let him lock up Slime and Seominsoo, turning a fight that looked lost into a victory for his team. Finally Vancouver broke through in the third and last attack, but the lost time hurt dearly.

Sinatraa, though, was still feeling the pressure, once more whiffing a grav onto a wall. Suddenly, though they had time for only a single fight, the Titans were in an ultimate advantage situation. At the cusp of Point B, they pressed Q one after the other, a storm of ults which needed only a single kill to deliver them the victory. Alas, it was not to be. In a fitting end to the series–Vancouver had struggled all night with following up on ultimates–San Francisco survived the onslaught, found kills, and turned the fight. A last-second contest felt futile in the extreme, and for the first time ever, the Vancouver Titans had been defeated.


Titans 2 : Shock 4

Player of the Match

I believe two things simultaneously. One is that the San Francisco Shock deserved this win, because on this day, they were the better team. The only weirdness that happened, when Seominsoo’s grav on King’s Row somehow dropped through the floor, didn’t matter because the Titans still won that map.

The other is that the Titans massively underperformed. Jjanu in particular was nearly silent, I suspect a result of the food poisoning he disclosed he was suffering from against NYXL. Twilight and Haksal, too, had less impact on the game than they normally do.

But there was one player who played, if anything, better this series than he had in the previous Stage Finals. Faced with an opponent every bit as talented on his signature role, this player stepped up and delivered.

Seominsoo was not only the best Titan today, but also the best Zarya on the field.

Sinatraa’s stats on Zarya are, there is no other word for it, incredible. His damage dealt has ouptaced even the most talented players in the rest of the league. He’d done the same in the Stage 1 Finals. But in these Finals, Seominsoo answered the call. His damage dealt was neck-and-neck with Sinatraa’s at all the key moments, and he seemed to find another gear when the team needed a fast graviton to save their bacon.

Unfortunately, a lot of those gravitons were not followed up on by the rest of the team. But it’s not Seominsoo’s job to play everyone else’s roles, and his teammates’ inability to secure kills doesn’t invalidate the impressive job he did in setting up those opportunities in the first place.

Stage 2 Semifinal: Titans vs Excelsior Postgame

At long last, fans got to see the highly-anticipated matchup between the Vancouver Titans and the New York Excelsior. New York, the dominant force of OWL Season 1, have been slightly shakier this time around, but remain one of the strongest teams in the league. Vancouver has taken up their mantle as the kings of the scene, setting the two on a crash course.

It did not disappoint. This was one of the highest-level matches we’ve seen in this entire season, and possibly the first time the Titans have had to kick themselves into high gear. But once they did, New York simply couldn’t keep up, and Vancouver took the victory with a convincing 4-1 smackdown.

Map 1: Busan

We kicked off with Sanctuary, with both teams running the expected 3/3, which would be the composition of choice across the day. In a faceoff widely considered to be very even, the first fight emphatically confirmed that perception: both sides jostled for position for one and a half minutes before New York was finally able to snag the first kill and unlock the point. The Titans took an ult lead, but Seominsoo’s grav was nullified by trans and Bumper’s shatter couldn’t be followed up on thanks to a defensive grav out of Nenne. Vancouver finally flipped it in the final attack, but with 97% already on the board and New York with the ult lead, the Titans were playing from way behind. Bumper was pressured to death, and despite some attempted heroics it was the Excelsior to won the first point.

On City Center, Twilight found a random kill onto Libero so that the Titans could get the point first. That created an inversion of the setup in Sanctuary, as Mano eventually flattened the whole of Vancouver with a shatter, but this time it was the Excelsior who were staring down the barrel of 98% accrued. Bumper found Jjonak with a shatter, New York cracked, and the Titans took the second point to force a final round.

Mecha Base was again a knife-edged first fight, but Slime looped around and popped Meko out of mech, immediately leading to the kill onto Nenne and the point capture. Once more they built to 99%, before they made basically the only bad decision of the day. Bumper and Seominsoo saw Libero on his own and chased him into a side room to secure the kill, but Haksal and Twilight didn’t get the message and were left out to dry on point. That gave New York a slim chance to bring it back, and they did their best, even winning a fight despite Mano being killed first. It all came down to one final fight at 99-99, which got off to a bad start when Twilight had to trans just so as not to die. But Bumper, locked in a grav, found the clutch shatter, and his team followed up with ruthless efficiency. The Titans had won, but New York had announced themselves as worthy competitors.

Titans 1 : Excelsior 0

Map 2: Blizzard World

With their first map choice, New York elected to go to Blizzard World, a map where the Titans have shown occasional flashes of weakness. That choice was rewarded when Haksal was disconnected from his team and beamed down, which New York perfectly transitioned into a payload unlock and a graviton-to-shatter snowball. Point B should have been an opportunity to stabilize for the Titans, with both sides playing slow to build ults. But New York seized the initiative, locking up Bumper in a grav so that Mano could charge him to his death in the back. Without a Rein shield, the Titans were easy prey for Mano’s shatter, and their eternal sense that a lost fight can be won with more ultimates came back to bite them. They committed barrier, grav, and shatter to no avail, turning an advantageous situation into a disadvantageous one. But Slime came up clutch, booping Mano off the edge inside Point C to get Vancouver’s first relevant kill of the entire map. That let the Titans stabilize and work the clock down to about a minute remaining, before New York got their hero play. Bumper’s shatter knocked down Nenne, who was already low on health, and Bumper launched a firestrike in his direction to finish the job. But it was intercepted by Dva matrix, keeping the critical damage dealer alive. The Titans tried valiantly to stall to OT, but weren’t quite able to, which was a capstone to an all-around disappointing defense.

It was, for that reason, absolutely shocking when the Titans came out of spawn on a quad-DPS troll comp and stuck with it. I think it was half a legitimate strategy, half an attempt at psychological warfare. “You might be feeling good after that attack,” the Titans said, “but we are so unworried that we can beat you with the composition we famously play when we aren’t taking things seriously.”

In this instance, though, the Titans might well have taken things a bit more seriously. The quad DPS did indeed work–due primarily to Haksal’s barrage over a set of EMP’d Excelsiors(?)–but it took a while to do it. Then the Titans had to swap back to a standard 3/3, against opponents who had just been forced to be economical with their ults because of EMP. Even Jjanu eating a grav didn’t help, as New York stuffed every attempt by the Titans to advance the payload. The cart came to rest just in front of Point B, and we had a tied series on our hands.

Titans 1 : Excelsior 1

Map 3: Hanamura

For the first time in these playoffs, the Titans had to respond to a lost map. I was hoping the Titans had used halftime to clean up some of their play, so I was dismayed when they immediately got separated, then got even more separated with Bumper dying completely solo on the point. Jjanu and Twilight, though, traded out for Meko, and Vancouver had spawn advantage for the 5v5. After grinding out that win, Vancouver got up to 93.5%… but they’d made a crucial mistake. Bumper killed Jjonak at 99% to trans, and New York’s flex support doesn’t like being prevented from using trans in his own dumb way. He returned to point with a trans, then headshotted literally everyone to force the Titans back to spawn. It would take another 3 minutes for Vancouver to find that last little bit, resulting in a 1:55 timebank.

New York’s attack was a page out of Vancouver’s book, as they ran a triple DPS once again spearheaded by a Pharah. Libero, inexplicably, was able to hit Bumper with a rocket, in the face, three times in a row. If only Reinhardt had some sort of shielding ability. In any case, the Excelsior had also run a Sombra, so they tried for the EMP snowball cap onto B. Vancouver reacted correctly by bashing down the rest of the team, leading Meko to shrug, toss out EMP, and swap back to Dva when it failed. That put the Titans ahead in ults, and they proceeded to put on a master class in cycling. For nearly 5 minutes, they won every fight with the use of only a single ult, until New York broke through on the final fight. With mere seconds remaining, the only thing that mattered was stalling to OT. Haksal’s Doomfist was killed immediately, Bumper’s Hammond was caught in grav, but the third time was the charm–Seominsoo swapped to Mei and got into ice block form on the point, buying the crucial seconds needed to deny New York a second attack run.

With 2 minutes and needing only a single tick, the Titans once again went for the quad DPS setup. The hero, of course, was… Bumper? Yes, seriously, Bumper (playing Hanzo) found the first kill onto Nenne with his storm arrows. That smashed the go button, and the EMP/barrage/dragon combo was far too strong.

Titans 2 : Excelsior 1

Map 4: Rialto

By far the most puzzling choice of the series was this: New York could have chosen Gibraltar or Junkertown for their escort map, but instead took us to Rialto. Had they not seen the Titans struggle on those other two maps. More importantly, had they not seen Vancouver’s ability to speedrun this map?

Anyways, the Excelsior found a good amount of success early in the map. Jjonak picked Twilight first, and after the Titans scrapped out a fight at the end of A, New York came right back to take it in the next engagement. Things continued this way, with back-and-forth fight wins, for the entire map. Apparently, the timing on that works out such that the attacking team wins the penultimate fight, but the defenders can stop them from getting the full completion. After some heroics in the last fight, that’s exactly what the Titans managed, giving them a chance to go up 3-1 in the series.

On the attack, the Titans very much did not get a speedrun. Point A was a tremendous struggle, in which Vancouver only prevailed with 30 seconds remaining. B went better, as a battle of trump cards came up Titans when Bumper shattered, Mano counter-shattered, and Jjanu’s counter-bomb got 3 kills and the cap. And C was best of all, with Bumper hitting a monster shatter right in front of the victory box that left the Excelsior no time to regroup. Already, it was match point.

Titans 3 : Excelsior 1

Map 5: Lijiang Tower

Back onto control, the potentially-deciding map kicked off on Garden, where the Titans opted for a Winston instead of a Reinhardt. Despite building a fast primal and knocking Jjonak off the edge, the Excelsior got their own kills and won the point first. Vancouver retook off a grav, then decided to live on the other side of the central wall for what felt like 10 minutes while control built. Eventually, New York found what seemed like an insurmountable advantage–except Slime didn’t agree. He dashed around the point and not only stalled forever, but even killed Jjonak. The rest of the Titans returned to point, cleared it of enemies, and won the round to put themselves on match point.

In Control Center, we once again saw an impossibly-long first fight, with both teams investing ultimates to maintain positioning. New York emerged victorious first in capping, then in securing the point, and then in maintaining position. Vancouver only ever managed to sneak captures in losing fights, which was disappointing but simply meant that Night Market would have to be played to decide.

Once more, Vancouver came out worse in the poke war, and the Excelsior secured the first take. They held until a grav war, where Bumper fell but Haksal and Jjanu scoffed at the idea you would need a main tank. The deadly duo removed Nenne and Mano, leaving the enemy supports as easy pickings. In the final fight, Bumper used shatter to no avail, then managed to swing so much that he built another shatter, which this time hit nearly the entire enemy team. Though he was shot down before being able to capitalize, his teammates were there to finish what he had started. With everyone dead, New York was forced to madly rush for point, but they were barely unable to get the touch in time.


Titans 4 : Excelsior 1

Player of the Match

This award has, in its history, been given only to players on the Titans. But a combination of two things is leading me to change that today. First, Vancouver’s victory was the definition of a team effort–everyone had their own hero moments, but there isn’t a player who stood out head-and-shoulders above the rest of his teammates today (though if I had to pick one, Slime was probably the best). Second, the only reason this match will be remembered as close, despite a 4-1 scoreline, is the key player for the NYXL.

Mano defined this match, and deserves recognition for it.

There were two key play types from New York that I want to talk about. The first is the counter shatter. Most commonly seen when they were locked into grav, Mano also sometimes used this when the rest of his team had been shattered by Bumper. A great example was on Lijiang Control Center, when Bumper landed a shatter and all of Vancouver charged forward to capitalize. Mano knocked them all to the ground, which saved his teammates from certain death.

The second play is the grav charge. We saw this set play over and over again, and it seemed the Titans never fully developed an answer. Nenne would use grav on Bumper, Mano would walk behind the helpless players, and charge Bumper away from his team, which invariably led to a kill onto the Vancouver main tank. With his shield out of the way, Mano was free to shatter whomever he wanted, which made this far and away the best play New York executed all afternoon.

Stage 2 Quarterfinal: Titans vs Fuel Postgame

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.  

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