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Tag: Chengdu Hunters

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.

Episode 15 – Hunted to the Brink

Joining Chris to talk about the Vancouver Titans are co-hosts Omni & Sam. They discuss the 4-0 win against the Paris Eternal and the fact the Chengdu Hunters took the Vancouver Titans to the brink in a 3-2 Titans victory! As always, they review the week that was and the week that will be in OWL and a few other Overwatch-related tidbits!

Titans vs. Hunters Postgame

The Titans came closer than ever before to defeat against the Chengdu Hunters, but barely managed to pull off the victory. Faced with the only team more aggressive than themselves, Titans struggled to stay coordinated under the unrelenting DPS pressure that Chengdu brought to bear. Yet in dire times, Vancouver showcased a flexibility of composition and playstyle that will serve them well when another team tries this same tack.

Map 1: Ilios

Control was the map type I thought Chengdu had the best chance, because of their known proclivity for multi-DPS compositions. On Lighthouse they didn’t go as crazy as they might, but we still saw a Pharmercy Sombra dive with Ameng on his trademark Hammond in the middle of the 3/3 meta, so take that as you will. The result was a tremendous amount of nonsense, as Jinmu’s Pharah rained death from the skies but Chengdu could never wipe the Titans off the point. Mr. X shared a fact so insane I thought he must have said it wrong, but it was indeed true: the Hunters had done 12,000 more damage than Vancouver, testament both to their ability to do damage and the ability of the Titans’ supports to heal.

On Ruins, Chengdu ran a “more” standard 3/3, but still replacing a normal main tank with Ameng’s Hammond. Twilight’s play on Ana was superb, Bumper on Winston ran riot through the Chengdu backlines, and the game appeared well in hand for the boys in green.

Titans 1 : Hunters 0

Map 2: Hollywood

In his preview of the game on the podcast, Chris had renamed this map “Hollywood North” because of the strength of Vancouver’s domination on it. However, we had never seen a team defend using Orisa to defend a Junkrat and Ashe like Chengdu did here. Titans managed to cut through that defensive setup, but then Chengdu brought us back to an old favorite OWL meta: the double sniper. With Baconjack on Widow, Jinmu on Hanzo, and Yveltal flying around on Mercy healing everyone, the Titans were picked apart from the high ground. The Titans stuck stubbornly to a 3/3 setup, and were repeatedly punished for it. Seominsoo was reduced to uselessness on Zarya, unable to interact with the long-range damage and aerial maneuvers of the Hunters squad, and I think a hero swap would have done wonders for his team’s attack. Without it, the Titans stalled out right before Point B, setting up the main question: would Chengdu’s defensive mastery transition to attack, or was Vancouver’s vice grip on Hollywood A so tight that even their poor attack run was unassailable?

Friends, it was the latter. The Hunters attacked with a triple DPS that included Baconjack on Tracer, and once again took advantage of the Titans’ lack of range. A barrage from Jinmu proved the point: from high in the sky, he had perfect vision of Seominsoo and Haksal standing directly underneath with no means to do anything to him. Chengdu was unstoppable and rolled into the box of victory to tie up the series.

Titans 1 : Hunters 1

Map 3: Temple of Anubis

The Hunters again went for their 2/2/2 modification for the first attack, and Jinmu again put in a star performance. It was so good, in fact, that after capping Point A the Hunters tried to maintain the composition into Point B. Mostly that was as a result of the ultimates that had been banked, and cashing them in for a little more than a tick was frankly better than one might have expected.

At this point, Chengdu swapped to a fully standard 3/3 with Ameng on Rein, and it went as poorly as you might have expected. The Titans enjoyed a respawn advantage and a superiority in playing 3/3, and Hunters failed to gain purchase on the point even though they twice might have held the advantage.

For the attack, Titans put Haksal on his famous Genji to go up against the Hunters’ Widow/Junkrat/Orisa treehouse defense. After one failed dive, Titans adjusted and made efficient trades to take Point A, sending the Hunters back onto a 3/3 comp. They got everyone low, but Haksal (perhaps due to some rust) was a bit slow to build blade, and then when it came out he was shield-bashed directly in the face by Jinmu. Unfortunate though that was, Titans swapped to their own 3/3 with 4 minutes left on the clock and a tick already gained, which put the map victory very within reach.

Unfortunately, the Titans simply did not play up to snuff.

In their first 3/3 attack Jjanu, oddly, committed his self-destruct without any support. It found nothing and the Titans were rebuffed, but they were in what should have been winning position, having four ults including shatter and grav in their possession. Yveltal had used barrier in the last fight, and in fact no support ults were available for the Hunters, opening them up to all sorts of punishment. However, the lack of bomb combo would prove critical. Approaching from the cavern side, Bumper hit a big shatter on all the enemy supports and went to follow it up. Instead of joining him, Seominsoo committed grav to a separate group. Twilight used trans and followed the grav, leaving Bumper all alone to die on the side, not having killed any of the shattered supports. The enemy tanks in the grav went down, but Kyo had now built a trans which he used to stall. Yveltal was nearly killed but managed to skate away to a health pack and survive, and a stall from Elsa kept things alive long enough that Baconjack and Ameng could return to point with shatter and grav. Yveltal’s sound barrier, built up because he had not been killed when he should have died, was the final nail in the coffin and Vancouver had to disengage without even gaining a tick.

This kind of uncoordinated play is very unusual for the Titans, and I suspect it’s due in part to some tilt caused by Chengdu’s weird DPS comps. Nonetheless, the team can’t throw away opportunities to win like that.

Titans 1 : Hunters 2

Map 4: Route 66

This felt like the most dangerous of all the maps in the series. The Titans had already struggled twice on Route 66, this was the map where the quad DPS attack was invented, and the pressure was on to win not just here, but on the subsequent control map as well. Anticipating some form of Hunters multi-DPS, the Titans started the defense with Seominsoo on McCree instead of Zarya, which forced Jinmu off Pharah and onto Hanzo. They also adjusted their playstyle, hugging the walls and corners to avoid the bullets and arrows. That stymied the Hunters and forced them back onto 3/3, and the Titans weren’t able to mirror swap in time to get a good contest at the end of A, instead dumping ultimates into a fight that, at best, bought them an additional 30 seconds. The same happened at the start of B, where Seominsoo and Slime committed ults without a combo and lost again. Then in the final fight of Point B, Jjanu was caught in a grav and forced to use self destruct, once again out of sync with Seominsoo’s grav. It’s probably not a coincidence that the first successful combo was the one with meters to go on C that won the fight and ended the Hunters’ attack.

Titans once again opened with McCree against Chengdu’s triple DPS, and won so convincingly that both teams  immediately swapped to 3/3. A more stereotypical Titans fight where everyone shoved forward got the cap on Point A, but then Ameng (who was winning the Rein mind games all day) hit a big shatter onto Bumper, and Seominsoo committed grav seemingly for the sole purpose of being able to escape with charge. That was baffling, but more baffling was Chengdu’s decision to pursue to Vancouver’s spawn, where they set up a defense on top of Big Earl’s. A bit of clever rotating later, the Titans ran through the choke ahead of the Hunters, started the payload rolling, and forced Chengdu into a terrible fighting position. Finally Vancouver were looking like themselves, and they stunted on Chengdu when Jjanu, Seominsoo, and Bumper combined ults with Slime’s boop to gain a self-destruct 3k and Point B. The Titans had wrested ownership of the game pace from the Hunters, and they were not ready to give it up. A slight miscalculation on the timing of a spawn door grav prolonged the game by one more fight, but Vancouver weren’t going to let that lose them the series, and a key trans from Twilight kept everyone up to win the cart fight and force a map 5.

Titans 2 : Hunters 2

Map 5: Nepal

The sloppiness that had characterized the Titans play on Hollywood, Anubis, and parts of Route 66 was now entirely gone, replaced with an iron determination to smash the Hunters. Chengdu’s only capture of Sanctum came when LateYoung used grav to catch the Titans off the point, and though they won one subsequent fight, once Titans regained the point it was all Vancouver, who won 100-96% in a round that was not nearly as close as the scoreline indicates. On Shrine, it was the same story. Once again a grav was the only bright spot for Chengdu, gaining them control after the Titans had built to 77%. Vancouver should have won the next fight off a big shatter, but Chengdu’s supports again stalled to hold on to the point, and when the Titans recaptured it was one-fight-territory for the Hunters. The Titans again took a fight lead, and again Chengdu struggled mightily to bring it back, hitting another grav and getting a double kill that nearly made the difference: but the Titans would not lose to support ults a third time. Jjanu flew around the point, healed by Twilight’s trans, and got kill after kill to seal the map and the series victory.

FINAL SCORE

Titans 3 : Hunters 2

Player of the Match

I’m torn here between two choices. One player was probably the only member of Vancouver’s squad to play consistently well throughout the entire series. The other made a critical adjustment to his playstyle, without which the Titans probably don’t win the series.

It wasn’t his best performance, but by tamping down his aggression, Bumper opened a path to victory.

People have been saying all season long that Bumper’s playstyle would eventually cause Vancouver to lose. In this match, it nearly did, both because Seominsoo was off his game and gave less support to Bumper than usual, and because Chengdu’s high-DPS compositions burst him down faster than usual. This was especially evident on Hollywood, where Bumper tried desperately to take out Baconjack and Jinmu, and instead was turned into a pincushion of arrows and sniper bullets.

Compare that performance to Route 66. Bumper played cautiously, keeping his shield up and trusting his team to put in the necessary work. Chengdu had demonstrated an ability to handle his solo aggression, so he shelved it, only charging hard when his entire team was with him. On Nepal he was, if anything, even more cautious, looking far more like Mano than the Bumper we’re used to. It’s not the style Titans want to run, but it’s how Titans were able to find victory in this very scary match. Credit to Bumper for adjusting when he needed to.

Week 4 Preview: Eternal and Hunters

Group consensus can be a funny thing. I argued in my Week 2 Preview that, if the Titans could beat Guangzhou and San Francisco in Week 2, they would deserve consideration as one of the top teams in the league. Somehow it seems that the group consensus wasn’t yet ready for that: instead, everyone waited another week for the Titans to crush the abysmal Valiant, and then anointed them the counterbalance to NYXL. Why the ability to defeat the worst team in the league was the deciding factor is a mystery to me, but in the end I’m happy that the community at large is recognizing just how good the Titans are.

This week was shaping up to be among the most challenging of the Stage, until two things happened. First, 3/3 kings Paris Eternal got utterly demolished by the Atlanta Reign, raising questions of what happens when the more individually-skilled teams catch up to them in terms of practice time on 3/3. For a while, it looked like Titans/Paris would be a matchup of 2 of the top 3 teams in the league: now it feels more like the top team playing a decently strong opponent.

Second, analysts actually took some time to counter Ameng’s Hammond 1-tricking, and the Shanghai Dragons reduced him to utter irrelevance in a 4-0 stomp. Chengdu’s curtain was ripped from their booth, and now instead of having a mythical 3/3 counter, they have a man rolling around aimlessly in a hamster ball.

For the Titans, Paris still present the larger challenge. Though they were trounced by the Atlanta Reign, Atlanta also increasingly looks like one of the strongest teams in the league, so expecting Paris to go down easy would be foolish. Nevertheless, there are things that can be exploited. Seominsoo’s Zarya, in my opinion, clearly outlcasses that of Soon, and his ability to support Bumper’s aggression could put BenBest on the defensive, where his footing has looked less secure. Masaa put on a clinic last week for how to neutralize Kruise, and Slime has the mechanical skill and the coaching behind him to repeat that performance, removing one of the most dynamic playmakers on the Eternal side. Most critically, when the frontal shields go down, Twilight has demonstrated a far greater ability to hit right clicks with Zen or biotic grenades with Ana than has Hyp.

I know I said that Paris shouldn’t be expected to go down easily.

Nonetheless, I think Titans can take this match 4-0.

The Eternal will almost assuredly opt into a 3/3 mirror, and if Titans are indeed superior in that matchup (as I believe they are), the map type won’t particularly matter and Vancouver should find more success wherever they find themselves. Paris, lacking flexibility, has no way to counter a team that simply outclasses them at their own game.

Against Hunters, the longstanding question has been “when will their actual main tank arrive?” So long as LateYoung remains stuck in China due to visa issues, Chengdu has had to invent their own meta based around Ameng’s play on Hammond. As the first team to play Hammond in a competitive context (when Jjanu played him on King’s Row during Contenders Korea S2 Finals), Titans are in a perfect position to know the strengths and weaknesses of such a composition. Particularly on control maps, where Hunters have favored multi-DPS compositions, it will be interesting to see if Stitch is brought in to match, or if the Titans remain with Seominsoo and their brutally strong 3/3. Outside of control, Hunters have been much weaker, so Titans should be expected to bulldoze the pandas on escort and hybrid maps, and are heavily favored on assault.

If the Hunters are going to take a map, it would be the starting control map, where they could come out with some wonky compositions and catch Vancouver off guard.

So long as Titans don’t give up points anywhere else, this series should be a 3-1 victory.

But if Chengdu can steal the assault map as well, it sets up a 5th map on the least-certain territory. That would be a dangerous spot for Vancouver, so I recommend they put the series to bed before it can get there.

Branding Review V – Chengdu Hunters

Previously reviewed – Atlanta ReignToronto Defiant, Paris Eternal, Guanzhou Charge.

Even though Chengdu will just be one out of four Chinese teams in the upcoming season, it will be the only one bravely boasting a mostly Chinese roster. After the abysmal results of the Dragons in the inaugural season, I can only commend the Hunters with the bold statement they are trying to make. From what we’ve seen in the 2018 OWWC, there is potential in a Chinese roster if done right.

Chengdu Hunters

According to leaks, Chengdu will join the Eternal as the only 2 teams without a single Korean.

Good – The hunters are truly embracing the Chinese brand and boast a rugged Panda logo as the face of their franchise. Other than being badass, the panda has already established some infamy on twitter with its cuter sweater(?)-clad rendition, incessantly appreciating everyone’s support.

Bad – Does the Hunter label really fit with the cuddly lazy Panda bear? not really. While a cute dichotomy, I can’t help to think something better could’ve been chosen for the Chengdu Panda whose meat consumption constitutes even less than 1% of its diet…

Mediocre – While I do consider it to be the best attempt (so far) at pulling off the difficult yellow as a main colour brand (and it is better than the Mayhem’s or the Valiant’s attempts). So why is it under mediocre you ask? Because when I’m looking at the official skins and the logo image, I still don’t get what the colour palette is. Is that orange or brass? where’s that yellow in the logo? There’s not enough uniformity of colours in that particular image like with other teams – a big no-no in branding.

Next in line, the Hangzhou Spark.

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