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
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.
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.