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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.

Spark Surging, Fuel Falling, Titans Top Team

In the first week of Stage 2, I called the Hangzhou Spark a bad team. That’s because in the first week of Stage 2, the Hangzhou Spark were a bad team. Hangzhou had a pathetic first 6 weeks in the Overwatch League, but they finally seem to have gotten their act together. They were one of the first Chinese teams to make the playoffs with Shanghai Dragons, however they did so in part due to the Seoul Dynasty having an incredibly difficult schedule. It still came down to the wire due to the Spark’s horrendous map +/-. In Stage 2, the Spark went from one of the most underachieving teams in the league to a playoff threat. They were able to take down the London Spitfire, an admittedly underperforming team, before getting destroyed by the Shock, just like everyone else.

The Dallas Fuel on the other hand, were unable to upset their first round opponent, the Vancouver Titans, hey that’s us! The Fuel sneaked into the playoffs thanks to an incredibly easy schedule. They lost to the Titans and Dynasty while beating the Defiant, Eternal, Valiant, Outlaws and Mayhem. They also are a team who badly need upgrades in the player department. The Fuel have a near elite tank duo in Note and OGE, Zacharee is currently one of the more underwhelming Brigitte players in the league.

One of the biggest takeaways from Stage 3’s first week is that the Titans came away unfazed from their finals loss and subsequent long break. While the Shock succumbed to the time off the Titans were able to somehow turn up the intensity on their already impressive 19-1 (16-0 in league standings) season. The Titans showed they still had their hive-mind activated and with dominant wins against two of the league’s better teams they firmly positioned themselves back at the top of the league’s power rankings.

While the Shock started slow, being taken to map 5 against the Atlanta Reign, the Titans were off to the races fast with two dominant wins. On the heels of Atlanta’s roller coaster tilt, the Titans were able to offer a far better showing. We saw things briefly grind to a halt on Paris, but following that, the Titans ramped up the intensity again to clear out Hollywood and Watchpoint: Gibraltar. Atlanta right now is struggling to break out of the mid-table teams with a mediocre performance in Stage 2, they do seem to play to their opponents skill level. Their last 5 matches involved a close loss to the Shock, two wins against the NYXL, a good showing against the Titans and a 3-1 loss to the Guangzhou Charge. To say one of these teams is not like the others is a huge understatement. The Reign were held pointless on both Busan and Rialto while Hanamura and King’s Row were absolute barnburners. The teams split the middle maps with records of 7-6 and 8-7. This team definitely has potential.

If comparing the elite teams match ups against Reign isn’t enough, the Titans also earned their third OWL record against the LA Gladiators. The Gladiators played elite bunker Overwatch on their best map, then fell apart on the other 3. Despite their tendency to lose against good teams, the Gladiators are still a top 6 team in the league, so the Titans having such a huge win over them is pretty impressive. With another week of elite play, it should be no doubt in anyone’s mind that the Titans will be back on top as the best team in the league, especially if the Shock fail to show up again against the Outlaws or Dynasty this week. The Outlaws are widely seen as one of the worse teams in the league, but they still did pretty good against the NYXL last week, while the Dynasty are a good team in their own right with their own upset to NYXL in the Stage 1 playoffs.

When the Titans show up big against the Fuel and Spark, they’re going to reassert themselves as the league’s best team. They haven’t dropped a map to either of these teams yet this season and with all eight maps this weekend, it’s likely we see that trend continue. The Spark aren’t particularly inspiring on Oasis (3-2), H:LC (0-2), Numbani (0-2), the last point however is up in the air. Escort is when the Titans tend to forget they are playing and statistically it’s the Spark’s best map type with a 71% win percentage, but neither of these teams have played on Havana before, so they could sneak a point at the end. That being said, their Assault (38%) and Hybrid (24%) showings have been pathetic this year, the Spark’s style of play doesn’t play very well against the Titans and they are particularly unlucky in the map pool this week.

The Fuel are in similar hot water, Ilios, Volskaya, Eichenwalde and Dorado are all among the best maps for the Titans. Vancouver’s roster has reached elite status on all of these maps, with a combined record of 14-1, the only map loss was on Ilios to the Shock in the Stage 1 finals. For additional context, the Titans roster hasn’t lost on Volskaya Industries in over a year. The Fuel, much like the Spark, have the unfortunate luck of being average at all the maps picked while being pitted up against the league’s best team. Volskaya Industries in particular is free real estate for the Titans, while they are likely the best team in the league here, the Fuel are 0-3-1, while only sporting a 24% win rate on Assault maps total this season. Yes, Ilios (2-0), Dorado (2-1) and Eichenwalde (2-1) do have better records, but their play on these maps has been uninspiring.

It’s likely we see what happened in the Stage 2 playoffs happen again for both of these teams this week, taken out by a far superior team.

Episode 24 – Titans: Endgame

Joining Chris to talk about the Vancouver Titans are co-hosts Omni & Sam. The Vancouver Titans faced the San Francisco Shock in the Stage 2 Playoffs Final and provided Overwatch League fans another epic fight. Also discussed is the OWL All-Star Week, Trading Cards, and a topic that has both Chris & Omni getting bleeped.

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.

FINAL SCORE

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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