Bonus Episode – Iceberg Right Ahead

With the Vancouver Titans heading into uncharted waters full steam ahead, Chris provides a bonus episode full of insight & opinion on what has happened over the past few days, what might happen over the next few, and an idea on how to get set a proper foundation moving forward.

Titans vs. Gladiators Postgame

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

Map 1: Ilios

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

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

Titans 1 : Gladiators 0

Map 2: Paris

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Titans 1 : Gladiators 1

Map 3: Hollywood

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

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

Titans 2 : Gladiators 1

Map 4: Gibraltar

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

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

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


Titans 3 : Gladiators 1

Player of the Match

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

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

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

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

Titans vs. Dynasty Postgame

In a playoff rematch, the Titans demonstrated (as if it needed to be) that their 4-0 victory in the Stage 1 Semifinals was no fluke. Once again, they easily dispatched the Seoul Dynasty, setting 2 speedrun times in the process.

Map 1: Busan

It appears that Stitch’s appearance last week was a function of the Titans not viewing the Spark as a serious threat, as they brought in Seominsoo for this match and kept him in for the entire game. Seoul opened with a standard 3/3, and Titans did the same but with Twilight on Ana instead of Zen. This is a strategy that served them well for a long time in Korean Contenders, and in the unsettled meta of today they seem to be returning to it. The biotic grenade is extremely powerful against a healing-centered composition, and Twilight is a master at placing that ability in the best areas. That was the story of City Center, in which Vancouver built to 99% before Twilight was picked and Seoul got a last-gasp capture. No worries, the Titans returned, built a grav, Jjanu dropped a bomb which killed nearly everyone, and Titans took the first control point.

On Mecha Base, Seominsoo roasted everyone to death and the Titans demonstrated exquisite coordination in staggering baby Dvas, combining a charge-without-kill and a sleep dart to get 20% capture percentage for free. The Titans built to 81%, but then the point started flipping back and forth. The Titans managed the round better, and entered the final fight with an ult advantage that they emphatically converted in the form of another Jjanu bomb. Without too much fuss, the Titans took the series lead.

Titans 1 : Dynasty 0

Map 2: Anubis

Vancouver clearly enjoyed their experience speedrunning against Hangzhou, so they decided to do it again on Anubis. Entering on the left-hand side, they ran directly into Marve1 on Winston, who had played on control and remained in the game instead of being replaced by Fissure. He was stunned and melted down instantly, putting Seoul in a nearly impossible position and giving the Titans a nearly free capture on Point A. Rushing to B, Seominsoo outdueled Fits on Zarya, and the Dynasty lacked the damage output to evict Vancouver from the point. A 6:18 finish was the second-fastest time ever on that map, and put Seoul in a deep hole.

In response, Seoul came out with the Anubis special, a triple DPS based on a Pharmercy over point and a Widowmaker covering from afar. Fits, on Pharah, was a nightmare to deal with and killed Bumper repeatedly, but somehow Vancouver continually contested and got key kills, managing to drain 2 minutes of time that already set the Dynasty irrevocably behind. An errant nanoboost that hit Tobi on Mercy instead of, well, anyone else didn’t help. Moving onto B, Michelle on Sombra invisibly watched as his team was massacred inside of a graviton, translocated away, and then somehow was still chased down by the Titans, who were clearly operating on a whole other level. In the next fight, Bumper found himself isolated, went down, and in the span of 10 seconds the Titans twice barely failed to take out Fits. Instead he stayed alive, the Dynasty burned the Titans off the point, and we headed to a second round.

This time, the Titans contested Ryujehong’s bridge position far more aggressively, and at first blush it didn’t succeed. Bumper went down first, but somehow Twilight was the first to build his ult, and Vancouver traded efficiently to somehow repel the push. The Dynasty spent their entire 4 minute timebank plugging away at Point A, finishing with about 90% progress, but being denied even a final fight when Marve1 on Hammond was trapped in the side room and killed instead of triggering overtime.

We kind of expected a multi-DPS comp from the Titans, both for fun and as a reasonable strategy, but instead they opted for the standard 3/3. They lost one fight, but the idea anyone could deny them for 6 minutes was absurd, and they won with plenty of time to spare.

Titans 2 : Dynasty 0

Map 3: Eichenwalde

The Titans were first on the attack, and executed the highly complex strategy of “run directly at Seoul and kill all of them,” which frankly is all they needed to do to beat this team. If any demons remain from Runaway losing Eichenwalde in the 7th and final game of the APEX Season 2 Grand Finals, they were surely exorcised by this attack run. Seoul only won a single teamfight when Fits connected with a grav and Twilight was still on Ana, so the team was without the healing output of transcendence. Recognizing the issue, Twilight swapped to Zen, and thereafter nothing troubled the Titans’ inexorable march forward. Having fun,Bumper tried to match the famous “Eye of the Kaiser” play, but sadly all he hit this time was a shield. It was another speedrun, this time the 4th-fastest time ever on this map.

The Dynasty’s attack on point A was astonishingly slow, which meant nearly everyone built ults before any engagement actually occurred. When it did, Seominsoo’s early grav was countered by a trans from Ryujehong, Marve1 hit a lucky pin onto Bumper, and the cap came through. But on B, the Titans had an ally: the famed Eichenwalde Bridge. Vancouver’s defensive position was impregnable, and in fight after fight the Dynasty were forced to jump en masse into the creek far below in order to reset. Finally it was the last fight, and instead of choosing to jump, the Titans grabbed their opponents and tossed them aside, staking an emphatic claim to ownership of the bridge and winning the series.

Titans 3 : Dynasty 0

Map 4: Rialto

The Titans went on the attack first, and executed a far more cunning plan–so cunning, in fact, that most people won’t even believe that it was a plan. Haksal stood on the second floor, feeding ult charge to Marve1 on Winston. The Titans then turned their focus to the monkey, forcing out a primal rage, and Haksal spotted his moment to advance forward. Seeing him split forward, Marve1 booped him further away from the Titans, but directly into the Seoul backline, where Haksal was able to get a quick kill on Ryujehong to open up Point A, which then snowballed into stagger kills at the Point C archway. All of this, of course, was perfectly calculated by the Titans and in no way just a thing that happened.

At this point, though, the Titans actually started to struggle. Well, struggle in the context of this series. What happened was this thing that fans of other teams are familiar with, where their team “loses fights.” For about 2:30, the Titans didn’t advance, and then reality returned and they started moving forward again. Seominsoo tried to use grav to lock the Dynasty into their spawn, but was a bit overzealous and did it too early, allowing Seoul to come back and stop the cart right before the end of the map. That, plus the previous time burned, put Vancouver in a rough spot. Bumper’s hail mary shatter didn’t connect, and for the first time in the series, the Titans did not complete a map.

The Dynasty’s attack led with Marve1 again on Winston, and they adjusted their playstyle to go extremely aggressive against the Vancouver defense. Caught flatfooted, the Titans sat dumbfounded as the Winston repeatedly crashed onto them. It wasn’t until halfway into Point C that they managed to stabilize, and at that point they were staring down the barrel of a 4-minute hold. With that in mind, it was time to cycle ultimates. There’s no team in the league that does this quite like Vancouver, who don’t just win every fight, but win them while also getting more ults than they started with. After 3 minutes, Seoul panicked, committing ults to a lost fight and setting up a difficult final push. The Titans had an opening, but couldn’t capitalize on Seominsoo’s grav. Instead it was Fits who got the lockdown, delivering at least one map win to his squad.


Titans 1 : Dynasty 3

Player of the Match

In a match where the Titans generally dominated their competition, everyone had pretty good games. There was one storyline that stuck out, and that was one player’s magical ability to never, ever, ever die.

Jjanu only died 9 times across the entire match, an impossible figure that underscores his brilliant Dva play.

Dva is, of course, a hugely survivable character. With the largest health pool in the game, boosters to exist dangerous scenarios, and defense matrix to block incoming damage, she’s hard to even demech. Add in that you need to kill baby Dva too, and you have a recipe for a low-kill character. But Jjanu has taken that to a whole other level.

My best explanation for Jjanu’s insane k/d ratio is the following. The Titans are a squad that peel aggressively for their supports, and Jjanu is the point person for making sure the healers are protected. Slime, Twilight, and Haksal, recognizing the importance of that service for their own survival, are inclined to repay him by making sure that Jjanu also never dies. Is this accurate? Almost surely not. But I like to imagine that’s what’s going on.

Episode 13 – Not OWL Level

Joining Chris to talk about the Vancouver Titans hot 3-0 start are co-hosts Omni & Sam. They pick apart the exciting Titans win over the Guangzhou Charge, and the somewhat “crazy” win over the San Francisco Shock! Plus they review the week that was in OWL, the week that will be, and the new hero “Baptiste” who made a surprise appearance in the PTR.

Titans vs. Shock Postgame

Map 1: Busan

Learning from last week’s control map loss, Titans rolled out with Seominsoo instead of Stitch and made no pretensions of playing anything apart from 3/3. Shock came out with their all-Korean roster (plus Moth), which made it clear that they would be running a multi-DPS composition. On City Center, Striker came out on Widow and occupied the flat rooftop that seems custom-made to be a sniper perch, but the Titans had clearly practiced countering it after yesterday’s match. Bumper harried Striker constantly and neutered his impact, which allowed the more sustainable Vancouver squad to stand on point without fear. San Francisco felt mostly locked out of contention and fell without much struggle. They tried for the same strategy on Shrine, but if anything it was even more ineffective because Jjanu had rolled out on Hammond. With two beefy tanks harassing the widow and Twilight pumping out the heals on Ana (plus hitting a crazy long-range sleep on Moth), fights continually went in favor of Vancouver. A late swap to 3/3 had the deck stacked against it, and Vancouver closed out the map 2-0.

Titans 1: Shock 0

Map 2: King’s Row

San Francisco, partially chastened by their loss and partially recognizing that King’s Row has always been a tank-heavy map, brought in Sinatraa and Super to try the greatly-anticipated 3/3 mirror. Things got off to a very bad start for Vancouver when Bumper saw Sinatraa weak on Zarya, pushed forward, and got disconnected from his squad. That death led to a poor last-minute fight, and when Slime was killed on the back end, San Francisco was able to chase down kills literally into spawn. That set up a 4:30 defense on point C, which felt nearly impossible based on how the map had gone so far. The hidden upside was that, somehow, Vancouver had already been winning the ult economy fight even while losing positioning. Now on Point C they had the tools to cycle their defense, and some heroic plays (including Jjanu eating a key grav) ate minutes off the clock until San Francisco finally completed in overtime.

On the attack, the Titans were a bit slower to take Point A, and once they did things somehow got worse. San Francisco again engaged a spawn camp that was only broken with the investment of a grav and a sound barrier with 1:30 left on the clock. A clutch overtime fight delivered Point B, but the time bank had been drained and drained, and the next round came down to one final fight. San Francisco took it from a forward position, lost half their players, and couldn’t regroup in time to take another fight as Titans rolled into Point C.

In the second round, Vancouver defended first, and committed trans, grav, and shatter to the defense of A, all for naught. In overtime, Jjanu threw out a self-destruct and killed both supports, which should have ended the map, but Titans shockingly weren’t able to seal the deal, and San Francisco were only stopped at the gates of B.

Architect tried the same Ana bionade strategy he had employed on Shock’s first attack, but this time Jjanu saw it coming and denied it to unlock the point. The final fight was the highlight of the game, a 5-player clutch that won the map.

With Titans right in front of the victory marker, Super hit a shatter onto Seominsoo. Twilight immediately used trans to save him, which allowed Seominsoo to pin 4 players into a grav. Bumper swung his hammer through, building an instant shatter, which he used right as Slime booped the now-stunned enemies into the middle of the field. The coup-de-gras was delivered by Jjanu, who perfectly placed a self-destruct in the middle of the enemy team.

Titans 2: Shock 0

Map 3: Volskaya

San Francisco made a puzzling substitution, bringing on Nevix to replace Choihyobin. At the time, it seemed as if they had a multi-DPS composition to throw in,  but first Vancouver had to go on the attack. Point A was again a bit rough, and the cap only came through with 30 seconds to go. After a couple of strong defenses on Point B, Vancouver finally capped with a smallish 2:00 timebank.

For San Francisco’s turn, they did not in fact have a DPS composition to throw at the Titans, instead opting for a mirror 3/3. Vancouver were consistently getting first picks until Bumper tried for a cheeky hidden shatter that was spotted out and quickly led to his death. The ensuing fight was hopeless… except somehow it wasn’t, and the Titans recovered to hold the point! Jjanu used a great zoning self-destruct, Seominsoo got some clutch kills, Twilight used trans to save lives, and San Francisco were surprisingly held.

That should have been the end of it–except in the next fight, Bumper used charge to stagger the enemy baby Dva and inadvertently didn’t actually impact the wall, instead flying into the icy river with his target. Another Reinhardt-less defense was a bridge too far, and the Shock got to continue their attack. Vancouver’s defense was stout, and it was only in overtime that San Francisco appeared to gain purchase. But once again, the Titans found a way to clutch out the victory, trading kills in what appeared to be a hopeless fight. Sinatraa, last alive, must have looked around and wondered where his teammates had disappeared to, right before he was punched into next Tuesday by Haksal on Doomfist.

Titans 3: Shock 0

Map 4: Route 66

With victory in hand, the new question became what improvements the Titans had made to their play on Route 66. The map had given us issues against Guangzhou, and the new idea was a Sombra-variation 3/3. There were some promising plays, but on the whole it looked like more practice was needed. Shock pushed pretty quickly into Point C, much like Guangzhou did the previous day. The cart was pushed nearly to the end before Vancouver once again hit an extra gear in crunch time and stabilized. First Twilight clutched with a 2k, then Jjanu hit another clutch self-destruct 3k. That meant that instead of a 2:00 timebank, Shock only completed the map in overtime.

On attack the Titans did a lot to allay my concerns, crushing fights when they needed to and riding the cart to mere meters from the finish with a minute to go. They couldn’t quite finish the map with that fight, but Twilight opened with a frag on the next attack and they capped also in overtime.

On the second attack, Shock found a critical pick with a solo grav onto Seominsoo, taking him out right as he used his own grav. Right after Point A, Twilight again clutched  kills and won the fight for his team, but Vancouver now had a long way to go in only a minute. Super built a fast shatter, but Twilight anticipated it and used trans to prevent damage, then got the opening kill to cap Point A. If the Route 66 doors opened slightly faster, Vancouver would have won, but instead Shock made it back to the cart. Bumper hit a shatter onto Sinatraa and charged in, and if his charge had connected that would have denied the enemy grav: but it barely failed to connect, grav came out, Bumper was locked up, and a Nevix self destruct ended the map.


Titans 3 : Shock 1

Player of the Match

This was a hard one. I almost chose Twilight, especially after his outrageous play on Route 66, but in the end I couldn’t deny the consistent greatness from another player. Titans fans, I gave this award to him yesterday, and I’m doing it again today.

Jjanu is your player of the match.

There are two big reasons. First, he actually ate so many of Sinatraa’s gravs that I lost count. Sinatraa has been one of the best Zaryas in the league, but today he was kept in check by the constant threat of defense matrix. San Francisco executed far fewer bomb/grav combos than Vancouver, mostly thanks to Jjanu.

 Second, Jjanu has a talent for clutch self destructs. After single-handedly saving the team against Guangzhou, he continued pulling their bacon out of the fire, highlighted by the map-winning bomb on King’s Row. Every time he tossed out his mech, you knew the chance was there for the killfeed to explode, and it always seemed to do so at the most critical times.

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