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
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
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.