After an interminable offseason, the day has finally arrived: the Overwatch League is back! Today is opening day, but we Titans fans must wait until Saturday (at 4:30 Pacific) to watch the debut of our new squad. Fortunately, the wait should be worthwhile, because our opening match pits our mighty Titans against the Shanghai Dragons in a rivalry grudge match. Also, due to recent events which I’ll get to, Vancouver should be favored to come away from this match with their first victory.
You probably have a lot of questions, like “how do we have a rivalry if we’re new to the league” and “why would it be a question that we beat the Dragons, aren’t they terrible” and “even if we do have rivals, what is the link between Shanghai and Vancouver?”
The key to everything here is that these Dragons are not the same team that went 0-40, the worst season ever in a professional sports league. After bringing in Korean replacements for most of the original Chinese squad, the process of replacement continued during the offseason. Shanghai let go of nearly all of its roster, only retaining Diya and the tank duo of Fearless/Geguri. To fill out the squad, the Dragons acquired the lion’s share of the Kongdoo Panthera Contenders roster in DDing, Youngjin, Coma, and Luffy, as well as Diem (Lucky Future Zenith) and Guardian (Toronto eSports).
Then, in late-breaking news, it appears Fearless may be replaced as well.
On Tuesday, Shanghai announced the acquisition of Boston Uprising main tank Gamsu. Fearless was reported to be back in Korea for health reasons, but rumors insisted that his performance in scrims was underwhelming and Youngjin was projected to start at main tank before Gamsu’s arrival.
Vancouver, of course, is made up of the entirety of the Runaway roster, plus Element Mystic’s Rapel. Runaway and Kongdoo Panthera dominated the entirety of Contenders Season 2, setting up a clash of the titans in the Grand Finals. Kongdoo jumped out to a 3-1 lead–but then Runaway won one map, then another, and then the all-important third to complete a reverse sweep and break the hearts of Kongdoo fans everywhere.
So what should we be looking for in the first match? Here are two big questions that might be answered:
What will Rapel’s role be? As the only Vancouver player who never played with the Runaway squad, his integration with the rest of the squad is uncertain. During his time on Element Mystic, he was widely viewed as one of the best Lucios in the world–but he isn’t necessarily an upgrade over Slime, whose clutch play during the Season 2 Finals was instrumental in securing the victory. And even if he is better mechanically, last years’ Seoul Dynasty team proved that an unfamiliar shotcaller can prove fatal to a team’s chances.
How well-constructed is this year’s iteration of Dragons? Much like Vancouver, Shanghai mostly acquired an already-extant team, but with the major difference that they were attempting to weld a new DPS/Support roster onto an extant tankline. Now it appears that tankline will be a partnership between Geguri and Gamsu, who have never played together before. In the present tank-based meta split-second coordination is key. It’s hard to imagine how this welded-together tankline could get enough practice to work effectively together, and even if they somehow manage that, they still have to integrate with the Kongdoo squad.
While Shanghai struggles to form its tankline, Vancouver’s players have worked together for years, and the team as a whole is among the best in the world at this meta. With Fearless’ departure, considering the Titans favorites is an understatement. I’ll be happy with any win, but this should be a 4-0 for the Titans.