Group consensus can be a funny thing. I argued in my Week 2 Preview that, if the Titans could beat Guangzhou and San Francisco in Week 2, they would deserve consideration as one of the top teams in the league. Somehow it seems that the group consensus wasn’t yet ready for that: instead, everyone waited another week for the Titans to crush the abysmal Valiant, and then anointed them the counterbalance to NYXL. Why the ability to defeat the worst team in the league was the deciding factor is a mystery to me, but in the end I’m happy that the community at large is recognizing just how good the Titans are.
This week was shaping up to be among the most challenging of the Stage, until two things happened. First, 3/3 kings Paris Eternal got utterly demolished by the Atlanta Reign, raising questions of what happens when the more individually-skilled teams catch up to them in terms of practice time on 3/3. For a while, it looked like Titans/Paris would be a matchup of 2 of the top 3 teams in the league: now it feels more like the top team playing a decently strong opponent.
Second, analysts actually took some time to counter Ameng’s Hammond 1-tricking, and the Shanghai Dragons reduced him to utter irrelevance in a 4-0 stomp. Chengdu’s curtain was ripped from their booth, and now instead of having a mythical 3/3 counter, they have a man rolling around aimlessly in a hamster ball.
For the Titans, Paris still present the larger challenge. Though they were trounced by the Atlanta Reign, Atlanta also increasingly looks like one of the strongest teams in the league, so expecting Paris to go down easy would be foolish. Nevertheless, there are things that can be exploited. Seominsoo’s Zarya, in my opinion, clearly outlcasses that of Soon, and his ability to support Bumper’s aggression could put BenBest on the defensive, where his footing has looked less secure. Masaa put on a clinic last week for how to neutralize Kruise, and Slime has the mechanical skill and the coaching behind him to repeat that performance, removing one of the most dynamic playmakers on the Eternal side. Most critically, when the frontal shields go down, Twilight has demonstrated a far greater ability to hit right clicks with Zen or biotic grenades with Ana than has Hyp.
I know I said that Paris shouldn’t be expected to go down easily.
Nonetheless, I think Titans can take this match 4-0.
The Eternal will almost assuredly opt into a 3/3 mirror, and if Titans are indeed superior in that matchup (as I believe they are), the map type won’t particularly matter and Vancouver should find more success wherever they find themselves. Paris, lacking flexibility, has no way to counter a team that simply outclasses them at their own game.
Against Hunters, the longstanding question has been “when will their actual main tank arrive?” So long as LateYoung remains stuck in China due to visa issues, Chengdu has had to invent their own meta based around Ameng’s play on Hammond. As the first team to play Hammond in a competitive context (when Jjanu played him on King’s Row during Contenders Korea S2 Finals), Titans are in a perfect position to know the strengths and weaknesses of such a composition. Particularly on control maps, where Hunters have favored multi-DPS compositions, it will be interesting to see if Stitch is brought in to match, or if the Titans remain with Seominsoo and their brutally strong 3/3. Outside of control, Hunters have been much weaker, so Titans should be expected to bulldoze the pandas on escort and hybrid maps, and are heavily favored on assault.
If the Hunters are going to take a map, it would be the starting control map, where they could come out with some wonky compositions and catch Vancouver off guard.
So long as Titans don’t give up points anywhere else, this series should be a 3-1 victory.
But if Chengdu can steal the assault map as well, it sets up a 5th map on the least-certain territory. That would be a dangerous spot for Vancouver, so I recommend they put the series to bed before it can get there.