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Tag: Stage 3 Week 1

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.

FINAL SCORE

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. Reign Postgame

Hot on the heels of a near-victory over the San Francisco Shock, the Atlanta Reign had a second chance at taking down one of the league’s top teams. The Titans, though, proved too strong, winning 3-1 in fairly convincing fashion. The Reign can hold their heads high after this performance, but the gap between them and the top teams is still evidently present.

Map 1: Nepal

The match started out on Shrine, where Seominsoo immediately made his presence felt. He killed Erster and Masaa in quick succession, earning the Titans a first cap, and things somehow only got more aggressive from there. Despite allegedly being on the defense, it was the Titans who continually engaged onto the Reign and sent them back to spawn. Atlanta got the upper hand in one fight, but had to use all of their ultimates to do it, which set the Titans up for an easy return Q-fest that earned the victory.

Village was a continuation of the same. Vancouver’s aggressivity earned them quicker ult charge and repeatedly brought members of the Reign low. Even when that didn’t result in kills, it forced disengages from the Atlanta team, dragging out the time between fights. Finally, the Reign flipped, but the Titans returned and caught everyone off the point with a grav, taking control back. Nearly the whole of Atlanta were on fractions of their total health pools when Dogman came up with a hero trans to turn the fight and re-establish control. But that used up Atlanta’s stockpile of miracles, and the Titans easily won the final two fights to take the round without much fanfare.

Titans 1 : Reign 0

Map 2: Paris

Atlanta’s defense put Erster on the Baptiste instead of Brigitte, to which the Titans reacted by running their quad DPS composition. This time, Haksal wasn’t able to find free environmental kills, and Seominsoo’s EMP was countered perfectly by Atlanta’s intelligent rotation plus Dogman’s trans. As has seemed to be the case more consistently, the multi-DPS suffered from being easy to eliminate but still lacking in killing power. Vancouver did break through eventually, but it was on a knife’s edge, and probably wouldn’t have happened if Jjanu hadn’t used his Hammond to boop Pokpo off the map.

That forced a low-time reset onto 3/3 for Vancouver, which necessitated multiple econ pushes to build the necessary ults. Up against an Atlanta squad that had used very little on the first point, they were wiped quickly in push after push. Only in the final overtime fight did Vancouver finally have enough resources to win the fight, but a completion with no timebank was not encouraging.

The only path to victory for Vancouver was a strong defensive hold. In preparation for a multi-DPS comp, the Titans put Bumper on Winston, which did get Atlanta to make the desired switch, but didn’t work out in terms of actual play. Bumper’s primal rage built too slowly, and then he was killed by a self-destruct dropping directly onto his head, putting the Titans in a deep, deep hole. Another death, once again before he could use primal, nearly spelled disaster on Point B, but Jjanu’s grav eat and 3k self-destruct saved the Titans for the moment. When Seominsoo was taken out in the subsequent fight, it made winning nearly impossible, and Atlanta finished with more than 3 minutes remaining.

Because the Titans had finished in overtime, their best possible result was now a draw. But once more, Bumper’s Winston was stunned and killed for the first pick, and there was no way back into the fight for Vancouver, who quickly gave up the first tick and lost the map.

Titans 1 : Reign 1

Map 3: Hollywood

It’s been a while since we saw Hollywood North, which the Titans clearly missed. On defense first, they put up a dominant performance. They won the first fight so convincingly that Bumper had already built a shatter, which gave him a chance to pull his famous “sneaky shatter” play. Haksal then dropped from the sky with a rally as the Titans engaged for another wipe. Atlanta’s only good look in the round came when Daco ate Seominsoo’s grav, which led into a hugely protracted fight. The Reign managed two ticks, but the Titans thrive in chaos. They found the necessary kills, stabilized into a ball, and dealt with the staggered Atlanta players as they came in one by one to close out the full-hold defense.

Vancouver went for a rotation into café, but got into trouble when Haksal died first. They struggled with getting picked first throughout the attack round, as both Bumper and Slime also fell victim to it, but the pressure of being perfect was too much for Atlanta to bear. Despite taking out Bumper, the rest of the team was so low on health that Seominsoo was able to beam them all to death, the Titans got both ticks, and Canadian dominance over Hollywood was reestablished.

Titans 2 : Reign 1

Map 4: Gibraltar

Vancouver got to attack first this time, and put up a less-than-stirring performance. It was only a mistake sound barrier from Masaa that that gave them an opportunity to take A–he used it to counter a self-destruct even though his team was able to hide, and its absence was sorely felt when Atlanta were forced back due to their low health bars. Point B was another struggle, which was won in more solid fashion, but not before a lot of time had been burned. Finally on C the Titans made the necessary plays: Haksal pounced on Babybay, who dropped a grav as he died, and Bumper charged Dogman out of the fight, opening a chance for the Titans to remove Pokpo. Atlanta tried for a desperation reset, but couldn’t fight as 6, and a series of Vancouver ultimates cut them down, securing the cap just before overtime.

Atlanta solidly won the first three fights of the map, securing A and getting nearly to B before a last-ditch contest by the Titans stabilized, in a way only they can. Jjanu came out first to contest with his mech health and a self-destruct. As soon as it was used, the rest of the team jumped around the corner, with Slime’s sound barrier covering their approach and Jjanu’s remech. Haksal rallied, Twilight used trans, and Seominsoo locked up the Reign in a grav that they never saw coming, securing an easy kill onto Erster. Bumper’s shatter closed it out, and Vancouver had stabilized.

The Titans did a good job building ults for the next fight, but Atlanta had enough to counter, which meant the Reign took Point B with about 3 minutes remaining. A won fight for the Titans cut that in half, a won fight for Atlanta brought them over the finish line with about 1:30 remaining, and we went to another timebank round.

 This time around, the Titans attack was nothing short of stirring. After trading supports 2 for 2, Bumper charged Daco into the remnants of his squad, the Titans got the kill, and Atlanta’s defense was scrambled. Their contest at the end of A suffered heavily from the poor positioning brought on by that late kill. Bumper was taken out in the next fight, but Twilight wasn’t done, using a trans to save his team before scoring a quad kill onto the Reign. The absolute last fight of the round finally went Atlanta’s way, but the Titans had parlayed a minimum timebank into nearly a full completion of the map.

The Reign had a heavy task ahead of them, and the Titans knew it. Armed with a brilliant push, they put Seominsoo onto Sombra with a very simple gameplan: build EMP, use it to win a fight on point, win the round. In essence, the Titans were changing the name of the game. Winning fights didn’t matter, so much as delaying them did. Of course, a fight win was still worthwhile–the Titans won the first two, bringing Atlanta into overtime before they had even managed A, but Babybay’s grav went down before Seominsoo could counter it with an EMP and suddenly things looked less rosy. The Titans had used nearly all their ults without winning, and now Seominsoo had to get another EMP. By the time he had it on third point, Dogman had his trans ready, which nearly countered the game plan. But Pokpo was taken down anyway, Jjanu (on Zarya) burned Daco out of mech to hit a free grav, and Atlanta’s push was ended along with their hopes of winning the round.

FINAL SCORE

Titans 3 : Reign 1

Player of the Match

This was an odd match to select a specific player from. The Titans won mostly convincingly, but struggled enough that it seemed no one had an exemplary game. I feel like every player had precisely one highlight moment and otherwise was good-not-great. But since I do have to choose, there was one player who was a little above the curve.

Seominsoo’s Zarya has somehow gotten even better than it was previously, and his Sombra flex worked out just fine.

The Titans are very, very good at winning shield battles. In fight after fight, they were able to take superior positioning from the Reign as a result of stronger pressure, and a lot of that comes down to Seominsoo’s Zarya. It’s hard to say without statistics, but my feeling today was that he was holding energy and doing damage at even a higher clip than before, which put the Titans in advantageous positions every time there was a neutral fight.

His flexibility was also a big plus. On the last map, Vancouver knew they only needed to win a single fight, so it made all the sense in the world to put him on Sombra. All three times, he hit big EMPs onto nearly the whole of the Reign, which twice gave his team the win.

Stage 3 Week 1 Preview: Reign & Gladiators

Another stage dawns, but this time with an unfamiliar feeling–for the first time in their history, the Vancouver Titans are returning to the Overwatch League stage in the aftermath of a loss. Their defeat at the hands of the San Francisco Shock in the Stage 2 Finals has cemented a Shock-Titans rivalry as the definitive storyline of this season, but settling that score will have to wait for the Stage 3 playoffs. In the interim, the Titans need to regroup, identify the issues that led to that loss, and figure out how to fix those to regain their top spot.

This week, they’ll be trying out new tricks against the Atlanta Reign and the Los Angeles Gladiators. It’s not about winning, per se–at this point, I expect the Titans to win against any team that isn’t the Shock or the Excelsior–but instead about how they do that winning.

The Atlanta Reign are the unluckiest team in the league for this first week, as they’re going to have to play the Shock and then the Titans in quick succession. I’m not even sure what you do, as the coach, in that circumstance: typically you would prepare for the weaker of the two teams, but in this case there just isn’t one.

Atlanta’s roster is a very mixed KR/NA/EU one. Their tankline was the former Element Mystic duo of Pokpo and Daco, though recently they’ve swapped Dva play to frd as a result of something happening with Daco (though there were plenty of rumors, I haven’t seen anything definitively explaining the change). The DPS duo has mostly been Babybay and Erster, and the support line has had Masaa on main support and either Dogman or Kodak on flex support.

It’s hard to talk about Reign without noting their utterly incongruous results. The Reign are 7-7 in overall record, which makes them seem like a perfectly average team. Let’s look at the list of teams this average squad has defeated! Atlanta have defeated… The Florida Mayhem. Washington Justice. Houston Outlaws. Paris Eternal. Toronto Defiant. New York Excel… wait, no, that can’t be right, I must be reading this wrong.

Let’s see here… April 19, 3-1 score, winner… Atlanta Reign. Ok, so I guess they did win. But what’s this, they played NY again on May 4, where I’m sure the Excelsior got the revenge win. Flip to that day… Hold on a second. Atlanta won again, 3-2?

Yes, indeed they did. This team, which has lost to Boston, Chengdu, Guangzhou, Gladiators, Fusion, Spitfire, and even gave the LA Valiant their first victory, was able to twice defeat the 3rd-best team in the league. A lot of the credit for that goes to the support line. Atlanta has a very weird setup, where Masaa is (in my opinion) one of the best Lucios in the league, while both Dogman and Kodak have been impossibly inconsistent at flex support. But when it came time to play NYXL, both Masaa and Dogman played out of their minds. The Atlanta Lucio zoned Anamo out completely, and seemed to hit boops to displace Mano on every single attempted push. Meanwhile, Dogman was, for the day, the top dog (I know, I know) over Jjonak. It was his right clicks that found opening kills, and his trans usage that kept his teammates alive.

All of this is to say, Atlanta are clearly a weaker team than the Titans. But if you beat NYXL twice, that’s not an accident. There is talent on this roster, and when it’s firing on all cylinders, they can be dangerous. However, Vancouver is not NYXL, and I don’t think they can be exploited in the same way.

The Titans should get this one 4-0.

The other matchup is against the LA Gladiators, who by the standings are the stronger opponent, but are in my estimation less dangerous. LA has, thus far, mostly feasted on weak teams, and owe their 5th-place position in the standings to a fortuitous win against the Shock during the very first week of the OWL season. With the exception of that win, the Gladiators have done a great job beating the teams they were expected to beat while losing to the ones they were expected to lose to. That leaves them, deservedly, somewhere in the tier of “playoff alsos,” teams #4-8 in the league who can compete against each other but fall clearly short of the Titans/Shock dominance tier, or even New York’s “close-but-not-there” tier.

Their roster is another successful mix of the world, for which Bischu deserves a lot of credit. The support line is three Finns–BigGoose, Shaz, and backup Ripa–who have to coordinate perfectly with the all-Korean tank line of Roar and either Bischu or Void. The DPS duo is the American Hydration and the Korean Decay, further complicating strategizing and calls. Fortunately, Bischu speaks fluent Korean and English, and despite probably being the inferior Dva choice when Void is also on the roster, when healthy he has been the starter because it keeps the whole team more coordinated.

That’s fitting for the Gladiators, a team for whom it’s hard to identify a star. The support line is strong but not particularly flashy–you rarely see them make a big play, so much as you feel their impact when the Gladiators find little edges in fights. After Fissure’s departure, the tankline functions similarly, effectively pushing forward and creating space in a way that doesn’t show up on highlight reels. The closest thing to a star is probably Decay on Zarya. His addition took the team from a marginal squad, forced to make do with Surefour on Zarya, to a powerful unit that can beat pretty much anyone outside of the top 3.

This is a great matchup for the Titans in the first week. The Gladiators are strong enough to mostly play standard 3/3, to just about the highest standard Vancouver can find in an opponent. If mistakes are still being made, LA will at the very least try to exploit them, which is precisely the feedback Vancouver will need. If the Titans aren’t on their game, I could even see the Gladiators taking us to a map 5. But I think Vancouver will be playing hard.

A 3-1 Titans victory seems most likely.

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