Of the eight Overwatch League expansion teams, none are more hyped than the Vancouver Titans. When these players were left out last season, the question lingered: How would they have fared against the world’s best teams? In the coming months, that question will finally be answered as the Titans aim to prove they belong among the league’s elite.
- Head Coach: Ji-sub “paJion” Hwang
- Assistant Coach: Yang-won “Yang1” Kwon
- Analyst: Harsha “Harsha” Bandi
- DPS: Chunghee “Stitch” Lee
- DPS: Hyojong “Haksal” Kim
- DPS: Dong-eun “Hooreg” Lee
- DPS: MinSoo “SeoMinSoo” Seo
- Tank: Sangbeom “Bumper” Park
- Tank: HyunWoo “JJANU” Choi
- Support: Seong jun “SLIME” Kim
- Support: Juseok “Twilight” Lee
- Support: Jun Keun “Rapel” Kim
Outside of the returning Overwatch League teams, Vancouver has more top tier experience than any team in the league. Nearly every player can trace their time in Overwatch back to the APEX days, and between them they have dozens of seasons of LAN play. All but one player are direct transplants from the Runaway squad that took home the trophy in Season 2 of Contenders Korea. The Titans will be relying on that familiarity and shared experience to set them apart from their fellow expansion teams.
The three coaches for Vancouver come from different sources, but all have extensive track records. The head coach, paJion, got his start in Korea, notably coaching Bon’s Spirit Gaming which included both SLIME and SeoMinSoo. From there, he moved on to North American where he helped lead Fusion University to back-to-back undefeated Contenders seasons. Now he has stepped up to the Overwatch League to see if he can replicate that same success with the Titans.
Yang1 took over coaching duties for Runaway starting in late 2017. He was at the helm for their semifinal appearance in Contenders Season 1 and their eventual triumph in Season 2. His experience with the roster will be invaluable when it comes to interpersonal dynamics.
Rounding out the coaching group is Harsha. An analyst with the San Francisco Shock last year, he brings OWL experience to a team that sorely lacks it. He is a highly thought of analyst who got his start as a content creator in the pre-OWL era. His role in the team may be more behind the scenes since a language barrier stands between him and the players. Still, his insights into the league and best practices will be crucial for the Titans.
The Titans DPS corps will undoubtedly be one of the most exciting in the entire league. Headlining the group is the longtime duo of Stitch and Haksal, whose time together dates back to APEX Season 2. Stitch will be the primary hitscan DPS for the Titans. He excels on Tracer and McCree, but his Widowmaker can be formidable as well. He developed a respectable Zarya over the course of 2018, but he is much more comfortable on other heroes.
Haksal has been among the best Genji players in the world at different times in his career. Unfortunately, he hasn’t had many opportunities to play his signature hero recently. Like Stitch, he will need to prove that he still belongs in that discussion. Regardless, Haksal remains one of the most flexible players in the league and his Pharah is elite.
SeoMinSoo is another hyper-flexible option for the Titans. Something of a journeyman in the Korean scene, he eventually found his way to Runaway for Contenders Season 2. His playing time was limited throughout the season, but he made his mark during the Grand Finals. His presence – especially his Zarya play – was pivotal during Runaway’s comeback 4-3 victory over Kongdoo Panthera. If the meta heavily features Zarya or requires less hitscan play, SeoMinSoo could see significant playing time.
The final member of the DPS rotation, Hooreg is the only OWL veteran on the roster. He spent last season with the London Spitfire with middling results when he played. His most likely role for the Titans is to play niche heroes and give the team some tricks up their sleeve.
Overall this group has the ability to play every DPS hero in the game and then some. They are a large part of why Vancouver appears to be virtually meta-proof. Realistically they are unlikely to be the best DPS unit in the league. The good news is that they don’t need to be. They all play extremely well within the team structure and are more than capable of peaking in big moments.
Few players in Overwatch history have been as flexible as Bumper. He is like a liquid – he takes the shape of whatever container he is placed in – in the way he has fluidly changed roles over the course of his career. Since joining Runaway in 2016, Bumper has played main support and flex tank before finally taking over main tank duties. He always excels no matter the role and during 2018 developed into one of the best Winston players in the world. His Reinhardt is solid but not elite though he tends to have his biggest moments when his team needs it most.
JJANU is already one of the premier D.Va players in the Overwatch League before he even takes the stage. He covers every base when it comes to the hero – defense matrix usage, self destruct placement, and the awareness to be in the right spot at the right time. He has also flashed an impressive Wrecking Ball – and there are hints that it could be a crucial pick in the coming meta. No matter the pick, he can be expected to play it to a high level.
Twilight and SLIME were potentially the best support duo in the world outside of OWL last year. SLIME’s performance in the Season 2 Grand Finals was remarkable – his play on Ilios: Well, in particular, was as close to a hard carry as a main support can get. Twilight was among the best fragging Zenyattas in Korea, and his Ana is top notch as well.
The lone new addition to the roster is Rapel, the flex support from Element Mystic. Despite being overshadowed by some of the flashier stars on his team, Rapel was a rock for EM. He was perhaps best known for his propensity to break out a Torbjorn on certain defensive points, though that was before Torb’s recent rework. He provides a more conservative alternative to Twilight’s aggressive play, so the Titans should have all bases covered when it comes to supports.
The Titans schedule seems ideal for an expansion team. Stage 1 starts against a Shanghai Dragons team who was without their intended main tank. Even with their acquisition of YoungJin “Gamsu” Noh, the Dragons will struggle in Week 1 as they try to incorporate their newest player. Their issue will give the Titans an opportunity for a hot start.
Moving forward, the difficulty levels off in Stages 2 and 3 before a brutal stretch to close the season. After a rematch with Shanghai in Week 1 of Stage 4, the Titans get a short reprieve with games against Florida and Washington. They close the season with a murderer’s row of London, Philadelphia, San Francisco, and New York. The Titans should be in the playoff hunt down the stretch, and how they handle that tough finish will go far in determining where they land.
The Path to Playoffs
The Titans should absolutely expect to find themselves in the playoffs at season’s end. Their weak early schedule should give them the opportunity to jump out to a hot start that can carry them through inevitable rough patches. The biggest question mark for this team is how quickly they can adapt to a new league, a new location, and the pressures associated.
Vancouver has an unmatched pedigree as a roster, but all of their success came in Korea. Now, most of the team is away from home for the first extended period of time. They are hoping that their culture – built over their time as Runaway – will ease that transition. If it can, they will come out of the gates better than any expansion team could hope for.
The Titans are talented, and they have proven themselves capable of performing on big stages. As long as they adapt to the change in scenery and competition, they will be in the hunt along with the league’s best.
Featured image courtesy of the Vancouver Titans.
You can also follow Bradley @shyguyow.