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OWL Grand Finals Preview: The Tanks

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The Overwatch League season is drawing to a close, and the stage is set for an epic Grand Final. When the Vancouver Titans meet the San Francisco Shock in Philadelphia it will be the fifth time the two have met this year and their third shared final. In the lead-up, The Game Haus will be going role by role to take a look at the individual matchups that will define the Grand Finals. Last week, the series kicked off by looking at the support lines. Today, the tanks take center stage as the team’s styles come into focus.

Main Tank: Jang Hyeon “TiZi” Hwang vs Myeong Hwan “smurf” Yoo

OWL Grand Finals Preview
Photo: Ben Pursell For Blizzard Entertainment

This matchup feels a bit strange in the context of the Vancouver-San Francisco rivalry that has defined much of this OWL season. When they traded Stage Championships earlier this year, it was Sangbeom “Bumper” Park and Matthew “super” DeLisi leading the charge for the league’s two best teams. Now, though, Orissa is the main tank du jour and the hyper-aggressive style employed during the GOATs meta just won’t cut it. 

That’s not to say that these new main tanks haven’t learned from their predecessors. Both smurf and TiZi are at their best when their teams are on the offensive, looking to take space and create opportunities for their teammates. TiZi, especially, channels Bumper at times, pushing forward without regard for his own safety. The Shock will be ready to punish those mistakes, so he’ll need to reign in that impulse a bit. 

On the other side, smurf has been the better of the two when it comes to setting up the crucial Halt combos that decide many engagements. In part, that’s due to Vancouver’s free-wheeling style that focuses less on the combo, but it’s still a leg up for the Shock. Smurf does struggle when the enemy team takes the initiative and gets in his face. That’s where TiZi and the Titans excel, and they’ll be sure to press that advantage in the Grand Finals. 

In the end, both smurf and TiZi have slotted in nicely as the meta required their services. The X-factor here could be comfort and experience. TiZi has a history with some of his teammates dating back to 2017, where they played in Grand Finals together. They’ve been tested on some of the biggest stages Overwatch had to offer. Smurf will be playing in his first top-tier final after just a couple months starting with this team. 

Verdict: Slight edge to Vancouver

Flex Tank: HyunWoo “JJANU” Choi vs Hyobin “Choihyobin” Choi

If this article had been written two weeks ago, this wouldn’t have been close. At the time, the San Francisco Shock were staring down the barrel of elimination, having been sent down to the lower bracket courtesy of a brutal Map 7 loss to the Atlanta Reign. They were just one match and four maps into what would become a legendary four-match, 16-map lower bracket run. Choihyobin was struggling to find his footing on Overwatch’s newest hero, and the Shock looked (somewhat) mortal. 

JJANU, on the other hand, was taking to Sigma like he was born to throw rocks and bounce balls. Since then, he’s only continued to make waves as one of the best Sigmas the OWL has to offer, but that’s no surprise from the Titan’s MVP candidate. The bigger shock – sorry, not sorry – was the tepid start for his flex tank rival. Of course, that didn’t last much longer than the Shock’s own bumpy playoff-opening. As Choihyobin grew into his newfound role as the shoeless mad scientist, the Shock settled into the rhythm that would carry them into the Grand Finals on a hot streak only surpassed by their golden Stage 2. 

To date, JJANU has been the more consistent Sigma player. He’s been in lockstep with TiZi more than Choihyobin and smurf. The mechanical skill is damn near even in this head to head, and Choihyobin has been improving so rapidly. From match to match, his Gravitic Flux usage alone has been leaps and bounds better.

Ultimately, this might be the hardest matchup to call. Two weeks is a long time on a hero that these players are both still learning. Heck, they’ve only played a total of eight matches with Sigma between them. They’ve proven capable of adapting faster than basically anyone, so they could easily break out some new tricks in Philadelphia. In what could be the critical matchup of the Grand Finals, the margin is razor-thin between two of the most clutch players in the league.

Verdict: Push

OWL Grand Finals Preview
Photos: Robert Paul for Blizzard Entertainment

Conclusion

The tank battle has always been where the Vancouver Titans put their focus. From their entry into the Overwatch League, their universe revolved around the gravity of Bumper’s borderline-reckless Reinhardt play. For the Shock as well, so much of their Stage 2 dominance was built on Super’s ability to always win the main tank duel. Now, they must step aside and let their teammates carry them for a change, hoping for the chance to lift the trophy as a collective.

Featured image courtesy of Robert Paul for Blizzard Entertainment.

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