With the move to a 28 game schedule for Season 2, a hot start is more important than ever in the Overwatch League. The Vancouver Titans, luckily, appear primed for early success. Despite their status as an expansion team, they feature one of the more experienced rosters in the league – one that has competed and won on big stages before.
Wins out of the gate will be at a premium, but Vancouver plays fellow expansion teams in four out of seven Stage 1 games. If Vancouver aims to be a contender in the OWL, they must take advantage of an easier slate of games before the going gets rough.
Week 1: Shanghai Dragons
Vancouver will make their OWL debut on Saturday, February 15th, with some familiar faces on the other side of the stage. The Shanghai Dragons are returning for season 2 with four members signed from Kongdoo Panthera. The Titans are composed of former Runaway players, so this matchup represents a rematch of the Contenders Season 2 Grand Finals, where Runaway claimed a 4-3 victory over KDP.
After a rough first season, the Dragons will be a serious threat during Season 2. Still, no one wants to be the team that gives Shanghai their first win. The Dragons will have a chance to make that happen earlier in the week against the Hangzhou Spark, but Vancouver will be in their sights if they fail.
The Titans’ first game is easily one of the most exciting of the opening weekend. Longtime fans of Runaway will finally get to see their favorites on the OWL stage. Vancouver will get just one chance at a first impression. Can they make it count?
Week 2: Guangzhou Charge
Vancouver’s first Week 2 matchup pits them against one of the league’s enigmas, the Guangzhou Charge. The Charge sport a multinational roster with seasoned veterans up and down, but it is unclear exactly how they will look as a final product. They are being pegged as a bottom of the barrel team entering the season, but they could catch unwary teams by surprise.
Guangzhou has just a single OWL veteran on the roster in Choi “HOTBA” Hong-Joon. He proved himself to be an excellent off tank last season for the Philadelphia Fusion, but he will be matched by Choi “JJANU” Hyeon-woo. This match will serve as a good test for JJANU as he tries to assert himself as one of the best in the league.
Week 2: San Francisco Shock
The San Francisco Shock were always constructed with season 2 in mind. They took their lumps last year while they waited for the potential of their roster to be unlocked. Now, they look like one of the most dangerous teams in the league. Their final form is still unknown but the potential here is sky high.
This Week 2 matchup could be incredibly explosive, especially when it comes to the DPS players. Lee “Stitch” Choong-hui and Kim “Haksal” Hyo-jong have the talent to match the Overwatch League’s best, but the Shock will give them their first chance to go up against OWL stars. Kwon “Striker Nam-Joo was an MVP candidate with Boston last season, and now he gets to pair with Park “Architect” Min-ho to form a truly elite DPS duo.
Week 3: Los Angeles Valiant
In the same way that San Francisco will provide a test for the Titans’ DPS stars, the Valiant will serve as a measuring stick for Park “Bumper” Sang-beom. Koo “Fate” Pan-Seung is certainly on the shortlist of best main tanks in the world, even earning the honor of playing for Team Korea in the Overwatch World Cup. Fate and Bumper have faced off just once before, in a showmatch where Runaway bested that World Cup squad. Now they will clash with something on the line.
A win against last season’s Pacific Division champs would be a phenomenal sign for Vancouver and would prove that they belong among the league’s top teams. The Titans have playoff aspirations, and a win here would go a long way to getting them off to a great start in Stage 1. It would also be a nice feather in the cap of a team that could be a contender down the stretch.
Week 4: Paris Eternal
The Paris Eternal are not expected to be among the best in the league, but they cannot be overlooked. If OWL finds itself in a tank heavy meta to start the season, they will be downright formidable.
The Eternal are attempting to bring together the best European talent available and they have the advantage of some key OWL veterans in Terrence “SoOn” Tarlier and Georgii “Shadowburn” Gushcha. Thanks to a top tier coaching staff, Paris should be a disciplined and coordinated opponent. Still, the Titans should have the talent to win the day here, but they will need to be mindful of their opponents.
Week 4: Chengdu Hunters
The Hunters are a similar story to Paris, with the caveat that they recruited from the best that China has to offer. Unfortunately for Chengdu, there weren’t many veterans available from China, so the team will be featuring a roster entirely of OWL rookies. Beyond that, Chengdu failed to sign Cai “Krystal” Shilong and Xu “Guxue” Qiulin, the two best players from the Chinese region.
The Hunters’ lack of top-level experience and the absence of the most coveted Chinese players means they will likely struggle to start the season. Stage 1 is the best time to catch this team, so Vancouver needs to take advantage.
Week 5: Guangzhou Charge
A lot can change in three weeks, especially for a new roster. Even if Guangzhou look shaky early on, by the end of Stage 1 they should begin to find their form. They will have recent experience against the Titans, and that can make any team dangerous. Still, Vancouver will be a heavy favorite in both of these matchups and anything short of a win will be a disappointment.
Vancouver is lucky to start with a relatively easy schedule, and they must make the most of it. Anything short of a 4-3 record will put them at a disadvantage going into the rest of the season. Vancouver will be a strong bet to make the Stage 1 Playoffs, and any momentum they build here will be invaluable.
Stage record prediction: 5-2
Featured image courtesy of the Overwatch League.
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