On Thursday, the Overwatch League officially announced 2-2-2 role lock for the upcoming fourth stage of the 2019 season. After months of speculation, the confirmation comes alongside the news that 2-2-2 is coming to the game at large. The shift is bound to have far-reaching effects on both the OWL and the game as a whole.
For the Vancouver Titans, 2-2-2 will be a deviation from the norm, at least during their OWL tenure. Their bread and butter – the triple-tank, triple-support lineup affectionately known as GOATs – is no longer on the table. How will they respond now that the style that carried them to a 20-1 regular-season record is not an option?
The End of the Age of Titans
The 3-3 meta that dominated the first two stages of this season was kind to Vancouver. It placed every member of the team onto a Hero where each was unequivocally among the best in the world. Hyojong “Haksal” Kim, despite his legendary Genji play, proved to be at his best on Brigitte, the Hero that first enabled the 3-3 style. Seong jun “SLIME” Kim mastered the art of booping enemies toward the Titans so they could pounce on vulnerable prey. Juseok “Twilight” Lee dethroned the MVP, SeonngHyun “JJONAK” Bang, to become the consensus best Zenyatta in the league.
The Titans’ evolution into the best 3-3 team in the world began back in Contenders Korea Season 2 of 2018, when they were still playing as Runaway. When they were down, 3-1 in the Grand Finals to Kongdoo Panthera, Runaway subbed in MinSoo “SeoMinSoo” Seo as a Zarya specialist. After that, they didn’t lose until the Shock took the Stage 2 Finals.
That level of consistency is unprecedented in Overwatch, and it has everything to do with how the Titans work. Fueled by the hyper-aggressive style of their main tank Sangbeom “Bumper” Park, Vancouver was ideally suited for 3-3. Their long history together created a hive-mind that excelled in a meta that valued coordination above everything.
That style was already slipping away from the Titans in Stage 3 as DPS picks made their way back into the fold, perhaps spurred on by the intel that 2-2-2 was on the way. Vancouver’s loss to the Shanghai Dragons – a team featuring four members of that KDP team discussed earlier – was a sign that change was coming. Their triple-DPS style is out the window along with the 3-3 and even the 3-2-1 Sombra variant the Titans ran for much of Stage 3. Now teams across the league will have to adjust to the new reality of 2-2-2.
What Will It Look Like?
For the Titans, the tank position is pretty well locked up. It’s hard to see Bumper coming out of the starting lineup even with the addition of Jang Hyeon “TiZi” Hwang to the roster. The move seems more like a depth move than anything else, but Vancouver is a notably selfless team so if the meta favors TiZi, he could find himself on stage. Bumper is at his best on Reinhardt, but that might not be the most common pick in 2-2-2, so he will need to prove himself on other options, particularly Orissa and Wrecking Ball, to remain among the league’s elite main tanks.
It should go without saying, but HyunWoo “JJANU” Choi isn’t going anywhere on the flex tank role. Perhaps the Titan who benefits the most individually from the 2-2-2 lock, JJANU has never been one to flex outside his role, even as the meta shifted toward Sombra in Stage 3. Now he can focus on a pretty narrow group of Heroes, ones on which he largely excels. SeoMinSoo could see some play if Zarya is needed for a whole map, but otherwise, JJANU will be the go-to for the Titans.
This one might be even easier than the tank line. Fans of the Titans should expect exactly nothing to change here. Haksal is obviously off Brigitte duty and back to DPS, but SLIME and Twilight are still an elite Support duo. The only real wrinkle here would be a meta shift that makes two flex-supports viable. In the case that something like an Ana-Zenyatta duo becomes the norm, the Titans have a fantastic option in Jun Keun “Rapel” Kim to pair alongside Twilight.
In a season where DPS Heroes have been a rare sight at times, the Titans have still managed to show some promising signs, and no that doesn’t mean Bumper’s Hanzo. Haksal has broken out Pharah and his signature Genji on a few occasions, looking as sharp as ever. He has always been one of the few Overwatch pros who can manage to pick up new Heroes at will. That flexibility will be a huge asset for the Titans as they look to stay on top of the league.
With Haksal as one presumptive starter, the other half of Vancouver’s DPS line is a little up in the air. SeoMinSoo has played most of the season on Zarya, with the occasional flex onto Sombra becoming more common as of late. He was supplanted in that role by Chunghee “Stitch” Lee, whose performance was promising in two games until Vancouver ran into the surging Shanghai Dragons.
Dating back to their time in Korea, competing in APEX events, both had similar Hero pools, mostly hitscan Heroes. Stitch, though, had the higher peak performance of the two, especially on his best Heroes, Tracer, McCree and Widowmaker. Considering the history Stitch shares with the rest of the roster, he has to be the favorite to play alongside Haksal.
The one wildcard here is Dong-eun “Hooreg” Lee. Despite being turned into a meme, Hooreg is a DPS player with pedigree. His Hero pool is a little wonky and doesn’t fit nicely into the normal hitscan or flex DPS roles, but there’s still potential for Hooreg to have an impact. If 2-2-2 and the shifting meta landscape lend themselves to some niche DPS picks, Hooreg could find himself on stage.
The Big Picture
The implementation of 2-2-2 is a titanic shift in how Overwatch will be played. It makes forecasting Stage 4 nearly impossible. The realistic take is Vancouver drops off some now that the meta isn’t ideally suited to their skills and playstyle. To expect them to maintain their performance through three stages would be ridiculous. That’s not because they will become a mediocre team overnight, but because their skill in 3-3 was so impressive it’s unrealistic to predict it going forward.
That’s not to say there’s no path for Vancouver being an elite team in a 2-2-2 world. The individual skill is obviously there across the board. Their experience in professional Overwatch is unmatched. As a team, they’ve seen essentially every meta and thrived in more than a few. They left their stamp on the league as the best team of the 3-3 era, but now a new challenge awaits.
Featured image courtesy of Robert Paul for Blizzard Entertainment.
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