For the Vancouver Titans, this was always the destination. From their first match in the Overwatch League, the Titans played with a confidence befitting champions. After all, they were champions in their own right, coming into OWL with a Contenders Korea title and all the swagger that warranted. On Friday night at the Blizzard Arena, Vancouver earned their shot at another title, one that would cement the Titans as the best team in Overwatch history.
The Moment of Triumph
The match against the New York Excelsior was by no means a clean victory. The Titans had to struggle from the jump to come away victorious after a grueling seven maps. As they have all season, the Titans took their opponent’s best shot – that’s what happens when you spend the whole year at the top of the standings. More often than not, they’ve been able to stay standing at the end of the day. Friday was no exception, and the Titans emerged with a quintessential Vancouver win.
The Titans came out of the gate hot, taking Lijiang Tower convincingly. Unsurprising, given that Control has been nearly a sure thing, especially when it matters most. In fact, Vancouver hasn’t lost a single control map in the playoffs to this point, going a clean 6-0. New York, though, was prepared for the fight. After winning the next two maps, they looked like a team ready for the matchup and one that maybe had Vancouver’s number.
Then, the Titans did what they do best. They settled into the matchup and will their way back into the series. Hyojong “Haksal” Kim, after singlehandedly keeping King’s Row and Anubis competitive, found his footing in the Doomfist matchup against Haeseong “Libero” Kim. He cut off the opportunities Libero had to punish his aggressive plays, and without that head-to-head in their favor, NYXL couldn’t keep pace with the Titans.
Of course, the Titans still had to make things interesting. After losing for the first time all season on Numbani to the Seoul Dynasty, Vancouver did it again against New York, this time with a perplexingly bad overtime defense. In the end, the Titans righted the ship on Dorado and punched their ticket to Philadelphia for the Grand Finals.
The Final Boss
It couldn’t have been anyone else to meet the Titans in Philly. Even a rematch with New York would have been a touch anticlimactic. The Shock and Titans have been attached at the hip all season, since emerging as the league’s two best teams. Yes, NYXL tried to make it a big three at the top, but it was always Vancouver and San Francisco and then everyone else.
For two stages, every team tried to live up to the standards set by the Shock and Titans, and no one could touch them. It was only when they faced off that everyone realized the gods could bleed. The Stage 1 Final was one of the most intense series in Overwatch history. That match cemented Vancouver as the team to beat and lit a fire under the Shock.
They, of course, went on to get their revenge in the Stage 2 Finals, capping their perfect stage with a title and staking their claim as the league’s best team. Now the teams will meet for a third final this year with everything on the line. The record between the two sits at 2-2 with an 11-11 map record.
The history and stakes of this match are something the OWL has never seen before. Now, in a new meta, that history is more set dressing than useful information. Coming off a dominant 4-0 over New York and sporting a 12 map win streak, the Shock are riding high, ready to finish off a lower bracket run and looking like the favorite to win it all. Frankly, the Titans would probably rather it be that way.
Vancouver has always been more comfortable as the underdog, willing their way to victory rather than overpowering the competition. This is a special group of players who feel more like a family than they do a professional sports team. Their confidence stems from their faith in each other, and that mentality gives them a shot no matter the opponent. Would you bet against them?
Featured image courtesy of Robert Paul for Blizzard Entertainment.
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