The last year-plus has been something out of a dream for the Vancouver Titans. Starting with their Contenders Korea Season 2 title as Runaway, this squad has done nothing but win. Their Stage 1 Championship may have been the high point so far, but all of that winning has led to the next few weeks. On Thursday night, the Titans will put their league-best record to the test when they take on the Seoul Dynasty in the opening round of the OWL’s double-elimination bracket.
The Elephant in the Room
Normally, a matchup between the league’s top team and one that barely finished above 0.500 wouldn’t be much of a tossup. If these two teams played at any other point this year, Vancouver would wipe the floor with Seoul. In fact, that’s exactly what happened this year. In three meetings, the Titans racked up an 11-1 map record against the Dynasty.
All of those matches, however, came in the first half of the season, when 3-3 was be-all-end-all and the Titans were at the peak of their powers. Those days are long gone, and, unfortunately for Vancouver, they aren’t the juggernaut they were before role lock. Their 5-2 Stage 4 performance was pedestrian by their lofty standards, and the playoffs are only bringing more uncertainty.
The introduction of Sigma appears to have upended the Stage 4 meta, at least if the play-in tournament was anything to go by. That might be a blessing for the Titans, who never looked fully comfortable in what was by far their shakiest stage. It may just as easily be the bain of Vancouver’s existence. Until they show up on Thursday, the specter of the unknown looms over any attempt to forecast how the Titans will fare.
That being said, this team has proven resilient, and, even at their worst, they’ve been an elite team in the OWL. They have players like Hyojong “Haksal” Kim, Seong jun “SLIME” Kim and Juseok “Twilight” Lee who can perform no matter what the meta throws their way. They have veteran leadership across the roster. They may even have a secret weapon in the form of Jang Hyeon “TiZi” Hwang, their newest addition who has finally joined the team for the postseason. With a new tank shaking up the meta, he could be the X-Factor for the Titans.
The Opponent: Seoul Dynasty
After a season of not quite meeting expectations, the Dynasty finally put it all together last week. In a do-or-die match against the Guangzhou Charge, Seoul sent everybody’s dark horse home with the most impressive performance of the weekend. They came in with a strong grasp of the meta and shut down the Charge at every turn.
The two keys for Seoul’s playoff hopes are their tank and DPS lines. Following a year of sharing playtime, Min Seo “Marve1” Hwang and Min Hyuk “Michelle” Choi have solidified as an elite tank duo, especially in this meta. Like the London Spitfire, they made the call to have their main tank pick up Sigma while the flex tank played Orissa. It’s an interesting swap of traditional roles, but one that gives Seoul a lethal and coordinated frontline.
On the DPS side of things, ByungSun “Fleta” Kim and Don Eon “FITS” Kim have to be one of the scariest duos in the league right now. Fleta was a revelation on McCree, forcing the Charge away from Charlie “nero” Zwarg’s stellar Pharah and reminding everyone that Fleta can contend for the title of best DPS in the world.
All of that means Seoul is incredibly scary. They’ve proven themselves in this meta more than any team. They clearly have the right pieces on the right heroes to be a true contender. That’s not to say that Vancouver won’t simply be better, that their talent, cohesion and experience won’t carry the day. It’s simply acknowledging that Vancouver got unlucky in their draw and that Seoul is much more dangerous than their eighth seed would suggest. At the end of the day, it feels unfair to doubt the Titans when they haven’t really shown any signs of weakness. Yes, Seoul looked like a juggernaut last week, but the Titans are the top seed for a reason.
Vancouver 4-2 Seoul
Projecting exactly what the Titans’ postseason run will look like is difficult. There are too many factors at play to see much past the second round. Regardless of their result in the first round, Vancouver will be looking at a matchup with either the LA Gladiators or Hangzhou Spark. Neither team really projects to be much of a threat to the Titans, but a new meta and the randomness of playoffs could make things go sideways. It seems almost inconceivable for the Titans to be eliminated this week, but even if they are, it was one heck of a season.
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