Stage 1 is in the rearview, and the Vancouver Titans have emerged unscathed. Their perfect record will be on the line twice this week, against the Dallas Fuel and Hangzhou Spark – two teams looking to improve after middling results in Stage 1. With a massive balance patch in play for the first time, the Titans will need to show off their adaptability if they want to stay on top.
Week 1 Preview
Dallas Fuel (4-3)
Dallas took a while to find their footing this season but started to round into form before falling just short of the playoffs. In Stage 1, they leaned heavily on the Sombra play of Richard “rCk” Kanerva, something that gave the Titans trouble at times. The new world of Stage 2 could see Zachary “ZachaREEE” Lombardo released from Brigitte jail for the first time. If DPS heroes do take a larger role moving forward, Hyeon “EFFECT” Hwang is probably the player to watch on Dallas.
As for the Titans, they would do well to stick with GOATs and its variants as much as possible. It’s where they made their hay on the way to a Stage 1 title, and it would be shocking to see them throw that completely out the window. Still, flexibility will be huge going forward, and the hero pools of HyunWoo “JJANU” Choi and MinSoo “SeoMinSoo” Seo remain somewhat unexplored. This could be the first chance to really see the classic DPS duo of Chunghee “Stitch” Lee and Hyojong “Haksal” Kim unleashed on the OWL.
Prediction: Vancouver wins 3-1
Player to Watch: Seong jun “SLIME” Kim
SLIME has already established himself as one of the best Lucio players in the entire league. Now thanks to some massive changes to Lucio, he might have even more chances for hero plays. Lucio’s Soundwave has become significantly more impactful thanks to knockback changes, so his ability to punish poor positioning will be more important than ever. At the same time, a Speed Boost nerf leaves him more vulnerable. How SLIME and other top main supports adapt to the changes will be fascinating to watch in Stage 2.
Hangzhou Spark (3-4)
The Spark are a tough team to parse right now. Their rollercoaster Stage 1 left a lot to be desired, especially when they were so hyped coming into the season. Confusing losses were common, but there were impressive performances along the way, including a win over a surging Gladiators team late in the stage. They have a stable of impressive DPS talents, but it hasn’t come together quite yet. Maybe they’ll fully activate in Stage 2, but until it happens it’s hard to set expectations too high.
This match should be one of the better tank head-to-heads of the week with Sangbeom “Bumper” Park taking on Qiulin “Guxue” Xu. Bumper really distinguished himself on Reinhardt during Stage 1, and the Titans’ success revolved around his aggressive playstyle. The meta shift should bring Winston to the forefront – a boon for the Spark thanks to Guxue’s prowess on his signature hero. Bumper is no slouch there either, so it should be a matchup to keep an eye on throughout the series.
Prediction: Vancouver wins 3-1
Of the Titans’ six map losses in Stage 1, four came against Chinese expansion teams. Hangzhou is the one new Chinese team Vancouver has yet to face off against. The ability to maintain an edge over the fellow newcomers in the Pacific will go a long way to keeping them on top of the division.
Stage 2 is going to be somewhat of a wild west as the league settles into a new meta. This will be the first chance for the Titans to test themselves, and it should be an entertaining week with two flexible and skilled opponents on the docket. If Vancouver wants to retain its place as the league’s best team, they will need to match that flexibility and prove they can evolve along with the meta.
Featured image courtesy of the Robert Paul for Blizzard Entertainment.
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