Stage 3 saw a lot of firsts for the Vancouver Titans. They suffered their first loss of the regular season to the LA Valiant. The Stage 3 Finals were the first they missed as a franchise. For the first time this season, the meta shifted and left the Titans looking mortal.
Stage 4 starts this week and only brings more changes with it. 2-2-2 role lock means the Titans’ preferred style of play for most of the season is no longer an option. How they adapt to those changes is somewhat up in the air, but fans can expect some turbulence while the league as a whole evolves. Luckily for the Titans, their strength through three-quarters of the season has bought them time to find their footing.
Week 1 Preview
Shanghai Dragons (12-9)
Vancouver opens with a rematch of the Stage 3 Semifinals. Removed from their incredible playoff run, the Dragons have questions of their own to answer now that they can no longer rely on triple-DPS compositions. Still, the style they played en route to the Stage 3 title seems like it could pivot quite well to 2-2-2. Jinhyeok “DDing” Yang, YoungJin “YOUNGJIN” Jin and Min Sung “diem” Bae are some of the scariest DPS players in the league and play essentially every DPS pick to an extremely high level. One of those players will likely be on the bench for most maps, replaced by Se yeon “Geguri” Kim or Kang-Jae “Envy” Lee. No matter who fills the off-tank role, this team is an instant contender for the best team in the world.
If Vancouver wants to avoid a repeat of their last game, they’ll need to find an answer to DDing’s Pharah. In Stage 3, they couldn’t handle the many threats Shanghai brought to the table, but DDing was the biggest issue. Now that two DPS will be in the lineup at all times, that answer might be Chunghee “Stitch” Lee. If he is in form on hitscan threats, that will go a long way to countering what might be the scariest DPS star in the league.
Prediction: Shanghai wins 3-1
Florida Mayhem (2-19)
If this matchup had happened at any time before now, this would be an easy call. In the previous meta, Vancouver would have dispatched the Mayhem without breaking a sweat. Now, nothing is certain, and every opponent is a serious threat. The Mayhem have added six new players to the roster during the season, so who knows what their lineup even looks like? Jeongwoo “Sayaplayer” Ha seems like the only lock to see the Stage this week, but his Widowmaker alone is a scary thought for Titans fans.
From there, things get a little more tricky. Who plays at DPS alongside Sayaplayer, Yong-jun “DPI” Choi or Sangbum “bqb” Lee? Is Pan Seung “Fate” Koo the franchise main tank that he seemed to be last year with the Valiant, or do his struggles mean that San-ha “Karayan”Choi could see the stage for the first time?
These two franchises are essentially in opposite positions at the moment. Already eliminated from playoff contentions, Florida is looking to take stock of what they have and build toward next season. The Titans have already secured their spot but need to redefine themselves if they want to contend down the stretch. They have a stage to refine their 2-2-2 play after a year of 3-3. That process starts this week.
Prediction: Vancouver wins 3-1
Player to Watch: Hyojong “Haksal” Kim
Haksal has arguably been Vancouver’s best player throughout the season. The recently released Player Impact Rating (PIR) pegs him as the most impactful player in the entire league. His Brigitte play was sublime, filled with little decisions that perfectly enabled his teammates.
Now he will have to transition back into the role where he made his name. His flexibility will be an asset for the Titans as they search for the new best way to play. His signature Genji, though it hasn’t been seen much in OWL play, has been effective, earning a PIR of 142.58, an outrageous number when considering his league-leading 123.42 rating. He’ll need to approach the same level of play on a variety of DPS heroes for Vancouver to remain an elite team moving forward.
Everything is up in the air now, for Vancouver and for the league at large. The Titans, though, have some advantages not every team is afforded. They are guaranteed a playoff spot even if they lose every game this stage. They’ve all but secured the Pacific Division crown as well. They have room to experiment and see what sticks. Collectively, this team has as much professional Overwatch experience as any team in the league. That will serve them well in the chaos of Stage 4, as they close out a phenomenal opening season.
Featured image courtesy of Robert Paul for Blizzard Entertainment.
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