It’s Stage Playoff time once again in the Overwatch League, and for the first time this season it really feels like the title is truly up for grabs. Even the big three (Vancouver, San Francisco and New York) have appeared mortal during a tumultuous third Stage. The result of meta upheaval, five parity marked weeks have set the stage for a wide-open race for the final stage title of the season.
Stage 3 Review
Stage 3 was bittersweet for the Titans. A 6-1 record and another Pacific Division crown are brilliant results, but they come alongside the end of the Titans’ undefeated regular season record. The team struggled at times on the uneven footing of a changing meta landscape, but that change has seemingly brought Chunghee “Stitch” Lee back into the lineup.
The Titans have played just once since their loss to the Valiant, but they looked rejuvenated playing around Stitch’s Sombra. The 4-0 dismantling of the Gladiators was an encouraging sign, but the real test comes this week. Have the Titans resolved their mistakes and recaptured the magic in time for playoffs?
Quarterfinals: Houston Outlaws (8-13)
The Titans are the undeniable favorites going into Thursday night’s matchup. That said, can anyone honestly claim to know what to expect out of a team that beat San Francisco and lost to Florida in consecutive weeks? Houston are the type of team that gives the Titans trouble at times. Even when they met back in Stage 2, the Outlaws made Vancouver sweat a little before they inexplicably opted to play 3-3.
Since then, Houston has embraced their identity and unleashed their DPS talent. Jake “Jake” Lyon, Jiri “LiNKzr” Masalin and Dante “Danteh” Cruz represent a significant challenge for the Titans. With a week off to prepare for the Outlaws, though, Vancouver has no excuses if they get caught off guard. They are a better team than Houston, both individually and in their coordination.
If the Titans come up short in the first round, it’s proof they failed to adapt. A convincing win would suggest they’ve plugged some of their holes. The Outlaws are good enough to make things interesting, but the Titans should take this.
Prediction: Vancouver wins 3-1
Semifinals and Beyond
There are two very likely possibilities for the Titans’ semifinal opponent, both compelling. Assuming that NYXL can handle Shanghai – not a given by any means – the match between the Spark and Valiant determines Vancouver’s fate. A Spark win pits them against the Titans, a rematch of the Week 2 clash that was one insane defensive stand on Havana from a Map 5.
If the Valiant take it, the Titans must go through the winner of Seoul and San Francisco. The potential rematch with the Shock is perhaps the most enticing. The rubber match after two heated duels, it would be a chance for Vancouver to find redemption.
That said, the Dragons could pull off the upset, book a date with Vancouver in the semis and render all of this null. While the specifics of the bracket may seem like a tossup, one thing is certain: the Titans undoubtedly face their toughest road to the Finals so far.
Player to Watch: Stitch
It was during a playoff run – in Contenders Korea Season 2 last year – that Stitch lost his starting role to MinSoo “SeoMinSoo” Seo. It was the start of a dominant stretch for the Titans, then playing for Runaway. He now has the chance to end that hiatus and be the key piece that helps the Titans pivot away from the meta that relegated him to the bench in the first place.
Vancouver has a unique opportunity here. A title now would cement 2019 as the year of the Titans. A win in this crowded field would be their most impressive feat to date. Two out of three Stage Championships would make their record unimpeachable regardless of how the season ends. The crown is there for the taking. Are the Titans ready to reclaim it?
Featured image courtesy of Robert Paul for Blizzard Entertainment.
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