If you know them at all—these Vancouver Titans players, formerly the pink-sweatered sons of RunAway, whose time never seemed to arrive, until all of a sudden it did—then you know that they were meant for the spotlight. Flashy, lighthearted, and, yes, a little bit cocky, no other team in the Overwatch League takes the stage for each match filled with as much self-belief as they do, no matter the occasion or the opponent. And after taking down the San Francisco Shock 4-3 in a no-holds-barred slugfest in the Stage 1 Finals, they’ve not only removed any lingering doubts about their talent, but also added to their existing legacy as one of the most electrifying teams in all of Overwatch.
This may not have been the Stage 1 Finals that everyone expected—the heavily favored New York Excelsior were dumped by the Seoul Dynasty in a quarterfinal upset—but, in the end, it was the one the world deserved, which made it all the more fitting that it was broadcast to a national audience on ABC.
On one side was a highly experienced and yet-undefeated Vancouver team whose greatest asset, main tank Sang-Beom “Bumper” Park, is a double-edged sword. On the other side was one of the youngest rosters in the league, who survived one of the toughest schedules of Stage 1, led by the precocious duo of Jay “Sinatraa” Won and Matthew “Super” DeLisi. Both teams like to play a remarkably similar style of triple-tank, triple-support—aggressive and fearlessly scrappy—and both were determined to play to their strengths.
This was apparent from the first map, Nepal, which San Francisco won on the back of some gutsy Reinhardt play from Super on Shrine. Unfazed, Vancouver picked Numbani for their hybrid map choice, and full-held the Shock without seemingly breaking a sweat. The momentum changes were dizzying at times, and the margin of victory in each teamfight were paper-thin.
The head-to-head stat lines from this match underline just how closely fought it was. Sinatraa’s Zarya dealt 14,065 damage per 10 minutes, at 62% average energy, while his counterpart, Min-Soo “Seominsoo” Seo, did 14,383 at 64%; there was a one-second difference between Graviton Surge charge times. On the Reinhardt front, Super did 9,347 damage per 10 minutes and charged Earthshatter every 1:14, while Bumper averaged 9,030 and built his ult every 1:18.
In matches like this, the smallest details make all the difference. One pilot D.Va eliminating the other before a re-mech opportunity. Brigitte stunning Lúcio out of casting Sound Barrier. The timing and placement of a Zarya bubble, the ability to follow up on a cataclysmic Earthshatter. The decision to not swap off a certain team comp, the call to seamlessly switch gears.
It all came down to Rialto, the seventh and deciding map. The Shock finished the notoriously difficult map with a decent time bank, but it was no match for Vancouver, whose completion time of 3:34—smashing their own record, set in Week 3, by nearly a minute—finally backed San Francisco into a corner they couldn’t wiggle out of. In the second round, the Shock were held just before Point A, and the Titans needed just a couple of minutes to secure their victory, calling forth a rain of confetti as the arena screens were saturated with bright blue.
Vancouver’s Stage 1 triumph is many things, foremost among them validation—for all the hype surrounding the players at the start of the season, for the internal confidence that allowed them to make such a massive impact in the league. To further contextualize the team’s current dominance, their win streak doesn’t just go back to their first match of the 2019 season. This specific group of players, minus one, has not lost a single match dating back to July 2018, in the group stages of Contenders Season 2, which they eventually won. Before that, though, they’d spent two years as bridesmaids, haunted by a pair of seven-map losses in the APEX finals.
“When most of us were Runaway, we came [in] second place a lot and never became champions, so our first overall championship was incredibly emotional,” support Seong-Jun “Slime” Kim said. “And now in the Overwatch League, this is a meta we like and we’re confident in, so it’s not as emotional as our Contenders Season 2 win, but it still feels great.”
“The fact that the Shock played really well and we had a [comeback] victory at the end was also really meaningful,” support partner Ju-Seok “Twilight” Lee added.
Overcoming San Francisco at their absolute best—and it was undoubtedly some of the Shock’s most exquisite Overwatch—required not only skill and team coordination, but also the ability to reach another level when it’s most needed. That kind of nerve can only be forged from years of experience.
“Being in APEX and winning Contenders as well, any player who has had those experiences and been a pro for a while, the biggest asset is having a stronger mentality,” Bumper explained. “In high-pressure situations, you won’t break down, and you have the mentality to continue forward.”
The Shock’s lack of experience, in some ways, made this loss even tougher to swallow, considering how close they got to becoming giant-killers. For many of the players, it was their first seven-map experience onstage, and certainly the longest they’d been exposed to high-intensity, high-stakes competition.
“I’ve never felt worse about losing in my life,” Sinatraa said.
The bitterness of a defeat like this lingers, but it’s also something the Shock can use as motivation, according to head coach Da-Hee “Crusty” Park. “They’re all angry because we lost in the final, but […] we reached the final, and everyone wants to go to the final, right?” he said. “I want them to remember this moment, be angry, and be eager to win. Next stage, I want to make the final again.”
The Overwatch League returns to the big stage for the start of Stage 2 on Thursday, April 4, at 4 PST, when the Philadelphia Fusion (5-2) take on the New York Excelsior (7-0). Watch all 2019 season matches live and on demand on overwatchleague.com, the Overwatch League app, our Twitch channel, MLG.com, and the MLG app.