When one thinks of great Esports rivalries, a few generally come to mind. You have Faze Clan vs Optic Gaming, Huk vs Idra in Starcraft 2, Daigo Umehara vs Justin Wong in Street Fighter, and SK Telecom vs KT Rolster in League of Legends. Now, add the Vancouver Titans SFShock rivalry from the Overwatch League to that list. A rivalry developed by two teams that were just leaps and bounds above the competition. A rivalry developed across an entire season, multiple meta changes,. One where a grand final gave us the definitive answer on who the top dog is.
To say that San Francisco Shock were one of the weakest teams in the Overwatch League’s first season would be an understatement. They finished in 9th place out of 12 teams with a 17-23 record. However, despite this lack of performance, it was clear that the pieces were there to make a strong team. Sinatraa was a young talent that didn’t perform on stage for half the season due to his age. Moth proved himself as being a solid mid-season acquisition on main support. Super fell in the same boat as Sinatraa when it comes to age and playtime.
Throw in ChoiHyoBin on offtank and Architect as DPS midseason and you could see the gears start to get in motion for the California-based team. It was in the offseason, however, that the puzzle was completed. San Francisco made huge acquisitions in Viol2t, the top-tier flex support player from O2 Blast in Korean Contenders. They also got Striker from the Boston Uprising and Rascal from Shock’s Contenders team. NRG gave the Shock arguably the most versatile roster in the whole League.
Add in Crusty as head coach who helped the Boston Uprising perform leaps and bounds above expectations in the first season and you had a legitimate contender at the start of the season.
The Start of the Vancouver Titans SFShock Rivalry
On the other side of the pond however, you had a legitimate superstar team from the get-go. The Vancouver Titans, formerly known as Runaway in Korean Contenders. They had just claimed the crown of best team in Korea by winning Korean Contenders. In addition to this, they stunned many by beating even the South Korean World Cup team in a show match that featured the best players Korea had to offer from the Overwatch League. When the season started, there were high hopes for the Titans.
The biggest benefit being that the entire Runaway roster was signed to Vancouver. This meant players already had experience playing with each other, some of them for years.
Cue the start of Overwatch League’s Second Season. Right from the start, the Vancouver Titans made a huge splash by winning 4-0 against the Shanghai Dragons. They dominated the Dragons so heavily that projections of the Titans skyrocketed after their first performance. You see, the Overwatch League at the start of the second season was played during a time known as the GOATS meta. In the GOATS meta, heavy teamwork over mechanical skill won games.
How did it all Begin?
It was apparent right away that the Titans’ experience of playing with each other previously would be a massive advantage in this meta. The Shock on the other hand fumbled early on and sat at a record of 1-3 halfway through the first stage. To be fair though, 2 of those losses came without Viol2t being eligible to play and one of those losses came against the Titans. At the end of the stage the Titans were atop the standings with a clean 7-0 record. Sadly (or luckily), SFShock barely nudged their way into the stage playoffs with 4-3.
Then something crazy happened. The Shock went on an absolute tear. They carved their way cleanly through the Toronto Defiant 3-0 and the Philadelphia Fusion 4-0 to meet the Titans in the stage finals. The game that went down that day was one of the best games to ever grace competitive Overwatch. While most expected the Titans to win (spoiler: they did), it was an incredibly close series all the way through to a final map 7. At one point it even appeared that the Shock had the upper hand, going up 3 games to 2. They only needed 1 more map to win.
When the Shock failed to win the 6th map of the series, the stage finals ended on Rialto where the Titans made a statement. After surrendering all 3 points to the Shock in their attack round, the Titans completely disassembled the Shock when it was their turn. The Titans finished the map with over 4 minutes remaining. They would go on to win the stage finals and claim the title of the best team in the League. And so, the Vancouver Titans SFShock rivalry emerged – completely surprising the community!
Overwatch League Stage 2 Rivalry Status
OWL Stage 2 rolled around a few weeks later and with it no change to the meta. This lead most to believe the Titans would again win the stage finals. While they did finish the stage at 7-0 again, the Shock “shocked the world” by completing a feat that, at the time, didn’t even have a name. They went 7-0 and a perfect +28 in map differential! What this means is that they won every game 4-0. No map losses, no draws, only wins. Even now the term for this accomplishment is not official with some calling it a Perfect Stage and others a Golden Stage.
What should be taken away from this, though, is that this type of performance for an entire stage should never be expected to happen again. At the end of stage 2’s regulation play, the favor for best team in the League shifted from Vancouver to San Francisco. Unsurprisingly, the two teams met again in the stage finals. However, this time the Shock would walk away victorious at a score of 4-2. This was the first time, halfway through the season, that the Titans suffered a loss. The Vancouver Titans SFShock rivalry took an unexpected turn!
At this point, it was apparent that the Shock and the Titans were the best teams in the League, by far. Comparisons began to be made between their players as to who was better, individually. Super or BUMPER? Viol2t or Twilight? SLIME or Moth? JJANU or ChoiHyoBin? Rascal or Haksal? Sinatraa or SeoMinSoo? These were the players that matched up against each other on their respective roles. These were the players generally considered to be the best at their roles in the League.
What Happened in OWL Stage 3?
Stage 3 came around and both teams were expected to make the stage finals again. Everyone was hoping for another Titans SFShock showdown! To the surprise of the Overwatch world, however, the Shanghai Dragons came out of nowhere and stole the title right in front of everyone. The Dragons took down the Titans in the semifinals and defeated Shock in the stage finals. Interestingly, they used a team composition specifically designed to work against GOATS.
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There’s an old saying in sports that goes something like “You would rather play against the team that is good than the team that is hot” and that’s what seemingly happened here. No credit was taken away either team. It was apparent that a surge in performance from the Dragons occurred. No changes at the top; both the Shock and the Titans were considered to still be the best in the League.
Then a massive change occurred that shook the very foundations of Overwatch League compositions. Role lock. Previously, Overwatch League teams could choose any number of heroes from any role they wanted. Whether they wanted 4 tanks and 2 supports, 2 tanks, 2 DPS and 2 supports, or, in the case of GOATS, 3 tanks and 3 supports. With the new role lock rules, however, 2-2-2 compositions were enforced.
With this change came a change in perception for the power rankings in the League. Versatile teams like the Dragons and the Shock were expected to dominate the League while many predicted the Titans would falter. In some ways, this was the case. The Shock finished stage 4 at 7-0 while the Titans finished at a respectable 5-2. Both teams had already guaranteed their spots in the League Finals… But now it seemed like Vancouver would not be able to compete with new top dogs like Atlanta and Guangzhou, let alone their rival.
The Overwatch League Season 2 Playoffs Changes which Forced a Strategy Rethink
Going into the Overwatch League Season 2 playoffs another twist was thrown in. Sigma, the new hero to make it into Overwatch’s ever-expanding roster, became available for play. His presence was immediately felt with every team in the playoffs adopting Sigma to their hero roster. With Sigma’s addition, the game was changed. Vancouver soared through the upper bracket, making it to the Grand Finals with relative ease. This was despite the belief that they couldn’t compete in the new 2-2-2 state of the game.
The Shock though – the team expected to win it all – fell early to the Atlanta Reign. Shock was forced into the loser’s bracket. What this meant is that one more loss and San Francisco, the favorites, would be eliminated. They did not lose. In fact, it seemed that loss rejuvenated the Shock if anything. They won 4 straight PLAYOFF games in a row 4-0. A flawless run through the loser’s bracket guaranteed an amazing Grand Finals. Two Overwatch League juggernauts – the Vancouver Titans SFShock rivalry manifested again!
How the Vancouver Titans SFShock Rivalry Ended for this Season of Overwatch League
Now it should be brought up that these 2 teams have now faced each other 4 times in the regular season. The Titans won their first series 3-1, and their second 4-3. The Shock won the next two match-ups 4-2 and 3-2. Both teams were 2-2 against each other with a break-even map differential. All things in perfect balance.
The Shock were the definite favorites going into the playoffs. But people weren’t so sure if they could pull off the win against the Titans who did finish the season as the #1 seed. A hotly contested game between the two teams that undeniably earned their spots in the Grand Finals was expected. But it was not what we got. The Shock won handily 4-0 with their usage of player substitutions and strategy swaps between maps.
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Sometimes they would play the brawny Doomfist/Reaper composition that the Titans stuck with most of the series and sometimes they would play the “burst you down” composition of Pharah/Bastion. Essentially, the Titans could not come up with a clean way to combat the Shock and this strategy would be what won the Shock the game, cementing themselves as the best team in the Overwatch League.
Conclusion of the Vancouver Titans SFShock Rivalry
In the end, this was a rivalry developed across an entire season between the two teams that were just better than their peers. Across the different metas, these were the two teams that best adapted and were always able to perform at the highest level. While the Shock walk away the winners, don’t discredit the Titans. They finished the season at the top of the Pacific Division, right above the Shock.
Shock’s management essentially formed a super team over the course of two seasons. On the other side, the Titans worked together for years to make themselves one. I expect only great things from these two teams going into the next season and cannot wait for their first match against each other. Let the rivalry continue and may only phenomenal matches come our way!
Did you enjoy watching the Vancouver Titans SFShock rivalry unfold throughout the season? Let us know in the comments below!