No esports scene is complete without a great rivalry story. For the Overwatch League (OWL) that rivalry came in the form of the San Francisco Shock (SFS) and the Vancouver Titans (VT). These talent-packed teams stood head and shoulders above the rest of the competition, unhindered by meta shifts or roster fluctuations. Across the entirety of OWL Season 2, it felt like every other team simply fought for third place. Shock vs Titans matches seemed to be the highlight of the whole season.
Superstars vs. Underdogs
Image credit to InvenGlobal.
Vancouver Titans were a star-studded fan favorite from the start. Playing under the name Runaway, the team entered OWL after a Korean Contenders championship run. Every player on the roster held multiple years of experience being teammates with one another. The roster sported such synergy that they even defeated the South Korean World Cup (SKWC) team in an exhibition match. Keep in mind, the SKWC team fielded the best Korean players from inside OWL. With a meta centered around GOATs and a team composition emphasizing teamwork, expectations for the Titans in Stage 1 were high.
On the flip side, the Shock entered their second season of OW. They ended the season with 17 wins and 23 losses, finishing in ninth place overall. Despite such a weak season, the SFS roster managed to persevere. Key players like Jay “sinatraa” Won, Matthew “super” DeLisi, and Grant “moth” Espe rose to the task and brought a big change in the team’s playstyle and cohesion. Sinatraa especially boasted a natural talent for leadership and gave the team much-needed direction.
An incredible preseason signing spree helped the Shock round out their roster. They picked up Dong-jun “Rascal” Kim and Nam-joo “Striker” Kwon as DPS swap-ins. In addition, they managed to acquire a strong flex-support in Minki “Viol2t” Park. These players increased the consistency of the roster making the Shock essentially meta-proof. This roster brought on the rivalry of Shock vs Titans.
Season 2 of the Overwatch League started more or less how fans expected it to. The Vancouver Titans utilized their immense teamwork to stomp through the GOATs meta, coasting into Stage 1 playoffs with a 7–0 record.
Meanwhile, the SFS looked to be the same middle of the pack team as always. Their pickups, despite looking phenomenal on paper, seemed overly DPS intensive to make a difference in a meta that prioritized tank and support skill. The Shock entered Stage 1 playoffs 4–3 as an underdog team. But no one would have guessed what came next.
Stage 1 playoffs marked a turning point for the Shock. Something clicked as the Shock then defeated higher-seeded teams one by one. With a quick 4–0 to the Toronto Defiant and the Philadelphia Fusion, the Shock found themselves in the Stage 1 finals. Despite a phenomenal underdog performance, many still believed the match would be a roll for the seemingly unstoppable Vancouver Titans. The match that ensued was anything but that.
San Francisco managed to put up a tremendous effort and bring the series up to a 3–2 in their favor. However, Vancouver were not strangers to having their backs up against the wall. After taking a brief pause, the Titans gritted their teeth and pulled off a dominant comeback. Winning the next two maps the Titans ultimately won the series 4–3 and claimed the stage title. Though they lost, the Shock made their mark and sown the seeds of an incredible rivalry.
Fighting for the Crown
The next time these two teams would play each other would be in Stage 2 playoffs. Despite the meta remaining unchanged, the tables turned. During this stage, the SFS managed to go 7–0 without dropping a single map to any team. This was, and still is, unprecedented in all of Overwatch history. To end off a perfect stage run, the Shock met and defeated the Titans 4–2 in the stage finals. This was the first loss Vancouver ever felt since joining the Overwatch League. Vancouver would not forget that it was the Shock that made them bleed.
During Stage 4, OWL implemented a rule change called Role Lock. This limited the picks a team could make to two tanks, two DPS, and two supports. This change effectively killed the GOATs meta. It had an especially heavy impact on the performance of teams whose rosters thrived off the lack of DPS. The Titans were no exception.
Despite finishing the season as the number one seeded team, they could not stand the heat of the star DPS lining the Shock roster. Both teams ended up making it to grand finals, however, the Shock took the series and the championship away in a quick, clean 4–0. The Shock vs Titans match was a battle of the best.
Screengrab via Overwatch League.
In the end, the Shock brought an incredible second season. They created a roster that toppled a team that seemed nearly invincible. San Francisco Shock’s story took them from underdogs to champions. They definitely made Overwatch history. Fans can bet the Vancouver Titans did not forget this and will be gunning for the top as the rivalry continues into OWL’s Season 3.
Written by Jash Rai