It’s unlikely that, before yesterday, anybody used the words “trapeze artist” to describe Overwatch’s turret hero Bastion. One hype play at the Overwatch League grand finals revealed the hero’s potential as an aerial circus act.
Early on in the San Francisco Shock’s 4-0 sweep of the Vancouver Titans, Bastion player Minho “Architect” Park was helping his team finish the final point at the Eichenwalde map. It’s usually a good call to position Bastion on high ground so it gets more angles on the enemy team. Some savvy players will push it up onto a ledge with an ice wall from the hero Mei; others might exploit little glitches in the maps. Park did something new altogether:
Propelling himself onto the chandelier with Bastion’s explosive tank-mode shells, Park achieves a perfect 360-degree vantage point for maximum kills. The live crowd watching went absolutely ballistic (pun intended) as he proceeded to mow down Titans’ stragglers racing onto the point. Caster Mitch “Uber” Leslie described him as a “trapeze artist.”
In a press conference after the game, Park was asked what inspired the move. “It wasn’t planned,” he said. “Originally, Rascal was supposed to use a Mei wall to lift him up to get onto the chandelier. But out of no where, he told himself he’s able to use Bastion’s ult to boost himself from the floor. It was an instant decision he made.”
Logic says it was, at best, improbable that a pro made this risky move for the first time when $1,100,000 was on the line. But regardless, I’m looking forward to my teammates copying trapeze Bastion in-game. To my enemies, though: Shh, you never saw this.
Both San Francisco and Vancouver have been on absolute tears this season, with the former pulling off the aforementioned perfect stage. The Shock managed to not drop a single map for five weeks. Meanwhile, the Titans hadn’t lost any matches all season long going into yesterday’s stage two finals. With season one boogeyman team New York Excelsior looking like a wobbly baby Bambi version of itself any time the pressure’s on and, crucially, losing to Vancouver Titans in an earlier playoff match, it’s become clear that San Francisco and Vancouver are the new top two teams in the league. Watching them play against each other, then, is a guaranteed treat.
Yesterday, both teams brought it, but San Francisco brought it more. Straight out of the gate, they made a statement by preventing Vancouver from securing a single point on the match’s first map, Lijang Tower. That dominance did not last, however, with Vancouver keeping their composure and battling back with supremely smart plays like this counter-Earthshatter ult from tank player supreme Sang-beom “Bumper” Park:
With the score tied at 1-1, San Francisco got to pick the third map and chose Paris. This should have given them the upper hand. It did not. When it comes to triple-tank, triple-support “GOATS” compositions, both teams excel, but Vancouver is in a league of their own. Vancouver held San Francisco on the first point thanks in part to their own prowess and also some slightly too big-brained plays from their opponents. At one point, the Shock’s tank Matthew “Super” DeLisi appeared to Earthshatter at nobody, wasting a crucial ult. In a stream afterward, Super broke down his thought process, reasoning that Vancouver had to rush the point to stop SF from taking it and would need to come out of a specific doorway to make it happen. He aimed his ult where he thought they’d end up. Then they crashed down from the high ground.
On offense, Vancouver brought out the big guns in the form of a DPS-centric composition and took the map without too much trouble. This put them in the lead at 2-1. Unfortunately for the up-and-coming aspirants of the OWL throne, that would end up being Vancouver’s last map win. Over the course of the next two maps, San Francisco methodically beat the Titans down to size, snatching a close overtime win on the fourth map, Watchpoint Gibraltar, and once again denying Vancouver a single point on the fifth map, Oasis.
The sixth and final map, Blizzard World, was a chef-kiss-emoji-worthy performance from SF. Any time it seemed like Vancouver was gaining ground, SF’s star players rose to the occasion. For example, on attack, Vancouver nearly took the first point with a healthy amount of time in the bank. But SF’s Zarya player, Jay “Sinatraa” Won, wasn’t having any of it. He near-miraculously managed to build from zero to full ult charge in a hair over 20 seconds, using an absolutely clutch Graviton Surge ult to help the other remaining member of his team mop up the remaining members of Vancouver in a team fight they had no business winning.
Ultimately, Vancouver was unable to make much progress, and San Francisco snatched up the map and the match, handing Vancouver their first loss ever as an Overwatch League team. It was an emotional moment, with San Francisco’s members linking arms on stage to form a Beyblade of overjoyed hugs. Meanwhile, just across the way, Vancouver’s Bumper sat with his head in his hands, on the verge of tears. It was inevitable that even the unstoppably mighty Titans would someday lose, but that didn’t make it sting any less, especially in a league where staying on top means somehow out-practicing and out-working 19 other teams full of players who are also being worked to the bone.
This still sets up a rivalry for the ages. Or at least, for the next handful of months. Will Vancouver, now having tasted defeat, be able to bounce back at full power? Will San Francisco, having finally made it to the top of the mountain after a middling first season, be able to maintain their motivation and momentum for the rest of season two? And will these two teams collide a third time during the stage three playoffs in July? I have no clue, but in a season that’s had quite a few ups and downs in terms of entertainment value, this back-and-forth promises to remain a high point.
Whether you’re a professional basketball player or whoever left that Starbucks cup on the Game of Thrones set, everybody has off nights. Well, everybody except the rejuvenated San Francisco Shock. After a messy first season, they’ve spent season two looking like an entirely different team. Yesterday, they achieved something no other team ever has: a perfect stage.
Overwatch League seasons are broken up into stages, each of which last five weeks and feed into their own mini-playoffs. While the ever-dominant Vancouver Titans—to whom the SF Shock narrowly lost one of the best matches of the season to cap off stage one—have made it through multiple stages without losing a match, SF didn’t drop a single map during stage two. They won four maps to zero against every team they played, for a total of 28 consecutive map victories. This is a first.
Stage two concluded yesterday afternoon. Over the course of five weeks, SF played against the Los Angeles Valiant, the Guangzhou Charge (twice), the Toronto Defiant, the Hangzhou Spark, the Philadelphia Fusion, and the Shanghai Dragons. Admittedly, only two of those teams—the Shanghai Dragons and the Hangzhou Spark—are currently in the league’s top eight. One could argue that top teams like the Vancouver Titans and the New York Excelsior fared nearly as well while facing tougher competition. Then again, the New York Excelsior dropped two matches to the 11th-ranked Atlanta Reign during stage two, so who really knows what’s going on with them anymore?
Still, all that aside, it’s been fun to watch SF build to a place of confidence that borders on outright swagger. Yesterday, for example, they absolutely styled on the Shanghai Dragons with plays like this split-second Winston bubble that countered a Pharah rocket barrage midair, causing her to self-destruct.
During the same match, SF set a new completion-time record on Overwatch’s Paris map during their first attack. Apparently that wasn’t enough for them, because they proceeded to break their own record during their next attack. After the match, SF tank player Matthew “Super” DeLisi joined OWL’s commentators at the desk and talked mad shit—or at least, talked some shit, which is a change of pace in a league where players are largely soft-spoken (at least, when the cameras are on).
Stage two playoffs begin on Thursday, with SF once again playing Shanghai to kick things off. I wouldn’t call that match’s outcome a foregone conclusion, but well, let’s be real here: If nothing too crazy happens, then we’ll probably be looking at an SF-Vancouver rematch in the stage two finals. As for who takes it, I’m still favoring Vancouver, but if the rematch is even half as good as their first tilt, it’ll be required viewing no matter what.