Can the Titans find their way through the storm?
The Vancouver Titans weren’t built for thunderstorms. They were supposed to dance in a rain of confetti, not tears and disappointment. 2020 has been tough for a number of reasons but the Titans have botched what could have been their “golden ticket “to success in the Overwatch League and now are out a championship-calibre team and have little chance to redeem themselves this season. They are trapped to essentially walk in the rain for the remainder of the season.
After an impressive second-place finish during last year’s playoffs, the Vancouver Titans were on track to do well enough in 2020. Were they going to repeat and challenge the San Francisco Shock in the rematch for the title? That was difficult to say coming into the season, but their debut performances gave enough ammunition to hold out some form of hope. Then spring hit.
It all started with small quips and the players removing their team’s branding from their social media channels. Than Choi "JJANU" Hyeon-Woo and head coach Hwang "paJion" Ji-Sub mutually parted ways with the team. Then the rest of the dominos fell and the Titans have yet to put things back together again.
Even now, nearly a month after the debacle all started, the Titans don’t have a particularly easy road in the Summer Showdown either. They face the Toronto Defiant, the Dallas Fuel, and the Boston Uprising. To top that list off, the Vancouver Titans will also meet the Atlanta Reign later this month but won’t count as a Summer Showdown qualifier match for the Titans, but will for the Reign. However, both teams will also be affected by the result as this match counts towards the regular-season standings.
However, while the organization deals with its own fallout, their actions also affect those around them, in more ways than one.
Now we’ve lost a memorable part of the community’s history. The RunAway core that brought this organization fame and notoriety is now is separated. And that’s not to say that they’d last forever, but who knows, maybe they’d finish out the season and make a push for a deep run in the playoffs. We’ll never know. There was a small section of the community that saw danger in the Titan’s future, that perhaps things weren’t set to last much longer, but it’s hard to imagine anyone thought that the implosion would be this widespread.
There is a very real chance that these players caught lightning in a bottle and will never recapture their glory. The RunAway core was a special team, one that will be hard to replicate in the future.
Players like JJANU and Lee "Stitch" Chung-hee find homes for themselves during the middle of the season, and we could even consider them lucky ones as some players reconsider if this dream is even worth chasing. Take for example a player like Seo "SeoMinSoo" Min-soo, who hasn’t found a home yet and has talked publicly about his struggles to move on. Others were a bit more fortunate, but dealing with that kind of stress really makes you question if this is all worth it.
Star DPS player Kim "Haksal" Hyojong has only ever known RunAway and that core of teammates on the 2019 Vancouver Titans. Now we’ll see him washed to a new team, one that holds more prestige, but still didn’t plan for such a gift. Does the 2019 rookie of the year still maintain his shimmer outside of the team he’d grown to know and love since 2018? Yes, Haksal is an all-star candidate, but being in a new environment and away from teammates you’ve spent so much time next to does something to you. And the former Titans players are not the only ones attempting to find their way in the storm.
The Vancouver Titans’ new roster, built to finish out the 2020 regular season, is also not put in a strong position to succeed. In a last-minute attempt to triage the season, the Vancouver Titans have taken fairly promising prospects from Overwatch Contenders and thrown them on the biggest stage in Overwatch. It’s not the players’ faults in the slightest and they deserve better, but they essentially are swimming against the current for the remainder of the season and their careers, at the end of the day, will more than likely be impacted by this in one way or another.
The sun wouldn’t feel as nice if it wasn’t for the rain. The story is sad, there is no other way to put it. That said, there are some sombre silver linings to this whole ordeal.
We get to explore a world where Haksal has flown the safety of the RunAway coop. Lee "Twilight" Jooseok gets to continue his journey and might be the first person to see repeat Overwatch League championship wins. We also now have a great home for upcoming amateur talent. Again the issue isn’t with the players themselves, but the circumstance they find themselves in, there is a core to this 2020 Titans roster that might legitimately be a contender next season given the proper time and resources.
Maybe this is one of those times where we have to see the storms to appreciate the sunshine.
To think that their season is effectively over, no ground to be gained or lost, just a treadless press against the wind. From an organization, a team, that once battled some of the best teams in the world for stage titles and championships now has been swept away in the wash of time.
Each Titans game is hollow, “plans for 2021” are thrown around, and you sit to yourself and wonder what could have been. Like a lost soul attempting to find its way, Vancouver is stuck walking headlong into the rain for the remainder of the season; cold, unmoving, and are unlikely to cover any ground.
Images via Blizzard Entertainment