Vancouver Titans, Pinocchio, And The Summer Showdown Success Story
Breathing an exasperatedly loud sigh of relief, the Overwatch League finally welcomes the 2022 Vancouver Titans back into the fold as a real team. Puppeteered by their past no longer, the Titans have found resounding success through the Summer Showdown and are a sizeable threat to the stage title.
With no strings to hold them down can the Titans keep their heads above water for the remainder of the season, how bright is their future, and can their Summer Showdown success story continue?
Frankly speaking, it is a titanic feat to see Vancouver climb back into relevance. It's hard to remember a time, prior to today, when they weren't chum in the water for top teams to snack on but their debut in 2019 saw them as one of North America's front-runners. Standing at the summit of Mt. Overwatch alongside the eventual champions, the San Francisco Shock, Vancouver took the stage as the rivals, the only team to consistently challenge a team that would eventually go down as a generation of miracles.
Equipped with the core from the legendary South Korean team RunAway, the Titans were easily the most exciting new franchise added in the Overwatch League's first expansion pack. They were a real team with tangible aspirations for international success.
Right up until they weren't.
To quote the great Jon Bois and Alex Rubenstein of Secret Base fame, the Vancouver Titans were acting like real "Goofus maloofuses".
You see on May 6th, the Vancouver Titans released the majority of its South Korean roster amid internal turmoil.
From a grand finals appearance to nothing, the Titans were on a coach to desperation island.
Not only had they botched a potential championship-winning roster with some of the biggest names to ever touch the game, but with the increasing concern over COVID-19, the only card in their hand was to quickly pivot to a western roster in the middle of the season. With the graduating rookie class picked through and a very tight timetable, the Titans did what they could with what they had.
Whatever your views are on how this precarious predicament percolated, we can all agree that the 2020 Vancouver Titans were not set up for success.
Could the franchise that nearly captured the 2019 title battle back to the finals? Would the damage done by losing their golden goose be mitigated by impressive scouting and acquisition?
Like a toy straight out of Geppetto's patchwork bargain bin, the new look Titans took the stage and could barely get out of their own way.
The Titans ended the May Melee 0-5 in matches. June and the Summer Showdown saw them resurge with some life but eventually fell short with a 2-3 record. The Countdown Cup saw Vancouver hollow out again ending with a 1-5 record. August had two weeks of catch-up matches prior to the playoffs. The Titans would end the final gauntlet 2-3.
If we include their tournament matches, this meant the 2020 Vancouver Titans, post roster shuffle, would walk into the playoffs with a 5-16 record. And with a swift loss to the Washington Justice in round one of the play-ins, loss number 17 was on the board.
Now you might be asking yourself, "well surely given more time and resources and a lower pressure environment, the team can rebuild and become competitive again, maybe not to the degree of 2019 but something somewhat close." That seems rather rational, fair to claim, maybe even probable, right?
Wrong. It was worse.
Somehow with more time, it was worse.
The Vancouver Titans, the team that was once the shark, now was the bait.
Not only did they have a complete offseason to re-tool their roster, but somehow they did worse. The once mighty Titans ended the 2021 Overwatch League season 1-16, their only win coming by way of the Boston Uprising in Week 17.
To start the 2022 season, the Vancouver Titans were 6-33 since going for a mostly western mixed roster. To put that into perspective, the 2019 Titans had won more games in stage one of their debut season than nearly a season and a half of work. Even the Vancouver Titans now, standing at 3-14, could pass the six-win bar by the end of the 2022 Summer Showdown.
This summertime success story isn't just a match record measurement, it's a noticeable shift and improvement in form and much of that credit should go to tenured Overwatch head coach David "dpei" Pei. Taking a roster that he didn't build, getting it into fighting shape, and even acquiring some additional pieces, dpei has given Vancouver its first real sense of hope in over a year. And it's not just the coaching either, the Titans recently signed longtime Overwatch assistant coach and stats buff Dennis "Barroi" Matz as their new General Manager.
These are people with vast swaths of experience in Overwatch. They are the people that can shoulder the burden of setting this team up for success in the long term, not just for a quick short-term turnaround and shoddy gambles on the metagame.
The Titans finally have a real future ahead of them with these types of moves.
Peeking out like a shy child clutching their parent's leg on the first day of school, the Vancouver Titans have emerged from "the plague years" bruised but in form. Not the exact form that had them battle legends of the game in a not-so-memorable final three years ago, but one that removes them from bye-week territory. The Titans feel tangible again, not some disconnected soul of what a team might be without much of a body to speak of at all.
Say what you want about the metagame at the moment and how much you may like or dislike Junker Queen but the Vancouver Titans feel like a real team again. They've proven themselves just like a certain wooden puppet's journey to right his past wrongs and become a real boy.
In a world where the London Spitfire continue to make magic with meagre resources, the Washington Justice finding their glass slippers once again in the face of certain demise, the Vancouver Titans join them as one of the finest success stories to come out of this season thus far. This season carries some Disney magic and a bit of that fairy dust has found a home in Vancouver.
That said, there is plenty of Overwatch 2 left to play. The Titans close out the Summer Showdown against the 1-4 Boston Uprising which, with all things considered, should be enough to push them into direct qualification for the upcoming offline final held in Toronto. And past that point their destiny is uncertain.
The road forward for the Titans is cluttered with enough twists and turns to make M. Night Shyamalan's head spin, but they're making investments in their future. Step by arduous step, the Vancouver Titans are closing their chapter of forgettable apathy and raising their voice at the table.
They're proving themselves right in front of our eyes.
Equipped with a newfound sense of confidence after battling and best some of the best teams Overwatch League has to offer, with new faces both in the front office and on the starting roster, the Vancouver Titans have found a way to win. Through stubborn determination and sheer will alone, they've persisted the storm and come out the mouth of Monstro with a new lease on life - and not just for this season.
In a season with Cinderella stories and Herculian underdog efforts, the Vancouver Titans battle their past and are up on the judges' scorecards. Right when we all thought the stars in Vancouver have been wished upon, right when we assumed the Titans were fish food, they rally and find something somewhere to give us hope.
Maybe Jiminy was right, had we all given up on our wishes coming true?
What say you Vancouver?
Will you let your fairy tale be dictated by the spectre of your past or can you bottle the sun and carry your summer success into the 2022 Countdown Cup?
We certainly believe in you.