The Vancouver Titans are rumoured to have released all of their players from their contracts. Are there potential new homes for them?
It’s been a dark couple of days. First, the Overwatch League MVP Jay “Sinatraa” Won retired and moved over the new competitive multiplayer FPS title VALORANT, shortly after we learned that offtank Hyeon-Woo "JJANU" Choi and head coach Ji-Sub "paJion" Hwang have left the Titans with more players likely to follow. Indeed if the rumours are to be believed, the Titans are moving to a Western roster, letting go of their Korean roster entirely. While we can’t be certain that this will be the eventual outcome of this bizarre situation, it is still a fun thought experiment to spread the Titans ashes across the land to fertilize the grounds of other teams. Where could some of the former Titans roster find a new home? In part 1, we start with the hardest to place players; Ryujehong, Fissure, SeoMinSoo & Stitch. Let’s find some homes for these boys, shall we?
Context of the market
It is rumoured that the buyouts for this star-studded roster are fairly low. If that was to be the case, it would follow recent trends in the transfer market that saw buyout prices across the entire Overwatch scene drop considerably. The market has reacted to the global pandemic, the dwindling viewership numbers and the subsequent confidence loss in the Overwatch League system, with actors in the space hedging their bets on expenses. Arguably in a buyer’s market, teams with resources stand to gain a lot from getting a Titan on their roster. Especially the Chinese franchises seem to be in the pole position for a pickup. It looks to be much more feasible to have a Korean player play from their home residence with a team that resides in China, thus circumventing international travel and most importantly visa requirements. Additionally, according to the Vice President of Overwatch Esports, Jon Spector, the Chinese region is enjoying new record viewership numbers and could therefore be more willing to commit to larger and more expensive rosters. Still, unless the Dynasty becomes interested as the only South Korean team, it’s a rather complicated task to employ any of those players.
Moreover, while some teams like the Boston Uprising could certainly make more use of these pickups, we have to take into consideration that the visa situation, the team’s previous market behaviour and their attractiveness for players of this calibre likely make a pickup challenging, though not impossible.
Another consideration is the past transfer strategy of teams such as the Dallas Fuel, who have always invested considerably in their roster and thus are more likely to overcome the current economic and logistic challenges by heavily investing into finding solutions to make a pick up of any of the Titans players feasible. It might still require significant time before they could be allowed to play.
The final outcome could entail roster movements that resemble musical chairs across many teams, trading bench players around from one team to another in order to make room for a Titan. These multi-stepped movements are too random to forecast with any sensibility and therefore have not been considered here. It should therefore be considered more of a thought experiment than a forecast. It forgoes any and all insider information and merely matches puzzle pieces.
With these factors out of the way, where could the Titans land?
Chan-hyung "Fissure" Baek
While by no means known to actually leave the Titans, the case of Fissure makes for a fun exercise. Being one of the only players to have been on four different Overwatch league teams, Fissure comes with some baggage that may make him harder to place. Fortunately, the main tank market is not nearly as saturated as the offtank position and thus teams could be more willing to take a shot at him. It seemed that in the past he had a preference for working in entirely Korean rosters, though it is unlikely that he will get the luxury to choose in this current situation if he does want to continue with his career.
The Guangzhou Charge are currently sitting at only 9 players, of which only seven are active due to visa issues. Currently residing in South Korea, slotting in a player of the Titans could also be vastly easier than for other teams. They’ve also shown themselves to be an organisation that’s willing to invest serious money into their franchise. While the team is designed to be a hybrid roster of players from multiple countries, the majority of the currently active players and coaching staff are Korean. The value of pre-established synergy has also taken a hit due to hero pools, so putting Fissure into a brand new team wouldn’t be as egregious as it would’ve been in the past, and he would arguably be a considerable upgrade over Rio.
Min-soo "SeoMinSoo" Seo
SeoMinSoo’s hero pool is hard to describe in conventional terms and likely also causes trouble in fitting him into the modular position of any archetypical DPS, be it projectile or hitscan. However, in season 2 he stepped into the limelight and has proven to be able to be one of the best players in the world if the environment fits his skillset. Still quite young at the age of 19, a structured coaching staff could make great use of his potential. SeoMinSoo has so far not played in a hybrid roster and without the necessary off-season to acclimate to that environment, they seem to be an unlikely destination for him.
The DPS rosters at least in Asia are unfortunately already stacked to the brim with talent. To put him with Seoul feels like an exercise in stacking names with accolades rather than trying to solve issues that they are currently facing. The same appears to be true for the Charge with both Nero and Eileen playing some amazing Overwatch recently. Looking outside Asia, some opportunities open up, though not many. Depending on the severity of Xzi’s neck injury, the Eternal might develop an interest in him. Florida Mayhem with an inactive Sayaplayer could be an option and could make use of SMS as one of the only other South Korean rosters residing in the US.
Jehong "ryujehong" Ryu
It’s worthwhile to reiterate that only Jjanu and Pajion are confirmed to have left the Titans, and there are many good reasons for Jehong to stick around with the Canadian organisation. Ryujehong is a living legend in the Overwatch League and at 28 is one of the oldest players still competing in OWL. Despite his age, he swatted down all rumours of retirement, which could’ve spawned from this unfortunate situation in Vancouver, and has talked about wanting to continue to compete. Jehong has never dropped below the threshold of “solid” and is unlikely to become a liability, though many teams now field considerably stronger players. It’s safe to say that his salary was sizable in Vancouver and there are not many teams who would match it, especially if they don’t expect to play him as a starter.
Many Asian teams currently either have two flex supports on their roster or, like in Shanghai’s case, have all of their 12 available slots filled up. The exception is the Guangzhou Charge, who are well-stacked with Shu in place as one of the best flex supports in the world. Jehong as a backup makes some sense, though he should realistically see very little playtime. If he fancies a challenge with a young and hungry team, powered by a competent coaching staff, the Eternal could be a worthwhile destination for the final huzzah of his career. Theoretically not impossible and perhaps in need of an additional personality on their roster, the Shock could be looking for a backup for Viol2t. With only nine active players on their roster, they have room for some shenanigans in this regard.
Chung-hee "Stitch" Lee
Stitch has been on the bench for most of his time on the Titans. Seeing some playtime this season, he didn’t convince on McCree, though his team’s overall performance resulting from their situation likely also impacted how he looked. At 23, he’s at an age where many Korean men have to entertain the thought of having to go to mandatory military service. Given the stacked role that he fills in a hitscan DPS, to me the most likely but perhaps not the most popular outcome of this is that we will see Stitch retire from competitive Overwatch if he was one of the players leaving the Titans.
If he was to continue playing and if we had to shoe-horn him into an Overwatch League team and not place him in Contenders where he could prove his value to a team again, it would likely be in a lower ranking team. Even among those, names like Jerry, BQB and especially Corey just outshine him in every regard. He’d more than likely have to play a backup role. Theoretically, the Outlaws still have one more slot to fill. With a lack of hitscan prowess which saw Blasé start on McCree over LiNkrz at certain points in the season and a pre-existing connection with head coach Harsha… Even then, the Outlaws already have more than enough DPS players. Stitch appears out for the count at least for now.
Images courtesy of Blizzard Entertainment