With a 4-0 sweep of New York Excelsior, San Francisco Shock has punched its ticket to the Grand Finals for a showdown with Vancouver Titans. The matchup could not be a more fitting finale to the Overwatch League 2019 season.
San Francisco Shock come into the Grand Final off of a dominant run on the bottom side of the bracket. Shock was upset by Atlanta Reign earlier on in the playoffs in a narrow 4-3 defeat, but has been unstoppable since, going 16-0 across its last four series. The opponents were no slouches either — London Spitfire, Los Angeles Gladiators, and Hangzhou Spark were swept out of playoffs by Shock before NYXL followed suit.
While an argument can be made for Vancouver Titans deserving two chances in the Grand Finals as it has yet to drop a series, the best-of-7 in Philadelphia will be a fitting end to the Overwatch League 2019 season. Vancouver Titans, a franchise founded on the acquisition of the 2018 Run Away lineup and staff in South Korea, chose not to fix what wasn't broken. The Titans ran away with the Overwatch League, securing the first seed with a record of 25-3.
Not only were the Titans Pacific Division Champions with the best record in the Overwatch League, but the team also won the Stage 1 Finals in a 4-3 epic against SF Shock. The teams would rematch in the Stage 2 Finals, with Shock knocking Vancouver Titans off its throne in a 4-2 victory. Shock would get a chance to prove itself as best team in the Overwatch League after Shanghai Dragons defeated the Titans in the Stage 3 playoffs, but Shock fell to the surging Dragons in another epic 4-3 finale.
The Grand Finals will serve as the definitive third chapter in the arc of the Overwatch League's best budding rivalry. However, narratives aside, the matchup itself has a ton of interesting strategic nuance due to the sheer number of differences between both teams.
Vancouver Titans put up a regular season best 25 wins, adjusting flawlessly to the Overwatch League from the tier South Korean circuit without anything more than a depth signing in Lee "Hooreg" Dong-eun. While Hwang "TiZi" Jang-hyeon was eventually added to the roster after the 2-2-2 composition lock, the Titans successful season was built upon the same core elements as Run Away's success.
The San Francisco Shock, on the other hand, represent the best example of building an Overwatch League franchise from the ground up. NRG Esports bided its time, settling for a 9th place finish in season 1 of the Overwatch League while patiently allowing DPS Jay "sinatraa" Won become of legal age to compete halfway through the year. That patience would end up paying off this year, as sinatraa led Shock to its first Grand Finals after winning the 2019 Overwatch League MVP Award.
Sinatraa can't be given all the credit, however. Shock made several smart acquisitions in the form of American players such as Support Grant "Moth" Espe and Tank Matthew "Super" DeLisi, as well as Korean talents such as Park "Architect" Min-ho and Kim "Rascal" Dong-jun.
San Francisco Shock has successfully formed a true hybrid roster under the leadership of former Boston Uprising Head Coach Park "Crusty" Dae-hee. A two-year commitment to a long-term vision has paid off in a bonafide MVP, a 2019 Stage Championship, three total stage finals appearances, and a Grand Finals appearance in the team's first OWL post-season.
San Francisco Shock can finish its breakout season with an OWL Championship, but to do so, it will have to prove itself against the consistent excellence that Vancouver Titans has been known for long before assuming its current form. The teams face off in a showdown for the ages at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, PA on Sunday, September 29th.
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