When they entered the 2022 Overwatch League season, both the Toronto Defiant and Vancouver Titans were looking to improve on previous seasons. Early on in the year, confirmation came in that there would be the first ever Canadian Overwatch League LAN, putting pressure on both teams to make it in.
Where the Defiant were looking to aggressively re-tool, the Vancouver Titans were looking to finish their rebuild and finally compete after seasons of poor performances. Despite being on different journeys, the two teams have now collided.
The first Overwatch League LAN in Canada managed to get something that seemed unlikely: both Canadian teams competing for the Summer Showdown championship.
This was not expected. Looking back at the 2022 season while heading into the Summer Showdown, both teams had a chance to miss out on the Summer Showdown playoffs. The Toronto Defiant, coming into the stage with an average 6-6 record, seemed to be stuck in mid-table in the Western division. At the same time, the Vancouver Titans were winless heading into the Summer Showdown — getting at least three wins in six qualifying games seemed tough.
Ultimately, for both these Canadian teams, the meta shift around new Overwatch tank hero Junker Queen proved to help secure their playoff LAN spots. For the Titans, it was a mix of the new tank and some new coaching that added structure.
“I think that it’s been a 50/50 split of coaching and a favorable meta that led us to this LAN,” Titans superfan Samson Li said.
Li was going to this LAN no matter what from Vancouver; but when his team qualified, that made it all the better.
“Players like Luka “Aspire” Rolovic and Chris “MirroR” Trįnh are just more comfortable in this meta than the earlier ones this year, but the addition of David “dpei” Pei has put the standards up, and making to Toronto proves that.”
It’s also fitting that two new additions to Overwatch 2 focus on Canada, with new Push map New Queen Street set in Toronto as well as new DPS hero Sojourn remaining in the Summer Showdown meta. It’s hard to miss that players will be playing Toronto in Toronto on Toronto, as the introduction cards the Defiant crew sent out said.
— Justice Kalios (@OW_Kalios) September 7, 2022
Battle of Canada gives both teams momentum in the Summer Showdown
Funnily enough, both these teams’ first taste of the new meta was against each other; in a super close match that reached 99/99 on Oasis, on the third section of the control map.
The Defiant clutched that final moment, taking the win from the grasps of the Vancouver Titans, who were oh so close to their first win of 2022. Toronto took that momentum to finish 4-2 and fourth seed in the playoffs.
As for the Vancouver Titans, they took their loss to Toronto on the chin, sweeping the Paris Eternal in the next game for their first win in 2022. The Titans then swept the New York Excelsior and squeezed a win from the Washington Justice, finishing with a 3-3 record and a good map differential thanks to two sweeps.
Now, heading into the Summer Showdown, Canadian fans are going to head to the Mattamy Athletic Centre in downtown Toronto to see their home team and Vancouver duke it out make their runs in the tournament.
The fact that the Defiant made it there was a sigh of relief from Toronto fans, as there was a chance they wouldn’t have qualified for their own LAN. That would have brought back memories from when the New York Excelsior hosted the inaugural OWL Grand Finals all those years ago — expected to make it there, yet they fell out to the Philadelphia Fusion and were only there as fans.
Toronto avoided that LAN problem, but the biggest Overwatch League surprise from the Canadian teams was the Titans. From winless in the season to a 3-3 record, they look much more structured in this meta than they did before. Knowing that both Canadian teams will fight in the Summer Showdown is a big positive for Overwatch League fans all across Canada.
“I think the fact that both Canadian teams made it in is a big deal because we can bring together our two separate cultures and then see how that connects to some of the tangible experiences we can have at an event,” fan Richard Ng said.
Ng has a lot of experience with events in the league, as the founder of the first supporter club in the Overwatch League with the 5 Deadly Venoms for New York Excelsior fans, as well as helping to create the Toronto Alpha Flight for Defiant fans afterwards.
“I personally know some Titans fans coming over from Vancouver,” Ng said, ”and watching the games with them, I know that’s going to be fun. I want to see people come together and relight that rivalry between Toronto and Vancouver because that emotion leads to longevity.”
Toronto and Vancouver both have shot at title for the first time
When the Toronto Defiant came into the league the same year the Vancouver Titans did, both teams had very different paths. The Defiant started strong but failed to win a playoff game, falling towards the bottom of the table.
Meanwhile, the Titans were rolling through the league, making it to the 2019 Overwatch League Grand Finals in their first year, representing Canadians. However, as the seasons went on and rosters changed, the Defiant consistently finished above the Titans. Both teams weren’t in serious playoff contention from 2020 afterwards, and never at the same time.
Now, not only are they both competitive, but their matchup early in the Summer Showdown seemed to spark some of that Canadian rivalry between the two teams. If that re-match came during the Summer Showdown playoffs in Toronto, we could see a spark ignite into a flame.
“It would be great content if they faced up against each other,” Overwatch League caster and analyst Jennifer “LemonKiwi” Pichette said. “I know Toronto are trying to establish themselves as Canada’s team, and it’s important for them to do so. As for Vancouver, in recent years, they’ve been building from the bottom and trying to take it one step at a time. If they can even make it to the point where they face Toronto, I’m sure they’ll be happy.”
The odds of this matchup aren’t too high, but still remain possible. The Defiant face off against recent opponents in the London Spitfire while the Titans face the San Francisco Shock. The soonest these two teams could face off against each other would be either in the upper bracket finals or lower bracket semi-finals. According to Richard, that potential re-match could be a great moment for the two teams.
“Some of my favorite moments from the league’s past came from rivalries,” Ng said, “like watching Kwon ‘Striker’ Nam-joo and Park ‘Saebyeolbe’ Jong-ryeol fight it out in the inaugural season at the Stage 3 finals; a classic New York versus Boston matchup. So the fact that we could have that in this tournament is amazing, I just hope we get that matchup of Toronto versus Vancouver.”
Alas, the cards weren’t meant to be, with Vancouver falling out in two matches.
Expectations for Canadian teams are reasonable, but high for 2022
As for expectations, a lot of the Canadian fans are going to be cheering their hearts out for their Overwatch League teams at this LAN. Especially the local Toronto fans, with the Defiant. There is hope in the air for the Defiant, especially with some of the performances coming out of Lee “Twilight” Joo-seok, Sung “CH0R0NG” Yoo-min, Jeong “Heesu” Hee-su and Jung “ALTHOUGH” Hyun-wook. They did face the London Spitfire and were sent to the lower bracket early on.
“I see Toronto at least making it to the semis of the lower or upper bracket,” Ng said. “I see them as at least a good team in this meta off of their performances in the qualifiers.”
Despite lower expectations, the Vancouver Titans had what it takes to make a run in this tournament. Yet, most likely not through the upper bracket, especially with their match against second seed Shock to start the event.
“As for Vancouver, I see them making a run in the lower bracket,” Ng said. “They’re a good team, but they won’t have as easy of a time as they had in the qualifiers; tougher teams, harder matchups. I think Vancouver does their best with Aspire on Sojourn, brute forcing the team to victory. That could take them to the semis alongside Toronto.”
Even with Vancouver falling out of the tournament in two matches, they had good moments throughout. All that the Canadian fans and Titans fans hope is that making it to this Toronto LAN isn’t their peak for the 2022 Overwatch League season.
“My hopes for Titans doing well in this tournament weren’t high, especially since this is their first LAN together as a team,” Li said. “I hope they use their qualifiers and this run as motivation to do well in the rest of the season. I know more players around the league have more respect for the Titans now, especially since we took a map off the San Francisco Shock.”
In the end, both Toronto and Vancouver had legitimate chances to take the Summer Showdown title heading into the tournament. Both lost their first games in the tournament 3-1, falling to the lower bracket. Yet, the Titans fell out in two games. All hope rests on the Defiant, and if the team wins, it marks a unique moment in league history.
Polish-Canadian game enthusiast. I've been entrenched in gaming for as long as I can remember, with my first game being Pokemon Yellow and my most played games being Borderlands 2 and Overwatch. I have a degree in Film Studies, but writing about esports just makes my job all the better.