From the outset the Shock dominated the match, held in Philadelphia’s sold-out Wells Fargo Center. The early action included an impressive performance by Jay “Sinatraa” Won as Doomfist, voted the league’s top player in the regular season. But for all of his skill and ability, the team still subbed him out, and later rotated in Dong-Jun “Rascal” Kim and Minho “Architect” Park, playing as Pharah and Bastion respectively. It was a fearless display of lineup flexibility to better suit the particular settings of each round, and it paid big dividends.
“We’re really flexible, that’s how we survive,” San Francisco’s head coach Dae-hee “Crusty" Park said in a news conference after the win. “Even the meta change, we’re just not afraid of anything.”
The grand finals series at Wells Fargo Center began at Lijiang Tower in a battle of the Doomfists, pitting Sinatraa against Vancouver’s Hyo-jong “Haksal” Kim. It was a highly anticipated matchup heading into Sunday, with Sinatraa as the league’s MVP and Haksal as the rookie of the year. Both Haskal and Sinatraa led the charge in team kills, changing the momentum throughout the first few rounds. The Shock won the map, in a best two out of three. Sinatraa earned 37 eliminations playing Doomfist at Lijiang to Haksal’s 23.
On two of the four maps — Eichenwalde and Gibraltar — the Shock showed their depth, substituting out Sinatraa for other DPS players. The Shock steamrolled through Eichenwalde, relentlessly pushing the payload as Architect caused havoc with Bastion. In one match highlight, he perched on a chandelier to rain down fire from above.
The entire team operated around Bastion when Architect played, making the most of high-ground and choke points on each map. When asked about his performance Sunday, Architect said through a translator that his teammates on support and tank roles “sacrificed themselves" just so he could shine.
Vancouver wasn’t able to score a point in the series but the team did command certain rounds ... only to have the Shock steal a match out from under them at the last second. On Anubus, a map the Titans picked, Vancouver almost held San Francisco from capturing even the first of two control points. The Titan’s Minsoo “SeoMinSoo” Seo had a strong performance as Reaper, keeping Sinatraa at bay in key team fights. But, with seconds left in the round, San Francisco broke through their line and made a run for the control point. The Shock captured the point, ending any chance for Vancouver to swing the momentum late in the series.
“I personally believe the very small mistakes kind of decided which team won the match," Vancouver head coach Hwang Ji-Sub said through a translator after the match.
The Titans are still a success story for the season. Most of the players on the starting team began as an amateur franchise in Overwatch Contenders, a minor league series for players who want to land a spot on an Overwatch League team.
“Eighty percent of the roster were rookies and what they’ve done is truly remarkable,” Vancouver Titans esports director Tim Holloway said at the news conference. “We’re really proud of them.”
Vancouver (25-3) and San Francisco (23-5) led the league as two of the top teams this season, despite three major changes to the meta, the current state of play in the game, over the course of the competitive season. The two teams faced off four times before Sunday night, twice in series finals, and had a 2-2 record against each other.
Last year, the San Francisco Shock finished ninth in the league’s inaugural season with a record of 17-23. The team’s founder and CEO, Andy Miller, said after the match that the franchise strategy has been to support their younger talent and build in the first season.
“The fans are great. They’ve always been really supportive, even when we were kind of a middling team. They understood the process of finding Sinatraa," Miller, told The Post in an interview before the finals. "All the pieces really fit together to make this great run this year.”
San Francisco signed Sinatraa and Matthew “Super” DeLisi, the Shock’s main tank, even though the two couldn’t play competitively until the second half of the first season because the league’s age restrictions. The goal from the beginning, Miller said, was to build for 2019.
“I’m not, no pun intended, shocked that we won,” Miller said.
Sinatraa said he also expected the team to win the match today but added the Titans did put up a fight.
“No matter what meta it is, as you can see, we’re always going to be on top — probably,” Sinatraa added at the news conference.
The Shock’s Hyobin “Choihyobin” Choi was awarded MVP of the match for his play as Sigma, a relatively new character added to the competitive league when the playoffs first started.
“I’m going to keep the humble approach," Choi said through a translator, discussing his performance Sunday. “My teammates put me in the position to perform good.”
“Choi, you’re the best,” Sinatraa quipped back from down the table.
When asked what it feels like to hold up the grand finals trophy, the Shock’s support player on Lucio, Grant “Moth” Espe, said two years ago he would have never imagined he’d be on a professional Overwatch team.
“I was playing Overwatch on the side in college, trying to be a software developer, and now I’m here," Moth said.
The Post’s Hawken Miller contributed to this report.