Overwatch League Grand Finals 2019 Preview: San Francisco Shock

Ashley Parrish
Games Blizzard
Games Blizzard PC Gaming Overwatch
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Overwatch teams rarely live up to their branding. Washington delivered very little justice, Florida’s mayhem was more like a light kerfuffle, and Seoul didn’t quite create the dynasty fans were hoping they would. But San Francisco, after an inaugural season that barely registered on the Richter scale, proved the exception to the rule, shocking us all with their meteoric rise culminating in a trip to the Overwatch League Grand Finals.

2019-09-15 - Overwatch League 2019 Season / Photo: Robert Paul for Blizzard Entertainment

Humble Beginnings

The Shock’s 2018 season was a bit of a snorefest, finishing ninth out of the 12 inaugural teams. They garnered a bit of buzz with the arrival of Jay “Sinatraa” Won and Matthew “Super” DeLisi, young talent that had been scouted and signed before reaching eligibility age. Remember these names; they’ll become very important later.

At the start of season 2, you could be forgiven for leaving the Shock off your list of “teams to watch.” All eyes focused on the new expansion teams, the grand finals participants, and season 1 juggernauts like the New York Excelsior or the Los Angeles Valiant. With fans eager to see which of the new teams would rise and which veteran teams would continue their dominance, expectations of the 9th place Shock were low-to-non-existent. The team ended stage 1 with a decent 4-3 showing, enough to earn them one of the lower seeded spots in the stage playoffs.

Turning Point

It is tough being a low seed. Rather than face off against similarly ranked peers, your path to victory is guarded by teams way better than you. The Shock entered the stage playoffs not high enough to get the easy road nor low enough to make it a highway through Hell. Perhaps if they had, this would have played out differently. Maybe they wouldn’t have torn through the Toronto Defiant or upset season 1 runners up Philadelphia Fusion, winning decisive, sweeping victories over both. Maybe they beat the Vancouver Titans or never even make it close to that final match at all. We know neither of these things happened. The Shock toppled their first two opponents only to lose in a razor thin close match against the Titans. But it’s during the stage 1 playoffs that the Shock rocketed from season 1 obscurity to season 2 supremacy.

And they only improve from there.

Overwatch League 2019 Season Stage 5 photo: Stewart Volland for Blizzard Entertainment

The Golden Stage

In season 1, the Boston Uprising completed the only perfect stage: 10 straight wins. In season 2, perfect stages are far more common. More teams and less games make the feat easy to accomplish. Discontent to be one of several teams with a perfect stage, the Shock chose to create a new category of perfection: the golden stage.

Throughout stage 2, the Shock won every game without dropping a single map.

Twenty-eight straight map wins; it’s almost cruel when you think about it. You win a game after 3 maps and most teams, having already secured the victory, take it easy on the fourth and final map. It becomes a gimme to the defeated team, the opportunity to salvage a bit of dignity. The Shock, in their golden stage run, wouldn’t even allow opponents that small mercy.

The Shanghai Dragons put a stop to the madness, finally breaking the unprecedented map win streak in the stage 2 playoffs. Though their map streak was broken, their win streak remained intact all the way up to the stage 2 final — a rematch against the Vancouver Titans. This time, the Shock balanced the ledger, putting each team at one stage playoff victory apiece, kicking off a burgeoning rivalry. It is a rivalry that will reach its epic conclusion at the Overwatch League Grand Finals on September 29.

#Shock The World

So how does a team that barely made a blip in their first season come back and basically park themselves at the top of every ranking and stat list?

Talent.

The Shock played the long game with their talent. During season 1 they signed young, coachable players and strengthened core roles with pickups like Hyo-bin “Choihyobin” Choi, Minho “Architect” Park, and Dong-jun “Rascal” Kim.

Every Role Star Award — recognition for excellence in each of Overwatch’s three roles: tank, damage, and support — has a Shock player on the list.

Overwatch League 2019 Season2019-09-04 / Photo: Ben Pursell For Blizzard Entertainment

San Francisco can also claim the League’s MVP. Sinatraa won the award for his performance as a damage dealer. His Zarya play, Tracer play, and now Reaper play made him a fearsome opponent. If the Shock triumph in the Grand Finals, he’ll likely win MVP for that too.

https://www.twitch.tv/overwatchleague/clip/CuriousEsteemedButterflyRuleFive

While other teams shuffled rosters in the off season, ditching players for shiny new talent from the amateur circuits, the Shock made it work with what they had, and it shows. They are the most improved of all the veteran teams and they didn’t axe half their roster to do it. (Or all in Shanghai’s case.)

“The only team that can beat us is us,” Super said of his team after defeating season 1 champions the London Spitfire. That’s not strictly true — Shanghai’s miracle run through the stage 3 playoffs proves that — but that mentality might help them against their mortal enemies Vancouver. These two teams are so balanced it would make Thanos jealous. They are tied at 2 games apiece, even their map scores are even at 11 and 11. But the Shock have the advantage. They’ve won their most recent matchups and are undefeated against Vancouver since the new rule mandating strict team compositions went into effect.

The season 1 finals ended in a blowout. The London Spitfire trounced the Philadelphia Fusion in straight sets, 3-1 and 3-0. These grand finals won’t end like that. No matter if San Francisco shocks or the Titans triumph, this match will go down in history as the League’s best.

2019-09-15 - Overwatch League 2019 Season / Photo: Robert Paul for Blizzard Entertainment