The San Francisco Shock got to the grand finals in Philadelphia through a mixture of resilient fighting spirit and consistent success. But it’s impossible to sum up their 4-0 victory against the Vancouver Titans with just highlights and a match score. That victory against their long-time rivals was just a bookend to cap off a much longer story. The process of rebuilding their roster was anything but simple and clean.
During the inaugural season of the Overwatch League, the Shock finished in ninth place. Despite having promising building blocks, things had gone wrong. The coaching staff had to eat crow and evolve.
The Shock added all-star talent in DPS players Kwon “Striker” Nam-joo and Kim “Rascal” Dong-jun, then rounded out the roster with flex support Park “Viol2t” Minki and rookie main tank Yoo “smurf” Myeong-hwan. The team’s raw potential was now bolstered with some powerful DPS players, and support to ensure that those DPS players could do work.
It may have been the era of GOATS, but the Shock climbed the ladder quickly in the first stage of season two, going so far as to qualify for their first stage playoff appearance as a franchise. They managed to climb over the Toronto Defiant and Philadelphia Fusion in order to face the Vancouver Titans.
The Shock came up short on that day; they fell to the Titans 3-4. But they put on a performance that will go down in Overwatch history.
The golden (and stage (and the fall)
Stage 2 was literally perfect. That’s not colorful language — they went undefeated in both matches and maps. They didn’t drop a single bout, ever, and rode that momentum into their second stage playoffs.
They dropped their first map of the stage to the Shanghai Dragons in the quarterfinals, but still managed to defeat them in a 3-1 victory. The Spark went down in a 4-0 match, and then finally, the golden Shock were able to take revenge on the Titans and win the stage.
That was a massive achievement, but it didn’t last into stage three. The Shock looked worse for wear. They secured the fifth seed with a 5-2 stage record — certainly not terrible, but a fall from their golden stage glory. They nearly lost to the Atlanta Reign, and then were upset by the Houston Outlaws and the Chengdu Hunters.
This raised questions and concerns around an otherwise great team. Was it something as simple as adapting to patch notes, or had the rest of the field caught up to San Francisco?
The team was able to put many of those doubts to rest in the playoffs, as well as securing their reputation as a team that shines under pressure. This stage was no different; the Shock came to live to roll over the Seoul Dynasty and decimate the Los Angeles Valiant. The only thing stopping them from taking yet another crown was a surprisingly revitalized Shanghai Dragons. The Dragons and the Shock put on another showstopper finale, pulling out all the stops, but the Dragons walked away victorious after a 4-3 series.
One loss was rough, but it was just the beginning of the Shock rising up once more.
Or was it?
Everyone expected the Shock to sail to the finals based off their stage championship tailwind. Everything was heading towards the biggest championship in the League — the Grand Finals. The Shock wanted that trophy after their rough season one finish. They would surely be able to take down the Reign now that they were back in form, right?
The Shock ran headlong into the surging Atlanta Reign, who have become known as giant killers in the League, and were knocked down to the losers’ bracket. This just made them angrier. Big game Shock had awaken, and tore through the London Spitfire, Los Angeles Gladiators, Hangzhou Spark, and the New York Excelsior without losing a single map. They had recaptured the electricity of the golden stage ... but they had one more set of familiar faces to conquer.
It was Overwatch’s modern super fight: the San Francisco Shock versus the Vancouver Titans.
Clash of the Titans
Map one of the finals, which was played on a control map, was a nail biter. Whoever won the first control map would statistically be favored to win the set. The Titans had not lost a single control map on their run through the winners’ bracket. This would be the map that set the tone for the rest of the series. If the Titans won, it would spell doom for the Shock.
The Titans’ uncharacteristically traded in their Moira for Brigitte. It’s wasn’t unheard of for flex support Lee “Twilight” Jooseok to have pocket picks, but they quickly rotated off this strange pick and never swapped her back in.
The Titans were building their team around denying Jay “sinatraa” Won’s Doomfist, which would allow them to take a striking lead. The Brigitte pick didn’t work in their favor, and the Shock took the momentum and cruised to a win on a map that historically was the Titans’ turf.
Eichenwalde was another one-sided offensive match for the Shock that finished at a breakneck pace. The Titans tried to match that speed, but they failed to make much progress on the first point in the second round, which partially comes down to Rascal’s excellent space control on Pharah.
The Shock saw an opportunity when the Titans attempted to force a play with Seo “SeoMinSoo” Min-soo’s Death Blossom. It was countered, and the Shock would bounce forward and take a 2-0 lead.
From there, it was over. The Shock mopped the Titans up over the next two maps, easily securing their redemption — and the season two championship. The energy in the stadium was electric. Fans had witnessed a disappointing team with wasted potential become the undisputed best team in Overwatch.
Both the Shock and the Titans shed tears behind the smoke, pyrotechnics, and screaming crowds, but for different reasons. The two bands of brothers had clashed for a final time, and the Shock had come out ahead.
On one side stood the San Francisco Shock, the sweethearts of the Overwatch League and newly-crowned world champions.
And sitting across the stage were the league’s despondent frontrunners, the Vancouver Titans.
Throughout the entire regular season and even reaching into the playoffs, the Titans held the league in their iron grip. Now, with their heads in their hands, they would be the ones to receive the sportsmanship handshake from the winner.
After meeting them in two stage finals, this match against the Shock was supposed to be their crown jewel in the dynasty established back when they were RunAway in the Korean Contenders circuit back home ... but it wasn’t meant to be. The Shock’s Cinderella run was too powerful, and now a new king sits on the throne at the peak of competitive Overwatch.