There has been a war brewing throughout Stage 3 of the Overwatch League, pitting more DPS-heavy compositions or Sombra-focused compositions against the standard triple-tank, triple-support (GOATS) compositions.
The Stage 3 final is the culmination of this battle, with the DPS-oriented Shanghai Dragons taking on San Francisco Shock, the Stage 2 champions and triple-triple masters.
Road to finals: San Francisco Shock
It's hardly a surprise to see the San Francisco Shock in the finals, but a victory to cap off Stage 3 might be the last hurrah for the team's ironclad GOATS compositions. With a rumored two-tank, two-DPS, two-support position lock on the horizon for Stage 4 of the Overwatch League, Sunday might be the last time we see a true triple-triple setup at Blizzard Arena, to the delight of many and chagrin of a few others.
The Shock bring their own team-specific variations on the popular GOATS comps, with Kim "Rascal" Dong-jun playing on Baptiste. Although teammate Matthew "super" DeLisi said that the Shock would likely face Vancouver of all opponents in the Stage 3 finals, Rascal wasn't surprised that Shanghai rose above them.
"Well, I expected them," Rascal said. "Since Stage 3 everyone has been playing more Sombra-GOATS or DPS comps. We thought that Vancouver was not as good at DPS comps, so it's not a surprise."
In playoff matches against the Seoul Dynasty and Los Angeles Valiant, the Shock emerged victorious against both of those composition variations. Now, they'll face a more powerful and flexible DPS team in Shanghai, and will likely attack them with triple-triple and Rascal's Baptiste.
"It's just our comfort picks," main support Grant "moth" Espe said after the Shock's win over Seoul. "We have Super on the Rein and [Jay "Sinatraa" Won] on the Zarya, and that's really strong for us. Even if it's not the best hero picks in that situation, we still can make it work a lot of the time. And those two heroes, especially, snowball really well, so on longer maps, even if it's not the optimal pick on the first point, we can win with it just by keeping the ultimates and moving on to the second and third point."
Rascal also cited Sinatraa as a key component of their triple-triple success.
"Why we are good at 3-3, that is from Sinatraa," Rascal said. "Because Sinatraa is the best Zarya, so GOATS is really around the Zarya."
As for the two-two-two lock or completely DPS-oriented meta, Rascal's not worried about his team. The Shock have two outstanding DPS players in Park "Architect" Min-ho and Kwon "Striker" Nam-joo ready to chip in should Sunday's series or the rest of the Overwatch League season take a more offensive turn
"We kind of have a double roster," Rascal said. "We have kind of a DPS-roster with Architect and Striker, so even if they play only DPS it's not a big deal."
Rascal himself is no slouch in that role. Against the Valiant, he swapped back onto one of his signature DPS heroes, Pharah, giving fans a potential preview of what could be a more DPS-oriented mirror in the finals.
"I was really nervous to play the Pharah," Rascal said. "In DPS comps, there are so many variables. I did make a little mistake, but it was okay."
Road to finals: Shanghai Dragons
In the final, chaotic moments of Oasis on Saturday, Shanghai main support Son "CoMa" Kyeong-woo didn't know that his team had beaten the Vancouver Titans.
"Everyone thought that it was going to go to overtime," CoMa said. "I was trying to rez [Jin "Youngjin" Young-jin] and think about what was going to happen after the rez delivered. That was the reason why the entire team was delayed because they were expecting that to happen and then --"
CoMa spread his hands out as he mimicked the in-game sound that plays when a point is captured.
"The victory logo just popped up. At that time we had a hard time assessing who actually won, so that's why there was a delay."
The Dragons had to go through two of the league's three best triple-triple teams in the New York Excelsior and Vancouver Titans to reach the Stage 3 finals. The third triple-triple team is their finals opponent: the San Francisco Shock.
Shanghai was one of the teams this stage to first deviate from the norm by making the most of Yang "DDing" Jin-hyeok's Pharah and Youngjin's Doomfist instead of relying on the picks popularized by San Francisco, NYXL and the Titans.
"In the beginning of the season, we were not sure what we had to play: GOATS, Sombra-GOATS, or DPS," Shanghai main tank Noh "Gamsu" Young-jin said after Shanghai beat the NYXL in the quarterfinals. "We started to play DPS meta way earlier than other teams, and it's been the meta right now, and that's been the biggest benefit for Shanghai."
Shanghai used this disruptive DPS-oriented style to fell the Titans in the semifinals, again with Youngjin's Doomfist and Brigitte play, DDing's Pharah, and Bae "Diem" Min-seong on his signature Widowmaker along with the Sombra. The key to Shanghai's success with these DPS compositions has come from an improved ability to protect their support line of CoMa and flex support Yang "Luffy" Seong-hyeon.
"I personally think that was one of our weaknesses," CoMa said, "but through constant improvements, protecting the backline has become one of our greatest strengths, and I think it will improve in the future."
This has allowed both Luffy and CoMa to shine. Luffy remained relatively untouched in the Vancouver series, and his Biotic Grenades and clutch Sleep Darts on Ana earned him Player of the Match. Meanwhile, on Mercy, CoMa was able to successfully Resurrect his teammates even from incredibly risky positions.
"I often make the decision myself and make the play," CoMa said. "It is true that oftentimes the angle of rezzes are very risky, but I think it's a high-risk, high-return play, and I'm the only Mercy player capable of making these decisions consistently."
In order to defeat the Shock, Shanghai will have to continue to protect their support line, enabling their DPS players to go wild and crack the Shock's defense.
"I definitely think the Shock are way more well-rounded. As a result, the first time we played against them we were really thrown off, so we should be prepared for that more in the future," CoMa said. "It is correct for us to assess the other team, but I think the ultimate strategy is just to do what we do best and what we are good at. If I have to change anything or consider anything it would be to help Diem do better on Widowmaker."