It’s curtains for APEX Season 2, with the riveting narrative of the playoffs coming to a close this past Saturday with the Grand Final showdown between returning playoff contenders Lunatic-Hai and nearly relegated underdogs RunAway. It was difficult to determine a clear favorite going into this match, even harder having watched the whole series. Both teams played like hell and gave the viewers an absolutely breathtaking final.
Everything was put on the line for both teams heading into this match. MVP candidates Lee “WhoRU” Seung Joon and Kim “Haksal” Hyo Jong, the DPS players for Lunatic-Hai and RunAway, respectively, were facing off as two of the most consistent DPS players in the league. Gong “Miro” Jin Hyuk and Ryu “KAISER” Sang Hoon facing off in similar fashion. Miro is hoping that he can reclaim his crown as best tank player KO and lead Lunatic-Hai to their first grand final win. Ryu “ryujehong” Je Hong as captain, shotcaller, and star Ana player for Lunatic-Hai matched up against Yoon “Runner” Dae Hoon, the shotcaller and fearless leader who rallied his team from near relegation all the way to the finals.
My predictions for this match had Lunatic-Hai winning in six with ryujehong winning the title of MVP. Lunatic-Hai has shown a definitive advantage on control, and if RunAway was going to have any chance at victory, they had to win the control map and avoid letting any assault maps go to draw and default to a control best of 1. RunAway needed to avoid King’s Row like the plague due to their abysmal performance on the map all season, AND they needed to make sure they did not sleep on Lunatic-Hai during the hybrid maps. Failing to succeed at either of these tasks would surely spell defeat for RunAway.
Oasis – Control
First point, University, was off to a slow start with a 4 minute pause due to sound issue on the side of RunAway, but immediately after the pause Haksal set the tone for the show by getting an incredible run of kill resets on Genji, pushing Lunatic-Hai off the point and allowing RunAway first capture. This first point continued with a few back and forths based on successful Dragon Blades from each team. University went to RunAway. On the second point, Gardens, we saw Much more definitive play from Lunatic-Hai. Lunatic-Hai lost first capture by a razor thin margin, but were able to synergize ultimates and manage their ult economy to maintain point capture all the way to 100%. Finally, on City Center, RunAway managed to push Lunatic-Hai off the point in overtime, capture the point, and tick off their remaining 13% before they could return to contest. Kim “KoX” Min Soo and Park “BUMPER” Sang Beom, whose Pharah and Mercy respectively carried the team on the last point, gave RunAway the key victory they needed on control.
RunAway With It
RunAway were able to avoid King’s Row temporarily as game 2 moved on to Hollywood. Both teams had very little experience on this map this season – Lunatic-Hai had no games, and RunAway only had one. Lunatic-Hai attacking first in traditional divey, hyper-aggressive, Lunatic-Hai fashion take point A in about 1:15. However, RunAway, not to roll over so soon was almost able to completely hold in West World, barely allowing Lunatic-Hai to final stage in overtime. Lunatic-Hai were able to push almost all the way to the final checkpoint, stopping just short in overtime after BUMPER was able to clutch a Graviton Surge and set up Haksal for the Dragon Blade cleanup. With RunAway on the offensive, Lunatic-Hai was nearly able to fully hold on point A, but were absolutely shut down by wrecking ball that is Kaiser’s Reinhardt. RunAway were able to make quick work of the final two stages by allocating ultimate resources and properly positioning, capitalizing on a few key positioning errors on the side of Lunatic-Hai. RunAway took Hollywood, giving them a 2-0 advantage going into game 3.
On Volskaya Industries, Lunatic-Hai came out in true form, taking point A 53 seconds with their favored dive comp. The snowball continued for Lunatic-Hai as they pushed on to point B, whittling down the defense refusing to back off the point. The map layout for point B on Volskaya is usually pretty favorable for defense in competitive play, so a point B capture is relatively uncommon, let alone such a demanding capture that Lunatic-Hai was able to pull out here. After all was said and done, Lunatic-Hai had captured 2 points and still had 3:39 left in their time bank. We then saw quite an opposite performance from RunAway, they were unable to synchronize and push for point A for quite some time until a costly error from WhoRU, going down right after using his Dragon Blade, allowing RunAway to take point A with just 40 seconds left. Their push on point B was similar in style to Lunatic-Hai’s, but RunAway proved to be outclassed as their staggered assault on point B was completely shut down by Lunatic-Hai.
Game 4 on Route 66 saw a similar performance to what we saw on Hollywood from both teams. RunAway seemed to have Miro’s number on this map, placing BUMPER on Roadhog with the clear intention of shutting down the dive aggression from Miro’s famed Winston. The result of which was a clinical execution of attack on the side of RunAway, pushing the payload all the way to the end of the map. With Lunatic-Hai on the attack we saw an equally aggressive performance, in part due to BUMPER opting for the D.Va in the early points, switching back to Roadhog a little bit too late as Miro switched over to Reinhardt due the high value of his shields in the tight corridors of the warehouse. Lunatic-Hai came within meters of drawing on this map, but RunAway was able to pull out the overtime hold in the last seconds.
On Hanamura, we saw RunAway on the offensive first, looking to clinch the best of 7 after garnering a 3-1 lead to start the series. RunAway opted for an interesting 3-tank, 2-support, 1-DPS composition on the offensive round, and were able to shut Miro and WhoRU down on point A with decisive force, leaving about 5 minutes left on the clock to capture point B. However, on point B, a new challenger approached RunAway: Kim “EscA” In-jae, a DPS player for Lunatic-Hai. Up until this point, EscA was but a zippy, Tracer blip on RunAway’s radar, having a mediocre series up to this point. EscA flipped the script, pulled out his pocket Mei and held RunAway the full 5 minutes using valuable zoning tools to isolate members of RunAway and give Lunatic-Hai the man advantage for the ensuing teamfight. Lunatic-Hai was able to shut down RunAway at every entry point, setting them up nicely for their offensive round. During their attack, ryujehong opted for the Zenyatta for the third time this series. ryujehong comined Orb of Discord, some excellent shotcalling, and his teams clinical target precision for an easy push, and captured point B with 4:35 left on the clock. Turning momentum back in their favor, Lunatic-Hai only trailed by one going into game 6.
Game 6 brought us to our final escort map, Dorado, with Lunatic-Hai on the offensive.
ryujehong opted for Zenyatta yet again, and utilized the same strategy of target selection that got them the captures so easily in game 5. Lunatic-Hai pushed with authority, making it all the way to the second checkpoint with a little over five minutes left to go. RunAway put up a fight, digging deep to try and hold Lunatic-Hai to two points, but Lunatic-Hai was able to inch out point 3 in overtime after a dominating teamfight in their favor. It was at this point that the tables finished their full turn – RunAway, unable to organize a sustainable force against Lunatic-Hai, is fully held. Series tied.
Winner Take All
All would be decided on Eichenwalde. RunAway boasted an undefeated record on this map for the regular season, but were on the back foot giving up two straight games to Lunatic-Hai. Lunatic-Hai, going first on the attack, opt yet again for ryujehong on Zenyatta and Miro on Winston. In consistent form, Lunatic-Hai captured point A decidedly, and pushed the payload all the way to point 3. Esca and WhoRU stayed continuously on the hunt to shut down RunAway carry threats Kaiser and Haksal, with ryujehong calling the shots with the Orb of Discord and shutting down any counter push with Zenyatta’s Transcendence. RunAway, down to their last round, had the daunting task of capturing all 3 points on offense. Lunatic-Hai opted for a scattered defensive formation: with Miro hiding in the back alley, they allowed RunAway to push almost onto the point before Miro came out of nowhere, disrupting the entire back line on Winston before RunAway saw it coming. This strategy proved effective, and was repeated until things delved into skirmish-heavy chaos. Esca and Stitch dueling on Tracer, WhoRU and Haksal dueling on Genji; everything was scattered across the map. Lunatic-Hai nearly held RunAway to zero points on their favorite map, but through the scattered defense RunAway came together for their first point capture, but only 3 minutes left on the clock RunAway was left scrambling, struggling to surmount a viable push against such cautious ultimate economy from Lunatic-Hai. RunAway managed to push within meters of the second point, eliminating several Lunatic-Hai, but a clutch Dragon Blade from WhoRU resulted in a triple kill for Lunatic-Hai, and RunAway was pushed off the payload.
RunAway was held to just one point on their best map, suffering a reverse sweep after managing a promising 3-1 lead. Ironically, RunAway shored up all of the issues they had coming into the series. They won control maps, they prevented draws, and they managed to avoid King’s Row, all while showing off excellent ultimate economy. Despite Runner’s ability to be caught out individually more than he should, his shot calling for the team was mostly on point. However, when they lost momentum, and the pressure mounted, they fell apart in all aspects of the game. Inconsistent play and inability to rally at key points when behind, especially on maps that were historically points of strength for RunAway, ultimately cost them the series, and with it, the championship.
Lunatic-Hai Looks Forward
WhoRU took home the well-deserved title of MVP for Lunatic-Hai. His Genji play was phenomenal, and he provided a consistent, clutch star performance to bring his team to victory. Honorable mentions should go to Miro and ryujehong. Miro may well have claimed the crown of best tank player back from Kaiser with his performance today, prompting BUMPER to switch to Roadhog the better part of the series to deal with his aggressively disruptive playstyle. ryujehong and his leadership for Lunatic-Hai have been spot on all season; able to balance excellent shotcalling with maintaining his reputation as one of the greatest Ana players in the region with some of the most impressive sleep dart shutdown plays seen in competitive play. Lunatic-Hai has finally managed to earn their well deserved first place tournament win, and if anything from this series carries forward, they will continue to dominate the Korean Overwatch scene.
Look to HOWLA – the Center of eSports for continued coverage of all things Overwatch. APEX, Relegation/Promotional series to begin on April 11th, 2017. APEX Season 3 will begin on April 24th, 2017. New Overwatch patch and in-game event: Uprising live on April 11th, 2017.