APEX Season 2: Finals Preview

In a couple of hours, the sun will slowly settle into the Western horizon in Seoul, South Korea. At around the same time, the players of Lunatic-Hai and RunAway will begin their pre-game rituals at OGN studios. They will wrap up some last minute pep talks and strategy briefs. The players will walk, with nerves of steel, past screaming fans, and settle into their soundproofed booths. Today is no different than any other day for them, yet to us, the excitement is difficult to contain. The story of the last three months will finally come to its ultimate conclusion. All the ups and downs; challenger upsets and veteran letdowns; blown ultimates and insane wombo combos—it all ends today.  

The intensity of tonight’s Grand Finals comes two weeks after the most exciting playoffs we have ever seen in the world of competitive Overwatch. On March 25th, we saw Team RunAway, the “zero to hero” team that was on the chopping block for relegation after their less-than-stellar performance in APEX Season 1, face off against returning playoff contender LuxuryWatch Blue.

Between the end of APEX Season 1 and the relegation series, RunAway dropped 2 players in favor of bringing on more talent to complement their standout players Kim “Haksal” Hyo Jong, DPS player, and Ryu “KAISER” Sang Hoon, who may be the greatest Tank player in Korea.

KAISER RunAway
Courtesy of OGN Global

LuxuryWatch, themselves no stranger to roster changes this season, seem to have molded their play around star player Hwang “Fl0w3R” Yeon Oh, who has been one of the top performing offense players all season.

In the first match of playoffs, we saw these teams fight back and forth the whole series. Almost every won team fight was answered by the opposing team with a winning team fight. Almost every game came down to nail biting overtime. Ultimately, despite an incredible performance by LW Blue and offense star Fl0w3R, RunAway just barely inched out a 3-2 victory over LW in the best of 5.

In the next match, Lunatic-Hai, also returning from playoffs last season, was pit against Meta Athena, the Challenger promotion team having an absolutely amazing first season on the premier APEX stage.

Meta Athena, having given up only 3 maps in a stellar performance in both group stages, got off to quite a rocky start, losing the first 2 games of the series.

In Game 3, on Hanamura, Meta Athena had an incredible 7 minute second point hold, and a winning offensive round, stopping Lunatic-Hai in their tracks. Meta Athena went on to win the next round after a very close game on Dorado. During Game 5, however, Meta Athena after a very quick point capture, were unable to push the payload to the first checkpoint, then seemingly rolled over on their defense round. Meta Athena lost point 1 almost as quickly as they took it just the round prior, and the payload was pushed almost halfway through the streets stage before team fights even started. Unfortunately for Meta Athena, Lunatic-Hai and their hyper aggressive dive comp, is very hard to deal with when they have their sights so keenly set on victory. Lunatic-hai pushed the payload the required distance in 3:40, winning the best of 5, and advancing on to face RunAway in the finals.

In the Third place round, Meta Athena faced off against LW Blue. Meta Athena, in very uncharacteristic form, were absolutely decimated by LW.

Before tonight’s final between RunAway and Lunatic-Hai, we can actually look back to group stage 2. These teams have already faced off once this season, fighting for the favorable seed in playoffs. Far from a decisive victory, we can bet that both of these teams have been reviewing that game over and over in order to get into a headspace for this match.

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In that game we saw what we have come to expect of these 2 teams. Lunatic-Hai almost always favors the dive comp and RunAway relies on great team coordination and good ult economy. These headbutting strategies made for some interesting team fights, as RunAway seems to be the first team this season to dial in the perfect strategy for shutting down Gong “Miro” Jin Hyuk and his legendary Winston. Lunatic-Hai expectedly took the Round 1 control map, and the Round 3 Assault map, Temple of Anubis. Fortunately for RunAway, they were able to take the Round 2 hybrid map, playing on their favored map, Eichenwald. The last two games of the series, with no discernable map advantage for either team, came down to execution of team fights, RunAway just barely pulling ahead for the victory.

 

Lunatic-Hai vs RunAway

 

The past remaining in the past, this series could easily go either way. I have consistently bet against Lunatic-Hai this season, and I have learned my lesson.

Lunatic-Hai, returning from an underwhelming performance last season, making a few roster changes, and then coming in second place at IEM Gyeonggi back in december, it is unlikely that they will settle for anything less than victory.

That being said, RunAway is the only team able to take more than one map from Lunatic-Hai, let alone actually take a whole series. In terms of player threats, RunAway may actually have an advantage.

While Lunatic-Hai having made a great pick with Lee “WhoRU” Seung Joon coming on as DPS, he was quoted saying “I almost lost my mind when the game went all five rounds,” after their Semi-finals match against Meta Athena, bringing into question his ability to perform under pressure.

Haksal, DPS on the side of RunAway, has been more consistent than WhoRU, but this Finals match is uncharted territory for RunAway. Kaiser has arguably usurped Miro as the greatest Tank player in Korea, but the title is arbitrary, and may only serve as fuel for Miro’s fire, helping him carry his team to victory.

It should be noted that Support talent goes in favor of Lunatic-Hai. Yoon “Runner” Dae Hoon, the Lucio player for RunAway, has continually been a detriment to his team all season, often overcommitting or misusing his very critical ultimate, sometimes throwing entire teamfights.

For Lunatic-Hai, Ryu “ryujehong” Je Hong, has been consistently providing for his team, and may well be a contender for MVP. Ryujehong has one of the highest performing Anas in all of korea, and his flexibility makes him an indispensable part of the team.

Will Lunatic-Hai finally win their gold? Will RunAway defy all odds and win after being on the chopping block for relegation last season? Will Miro reclaim his crown as best tank player? Will Runner Sound Barrier off the map? Will RageCageRN actually get a prediction about Lunatic-Hai correct, ever?  My final predictions have Lunatic-Hai winning in 6, with Ryujehong winning MVP.

 

The best of 7 will begin Saturday, April 8th, at 1800 KST (roughly 0200 PST). Post your predictions in the comments below.

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