APEX Season 2 is completely off the rails, and exciting narratives of breakthrough underdog performances and superstar letdowns have already emerged. In an absolutely stunning upset, South Korean Challenger teams Meta Athena and Run Away dominated despite being up against 6 teams returning from APEX Season 1. In a less than expected development, Afreeca Blue and Team EnVyUs, the top 2 APEX Season 1 teams, failed to win a game in their respective groups after a disappointing Group Stage 1. Group Stage 1 predators Kongdoo Uncia and Kongdoo Panthera also failed to clinch a playoff spot. Lunatic-Hai, despite a few roster changes from last season, was able to keep up their momentum from Group Stage 1 and will be going on to playoffs. LW Blue, with a superstar performance from off season pick-up Hwang “Fl0w3R“ Yeon Oh, will be going on to playoffs as well. The pattern of these group standings and how this season has been developing shapes up for an interesting direction the professional scene seems to be taking as teams grow and talent moves around between the leagues.
Leading the groups we have Meta Athena and Run Away. While this is their first appearance on the premier APEX stage, they both managed to maintain their synergy throughout this season. In this stage, both teams, by no means handed their victories, were able to come out on top by performing well across the board. Their top notch positioning, ultimate economy management, and shot calling made them contenders against returning veteran teams, who seemingly underestimated them.
Returning APEX Season 1 playoff contenders Lunatic-Hai and LuxuryWatch Blue, just barely trailing behind the challenger powerhouses, seem to have dialed in the formula for success, compared to their lackluster performance last season in the playoffs. A large portion of that improvement could arguably be attributed to some off season roster changes. Lunatic-Hai, picked up Lee “Whoru” Seung Joon and Kim “zunba” Joon Hyuk just before the start of APEX Season 2. They brought additional talent and with them, we see a team prioritizing ultimate economy management and a very tight team performance. Lunatic-Hai, however, has a very aggressive strategy, favoring dive compositions with superstar Gong “Miro” Jin Hyuk leading the charge with terrifying Winston play. LW Blue is showing their new found talent with their extremely valuable pickup of Fl0w3R on offense. Fl0w3R consistently performs on multiple heroes, often even flexing to other positions in order to adapt to team strategies and clutch overtime fights to turn the tides of entire matches, leading his team to victory.
We also saw roster shuffle within the Kongdoo organization. The talent pickups on both teams appeared to be valuable picks in the first group stage. Both teams showed great improvement in many aspects of their play, but they failed to capitalize on their momentum from the first stage. Without many english interviews with the players it is difficult to interpret the source of a decline in performance. The coincidence that both teams under the Kongdoo franchise failed to capitalize on momentum from the first stage should not be overlooked. It can be inferred that infrastructure failed the team, or perhaps easier groups in the first stage made the teams complacent.
Bringing up the bottom of the bracket we actually have our first and second place teams returning from APEX Season 1. Afreeca Blue, having 2 roster changes, lost a good portion of their talent, and with it, their team synergy. Throughout the entire season we have seen AF Blue as a team struggle with over-commitment problems and questionable positioning. Our returning APEX champions and NA hopeful, Team EnVyUs, having no roster changes, struggled in both groups. Their performance, combined with that of NA invitees Cloud 9 and Fnatic, show a familiar pattern of North America, falling behind Korea and other regions in the world of eSports.
Looking forward to playoffs we can expect some very close matches. In the matchup of Run Away vs LW Blue we will see an extremely adaptive and clinical Run Away dig in against a team with arguably the most abrasive and dynamic offense. Expect to see Fl0w3R and his expansive and flexible hero pool try to hit Run Away in multiple different ways, to try to slip up the consistent defense and ult combos of LW Blue. In the battle royale between Meta Athena and Lunatic-Hai, we can expect a lot of back and forth with close, explosive team fights. Meta Athena, with consistent offensive, defensive positioning, and great shotcalling will try to shut down and capitalize on Lunatic-Hai’s aggressive dive comps.
There’s good reason to believe we will see LW Blue hold Run Away to 5 games, but their inconsistent performance on hybrid maps may ultimately be their downfall and end their season, with Run Away moving on to finals. In the same vein, we predict that Lunatic-Hai will hold Meta Athena to 5, but Meta Athena will win by remaining consistent in their positioning and ult economy fundamentals will whittle down and capitalize on Lunatic-Hai’s aggression.
Playoffs will start on March 24th, 19:00 KST (3 AM PST). We will be covering these matches, as well as the third place match and finals. Comment below with your playoff predictions.