It was the coldest day of fall in Seoul so far this year. I was on my way to see Reunited play in OGN APEX. The newly built OGN e-Stadium is down the road from the Digital Media Center subway stop. It’s in an affluent area of Seoul to the southwest. The building itself is by far one of the most beautiful I’ve seen in Seoul. It stands out among the lifeless miles of conglomerate owned apartment buildings. I got my reserved ticket on the first floor and rode the elevator up to the studio. Coming out of the elevator I didn’t know what to expect. I think I expected more at first. A bigger lobby, more people, but that was only until I walked through the doors and into the arena.
It can really take your breath away. I’ve been watching Erik “DoA” Lonnquist and Christopher “MonteCristo” Mykles cast for about 2 years now. I also watched DoA when he casted Starcraft 2 for IGN. The first thing I did was find them at the casting desk, doing their thing. You can’t hear them in the stadium unless it goes quiet and DoA tells a good joke. You won’t know the joke but Monte’s laughter is contagious just like on stream. Besides that you don’t notice them unless you try. During the games DoA sits back calling the action. Monte bends over the computers like a general in his war room, studying a map, trying to catch every detail.
It wasn’t five minutes before I myself was on camera. I waved at the camera and caught pieces of a conversation about English phrases (“Nice to meet you”) and that was it. I wasn’t surprised, having watched Korean broadcasts before, I know they take great pride when a foreigner visits their stadium.
The games started soon after I arrived. Gamsu, of League of Legends fame, played with his new team T6 against Mighty Storm. Mighty Storm played well in the Danawa Cup but lost to Lunatic Hai. I expected them to do well, but I had no expectations for T6. I was pleasantly surprised by both teams relative to the first day. They had better, more efficient ult combos than the teams on Day 1. Myunghoon stands out as a good Mei player and I would have said he was a great Genji if Haksal of Runaway hadn’t played the next match the way he did.
Between games, the production did a good job of entertaining the guests. They made an original music video for the occasion called “High Noon Bang Bang Bang,” which as you can guess, features McCree, killing and dying in comedic ways. It was funny even if you didn’t know the Korean words. He’s in his yellow legendary skin dancing and shooting to the rhythm of “Bang Bang Bang.” Then they show cinematics for the characters until the start of the next match.
At the beginning of the next match, producers called out for places (I assume) and the music rolled. We got the signal to clap so all you viewers can have the symmetry of our clapping with a camera pan of the awesome e-Stadium. They introduced the teams and I clapped as Reunited finished their huddle. Throughout the match Reunited was denied much cheering. The man sitting next to me always gave them courtesy claps since I was the only one clapping in the stadium.
I always suspected that Korean teams would be competitive with Western teams in this tournament, at least two or three. The signs were there. LW Red, a team that was already quite competitive with Western teams, only made it to the Challenger division of this tournament. Lunatic Hai has been smashing most of their Korean competition and their team play has been on point. Over 200 teams entered the qualifiers for this tournament and that is the best of the best that Korea has to offer. They were bound to develop a lot in that time.
That said, I had zero expectations for this match coming up. Almost no one, including Koreans, have heard of Runaway. I think it’s fair to say that given slightly different circumstances, Reunited could have definitely fared better. No one knew the name Haksal before this match, but it will be a while before anyone who likes pro Overwatch will forget it. His name means “massacre” in Korean for a reason. But that hardly makes him invincible.
It was clear that without Haksal on Genji, Runaway can be quite vulnerable. They lost on the first push on Hanamura and almost lost on the first push at the second point. Reunited knows how to deal with a Genji. The next time they play will be a real test. There won’t be any surprises.
Runaway also deserves the praise. I caught some moments I don’t think the camera was able to catch in between games. Quad sat in the booth with his head in his hands during a couple breaks. Unless he had a sensitivity to the light that no other player on stage had, he seemed a little overwhelmed. They were winning against a now seasoned players, albeit with a new lineup.
He’s sitting in the booth he’s probably watched on television before. I expect it’s overwhelming for a bunch of high school kids. But it didn’t impact his performance at all. If it did, it seems that it only made it better. It was cool to see them win and I hope it makes Reunited a stronger team so we can continue to see great games during this tournament, but it was a cold night on the way home.