apex

Warning: Indirect spoilers follow, though no direct indication of who won what map or the overall match is given.

Today was the start of something new. It’s the first Overwatch tournament that the venerable casting duo DoA and MonteCristo are casting together. It’s the first premier Korean tournament. And today we saw four new teams compete with one another. We don’t know the stars of each team. We don’t know how they play together or even what compositions they like to run. Today we get to learn from the ground up.

The meta has shifted quite a lot since we last looked at the Korean style. I will look at today’s APEX games and compare them to the styles we saw at the Overwatch Open and also to the previous styles that Korea has been playing. I will not summarize the games, rather the purpose of this article is to give you an overview of the Korean teams and to begin building a storyline for Overwatch APEX. At the end of the article is a list of takeaways if you want the TL;DR conclusions from all of the games. Today will focus on the first match-up and tomorrow Part 2 will be released with the second game of the day.

First, I’d like to highlight some research that Monte and DoA did on the Korean teams. According to them:

  • This is the largest qualifier for any tournament in OGN history. This includes Brood War, LoL, and Starcraft 2.
  • Remember LW Red? They played in some GosuGamers Weeklies with good results. They didn’t make it through these qualifiers. Their sister team LW Blue however will be competing.
  • Afreeca Blue could be considered the best team in Korea right now.
  • All matches are best of 5 until the Grand Finals which are best of 7
  • You get fight money for every match you play. If you win it’s about $800 USD.
  • T6 is a team that formed right before the qualifiers with Gamsu, former League of Legends player for European powerhouse Fnatic.

I’m excited to see who makes a name for themselves. Now that these teams have survived the qualifier, the truly bloodthirsty competition awaits them.

The Games

The first match of the night was between Flash Lux and Rhinos Gaming Titan. Monte and DoA said that Flash Lux is composed of all high schoolers except for one 20 year old. RG Titan was supposedly the slight favorite going into the match.

Game 1 was King of the Hill on Nepal. KotH maps often see a different team comp from payload or assault maps (as OGN refers to 2CP maps like Anubis). That was no different today. However, this is the closest I’ve seen Koreans to running a completely Western meta. We saw the Ana-Reaper combo throughout the day and especially on this map. But it wasn’t the same as what teams ran during the OW Open. For starters the ult combos between Ana and Reaper were lackluster or nonexistent.

Game 2 was Numbani, a payload map. RG Titan decided to run a Mercy-Pharah comp on offense while Flash Lux went for 3-2-1 on defense. The interesting aspect of Lux’s comp is that it uses the Zarya and Mei but skips the Reaper for a Roadhog. Ever since Misfits won the OW Open with Mei-Reaper-Zarya tactics it has become the new meta for Western teams. Zebbosai of team Misfits recently said that nanoboosted Reaper is far more broken than the Reinhardt ever was. It made sense to run this comp however given Lux’s Pharah.

Despite what could be a good comp against Mercy-Pharah, RG Titan’s tactics and Lux’s failings negated the matter. While four distracted up the stairs as if attacking the high ground, Claris’s Pharah flanked from behind. After losing a fight, Claris had farmed his ult which RG Titan converted into a team wipe and the point. I expect that if Western teams attempt the Mei-Reaper-Zarya, Koreans will look to counter with the Mercy-Pharah as EnvyUs did in the OW Open finals or revert to a dive comp.

Game 3 was on Anubis, which OGN is classifying as an “Assault” map. The beginning of this game was cute. Someone’s clearly watched NRG VODs because the first play by Flash Lux was an attempt at the Mei boost onto the high ground. They must have been trying to catch RG Titan off-guard, but they were prepared. The push turned into an instant team wipe which at least allowed Lux a quick respawn. They spawned with the Mei-Reaper-Zarya comp which allowed them to cap both points.

On offense, RG Titan ran the Mercy-Pharah again. While RG Titan also secures both points it was a lackluster offense and included the first of two failed Ana ults throughout the night. The interesting point again comes from Flash Lux but on defense. At the second point they ran a D.Va on defense and boosted a McCree to one of the column ledges for a punishing high ground advantage. They managed to get the best ult combo of the night with a Graviton into D.Va’s Self-Destruct. To some extent, it is more a problem that RG Titan let so many team members get caught in the combo.

Game 4 was played on Dorado. The most surprising point of this game was RG Titan running Ana-Zenyatta instead of the traditional Lucio. According to Monte, Korean teams more readily drop the Lucio in certain situations. I think they provided a good argument that it is a viable strategy on defense for this map, but I want to see it against Lunatic Hai and EnvyUs before making a final verdict.

Game 5‘s map was King’s Row. RG Titan runs the Ana-Zen defense again. They switch to Lucio when Lux goes Widowmaker and snipes the Zen, almost opening up the point. Again we see a D.Va but this time it’s on offense for Flash Lux. They attempted a combo again but with a poor Graviton, both ults were wasted. Lux eventually gets the point with E1kino’s Tracer flank. It seems that Lux plays best when they can flank with a DPS whether Tracer as in this game or Pharah in game 2. They like to skirmish on points with a flank engage which is why they were clearly strongest on Assault and KotH maps.

Takeaways

  • Neither team relies on McCree to carry like LW Red and Lunatic Hai to some extent. I haven’t mentioned it in the article because there weren’t any surprising McCree picks. To fill the void, Reaper is getting more play to deal with 3-2-1 comps and to combo with the Ana.
  • These teams struggle to combo ults effectively. Watching Flash Lux drop 4 ults on King’s Row and fail to take the point was difficult to watch. RG Titan nanoboosted Lucio twice during the match. They will have to do better if they want to compete with the best teams in the world.
  • The variety of compositions is still larger in Korea. We saw the Widowmaker come out as a response to Ana-Zenyatta forcing the Lucio swap. We even saw a D.Va on offense. Sometimes it’s difficult to see the purpose of a certain comp or if there even is a purpose.
  • Flash Lux know what style they play and apply it to other maps if they’re at a disadvantage. For example they use flanking and skirmishing to take points on payload maps and then continue the strategy as the payload moves. I don’t think this is as obvious in Western teams who try to abuse the meta more often. While a great strength, it also puts their weaknesses in relief. Teams will have to become more versatile in style and composition.
  • Following up on the last point, we’re seeing how important map picks are from this series. I won’t give away direct spoilers, but its clear from the VODs what each team’s strength is. Given that the map is generated randomly and only the style of map will be known, this could create an environment for upsets if teams aren’t prepared for all maps.
  • No cheese picks! I’m very disappointed there weren’t any sneaky bastion plays.

Tomorrow, I will look at BK Stars vs. Kongdoo Uncia.

Photo courtesy of OGN