Published on March 14th, 2017
Beware the return of Genji, if APEX’s latest results are anything to go by.Genji was squeezed out of the triple tank meta, as it only allowed for one DPS slot in the team that usually defaulted to Soldier 76 and his ability to shred large health bars and shields. When Blizzard nerfed Ana’s Biotic Grenade, that saw teams shift towards dive comps. Dive meta is perfect for Genji. He has the mobility needed to ‘dive’ on teams and his Dragonblade means he can target support and squishes, while backed up by his team.Group A of the APEX play-offs showed Korea’s strengths and EnVyUs’ weakness. While Lunatic-Hai, KongDoo Uncia, and Runaway were able to lean on their dive comps and shuffle in characters like Mei and even Junkrat when necessary, EnVyUs seemed to be allergic to Genji and didn’t seem confident with their compositions at all.The result? Korean dominance and a surprise exit for EnVyUs, who were outplayed by Lunatic-Hai and put in a sloppy performance against KongDoo.EnVyUs (0) vs Lunatic-Hai (3)The battle between EnVyUs and Lunatic-Hai was incredibly tight for the first two of Nepal’s maps. EnVyUs survived some amazing plays from WhoRU’s Genji to steal a close match on Shrine, while Lunatic-Hai bounced back on Sanctum.But Lunatic-Hai hinted at what was to come with a surprise Junkrat pick in Shrine. The team completely shuffled the deck with their team composition for the final map, Village, with Esca swapping onto Mei. EnVyUs were caught cold by Mei – no pun intended – and couldn’t adapt when Esca started walling off stray members for Lunatic-Hai to eliminate. Lunatic-Hai took Village with ease, giving them a 1-0 lead.Lunatic-Hai didn’t look back after that. Numbani was the next map and WhoRU was the star of the show. His Genji worked around the chaos caused by Esca’s Soldier and Miro’s Winston to pick off the scattered, panicked members of EnVyUs. On both defence and attack WhoRU made it look all too easy.It was a similar story on Hanamura. On defence, WhoRU used his Dragonblade to devastating effect, stopping EnVyUs pushes by racking up a handful of multi kills. That left Lunatic-Hai only needing to capture point A to win the series. They smashed through the demoralised EnVyUs defence with ease, each of the six members landing a killing blow as they captured point A in just over two minutes. It was an impressive performance by one of the tournament favourites and left some serious questions regarding the hero pool and adaptability of EnVyUs.Runaway (3) vs Lunatic-Hai (2)A great series full of fun battles. Runaway’s Kaiser had Miro’s number in the Reinhardt vs Reinhardt battle. Anyone who wants to take their Reinhardt game up a notch should study what Kaiser does against Miro. The mind-games are fascinating to watch, particularly when it comes to both Reinhardts trying to bait Earthshatter from their rival. Kaiser pretends to drop his shield when he knows Miro has Earthshatter, tricking him into wasting his Ultimate. Kaiser also played aggressively, melee attacking Miro through his shield, forcing Miro to back off.Another fun battle was WhoRU’s Genji vs Kox’s Ana. Lunatic-Hai tend to use nano-boosted Dragonblade to initiate attacks but Kox kept landing sleep darts to shut down that tactic before WhoRU could cause real damage. As someone who is new to Ana, Kox is already showing his switch over from DPS heroes was the right call for Runaway.With the series tied at 2-2, it came down to Numbani. On defence, Runaway went with Ana, D.VA, Roadhog, Soldier, Torbjorn and Winston. Lunatic-Hai, despite their best efforts, couldn’t crack this set-up and failed to capture the first point. On defence, Lunatic-Hai decided to run with Winston, Mei, Genji, D.VA, Ana and Torbjorn. The defence cracked under Runaway’s first assault, as Kaiser’s Winston and Stitch’s Pharah secured early picks. Caught on the backfoot, Lunatic-Hai eventually surrendered the point, and Runaway celebrated in dramatic styleKongDoo Uncia (1) vs Runaway (3)It looked like Kungdoo would lay down an early marker in the opening match on Oasis City Center, as KongDoo had a 99% lead before Runaway finally managed to flip the point. But surprisingly, Runaway managed to secure the win from there, Kaiser using Primal Rage during Overtime to hit KongDoo team members off the point.Runaway had the momentum from this point on, as they comfortably took the next round in Oasis Gardens to lead 1-0.KongDoo immediately bounced back on King’s Row. Attacking first, Birdring switched to Genji and secured some early picks to capture Point A, with both teams building Ultimates for a huge team fight. This is a great match to see why holding fire on Ultimates is a vital Overwatch skill. Runaway spent all their Ultimates defending a huge push from KongDoo just before the payload hit the checkpoint. When KongDoo respawned, they easily overcame a Runaway defence that didn’t have any Ultimates to hold off the attack, with KongDoo pushing the payload to the end. Demoralised, Runaway couldn’t even capture Point A when it was their turn to attack. KongDoo had levelled the series at 1-1.Their joy was short-lived, as Runaway quickly took back the series lead when they emerged from Volskaya Industries with the victory. This match featured the smartest play of the entire series, Bumper using Defence Matrix to save Runner’s Lucio from Birdring’s Tracer on point B, stalling long enough for the win. Runaway just needed to emerge victorious from Route 66 and they did so with ease, brilliant use of Ultimates on defence limiting KongDoo’s progress while their own dive comp starring Genji and Winston saw them easily push past the payload marker to win the match and the series.EnVyUs (2) vs KongDoo Uncia (3)There were flashes of brilliance in this series from EnVyUs, such as how INTERNETHULK’s Symmetra and Mickie’s Torbjorn combined for great effect on Hollywood defence. KongDoo couldn’t overcome this builder comp that EnVyUs is known to use, the shield and armour boost keeping the Korean team from even capturing the first point.But when EnVyUs looks back at how they played, they’ll realise their hero pool is too shallow to keep up with the Overwatch meta as it shifts towards dive comp. As a team, they seem strangely allergic to Genji. Taimou played McCree, Tracer, Widowmaker and even Hanzo but never switched onto the Japanese ninja. This stood in clear contrast to KongDoo, who were able to steal close matches thanks to Birdring’s Genji slicing through EnVyUs at critical moments.Both teams were sloppy and the matches weren’t great – EnVyUs made odd hero choices while KongDoo were guilty of wasting Ultimates. But it was KongDoo’s Birdring that made the difference and saw KongDoo Uncia emerge with a close victory, dumping EnVyUs out of APEX.Lunatic-Hai (3) vs KongDoo Uncia (0)The opening battle on Ilios shows what likely lies ahead for Overwatch as the meta shifts to dive comps. Lunatic-Hai’s WhoRU and KongDoo’s Birdring both took turns to show off their Dragonblade skills, and it was Lunatic-Hai who squeezed out an early win thanks to Ryujehong’s sleep darts with Ana keeping Birdring in check.Lunatic-Hai switched things up for its attack on King’s Row payload, WhoRU picking Pharah while Ryujehong swapped his Ana for Zenyatta. The strategy worked. KongDoo couldn’t find a consistent answer to WhoRU’s aerial bombardment of discorded targets. Again, Lunatic-Hai won with style, Zunba using a Graviton Surge to tie up their opponents away from contesting the payload, as it easily reached the marker laid down by KongDoo.Anubis saw the return of Genji vs Genji, as both teams battled to a draw. The highlight was the chaotic team battle when KongDoo defended point B, all 12 players using their Ultimates and KongDoo just about clinging on to successfully defend. The deciding match went to Oasis where Esca’s McCree emerged as the star, his Deadeye and headshots securing the picks Lunatic-Hai needed to win the match and move onto the semi-finals
Overwatch caster Jaws joined us on The BRIDGE to discuss his thoughts on the tournament, where he told us that he thinks Lunatic-Hai will be champions come the end of the season.
That means Lunatic-Hai and Runaway will be meeting again in the semi-finals, in a best-of-5 encounter. Hopefully the rematch lives up to the excitement of their showdown in the Group A Play-Offs.
On the other side of the draw, Group B Play-Offs started today to determine the other semi-final. It’s an all-Korean affair, as the first two matches saw MetaAthena take down Afreeca Freecs Blue while KongDoo Panthera edged out a 3-2 win over Luxury Watch Blue.