Overview of OGN’s APEX group stage, day 11: Battle for playoff spots continues.

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With team South Korea victorious at BlizzCon, OGN returns with the second portion of the group stage of APEX. In it 12 of Korea’s best Overwatch teams battle 4 top foreign teams for a prize pool of over $175,000.

In today’s match-ups we had 3 teams fighting for their tournament life and 1 trying to secure first seed in the group.
For the first series we had the return of the uninspiring Flash Lux facing Afreeca Blue that looked resurgent, both looking at a playoffs should they win or going home if they lose today.
In the second one we had the return of fan favourites Runaway, that shocked Reunited with Haksal’s Genji against LuxuryWatch Blue, that looked improved on Friday. Runner’s crew were looking at a possible first seed into the playoffs if they were to win, while Blue needed to win 3–1 or 3–0 to secure their spot in the brackets.

For those interested only in my picks for “Map, players and teams to watch” scroll down to the bottom. In those I’ll be listing the players and teams I found the most intriguing, the map I enjoyed watching most and the reasons for my picks.

Match-up 1: Flash Lux vs Afreeca Freecs Blue

Afreeca Freecs Blue were undoubtedly the favourites coming into today. Between them being more active on the circuit, displaying superior teamwork, having better individual players and more convincing performances versus the other opponent in the groups, there was little hope for Flash Lux fans. E1kiNo and co. looked promising vs RGT 5 weeks ago, for the opening match in APEX, but from what we saw yesterday, they hadn’t progressed much since then.

The opening map of the night was Night Market, Lijiang Tower. Afreeca started with Ana, Lucio, Winston, Zarya, McCree and Genji against FL’s Ana, Lucio, Renhardt, Zarya, Mei, Reaper. Despite Recry getting the first pick the youngsters took control of the point and he switched McCree for Hanzo. Off of ArHaN picking up multiple kills AF got control of the point briefly, but that didn’t last long. As Recry changed hero again, this time to Pharah Blue finally claimed and retained control of the point to a 100–95 win.

For Control Center, noticing the effectiveness of Pharah, Freecs continued with the same composition, while Hamtol traded the Mei for Genji. Similarly to last stage the youngsters took the initial control, but once Afreeca’s ultimates were up they claimed it for themselves. This time however they didn’t lose it as ArHaN and Recry were clearly dominating the game and put their team to a 1–0 lead in the series.

Kisu (in the background) and Hamtol, not happy with map 2.

Map 2, chosen by Flash Lux, was King’s Row. They started on the attack with Hamtol returning to the Mei, but otherwise same composition. The Freecs, making note of the youngsters’ inability to deal with Pharah continued using it. E1kiNo attempted to counter it on the McCree, but that he wasn’t as effective as his team would have liked him to be and Blue executed full hold on point A.

For the defense Hamtol took over the McCree and E1kiNo switched to Roadhog. Afreeca on the other hand switched traded Ana for Mercy, to assist the Pharah even further. That was seemingly just as ineffective at killing the rocket menace and in a bit over a minute of the start to the round Recry and co. were up 2–0 in the series.

As map 3, possibly their last one in the tournament before heading back to Busan, Flash Lux chose Volskaya Industries. Starting on the Attack they picked Ana, Lucio, Winston, Zarya, Genji and Reaper, but as that didn’t work out initially E1kiNo switched to Roadhog. Afreeca on the other hand, worked with what teams in APEX have shown to favour on the map — 3 tank composition, including Roadhog. That worked initially, but lost point A to a good beyblade combo by FL. For B Recry traded the Roadhog for Mei and it was enough for a strong defense as the younger team only managed to take 1 tick off the point for the rest of their time.

For the defense Flash Lux used 3–2–1 but theirs was Ana, Lucio, Zarya, D.va, Roadhog and Genji. Being on the attack, Afreeca returned to the pharah and that proved effective again. They got control of A within a minute, after seemingly everyone from both teams weirdly clumped up for a fight in the two two storey building, next to the point. After getting onto B just as quickly and taking a tick off of it they got repelled and technical issues seemingly sapped their momentum. Despite valiant attempts by the youngsters and particularly E1kiNo and Pumple, Freecs took the last tick on the point for a 3–0.

For the MVP interview OGN had Recry and Dayfly

Match-up 2: LuxuryWatch Blue vs Runaway

For the second match of the night we had LuxuryWatch Blue versus the fan favourites of Runaway. Despite Runner and co. performing versus Reunited there were still many questions. They haven’t played in other tournaments and Reunited looked much worse in the games versus them, than they did after that. LW Blue on the other hand had more experience and just on Friday showed great form.

The match started on Night Market, Lijiang Tower. Runaway’s picks were Ana, Lucio, Reinhardt, Zarya, McCree and Haksal’s Genji. LW Blue opened with same supports and tanks but the DPS players were on Reaper and Tracer. Right from the start it was obvious that Sabyeolbe is carrying on his level of play from Friday, as LW took control of the point off of him executing several picks. On the back of Sabyeolbe’s Tracer picking off multiple opponents LW took control of the point and maintained it for the majority of the stage, ending in convincing 100–61.

For Garden, the only difference in the compositions was Janus switching to Winston. LW were the first to take control of the point again, but this time Runaway rebutted quickly and claimed it for themselves after favourable trade. After failing to reclaim the point several times Saebyeolbe switched to Genji. With this adjustment Blue took the point and Luna followed up on that by switching Ana for Zenyatta. Both teams above 90%, that seemed to be enough to secure them the win, but Mono & Kaiser came up huge for Runaway and secured the point, tying the CP map 1–1.

On Control Center both teams picked Ana, Lucio, Reinhardt, Zarya, Tracer. The last picks were Reaper for NoName and Haksal on his signature Genji. Continuing with the momentum from Garden Runaway took over the point and held onto it until LW took it in a prolonged overtime. Saebyeolbe and co. held until 99% themselves until Haksal finally did work on the Genji and helped his team secure the map and 1–0 lead in the series.

For the second map Blue picked King’s Row. They picked 3–2–1 composition of Ana, Lucio, Renhardt, Zarya, Roadhog, Mei. Runaway opened on the offense with same supports and tanks, but instead of Roadhog and Mei chose McCree and Genji. The defense seemed impenetrable at first, but on the back of good Graviton Surge Haksal and Mono scored multi kills each and Runaway started pushing the payload with 3:40 on the clock. In this portion of the map their offense seemed to be much more successful, as they quickly got through the hardest part of the alleys. However on the back of sneaky engage LW wiped them and Runner’s crew never got control the payload moving forwards again. Their time ran out with their result being 92m past point A.

For the defense Runaway used same picks, only difference being surprisingly Haksal on Reaper. LW also had only one change after switching sides — Saebyeolbe giving up the Roadhog for Reaper as well. As Luna shut down Shine and Saebyeolbe outperformed Haksal on the Reaper, Blue took point A full minute faster than Runaway. After their first push in the alleys getting shut down at 50m they built up considerable ultimate advantage. With 3 minutes on the clock and 5–3 ults advantage they were right in front of the yellow square and despite Quad’s best efforts LW got on it, equalizing the series to 1–1.

The third map, chosen by Runaway, was Temple of Anubis. They started on the attack, picking what seems to be their comfort composition — Ana, Lucio, Reinhardt, Zarya, McCree, Genji. Blue, also not showing anything new, returned to the 3–2–1 they used for the defense on King’s Row. After initial struggles Runner’s boys took over point A and rushed into the temple, having 5 minutes in the time bank. Here, Haksal finally shone again, showing performance similar to what fans expected of him after the reunited games. Even with that however, LW managed to repel them before the third tick went down and for the rest of the map Runner’s boys didn’t find much success.

After switching sides LW opened up on Ana, Lucio, Winston, Zarya, Genji, Reaper against Runaway, that kept the same composition. On the back of Saebyeolbe, continuing to perform as the best player on the server they captured A and got to point B having 5 to 3 ultimates advantage. That secured them just under 2 ticks, but Runaway managed to defended. However they had to withstand 6 more minutes if tiebreaker was to be forced. It seemed to be happening as Mono and Kaiser were once again coming up big for their team.But with 45 seconds left Blue attacked having 6 to 2 ultimates advantage and that was finally enough to secure Saebyeolbe and co. point B and 2–1 lead in the series.

For the fourth map Runaway picked Route 66. While they continued using same composition Blue picked the same 3–2–1, Mei composition they’ve been using for defense on the other maps. Things seemed to be going better for Runner’s boys this time as they pushed past the first point, having 3 minutes in the bank. That didn’t last too much however as when their push got stopped only 50 meters past it, and couldn’t get back the control before the time ran out.

With the match on the line, Runaway finally showed something new (for them) by putting Quad on Roadhog. LW’s offense was more of the same, picking Ana, Lucio, Winston, Zarya, Reaper and Genji. Without much trouble they got the payload to the first point and had over 4:20 to push the payload 50 more meters. Here, the defense seemed to work for Runaway, but after overcommitting ultimates to a fight they left themselves at 1 to 4 disadvantage. That was enough of an opening for Saebyeolbe and co. to decimate them and LW took the 3–1, securing themselves playoff spot no matter what happens tomorrow.

For the MVP interview, OGN selected the star DPS Saebyeolbe and Gambler.

Saebyeolbe on the left and Gambler in the middle, in the post-game interview with OGN.

Players to watch:
ArHaN & Recry — these guys seem to be following in Vallutaja&uNFixed’s steps of trying to make themselves known as one of the best DPS duos. We know both are mechanically amazing, however Recry’s positioning was considerably better today. It might just be FL, not being able to put pressure on him, but with him performing better that also allowed ArHaN to do more work as well. It will be interesting to see them tested against other top teams, as Rogue decimated them and the other two teams in the group didn’t put up much of a fight.
Saebyeolbe — he continued with the amazing performance we saw on Friday. Seemingly always played in enemy’s face and barely got caught out doing it. Will be exciting to see if he can carry against other top tier teams and if his team can step up to his level, when facing the elite. Definitely one of the best players on a lesser team and wouldn’t be surprised to see him leave, should his team fail to improve alongside him.
Honorable mentions: Mono, NoName.

Map to watch: LuxuryWatch Blue vs Runaway: Lijiang Tower — one of the rare CP maps where both teams got to show what they look like at their best. During it Runaway managed to showcase how to shut down LW Blue - instead of chasing the Saebyeolbe, just wipe the rest of his team. In addition to that it was enjoyable nailbiter with a lot of plays from both sides.

About the author:
Hello readers! I go by the ID RadoN and probably similarly to many of you, I’ve been playing video games for years. My introduction to esports happened in 2009 and ever since, I’ve been following different titles within the industry. Other games I currently follow are LoL, CS:GO, QL with the occasional SFV, DOTA2, SC2 and HotS. If you wish to provide feedback, support and follow future content, or simply know more about my thoughts on gaming and esports,@RadoNonFire on twitter.

Photo credits: OGN.

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