Overview of OGN’s Apex group stage, day 6: Apple pie’s debut!

For years hailed as the “Mecca of esports”, recently Korea has been largely overtaken by Overwatch in terms of casual play. As a result we are now seeing the first Korean Overwatch tournament, featuring 4 top tier foreign teams (Rogue, NRG, EnVyUS, Reunited) alongside 12 of Korea’s best.

For today’s match-up we had the debut of 2 foreign teams and playoff favourites with Rogue and NRG. Both coming from good performances in APAC, they were looking to hit the ground running in their respective match-ups against Afreeca Freecs Blue and MVP Space.

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: Afreeca Freecs Blue vs Rogue

Fresh off their win against Lunatic-Hai in the finals of APAC, Rogue came into this as the favourites. Additionally to that they also held convincing 3–1 over Blue’s heads from the APAC quarter finals.

Opening on Sanctum, Nepal the home crowd favourites started with Lucio, Ana, Zarya, Winston, McCree and Genji. The French & Swedish roster responded with similar, but less mobile composition. Instead of Winston and Genji they picked Reinhardt and Reaper. 
In the customary contest for high ground control Rogue’s carries took advantage of the lack of Reinhardt and managed to pick up 3 kills. As a result they took control of the high ground and the point. They managed to hold on to it for 50%, but then on the back of Sound Barrier and Recry switching to Reaper, Freecs managed to claim control for themselves. Afreeca managed to hold throughout multiple engages, on the back of great play by their tank players. The APAC champions didn’t give in easy though and after scrappy fight, that initially looked to be in Freecs’s favour, they managed to retake control. After that they held strong through multiple skirmishes, managing to defend even with considerable ultimate disadvantage and ending Sanctum 100–60 in their favour.

On Village Rogue opened with Bastion, but the Freecs were ready for it and mastefuly avoided him. However aKm quickly made up for it by landing several headshots and Rogue claimed control over the point for themselves. They held strong, until ArHaN exploded with 3 kill Dragonblade and Afreeca finally got control, stopping the Europeans at just under 60%. That didn’t last long however as Rogue‘s Bastion returned in tank mode, wiped them and quickly set-up their defense again. Having time for only one push the Koreans pulled the trigger too early and attacked without Genji’s Dragonblade being ready. As a result the Swedish captain picked up 3 kills on the omnic and the Europeans took 1–0 lead into the series.

Both teams, facing crowd before the games.

For map 2, Afreeca picked Eichenwalde , the second appearance of the map in the tournament and both times picked by Korean squads. Rogue returned to a more standard 2–2–2 composition of Lucio, Ana, Zarya, Reinhardt, Reaper and aKm’s McCree. Afreeca answered on the longer range DPS heroes in Hanzo and Genji, but the other picks were same as Rogue’s. Their choice showed to be successful, as Recry’s arrows picked off both of the European carries multiple times. This allowed the Korean squad to quickly grab the first point and start pushing the cart. They were going strong, until TviQ switched to Genji and Winz dropped Zarya for Winston. That managed to stop Afreeca‘s momentum, just before they reached the second point of the map. Despite another great Dragonblade by ArHaN decimating them, the Europeans managed to prevent the cart from reaching the point until overtime. With the cart entering the castle TviQ switched Genji for Mei. The change seemed to work in their favour as Afreeca managed to push only 50 meters until their time ran out.

Moving on the attack side, Rogue started with Hanzo of their own, complimented by Lucio, Ana, Reinhardt, Zarya and aKm’s Reaper. Afreeca defended with same supports and tanks, but their choice for DPS heroes were McCree and Genji. Initially they defended well, trading advantageously. However on the back of pick by TviQ on the enemy Lucio and good Biotic Grenade, Rogue managed to take the first point. This time the defense by the Koreans was more successful as they were holding strong with ultimate advantage and under a minute left for Rogue to reach the next point. aKm however came trough in the clutch for them, managing nanoboosted multi kill. After that the Europeans pushed the cart quickly and reached Afreeca’s distance with more than a minute left on the clock.

Heroes pick rate in OGN’s Apex so far.

At a 0–2 disadvantage, looking for a reverse sweep Afreeca Freecs picked Temple of Anubis for the third map. This time they moved Adam back to Winston and switched Recry to Roadhog, showing us 3–2–1 for the first time in the series. Rogue defended with a twist of their own, showing us Junkrat for the first time in OGN. After good holding Freecs’s initial push, the Europeans continued defending strong, with ultimate advantage on their side. Having only 30 seconds on the clock Afreeca finally took over the first point, but were attacking the second one at severe ultimate disadvantage. Despite that, they got on it quickly and took one tick off before Rogue pushed them back. Subsequently ArHaN switched to McCree and Recry got back on Hanzo. Under a minute left for the attack, Afreeca still hadn’t managed to get control over the point again. For their final push however, they had huge ultimate advantage. That was enough for the Koreans to finally get control of the point again and finish with 20 seconds in the time bank.

On the defense Freecs took a page of Rogue’s book as they used same composition the Europeans defended, only difference being ArHaN on Genji instead of McCree. Rogue answered that with aKm’s Widowmaker. His sniping was short-lived though. He got quick kill on the enemy Ana, but after that ArHaN hunted him down and aKm switched to Reaper. The kill on Ana however was all Rogue needed to take over the first point in less than minute. After another pick on overextended Ana, it didn’t take much longer to claim the second one either, as they finished their attack having 6:34 in the time bank.

For the second attack round both teams extra 40 seconds, to bring the Koreans up to a minute in the bank.This time Rogue opened their defense with Ana, Lucio, Roadhog, Zarya, Reinhardt and McCree, while Afreeca attacked with Ana, Lucio, Roadhog, Winston, Genji and Reaper. TviQ showed good play on the Roadhog and a minute wasn’t enough for the Koreans to grab the point against the European squad.
Having to defend for 7:14 Afreeca opened with Ana, Lucio, Reinhardt, Zarya, Mei and McCree. Afreeca held strong initially, but on Rogue’s third push their defense failed and the Europeans claimed the series in a convincing 3–0.

Match-up 2: MVP Space vs NRG eSports

For the second match we had MVP coming off a terrible performance against what is touted as the third best team in the group in Kongdoo UNCIA, not taking a single point during the whole match. NRG on the other hand recently reached the semi-finals in APAC. And despite having relatively easy way there they grabbed a win against Lunatic-Hai who are considered by many best team in Korea. Needless to say MVP came into this as the huge underdog.

For the opening match of the series we had the Garden on Lijiang Tower. NRG started with 3-tanks composition of Ana, Lucio, Reinhardt, Zarya, Roadhog and Enigma’s Tracer. As that was initially outskirmished by MVP’s Ana, Lucio, Winston, Zarya, Reaper and Tracer, Gods quickly switched to McCree. Despite that MVP continued holding successfully until Graviton Surge by Seagull secured the Americans full wipe. Subsequently they held until MVP came on the point in similar manner to them and reclaimed the point, stopping them at 70%. Following that NRG attempted retake of their own but MVP held strong and took the stage.

On the Night Market both teams started on a similar 2–2–2 compositions of Lucio, Ana, Zarya and Reaper. But while NRG rounded up theirs with McCree and Reinhardt MVP picked Tracer and Winston. This time NRG took the initial lead despite Poro killing Enigma early in the fight. However MVP quickly took over with a nanoboosted Lucio leading the charge. Subsequently Gods switched to Roadhog and the game continued with both teams trading control and multiple kills back and forth without clear winner emerging. With both teams at 60% NRG finally secured control of the point and managed the point until the end of the game.

For the final stage the American squad went back to the 3–2–1 around Enigma’s Tracer. The home crowd favourites on the other hand continued playing the same 2–2–2. Seagull and co. managed to take initial control again, but unlike last time managed to hold onto the point. After a brief loss, they reclaimed the point again to take the lead in the series with 1–0.

For the second map MVP picked Numbani. After a restart due to disconnect, MVP attacked with Sylph’s Pharah, backed by Mercy, Lucio, Zarya, D.va and Reaper. NRG defended on a 2–2–2 of Lucio, Ana, Reinhardt, Zarya, McCree and Seagull’s Mei. As the Americans had all the tools to deal with the flying menace, they didn’t have much trouble holding the point.

After switching sides MVP decided to go with a more standard game composition of Ana, Lucio, Winston, Zarya, Mei and McCree. NRG, this time on the attack picked Ana, Lucio, Reinhardt, Roadhog, Mei and Reaper. With a fast push from the lower room they picked off Daily’s Zarya and quickly took the point for a 2–0 lead in the series.

As the third map, MVP Space picked Temple of Anubis. Here both teams started with a 2–2–2. NRG defended with Ana, Lucio, Reinhardt, Zarya, Mei and McCree against MVP’s Ana, Lucio, D.va, McCree and Reaper. After misplay from Gods in a McCree on McCree duel he switched to D.va, as MVP managed to take the point. In the subsequent pushes the Koreans kept all of their ultimates, despite getting on the point, until they had all 6 available. With 3 minutes in they pushed towards NRG who had only 3 of theirs up. Despite the huge advantage their push failed, in part because of poor execution and in part thanks to a good play by milo. After that the game continued in similar manner until MVP’s time ran out.

Switching to the attack, NRG opened with attempt of their signature Mei wall boost but it was stifled by Pelka’s Lucio. After that Gods switched to Widowmaker as the rest continued with Ana, Lucio, Reinhardt, Zarya and Mei. After that proved unsuccessful too he switched back to McCree and then to Tracer. That finally found success as they took point A and quickly rushed B to almost take it less than 20 seconds later. In the last moment however MVP managed to defend, as June came up in huge for them with a doublekill in the last moment and stopped them. A minute later NRG stormed onto the point again and this time MVP couldn’t do anything about it as they dropped another 0–3 series, exiting the tournament at 0–9.

My picks for “Map, players and teams to watch”:
Players to watch:

Rogue getting ready for the games in OGN’s booths.

uNKOe — fantastic performance from the french support player today. Good positioning, great mechanical play. Seemingly never got picked off or made any mistakes. Always was there for his teammates when they needed him. In short, he was seemingly the perfect support player!
Recry — another DPS player that showed great mechanical play too, both in terms of movement and aim. Something that made an impression on me however is how often he gets caught by the enemies. And that’s despite him having impressive reactions and movement. It might be just symptom of his team overly relying on him for the damage, but it might just as well be him having poor positioning. Will be interesting to see if he can iron those kinks out into the future. If that happens he can become one of the more impressive DPS players in the tournament.
aKm & TviQ — another duo of top western DPS players that did a whole lot of damage but weren’t tested too much otherwise (in their matches in Apex). That said you can’t really blame them that the enemy didn’t make them sweat. Afreeca Blue are still one of the best teams in Korea and if they couldn’t challenge the Europeans much that shows how good the APAC champions . Though there are no other elite level teams in their group I’m curious to see how much can E1kiNo and Pumple (Flash Lux) give them run for the money.

Teams to watch:
 — not too much we can draw from today’s matches as it was a convincing 3–0, but the French-Swedish squad definitely came in strong and looking for another tournament win. If someone thought they might be taking it easy after the win in APAC that idea got stifled after their performance today. In addition to that they also showed some flair with Bastion and Hanzo. Additionally, even though they don’t look as versatile as EnVyUS they are definitely one of the most well-rounded teams in the tournament. I’m definitely excited to see play compete against Flash Lux. The games might be another convincing series for Rogue, but my guess is the youngsters from Busan are going to make the Europeans sweat, at least on the point capture maps.

Map to watch: Afreeca Freecs Blue vs Rogue: Nepal — despite the result being 2–0 it was some really fun action and we also got to see Bastion for the whole duration of Village! Despite it not being too effective at the start he managed to force to Blue give up the high ground. Later into the round he did ton of work for Rogue in terms of damage as well.

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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