Overview of OGN’s Apex group stage, day 7: Lunatics & Blizzcon on the horizon!

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.

The opening match-up of today was the return of APAC champions Rogue vs Rhinos Gaming Titan. For the second set of the day we had the long-awaited debut of the Korean powerhouse and APAC finalists Lunatic-Hai. Against them played one of the best western teams and in many’s opinions favourite to take the tournament — EnVyUS.

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 some comments on the picks.

Match-up 1:Rhinos Gamig Titan vs Rogue

After winning APAC and effortlessly walking over Afreeca Freecs Blue in a 3–0 earlier this week, Rogue came to today’s games as a huge favourite. Even more so with Rhinos Gaming Titan losing to the high-schoolers of Flash Lux.

The series opened on Sanctum, Nepal and Rogue quickly demonstrated their versatility by putting TviQ on the not so commonly seen Hanzo. To compliment him they had Ana, Lucio, Reinhardt, Zarya and aKm’s McCree. RGT began the series with a more standard 2–2–2; same supports and tanks, but Reaper and Genji for their DPS players. TviQ quickly reminded the viewers of his great mechanics as he kept hitting arrow after arrow. Thanks to the high hit-rate he charged his ultimate by the time the next highest percentage was enemy team’s Ana at 60%. That secured his team the point and despite brief takeover from the Rhinos, for the rest of Sanctum Rogue were very much in control finishing at 100:14.

On Village the Europeans opened with their signature pick of Bastion for the stage. Otherwise they kept the same composition. RGT followed also changed things, by switching Claris to Mei and giving the Reaper to Munchkin. The Koreans were ready for what is at this point predictable pick by Rogue. They didn’t contest the high ground, but instead took over the lower area and tried to stay out of the omnic’s sight. They even managed to split-up the French-Swedish roster at the choke of entering the high-ground area. That didn’t seem to be enough though as Rogue still traded favourably, utilizing their superior mechanics. Despite RGT seizing control of the point initially, they fell prey to the damage and lost it before reaching even 20%. In brief overtime the Koreans managed to shut down the Bastion and reclaim control of the point. Rogue took their time to get back on the point, but when it happened they convincingly took over jumping to quick 1–0 lead in the series.

RGT and Rogue facing off the crowd before the games.

For second map, the home team picked Numbani — the one map Rogue lost in the APAC finals against Lunatic-Hai. Choosing to start on the defense, the Europeans opened with TviQ on third different DPS in Genji and Reinforce switching the Reinhardt for Winston. That didn’t prove as successful, as on the Koreans’ second assault on the point BRO managed to land Sleep Dart of the ninja and that led to RGT taking over the point quickly. Following that TviQ went to the Reaper, but as that didn’t manage to stop the Koreans’ push either he switched to Roadhog. That finally had an effect, as he showcased his mechanics once again by hooking and deleting nanoboosted Genji that had just activated the Dragonblade. As RGT hit the final curve of the cart’s route however Rogue stopped the push. The Koreans though weren’t to be dissuaded so easy and returned having huge ultimate advantage and 1:15 left on the clock. The APAC champions held strong regardless. With good positioning they denied any opportunities for huge engages. That caused RGT to overextend and Rogue punished it. With the advantage was gone, the Rhinos had time for one more push, but it failed as well and they ended the attack run at 2 points and 58 meters.

On the attack Rogue went back to the bastion as RGT opened with Ana, Lucio, Winston, Zarya, McCree and Genji. RGT were once again ready for the omnic, but this time their execution worked perfectly. They wiped the European squad without losing a single player in their attempt for taking control over the high ground over the point. As this happening on the first attempt TviQ quickly switched to a more standard hero — Genji. As the ninja alone was not enough to get on RGT’s backline the Europeans switched their tanks to D.va and Winston. That did the job and they started pushing the cart with 3:40 on the clock.
For the payload part of the map they transitioned to 3–2–1. aKm stayed on McCree and the both supports didn’t change either, but their tanks switched back to Zarya and Reinhardt. The final change was TviQ on yet another different hero — Roadhog. Completely in opposition to the first part of the map here the Europeans were as fast as possible. They almost matched the Rhinos’s time, passing the second point with 3 minutes in the bank. At this point the Koreans managed to stop the push and wipe the enemies, but Rogue returned quickly and matched their distance with 1:45 on the clock, leaping to a 2–0 lead.

Stats for Hanamura from OGN’s Apex.

In the face of second loss in the group stages and likely end of playoff hopes with it, RGT picked Hanamura. Rogue started on a standard Ana, Lucio, Reinhardt, Zarya, McCree and Mei composition on the defense, but the Rhinos finally showed something cheeky as well. Taking a note off of the Europeans’ book they attacked with Bastion. After TviQ walled off the entrance to the outer garden Claris responded in kind by boosting their omnic on a wall of his own. The creative push didn’t yield success and RGT switched back to Tracer, but after subsequently taking over the point they went back to the nature-loving omnic. Showcasing cute boost they jumped over to the side porch area, but Munchkin’s Bastion failed the jump. As a result they decided to suicide and go back to a standard attack with McCree and Genji. Unfortunately after that their attempts were continuously shut down, for the most part being prevented even from entering the point B area.

Switching to the defense side the Koreans switched-up things again by picking Ana, Zenyatta, Reinhardt, Zarya, Mei and McCree. Rogue on the other hand picked similar composition, only difference being TviQ back to the Genji. After their first push attempt got stifled by the Zenyatta aKm switched to Tracer for even more potent dives on RGT’s backline. After several more stopped attacks aKm managed to get on RGT and Rogue finally started pushing towards the second one with 4:30 on the clock. On the back of some more great play they took point B as well within just under 30 seconds and just like that took the series 3–0.

For the MVP of the series OGN voted in Rogue’s super-star hitscan specialist — aKm.

Match-up 2: Lunatic-Hai vs EnVyUS

As Rogue replaced team EnVyUS in APAC, due to visa issues, this will be the first time the two squads meet in official match. While nV have definitely have not been the best performing LAN team as of late and Lunatic-Hai got defeated in the finals this was very much set to be the match of the week. And the crowd thought so too, as there were wild cheers and there were not many seats in the OGN stadium.
As for the teams, both couldn’t be much more different stylistically. With nV a lot is about their DPS players getting the resources they need to be able to carry. Meanwhile on Lunatic-Hai the star is their tank player Miro. The question on this team (when facing the elite) is if the carries will be able to do just enough damage to pull their own weight and allow the team to win.
Both teams are undoubtedly one of the best in the world right now, but with the heavy mismatch in the DPS positions nV was still considered favourite by most, although admittedly not by much.

The match started on Nepal once again. Lunatic-Hai opened with set-up, shown to be favoured by multiple other Korean teams: Ana, Lucio, Reinhardt, Zarya and Roadhog supporting a McCree. nV on the other hand picked same supports and Zarya but threw a spin of their own by completing the composition with Tracer, Reaper and McCree.
Initially the Korean team got a pick on Talespin and despite Taimou responding in kind, by picking off the enemy McCree, they managed to keep control over the point. Subsequently Lunatic-Hai kept tight hold over the point until good Graviton Surge and nV gained their first percent with the home crowd favourites at 98. Off of great nanoboosted Death Blossom by INTERNETHULK (yes, on the Reaper) they kept the control. Following that however Lunatic-Hai returned with TaeJun switching to Tracer for 2–2–2. That immediately had impact as he quickly eliminated McCree in the middle of executing his ultimate. Despite EscA misplaying and dying, his team reclaimed control. After an overtime and great cleanup by TaeJun, the home team took the lead on the map.

Taimou definitely not amused by Lunatic-Hai’s play on Sanctum.

On Village, the game started with both teams running same composition of Ana, Lucio, Reinhardt, Zarya, Mei and Reaper. Despite nV getting faster to the high ground EscA managed to split the team utilizing Mei’s wall and TaeJun took advantage of that by picking up two easy frags. That secured them the area and similarly to the previous stage Lunatic-Hai had an advantage shortly after the doors opened. In series of skirmishes with both team’s Meis showcasing good utilization of the wall nV took control on the back of clutch play by Taimou. The Finnish DPS continued dominating, scoring multi kill ‘beyblade’ combo. With the next push by the Koreans however, TaeJun returned the favour. As a result the percentages got equalized again at 60. After several more series of well coordinated skirmishes, switches in control and prolonged overtime the crowd favourites managed to secure the first map.

Looking to equalize nV picked Numb

ani as the next map. Starting on the defense, Lunatic-Hai picked more traditional composition (for them) of Ana, Lucio, Reinhardt, Winston, Roadhog and McCree. nV had similar idea as they picked Zarya instead of Reinhardt and Genji instead of McCree, but otherwise same composition. With Taimou being on fire and landing hook after hook nV managed to start pushing the payload with 4:30 on the clock. nV were pushing fast and looking to deliver the cart to the second point having 2 minutes on the clock. After a teamfight gone wrong however, the Korean squad managed to entirely shut down their push and any future attempts. Taimou and co. ended their assault on Numbani with 1 point and 95 meters.

On the attack Lunatic-Hai continued using the same 3 tanks composition, looking to make enough room for EscA’s McCree to do damage. nV showed up with their signature Soldier 76 by HarryHook and Talespin on Junkrat. On their first attempt the Koreans managed to get to the Junkrat quickly, but HarryHook’s constant damage managed to push them back. After one more push for the purpose of charging ultimates Miro and co. came in strong with huge ultimate advantage looking to finally take the point but failed again. For the rest of the map they continued using the same composition. The result wasers finally had control of the game and held on it tightly to equalize the series.

Heroes pick rate for OGN’s Apex so far.

For third map Lunatic-Hai chose Temple of Anubis. Here we saw both teams run very similar compositions again: Ana, Lucio, Reinhardt, Roadhog, Mei, Winston for INTERNETHULK and Zarya for Miro. Taimou’s hooks were on point once again, making sure the only LH players getting near the point are soon to be corpses. Similarly to the Numbani the Korean squad continued stubbornly with the same composition. This time however, with 40 seconds on the clock they got control of the point. For the second point, in completely opposite fashion to the first, they got on it almost instantly. After more than a minute long fight nV repelled LH, but not before they got 2 ticks off the point. After the wipe both Taimou and TaeJun switched to Reapers and INTERNETHULK swapping Winston for Zarya after the point A both teams had same composition once again. As nV invested everything in the hold however, LH’s subsequent push was much easier and they quickly rushed to take the point with just over 2 minutes in the time bank.

On the defense the Korean squad continued running the same 3 tanks and Mei, low damage compositions. nV switched-up things as they put Taimou and Talespin on Reaper and Genji right from the star. Initially the home crowd favourites held the point but after EscA fat fingered Blizzard nV stormed on the point and quickly took over. They followed up on it, storming on B but their attempt was shut down by Miro’s Winston. For the rest of the map LH’s super-star tank player continued delivering for his team and getting back the advantage in the series for 2–1.

Lunatic-Hai celebrating map win.

As fourth map nV picked Dorado and we saw, for the first time in the series, Talespin’s signature pick — Pharah. That proved extremely effective against LH’s 3 tanks and Mei composition, as the foreigners reached the first point and started pushing towards the second having 5:30 in the time bank. In an attempt to deal with the rocket menace EscA switched to McCree. Initially that didn’t help as nV were almost on the second point only a minute later. Just before the cart reached the point, Dean’s Reinhardt and TaeJun’s Roadhog came up big for LH and shut down the push. Similarly to Numbani, once shut down the international squad couldn’t reclaim control of the payload.

Moving to the defense, nV picked one of their signature compositions again. One healer — Ana, backed by 4 heroes that are tough to kill: Reinhardt, Zarya, Roadhog, Mei; with the main source of damage being Taimou’s Reaper. The only change in heroes for their Korean opponents was Esca returning to the Mei. 
As nV decided to put all their efforts in defending the plaza area, LH wrapped around them and attacked from the high ground. That worked beautifully as JaeHong managed to shut down the heals and the Koreans took control. Taimou and co. however returned just in time to stop the cart from reaching the waypoint. In a last ditch effort to prevent map 5 EscA landed great Blizzard and that secured the crowd favourites the first point. He continued delivering clutch plays past it too. Nanoboosted, he managed to catch two nV players. That made enough room for Lunatic-Hai to reach nV’s distance with 20 seconds on the clock and take the map and finish the series 3–1.
Considering the other two teams in the group being the not so impressive Conbox T6 and Mighty Storm this likely secures them first place in the group and second for the international mixed squad of EnVyUS.

For the MVP of the series OGN voted Miro and EscA.

My picks for “Map, players and teams to watch”:
Players to watch:
aKm & TviQ — the star duo returns once again to my recommendation for players you should definitely check out. aKm continued demonstrating his astonishing mechanical skill and ability to deliver enormous amounts of damage on McCree. We also saw his explosive Tracer today. TviQ, with just as amazing mechanics showcased again his versatility by dominating the game on multitude of heroes. And even as RGT outstrategized them on almost every step of the way they won without much trouble. Will be exciting to see their positioning tested by team like Flash Lux that also has some mechanically impressive players.
Miro — by many considered the best tank player and in my opinion deservedly so. He does so much damage and creates unbelievable amounts of space for his DPS players that it’s unbelievable. Admittedly, he does get more resources than the average tank player too, but he doesn’t waste them whatsoever. Additionally he is one of the players whose movement really shines, compared to the field.
Taimou — another spectacular performance by nV’s centerpiece. Unfortunately the others didn’t perform up to the same level as him. His Roadhog today was utterly disgusting and just as always had impressive mechanics. Also despite playing versus some of the best tank players in the world he continued doing well, so it’s hard to criticize his positioning either. I’m sure he has at least some kinks to iron out in his game, but other than that his play wasn’t at all the reason nV lost today.
Honorable mentions: uNKOe and Dean.

Teams to watch:
 — the APAC champions continue to impress in what is admittedly weak group. What wowed me today was how they pretty much dominated the games, despite RGT making the right decisions all the time. Hopefully with the break for Blizzcon though, they’ll fix their predictability. Otherwise we might see some of the better mechanical teams, make use of RGT’s research and shut down Rogue completely. Most exciting thing on the horizon for them is the match against Flash Lux. While they were not on the level of the foreigners in their first match of the groups they’ve had more time to practice by now. And even if they don’t win I’ll be interested to see if Rogue’s positioning will look as stellar against the engages of Bernar.

Lunatic-Hai — with their second place finish in APAC and beating nV in relatively convincing 3–1 most would consider them the best Korean team at this point. Their tanks are impressive and the supports seem to be really good. The glaring individual weak-link for me however is EscA. He did have multiple impressive plays, but also had multiple misplays. And while we do not have stats my impression of him is that he definitely doesn’t do as much damage as good international DPS player, let alone the elite. As for criticism of the team as a whole, they seemed very stubborn in keeping same composition. Multiple times they refused to adjust in situations, where the opponent had them figured out. I suspect it might be related to EscA’s effective champion pool, but we don’t know as it stands right now. 
Honorable mention: EnVyUS

Map to watch: Lunatic-Hai vs EnVyUS: Dorado — both teams showed interesting approach to both their attacks and defense. Additionally we saw different strengths from both sides and the most enjoyable part for me is how well the Koreans held the, cart once they shut down the push. If you have time to watch the VODs I’d recommend checking out the entire match-up between both teams.

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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