Before the action has even started, group A already looks to have a clear-cut division between the top and bottom teams. At the moment, Team EnvyUs are a clear favorite, thanks to their  dominant showing, ever since winning Apex season 1 back in November. Not far behind the North American champions are  BK Stars, who achieved an almost as impressive fourth place finish in the first season.

As for the underdogs in the bracket, both Meta Athena (formerly The Meta) and MVP Infinity are newcomers to the league, having qualified by beating some of the last season’s bottom teams in a relegation tournament. Although neither roster should be underestimated by any means, they’ll have to hit the ground running, if they hope to make it through the trial by fire that is Group A.

Featured Team: Team EnvyUs

Overview

After the sudden departure of their projectile DPS player Ronnie “Talespin” Dupree right before the last season’s quarterfinals, EnvyUs were written off as a predicted 3-0 for whoever was lucky enough to go against them in the following week. As a matter of fact, Rogue, one of the other three western teams at the tournament, chose what was perceived as the harder side of the playoff bracket, in hopes of exploiting the perceived opening caused by Talespin’s sudden departure.

In order to fill the gap left by their former DPS player, almost the entire rosters’ roles were shuffled, and  Pongphop “Mickie” Rattanasangchod was brought on as a trial member, in the flex position. Luckily for the now-underdogs, Mickie was able to quickly gel with the team, and was able to provide an unexpected ace in the hole; his mastery of the D.va hero. While many teams had previously overlooked D.va, due to her poor state, a recent shift in the competitive meta game caused a surge in her popularity and success. Thanks to this turn of events, Envy’s seeming last minute replacement was now a key factor in their success, due to his love for a once sub-optimal hero.After two 3-2 series victories in the quarter and semifinal rounds, Envy rounded out their underdog run with a crushing 4-0 win over Afreeca Blue.

With several changes to D.va set to go live soon, and the increased level of competition, Envyus will need to fight hard in order to prove that they can still be the best, in a possibly D.va-less meta game.

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Team Envyus; the Apex season 1 champions                 Photo Credit: Fomos/Kenzi

Players to watch

Considering the array of talent on Envyus’ roster, narrowing their talent down to one or two stars is almost impossible. With that said, season 1 MVPs Mickie and  Timo “Taimou” Kettunen  will  both have to deal with changes to their signature heroes from the previous season, which could lead to interesting developments in their performance.

In Taimou’s case, his go-to Roadhog pick is facing several changes to his “hook” ability, which allows him to pull in enemies. In the past, the hook was known for being particularly problematic around walls and corners, but is soon being changed to have a much more reasonable ability to grab victims. While these changes may not damn the hero completely, they may lead to a revival of picks such as Widowmaker and Mcree. Having been notorious for his good aim on these picks in the past, it could be interesting to see whether Taimou sticks to Roadhog, or revisits older picks once changes go live.

As opposed to his teammate, who has proven his skill with other picks in the past, Mickie has yet to prove whether he has a wider hero pool, or if he’s a one-trick pony. With D.va losing quite a bit of damage reduction, as well as facing changes to her bullet damage and spread, many experts are predicting that she may fall out of favor in competitive play. If this prediction proves to be true, Mickie would most likely have to fall back onto his secondary Zarya pick. While his Zarya play is by all means serviceable, Mickie has yet to prove that he can put up the same powerhouse performances using her, and will likely need to do just that in the upcoming season.

 

Meta Athena

Overview

 

After winning their series against both Rhinos Gaming Titan, and MVP Infinity during the “Apex super week” qualifier, Meta Athena are now in the big leagues.  While there aren’t really a ton of results to judge them on as a result of their victories in both series, these newcomers left a good first impression.

Unfortunately for these newcomers, they’ll have to make an even better impression if they hope to make it to the next round of play, considering the imposing group of teams that they’ve been placed against.

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(Sorry for the low quality image, there aren’t any professional pictures of the roster, so here’s a screen capture and my sincere apologies)

Players to watch

Although Zarya is a staple mick for most competitive flex players, few have made as immediate of an impression like Meta Athena’s Choi “Hoon” Jae Hoon. Zarya’s core mechanic is that she provides shields to both herself and allies, and gains damage based on the damage that her shields absorb. By taking advantage of this mechanic, Hoon is able to play a hyper aggressive front line style, which takes advantage of his lightning fast reflexes. By consistently putting up his barriers in the nick of time, Hoon absorbs immense amounts of damage from his team’s front line, gaining energy at an incredible rate as a result. While this play style would be risky on many lineups, Hoon’s mastery of his hero, along with his team’s coordination, make him a consistent damage threat, on top of relieving pressure from his DPS players.

 

BK Stars

Overview

Having qualified as a group described as “five really good players and a notoriously bad streamer”, BK Stars made the decision to bench their owner and namesake BoKyems, in order to achieve the best results possible. This this proved to be a great decision, as they were among the breakout successes  last season. After going undefeated during the tournament’s group stage, the team’s dominant showing continued, as they delivered three back to back victories against LuxuryWatch Blue in the quarterfinals. Despite their seemingly unstoppable journey through the bracket, BK Stars finally met their match in the immovable  Afreeca Freecs Blue lineup, who stopped their run with a 1-3 series loss.

Despite their top four finish, some fans felt that BK Stars faced an easy group stage and playoff bracket. As a result of this perception, this season will be vital for them to overcome their group stage opponents, if they hope to cement themselves as deserving of their top of the rankings finish last season.

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BK Stars’ star DPS player Bunny                                   Photo Credit: Inven

Players to watch

One of the keys to BK Stars’ success is their DPS player Chae Bunny” Joon Hyuk’s fearlessly aggressive style. Bunny stated in a post-game interview that he hopes to become known as the best Tracer player in the world, and his recent results have put him in the running to say the least. Thanks to his ability to constantly disrupt enemy back lines on his signature pick, Bunny’s team is able to run a myriad of assassination/dive compositions that would practically be suicide for a less coordinated and aggressive team.

Despite his strengths on Tracer, Bunny has had mixed results on other popular picks in the past. If these middling performances continue, Bunny’s limited range of expertise could spell trouble for his team, if Tracer were to ever fall out of competitive viability. With this in mind, Bunny’s upcoming season will likely be a story of whether he can join the conversation regarding the best overall players, or if he’ll be content with his current status as a Tracer specialist.

 

MVP Infinity

 

Overview

If this tournament were some sort of sports anime about teamwork and friendship, MVP Infinity would fit right in.  As odd as it may sound, MVP’s new lineup uses teamwork and impeccable mid-fight ability coordination to  overcome teams with more individual star power, who may not understand teamwork and friendship to the same level.Unfortunately for MVP Infinity, their training arc is now over, and their sister team MVP Space has been eliminated.

Having now made it to the big leagues, MVP Infinity’s players will either have to develop an insane level of synergy, or develop one of their players into a star carry player, if they hope to be more than side characters in another team’s story.

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MVP’s season 2 lineup                                                     Photo Credit: OGN

Players to watch

Considering MVP Infinity doesn’t currently have a standout player, all eyes will be on Kim “OneFact” Jin Heung’s performance as a dps player. If OneFact can become a star carry player before it’s too late, MVP could become a fearsome team, but they might not make the cut in their current state, despite excellent teamwork.

If the team does keep up their current trend of skill parity and coordination, their Reinhardt player Son “Brek” Yong Ha could prove invaluable. In any composition that relies on teamwork and positioning, a good Reinhardt is the glue that holds a team together, and Brek is no exception to this rule. While he may not be the flashiest Reinhardt player in the world, his subtle but on-point play could be considered a representation of his team’s style as a whole.

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