Past results can sometimes be a misleading metric in Esports, and group D is a prime example of why. On paper, this group contains a squad that’s made no changes despite poor results, two poor to middle of the pack teams, and one of North America’s best rosters.
Considering most fans probably don’t care about minor Asia-exclusive tournaments, many will likely remember RunAway and Kongdoo Panthera as middle of the pack teams, who were mostly unremarkable. On the contrary, both teams appear to have improved massively over the break, and are probably about on par with the North American invitees.
Rounding out the group are Flash Lux, who seem to have made no changes to their roster, despite poor results over the last season.
While it’s entirely possible for Flash Lux to be a dark horse in the group, the standings will likely be decided by an upset-filled shakeup between Fnatic, Kongdoo Panthera, and RunAway.
Featured Team: RunAway
Similarly to group B’s BK stars, RunAway are a team who were both founded, and originally led by Yoon “Runner” Dae Hoon. Although they aren’t the strongest team in the region, Runner’s experience as a streamer helps the team make a striking first impression. Whether it was the team’s sleek silhouette logo, their self-made team trailer, or their light pink team sweaters, RunAway’s captain clearly knows how to set his team apart from the pack, before they even enter a game.
Thanks to their uniquely playful branding, watching RunAway play in Apex is a bit like watching a newly popular indie band play at a big venue. They may not have as many hits (or in the more literal sense, successful strategies) as the bigger names at the event, but they’ll play their hearts out for the fans that came to see them.
In continuing with their likeness to a cult-favorite indie band, RunAway seem to love playing their one hit, no matter how old it gets. Throughout their first season, RunAway seemed dead set on playing their smash hit “throw every resource we can find on to Genji”. In their first set of the season, RunAway managed to deliver Reunited their only loss of the group, and with an impressive 3-0 result at that. Unfortunately for them, the team went on to only win a single game for the rest of their season.
Considering their disastrous decline in results throughout the season, it should come as no surprise that RunAway’s roster will have several new faces this season. Even though he’s stepped down from the starting roster, Runner still has a clear understanding of his team’s individuality, and the perks that it brings.
Rather than write off their previous dive-heavy play style as a mistake, RunAway have doubled down on their star Genji player Kim “Haksal” Hyo Jong’s aggressive tendencies. In the past, Haksal struggled to cover up his friends’ shortcomings with impressive solos, but he looks to now have an aggressive duet partner in Kim “KoX” Min Soo’s Tracer.
With nowhere to go but up, RunAway will likely be hungry to overtake the myriad of talents presented by their opponents.
Players to watch
Considering Haksal’s name roughly translates into “bloody massacre”, RunAway’s high school prodigy is the patron saint of solo queue Genjis everywhere. In his debut season, Haksal played a style akin to AD carry heroes in MOBAs, who have supports funnel resources into them, in order to get massive damage payouts.
Even when the norm for Ana players was to spend their nano boost on tanks such as Reinhardt, RunAway continued to spend theirs on the deadly nano blade engages that they’d become known for. Although this strategy clearly didn’t work out, Haksal’s performances were impressive nonetheless, despite not being able to solo carry games consistently.
Now that he has a team that’s willing to follow his Genji into the heat of battle, Haksal’s body count should be on a steady rise in the coming season.
Judging by what little tournament appearances they have, Flash Lux are seem to be the Overwatch equivalent of a consistent C student. While their work has no particularly noteworthy qualities about it, they showed up for class most of the time, and are a team that plays this video game. Considering the only team that they beat last season have now been relegated, this team will need to have seriously stepped up their level of play, if they hope to compete.
Pessimism aside, Flash Lux’s roster has added three new players in the offseason. Hopefully these new players can be the boost that Flash Lux need, however unlikely that may be. Although it’s hard to judge a team based on single results,things aren’t looking good considering their only public result is a 3-2 loss to MVP Space. MVP Space were relegated from the Apex league, after losing every single game in their group.
While it’s entirely possible that Flash Lux will make some grand improvement and prove the naysayers wrong, it’s going to take a serious boost for them to make it out of this group.
Players to watch
Author’s note:This section was originally about the team’s former DPS player E1kino, and how he has a versatile hero pool (particularly favoring Mei). I wrote this before the season started, so I had no idea of Flash Lux’s roster changes (they’re an amateur team, so there’s not really any English communication, and liquidpedia suggested the same roster was kept). Considering the fact that they’re already eliminated at the time of this update, I’m just going to say that their player to watch was friendship and perseverance in the face of adversity.
No matter which game they’re involved in Fnatic are almost always found at the top. Thanks to their innovative play and excellent defensive teamwork, the organization’s Overwatch division is no exception.
After the departure of their widely popular DPS player André “iddqd” Dahlström, many fans expected Fnatic to face a slump, as they attempted to find a suitable replacement. Although newcomer Hafþór “Hafficool”Hákonarsonis’s wasn’t completely painless, the new Fnatic squad found their new style surprisingly quickly.
With each tournament appearance looking better than the last, Fnatic should continue to grow throughout the tournament, as they continue to develop synergy.
Players to watch
In their post iddqd era, Fnatic can no longer rely on a single DPS player to carry the game. As a result, playing as a coordinated unit has become more vital than ever for the recovering squad.
One of the team’s saving graces over the past few months has been Esports veteran Oliver “Vonethil” Lager’s decisive in-game decision making. Thanks to his competitive experience in both Guild Wars 2 and Heroes of the Storm, Vonethil is no stranger to keeping his cool in stressful situations. By providing a confident and experienced leading voice to his team, Fnatic’s Lucio player has been essential in the process of finding their new defensive identity.
Although it may not be a tangible metric, finding the perfect leader for a team can be excruciating. With Vonethil looking like an excellent leader for their current squad, Fnatic should continue to move up in the standings as the league gets underway.
Despite a middling first season in Apex, Kongdoo Panthera look to be tournament favorites this time around. Throughout their inaugural Apex season, Kongdoo’s Uncia squad was considered a far better team than Panthera. While that notion held true for the first half of the event, rumors that Panthera were over performing in practice games started to spread. As the season progressed, rumors of over performance turned into rumors of consistent domination, as it became clear that Panthera’s sudden surge in victories was no coincidence.
Regardless of an impressive 3-0 series win versus RunAway to end out their group stage games, the damage to Panthera’s record had been done early in the season, as they lost handily to both other teams in their group.
Since falling short at Apex, Panthera have entered two tournaments. Having lost to the eventual winners of their major appearance, and won their minor one, Kongdoo’s formerly middle of the road squad are starting to look more like the top team that practice rumors made them out to be.
With the world watching to see if the rumors surrounding their newfound form are true, Kongdoo Panthera’s results are likely to answer the questions in regards to their actual level going forward.
Players to watch
To be blunt, Kongdoo Panthera’s team captain Koo “EVERMORE” Kyo Min was a noticeable liability during his team’s first season. Kongdoo Panthera’s roster was originally built with only skill rating in mind, and EVERMORE was the manifestation of the results of that ladder-based mentality. When comparing the Panthera captain’s solo queue statistics to his competitive performances during the start of the season, his problem is clear as day. While his ranked win rates on a myriad of tanks painted the picture of a mechanically gifted champion in the making, his competitive performances showed a series of positional blunders, and a tendency to overextend in skirmishes.
Although his debut didn’t leave a good impression, EVERMORE seems to finally be overcoming his growing pains. If he can continue to convert his play style into one that’s more trusting and cooperative, Kongdoo Panthera’s solo queue star may yet lead his team to the next stage of competition.