EnvyUS and Meta Athena both came in to their final match of the group on the back of win streaks. In Envy’s case, the European champs had yet to lose a match since Pongphop “Mickie” Rattanasangchod joined in season 1’s quarterfinals. As for Meta Athena, the newly qualified Korean squad were on a 17 match win streak, which started in season 1’s challenger league. With the two titans ending the group stage against one another, one side’s win streak was guaranteed to end tonight.
Since both won their matches against the BK Stars and MVP Infinity, the group’s top and bottom 2 were already locked in. Although both sides’ places in the playoffs were secured, the upcoming matchup would still decide who would earn the first seed, and who would earn the second.
Considering Envy’s massive pedigree, as well as the fact that meta Athena were debuting a new tank player, the North American squad were considered favorites to take the first seed.
The first game was a drawn out cross-fire, as both sides landed impressive blows in each round. EnvyUS drew first blood on Ruins, using a 2/2/2 comp that featured both Reinhardt and Winston. Jonathan “HarryHook” Tejedor’s Mcree and Timo “Taimou” Kettunen’s Widowmaker ruled the first half of the round, as they landed long range head shots on their counterparts. Although Kim “Libero” Hye Sung did eventually manage to disrupt Taimou’s Widowmaker with a Genji pick, Mickie’s Winston was quick to pick up the slack, and clear his enemies off the point.
The second and third rounds swung into Meta Athena’s favor, thanks to their positioning and coordination. . Using their deliberate positioning, Meta consistently set up opportunities to take advantage of their Surroundings. One of the most common instances of Meta Athena’s spacial awareness was their ability to herd Envy onto ledges, where Choi “Kris” Jun Soo’s Lucio or Libero’s D.Va could push them off.
The two sides continued to trade blows on Hollywood, now both running tank heavy lineups. Envy were first up on the offensive, initially sporting a 2/2/2 team, featuring Taimou’s Widowmaker. Although they were quick to capture point A, Envy struggled to capture B, due to the overwhelming force of Meta Athena’s four tanks. After several minutes of stagnation, Taimou was able to break through using his newly picked Winston. Following their adaptation, Envy were able to ride their 3 tank lineup to a hard fought full push in overtime.
Meta Athena’s attack was similarly drawn out, as they struggled to close out the map. The Korean newcomers used a 3 tank lineup to protect Ha “Sayaplayer” Jeong Wo, who tore through Envy’s initial defense using Soldier 76. After losing the streets phase in similar fashion, Taimou traded Widowmaker for Roadhog, which helped his team to stall on the final point. Although their defense was eventually broken, Envy’s hero swap did manage to force their opponents into overtime.
With only a minute apiece in their time banks, both sides had to win a fight decisively, in order to avoid a tiebreaker. Thanks to heroics from Libero’s defending Genji, and Hoon’s attacking Zarya, Meta Athena managed to capture point A by the skin of their teeth, and secure a 2-0 lead.
The third game took place on Volskaya Industries, with Envy starting out on offense. Envy started their assault looking strong, thanks to their hitscan duo. With their team causing chaos on the point, Taimou’s Widowmaker and Harry Hook’s Soldier 76 were able to pick their opponents off from the high ground. With their man advantage steadily rising, Envy took point A on their first attempt. Despite their success in the initial siege, all of Envy’s assaults on B fell short. The North American squad tried several new strategies over their allotted seven minutes, but none of them proved effective against Meta Athena’s tanks. By working together in the front line, Moon “Changsik” Chang Sik and Hoon used Reinhardt and Zarya’s shields to deny Envy’s many advances, ending their round with only point A captured.
Meta Athena started their attack using a 2/2/2 lineup, featuring a Pharah Mercy pairing. The airborne duo worked wonders for Meta, as Libero’s airborne assaults earned them a quick capture onto the first point. After struggling to get through an adapted lineup from Envy, Meta Athena opted to make a swap of their own, turning their 2/2/2 team into one with 3 tanks. This change worked wonders for the Korean squad, as Libero’s D.Va continued to impress. With Libero occupying Envy’s biggest damage threats, his teammates were free to pick off the healers, leading them to a 2-1 win in game 3.
With their 3-0 win against EnvyUS, Meta Athena will go into playoffs looking good. Even though the competition will only get harder from here on out, today’s victory showed that Meta Athena can excel on a variety of compositions, and are constantly improving.
Although today’s loss was a dissapointing result for EnvyUS and their fans, this scenario is hardly new for the Season 1 champs. Envy placed second in their group last season as well, and their players seem confident that their seeding shouldn’t be an issue this time around either. With their positive mindset, and the deeper hero pools shown today taken into consideration, only time will tell whether Envy will pull a repeat playoffs performance.
Images via OGN GLOBAL (twitch.tv/ognglobal)