The first game of the group stage’s final day pitted Cloud 9 against KongDoo Uncia, with the the former’s playoff hopes on the line. After a disjointed loss to Afreeca Blue, the North American team had brought on a coach, in order to play better as a unit. With two weeks of practice under their belts, C9 would have to topple KongDoo Uncia’s monstrous talent in order to take second place in their group.
As for Uncia, the Korean juggernauts faced lower stakes, but would still benefit from a win. Thanks to their shows of force against CONBOX and Afreeca, KongDoo were going to advance no matter how they did against Cloud 9. With that said, a single map win would lock them in at #1, and a strong performance would be a good sign going forward.
KongDoo started out strong, with a 2-0 massacre on Nepal. The Korean squad looked unstoppable on Village, as they took the round 100-0, despite mirrored picks. Both sides opened with Roadhog, Zarya, Reinhardt, Pharah, Lucio, and Ana, but Kim “birdring” Ji Hyuk outclassed Lane “SureFour”Roberts, giving his team an early advantage. SureFour tried solving the issue by countering with McCree, but that only caused Birdring to unload Pharah’s rocket barrage, pick McCree for himself, and continue winning the mirror matchup. Although Cloud 9 put up a fight on Sanctum, they still found themselves outclassed. Using their superior coordination, Uncia outmaneuvered their opponents in crucial engagements, earning them the win on Nepal.
Cloud 9 bounced back on Numbani, thanks to a redeeming performance from SureFour’s Pharah. With Adam “Adam” Eckel’s Mercy empowering him, SureFour was an unstoppable force up until the final choke point. Once they passed the 2/3 mark, C9’s members started getting careless, and started to break formation. This overstep nearly proved fatal, as Birdring’s Tracer started to deny Cloud 9’s approaches nearly single-handedly.
Luckily for their teammates, Lucas “Mendokusaii” Håkansson and SureFour managed to turn a seemingly lost fight, using Zarya and Soldier 76. Thanks to the two stars’ heroics, Cloud 9 recovered from their fumble, and finished the map in overtime.
KongDoo responded with a similarly dominant start, but couldn’t keep their momentum. The Koreans struggled to break through the opposing Reinhardt and D.Va’s shields, which resulted in uncharacteristically poor use of ultimates. With Daniel “Gods” Graeser and Ruben “ryb” Ljungdahl nipping their attempts to engage at the bud, KongDoo ran out of steam in the final stretch, giving C9 the win.
Uncia mounted a comeback on Temple of Anubis, thanks to DNCE and Birdring’s strength as a duo. Cloud 9 started their attack with a quick siege on point A, using a 3 DPS dive composition. Despite their fast start, Cloud 9 struggled to close the game, as they fell victim to Kim “DNCE” Se Yong’s Roadhog hooks. Even when DNCE eventually fell, Birdring’s Tracer remained, and proved just as deadly. After posturing against KongDoo’s rapidly spawning double threat for five minutes, SureFour and Mendokusaii managed to make another game winning play. By combining their Pharah and Zarya ultimates, the duo cleared Uncia off the point, earning themselves a full push in overtime.
KongDoo’s attack started out just as strong as their opponents’, thanks to DNCE’s hook accuracy, and Birdring’s precise aim as Tracer. SureFour’s Genji and Mendokusaii’s Mei temporarily held the duo away from point B, but were eventually overwhelmed by attacks from multiple angles.
Since KongDoo captured point B before overtime, they got a time bank round, while C9 didn’t. Uncia made quick work of capturing A in their bonus round, giving them the win.
Cloud 9 evened the score on Watchpoint: Gibraltar, using their improved teamwork. C9’s attack started convincingly, as they stormed through to the hangar phase using Winston, Zarya, Genji, Tracer, Zenyatta, and Lucio. By providing discord orbs on key targets, Randal “Roolf” Stark’s Zenyatta allowed Gods and SureFour to tear through Uncia’s threats, using Genji and Tracer. Roolf’s Zenyatta play ended up causing trouble in the hangar phase, as a premature transcendence nearly cost him the game. Luckily for c9, Gods recovered the game in overtime, by landing a Roadhog hook on Birdring’s Tracer. After a rough hangar phase, Ryb’s Reinhardt put a quick end to the final leg, by landing a massive earth shatter.
KongDoo opened their assault with a dive comp, but didn’t manage to make it work. In response to their stagnation, they swapped to Reinhardt, Roadhog, Winston, Zenyatta, and Lucio, hoping to shred Cloud 9’s front line (Reinhardt, Winston, and Zarya). After losing the first point to KongDoo’s tanks, Mendokusaii respawned as Reaper. Thanks to their newly added counter, Cloud 9 stopped KongDoo at a single point, bringing the match score to 2-2.
After a hard fought four games, KongDoo ended the series the same way it began – with an unceremonious stomp. Although Cloud 9 managed to avoid dying while contesting the point for quite a while, they also weren’t all that effective at wiping their opponents out. As a result, KongDoo were able to regroup and build ultimates, before removing C9 from both the point, and likely the tournament.
With one point standing between them and victory, KongDoo took their time on their attack. Knowing that they could win the game with a single fight, the Korean squad patiently charged their ultimates. Once their abilities were charged, Uncia unleashed them all on the point, and won the final game.
With this win, KongDoo Uncia joined the other groups’ winners as an undefeated first place seed. Although they lost two payload maps, Uncia managed to look competitive in both games, while dominating on Eichenwalde and Nepal. Considering how much C9 seem to have improved, this result should be a good sign for the team going forward.
In Cloud 9’s case, the North American squad fell just short of making it to playoffs, because of their disastrous series against Afreeca Blue. Although their changes were too late to help in Apex, C9 looked way better than they had in previous games, and will be able to use their improved form back home.
Images via OGN Global (Twitch.tv/ognglobal)
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