Author’s Note: Sorry for the lack of immediate coverage during the quarter final rounds. I was feeling pretty burned out, and felt that my coverage for the rest of the season would suffer if I split focus between writing here, and for school. With that said, the rest of the season’s coverage should be out at my usual times (My final deadline is before the next day of games starts, but I try my hardest to get them done ASAP). As always, thanks for reading these, and please share any feedback/criticism!
The first semifinal match pitted surging rookies against tournament favorites, as RunAway and LW Blue took to the stage.
In RunAway’s case, the underdogs had continued to defy expectations in their quarterfinal matches, as they took down KongDoo Uncia and Lunatic Hai. After revamping their roster mid-season, RunAway had been unstoppable. Thanks to Ryu “KAISER” Sang Hoon’s massive improvements on Reinhardt, as well as Yoon “Runner” Dae Hoon’s leadership, the dark horse squad had paved their way to the semi finals as group A’s first seed.
The quarterfinal stages were far less kind to LuxuryWatch Blue, who barely managed to pull through. Although their individual talents were still apparent, the Korean titans consistently faltered when the pressure was on. After a narrow 3-2 loss to KongDoo Panthera knocked them into the losers’ bracket, LW Blue had to fight tooth and nail against Afreeca Blue, in order to earn a rematch against KongDoo. Although LuxuryWatch ultimately earned their revenge against Panthera, their second seed was hard-earned. Despite their lack of coordination in the quarterfinals, LW Blue showed great teamwork in the group stages, indicating that they could still pull together.
Game 1: Control on Lijiang Tower
Game 1 kicked off on Lijiang Tower’s Garden, with both sides running Winston, D.VA,Genji, Tracer, Lucio, and Ana. RunAway grabbed an early lead in the mirror match, thanks to Kim “Haksal” Hyo Jong, and Lee “Stitch” Hoong Hui’s superiority using Genji and Tracer. After winning the first skirmish, Runner’s team held control until overtime, where LuxuryWatch turned the tides with a chain of ultimates. Although LW Blue’s efforts earned them 39%, RunAway returned fire using pulse bomb and a nano-boosted dragon blade, in order to secure the round.
Both sides pivoted onto 3 tank lineups on Command Center, with cores of Reinhardt, Roadhog, Ana, and Lucio. In order to round out their comps, RunAway went for Zarya and Genji, while LW Blue chose D.VA and McCree. The boys in pink drew first blood once again, thanks to Kim “KoX” Min Soo, who nullified the enemy Roadhog’s threat, using a sleep dart. From there, RunAway brought their score to 70%, as they countered LW’s aggression with measured ultimate usage. After several failed attempts at the point, LuxuryWatch eventually broke through, thanks to a massive earth shatter, from Song “janus” Joong Hwa’s Reinhardt. After ceding 40% to their opponents, RunAway struck back with an explosive flank, which started with Kaiser’s Reinhardt earning a triple kill. Despite LuxuryWatch’s attempt to regain control in overtime, RunAway held strong. By landing
another devastating earth shatter, Kaiser led his team to win game 1 with a decisive 2-0.
Game 2 was a showdown on King’s row, which started with both sides running their previous lineups, and LuxuryWatch on the offensive. Thanks to Hwang “Fl0w3R” Yeon Oh’s precision using McCree, he and his team managed to secure the payload on their first attempt. After their initial victory, LW made a slower trek through the streets phase. After losing two engagements at the hands of RunAway’s tanks, the attackers used their stockpiled ultimates to win the third.
With the final stretch looming, RunAway put Haksal on Zarya duty, and swapped Genji for McCree. Although the defenders’ new strategy helped them stall their opponents advances, their hold was broken once Flow3r respwaned as Widowmaker. Using their last minute swap, LW Blue thwarted their opponents’ defense, earning themselves a full push in overtime.
For the second round, RunAway attacked with an unorthodox Winston, Genji, Tracer, Widowmaker (played by KoX, the usual support), Zenyatta, and Lucio (played by BUMPER, the usual flex tank). LuxuryWatch went for a more standard defense, as they returned to their starting picks. Despite a disastrous first assault, KoX and his crew managed to secure the payload on their second attempt. Using the amplified damage from Runner’s discord orbs, KoX’s Widowmaker assassinated LW’s tanks. With their sniper forcing enemies behind cover, RunAway’s remaining members made quick work of driving them from the point.
With the streets phase underway, RunAway returned to their usual roles, playing Reinhardt, Zarya, Genji, Tracer, Ana, and Lucio. After fighting their way to the foundry, the attackers hit another speed bump, as they struggled to hit the finish line. In the end, the underdogs were unable to break through LuxuryWatch’s defensive line, due to Janus’ impenetrable Reinhardt.
With the scores tied, RunAway chose Hanamura as the third map. Runner’s squad started as the attackers, and tried their hand at several Ana-less dive strategies. After losing every push to Saebyeolbe’s Roadhog and Flow3r’s Genji, the aggressors defaulted to their standard lineup of Reinhardt, Roadhog, Tracer, Genji, Ana, and Lucio. Even with their familiar picks, RunAway struggled to make a dent in LuxuryWatch’s armor, as Saebyeolbe’s Roadhog continued to send them packing. Despite the disastrous round so far, Stitch managed to sneak past the opposing tanks, and land a pulse bomb onto Luna’s Ana. Using the opening created by Luna’s death, the remaining attackers tore through their enemies, taking the point in overtime.
With the wind in their sails, RunAway barreled onto the second point. Using the momentum of his recent conquest, Haksal earned a triple kill with his dragon blade. Now that the defenders’ spawns were staggered, the attackers redeemed themselves, and snowballed their success into a second point capture.
Now faced with the task of overcoming their opponents’ three minute time bank, LW Blue brought out Winston, D.VA, Genji, Tracer, Ana, and Lucio. Meanwhile, RunAway defended with Reinhardt, D.VA, Roadhog, Tracer, Torbjorn, and Ana. Now playing the aggressor, Saebyeolbe’s Tracer proved even deadlier than his Roadhog. By eradicating both the enemy Torbjorn and Ana with an early pulse bomb, LW’s star DPS helped them blow through the first point.
Moving on to the second point, LuxuryWatch struggled to create a foothold, against RunAway’s constantly spawning defenders. Both sides saw a myriad of casualties in the ensuing 3 minute slug-fest, but two players held through it all. While members of both teams repeatedly trickled back to the point, Saebyeolbe and Mek0 held strong on Tracer and D.Va. Despite their drawn-out siege, LW Blue’s durable duo eventually fell to KoX, who had traded Ana for Genji amidst the chaos.
In the wake of their extended push, LW Blue were unable to recreate their success. Now that the defenders were given a chance to respawn, there was plenty of time to establish a proper defense. Thanks to their measured use of ultimates, RunAway repelled all further advances, earning a win on Hanamura, and a 2-1 series lead.
The favorites evened the score once again, thanks to a close win on Route 66. The first round saw three tank lineups for both sides, using shared cores of Reinhardt, Roadhog, Ana, and Lucio. LuxuryWatch chose to round out their attack with D.Va and Widowmaker, against a defending Zarya and McCree.
Blue moved through the first two phases at a consistent pace, using the pressure created by their sniper. Once into the hangar, the pressure started to show from both sides. With both Ana players landing fruitless nano boosts, the round came down to a contest of mechanical skill. By harnessing their individual talents, LW managed to complete the map in overtime.
RunAway’s attack kicked off with two 3- tank Genji compositions. The attackers went with Reinhardt, Zarya, Roadhog, Genji, Lucio, and Ana. The defenders chose the same lineup, with D.Va replacing Zarya.
Although RunAway’s patient use of ultimates brought them to the first checkpoint, their three tank strategy stalled out in the streets phase. After failing to overcome LW Blue’s oppressive RoadHog, Stitch moved from Zarya to Tracer. The newly added Tracer worked wonders for his team, as he ran circles around the opposing tanks. With Saebyeolbe preoccupied by their Tracer, Haksal and co. blitzed through the remaining sections, finishing with twelve seconds on the clock.
With only a minute to work with, LW Blue stepped up in the final rounds. In a situation where a push to the first checkpoint would be considered impressive, Janus’ Winston lead his team all the way through the streets phase.
With a virtually unbeatable goal ahead of them, RunAway failed to match their opponents’ success. With a 5-3 win in the books, LuxuryWatch tied the match at 2-2.
After trading blows for four maps, the series was decided by a game of inches on Eichenwalde.
Both sides showed looked nervous in the first round, as they both showed uncharacteristic mistakes. LuxuryWatch attacked with a dive comp of Winston, D.VA, Tracer, Genji, Zenyatta, and Lucio, versus a defending Reinhardt, Roadhog, Zarya, Soldier 76, Ana, and Lucio.
The attackers opened with a successful siege onto the payload, led by their ever-impressive Tracer. Despite a short stall from the defending tanks, Saebyolbe and friends went into the streets phase with an ultimate advantage.
Kaiser and Saebyolbe stepped up for their team in the streets phase, using Reinhardt and Tracer. Thanks to the duo’s combined pressure, RunAway would have stopped the cart in the streets phase, if it weren’t for a last stand from Flow3r. Faced with a do-or-die overtime battle, LW’s Genji managed to hold out for reinforcements, which turned the tide of battle. The attackers snowballed their last-ditch fight into a second point.
Following a series of over-commitments, the tables had turned on the defenders, and LW Blue now found themselves meters away from their goal. Fortunately for his team, Stitch kept his cool, landed a pulse bomb onto two assailants, and denied the full push.
Thanks to their last minute defense, a full push would punch RunAway’s ticket to the finals. Not wanting to take risks in their final round, Runner and friends played their usual Winston, Zarya, Genji, Tracer, Ana and Lucio for the first point.
Using stitch’s Tracer as a distraction, RunAway mounted an overwhelming offensive, securing the payload after a prolonged setup.
The underdogs’ aggression transferred into the second leg, with Winston exchanged for their more familiar Reinhardt pick. Using their adapted composition, RunAway blazed past the streets phase, by winning two consecutive brawls. KoX’s Ana proved vital in both encounters, by using his biotic grenade to melt the opposition’s health bars. With a single push standing between his team and victory, Kaiser hammered the final nail into Blue’s coffin, thanks to a team-wide earth shatter.
Images courtesy of Ongamenet (twitch.tv/OGNGLOBAL)