Two titans squared off in the second semifinal, as Meta Athena and Lunatic Hai took to the stage.
Coming in as group B’s first seed, Meta Athena were the season’s biggest underdogs. After going undefeated in their run through the challenger league, Meta continued to impress in their run through the league. In order to reach the semifinals undefeated, the rookie squad used a stable of innovative strategies to take down titans such as EnvyUS, LuxuryWatch Blue, and KongDoo Panthera. Thanks to their innovative style, along with the growing hype surrounding the possibility of a rookie roster winning the league, Meta Athena had become the team to watch.
As for group A’s second seed, Lunatic-Hai were practically a household name for any fan of the league. Boasting an all-star roster, and a mastery of their signature aggressive play style, Lunatic-Hai were considered favorites to take the tournament. After losing to RunAway in the quarterfinals, Korea’s superstars would have to go through Meta Athena, if they hoped to find redemption in the finals.
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.
Due to shared losses against KongDoo and wins against Flash Lux, both teams’ tournament hopes came down to their final matchup.
Although their seasons had gone similarly, the two squads had shown opposite strengths.
If Fnatic had to be identified by a single hero pick, it would be their 85% pick rate Reinhardt. Fnatic’s main strengths were their teamwork and shot-calling, which were both suited to Reinhardt’s defensive style, rather than Winston’s more aggressive one. In order to qualify for playoffs, Fnatic would most likely rely on punishing aggression from RunAway, rather than creating their own.
RunAway played the reverse of their opponents’ strategy. Unlike Fnatic, who loved tank heavy Reinhardt strategies, RunAway had made a name for themselves in the promotion tournament, mainly using all-in 3 DPS strategies. After shelving their aggressive substitutes for most of the season, RunAway decided to bring them back for their third match, in the hopes of bouncing back after being destroyed by KongDoo Panthera.
Although Fnatic’s rough series against Flash Lux would normally make them slight underdogs, RunAway’s revamped roster had yet to prove itself against premier teams. As a result, neither team was coming in as a favorite.
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.
Today’s matchup was do or die for Misfits, as they prepared to face off against one of Korea’s best teams. If the Swedish roster hoped to advance, they would need a 3-0 victory to do so cleanly, or a 3-1 win to force a 3-way tiebreaker.
As for Lunatic Hai, the Korean squad were faced with a much easier task, as they only needed two wins to secure their playoff seeding.
Most of the day’s games were likely to be a clash of styles, considering the difference in player roles. On Lunatic Hai’s side, their once 8-man roster had recently lost both its main D.Va and Reinhardt players, leaving their strategies limited to dive compositions. On the other hand, Kevyn “TviQ” Lindström served as a jack of all trades for Misfits, as he’d proven his skill on practically every available DPS pick.
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.