This article is part of our Overwatch series.
Hot off the heels of OGN Overwatch APEX Season 1, some of the top Korean teams will clash alongside a pair of European powerhouses at IEM Gyeonggi for $100,000. Let’s take a look at a handful of teams who could make a big impact at the tournament.
Day 1 - Cinderellas and a beast
Many Western Overwatch fans will remember Korea’s dominance in the Overwatch World Cup at BlizzCon 2016. A key component to South Korea’s success at the event was largely attributed to the Lunatic-Hai core of Kim “EscA” In-jae, Gong “Miro” Jin-hyuk, and Ryu “Ryujehong” Je-hong, who is considered the best Ana in the world. Despite a strong first-place finish at BlizzCon, Lunatic-Hai has yet to win a major tournament. The team has come close before, taking second place in the APAC Premier in October, but recent results have been less than stellar. Lunatic-Hai got knocked out of the OGN Overwatch Apex Season 1 playoffs in embarrassing fashion, getting swept 3-0 by KongDoo Uncia. While fans might be quick to blame a shift in the meta for Lunatic-Hai’s shortcomings, one has to wonder what Lunatic-Hai needs to do to find wins. Seemingly refusing to play Roadhog, who is widely regarded as one of the strongest characters in the current state of the game, might be a start. But if they hope to take their first LAN tournament on Friday, they’ll have to learn how to adapt, or else be left in the dust by their competition.
LuxuryWatch Red is yet another Korean team that has failed to perform well at a big event. Failing to qualify for OGN Overwatch APEX Season 1, LuxuryWatch Red had great showings on the minor circuit; taking second place at Nexus Cup - Halloween Season and winning APEX Challengers Season 1. While we haven’t seen them play since the days of the dreaded Beyblade combo, LuxuryWatch Red’s Hwang “Nanohana” Yeon Oh has shown a willingness to flex into picks such as Roadhog in the past. Matched up against KongDoo Panthera, LuxuryWatch Red have potential to take an upset win, provided that supports Joo “starky” Gwak and Park “Arcane” Sung Jin are able to stay alive in teamfights.
Unlike their Korean counterparts, Misfits have put together plenty of success in recent months, winning DreamHack Winter in spectacular fashion against Fnatic. Conventional wisdom says: “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” yet that’s exactly what Misfits did, taking part in a three-way trade with Luminosity and fellow tournament-attendee Rogue. When the wheeling and dealing was finished, Misfits ended up with an entirely Swedish lineup, replacing Nicholas “skipjack” Rosada, Terrence “SoOn” Tarlier, Jonathan “Kryw” Nobre, and Mikaël “Hidan” Da Silva with Jonathan “Reinforce” Larsson, Kalle “Zave” Haag Nillson, Tim “Mannetens” Byhlund, and Kevyn “TviQ” Lindström. This new roster has yet to be tested on an international level, but Misfits are still expected to perform well. TviQ is known to have stand-out performances and Reinforce is regarded as one of the most intelligent Reinhardt players in the world. If the roster can gel in time for IEM Gyeonggi, Misfits shouldn’t have too much trouble making it through the tournament.
Day 2 - Goliaths await in the wings
The winner of the quarterfinal matchups Friday will get the unenviable task of facing two of the better teams in the Overwatch scene in Afreeca Freecs Blue and Rogue.
Afreeca Freecs Blue (AFB) used to be one of the most exciting teams to watch in the earlier stages of competitive Overwatch. DPS player Jeong “ArHaN” Weon Hyeop was a critical member in the team’s success, helping AFB put together solid showings from September to early October. However a meta shift left the team high and dry as of late. OGN Overwatch Apex Season 1 showcased the team’s struggles, as AFB barely got by REUNITED in the quarterfinals, and were absolutely decimated in the grand finals against Team EnVyUs. In that final series, nothing seemed to work for AFB. They weren’t able to “play the meta” at the same level as EnVyUs, as they were heavily countered by the abundance of tanks and long-range pressure from Soldier 76. It is unclear what AFB will bring to IEM Gyeonggi, but whatever their approach might be, there is no doubt that the pride of Korea will be with them.
On the flip-side Rogue, until recently, was easily one of the top 3 teams in the Overwatch scene. With a history of high finishes at events such as Operation Breakout and ESL Overwatch Atlantic Showdown at Gamescon, Rogue looked like a top-class Western team. When Rogue won the APAC Premier as the sole European representative, defeating top Korean teams on their way to the title, the Overwatch community was ready to crown them the kings of Overwatch. OGN Overwatch APEX Season 1 only helped the hype grow, as they swept through their group without dropping a single game. Then, in the playoffs, against a seemingly weakened EnVyUs who was using a sub, Rogue faltered. They looked like they weren’t sure of what to pick into EnVyUs’ compositions, and there was visible panic in the way the team played in Game 5. The loss prompted an immediate change, as they jumped into the aforementioned three-team trade, dropping TviQ and Reinforce to pick up SoOn and skipjack. As a result the pressure is on for Rogue, as anything short of winning IEM GyeongGi will hurt their legacy.