Volamel's Viewpoint: Scouting Ahead — APEX Season 3 Storylines
With the end of the season wrapping up with a Cinderella story, RunAway making the finals and meeting the perennial throne-chasers in Lunatic-Hai, what can we look forward to in the next season? With OGN’s APEX Season 3 is right around the corner, let's take a look at some of the prevailing storylines coming out of the Super Week Promotion tournament as well as the Season 2 finals. Dusting off the the APEX storybook for a moment, we look at the Season 1 hopefuls who had a less than stellar run in Season 2, can BK Stars make a return as front runners?
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I’ll be frank, BK Stars needs to come back in Season 3 with knowledge from the great beyond in hand. After a much-needed break, Season 3 of APEX will prove if they’ve regained their team color or still need more time to reinvent themselves. Will they prove that Season 2 was a fluke or will they continue down their path of criticism and uncertainty? Returning to the stars, let's take a look back at the potential that BK Stars have.
Entering their inaugural season of OGN’s APEX Overwatch League we were treated to some of their amazing play, a good majority coming at the hands of the flashy duo of Chae “Bunny” Joon Hyuk and Shin “BERNAR” Se Won, both top of their class as Tracer and Zarya respectively. They were bold, flashy and held an elegance that many teams strived to replicate. BK Stars were the first team to really drive home the idea that ultimate combos are key in winning team fights if executed properly. We can see this ring true in how accurate their Pulse Bomb combos were as well as D.va Self Destruct plays coupled with BERNAR’s fantastic Graviton Surges. These three BK Star’s players have worlds of potential at their backs, and Season 3 is where they are going to need to fully capitalize on it.
Coming into Season 2 they added a hot new talented DPS player Lee “Carpe” Jae Hyeok and support player Chae “Prove” Ho Jin. Carpe showed some amazing Genji play in his debut match, while Prove seemed to be proving himself worthy. Alas, the team felt disjointed and hazy, losing a lot of their previous luster from the season prior. The focus on the picture seemed to go blurry as BK Star continued to mosey about, going 4-6 in their group, uncharacteristically dropping games to Team EnVyUs and MVP Infinity.
Returning to their body in Season 3, according to Liquipedia, BK Stars seem to have let go of support player Prove and added a new tank to the lineup in Ham “Tarpon” Eun Sang. With their new recruit, they have also moved frontline staple, Kim “Alarm” Kyeong Bo to support. Not looking into this too much, it seems like moving Alarm to support might be to help with overall communication within the team. Like a cold shower, will this refresh BK Stars and break whatever was taking hold of them or will the addition of another new player make team synergy even harder than before? With all-stars like Carpe, Bunny, and Bernar, all being contenders, can they steer the team in the right direction towards their second playoffs birth? BK Stars needs to return from their out of body experience and correct their trajectory before it’s too late.
Returning as Kings
They finally did it. After smashing onto the Korean Overwatch scene, Lunatic-Hai finally seized their own fate and took home the gold. This was no mere online cup or final — no. Lunatic-Hai won APEX Season 2’s Grand Final in stunning fashion proving the test results were wrong, they were not a part of the cursed Kong bloodline.
The quintessential silver medalist is no more. Out with the old and in with the new King’s of Overwatch, Lunatic-Hai.
Season 3 for Lunatic-Hai will be all about defending the homeland. They have laid the bricks of what they can do, they’ve laid out their battle plans, it is up to everyone else to find a hole or counter strategy to Lunatic-Hai’s strong dive play. Can the kings defend their throne against the usurpers? Will Gong “Miro” Jin Hyuk and Ryu “RyuJeHong” Je Hong continue to dominate at their respective heroes and develop their respective roles within Lunatic-Hai? Will they fly “hai” or crumble under the pressure of success?
The overarching theme surrounding Lunatic-Hai is what lies next for the boys in blue. Lunatic-Hai has displayed strong play throughout Season 1 and 2, they should return with another strong showing in Season 3. They do have their weaknesses, however, Kim “EscA” In Jae has been criticized for his play, but during the grand final against RunAway, EscA was pivotal in their victory. Marking the enemy Tracer and keeping him under wraps, letting all-star Ana player RyuJeHong work his magic. Retaining their title will lie in the fate of how well EscA performs.
Something to also take note of is the Lucio changes for Yang “tobi” Jin Mo. New Lucio has not changed much, however, Tobi is going to be someone to watch out for. This will be a huge time for his Lucio play to really shine and to remind people that he is still an all-star Lucio player. But, this still begs the question, how much will this impact him as a player? Will this fit in his wheelhouse, or will he uncharacterised struggle with Lucio’s new kit?
With their laser-like precision on refining their own style of play, the metagame does not seem to be changing, which is a huge boon for the future of Lunatic-Hai. The strength of their dive will continue on into the APEX Season 3 and possibly beyond. Lunatic-Hai started the year off right with a win, can they end the year with another strong performance cementing their spot at the top?
The Royal Artists
Meta Athena was supposed to dust off the “royal road” and walk straight to the apex of the Korean Overwatch scene. Alas, they fell short and into fourth place, losing the third place match to LuxuryWatch Blue. This is not to say that Meta Athena cannot return and go for a victory lap, but with such a breakout performance in Season 2, will Meta Athena fall cursed to a “sophomore album”? There are few stories more thought provoking and on the brink of profound as Meta Athena’s.
Season 2 for Meta Athena brought us the joy that is Kim “Libero” Hye Sung. Being coined as the “Korean TviQ”, Libero is the swiss-army knife for Meta Athena, being able to play whatever the team needs to succeed. Whether it be Sombra or completely on the opposite side of the spectrum onto D.va, Libero does it all — and he does it excellently.
Backing him up is Choi “Kris” Jun Soo, Meta Athena’s resident all-star Lucio player. Kris really excelled at denying some of the positional advantages teams might have on a map like Volskaya Industries for example. We have great examples of Kris wall riding over and knocking enemies away from the high ground and other advantageous positions. With the new Lucio changes coming in, will Kris still have the same impact he did in Season 2 or will we be treated to a new and improved Kris?
Choi “Hoon” Jae Hoon is the pallet knife cutting through the canvas. He is the artist that some — if not all — of Meta Athena’s strategies revolve around. Hoon is best known for his amazing Zaraya play, so much so, that his team will expend every single Nano Boost onto him just to allow for him to become a pseudo-third DPS player. Not only does Hoon do a surprising amount of damage for his team, will the resources he has at his disposal, he generates a ton of ultimate charge which allows him to build Graviton Surges faster than most people in the league.
All of these players really embody what it means to be an all-star — someone who stands apart from their peers. This season, however, will be the hardest and most competitive season of them all. With the short break leading into Season 3, what does Meta Athena have up their sleeves this time? They always seem to come out on the stage with a certain level of surprise and dazzle us all with their patented creativity and unique strategies. The community will have to wait with bated breath for when and where will their next masterpiece be unveiled.
Rhodopis is the earliest version of a “Cinderella story” in history. It originates from Egypt where a female slave's shoe is stolen by an eagle while bathing and given to a wealthy king. The king then tracks down the owner and marries her, saving her from her indentured servitude, making her a queen and fulfilling the overall theme of the story. RunAway had their crown stolen away from them at the APEX Season 2 Grand Finals at the hands of Lunatic-Hai. It is high time for their revenge and APEX Season 3 will be where it is enacted.
With no sponsor, no team house and having to split precious practicing time with school work, RunAway battled through the Season 2 Relegation tournament and cemented their place in APEX Season 2. They would not be denied their right at a shot at the crown, they worked too hard and have come too far to fall. RunAway’s regular season performance was solid, toppling western hopefuls; Fnatic and besting team Flash Lux. They followed behind KongDoo Panthera as both team’s approached playoffs in their respective placings, KongDoo in at first and RunAway coming out of their group in second. In a shocking upset RunAway beat KongDoo Uncia in a commanding set, 3-1. They would secure their Grand Final’s berth over their would-be rivals, Lunatic-Hai and ultimately be upset in the rubber match vs Lunatic-Hai in the grand final, 3-4. Barring any sudden roster swaps or changes, RunAway looks to step into APEX Season 3 with something to prove.
RunAway’s success comes off the back of all-star Reinhardt player Ryu “KAISER” Sang Hoon and the star DPS duo of Kim “Haksal” Hyo Jong and Lee “Stitch” Choong Hui. All three of these players make the space for the other two to shine. Haksal and Stitch dive the Reinhardt player’s of the world, to create the space where KAISER can hit his game-winning Earthshatter plays. KAISER provides ample cover for his DPS with Reinhardt and Winston and allows the Genji or Tracer player to maneuver the enemy flanks. These triplett's relationship is completely cyclical and they all rely on each other for their success.
The outlier, to an extent, lies in the team captain and in-game leader, Yoon “Runner” Dae Hoon. His Lucio play left much to be desired, yet is the catalyst for his team success emotionally and drives his team motivationally. Runner has been suspect throughout the regular season and it is possible that we may see him step back into a coaching role for Season 3, nothing is confirmed though.
With a lack of title sponsor, will they find a support or more investors before Season 3? APEX Season 3 will be a pivotal time for RunAway in general. With no monetary support and little to no infrastructure, can RunAway find their own glass slipper and return to the Grand Finals and steal away their own title?
Out of Left Field
Just like a pop fly into left field, it is completely up in the air whether or not both of the KongDoo teams will maintain a solid impact after swapping rosters and changing key roles.Recently announced on team KongDoo’s official Twitter account , both sister teams; Uncia and Panthera would be undergoing massive overhauls coming into Season 3 of OGN’s APEX League. Both teams would be under new management when it came to a coaching role, Kim "JeongFeel" Jeong-Min steps in, coming over from Heroes of the Storm and will man the position of head coach for both teams.
The changes for KongDoo Panthera include:
An “Wakawaka” Jee Ho would be swapping roles from DPS to support, the team would acquire Kim “birdring” Ji Hyuk from their sister team to fill the DPS gap, and they would snatch up a new recruit Void to play the frontline tank. Koo “EVERMORE” Kyo Min would be taking a step back from professional play, seemingly more focused on streaming and content creation for the company. Accompanying EVERMORE, Kang “Bling” Bo Hyeon seems to be missing from the roster sheet as well. With these changes, can Wakawaka and teammate Yang “Luffy” Seong Hyeon, wrangle this team together in time for playoffs? Time will certainly tell, but let’s move to the other KongDoo sister.
As for KongDoo Uncia, they draft two freshmen Decay and Poise. Poise seems to be a seventh rotating member, as Decay is listed as Flex on KongDoo Uncia’s Liquipedia page. They also sign ROX Orca’s DPS player Kim “Daemin” Dae Min. KongDoo Uncia also moved Season 1 all-star, Kim “DNCE” Se Yong from a DPS/Flex role to support. This change is a bit odd, but if DNCE has a very large vocal presence on the team, it makes more sense for him to be in a position to shot call. Uncia also says goodbye to longtime Lucio player, Yoo “Lucid” Jun Seo whom has found a new home on Afreeca Freecs Blue. There still is not a lot of information on how the roster will exactly work, we are all working off of the Korean press release.
Both of the KongDoo teams were mainstays of the Korea Overwatch scene. Panthera being the more explosive, but struggled to find good cohesion and chemistry. Uncia the complete opposite, leaning a bit too hard on team coordination at least for the inaugural season. Season 2 the rolls were reversed, but not without leaving a residue of last season's woes. Panthera looked dominant in their group and completed the reverse sweep in the playoffs against LuxuryWatch Blue, but overall, their play still was a bit disjointed relying on their DPS all stars EVERMORE and Kim “Rascal” Dong Jun to edge their opponents out. Uncia, on the other hand, relied on tricky attack paths and coordinated plays to pick apart their opponent.
These two teams both were held once in high regard; now, many concerns and questions circle them. This season has to be a big splash from the dreaded KongDoo sister teams if they fail to; three strikes and you're out. Can both KongDoo Uncia and Panthera find their respective styles, refine their game, all while trialing their new teammates? After scrambling after the roster changes, can KongDoo come back with a strong showing in APEX Season 3?
New Kids on the Block
As the moving truck blows back a dusty black cloud of soot, six Korean boys are left standing on the sidewalk with keyboards and mouse in hand. Their new home is the APEX stage, and they look to make an impact. X-6 Gaming is the newest and hottest team coming up from the Super Week Promotion tournament, having a dominant hold over the amateur territory, boasting a 9-2 series record, which breaks down into a 28-10 match record. X6-Gaming is the team to watch out for coming into Season 3 of APEX. Can their consistency from the challenger leagues match up against stronger opponents? Can their DPS stars step up and make a name for themselves against some of the mainstays of the APEX league?
Kim “GodsB” Kyeon Bo is team captain for X6-Gaming and also their star DPS player. You may often find him on Genji, McCree or Soldier 76, but on Control you could possibly add Phara to that list, to which he shows prowess on both hitscan and projectile DPS. Having this trait is something that is rare and incredibly valuable to a team, this allows X6-Gaming to have a much more diverse and rich strategy pool as they are not limited when it comes to hero choices.
Second on the batting order is Kim “TimeBoy” Won Tae. While his hero choices might be a bit shoehorned, his impact is paramount for Xb6-Gaming to succeed. While on Tracer, he wins an overwhelming majority of his duels and rarely misses his Pulse Bombs. What’s interesting about him though is that while his Pulse Bomb accuracy is high, TimeBoy consistently will fly into the enemy team in a very dynamic style and find some of the most insane sticks with his Tracer’s ultimate. Something that could raise a lot of questions is, where else can we see TimeBoy? What else can he play? If the metagame changes and Tracer somehow becomes inferior to another hero, can TimeBoy make a smooth transition?
Another thing that is a bit more of overarching concern is their consistency issue. Whether it is stage fright or what have you, it needs to be noted that while their set versus Afreeca Freecs Red resulted in a 3-1, those games were oddly close and quite messy. This was X6-Gaming’s first time on the APEX stage and LAN nerves are common; they are incredibly young after all. Looking at some of their online results, during their qualification for the Nexus Cup, they actually managed to upset Lunatic-Hai 2-1, which is insane. Hopefully, once we see X6 settle into their new home so that we can be treated to some of their high flying and flashy plays.
Written by: @Volamel
Images courtesy of Blizzard Entertainment, OGN, The KongDoo Company, and Inven Global.