RadoN’s thousand is a series of articles in which I give my opinions on an esports topic of my choosing in about a thousand or less words. This one is dedicated to Lunatic-Hai, fan-favorites across the globe who have been in a near superb form in APEX's second season. Outside of their full-length Bo5 loss to RunAway, they've lost only one map in all of their matches versus multiple dangerous opponents.
With their two runner-up and a top 8 finishes in offline events since last October and already in the top 4 of APEX S2, Lunatic-Hai are the clear pick for the overall most successful Overwatch squad, hailing from South Korea. Between the super-star supports ryujehong and tobi, strong tanks Miro and zunba, WhoRU's deadly Genji and EscA's smart Mei play the roster is also one of the most skilled in the world. To top it off, they've already defeated the team many predicted to take the whole thing at the start of the tournament - LW Blue and personally eliminated lesser favorites Misfits and KongDoo Uncia.
Yet, even with the accolades on their side and knowing full-well that such a talented bunch of players is bound to win a tournament one day, the author cannot in good conscience predict them to lift the APEX S2 trophy. Not as a result of belief in some silvery superstition, lack of mental strength in the most pressuring of moments or as a result of the only team that has defeated them already waiting in the finals; but because the team bears the same flaws that have stopped them from lifting a trophy on multiple occasions.
Lunatic-Hai's quick emergence from the depths of the Korean scene was sudden and spectacular; however, within the span of the same tournament in which most learned their names, viewers were also shown the height of their ceiling. Able to compete with the best, the squad was undoubtedly at an elite level; alas, their obvious flaws would bar them from having a real shot at the trophies of premier tournaments, as we learned later on.
Despite them playing well around EscA's aggression, the majority of the team's star-power was focused in their supports and Miro. Additionally, they lacked the individual and strategical versatility needed to overcome rosters of comparable skills and synergy like Rogue and Uncia.
For the following months, the team's level started declining slowly. LEETAEJUN's carry performances became increasingly rarer and less impactful, while dean's constant switching between multiple positions lessened Miro and ryujehong's efficacy; meanwhile, other rosters had caught up on synergy and started consolidating talent looking to match the Lunatic-Hai stars' impact. In spite of that, ryujehong's boys never lost to a team that wasn't a championship contender and even took a convincing series off of EnVyUS, but if they wanted a real shot at winning premier tournaments, something needed to change.
Their second place finishes didn’t come as a result of the moment's mental pressure overcoming them, but rather thanks to not meeting a team with the tools to defeat them beforehand. Some would argue the loss to Rogue in the APAC finals being the former, but that series very much saw the French-Swedish mix outclass Lunatic-Hai, rather than the Koreans not playing up to their potential.
They finally acted after their second runner-up finish and the end of the tournament year. But instead of making decisive changes, the team added two new members and was set to be an eight player roster. The results were reportedly good in practice and the new additions of zunba and WhoRU played well; in the APEX S2 debut versus AF Red however, they gave a shaky performance, even though it was a clean sweep.
Individuals had started improving their effective hero-pools, but the underlying problems of stale approach to the game and lack of a star-player in the DPS position were still present.
Removing LEETAEJUN and dean (even if for out-of-game reasons) was not only the right move on paper but also had an immediate reinvigorating effect, as evident by their following group stage matches. With an element of surprise on their side they beat LW Blue -- favorite for the trophy at the time -- and won by clean sweeps against the dangerous opponents of Misfits, EnVyUS, Uncia.
Then, shockingly Miro and company fell victim to RunAway's superior diving force. The fact that the loss was to RunAway in itself was surprising, admittedly not so much in hindsight; however, what wasn't unanticipated is Lunatic-Hai losing upon reaching the upper echelon of opponents as they've continued being plagued by the same core issues they've had since their inception.
A secondary DPS failing to have much impact, barring the odd map.
Pocket-sized playbook and barely adapting to either meta-game and opponents.
Lack of true star in the position of most natural impact.
Back in October those could have been excused as the growing pains of a new top team; now however, they've been together for over six months and even changed roster.
With three quarters of the thousand words gone now, you might be wondering why did the author say Lunatic-Hai will win a championship if they're so deeply flawed.
For starters, because they have shown some progress and addressed part of their, albeit smaller, issues. zunba joining has brought in more skill and playmaking to the off-tank position, but more importantly - it has solved the confusion of dean constantly switching between tank, off-tank and support.
The addition of WhoRU and slotting EscA into a position where he's less effective may have seen their dealers' overall level remain similar as a duo, but the veteran is now playing considerably smarter, compared to how he and his former teammate LEETAEJUN used to in the previous iteration of the roster. Additionally, the senior players' have deepened their hero-pools, each becoming dangerous on secondary picks. While assuming things is more often than not foolish, one has to hope the next riddle they'll be solving is how to play in a manner allowing two DPS players to be effective at the same time.
A second factor is the amount of talent and popularity Lunatic-Hai already has, in addition to still standing as the most successful team from Korea, will itself attract other top players. To paraphrase the old saying: talent goes to talent. With Lunatic-Hai having some of the best individual players in the world, biggest and most rabid fanbase in Korea, as well as the history of success it is only a matter of time before a super-star like Recry decides he's had enough and joins Korea's golden boys. A smarter move would of course be recruiting a versatile flex player, comparable to DNCE and birdring, that has already shown the ability to play without much resources; however, going by the moves made last time, the possibility for this seems low and too much to hope for.
So keep your heads up Lunatic-Hai fans and don't discourage your favorite team. They might not win APEX S2, but should the core keep working at it together, they're primed to win a premier event in the future.
Photo credits: OGN
About the author:
Hello readers, I go by the ID RadoN! My introduction to esports happened in 2009 and ever since, I’ve been following different titles within the industry. Other games I currently follow are CS:GO, LoL, QL with the occasional SFV and DOTA2. If you wish to provide feedback, support and follow future content, or simply know more about my thoughts on gaming and esports, follow me at @RadoNonfire on twitter.