As the last day of the first ever Overwatch World Cup kicked off the arena in Anaheim was packed out for two final incredible fixtures. The day would start with the Bronze Final between Sweden and Finland, two countries with a long-standing rivalry in sport, politics, drinking and everything in between. Add to that the fact that EnVyUs teammates were being pitted against each other and you can begin to imagine the stakes for those involved. Despite nothing more than pride being on the line, everyone was desperate to win.
That passionate game would be a great precursor to the main event, the Grand Final. We have witnessed the clash of East versus West in APAC and APEX already, but while Europe has held strong at those tournaments, South Korea has looked unstoppable in the World Cup. The match was to be a best of seven, pre-selected maps in the following order: Temple of Anubis, King's Row, Dorado, Lijiang Tower, Hanamura, Eichenwalde and Route 66. Join me for a breakdown of both matches below:
Finland started on offence with hymzi on Mei instead of his trademark Roadhog. It works out well with a fairly quick capture of Point A. Going forward Finland seemed very unsure of how they wanted to approach Point B, they attempt right-hand side from their perspective often but get stuffed in every time. They tried several different approaches, but Sweden always had a couple of ultimates at their disposal to get at least two frags on every occasion. Finland were unable to clock up any time on the point with Sweden always having the luxury of faster spawns to fall back on. The match finishes with Finland only capturing Point A.
Sweden came out of the gates with Genji, Tracer and Winston. An aggressive comp designed to disrupt Finland and negate Mei walls. It worked out perfectly for them getting Point A within the opening minute, although Finland had set a similarly fast time before getting shut out previously. Sweden keep using Mei's Ice Wall to boost into the point, but zappis repeatedly lands long distance Bio Grenades which force Sweden to stay passive due to a lack of healing and Finland are able to defend comfortably. Sweden eventually break the hold thanks to some stellar Mei play from TviQ, two Blizzards in one team fight to finish it. Sweden takes the opening map.
Finland had a powerful start with hymzi landing some flashy hooks, but it is the rest of his team really doing the heavy lifting with back-to-back wipes ensuring their swift arrival at the first checkpoint. The second stage was full of wasteful ultimates from Sweden that allowed Finland to make good progress again. While Sweden gathered themselves for the final stage, Finland still looked in good form. The three tank setup forming a ball of death on the payload. It looked like Finland had done enough to finish the map, but chipshajen somehow turns a fatal Taimou rushdown into a one-for-one trade. Finland lack their superstar damage dealer as the Swedish respawns flood in for the final fight and solid play sees the men in blue and yellow hold out.
Sweden struggle through the first point, losing vital time to Finland against some great hymzi plays that keep the picks coming. As Sweden broke through we saw them switch up to a three tank setup to go toe to toe with Finland, Zebbosai on Roadhog, TviQ on Zarya, and cocco remaining on Reinhardt. This works well for Sweden as they complete the first stage and move through the second stage well setting up a close final stage. Sweden move back to the 2-2-2 formation with Zebbosai on Reaper and TviQ remaining on the Reaper as he has a Graviton Surge ready. A super close fight ensued as Sweden grew ever nearer to that yellow marker, but an important pick from hymzi on Roadhog fragging a fully charged TviQ plays a big part in Finland holding and taking it to a third map.
Village: Much to the crowds pleasure TviQ ran Bastion for this stage; he gets there early and cleans up. Once a Bastion is set up it can be difficult to dislodge. Finland tried mixing things up with Tseini on Genji and hymzi on Lucio but to no avail. A dominant 1-0 for Sweden.
Shrine: Finland came back in a big way on this stage. Taimou on McCree is always a joy to watch. Sweden have no one that can deal with Taimou directly and we often see TviQ going really deep on Reaper trying to put pressure on the Finn. TviQ has limited support this far from his team and goes down more times than not. Finland storm back.
Sanctum: This stage favours McCree and alongside the three tank setup from Finland, Taimou gets a lot of room to work with. Finland form a death ball, swarming around Taimou and they overrun Sweden. The Finns were playing really well at this point, they were sticking together and winning the vast majority of team fights.
Shrine: Sweden take the better of the early fight but crucially, do not capture the point. Taimou is able to keep the point alive with a couple of frags. Sweden eventually take first control though as they are now on the Reaper Mei combo, which is strong against tank heavy setups. The fights are close but Sweden remain in control then a Nano-Blossom from TviQ puts Sweden in a great position to tie up the series. Taimou, now rocking his own Reaper, comes back and does the same thing, Nano-Blossoming to get the opening frags and Finland take the point. Sweden now have Nano-Blossom advantage and TviQ unleashes to help his team retake the point. Moments like these highlight some of the current issues with the strength of this combo, but the game is too exciting and back and forth for anyone to get caught up in that now.
Sanctum: Sanctum will decide the series, a stage Finland looked dominant on earlier. Sweden stick with Reaper and Mei to combat the Finnish triple tank comp. Finland seem to be continuing their dominance on this stage, again Taimou has oceans of space and none of the Swedes can close the distance. Whilst it is understandable to see Sweden wanting to stay on the Reaper/Mei, cocco may have been better utilised going Winston to pressure on Finland's McCree threat.
As Finland tick up to 99%, Sweden finally break the hold with a TviQ Nano-Blossom and rush to secure a forward hold. Sweden spend ultimates freely, holding aggressively for several waves to equal out the time. Finland has one more push left, but have a Nano Boost in the bank. They use it on Taimou's McCree but he gets charged by cocco setting up TviQ for the kill. Again finding themselves without their main source of damage, Finland are decimated as they have no option but to throw bodies at the point to keep it alive. Sensing victory is within their grasp, Sweden regroup with their superior numbers to shutdown the stall tactics and complete the comeback.
Even if its a showmatch I've never been this sad— Timo Kettunen (@EnVy_Taimou) November 5, 2016
What an incredible series to kick off the final day. The players put everything in to this and it came down to the final round in the final map to separate them. Finland played the best Overwatch they have all tournament and while Sweden were stronger early on, in the later stages of the series Finland were the better team. You have to credit Sweden for holding on though; they won the fights when they mattered the most to claim Bronze medals.
Temple of Anubis
South Korea create a messy opening fight, but while Russia come out on top they lose Rubikon in the process. This staggered spawn allows South Korea to take Point A. As the Koreans move on to Point B, fan favourite Miro seemingly struggles to make an impact. uNFixed continues his great form on Mei and his Blizzards are crucial to Russia holding on. Everything is looking good for Russia until they find themselves clumped up at the wrong moment, EscA catches them with a Blizzard of his own and the team kill that follows sees South Korea take Point B with time to spare... but not much.
Although this looked promising for Russia it was anything but as South Korea dominated the Point A defence. It was a ruthless display that saw the Russians completely denied the capture. Even their tried and tested method of catapulting ShaDowBurn's Nano-Blade in to get the opening frags failed.
South Korea start on defence this time and are now fully in their element. Russia are shut down constantly by EscA on Mei. Throughout Anak has been running Winston instead of Zarya, presumably as a counter to ArHaN, but it leaves Russia short on the damage front. Despite this Russia do eventually bruteforce Korea off the point with some good play from Redzzzz, but before the point is captured the Koreans are able to re-push with a Nano Boosted Zarya. Even though zunba has zero energy for the entire fight, he draws enough attention and focus to allow his team to clean up. South Korea complete a second shutout.
Russia found themselves with the unenviable task of stopping South Korea capturing the first point. Anak is back on Zarya for the defence and while this works better they still get overwhelmed and concede a second map.
Russia was yet to capture a single point as we arrived quickly on the third map. Russia were to attack first with the hope of breaking this trend but they again struggle, not even getting it to the top of the slope under the first archway. Miro and ArHaN have bullied the Russian supports. In particular Rubikon's limited protection is being exploited to perfection by the South Koreans.
Russia feel forced to defend very far forward due to the low mileage they achieved on attack. Whilst this works briefly, as soon as South Korea traded some frags it was always going to be impossible for Russia. The longer respawns for Russia mean South Korea soon overwhelm them and take the third map.
Garden: Russia capture a point for the first time in this series but they lose Rubikon soon after and their time in control was short lived. From there South Korea go back to dominating and Miro's slow start is well and truly behind him. Leading the charge with the full support of his team, there seems to be nothing Russia can do to stop this tide.
Control Center: South Korea take the first fight and it looks to be a repeat of the series so far. Russia come back strong to take the point, however, as is the theme of the day, Rubikon gets picked. This allows South Korea to take control and transition to a forward hold. Some flashy plays from Miro on Winston give South Korea the lead. Russia overpower the forward hold right at the end with ShaDowBurn getting most of the finals blows, but it is too little too late as Russia cannot get to the point in time to keep it alive. South Korea have one foot atop the podium, one round away from World Cup champions.
Night Market: The struggle continues for Russia as South Korea maintain their level of play. ArHaN gets set up for a five kill Dragonblade and from there on out it was just rinse and repeat for Korea. Russia could only watch as ArHaN continued to charge his Dragonblade and kill their entire team like some R rated Groundhog Day. Eventually the time ran out and South Korea were crowned worthy champions of the first ever Overwatch World Cup.
The tournament draws to a close with South Korea deservedly becoming the World Cup Champions. On an individual level and as a team South Korea were on a different level to every other nation; they did not drop a single map all tournament. On top of this in the Grand Finals they didn't lose a single point on the assault/hybrid/payload maps and not a single round on the KOTH maps. Simply incredible.
Looking back through the five days of play there have been many of great matches and big plays. Lesser known players have been making a name for themselves, Pescanova and nepTuNo in particular. Great play from Poke, Mickalow and Kitty amongst others showed that the streamers were not just along for the ride but to go blow for blow with the best in the world. Beyond the World Cup we saw the announcement of the Overwatch League and in mere days APEX Season 1 will recommence in South Korea - there are exciting times ahead for Overwatch!
Xavier 'CommanderX' Hardy is a former top level Team Fortress 2 Caster and Analyst. Follow @Xavierhardy8