As the most competitive season of APEX moved into the quarterfinal stages it was a gambling Taimou who would dictate the course of events. The group draw landed three Korea titans in Group B, while the West’s last hope found themselves in a relatively easier group with their Season 1 Grand Final opponents Afreeca Freecs Blue. Despite the calibre of all teams involved there was only one game that went the full five maps. The matches themselves may not have had fans on the edge of their seats, but they have certainly set the stage for what might be the most explosive pair of semifinals Overwatch has seen so far.
EnVyUs kicked off the quarterfinals with what many saw as a risky choice, opting for X6-Gaming opposed to the low hanging fruit of CONBOX Spirit. X6 have been making a name for themselves since earning promotion through Challengers and Super Week and proved their worth on game day one, by running back a 2-1 deficit against EnVyUs. A wacky Junkrat push on Dorado started the unravelling of EnVy, with TimeBoy and GodsB showing they could hang with the big boys. ChoiHyoBin deserves a mention for superb D.VA play throughout too, thoroughly exploiting the Defence Matrix.
Meanwhile on the other side of the bracket Afreeca Freecs Blue made short work of Meta Athena who despite making it to the quarterfinals have failed to recapture their form from last season, looking out of sorts in the age of dive. AF Blue continued their stroll into the semifinals sweeping aside X6 and continuing their unbeaten run in this seasons APEX, still yet to drop a map.
EnVy then had to make their way past Meta Athena in the lower bracket and their weaknesses against dive stood out against EFFECT on Tracer. Allowing EnVy to claim a rematch against X6 for the second semifinals spot. A second chance they would clasp with both hands as the multinational Westerners claimed a satisfying 3-0 in quick fashion. An organised and confident display from EnVy that gave hope that they might yet be able to overthrow some of the Korean teams waiting for them on the other side.
CONBOX were in for a rough ride no matter who they got in the quarterfinals, but this group draw sealed their fate. The opening game saw them dispatched by LuxuryWatch Blue 3-0. The other opening game saw a rematch of the opening day fixture where Lunatic-Hai completed the salty runback to beat Kongdoo Panthera 3-2. Though with Whoru benched for undisclosed rule breaking his team looked underwhelming with Gido stepping in. KDP won 3-1 this time.
KDP repeated that feat against a LW Blue side that were forced to play with Luna as main tank in place of Janus who was hospitalised for a persisting lung problem. While Luna performed valiantly his lack of experience on the role was exposed by the super duo of Rascal and birdring. Beating two of their fellow titans, KDP not only secured themselves a spot in the semifinals but also earned their position as favourites going into the final four.
Over in the lower bracket Lunatic-Hai beat CONBOX as expected and would play LW Blue for the last semifinal spot. Janus returned to the starting roster with Pine in the flex support position. While Gido continued in place of Whoru. This looked promising for LW Blue but as soon as the match began their hope quickly evaporated. It was a slaughter, despite the individual talent from the LW Blue players they looked outclassed as a team from start to finish. Lunatic-Hai have a tendency to step up in the big moments and this was no exception. With Gido’s best performance to date complementing impressive showings from the rest of the roster. Anyone who was counting Lunatic-Hai out of this seasons title race will be thinking twice now.
Best-of-sevens await the four remaining teams. Each team has a chance and every map has to be earned from this stage forward. All four of these teams have very little playtime against each other this season making the results unpredictable. Only Lunatic-Hai and KDP have played each other so far this season, trading wins. Everything is at stake with the winner of APEX widely being received as the best team in the world, not to mention the first place prize money of ₩100,000,000 ($88,523) compared to fourth places ₩8,000,000 ($7,081). Guap, glory and (fan)girls are all up for grabs.
The first semifinal sees the unbeaten AF Blue take on Lunatic-Hai. AF Blue’s zero to hero story has had jaws dropping around the world but they are yet to encounter true world class opposition. They will certainly get that in Lunatic-Hai, last seasons champions are looking to claim back to back titles. While AF Blue have literally been unbeatable this season, Lunatic-Hai always play well in the big games. Another shutout victory for AF Blue seems impossible across a seven map series but a victory does not. This game kicks off tomorrow and all eyes will be on AF Blue to see if they are truly as good as they appear.
The second semifinal places tournament favourites KDP against EnVy. EnVy have always been a smart team. They adapted well to beat X6 the second time of asking, but there are no second chances in the semifinals. While EnVy were able to stifle the DPS duo of X6, the same tactics will be much harder to execute against Rascal and birdring. It will take a colossal effort from Taimou and the boys, but the addition of EFFECT gives EnVy a much needed edge and the Western fans one last hope to cling on to. We will find out if this will be enough to topple KDP on Sunday.
Catch all the action on twitch.tv/ognglobal and our event page. No F5 buttons needed for this one. Tune in from 12:00 CEST (04:00 PDT) on Friday (30th) and Tuesday (4th) to see the clash of the titans unfold.