The atmosphere was thick with rivalry, temptation, and luck during the OGN APEX Season 4 playoff draw. The Overwatch gods looked on as gambles were made and prayers answered, but the fixtures are now set in stone and so it falls to the players to create their own fates as they enter the Round of 8.
This stage of APEX has evolved over time and abandoned the single elimination bracket of earlier seasons. In the modern era the top eight teams are divided into two groups of four, with a double elimination GSL-style format used instead, to ensure only the most worthy teams make it to the final four.
To kickstart the playoffs, we’re revving up the APEX edition of our prediction series. Taking part in the festivities are myself, CommanderX, and Reddit’s very own TISrobin311. The opening matches of each group will set the tone for the rest of this quarterfinals phase.
Friday 15th September, 6:00 EDT / 12:00 CEST / 19:00 KST
The runners-up of APEX Season 3, Kongdoo Panthera are motivated to take what was almost theirs last season, taking a clean 3-0 in their group. With the 1st seed and their 1st pick in the group draw, they’ve selected CONBOX to be their first opponent in the playoffs.
Poor CONBOX. Almost half of the playoff teams wanted to stick a “Kick Me” sign right on their backs, and for good reason too - CONBOX’s group was lackluster due to a weak Meta Bellum and a missing LuxuryWatch Blue, meaning it’s hard to judge if they’re good compared to the rest of their peers.
CONBOX have almost turned into a gatekeeper team, good enough to keep out the lower tier teams but not enough firepower to tackle the crème de la crème of Korea. I expect them to at least try their best and put up some resistance against Kongdoo Panthera, but this series should be clean for Panthera. Panthera are arguably a top two team in the world right now, and they’ll stop at nothing to get to the finals again.
CONBOX have been un-impactful in every APEX season so far but were gifted a route into playoffs with LW Blue pulling out of the competition. I do not expect CONBOX to make any impact here either, especially when faced with a Kongdoo team that are still odds on to make the final. The Kongdoo team may have looked weak on Control so I could see them dropping that map but that’s where the damage will end.
Kongdoo Panthera, with the healer substitution of Bdosin instead of Luffy after APEX Season 3, has become a perfect team without any individual flaws. The only problem they currently seem to harbor is something similar to Lunatic-Hai - the ability to focus on targets especially on KOTH. Most maps that KDP gave away this season are KOTH and I think CONBOX has a chance as well with their mechanics, which is why I think the result may be a 3-1 instead of a 3-0.
Nevertheless KDP is too strong in terms of teamwork in terms of other map types, and their superior experience will allow them to leisurely handle CONBOX. Of course, if CONBOX somehow abuses the patch changes and map choice, I can see them possibly picking King’s Row and Eichenvalde to experiment on the neo-Zarya (Zarya, Reinhart, Junkrat) comp and forcing Void to switch heroes. Remember that we have yet to see Void play Zarya, and it is a mystery whether he would be able to coordinate with his team on her (this is assuming that the patch changes are applied to the tournament server).
Friday 15th September, 8:00 EDT / 14:00 CEST / 21:00 KST
Most of us aren’t joking when we say that this match might be close. X6-Gaming steadily improved since their top eight finish last season, and they’re looking to go farther this time around. Standing in their path are the pink sweaters of RunAway, the APEX Season 2 runner-ups that are on the path of redemption.
This matchup is gonna be difficult to predict, as both of these teams are on an even level of skill. RunAway have shown great improvement since their APEX Season 3 blunder, and while I don’t think they’re at the peak of their APEX Season 2 form just yet, they’re certainly getting there. As for X6, they too have had consistent results across the board, and unlike CONBOX, they have the tools to run to the top four.
Experience will be the decider here, as RunAway have faced the music up close and personal multiple times. A close series is the call, and RunAway will be the victors.
This is a hard game to predict because LW Blue dropping out means X6 cruised into the playoffs. Making it very hard to gauge the true power level of the X6 team compared to last season. However, what we do know is that RunAway have started to recapture some of their Season 2 form and survived the toughest group in APEX, thanks in large part to Stitch. If he keeps performing then RunAway will keep winning.
This is the hardest match to predict because both teams currently seem to be in their best form. RunAway has obtained the versatility and composition they have been looking for, and the additional discipline/regimen they will learn from finally having gained their gaming house will likely boost their motivation to win this season once and for all. X6 Gaming looked shaky pre-season in the BattleRoyal LAN (held in Korea), but they were able to successfully fix their problems and are looking unstoppable.
However, since the patch changes will be applied in the quarterfinals I’m hoping the meta allows Kaiser’s Reinhart to make an appearance again. I think there is a possibility that RunAway can surprise everyone by showing their old Season 2 comp - Kaiser on Reinhart, Bumper on Zarya/Roadhog and Kox on healer - with a few variations such as Haksal on Junkrat instead of Genji. There versatility and unpredictability is exactly what makes RunAway so entertaining to watch.
Tuesday 19th September, 6:00 EDT / 12:00 CEST / 19:00 KST
LuxuryWatch Red came into APEX after placing 1st in APEX Challengers Season 4, and transitioned offline with a flawless group stage. NC Foxes also hails from the top three of Challengers, and are set to collide in a Challengers' matchup.
It’s become quite common to see a new Challenger team herald a deep run into APEX, and LuxuryWatch Red might be next in line to hold that tradition, and in my opinion, they’re the strongest of all the Challenger teams this season. NC Foxes on their end kept a strong mentality to pass through their group. The odds should be in LW Red’s favor thanks to their better skill, and they also have a good chance at the top four.
Both teams have done well since coming up from challengers, LW Red clean sweeping their group and NC Foxes only losing to KDP. I think this game will be close and they have varying map pools which could make this go to all five maps. It will be close but LW Red have looked a more complete team than their rivals and I expect them to them to narrowly take the win here.
Another hard one to predict. Both teams are relatively unknown to the foreign scene, but recently LW Red is reported to be doing extremely well in scrims and they are one of the teams where their online practice pays off very well on LAN. The most formidable duo in the squad is their DPS - Nenne, who currently stays on Tracer most of the time, along with Wekeed, who is a Jack of all Trades and doesn’t hesitate to switch depending on the situation.
In that sense their operating style is very similar to LW Blue - Saebyeolbe sticking on Tracer and Fl0w3r doing basically everything else. NC Foxes didn’t seem to have a standout player, unlike in the past meta where Sasin was able to carry his team in Challengers using his Genji. Nevertheless their coordination should never be made light of, and their constant rotation of members during a series will make it difficult for LW Red to formulate a solid plan.
Tuesday 19th September, 8:00 EDT / 14:00 CEST / 21:00 KST
Lunatic-Hai needs no introduction in the world of Overwatch. The defending champions are out to have one last hurrah before they become Seoul's Overwatch League franchise. GC Busan stands as mere speed bump, but that should still exercise caution - you never know what could happen.
If Lunatic-Hai want to become the greatest team in Overwatch history, this season’s the one to do it, as three back-to-back-to-back APEX titles will immortalize them in the history books. Despite the setback in their first match, they still made it out of their group, and are the clear favorites to get past the first playoff stage. I still believe however that GC Busan can pull a few tricks up their sleeve and maybe scare them on the first map, but Lunatic-Hai should be smart enough to adapt and take the series.
Lunatic-Hai lost one game in Season 2, one game in Season 3 and went on to win both titles. They have already lost one game in Season 4 against MVP Space, I don’t expect them to add to that loss here. Regardless on what roster or roles they choose to field their players on, Lunatic-Hai are on another level compared to GC Busan right now and this will be a whitewash.
Lunatic-Hai is a very strange team. Throughout all seasons of APEX they have shown a very unique pattern which the Korean fans always joke about - being in the group of death but escaping 1st place, encountering a challenge after a loss in the quarterfinals, overcoming that trial to advance to the Finals, displaying a battle of endurance as they struggle to the final 7th map, and finally taking the trophy in the most dramatic way.
There is a chance that the pattern might break in Season 4, as Lunatic-Hai doesn’t seem to have a worthy opponent in their group unlike Season 2 and 3. However, as Runner had commented in the quarterfinal group selection, “this might be the repetition of Season 2 - we will beat Lunatic Hai in [the] quarterfinals to advance 1st place, and meet them again in the finals. The ultimate revenge plan!”. I went a bit off-track but that being said, it is unlikely that a Challenger’s team such as GC Busan will pose a challenge to the two-time champion squad. The only scenario where I see them taking a map off would be KOTH, where Lunatic-Hai always seems to struggle whenever they fight a Pharmercy combined with an arguably superior Tracer. I hope the patch changes enable us to see more of zunba’s Zarya, EscA’s McCree, and ryujehong’s Ana.