Esports Overwatch

Overwatch Contenders Korea: Grand Finals Preview

Season 3 of Overwatch Contenders Korea has been one of changing dynamics. The Overwatch League offseason claimed almost half of the players from Season 2, and threw the region into flux. With both of Season 2’s finalists picked up in their entirety, the title of Korea’s best team was up for grabs. After flawless playoff runs to this point, two teams – Runaway and Element Mystic – stand poised to fill that power vacuum. They will clash in the Grand Finals at midnight ET on Friday night.

Runaway’s Remarkable Rebuild

Few could have predicted Runaway’s trajectory during Season 3. After their veteran core was pilfered by the Vancouver Titans, Runaway was starting from scratch. With less than a month before the season began, the team announced it’s new additions, six players with marginal success in a number of regions and no shared history.

The expectations were low. In an interview with Inven Global, Runaway manager Lee “Flowervin” Hyun Ah said, “Honestly, I didn’t have high expectations. My goal was to just ‘develop a team with great potential and eventually get good results.’” The question lingered: could Runaway recapture the magic without any of their original members? The one link to the past was Flowervin, there through it all, continuing what Yoon “Runner” Dae-hoon had started.

Photo Courtesy of Flowervin via Youtube

It is easy to think of Runaway still as the plucky underdogs. The friendly pink jerseys belie the true nature of what Runaway has become, an institution. With that status come the building blocks for success sustained beyond that of a single roster. First, Runaway was able to recruit talent from across the Korean scene, even poaching players from Contenders rivals. Their extensive tryout process led them to their current six man lineup, including the discovery of Gang “Gangnamjin” Nam-jin from the ladder.

Secondly, the name Runaway now means something. It means something to opponents who have fallen prey to the crew in pink. More importantly it means something to the new additions. “Our players would say things like they now have pride and responsibility at the thought of ‘We are now RunAway,’” said Flowervin.

Their results speak for themselves. Runaway is having one of the best runs of any team in Korean Overwatch history, dropping only three maps on the season. They dismantled WGS Armament in the semifinals like they were an Open Division team. This roster has fully embraced their roles as torchbearers, and at midnight on Friday, they will have their chance to add their own chapter to the Runaway story.

Watch the Element Mystic Supports

Much will be made of the Element Mystic front line. Main tank Lee “Takoyaki” Young-hyun has struggled at times – the team even subbed him out for their quarterfinal match. His positioning has been suspect, and Runaway will pounce on any chance to put him under pressure. Element Mystic will need a strong showing from its supports if they are to have any chance in this series.

The Lucio battle in this series will be among the best match ups of the Grand Finals. Yoo “Unique” Dong-hyun and Runaway’s Lee “Leejaegon” Jae-gon are two of the best across all of Contenders. Both play aggressive styles, using Lucio’s Soundwave to set up their teams for big plays. Their play can leave them vulnerable at times, and minor misplays will be exploited. Neither can afford to be the weak link in this series, but they must balance making plays with avoiding mistakes.

Jung “Xzi” Ki-hyo played hitscan DPS for Element Mystic last season, but was forced out of the lineup in the GOATs meta. In a late season move designed to raise the team’s ceiling, he has picked up Zenyatta duties. He brings a new level of fragging potential to Element Mystic, but he is still playing in his natural role. His transcendence usage has been lackluster at times, revealing him to be a DPS masquerading as a support.

Perhaps the most important member of the support line, Kim “Doha” Dong-Ha must improve upon his showing in the semifinals. Despite a convincing 3-0 victory over StormQuake, Doha was consistently caught out of position. His misplays provided numerous opportunities to StormQuake, and kept the series closer than it otherwise would have been. Those same lapses could be fatal against Runaway, but fewer mistakes will enable the stars of Element Mystic to take over the series.

The Doomfist Question

Looming over the approaching Grand Finals is the specter of Kim “Sp9rk1e” Yeong-han’s Doomfist. Element Mystic has been leaning on him heavily during their run to the Grand Finals, and no opponent has come up with an answer. Runaway is a new threat, one that has proven itself more than any previous foe. There is no way to know how Runaway will handle Sp9rk1e, if they can stifle him and force Element Mystic out of their comfort zone.

If they can do that, Runaway simplify their win condition for the series. In making this a GOATs series, Runaway will feel incredibly confident. Their tank trio of Kim “Mag” Tae-sung, Yu “QoQ” Sung-jun and Jeong “Heesu” Hee-su are potentially the best in any Contenders region. This is not to say that Element Mystic are doomed without Doomfist. Sp9rk1e’s Zarya is unassailable, and Choi “Hanbin” Han-been has carried harder than any D.Va in Korea.

Element Mystic entered the season as a team slated to finally take their spot atop the region. There have been stumbling blocks – a late season loss to a middling Meta Athena squad – and issues settling on a final roster, but they have successfully walked the path laid out for the, Runaway was never supposed to be here, not after all they lost. Now they stand at the precipice of glory with a chance to cement Runaway as the greatest organization in Korean Overwatch. Despite a season of new faces, history is still on the line in Korea.

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