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Overwatch Contenders Korea: Quarterfinals Recap

Following the holiday break, Overwatch Contenders Korea returned with a bang this weekend for the first round of playoff action. Season 3 of Contenders has been chaotic, with numerous teams losing all or portions of their rosters to OWL pickups. It has been an era of flux as new, unproven talent flooded in to fill the space left behind. The quarter finals were yet another chance for chaos to reign supreme, as multiple tournament favorites saw their chances ended.

Team StormQuake vs. MVP Space (3-1)

One of the stories of Season 3, StormQuake was barely on anyone’s radar at the start of the group stage. They were a team that rose through Contenders Trials, but perhaps were best known for picking up Ryu “Kaiser” Sang-hoon, the former Runaway star. After an impressive rally to close the season and make playoffs, their run was slated to end at the hands of MVP Space, the elder statesmen of Korean Contenders. But that’s not how it went down.

Kaiser reclaimed a bit of his former glory, and StormQuake coalesced around their veteran leader to claim a 3-1 victory and a spot in next week’s semi-final. The team displayed impressive patience throughout the match, consistently waiting for the perfect moment to execute the micro-plays that define the GOATs meta, which has dominated Korean Overwatch as of late.

StormQuake played around Kaiser’s trademark aggression through Armor Packs and Projected Bubbles that kept him alive and quickly building Earthshatters. Kim “Proper” Dong-hyun forcefully inserted his name into the conversation of best Zaryas in Korea.

On top of their triple tank prowess, StormQuake also displayed a surprising flexibility. They won fights on the hero select screen multiple times, preying on MVP Space’s inability to flex outside the meta. In particular, their four-DPS look on Route 66 completely threw their opponents for a loop, and showed that StormQuake can thrive into the future, when the meta eventually shifts again.

For MVP Space the loss marks the end of an era. After the game, the team announced it is parting ways with all of their players outside of Lee “Ttuba” Ho-Sung. Several of their members had been with the team since the early days of APEX. The exit of Kim “Yaki” Jun-ki is particularly shocking. His Zarya stood out even in the loaded region, and he was the longest standing member of the team. MVP Space was a team that never reached its potential, never more so than here in Season 3.

Runaway vs. Kongdoo Panthera (3-0)

The team names are the same, but these are not the squads that squared off in last season’s Grand Finals. Gone are the familiar faces. Coming into Season 3, it was expected for both of these teams to drop from their former heights. While that held true for Kongdoo Panthera, Runaway has always been a team that defied expectations.

Runaway tore through the Group Stage, barely breaking a sweat as they systematically dismantled their opponents. Their quarter final match was no different. Kongdoo Panthera was simply outclassed as Runaway dictated everything about this game. They bullied the Panthera main tank Choi “True” Yun-soo the entire match, constantly focusing him with the aid of Discord Orbs that never seemed to go away. They got timely plays from everyone, Graviton Surges from Jeong “Heesu” Hee-su and Earthshatters from Kim “Mag” Tae-sung.

What Runaway has done this season is nothing short of remarkable. After sending their Season 2-winning roster to the Vancouver Titans, they simply reloaded and resumed as if nothing had changed. It is a credit to their organization and Lee “Flowervin” Hyun Ah in particular. This has been Runaway’s smoothest run to a top-four in a major event, and they show no signs of slowing down.

WGS Armament vs. GC Busan Wave (3-2)

This was the game of the weekend, and it saw the departure of a team that many saw as favorites before Season 3 kicked off. GC Busan Wave was supremely talented, but they ran into a team that found its groove at the right time. WGS struggled to start the season but rounded into form in time for playoffs.

WGS flirted with relegation to Open Division in each of the two Contenders seasons this year, but seem to have found themselves at last. Behind the stellar tank play of Choi “Karayan” San-ha and the game changing Lucio of Kim “Mandu” Chan-hee, WGS was able to scrap their way to a semi-final berth.

They were tactical and cerebral in how they played their GOATs compositions, surgically isolating the vulnerable members of GC Busan Wave. Using displacement from Mandu and Choi “DPI” Yong-joon’s D.Va, they picked apart their opponents repeatedly, particularly on Temple of Anubis where they shut out GC Busan Wave. DPI was a revelation, gobbling numerous Graviton Surges with his Defense Matrix and fragging out like the DPS he truly is.

WGS relied heavily on taking the two Control maps in the five game series, something they cannot count on going forward. They will face a much tougher test next week with Runaway on the docket. It will be a rematch of an early loss for WGS, but they proved here that they can compete.

Element Mystic vs. GEEKSTAR (3-0)

Element Mystic look every bit the juggernaut we thought they were. They have the ability to play the meta with the best of them. Their GOATs composition was enough to claim a decisive third map in this series. They rolled through GEEKSTAR without much resistance, but it was their ace in the hole that defined the series.

Element Mystic has a secret weapon that no other team has really shown. They have Kim “Sp9rk1e” Yeong-han and his world-beating Doomfist. For the first two maps, Sp9rk1e imposed his will on this series. He made GEEKSTAR’s lives miserable as he repeatedly ambushed them, turning into an unstoppable force as he racked up overshields by landing Rocket Punches, Uppercuts, and Seismic Slams aplenty. Sp9rk1e’s teammates, Choi “Hanbin” Han-been in particular, thrive in the chaos he creates. He gives Element Mystic a wrinkle no team can match, and it makes them insanely hard to beat.

We will see if StormQuake can come up with answers where GEEKSTAR could not. They are not the same team Element Mystic dismantled in Week 1. Even if StormQuake can shut down the Doomfist, that only means Sp9k1e will pick up the Zarya, where he might be even better.

One thing is certain – there are no more easy wins. Element Mystic and Runaway will face their toughest tests yet next week, and reputation means nothing once the match is underway. There is no more time to find your footing amidst the chaos. This is the moment for these teams to make their mark in the storied history of Korean Overwatch.

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1 comment

Overwatch Contenders Korea: Big Questions for the Semifinals • The Game Haus January 10, 2019 at 12:14 pm

[…] and WGS Armament enter the arena as underdogs against Element Mystic and Runaway, respectively, but after upset victories in last week’s quarterfinals, they cannot be underestimated. Let’s take a look at the big […]

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