Before The League: Apex Season 3
Lunatic-Hai came into OGN APEX Season 3 as the defending champions. After winning Season 2 in a nail-biting match against Runaway, they breezed through the group stages. A close match against KongDoo Panthera would see Lunatic-Hai take the win. This set the stage for a rivalry that would last the rest of the tournament. Going into group stage playoffs, the two faced off again almost immediately. This time, KongDoo comfortably put down Lunatic-Hai 3-1. Lunatic-Hai were playing without one of their star players, Seung-jun “WhoRU” Lee, and found themselves overwhelmed by KongDoo’s star DPS duo of Ji-hyeok “birdring” Kim and Dong-jun “Rascal” Kim. As KongDoo Panthera stormed onward, Lunatic-Hai were forced to make a run through the loser’s bracket to end up at playoffs.
Once they arrived after handily putting down LW Blue in their losers’ finals, Lunatic-Hai seemed revitalized. Breezing through Afreeca Freecs Blue, they would meet KongDoo Panthera for one last bout in the finals. In WhoRU’s absence, Gi-do “Gido” Moon had shown himself to be just as fearsome on Tracer. Jin-hyuk “Miro” Gong had proven himself unquestionably as the world’s best Winston.
Meanwhile, KongDoo Panthera were coming off a similar dominant victory over Season 1 champions EnVyUs. As well as their world-class DPS, their tankline of Chan-hyung “Fissure” Baek and Jun-woo “Void” Kang were a major factor in getting them to the finals. The match would go the full distance, a thrilling seven-map back-and-forth. At the end of it all, Lunatic-Hai would walk home with their second back-to-back APEX championship. KongDoo Panthera came away without a trophy. But where did the players who gave their all in that legendary match go next?
Part 1: Lunatic-Hai
After snatching it from underdogs Runaway by the skin of their teeth , Lunatic-Hai were defending their APEX Season 2 trophy. Their roster was star-studded: from veteran and leadership figure In-jae “EscA” Kim to legendary Ana player Je-hong “ryujehong” Ryu. Soon, they would be knocked out of APEX Season 4 by eventual winners GC Busan before they could reach the playoffs. However, the dynasty they built and their back-to-back titles would go down in Overwatch history. It was thanks to this pedigree that KSV Esports (later to rebrand to Gen.G) would pick up Lunatic-Hai’s players going into the Overwatch League under the mantle of the Seoul Dynasty.
As time went on, Gido stayed with Lunatic-Hai. However, he transitioned into a flex player, and by the time Lunatic-Hai entered the Overwatch League he had found a new position at flex Support. Seoul Dynasty’s chaotic roster decisions in 2018 led to Gido being occasionally substitued for ryujehong, and he failed to impress. Admittedly, the team had a plethora of problems that would make it difficult for any flex support to have looked fantastic.
Perhaps because of this, after Seoul dropped Gido he found a starting spot with the Washington Justice. His Zenyatta play in early 2019, especially his ultimate usage, would draw a lot of criticism from pundits and fans. However, in Stage 4, Gido showcased a much more impressive Ana when paired alongside Yeonjoon “ArK” Hong. The team even chose to start him over Nikola “sleepy” Andrews, the team’s high-profile acquisition from the San Francisco Shock. Going forward, it looks like Gido has secured his spot on the roster for 2020.
Although briefly under contract with the team, EscA would not join the rest of Lunatic-Hai in playing for the Dynasty. Instead, he would retire from competitive Overwatch to play for Gen.G’s PUBG team. Having already had a long history in esports before Lunatic-Hai, EscA would find success in yet another title.
At the PUBG Global Invitational 2018, EscA and his team Gen.G Gold would take home first place. Having won yet another championship in a totally different esport, EscA would stay with Gen.G, as a player then as a streamer, until he retired from esports to begin his mandatory military service. Whether he will return after his service is complete remains to be seen.
In 2017, Miro was widely considered to be the best main tank player in the world. Pioneering the aggressive style of Winston that came to define the Dive meta, his instinctive playstyle led his team to many victories. However, coming into the Overwatch League, Miro found that other players had caught up to him. Players like Jae-hee “Gesture” Hong and Dong-gyu “Mano” Kim had developed more tactical, sophisticated ways of playing Winston.
The Seoul Dynasty would have a middle-of-the-table season, a huge disappointment for the back-to-back APEX championship roster. Shuffling between Miro, Dae-kuk “KuKi” Kim, and even (briefly) ryujehong at the main tank position failed to provide an answer for the Dynasty in 2018. At the end of the season, Miro would be released by the team, and retire to become a full-time streamer for Gen.G.
Amidst a fraught and chaotic 2018 season, Joon-hyuk “zunba” Kim was one of the team’s few bright spots. While he’d made his name on Zarya, his D.Va play proved to be intelligent and capable, and he would often impress even in games where his team lost. Retained on the roster going into 2019, zunba saw little playtime. Instead, the Dynasty opted to make use of new pickup Min-hyuk “Michelle” Choi’s flexibility and play Sombra-centric strategies.
However, Seoul’s innovative split roster strategies saw zunba put in for some maps, keeping him sharp and practiced. Currently still on the Dynasty’s roster, zunba’s future is uncertain as the team moves into 2020 after being decisively knocked out of playoffs by the Hangzhou Spark. However, there’s little doubt a player of his caliber would land on his feet even if Seoul did decide to drop him.
The legendary support duo of ryujehong and Jin-mo “tobi” Yang would face a difficult 2018. The meta favored Mercy, who had recently received significant buffs, over tobi’s signature Lúcio. As a result, he would spend most of the season on the bench in favor of Jin-woo “Gambler” Heo. Ryujehong suffered from the Dynasty’s tankline issues. In a meta centered on quickly eliminating enemy backlines, ryujehong would often find himself dying first in fights without the support of his team. At some points in the season, he would even be substituted out for his Lunatic-Hai teammate Gido.
At the end of 2018, some commentators believed that ryujehong and tobi were past their prime. However, the Seoul Dynasty had faith in the duo, retaining them both alongside zunba for the 2019 season. In a season that would go some way towards erasing the mistakes of the inaugural season, the Dynasty exceeded expectations, and a large part of it was down to tobi and ryujehong.
Both players were able to step up to the plate, with ryujehong holding his own in tough matches against top-tier flex supports. Tobi was even started over superstar pickup Seung-soo “Jecse” Lee. After a much stronger season than 2019’s, tobi and ryujehong gave a message to their fans in a tearful post-match interview. It was a heartfelt moment, showcasing the depths of passion they have for the game and competition.
Legends Last Forever
The fan reaction to tobi and ryujehong’s interview also goes to show how deeply fans care about these players. Even those who’ve since retired are still legends in their own right; Miro’s playstyle revolutionized the way Overwatch was played for over a year. EscA will always be remembered for winning multiple championships over multiple games. No player’s career can last forever, but the impact players like the Lunatic-Hai squad have on the game and their fans can never be forgotten.
Part 2 of this Where Are They Now, coming soon, will cover the KongDoo Panthera squad that Lunatic-Hai overcame to win their second APEX championship! In the meanwhile, why not dive deeper into Ryujehong’s famous post-match interview and what it means for the game here.
Featured image courtesy of OGN.
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