Before the League: APEX Season 1
Before the Overwatch League transformed the scene into what we have now, OGN’s APEX series was the world’s premier Overwatch esports event. The world’s then top teams would duke it out in groups before going head-to-head in double-elimination playoffs. Since the first season of APEX, Overwatch has become a completely different game. Watching the APEX Season 1 final between Afreeca Freecs Blue and EnVyUs, however, should seem at least a little familiar; although it’s not GOATS, those who’ve watched the Overwatch League this year will find Afreeca Freecs’ three-tank three-support composition on Nepal Sanctum hauntingly familiar. At the time, the 12 players on stage during those finals were considered among the best in the world. But where are they now?
In Apex Season 2, Hyojong “Haksal” Kim and Seong-jun “WhoRU” Lee took the Overwatch world by storm. Before their time, however, Wonhyeop “ArHaN” Jeong was Korea’s star Genji. Between him and Taek-hyun “Recry” Jeong, Afreeca Freecs had one of the strongest frontlines in APEX. With Recry and ArHaN at the helm, they tore through their side of the bracket. With the unusual strategies crafted by their coaching staff and their flexible players, they often took teams by surprise. Against a foreign team that had recently had to shuffle their roster, they were the favourites.
Of Afreeca Freecs Blue’s APEX S1 roster, ArHaN is the only one currently playing in the Overwatch League. He plays for the Houston Outlaws, a team coached by Afreeca Freecs Blue’s head coach Tae-yeong “TaiRong” Kim. Hyun-woo “HyunWoo” Kim, who worked with Afreeca Freecs Blue under the IGN “Wife”, is also coaching with Houston.
Despite his strong history, ArHaN has struggled to find his place on the Outlaws. He’s the only player on the team who doesn’t speak English, and GOATS knocked his signature Genji out of the meta. These factors and the pre-existing synergy that the team has have kept ArHaN out of the starting roster. He briefly played Brigitte for the Outlaws during Stage 2, as they attempted to figure out their starting roster, but has been out of the lineup since then. Hopefully for ArHaN, a 2-2-2 lock might see him able to play his signature hero once more during the 2020 season.
After spending three more seasons of APEX playing alongside ArHaN, Recry was picked up by a struggling Meta Athena. After a disappointing Contenders 2018 Season 3, Recry retired from professional play to become a streamer for the organization. As of this article, he has remained in this position.
Jeonh-hwan “Dayfly” Park found himself playing on the Pacific Region team Ardeont alongside future superstars Joon “Erster” Jeong and Min-seong “diem” Bae. He was then picked up by the Philadelphia Fusion for the OWL’s Inaugural Season. However, he rarely started over Alberto “neptuNo” González. As the team retooled itself for the 2019 season, Dayfly was dropped from the roster, and has yet to find another team. He’s spent most of 2019 streaming Overwatch and APEX Legends.
Dayfly was the most successful of the team’s two supports; Jun-hyuk “Yesman” Ahn retired from playing after APEX Season 1. He then went on to coach the Open Division team KCN Vmax, which failed to qualify for APEX Season 4.
Main tank player Yoon-sik “adam” Kim retired from professional play after APEX Season 2. Hyo-jin “JIN” Cho, who played Zarya and Roadhog alongside him, went into coaching. After briefly coaching for the Chinese team Solution Gaming, he spent 2018 coaching Meta Gaming’s more successful team, Meta Bellum. Two quarterfinal finishes in Contenders Korea impressed onlookers enough that he was brought on as the head coach of the Guangzhou Charge. With the team heating up just in time for play-ins, it’s possible that his Overwatch League debut might take JIN, now using the handle “J1N”, to the grand finals once again.
Team Envy’s roster had just gone through a major shakeup when they entered APEX Season 1’s playoffs. With the departure of Ronnie “Talespin” Dupree, Envy had to rapidly adjust their roster. The player they picked up to replace him, Pongphop “Mickie” Rattanasangchod, turned out to be key to their playoffs run. The most recent patch to the game had buffed D.Va, and Mickie was the first player to take advantage of the buffs. The new meta that emerged was perfectly suited to Envy’s strengths, and they were able to take a decisive victory in Overwatch’s first premier tournament.
Dennis “INTERNETHULK” Hawelka, after spending time coaching Team Liquid, tragically passed away in November 2017. His memory lives on through the Dennis Hawelka award, awarded yearly to the Overwatch League player who makes the most positive contribution to the community. After INTERNETHULK left the team and took up coaching, the rest of Team Envy brought on Hyeon “EFFECT” Hwang and made their second playoff appearance in APEX Season 3. They impressed in the group stage, but an ascendant KongDoo Panthera knocked them out of the playoffs.
Running out of Fuel
After the final season of APEX, Envy added beloved streamer and projectile DPS player Brandon “Seagull” Larned. With Seagull, they swept Faze Clan to win the very first season of Contenders North America. Widely considered the best Overwatch team outside of Korea, the Envy organization kept the roster on as they entered the Overwatch League as the Dallas Fuel. However, the team’s inaugural season was a disappointing one. Despite the addition of Scott “Custa” Kennedy and Félix “xQc” Lengyel, the Fuel failed to live up to expectations. At the end of the season, the Fuel retooled their roster. Dallas transferred Christian “cocco” Jonsson from a coaching position, and let Sebastian “chipshajen” Widlund go. After being let go from the Fuel as a coach, cocco has become a variety streamer. Chipshajen has not appeared in the Overwatch scene since leaving the Dallas Fuel.
This leaves three of the APEX Season 1 EnVyUs roster still playing for the Dallas Fuel. Along with Mickie, Jonathan “HarryHook” Tejedor Rua and Timo “Taimou” Kettunen are still on the roster. None of the three have seen consistent playtime in the 2019 season, however. Mickie saw play in the last map of the Dallas Fuel’s season, playing mainly Roadhog. HarryHook showed off a surprisingly strong Ana when Benjamin “uNKOE” Chevasson was unable to play. Taimou has played more regularly, but his inconsistent performances have led to Dylan “aKm” Bignet taking the role of the team’s hitscan player.
The inaugural season was grueling for the EnVyUs squad. They’ve all shown flashes of brilliance during the 2019 season that might revitalize their careers. The EnVyUs and Afreeca Freecs that played the APEX Season 1 finals are no more. But with JIN leading the Guangzhou Charge into the play-ins and Mickie at the emotional heart of the Dallas Fuel, something great might still rise from the ashes. In the end, esports is about old legends making way for new legends. But their achievements will never be forgotten.
After this dive into the Dallas Fuel’s past, take a look at the team’s future with their 2020 schedule, which The Game Haus has covered here.
Featured photo courtesy of Blizzard Entertainment.
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