OGN APEX Season 4 Final Preview – GC Busan.

Founded in 2017 and qualifying second in the APEX Contenders for season 4, nobody expected GC Busan to go as far as they have. Their first match on the main stage against first place qualifiers LW Red was solid if messy, showing only glimpses of the skill and coordination that would take them to the season 4 final.

It’s impossible to talk about GC Busan without mentioning their star DPS player Park “Profit” Joon-Yeong. “The best Tracer player in the world” is a category with fierce competition, and after his recent performance Profit has to be in contention. Given space to work he carved through the backline of Cloud 9 KongDoo (formerly KongDoo Panthera), cutting off their healing and swinging the momentum of team fights.

Though he can play other heroes, Profit is effectively a dedicated Tracer player. His DPS companion Lee “Hooreg” Dong-Eun on the other hand has shown a flexibility that many professional DPS players lack. Flexibility that has been vital to GC Busan’s success. From Pharah, to Widowmaker, to McCree, there are few heroes Hooreg isn’t competent with. After his prevalence in the early stages, the hotfix adjustment to Doomfist’s Rocket Punch hitbox has seen him used less as the tournament has progressed. A rare selection, it’s one that Hooreg can still pull out when required. Where DPS players usually focus on either projectile or hitscan heroes, Hooreg can make the most of both giving GC Busan a tactical depth that even some of the more established teams lack; Lunatic-Hai we can all see you.

If their DPS duo have a weakness to exploit it’s Profit’s tendency to be overly autonomous. Hooreg’s flexible hero pool and willingness to switch things up steer GC Busan toward a style that sees them attempt to catch their opponents between Hooreg’s long range damage and Profit’s backline harassment. Unable to directly protect each other, this formation can be punished if either of the two DPS players can be isolated and targeted.

Trying to ensure that doesn’t happen is the tank line of Hong “Gesture” Jae-Hee and Sung “WOOHYAL” Seung-Hyun. Where once it was common to see Gesture’s Winston leap in first and be punished for it, over the course of the tournament he’s calmed down, developing a more measured approach that has seen his first encounter survivability increase dramatically.

On paper the GC Busan sub-tank player is Moon “Ariel” Ji-Seok, though for their recent matches against Lunatic-Hai and Cloud 9 KongDoo it has been nominal flex player WOOHYAL stepping up to fulfil D.Va duties. The always smiling WOOHYAL has shown an ability to time his Boosters perfectly, knocking more than one opposing player to their death mid-ultimate; saving his team through an aggressive in your face play style combined with well targeted Defence Matrix use.

Up there with WOOHYAL for environmental kills is Jung “Closer” won sik on Lucio. Able to deal with more powerful opponents through smart positioning and use of the map, his Sound Barrier timing has also been lifesaving. Alongside Closer is Jo “HaGoPeun” Hyeon-Woo on Zenyatta. The support duo of GC Busan has shown a steadily increasing sense of coordination and timing. Smartly staggering their ultimates to give their team the sustainability to stay in fights longer, and win out against opponents with a clear numbers advantage.

Unrelentingly aggressive in attack, GC Busan are still able to maintain that momentum should matches go into overtime. Combining this “all in” approach with surprisingly conservative ultimate usage, and top tier support play, has allowed them to draw their opposition into using ultimates in team fights that GC Busan go on to win. Setting them up to enter subsequent engagements with an ultimate advantage that regularly snowballs into a map win.

Growth. Of their confident. Of their teamwork. Of their fanbase. This is the defining characteristic of GC Busan over the course of APEX season 4. They have grown steadily as a team while others have fallen back into too familiar, too predictable patterns.

It would be easy to make excuses for GC Busan’s season 4 performance: “Lunatic-Hai haven’t been playing well”, “Cloud 9 KongDoo underestimated their opponents”; however, excuses don’t explain their ability to defeat the two-time APEX champions Lunatic-Hai 3-0, not once but twice. A best of seven semi-final match was always going to be challenging for a new team, especially against season 3 runners up Cloud 9 KongDoo. Yet GC Busan made it look easy, taking the match without dropping a single map.

Since losing their first match, GC Busan’s only defeat this season has been a close 3-2 loss against fellow finalists RunAway; a team as skilled as there are unpredictable. The GC Busan that are gearing up for the final on October 21st look subtly different to the one that lost in September; more consistent, with a better sense of their own strengths and weaknesses.

Coming into the final having defeated two of the best teams in Korea, and without dropping a single map out of the last seven, GC Busan are the underdogs only because RunAway have been here before. As incredible a sight as it would be to see Runner lifting the trophy in tears, I have to admit that this is probably GC Busan’s year.

OGN APEX Season 4 Final Preview – RunAway.

From the lowest scoring team in APEX season 1, to season 2 runners up, only to be knocked out early in season 3. The pink jerseyed RunAway head into the season 4 final looking better than ever. There were some wobbles in the group stages, concerns that were largely put to rest after their 4-0 win over RX Foxes (formerly NC Foxes) in the semi-final.

With former off-tank player Park “Bumper” Sang-beom now their primary Lucio, DPS player Kim “Haksal” Hyo-jong has been freed to return to his beloved Genji, where his comfort level is evident. It’s been over a year since Overwatch launched, and professional teams have had hundreds of hours to practice against Genji. Despite this Haksal is still able pull off multi-kills with his ultimate Dragonblade, turning the tide of the fight in RunAway’s favour, or simply forcing the opposing team to retreat. Even when he’s not leaping in with his sword drawn, his confidence playing alongside his long time DPS partner Lee “Stitch” Choong-hui on Tracer can be seen in the way the duo position themselves before and during fights. Individually strong, they are formidable when working together. Coordinating attacks from multiple directions that divide the attention of their opponents, catching them between the Tracer on the ground and the Genji diving in from above.

Whereas in other teams the dive (the aggressive leap onto the opposition, for which the current Winston, D.Va, Tracer, Genji, Zenyatta, and Lucio meta is named), would generally be instigated by the Winston, here it’s all on Haksal’s Genji. Winston player Hwang “TiZi” Jang-hyeon tends to stay back, leaping in only after the engage has been initiated. Dropping a bubble to isolate the fight from long range damage and splitting the opposing team’s focus even further. A stoic presence on the team, TiZi’s willingness to let Haksal take the lead in engages has seen him survive longer than other Winstons, keeping RunAway in fights their might otherwise lose.

Supporting this aggressive front line is either Bumper, or Choi “JJANU” Hyeon-woo on the D.Va. While one uses their mech and Defence Matrix to block and absorb enemy fire the other switches onto the Lucio to provide sustained team fight healing. Recently Bumper has adopted the more consistent support role where he brings the same defensive mindset he exhibited as D.Va to his Lucio play. Able to consistently peel (force attacking players away from their intended target) for his team, he keeps his fellow support player Kim “KoX” Min-soo alive with smart use of his speed and healing auras, along with clutch “boops” from his Soundwave to push attackers back. KoX for his part brings the aim of a DPS player to Zenyatta. Able to headshot flankers while supporting his teammate’s dive with skilfully targeted Orbs of Discord and Harmony. As with several other Korean teams it’s the support player KoX who moves onto the Sombra when needed, co-opting his own awareness of support positioning to locate and eliminate the opposing Zenyatta with targeted EMPs that strip the Omnic monk of his shields, removing a three quarters of his health pool.

Though the individual players of RunAway’s primary roster are highly skilled on their preferred heroes they have long shown a willingness to switch up their composition when needed. Haksal’s tracking making for solid Zarya play in defence, while Stitch’s hitscan skills transfer smoothly to McCree. KoX meanwhile is always ready to step up to a DPS role, whether that be long range hitscan from Soldier 76, or a more brute force close range attack with Reaper. Triple DPS isn’t really a style favoured by RunAway but they have the players to pull it off.

Always a team of high individual skill and flexibility, where RunAway suffered in earlier seasons was in their coordination and patience. Two aspects that were above reproach against RX Foxes where they settled into an aggressive counter dive style that looked near unstoppable. No longer did we see Haksal initiating his ultimate and diving in alone. In multiple instances he held off using it entirely, instead letting his teammates Stitch and TiZi finish off the opposition. Sacrificing the crowd pleasing plays to ensure his teammates could build their own ultimates. A more mature, selfless mentality shown throughout RunAway, one that has seen their consistency rise steadily over the course of APEX season 4.

Though these six players form the core roster of RunAway for APEX season 4, should the need arise their have a pair of substitutes to call on. Technically his role as a main tank means he’s also a Winston player, in reality Ryu “KAISER” Sang-hoon has one hero: Reinhardt. That’s hardly a weakness when you’re as good a Reinhardt as he is. His sense of exactly when to be aggressive and when to stay back and protect his team is superb, and his Earthshatter timings are pure .gif fodder.

RunAway’s true secret weapon though is to be found in the form of their founder, manager, and technically still active Lucio player, Yoon “Runner” Dae-hoon. He’s not been in the starting roster for the last several matches, yet he’s always in the booth until the last possible moment encouraging his team. His passion is palpable, from the tears when his team win, to the sheer unrestrained joy that saw him accidentally break part of the booth after one match, and headbutt his teammates Stitch after another (fortunately no long-term harm was done to Stitch, Runner, or the booth). A popular streamer in Korea, Runner’s tactics and ability to analyse other teams are the reason RunAway seem able to adapt to opposition plays even before they make them. Originally the team’s Lucio player, and honestly not the most reliable in that role, he’s stepped back from that this season, and instead serves as the team’s real-world Lucio, pumping them up emotionally and psychologically before every game.

If RunAway have a weakness it’s here, their performance is feast or famine. On roles they enjoy, with momentum on their side, they make a good case for being considered one of the best teams in the world. If the necessities of role switching mean they have to play out of their comfort zone. If they get tilted to the point that even Runner himself can’t break them out of it, their coordination falls apart. Though a strong performance can rally them again, often not even the individual mechanical skill of Haksal, Stitch, or KoX are enough to grind out a win.

It’s telling that their only loss so far in this season of APEX was against the defending champions Lunatic-Hai. Having suffered a reverse sweep defeat against them in the season 2 final RunAway seemed overly wary of Lunatic-Hai and suffered for it. For their own part Lunatic-Hai have had problems themselves this season, and were eventually knocked out by the other APEX finalists GC Busan, a team RunAway themselves beat 3-2 in the round of sixteen quarter finals.

Going into the APEX season 4 final on October 21st, Runner and his team need to remember that despite GC Busan having knocked out both the defending champions Lunatic-Hai, and season 3 runners up Cloud 9 KongDoo (formerly KongDoo Panthera), they are a team that RunAway can and have beaten. If Runner doesn’t try to over complicate things with new tactics and team compositions, if he allows his team to play their comfort picks, it could well be their time to lift the APEX trophy.