It’ll take another international tournament to truly test their greatness, because no team in this year’s Overwatch World Cup could touch South Korea on their march to the gold medal. South Korea’s pro players from Lunatic and Afreeca Freecs didn’t drop a single game in the tournament, and rarely appeared challenged. In the championship series against Russia, a best-of-seven affair against a resilient star-studded team, South Korea were in total control, and exhibited a comfort level that suggested everything was proceeding as planned on the way to a 4-0 sweep.
In the first two games on Temple of Anubis and King’s Row, Russia struggled with escort missions against South Korea’s suffocating defense. The chemistry between South Korea’s EscA and Miro was key; their disruptive tactics seemingly keeping the Russians off-balance. When he wasn’t using his Winston to team up with EscA’s Mei or McCree, Miro was wreaking havoc alongside ArHan’s Genji. At one point, Russia, behind ShaDowBurn and uNFixed, managed to score enough damage while defending on Temple of Anubis that ArHan switched from his preferred Genji to Reaper. The switch proved to be the deciding factor, as he ended the round with a flourish of natural eliminations to finish Game 1 with 32 total.
The deeper story of South Korea’s triumph was their ability to neutralize ShaDowBurn as a specific team strategy. Almost every time the Russian star was ready to initiate a maneuver, backed up by teammates holding Ultimate abilities, South Korea’s Ryujehong would be ready with a Sleep Dart as Ana or EscA would stun him as McCree. It got so bad for Russia, that South Korea would often ignore a snoozing ShaDowBurn Genji while quickly dispatching his confused teammates. With so much of their strategy hinging on initial Genji or Reaper damage from ShaDowBurn, Russia were unable to find their footing at any point in the series.
On Dorado, the frustration from Russia was palpable in-game. One sequence saw ShaDowBurn’s Genji whiff on a Dragonblade Ultimate (on Ryujehong’s Ana, no less), get eliminated, respawn, and then walk right into a Peacekeeper volley from EscA. On defense in Game 3, Russia tried non-ShaDowBurn dependent tactics, but the unfamiliarity lead them into trouble as a Nano-Boosted, Primal Raging Redzzzz failed to remove any South Korean players from the battlefield.
In the end, South Korea’s chemistry (three Lunatic players), talent (ArHan’s Genji is elite now, if it wasn’t before), and composure were a perfect combination for the Overwatch World Cup. South Korea now stands, convincingly, as the gold medal standard in competitive Overwatch.
In the only other Overwatch World Cup match played today, Sweden fought for the bronze medal with Scandinavian rivals Finland. A motivated Finland team, behind Hymzi and Taimou, showed strong mechanics around control points the entire series, but came up against a Sweden team showing the same grit and firepower that had served them well earlier in the tournament. During Game 3 on Nepal, a map not often seen during this tournament, Sweden pounced using TviQ on Bastion and Reaper to control the points. In the fourth round, it was a series of Nano-Boosted Death Blossoms from TviQ that kept Finland off-balance just enough, even in the face of Taimou’s stellar Reaper play, to secure the win and the bronze medal for Sweden in the Overwatch World Cup.Congratulations to South Korea, Overwatch World Cup Champions!