Key Round is a series of articles in which I analyze one round that shaped an entire match. Following our first post on the East Meets West showdown (Lunatic Hai vs Rogue), we recap how a Junkrat surprise pick turned the tables in a Overwatch competitive match between EnvyUs and X6-Gaming (Apex’s Season 3, second group stage).
Replay clips are credit to Twitch, click on them to play; Stats used in the article are credit to winstonslab.com
Picking Your Own Poison
EnvyUs were the first team to pick their opponent in the second group stage of Apex’s Season 3. They had the following choices: X6-Gaming, Kongdoo Panthera, Meta Athena and Conbox Spirit. They had only faced Meta out of this four and had beaten them 3-2. This was the only game they played in the first group stage that wasn’t a 3-0 in their favor. The title tells you exactly who they chose, but I want to focus on how Taimou justifies this choice, take a look at the twitch clip below:
“I think Conbox is like a wildcard team because they play really random stuff. They’re like really hard to strategize against. (…) But against X6 we know they are a full dive team and we are the best against dive.”. Keep this sentence in your mind, it will make sense when we are done analyzing.
This tells us that EnvyUs believes that X6 is their easiest route onto the semi-finals. Let’s see if they don’t step on a Steel Trap along the way.
Numbers and the Matchup
EnvyUs finished the first group stage undefeated and they only dropped two maps in their three games. These were both against Meta Athena, last season’s semi-finalist. They lost on Oasis and King’s Row. Control seems to be the issue for the westerners this season, they lost 0-2 on the Athena game and in both their 3-0 wins they dropped one point.
X6 had pretty decent results with 3-1 wins vs both Runaway (last season’s finalists) and Kongdoo Uncia. Although they lost 0-3 in their second game, it was against AF Blue, who have yet to drop a single map this season. Control also seems to be the problem for these guys, with the two lost maps in their wins being from this map-type.
The numbers are not too different, but if we look at the history of both teams we can see the disparities. EnvyUs played in Apex’s Season One and Two and have placed First and Seventh, respectively. Therefore, their experience compared to that of a team that just got out of Apex Challenger is huge. Warning: Total Mayhem does not seem to care about numbers and experience though.
The Key Round
We arrive in Dorado. Here is where the clash of these two teams creates this game’s Key Round. Before getting into the fun part, let’s jump back with our Concussion Mine and take a look at what brought us here. X6-Gaming took Nepal 2-0, it was a relatively easy affair from the Koreans. They neutralized Mickie’s D.Va and this disarmed Taimou who finished the map with 4 kills.
EnvyUs picked King’s Row in response. They managed to get the full push with 2:44 minutes in the bank with a monster performance from Mickie. The map was not over though, X6 got the full push aswell but with no time to spare. This left EnvyUs with the task of getting one checkpoint to win the map and that they did.
Temple of Anubis was the answer from X6. Not a good one though. After a very back and forth map with the Koreans insisting on a Buff and Protect the Widowmaker comp, off we went to Night Market (Lijiang Tower) for the tiebreaker. EnvyUs ended up taking this map with Taimou getting all eyes on his Widowmaker.
Here we are again in Mexico. Why did X6 pick this map though? Less than a month before this match EnvyUs full held Athena here. It was that series’ most dominant showing. This was the start of X6’s unpredictability, Conbox’s feature that scared Taimou and company.
The game kicks off with X6 in the same position Meta Athena was in, attacking. EnvyUs is running the same comp they ran in that match, but with Winston instead of Reinhardt:
X6-Gaming knew that this was the comp they would ran when they picked the map. This was their answer:
At first glance this is a very weird and fun composition. But the more you look into it, the more you get amazed. This was a direct counter to EnvyUs’ comp based on unpredictability.
Let’s start with the Heroes: Lucio, Tracer, Zenyatta and Soldier are average members of the classic dive comp. But we want to look into the special guest, Reinhardt and the VIP of the party, Junkrat. Why are these characters entitled to these special positions, you ask? Well, Reinhardt has 10.58% time played in Apex Season 3 (Including this match) and our Australian anarchist had only been played in any competition for little more than one minute. Is this enough unpredictability for you? (The right answer is no.)
Looking past the heroes we can see who is playing them. Gily, Bebe, Timeboy and Godsb are playing their usual roles. When we get into our special guest and VIP the roles are all but usual. Reinhardt is being played by Choihyobin and Junkrat by NoSmite. This makes the unpredictability rely not only on the heroes but also on the players. Choihyobin spent 94% of his time (including this match) on D.Va and, NoSmite spent 86% of his time on Winston.
Junkrat’s First Push
One question remains though, why Junkrat? X6 opted for this pick because it works wonders against Lucioless comps and because they knew Mickie would not be playing Zarya to use her Barriers to charge up all her energy off a few grenades. With all the theory out of the way, let’s see how X6-Gaming executed this crazy but genial tactic.
The Koreans initiate this push with the same objective in mind as they have had throughout the series: neutralize Mickie. The D.Va is indeed the first to fall on the side of EnvyUs and, with one single kill Nosmite is already sitting on 82% ult charge. The poke damage from the Junkrat and the lack of Defense Matrix forces EnvyUs to back off onto the first checkpoint. X6 chases immediately after them and, even though the much expected first RIP-tire of the tournament does not grab any kills, neither does Chips’ Nanoboost. Timeboy kills both Supports and they capture the first checkpoint with 5:09 in the bank.
There are no ults on either side and EnvyUs decides to stick with this comp. They try to capitalize on the lack of Genji and/or Phara and play the high ground on the streets phase. The unpredictability of X6’s comp ruins their plans though, with Junkrat’s spam from the low ground and Tracer’s Pulse Bomb onto the backline, Envy are force to drop down and engage.
Note that when Taimou engages with his Tac. Visor X6 have the advantage on the support ultimates. The fight goes the way of the Koreans with only Gily getting killed. Envy leaves this fight with the ult economy on their side now. The push continues and Nosmite uses his second RIP-tire and this time he manages to kill Harryhook right before the next fight starts. With one support down Envy falls to pieces even with the Nanoboost onto Winston and D.Va’s Self-Destruct.
The Final Grenade in the Coffin
X6-Gaming initiates the push onto the third and final checkpoint with 4:50 minutes to spare. The only ults available are both Pulse Bombs and Cocco’s Primal Rage. We finally see an adaptation from EnvyUs, Harryhook jumps onto the Lucio and Chipshajen takes control of the Ana. The Koreans manage to farm up the Earthshatter and Transcendence so, with the help of Timeboy’s Pulse Bomb they engage onto EnvyUs. This works wonders since they know no defensive ults will be available with the hero change. After dying, Taimou desperately changes onto Mei and Winston cleans house with his ultimate. X6 trusts the power of their unpredictability though. They go back to what is their usual dive comp as they see the changes from EnvyUs.
Bebe gets an headshot onto Harryhook who falls without using his ult and X6 destroy Envyus with nothing but a Sound Barrier and Tac Visor. Chips threw his Nanoboost to try to save Mickie’s mech, Mickie used his ult to try to survive but nothing works. Harryhook respawns and ults alone on the payload and ends up falling too. X6-Gaming get the full push on Dorado with 2:40 mins on the time bank.
X6 ended up taking the match 3-2 with the last map played being Hollywood. EnvyUs were very stubborn with their picks, trying to make the Reaper-Sombra combo work and changing very late. This was an obvious upset. Even after this win I still think EnvyUs are considerably better than X6-Gaming. Unpredictability was the key to success in this game. I think that, now that this very interesting counter pick is in EnvyUs’ book now X6 are in a big disadvantage. These teams will face off again in an elimination match and I predict that the Westerners will take the series 3-1. If they keep it simple and are open to adapting to X6’s innovations I don’t see how the Koreans can win.
Nevertheless, the new picks and ridiculous flexibility that X6-Gaming showed in this series was very entertaining. It also shows how good they are at preparing for a match and using the existing vods to find the ideal counter picks. Even if they lose to EnvyUs and are eliminated I expect more from them as experience also becomes a factor on the next season.
Going back to the sentence I told you not to forget, Taimou’s comment ended up being very ironic. He avoids Conbox due to their unpredictable play style and this is exactly what X6 uses to beat them. They not only use the unpredictability, they use EnvyUs’ confidence on running almost the same comp they ran less than a month before. So, just like our VIP pick would say:
“Oh, you really stepped on it mate!”