Perhaps the biggest on-going league in Overwatch esports has already kicked off with its third season, and it’s already looking to make for another series.
It’s of course going to be hard to tell who will be the outrunners in the tournament right now, but with each of the teams having already played a game each – and seen how they have performed – we’re already picking those that have the confidence and composure to make it count.
So we take a look at some of the early matches, and the teams you should be keeping an eye on.
This should be a fairly simple call to make, since with Rogue (one of Europe’s strongest and most popular teams) and Lunatic-Hai (winners of Apex Season 2) in the group, it’s hard to imagine a situation where both teams don’t qualify.
And yes, currently that is how this group is playing out. Both these teams have won the opening matches, sitting pretty at the top of their groups. But that’s not the whole story.
But Lunatic-Hai had to contend with a new roster of KongDoo Panthera, a team that has already had enough success to be a potential threat. It was a rocky start for LH, KD Panthera taking the first two games with ease. Lunatic-Hai managed to take control once more with a clean round on Volskaya, and though it would still be under pressure from KD Panthera it managed to go on to win the first game of the tournament 3-2.
Rogue was a simpler story. The team had to prove itself in South Korea having come off the back of a number of strong victories over recent months. It looked like it was to be an easy sweep until Mighty AOD – a team that was always going to struggle against Rogue – challenged for the third round.
Even the fourth started well for AOD, smashing Rogue into the ground with a team wipe within the first minute. This was a wake up call for Rogue, perhaps, who found its feet once more and went on to win 3-1.
It’s hard to imagine anyone other than Rogue and Lunatic-Hai topping the group, but KD Panthera has certainly made an early bid for a spot. Depending on how the games play out between Rogue and LH will affect how the group shuffles around, but it’ll definitely be an interesting one.
The surprise in this one is how underdog runner-ups in Season 2 – RunAway – failed to turn up with the same strength and determinism they were known for in the previous season. The first game of the group didn’t really go anywhere for the team, with Afreeca Freecs Blue holding back at every turn.
A large part of this was the lack of tank Ryu “KAISER” Sang Hoon, who was finally swapped in at the third and final game – proving a case of too little, too late.
The second series of the group featured KongDoo Uncia and X6 Gaming, and really KD Uncia looked a mess in its first game. But when it swapped out Park “Poise” Jong-hyeok for Yoon “Butcher” Seong-won it was a much more confident victory.
It wasn’t enough, however, and X6 edged out in front of in the games that followed, holding Uncia back at practically every turn. While X6 didn’t look like an unstoppable team, it had made a lot of opportunities for itself that suggest it could be a group winner.
RunAway will need to step up if it’s to make a name for itself, meaning a lot of the way the group plays out is – in a strange twist from only weeks ago – no longer dependant on its results but that of the match-up between Afreeca Freecs and X6 Gaming. The former is one of the strongest teams in South Korean Overwatch, but X6 isn’t about to give up its early advantage.
Here’s a group that’s beginning kind of as was expected. LW Blue – who stepped over its house rivals LW Red in Season 2 and made it to third place – with a confident display up against Conbox Spirit, a team that wasn’t really going to provide much of a challenge against the quarterfinalists.
CB Spirit did make a strong start, though, blocking any progression for LW Blue on Nepal and taking the first round 2-0. They stumbled shortly after, however, and that initial confidence quickly drained away, and it showed.
Meanwhile Flash Lux once again failed to summon the necessary skills to perform against the likes of MVP Space, who has been playing with a good deal of form recently and managed to battle its way into the third season via the Challenger series.
FL bounced out of the first group stage in the previous season and though it’s been given the opportunity to fight once more it’s not looking like a team ready to make the most of this chance. It has one of the easier groups to contend with – which wasn’t the last cast last season – but even so it is now playing at a disadvantage that it might not recover from.
LW Blue will be a safe choice to make it through to the next stage, but who might follow them is still a hard call to make.
Ever inventive and popular team Meta Athena looked like a repeat of Season 2 in its first match against BK Stars. The match was practically over from the start, and though BK Stars managed to fight back and win a round – more than it managed last time the pair met – it was clear very little was going to change.
But with that said, BK Stars went on to play a second game – the only team in the group stage to have done so – and it was like a completely different squad. Up against Rhinos Gaming Wing, a team that fought tooth and nail just to be here, BK Stars found itself able to play away from the pressure and it helped for the team.
It was one of the more surprising games of the group stage so far, not because of the skill on offer – in that sense it was a little weaker – but because of the to-and-fro struggle that these two equal teams were showing.
All the same, BK Stars were the stronger side. For every competent round that RGW showed, BK Stars countered with its own twice as hard, often taking the first round of each map that gave it the confidence to push on.
BK Stars went on to win 3-1, putting it alongside Meta Athena in the league. However with Team EnVyUs – the second foreign team to be invited into Overwatch Apex Season 3 – still yet to play, it’s hard to imagine BKS will be able to avoid the pressure for much longer.
Overwatch Apex Season 3 continues through its group stage for the next four weeks, with a second group stage continuing immediately after. Ginx Esports TV will of course be on hand to cover the events as they happen.