Meet the Koreans: Ranking the APEX S2 Semifinalists

March 22nd
written by RadoN

Meet the Koreans 3

“Meet the Koreans” is a series of articles which aims to familiarize the less hardcore Western viewers with the Korean Overwatch scene. In this entry I am taking upon myself to rank by role all the players who managed to reach the final stage of APEX’s second season.

After thirty-four Bo5 series spanning over the course of two months, OGN’s APEX S2 is entering the final stage of the event and I’ll be providing once again my ranking of players based on role, accompanied by brief comments on the players and their placement. This time though, as evident by the title, the ranking is all-Korean due to there being no Western teams reaching the semifinals.

The aspects I took into account when producing this, in no particular order of importance, are:

– impact – the most important aspect in my opinion, this is where skill meets reality; I judge it based on player’s individual influence over the course and result of the games.

– consistency – how often is a player performing at his personal peak. For example a player might have an incredible S and pretty good A games, but shows those only 15% of the time. Players like uNKOE, TviQ and Taimou are feared and respected not only for their incredible peaks, but also the ability to deliver them seemingly every time they connect to the server.

– versatility – this accounts for how deep and wide a player’s hero-pool is compared to others within his role, as well as his ability to change playstyle in situations where it would benefit the team.

– the eye test – judging player’s performance for what it is, based on what I’ve seen with my own eyes.This intertwines with the next entry, as different viewers might notice or miss different details and as a result draw different conclusions from the same footage.

– personal bias – as most people, I have my own opinion on importance of different criteria; as in at which point impact becomes more important than hero-pool or consistency, past what level of skill is the importance of being able to play in a supportive or reactive manner greater than being able to shoot heads more and etc.

The players are divided between four tiers with S being an elite level performer and one of the best in the world and A, B and C increasingly worse each. Additionally, within each tier I’ve listed the players in order from highest to lowest ranked.

Note: I’ve attempted to do the ranking with all the top pros, so S and A should hold true even in an international context, for the most part; however, things get a bit wishy-washy in B and below, if looked at with the wider Overwatch world in mind, so I wouldn’t take those too seriously outside of the context of the APEX S2 semifinals.


04S tier:

ryujehong – with uNKOE and chipshajen not present, he’s been performing far and away above any other Ana and Zenyatta players. As the robotic monk comes back into the metagame even more, we’ll likely see ryujehong’s game impact increase, as being able to heal your teammates while sniping down opponents fits perfectly the skill set of the bloodthirstiest support in Korea.
This season he’s been dying more often, which is troubling, when we consider how impeccable his positioning was during APEX S1. However, this can be put down to the dive-heavy meta and him being the only real long-range threat on the team, at the moment.
Most played heroes: Ana, Zenyatta

tobi – the second super-star support of Lunatic-Hai has also continued delivering high-quality play and stands clearly above his peers. Similarly to APEX S1, unbelievable number of environment kills, delivering a lot of damage and playing close to the enemy lines continue to accompany his precise timing of sound barrier and the aggressive shot calling. He’s been picking up Torbjorn and the team has been fairly successful with it, but it is hard to say exactly how good he is on the hero until we see more of it.
Most played heroes: Lucio, Torbjorn

A tier:

Luna – a player that many would put up as ryujehong’s rival this season, but the author has found him a bit lacking in terms of impact, at least when compared to Lunatic-Hai’s super-star. He’s been a stellar Ana player, focused on healing rather than shooting down opponents. As such, an important factor to consider for his future is the Ana nerf and the rise of Zenyatta, as his individual level on it isn’t as impressive as it is on Ana.
While the blue-hooded sniper allows for a choice between shooting down enemies or healing allies, the robotic monk forces doing both and Luna hasn’t displayed strong affinity for the former.
Worth noting that from across all roles, he is the A tier player that was closest to being added to S. This makes it unlikely for him to drop below A, barring an unprecedented dip in form, even with the new patch in mind.
Most played heroes: Ana, Zenyatta, Lucio

Kris – Meta Athena’s support has been taking a page out of tobi’s book as he can be relied upon to deliver multiple spectacular environmental kills within a single series. His timing and usage of the Sound Barrier can be slightly suspect, but he’s been improving in that aspect.
Interestingly enough, (as most often it is Ana players who do that) he’s also shown brief but excellent Zenyatta play so keep your eyes out for that. It is unlikely for him to be able to deliver a similar level of performance on the robotic monk against Lunatic-Hai due to their dive-heavy playstyle, but will be certainly impressive if he does so.
Most played heroes: Lucio, Zenyatta

B tier:

Nus001NUS – one of the players on Meta that goes rather unmentioned, yet was vital to their early success. During that period he impressed with positioning and aim, but has been the one to suffer the worst in the transition into the upper echelon of competition. Perhaps due to his team’s playstyle and Hoon’s forward positioning, he’s been one of the Ana players that dies the most in APEX S2 and with them facing Lunatic-Hai next, it is unlikely for the statistic to improve in the immediate future.
Most played heroes: Ana

Gambler – LW Blue’s Lucio main plays fairly well within the bounds of what is required of him, but doesn’t show anything spectacular in general. One thing he’s been excellent at, ever since APEX S1, is his positioning and the ability to stay alive without too much help. Considering that he is in one of the most stacked teams, in terms of skill, it seems to be more than enough for the moment.
An interesting stat is that he is one of the fastest Lucio players to charge his ultimates.
Most played heroes: Lucio, Mercy

the Run Away tier:

As none of these players, except Runner, has played too much within the role the author finds it somewhat pointless to rank them among the rest, so the rankings ended up with them having a tier of their own.

CoMa & Shine – the better of the two support duos that has also seen less play, as Runner (and KoX..?) do the shot calling for the team. Both would be likely placed above NUS in B, or below Kris in A, if they had seen more time.
Most played heroes CoMa: Lucio; Most played heroes Shine: Ana

KoX* & Runner – Runner is the squad’s strategist and founder, while KoX is a promising DPS player who got turned into an Ana main half-way through the season. The team has been playing well with KoX on Ana, but he’s definitely not the driving force behind their recent success.
Most played heroes KoX: Ana, Roadhog, Zarya, Tracer, Soldier 76 ;Most played heroes Runner: Lucio



S tier:

KAISER – his Ro8 performances against KongDoo Uncia and Lunatic-Hai saw RunAway’s tank evolve from a solid A to the position of being head and shoulders above every other tank player, left in the tournament. In the playoffs, he’s been able to outplay both Reinhardts he’s met and delivered unexpectedly proficient Winston performances. Additionally, while most other players tend toward either reactive or proactive style, KAISER switches between between both at will, depending on what is needed in the situation.

The hot performances he’s shown aren’t uncharacteristic, as we’ve seen glimmers of it on multiple previous occasions; however, performing at such an high leveldoing it game in, game out is certainly something new. Should he be able to continue it even in his team’s losses, he’ll certainly distinguish himself as one of the best tank players in the world.
Most played heroes: Reinhardt, Winston

A tier:

Hoon – Meta Athena’s primary carry is arguably the highest impact-player left in the tournament, but the lack of versatility makes his play considerably less effective when  he’s not playing Zarya or the focal point of the team. His high-impact play on the pink-haired weightlifter carries him to the top of A in my rankings, but if he doesn’t learn new tricks soon, the upcoming patch will cause him and Meta much bigger concerns, than not being the highest ranked tank player on my list.
Most played heroes: Zarya, D.Va

janus – last season LW’s tank was somewhat streaky and performed well only when his team was winning, but this time around he’s been delivering and giving Blue a chance to win almost every game. Neither his Reinhardt, nor Winston are the best, but both are dangerous and thanks to his smart play, he’s been able to remain alive in situations where most wouldn’t.
Most played heroes: Reinhardt, Winston

003zunba – his move to Lunatic-Hai was highly anticipated and the result hasn’t disappointed, as he’s been the best supportive Zarya players in APEX S2. Additionally, he’s brought more firepower and playmaking potential to the off-tank position whether he’s playing Zarya or D.Va.
Most played heroes: Zarya, D.Va

B tier:

Miro – the current season hasn’t been kind to the once contender to be called “best tank player”. His Winston play has remained spectacular, but having the team’s focus switched almost entirely to WhoRU and increased amounts of Reinhardt play has lessened his overall impact quite a bit.
One thing he and his fans should look forward to is playing on the new patch; if NA’s meta is anything to go by we’ll likely be seeing him spend a lot of time on the gorilla scientist and that will likely bring him up at least into A.
Most played heroes: Reinhardt, Winston

ChangSik  Bumper – both of them came in late into the season, but helped their respective teams to get to the Ro4. ChangSik plays tank for Meta and Bumper off-tank for Runaway, but both have similarly aggressive playstyles which have been working out within their squads’ systems. However, considering the sample-size and the high level of their peers it is hard to rank them higher than this for the moment. If they can keep up the performances they’ll be climbing the rankings quickly.
Most played heroes ChangSik: Reinhardt, Winston ;Most played heroes Bumper: D.Va, Zarya, Roadhog

C tier:

Mek0 – one of the players who benefited the most from D.Va coming into the metagame late last year. With Zarya returning into the fold, it is to no surprise that he’s been struggling to be effective once again. Furthermore, while he was initially one of the better players on the pink mech, now others have been catching up and his play can be lacking even on her. In the author’s estimation he also has the worst ultimate usage of any other tank player, present on the list.
Notably, he had strong performances on Lijiang Tower and Numbani in LW’s first meeting with Panthera; unfortunately, on the following three maps he performed even worse than usual and was a heavy contributor to the loss.
Most played heroes: D.Va, Zarya, Roadhog


Flower004S tier:

Fl0w3r – the latest addition to the LW Blue roster has quickly become their most dangerous gun. Between his strong Genji play, vast hero-pool, superb skill level and hard-carry mentality he quickly distinguished himself as one of the best players in the world, once given the opportunity. The only standing question in regards to his performance is whether or not he has problems maintaining high-level play late into a series, but that might be something that’s a problem for the team to solve as a whole, rather than him alone.
Most played heroes: Genji, Soldier 76, Pharah, McCree, Mei, Hanzo, Widowmaker, Tracer

Libero* – Meta’s flex player has been a revelation in his debut season of APEX. As the season progressed he has evolved from a versatile role-player into a straight up carry. A statistical monster the whole season, his smart positioning has allowed him to squeeze out seemingly every possible ounce of impact his skill set allows for; however, as Lunatic-Hai will be the first strong diving team they meet in the tournament, his performance versus them will give us an even better idea of just how good he is.
For now I rank him in the S tier, as despite not having been truly battle tested, his performances have been much more along the lines of what Fl0w3r shows, rather than the players below.
Most played heroes: D.Va, Genji, Reaper, Hanzo, Pharah, Mei, Soldier 76

A tier:

Saebyeolbe – primary driving force behind LW’s top 8 finish last season, Saebyeolbe has now moved into the role of secondary carry. Losing some of the resources has seen his effectiveness lessen and hero-pool’s width decrease, but he can still hard-carry Blue when needed, as evident from his latest performance versus KD Panthera. Additionally, he has retained the ability to stay alive longer than most, especially on his signature hero – Tracer.
Most played heroes: Roadhog, Tracer, Soldier 76

Sayaplayer001Sayaplayer – as the secondary carry of the team, initially to Hoon and more recently to Libero, he receives considerably less attention than his peers who fill a similar role; in return, Sayaplayer gets the freedom to play a more individualistic style, while still being an important cog within the well-oiled machine that is Meta Athena.
As his brief stints with Roadhog haven’t been terribly successful he’s been sticking to hitscan DPS heroes; most notably, he is a highly effective Widowmaker player, even though his raw skill isn’t at the level of someone like Taimou.
Most played heroes: Tracer, McCree, Soldier 76, Widowmaker

Stitch* –  throughout the season Stitch has slowly shown himself to be the second best thing about RunAway. Statistically one of the best in the tournament and more versatile than most, he’s shown a level of mastery over Soldier 76, McCree, Zarya and Roadhog. A bewildering aspect of his play has been how often he dies on Tracer – the hero he’s played the most.
Nevertheless, his current level could easily see him as the second or third best player for a championship winning team in future. Unfortunately, at least for the immediate future RunAway doesn’t look like it will be the team in question — at least on paper — considering how the team stacks up against the rest of the field.
Most played heroes: Tracer, Soldier 76, McCree, Roadhog, Zarya, Widowmaker

the Benji tier:

Haksal* – the previous season’s up-and-coming great Genji has maintained a similar profile: astonishing at landing shuriken no matter the range, great at skirmishing and stomping on lesser teams, yet for the most part unable to transition the solo hard-carry performances against teams of similar or higher level. The Ro8 matches saw him break a bit away from that pattern, but not enough to get into the tier.
Most played heroes: Genji, Zarya,, Mei

WhoRU – as the focal point of new-look Lunatic-Hai, the young Genji specialist has been effective, but similarly to EscA last season, very much inefficient with the resources he’s been getting. Overall the author ranks Lunatic-Hai and RunAway’s Genji specialists at a very similar level, but the main reason for ranking WhoRU below Haksal is his mechanical inferiority, even though he plays in a more reliable manner than the latter.
Most played heroes: Genji, Roadhog, Pharah

C tier:

EscA – comparing his level from before WhoRU was recruited to now shows how much impact can being the focal point have on one’s performances. Whereas previously he was a relatively effective player with somewhat inconsistent aim, not getting the space and attention has turned him into one of the worst mechanical players among the elite teams. A redeeming quality to his play however, has been the much improved positioning and smart usage of abilities, most notably Mei’s Ice Wall.
Most played heroes: Soldier 76, Tracer, Mei, McCree, Widowmaker

S: ryujehong, tobi, KAISER, Fl0w3r, Libero*
A: Luna, Kris, Hoon, janus, zunba, Saebyeolbe, Sayaplayer, Stitch*
B: NUS, Gambler, Miro, ChangSik, Bumper, Haksal*, WhoRU
C: KoX, Runner, Mek0, EscA

*flex player

Do you agree or disagree with the rankings? Who are your best players for each role? Let us know at @RadoNonfire and @WinstonsLab on twitter!


Photo credits: OGN

About the author:

Hello readers! I go by the ID RadoN and probably similarly to many of you, I’ve been playing video games for years. My introduction to esports happened in 2009 and ever since, I’ve been following different titles within the industry. Other games I currently follow are CS:GO, LoL, QL with the occasional SFV and DOTA2. If you wish to provide feedback, support and follow future content, or simply know more about my thoughts on gaming and esports, follow me at @RadoNonfire on twitter.