This article is part of our Overwatch series.
Fans of top-tier Overwatch, rejoice! The Overwatch World Cup (OWWC) delivered quality action all throughout the first day, starting off modest before ending with what might be the best series in the OWWC as Finland and South Korea collided. When the dust settled, the hometown heroes emerged victorious, but they still trail Russia in the group standings heading into Day 2. Here’s how all the action shook out in Incheon.
For the Motherland
Currently sitting in first place in the group is Russia after taking out Hong Kong and Japan in relatively one-sided series. Of note, Russia’s premier DPS, Philadelphia Fusion’s own George “ShaDowBurn” Gushcha, has made a strong case for being this group’s MVP frontrunner. SDB’s Pharah play was immaculate, even in the face of impressive hitscan DPS such as Japan’s rising star, Yuma “Dep” Hisamoto, while the rest of SDB’s deep hero pool carried Russia to a 2-0 record and a 7-1 game score to put them in first place. Admittedly, Russia hasn’t had to play the powerhouses of the group yet, and SDB’s DPS partner Stanislav “Mistakes” Danilov only found production on his (admittedly great) Tracer, so if other teams can slow down SDB, Russia might have issues. That said, the way Russia is playing aggressively has appeared to have caught teams off guard, particularly around the aggressive Resurrections from support Andrey “Engh” Sholokhov. If this team can keep its form against the big dogs, don’t be surprised when SDB leads this team into BlizzCon.
The East Struggles (minus South Korea)
As predicted, Hong Kong and Chinese Taipei struggled out of the gate, with both teams looking just a cut below the other teams in the group. Hong Kong looked like a newly-formed contenders team, relying heavily on GOATS compositions (Reinhardt/Zarya/D.va/Brigitte/Lucio/Moira) and pure dive comps. Hong Kong’s coordination was off in both of its games on Day 1, getting utterly decimated by Russia and Finland. Chinese Taipei, meanwhile, fared slightly better than Hong Kong, but not by much. DPS Lin “ShaiuLin” Keng-Yu impressed on the international stage against South Korea, but the rest of his team didn’t do much, and Taiwan was against South Korea, so the loss was inevitable.
What was disappointing, though, was Japan’s performance against Russia in a battle of what will probably be the 3rd and 4th place teams in the group. Japan came out of the gate hot with Dep making his international debut, taking heads on Oasis in Game 1 and smashing Mistakes in hitscan duels. After Game 1, though, Japan simply didn’t have an answer for SDB, too busy dying to Mistakes’ Tracer to do much of anything. For a pre-established Contenders team entering the world cup, Japan was uncoordinated, allowing Russia to get huge Resurrections off mid-teamfight with impunity time and time again. If Japan hopes to stay afloat, they will need to fix their coordination issues and fast, or else bite the dust in the group stage yet again.
The Big Dogs Battle
Russia holds the number one spot for now by virtue of losing one less map than South Korea, but the two big hitters of this group are clearly Finland and South Korea. Finland smashed Chinese Taipei 4-0 in their first game, with the OWL-stacked lineup running roughshod all over Taiwan. Similarly, South Korea took out Hong Kong in another 4-0, though it was admittedly shaky. For World Cup veterans, though, South Korea’s tendency to start cold and then warm up was in full effect here as, by the time SK took to the stage against Finland, they were piping hot and ready to go to war.
If you haven’t watched Finland vs South Korea, do so now. It was a breathtaking series that went the distance, and it had everything from technical issues to new hero Wrecking Ball to possibly the most devastating ultimate combo in the history of competitive Overwatch. Of note, Finland’s DPS players showed up to play, and the support duo performed as expected. Above all, though, it was the Fins’ tanks that shined. Main tank and Philadelphia Fusion stalwart Joona “Fragi” Laine was a monster on Reinhardt and Winston, leading the charge for Finland while stuffing a lot of SK’s ultimates, while off-tank Joonas “zappis” Alakurtti played well on D.Va and Zarya throughout the evening, showing that he might not stay on the Florida Mayhem’s bench for long. At the end of the day, though, Finland simply couldn’t outlast Korea, which showed up in a tie-breaking Game 5 on Nepal. SK tank Koo “Fate” Pan-seung showed off just what Wrecking Ball can do on Control maps, providing zone pressure and constant crowd control. The real star of the show, however, was DPS Kim “Libero” Hae-seong, who flexed across several heroes, notably Pharah, to lead South Korea over Finland. Despite the hitscan talent in Finland’s DPS core, Libero still dominated the skies, providing a majority of the fragging power as South Korea took down Finland 3-2. The Fins still made history in being the first team to ever take a map off of South Korea in the group stage, but it now has to beat Russia or else risk losing out on a spot at BlizzCon for the second year in a row.
Game of the Day: Finland vs South Korea. Just go watch it.
MVP: ShaDowBurn, with props going to the casters for keeping the stream alive during a lengthy technical delay.
With all the action from Day 1 in the books, Day 2 looks to keep the action going starting with Hong Kong
getting sacrificed to playing against South Korea at 8 p.m. PDT, with a crucial matchup between Russia and Finland starting around 11:30 p.m. PDT later in the evening.