Celebrating the two-year anniversary of RunAway’s first championship win.
Before they supplied the roster behind the original Vancouver Titans, RunAway was a classic staple of Korea's Overwatch scene. Clad in their iconic pink sweatshirts, RunAway would make their mark on the history of Overwatch esports, as one of the most successful teams in the scene with no major corporate sponsors, being an entirely homegrown effort from streamer couple Yoon "Runner" Dae-hoon, and his wife Lee "Flowervin" Hyun-ah. Scrappy, charming, and always hungry to prove themselves, the team's attempts at glory became the heart-throbbing narrative that captivated viewers from across the world.
The constant underdog fan-favourites and heart breakers, RunAway was always so close to reaching the top but always fell short of a trophy to hoist in front of a crowd. The team was infamously always on the receiving end of several championship losses to albeit historic Overwatch teams: Lunatic-Hai in OGN's APEX Season 2, G.C Busan in APEX Season 4 and the APAC Premier 2017, and Miraculous Youngster at the Nexus Cup 2017 – Summer. For a long time, supporting RunAway also meant bracing for potential heartbreak should they find themselves in another grand final.
That is until, Contenders Korea 2018 Season 2, where RunAway was on their fifth successful tournament run as a team and were showing great promise once again. This time, teams found themselves in the early stages of the GOATS meta, a composition RunAway found easy to slip into, as their years spent together lent them a unique amount of team synergy, shades of what would be seen on the Vancouver Titans. Slaying MVP Space and Element Mystic, RunAway were once again in the grand finals of a tournament, facing off against KongDoo Panthera, the only team they lost to in the group stage in a five-map nail biter. On August 11, 2018, fans in the stadium readied their signs, viewers in the east sat down to watch with their lunches, and viewers in the west braced themselves for a final that could potentially last until the very early hours of the morning.
DESTROYED IN THE NEUTRAL – LIJIANG TOWER
This version of RunAway will always be remembered for its incredible team synergy, which allowed them to be one of the most masterful GOATS squads in the game. A combination of Hyojong "Haksal" Kim's excellent Brigitte play in her very early broken stages and Sang-beom "Bumper" Park's inability to not charge off cooldown, made it a nightmare for KongDoo Panthera to contest the point on Lijiang Tower. KongDoo's signature style centred around Jin-hyeok "DDing" Yang's Pharah prowess, and while he is good, it wasn't enough to stave off RunAway from destroying the frontline. RunAway did what GOATS did best, stifle the enemy team in a close-quarters rush that prevented them from ever getting a footing in the game. The boys in pink took the map 2-0 incredibly quickly and took the lead in the series.
SHANGHAI PANTHERA – EICHENWALDE
The Shanghai Dragons 2019 roster was centred around the core of KongDoo Panthera, and their Stage 3 win was off the back of their innovation surrounding triple-DPS, most notably with DDing's Pharah included in the lineup. Just like with RunAway, you can see the shades of the future Shanghai Dragons roster with KongDoo Panthera, and it's DDing that is at the forefront once again. Paired alongside a familiar hitscan specialist, DDing made it incredibly difficult for RunAway to approach a team fight and forced them several times to consider running a McCree, Widowmaker, or even Haksal on his own Pharrah to apply more pressure. Sometimes it worked, but overall, it took a lot of steam out of RunAway's momentum to have to commit so many resources. What's great about watching these two teams was that they elected to run a lot of different lineups to counter the opposing competitions or to play more to a player's strengths. This was a time before GOATS was meticulously perfected and was run almost all the time, it was a unique meta, one of the last that allowed a where what you played best goes playstyle. KongDoo played this map a lot closer, the map giving DDing more space to dominate the skies. If Chung-hee "Stitch" Lee started to take over on Widowmaker, Gui-un "Decay" Jang rose up to match him, and its on Eichenwalde where we were able to see KongDoo's magic start to stick.
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GENJI DIFFERENCE (OR LACK THEREOF): DECAY V. HAKSAL – TEMPLE OF ANUBIS
This is the series that staked Decay in the upper echelons of upcoming DPS players. Not only was he good, but he was versatile, an issue that plagued many players throughout their careers. His Zarya was incredibly strong, his Widowmaker was deadly, and his Genji matched Haksal's who was widely considered one of the best Genji's in the world at the time. He puts in a great performance on Anubis, where he locks the cyborg ninja and blades his way to withering RunAway's time on their attack to zero and clearing them off the point on KongDoo's offence with over a minute remaining.
Both Haksal and Decay elected to run Genji's in Brigitte filled environments that made their executions of neutral poking, diving, and blading more difficult. Still, both players pull it off with the highest amount of impact. It's this equilibrium that's present in Temple of Anubis that allows KongDoo to finish with a time bank, but also allows RunAway to hold point A to draw the map, particularly with this crazy composition that RunAway cooks up.
THIS IS THE DDING, YOU CAN'T TOUCH – WATCHPOINT: GIBRALTAR
On Gibraltar, both teams came rocking with different offensive flavours. RunAway kicked off with the Widowmaker/Doomfist dive and managed to split the fights just enough to overwhelm KongDoo. Once they cracked the point A defence, it was smooth sailing until the final corner of Gibraltar, where KongDoo Panthera hunkered down and made it impossible for RunAway to break through. Firstly, Runaway's tank-line of Winston and Diva, and Haksal's Doomfist, were just never going to breakthrough KongDoo's Reinhardt, Zarya, and Brigitte frontline. KongDoo's Mercy, Zenyatta, and Hanzo played back as far as the bridge and beyond, which made them not an easy target for a dive either. RunAway's only answer had to be Stitch on the Widowmaker, but there was no way he would be able to outduel a pocketed Hanzo without his team's help in controlling that space.
This is where KongDoo completely flips the series on its head. Decay was gaining free ultimate charge off the RunAway's frontline that had no damage mitigation against the Zarya except for Winston's bubble. This means that KongDoo could cycle through a Graviton Surge/Dragon Strike combination, win the next team fight with an Earthshatter, and having great save with Valkyrie, Rally, and Transcendence. Their defence held for more than three minutes, leaving RunAway shut out from completing the map, and with a clear win condition.
Their offence was close to being closed out by RunAway's revitalised dive until KongDoo found the right synergy in their Roadhog GOATS that became an unbreakable brick wall for RunAway to solve. After a breeze through Point B, KongDoo Panthera met some resistance before the final point but eventually won out to go up one map in the series.
PHARAH DIFFERENCE (BUT FOR REAL THIS TIME): DDING V. HAKSAL – OASIS
RunAway goes down a map, no biggie, but the fact that they couldn't complete Gibraltar with over three minutes left didn't bode well to their adaptability. How would they adjust to when KongDoo couldn't be beaten? The worries started to settle in the minds of the fans, and Oasis was not going to quell those thoughts.
At the start, RunAway played it close, facing off KongDoo in the neutral GOATS matchup on City Center. Staving off the aggressive Reinhardt play from Chang-hoon "rOar" Gye, RunAway were able to flip at 99% and didn't give up the point after that. But that would be the only time that map that they would control the point because as University and Gardens rolled around, DDing's Pharah became a problem.
It seemed like there was no counter to DDing's Pharah in the next two sub-maps, and the team began to rely on Stitch's hitscan and Hyeon-Woo "JJANU" Choi's D.Va to stave off the damage to no avail. There was an attempt to have Haksal participate in the Pharah duel, but he was absolutely dominated in the sky, losing at least three neutral air-fights on a map RunAway did not have a lot of space to fightback in. With a dominant performance on Oasis, KongDoo Panthera convincingly to put themselves on match point.
With no clear sign that they had the answers, the narrative shifted once again to this being RunAway's next second-place finish. Having now to win three maps in a row to a team that whose playstyle seemed unsolvable, it seemed like the lights were shutting off for the boys in pink.
"NOW I CAN MOVE MORE EASILY" – KING'S ROW
When his attacks weren't fast enough or strong enough to penetrate Gaara's Sand Armor in the second round of the Chunin Exams, Rock Lee released his training weights and proceeded to move faster than could even be perceived. His speed and agility were too much for Gaara to initially adjust to, and he couldn't keep track of Rock Lee's attacks. King's Row is the moment RunAway took off their training weights and started to give KongDoo Panthera the walloping of legends.
"Enough with the dive, enough with hitscan heroes, enough with trying to find an answer to DDing's Pharah, we're going to make them have an answer to us"! RunAway swapped out Stitch for Min-soo "SeoMinSoo" Seo, their historically better Zarya player. It was here RunAway committed to what they do best and ran GOATS throughout their attack. There was nothing KongDoo could do to stop the aggression, as the skybox on the map was too low for DDing to be out of reach from SeoMinSoo's Zarya, and RunAway's coordination was unmatchable. They were able to have a brief moment of respite after banking six ultimates and using five of them to hold off RunAway from a completion on point C, but of course, lost the next team fight, and were faced with an opposing timebank of 4:20.
On the RunAway defence, they pulled out the unthinkable, the premiere of Wrecking Ball after being released only a few weeks ago, their main tank on Zarya, Sombra Genji as a DPS lineup, and rounded out with their main support on Zenyatta.
The team goes all out with this composition, which in theory could work, but was inconceivable to try on what could be their knockout map. To the complete shock of everyone, it worked. The composition dragged fights out and disrupted KongDoo to a point where their timebank was reduced to zero, meaning all RunAway had to do was capture 33% of point A in under four minutes and twenty seconds. They completed the round in 37 seconds.
YOUR GREATEST STRENGTH IS ALSO YOUR GREATEST WEAKNESS – ROUTE 66
Route 66 sees RunAway again attempt the Wrecking Ball composition, to less success this time, as KongDoo Panthera elected to run a dive variation for the first two points, and with more mobile characters the comp loses some of its edge. But both teams ran GOATS in the final stretch of KongDoo Panthera's attack, and that brawl lasted long enough that KDP was left with only eighteen seconds in the bank. At this moment, the possibility of KongDoo finishing the series here was still in the realm of possibility. If they could just hold enough to stop RunAway from completing the map, or if they pushed far enough in an overtime scenario, they could be crowned champions here and now. From the first team fight on RunAway's attack, it was apparent the game was going to go to an eighth map.
RunAway's GOATS was just too much to handle for KongDoo Panthera, especially for DDing, who tried so hard to make his Hanzo or Pharah work, but it wasn't enough to hold back RunAway's onslaught. With a weak KongDoo overtime push that didn't make it past Big Earl's, RunAway found themselves forcing an eighth map decider.
NOT GOING GENTLY – ILIOS
It all comes down to this, the final map. RunAway has brought it back from a two-map deficit on match point, to duke it out on the final battleground of Ilios. The finale of APEX Season 2 and 4 came flooding into the minds of viewers and fans. A loss to Lunatic-Hai, a loss to G.C Busan, and what could possibly be a loss to KongDoo Panthera. After the first round on Lighthouse, RunAway was on the backfoot, thanks to the hyper-aggressive play from rOar early on that secured an ultimate advantage for KDP that lasted the entire round, and cutting team fights short with some curated Earthshatters. This round of Ilios was the best GOATS mirror KongDoo had played the whole series.
But RunAway was not yet beaten, and they were not out of the series yet. Unaffected by the loss, RunAway rallied behind their own super aggressive main tank, Sang-beom "Bumper" Park, to take the early lead on Well. After a back and forth round that lead to a 99-99 overtime, it was Sung-jun "SLIME" Kim's boop onto Seong-hyeon "Luffy" Yang's Moira mid team fight that helped secure the round, setting the map 1-1.
Here, the game was over before it started. On Ruins there was no Widowmaker to be played, no fancy strategies, just two teams and their GOATS. One team was a set highly talented individuals seeking to put a final stamp on their dominance, and the other was a band of brothers hoping to defy history, to finally prove their worth. As it had been all series, now that there was nothing to hide behind, and RunAway completely shutout KongDoo Panthera in the final round of Ilios, and took the series 4-3, to finally become tournament champions.
YOU'RE GONNA CARRY THAT TROPHY…
RunAway's victory is one for the history books, one that defines an esport. For anyone, to start so strong, to see them fall 1-3, to see them sprint back to the tiebreaker, and to finally watch this team of charming underdogs finally receive the legitimacy they've worked so hard for, it was nothing short of unforgettable. This squad's time together may be over, but nothing can change the majesty of these players who have stuck together through disappointing result after disappointing result, through each heartbreak, finally be rewarded for their hard work. Nothing will ever take that away, and every fan should be grateful the scene was lucky enough to have such an incredible story to view and remember like RunAway's, and they were lucky to have won something first.
Images via OWL