Friday, 17 August 2018

RunAway: Korea's Team. Where Can They Go From Here?

In 2016 Yoon "Runner" Dae-Hoon was a popular Korean Overwatch streamer who had an ambition of running his own esports team at the professional level, this led to the creation of Overwatch team RunAway who joined Korea's APEX competition from the first season. Alongside his wife Lee "Flowervin" Hyuna, Runner has led RunAway from little known team, to Contenders Korea season two winners and being one of the most loved teams in the entire Overwatch scene. So much so that they could be considered as as Korea's team. It's the start of a whole new journey for the organisation that takes them into the potential future and where they could be when the second season of The Overwatch League begins.

On their third attempt in a APEX or Contenders Grand Final and their fifth attempt including APAC, South RunAway finally broke their second place curse to win their first major title in competitive Overwatch. With the eight game thriller finally settling in as one of the greatest matches in not only APEX and Contenders Korea history, but in the existence of the professional game. It’s the end of one long, tough road for Runaway, Runner & Flowervin, one that deserves the recognition that they've received. With the Overwatch League now in it's off-season, it's the perfect time to see what may happen in the next stage of RunAway's progression. 

The last Contenders Korea final that took place prior to an Overwatch signing window, resulted in the winners GC Busan and semi-finalists Kongdoo Panthera being signed by the London Spitfire who became the overall winners of the first season in the Overwatch League. The odd team out in this situation were RunAway, who despite finished runners up in APEX season four, were one of the teams that weren't picked up for OWL Season One.

RunAway as an organisation have always said that they either all go to OWL or none of them do and while there was interest from OWL organisations to pick up players from RunAway for OWL season one. These franchises would have needed to pick up the entire team including their at the time underage players. This resulted in most teams passing on one of the best tier two teams in the scene and RunAway staying in Contenders. With four out of the last six teams that have won APEX/Contenders now paying in OWL with Team Envy - Dallas Fuel, Lunatic-Hai - Seoul Dynasty and GC Busan - London Spitfire, the odds are stacked in RunAway's favour to make the step up to the show. Especially with all their players now being of age, the all or none mentality shouldn't be a stumbling block.

Overwatch League
We’re currently at the stage where both existing and expansion franchises are looking at their rosters be it through resigning or trading players and the free agency market that will soon ensue. As the winners of Korea’s premier tier two competition, Runaway have placed themselves favourably to be signed by both of these existing and expansion teams and should actually hold a few cards in their own hands.

Korea's Second Team - Possibly Busan
The absolute perfect match for both fans of Runaway and the Overwatch league, would be for the team to be signed by the rumoured second South Korean city in Busan. Throughout the years, Runaway have picked up a cult following in Overwatch and Busan has a rich history in the esport by providing support to the APEX Season Four winners GC Busan and the upstarts of GC Busan Wave from Contenders Season Two. Not only would Runaway have the backing of the City of Busan itself. They could also have the perfect academy team in Busan Wave, who have hot propriety players in DPS players Kim "Alphayi" Jun, Kim "Edison" Tae-Hoon and Support Kwon "Fielder" Joon. These are players that could not only fit into the squad perfectly for OWL’s season three but could be used as perfect prospects to be traded aka how it’s done in the MLB.

Florida RunAway Not Mayhem
The second option that could be a possibility is that they are signed by an established expansion franchise in either EU or NA. While the Florida Mayhem have been dropping hints about a team colour change from their current Yellow, Black and Red to a Pink and Neon Blue could be related to wanting to fit the City of Miami’s vibrant history. Another could be that they have a pre-agreement with Runaway to be their team from season two onward. Outside of the colour swap for the Mayhem, it would actually be a pretty good fit for Runaway. Florida will be looking at the mistakes made in the inaugural season of the Overwatch League in both the support given to the team but also the players they signed. 

The original Misfits/Mayhem team consistently struck out to be one of the worst teams in the league. While the signing of star DPS player Ha "SayaPlaya" Jung-Woo and serviceable Main Tank Kim "AwesomeGuy" Sung-Hoon helped stem some of this pain for fans, the rest of the team didn’t show up as expected and considering they were on one year contract’s, the time for Florida to cut their losses would be now. Runaway coming in to pair up with AwesomeGuy and SayaPlaya will mean that they are stacked at those two positions but it will allow the team to rotate players according to need and it should mean that the Florida Mayhem/Runaway would only need one or two more pieces to be a contender. Such as promoting Flex Support Jo "HaGoPuen" Hyeon-Woo from the academy team. This would likely result in a team that could be considered mid table to low playoffs, becoming a title contender.

Disband & Rebuild
While to me this is the least likely of all of the mentioned updates, there is the potential that the team don't get the all in offer that they want. This would leave a serious question of the team splintering off into different teams. With the changes being made for season four of Contenders where the teams can now receive 100% of the players annual salary as these teams can negotiate with OWL teams (compared to the previous 25%) There's not a member of this team that wouldn't have interest if they could be solo or duo signed.

It would mean that RunAway would secure much needed funding and could search for new talent. While this runs a risk of making them a farm team and one that would rely on finding these Korean diamonds. It would mean that they could keep the RunAway brand which they would likely lose by joining an OWL team unless they became an Academy team.

RunAway are in a unique position for a Contenders team where the power is in their hands. I would personally love to see them join an expansion team and keep the RunAway colours (Ethan "Premier" Shin has an amazing collection of could be RunAway in game skins here) as you can almost guarantee they would become the most sort after jerseys and skins in the league. It will also be interesting to see how they handle the step up in competition, especially after Kim "Haksal" Hyo-Jong's recent comments stating there's no decent Genji's in OWL. Their smack game is on point and ready for the Overwatch League, but are Runaway themselves?

(You can find more Overwatch League content by following me on Twitter @haloofthoughts)
(Picture Credit: Blizzard Korea)

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