Over the course of the big APEX Overwatch tournament, Meta Athena went from unassuming underdog to dark horse favourite with plays that seemed to spring forth from some mad scientist's lab, freshly glistening with incubation tube goop. Their winning streak, however, has finally come to an end.
In the most recent semifinal match of the tournament, Meta Athena took on top-five team Lunatic Hai. Despite a shaky start in which Lunatic Hai quickly amassed a two-map lead (in a best three of five series), Meta Athena found their rhythm on Japanese temple map Hanamura and started playing like the aggressively crafty demons we've come to know and love. They even managed yet another one of the trickiest plays of the whole tournament when they pulled off this incredible Mei ice wall boost on Mexican town map Dorado:
Video courtesy of Akshon Esports.
As has become Meta Athena's MO, it was a truly astounding play. After hitting a brick wall pushing the payload from behind -- the way God intended -- they boosted over a roof and started contesting it from the front. Meanwhile, Ha "Sayaplayer" Jeong Woo's McCree slipped around to the back of the payload, trapping the entirety of Lunatic Hai in a deadly no man's land. The play, risky and awkward as it was, paid off. Lunatic Hai defended well for a bit, but ultimately faltered to fire from both sides.
Despite narrowly taking that map and bringing the series to a 2-2 stalemate, Meta Athena couldn't close out with authority. Throughout the whole match, they'd been struggling with Lunatic Hai's overwhelming aggression -- a quality that's normally in Meta Athena's corner -- and superior DPS players ended up being the deciding factor. Lunatic Hai's famously inconsistent Kim "EscA" In-jae pulled off some especially stunning Tracer plays, keeping Meta Athena's back line weak and wobbly. (This was made all the more amazing by the fact that, near the start of the match, EscA accidentally walked off a ledge and killed himself on Nepal, a move that seemed to portend very bad things for him.) With no foundation to build off, Meta Athena's defences crumbled.
In the end, Meta Athena was only able to take one point on the final map, Hollywood, and Lunatic Hai cruised to victory with plenty of time to spare on the clock. So ends Meta Athena's improbable APEX season two run, from the low-level challenger series all the way to APEX's semifinals. It's bittersweet, given that they were so close to victory, but still: They came this far, and they did it with intellect that will doubtless change the way pros play Overwatch for months -- and maybe even years -- to come. They have left their mark, and whether you're a pro or just a regular person who plays for the simple joy of booping everyone on Earth into the giant hole on Ilios, you can't ask for much more than that.