Korea’s VCT Stage 2 setup was completely different from every other region. Instead of multiple open qualifiers leading into multiple Challengers events leading into a Challengers final, Korea had 2 simple stages: one open qualifier, and a 16-team Challengers event. In addition, it was the only region to have any of its Stage 2 events on LAN, as matches were held in AfreecaTV’s studios in Seoul. Slowly, those 16 were whittled down to just one. Vision Strikers are dominant no longer, taking their first two losses ever in this event. Instead, NUTURN will be headed to Iceland.
Group A was an interesting one, pitting Vision Strikers, F4Q, World Game Star, and i need Girlfriend up against each other. Immediately, signs of trouble began showing for the once-dominant Vision Strikers, as they dropped a map to World Game Star. WGS would play Yoru all event long, making them the only team in the world (besides maybe Rix.GG) to use the agent every map. Kim “HANN” Dong-ho would play it all event long for the team, but in the end things didn’t go well, as they fell out last in their group by losing to inG. This made VS’ map loss to them all the more concerning.
It was frankly just a bad day from VS. They would look much better later on in the event. But they just couldn’t hit their shots. With that, they dropped to the lower bracket, where they showed yet more signs of shakiness by dropping a map, and nearly two, to inG.
Group B was also full of good teams. Both eventual finalists, NUTURN and DWG KIA, played here, as well as the former ZFGaming core, playing under the name AUTOCRACY, and amazingly named orgless squad FooD EaT. While DWG had made roster changes coming into the event, it was still a very clean 4-0 sweep of the group by NUTURN. In fact, every match would be a 2-0, AUTOCRACY progressing through the lower bracket but losing to DK.
Group C was also full of great teams, with Rio Company, formerly Team MUYAHO, GOnGO Prince, Spear Gaming, and Feel So Good playing here. Matches here were closer, with Yoon “Lawrence” Hyun dragging GOnGO to wins as per usual, but they’d fall to Rio Company 2-1 in the upper bracket. The latter team had been heavily experimenting with compositions, and it paid off here. In the lower bracket, GOnGO would have to survive a 17-15 Ascent map against Spear, but they still managed to squeak through.
Finally, we come to Group D, with TNL Esports, TUBEPLE Gaming, GOMA, and Gehenna. The TNL-TUBEPLE matchup is one we’ve seen time and time again, and the result was the same here, with TNL taking it in relatively comfortable fashion. TUBEPLE would drop a map to a hungry GOMA team in the lower bracket, but still progressed through and solidified themselves as a top 8 team.
Now we come to the exciting part. Korea’s 8 best were sorted into a single elimination bracket, with a single spot at VCT Stage 2 Masters – Reykjavík on the line. First, we got two 13-10 maps as Rio progressed over TUBEPLE. Then, in what was a very anticipated matchup, DWG KIA took something of an upset over F4Q. While the latter had been barely top 8 for a while, their proverbial stocks went up with that big win over VS. But it ultimately wasn’t to be.
NUTURN and GOnGO Prince played what was a closer series than expected, with 14-12 and 13-9 maps, but NUTURN still progressed to the semis. That left two old foes, TNL and Vision Strikers. Throughout the match, VS looked completely back in form as they took them down 2-0. In quite a shock, VS’ star support Kim “stax” Gu-taek pulled out Phoenix for Ascent, and absolutely ran over TNL with it. Vision Strikers looked good for maybe the first time all event, but their Masters rematch in the semifinals was still going to be tough.
First up, though, was Rio and DWG in the upper bracket. It was a very close series, with all 3 maps going to double digits for both teams. This also led to an interesting development for DWG. Lee “Jeong Hi” Jung-ha had been slowly transitioning off duelists and into a support role for a while now, but for the first time with this setup we saw other members pick up duelists. Specifically, Kim “Secret” Ha-jin played map 2 on Yoru and Kim “Eugene” Su-yeong worked map 3 on Reyna. It was unexpected, and did manage to bring them the 2-1 win.
Next up was the big one – NUTURN against VS. Through two maps, NUTURN systematically outplayed what was once Korea’s dominant force. Things just looked very weird for VS. They would push odd angles, failing to use utility when they knew players were posted there, and they would flub clutches and retakes that they usually had on lock. NUTURN have surpassed them for now, and would go to the final against DK as the favourites.
Unlike the Japanese final happening at the same time, this match was close. DK opened up a 5-0 lead early on Bind, but NUTURN battled right back.
Ultimately they would just dominate on their defensive side, taking 8 rounds to DK’s 3 to win the map 13-10. Moving on to Split, the story was the opposite. NUTURN grabbed a big early lead, 8-2 this time, before DK battled right back. At the last possible chance, 12-11, NUTURN would take that elusive final round to stave off overtime and put themselves up 2-0.
Ascent would play similarly. Jeong Hi picked Yoru for the map and found some massive impact, sneaking up behind NUTURN with impunity. But that wouldn’t stop the favourites. The 6-6 first half was as close as it could get.
NUTURN would give themselves a nice lead on the second half, but DK weren’t down and out yet, and some nicely played Yoru tech by Jeong Hi kept things close. At the last hour though, 11-11, it was NUTURN who made things happen. At 13-11, they booked the 3-0 and their ticket to Iceland.
Final standings for Challengers Korea:
1. NUTURN – ₩20,000,000 + qualification to Masters Reykjavik
2. DWG KIA – ₩10,000,000 + 60 VCT Points
3-4. Rio Company – ₩5,000,000 + 40 VCT Points
3-4. Vision Strikers – ₩5,000,000 + 40 VCT Points
5-8. TUBEPLE Gaming – ₩3,000,000 + 20 VCT Points
5-8. F4Q – ₩3,000,000 + 20 VCT Points
5-8. GOnGO Prince – ₩3,000,000 + 20 VCT Points
5-8. TNL Esports – ₩3,000,000 + 20 VCT Points
9-12. i need Girlfriend – ₩1,00,000
9-12. AUTOCRACY – ₩1,000,000
9-12. Spear Gaming – ₩1,000,000
9-12. GOMA – ₩1,000,000
13-16. World Game Star – ₩1,000,000
13-16. FooD EaT – ₩1,000,000
13-16. Feel So Good – ₩1,000,000
13-16. Gehenna – ₩1,000,000