This season the GSL's Ro16 was one wild ride, now finally the Playoffs bracket is finished after quite an interesting show in the final Group B.
Warning: Spoilers Ahead, Obviously.
After watching Dear's replays from IEM Katowice this year, I think it's fair to say when it comes to PvT he may very well be the best Protoss player in the world – however I thought this Group would still be exceptionally difficult for him regardless due to the presence of herO and Dark, two players who are extremely dangerous "wildcards" with the potential to blindside the more "predictable" Protoss. To my surprise, it was a short and straightforward day for Dear as he breezed through to the Ro8 (in spite of some hiccups against Cure and Dark) coming out in 1st place with the shocking 4-0, considering the stiff competition.
Off the back of losing to the man he had already beaten in the Ro32 in an admittedly close encounter, Dark was forced into a rematch against herO after a pretty back and forth first series of the day – which is always unnerving, usually the player who loses a series learns more/enough to change things up ever so slightly and pull through on the second attempt – but by the end of the night it was clear to everyone that there are levels to this game as the Zerg settled for 2nd after beating down the Protoss Assassin again (this time in an even more emphatic and merciless fashion).
M1 | Dark vs
herO | When two wildcards collide
Port Aleksander showcased the power of Dark when his early to mid game shenanigans get pulled off flawlessly. From start to finish, herO looked like there was nothing he could do, any plan he had prepared was utterly shot. What sealed the deal was the Protoss playing exactly into Dark's hands – being seemingly forced into an attack after getting completely thrown off – and in a very Terran-esque move we saw a drop of units in the main seal the deal for the Zerg, essentially being the "checkmate" that let us mercifully move on to Year Zero as herO tapped out.
On arguably the best map for Zerg in the pool specifically for this matchup, herO played out of his mind in what you would consider being an uncharacteristic for him macro game. Initially the Protoss looked like he was about to commit with a really early push while taking a fake third, but it ended up being just a pressure – I personally got flashbacks to some old school PartinG play, where he decides correctly that pulling the trigger won't work, so he just builds up a bigger and bigger army & wins that way – and it was really pleasing to see herO not do a bad attack and actually take his third and fourth bases & control his army almost perfectly using a combination of Immortals, Archons and Storm while brilliantly adjusting his reinforcements to combat Dark's Hydra/Bane/Mutalisk composition (not kidding, the madman actually made "battle Mutas" look legit). This was easily the map of the day in the Match of the Night, incredible nail bitter, any mistake could have turned the game on its head for either player & very impressive showing by herO to take the series into the third and final game.
I have to admit, the map pool really didn't favor herO in this series and to make matters worse very early in the game on King's Cove the Zerg player scouted his double Stargate plan, which the Protoss then cancelled and went into Storm – likely assuming Dark would play this map out similar to how soO did to take out Stats, using Hydra/Bane (maybe even Mutalisks again). This was why when Dark's ridiculously heavy Roach play combined with Nydus Worms popping out all over the place came in – off the back of a strong economy – it basically looked like there was nothing herO could do once again. Priming his opponent to expect a completely different composition in combination with some stellar multitasking just tore the Protoss limb from limb and Dark deservedly advanced to the winner's match.
M2 | Dear vs
Cure | Terran tactics for thee, but not for me?
I think part of the reason Dear has been so dominant in this matchup is that he plays/thinks like a Terran, which is why it ends up looking so easy when he tears them apart, even when going up against someone as good as Cure in TvP. After getting his boats ready on the first map, the Terran player opened with a completely ineffective widow mine drop and then started building up his army to contest and possibly deny Dear's typically quick third base. What the Protoss did to buy himself enough time for his upgrades to finish and set up his counter attack was play around Cure's base flawlessly with a bunch of Blink Stalkers, which kept the Terran confined and frustrated for a very long time. As soon as his own upgrades finished and timing window opened, Cure moved out with the majority of his units and sprinted across the map to the previously mentioned third, but what came almost instantly as he did so was Dear's plan all along unraveling, as he flew in a Warp Prism and absolutely devastated the Terran production and economy. In spite of killing the third base for the Protoss the worker difference and production lost was just too much, Dear built up an army of his own featuring better upgrades and Storm & literally walked across the Port and finished him.
The Kairos Junction map was where the "hiccups" started showing up in Dear's play. The widow mine harassment actually did slightly better, the Protoss lost units on hold position across the map as the Terran moved out and Dear even almost lost his third Nexus against an extremely aggressive two Tank, Raven and mass stim-less Marine push from Cure. Due to some aggressive positioning moves of his own though, a slight misplay with the Raven from the Terran and getting his second Colossus to the battle in time, Dear actually held the essentially "all in" push without even losing his Nexus or important tech units. What happened next was a completely unnecessary move out by the Protoss with his low number of units, which got his third base killed this time around by a pretty weak drop & thus prolonged the game artificially. After calming down a bit and going back home with his important units, Dear pulled out the Warp Prism harass and I think exposed a critical weakness in Cure's play. Despite displaying some insanely sick unit control with Marauders and Ghosts, the Terran once again let the harass sabotage his production and upgrades, fell more and more behind as the game progressed and eventually got rolled over in large due to the economical and upgrade lead secured by Dear throughout the game (even if some of his aggression had been completely unwarranted and actually had given Cure the lifeline he needed to even get into a longer game & have the opportunity to show off said sick unit control).
Dark vs Dear | Revenge is a dish best served cold
Dark is one of those Zerg players that plays to the meta a lot of the time, especially when it has something to do with aggression, he's very much unlike soO in that regard. The problem is that's not always a good thing. When he stopped drone production around 40 and put up the very early Nydus Worm – partly because he scouted Dear's poor vision inside his main – it very much looked like the Protoss would get knocked out easily on Automaton off this crucial error. Unfortunately for balance whiners worldwide, Dear didn't opt to do the easy thing and just die, instead he lost his main – as he should have – and played his heart out to hold the flood of Lings and Queens. At any point Dark could have just transitioned, but he seemed determined to finish the game then and there – why wouldn't he be, most players would have just rage quit out as the Protoss – which is what ended up giving Dear the time to mass up enough higher quality units to stabilize and walk across the map. Showing utterly exceptional micro, the Protoss refused to let the Zerg's fourth base ever go up – confined Dark in spite of the Nydus counter attack threat – and made you remember what he was like when he became a GSL Royal Roader so long ago.
New Repugnancy was where Dark got a taste of his own medicine. Dear tilted him off the face of the moon after easily dealing with his Proxy Hatch and denying the Zerg's own expansions for what seemed like an eternity using great Probe micro and Pylon blocks. At one point Dark was floating around 600 minerals and that was before he also got his first Overlord sniped & got supply blocked as a result. With that devastating start to the game, it really looked like Dear was completely out of his shell and had reached another level after that phenomenal win in game one, he was even patrolling in his main and had set up vision for the suspected Nydus that Dark could have decided to do out of desperation, the Protoss was bulletproof, eventually steamrolling across the battlefield with a bunch of Immortals and Sentries to end the game before Dark even knew what had happened.
Cure vs herO | Regression to the mean, hard to be unseen
I think it was fair to say herO's odds of winning this match looked bleak, Cure's prowess in TvP – especially considering who he has in Jin Air to practice against – "should" have been enough to let him deal with an sOs-esque Protoss opponent. In spite of a fantastic start after some brilliant Hellion harassment aided by a proxy Starport, it all went downhill from there as the Terran kept either throwing units away or left them underutilized throughout the game. At first it seemed like he was pulling off some Red Baron level tactics ("I don't want them to be surprised, I want them to be afraid") with cute Liberator play and nonstop Medivac harassment, but as he lost more and more units and gave herO more and more time, an honest question could be asked of him – what did he think was going to happen? The Protoss Wildcard decided to play the game out in a Trap-esque lategame instead of what you would expect (again, surprising us with stellar macro) and set up a near unbreakable position with Shield Batteries, Tempests and Storm near Cure's critical bases, eventually & inevitably starving the Terran out and taking us to map two, where we would finally get to see some of that aggression herO is known for.
At this point of the day, down 0-3, you couldn't really fault Cure for going out with a whimper, can you? Especially when herO – with his signature micro – comes in wielding a bunch of Blink Stalkers and a Warp Prism, controlled marvelously & mercilessly to completely devastate the Terran's base. I think part of the problem was that Dear had used a Stalker contain on this map previously in the day versus Cure, so maybe he just assumed this would be the same thing, but there was no third Nexus behind this attack – or even many Probes for that matter – and that's why the decision not to start putting down Bunkers, stop making SCVs and generally treat this attack more seriously ended up costing the Terran and unceremoniously finished his run at 0-4 despite having to play arguably only his strongest matchup.
M5 | Dark vs
herO | Yet another sequel that doesn't live up to expectations
I'm the type of person who takes every opportunity to shit on Zerg players going Mutalisks off only three bases, especially when facing a Protoss player who's already opened Stargate – literally, what's the best case scenario you're thinking about when you decide to do that? For some reason, though, it looked like herO wasn't thinking. As he flew around with his Oracles and Warp Prism featuring Archon Harassment & saw purely Roaches everywhere, even when he started trying to prevent Dark from taking a fourth base, where did he think three bases worth of Gas was going? I guess this is the difference between a player like Stats and him & points to why we usually expect more aggression from herO rather than basic macro games. While I admit that Dark was fortunate to not have the Spire scouted, as soon as the Mutas came out and herO had pretty much nothing to deal with them, he immediately tapped out and with that Automaton was done. Absolutely astonishing mistake made by the Protoss, who had all the tools to not only deal with Dark's plan but absolutely crush it and go up in the series. Instead, he was now down on match point and when push comes to shove we know who herO is.
It seemed, though, that on King's Cove there was a bit of an identity crisis going on inside the Protoss player's head. herO simultaneously expanded to three bases and looked like he wanted to go for a longer game, but also tried going for DT harass, then wanted to use Warp Prism Archon play but also didn't want to build anymore Probes. In short, his play felt disjointed and weird, it was like he wanted to go in multiple directions at the same time and as any experienced Starcraft player will tell you that's not how you win games – you pick what you want to do and commit everything to that, especially when the map favors the opponent. Dark went for perhaps the wrong composition, but the one he's most comfortable with – Roaches & Ravagers – and managed to hold off herO's late and desperate push on creep, which didn't even kill the Zerg's fourth and although he did kill many Drones this attack was meant to kill, not wound. Despite sloppy play in dealing with the DTs, Dark stabilized soon enough, rebuilt his forces and easily rolled over the Protoss after his failed push, as you would expect from a top level Zerg player after a relatively straightforward hold.
Here's a link to the VODs from today, there were some really good games throughout the day but obviously one series stood above the rest, at least for me.
- Match of the Night – The series worth watching more than anything else for me had to be the
clash between Dark and herO, all the maps were great but the second one in particular was amazing, PvZ game of the year candidate, incredible restraint and composure by the Protoss against deadly maneuvering by Dark and surprisingly awesome dash of Mutas sprinkled in.
Finally, here are my takeaways for the last two players advancing to the Ro8:
- By the end of the day Dear looked unstoppable and there can be no doubt his best matchup is PvT, which he'll have the pleasure of showing us one more time in the Ro8. We've seen Maru – his opponent waiting for him there – fall from grace in every tournament other than the GSL Code S, but now it seems like even that will change, since all three opponents on his side of the bracket have a great chance to take him out. It feels like we're in a "Wrath of the Lich King" scenario, where the Terran King is Arthas and everyone's knocking on his gates. "No king rules forever", I think we're about to see that statement reaffirmed in the Ro8 if Dear can show up even at this level (I think his IEM Katowice PvT games were better, if you can believe that) and take down the tyrant who's been ruling over Code S for three seasons straight.
- There's really no nice way of putting this, Dark has essentially "snuck" his way out of having to face Maru and will now likely utterly demolish Bunny in the Ro8 to get into another Semifinal in his storied and unfortunately tragic career. The problem then will be what it pretty much always has been – who gets to take advantage of Dark's "demons" and claim their place in the final or even the trophy itself instead of him? Still, this isn't the only Zerg player in the Playoffs who'll be dealing with "issues" and if Classic by some miracle makes it to the Semifinals over Rogue, Dark actually has a real chance to reach his first ever GSL final. That's a lot of "ifs" and "could happens" for my taste, though, especially considering Dark has shown himself to be more than a little vulnerable throughout this Season and outside of the GSL. Still, like soO overcame his own burden, you never know when someone is going to step up & show up, which is why you can never count out someone as talented as Dark.
Keep in mind these are just my observations. If you caught something I missed / think differently, feel free to express yourself as well in the comments below.
Looking forward to the most exciting GSL Ro8 in recent memory!
P.S. Here are the links to every other Quick Recap I've done so far for 2019's S1 of GSL Code S
Group A | Group B | Group C | Group D | Group E | Group F | Group G | Group H
Group A | Group C | Group D
Source: Original link
© Post "GSL Code S 2019 S1 Ro16 | Group B Quick Recap" for game StarCraft.
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