Watching top tier players clash in a high pressure offline match when we get to go the distance is one of the most exhilarating things you can experience when you're a fan of not just Starcraft but competitive gaming in general – case in point, today's GSL Ro4 series.
Classic vs Dark has been an incredibly entertaining back and forth rivalry for a while now and this latest series between them held that much more meaning when you take into account that the Protoss is at the end of his road – literally has less than a year left to play before he must join the military – while the Zerg hasn't lifted a meaningful trophy in what's been over three years of consistently being at worst a top 3 player for his race.
In terms of what the raw stats were telling us heading into this match, you could have easily been deceived into believing Dark had the edge based off his early domination in what was more of a "nemesis" relationship than a true rivalry at the start of their feud, but when you refine your search to their most recent relevant history, it becomes abundantly clear this was a complete coin toss with neither player having a genuine advantage stat-wise (literally 12-12 in maps over the course of 6 matches, which they traded 3-3, dead even).
In this kind of scenario the player who comes out on top is usually whoever can keep it together mentally and considering during their last clash in 2018 we watched Classic reverse sweep his opponent in a best of five while down 0-2 before doing the same thing in the Final of that same tournament down 0-3 to become the Champion (again, something Dark hasn't done since 2016) it would be very hard to argue against the Protoss if you're going off intangibles in this type of scenario. Still, we all knew this wouldn't be a simple series to win for either player, but I'm confident no one was expecting it to go down quite like this with so much deception, brilliance and fireworks.
Warning: Spoilers Ahead, Obviously.
It may very well be long overdue to stop bringing up the names of Squirtle or MVP, since Classic is clearly the current Build Order King when it comes to planning series. Don't get me wrong, I've got nothing against looking back fondly at the past but you can do that whenever you'd like, what I feel compelled to focus on is the "here" and "now" which both have this Protoss player's signature written all over them. It's astounding to think someone can throw off Dark, one of the most unpredictable and difficult Zergs to play against, by overloading him with increasingly more confusing information. Throughout the day we got to see Classic play his cards to the best of his ability & it always felt like Dark was one step behind, while still somehow keeping up as best as he can. Thankfully, when the series got to the 3-1 score in favor of the Protoss, there was no quit to be found in the Zerg, who valiantly fought on to the bitter end.
M1 | Classic vs
Dark | The Build Order King vs The Unorthodox Wildcard
- Set 1 | Cyber Forest | A "build order loss" that wasn't one
The start of this game was already a bit wild, with Dark getting blocked from taking both his own Hatch and his opponent's expansion – it was very clear that this wasn't a random ladder game, Classic was very well prepared to deal with this particular player's shenanigans – but the problems for the Protoss ended up being the initially odd choice to go double Stargate along with a slight misinterpretation of what had occurred in the game already. To elaborate, when you know that a Zerg is in a scenario where they're forced to be a lot more spread out and so the potential to use Adepts and Phoenixes to get ahead economically is that much greater, it's fair to say you should also expect them to know that as well. What we saw Dark do in response to avoid having this situation play out unfavorably for him in the long run was what he'd already attempted against Dear in the previous round – when in doubt, Nydus all in. The production of Queens and Lings was endless, the addition of Spores and Banes this time around was brilliant & Classic's lack of vision in his own base and inability to stop an Overseer from coming in despite having two Phoenixes building at a time sealed the deal.
- Set 2 | Port Alexander | The definition of a one-two punch
All of the sudden the Stargate made a lot more sense when we watched the Protoss player put it down again, but this time switch his plan up completely going into what seemed like mass Oracles after the initial Phoenix off just one building. While the Zerg did very well to not lose a ton of workers regardless of the surprise factor, his eyes were busy watching the skies while the real threat was about to come
by boat by land. At around six minutes into the game, Dark almost "out of spite" started building both a Spire and fourth base – as if to say "I know this isn't double Stargate, I dare you to put down another one to deal with this now" – but as soon as he managed to scout Classic's third Nexus and found no probes there, I'm sure there was quite a bit of regret behind those moves in hindsight. Seeing as the jig was up, the Protoss quickly marched across the map with a couple of Immortals, Sentries and Stalkers not even a minute or so later and caught Dark completely unprepared at his third base, where Classic pretty quickly dealt the killing blow after doing a critical amount of damage to the Zerg in what ended up being the perfect follow up timing.
- Set 3 | King's Cove | Build order win through the power of priming
The third Stargate opener in a row from Classic sent quite a few cliche "nerd chills" down my spine, especially when the Protoss stopped building flying units immediately after the first Phoenix and Oracle & then proxied his Twilight Council literally in the middle of the map as his follow up. Dark scouted the entire battlefield except that spot – brilliant planning made manifest yet again from Classic – so when a dozen Adepts with Glaives stepped on his creep and there was no Zerg army to speak of (since he was seeing them for the first time) his Drones were left utterly defenseless and almost 50 of them died before Dark reluctantly tapped out. At this point, scouting seemed almost counter productive for the Zerg, something that sounds insane to say but felt true enough thanks to Classic's play.
- Set 4 | Automaton | Keep it simple, stupid
There is something to be said about being too stylish for your own good. While there are likely just as many flaws in always "playing standard" – whatever that means – there's a reason the consensus "optimal" way to go about things exists i.e. what to build, when to get it and why to do something. Using that model, lets dissect how Dark lost this particular game while Classic played "standard" or "normal" to completely stomp him. The what happened to be quite a few Mutalisks, the when was off basically just three bases and the why pretty much revolved around the Protoss player's decision finally not to go for Stargate and instead use Warp Prisms along with Archons and Adepts to harass the Zerg. While I've said many times that I'm not a fan of Mutas off three bases, this decision kind of made sense anyway when you take all the factors into account and Dark had quite a few Roaches in case the Protoss decided to go for an extreme switch in Tech to deal with the flying units easier. No problem so far then, everything's pretty much fine, right? Well, it almost seemed like Dark was still feeling a little too good about his chances in this series despite being down 1-2 already, so he then followed up with an Infestation Pit and actually built a bunch of Infestors while researching Neural Parasite in 2019. It's easy to be a dick about this build after the fact, but I honestly don't know what he thought was going to happen. Dark got the "perfect engagement" considering what his army had to offer meaning he stole a couple of Archons & Immortals for a few seconds and things definitely "looked cool" in that moment. The problem is that as soon as the spell's duration was done, Classic still had an elite army while Dark basically had Infestors with no energy and Roaches. In an understandably straightforward fashion, the Protoss cleaned up the weak Zerg army in order to go up 3-1 in the series, just one win away from the coveted GSL Final.
- Set 5 | Kairos Junction | The danger of being so close to victory
While I can't argue against the fact Classic's prep today was phenomenal, on this map in particular it feels like he got ahead of himself, which is notoriously easy to do when you're within arm's reach of winning such an important series (just ask INnoVation how things went for him while up 3-0 against Soulkey in the infamous 2013 GSL Final). While the Protoss build on this map at first glance was exactly the same as the one on King's Cove – simple mistake you could've made in thinking so, there were buildings in the middle of the map that didn't get scouted again & Adepts with Glaives attacked the Zerg's mineral lines – the circumstances around it were much different. Dark hadn't "just died" to this build, he was primed to do so the first time around. When his scouting Overlord didn't get killed because there was no Stargate on this map & he couldn't even see any valuable tech buildings inside the main, it was only natural of him to start massing units in expectation of aggression from Classic. The response from the Zerg was absolutely perfect – he even made a "just in case" single Spore – the amount of Lings he hatched and used brilliantly bought just enough time for his Spines and Roach Warren to finish. As all in as you can get, Classic still tried to use his Proxy Gates and Proxy Robo to the best of his ability, but there was no opening to be found as Dark swarmed his army and structures repeatedly until delivering the inevitable end to the doomed push.
- Set 6 | Year Zero | Standard failed cannon rush into 20 minute game
I don't know what compelled the Protoss to believe that it was a good idea to go for this type of rush against someone who not only likes to "Drone Scout" but is also famous for being an amazing low econ player. In that regard, maybe Classic got a little too carried away with the idea of "mixing it up" every single game, in any case his base got immediately scouted and as a result Dark's response to the different rush was picture perfect again. While the actual end to the map came quite a bit later, I think it's fair to say you're never going to come back in the game against this type of Zerg player when you put yourself in such a deficit from the start. Dark used Swarm Hosts and eventually Brood Lords to be infinitely more efficient than his opponent throughout the game & wrap it up to take us into the final map we were dying at this point to see.
- Set 7 | New Repugnancy | Classic way to close the show in a PvZ
Do you know why the Immortal/Sentry push was dubbed the "Soul Train"? Because the man who invented it said he was willing to bet his soul on this build. Tonight, Classic agreed with that sentiment fully as he put down the Robo, stopped Probe production early, queued up the Immortals and marched across the map not even 6 minutes into the game. Dark scrambled together a fighting force as quickly as he could, but there was no time left, fate was knocking on his door. Classic destroyed the third base, killed a ton of workers, held the counter attack and showed damn near perfect micro dodging Dark's seemingly endless waves of Ravager biles. The former GSL Champion barely fought back tears of joy as the "gg" came in to extend his incredible run and bring him to the Final one more time, 5 years after earning his crown.
- Map of the Night – While it basically "cost" the two maps before it to pull off so successfully, the build on King's Cove really stood out for me regardless because it really showed the power behind planning a series so brilliantly. In the end it did look like a "basic" Adept all in, but I think that's completely taking away from the context of everything Classic had done prior to that in order to secure this win against someone of Dark's caliber (I think it's even more telling how important the previous games were from the fact he couldn't do it again in the series, albeit a slightly different variation, not even remotely as successfully).
Some closing thoughts on our first finalist in this season of GSL:
- Classic has already taken out Rogue, Dark and Trap (twice), this is a man on a mission. However we all know the Final Boss of the GSL – Reigning, Defending, 3x Consecutive Champion – is on his way. The only thing on Classic's mind right now has to be last year's bitter 1-4 defeat at the hands of Maru in the GSL Semifinals of S2 and how it must be avenged. And what better way to get that revenge than to deny the Champion his 4th trophy in a row? The only problems with that amazing storyline heading into the GSL Final on the 14th of April are that first of all Maru might not even get there – while the Terran completely smashed Dear, arguably the best PvT player in the world, he's going to need that much power and possibly more to get rid of his teammate Trap, who is only slightly worse if not as good in the matchup and has the additional advantages of living in the same team house as Maru & being mates with sOs – and second of all if the Terran King does pull through and shows up in peak form, Classic is going to have his work cut out for him. Regardless, this has the potential to be one of the most legendary runs ever if the former Champion can pull off just one more masterpiece of a series and I personally can't wait to see him try. Come what may, Classic's name will remain forever etched in Starcraft II history, reminding us what it is to be a Champion.
Keep in mind these were just my observations, if you caught something I missed / think differently, feel free to express yourself as well in the comments below.
See you on Saturday for some disappointingly one-sided or incredibly controversial games, which might make or break this Season's Final!
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 B | Group C | Group D
Day 1 | Day 2
Source: Original link
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