There are tons of reasons why we appreciate underdog stories, one of which is that when they go on for long enough on some level it's understood by everyone involved the story could end at any moment, it's essentially what keeps us watching and cheering for the unlikely set of events to keep occurring regardless.
When we get to see the fairy tale come to a happy ending it's almost worth it for all those previous times where what should have happened did happen i.e. the favorite restores order, usually in the most emphatic fashion imaginable. To draw an obvious example from this Season, that's basically what Dark did to Bunny in the Ro8.
Heading into today's second Semifinal there wasn't much of a sample size when talking about relevant offline matches between Maru and Trap, in fact the only time they had met which was remotely important happened to be IEM Katowice this year, where we watched the Protoss pretty handily take care of business 2-0 in the Group Stage. Aside from that nice feather in his cap, you could also point to Trap taking out both TY in the Ro8 and INnoVation in the Ro16 for this season of the GSL, respectively the second and third best Terran players in the world, as very good showings heading into this series. As for how Maru was doing lately in TvP, his most impressive recent feats were what he did to Neeb at WESG and then the additional clinic he put on Dear in the previous round. All in all, taking into account this was a Jin Air team-kill scenario, this match should have been extremely close on paper.
The problem with that ended up being the intangibles, the fact Maru was on his way to breaking even more records with a 4th consecutive GSL Code S Championship while Trap was in his first ever Code S Semifinal. Pretending that context somehow didn't matter is why you could have ended up shocked with today's results.
Warning: Spoilers Ahead, Obviously.
This is Maru heading into any other tournament and
he is walking into the GSL Playoffs for the past couple of seasons.
After watching what he managed to do to Dear, a former GSL Champion and arguably the best PvT player in the world, I said I didn't know what Trap was supposed to do to win this match. It seems the response from the Jin Air Protoss was "ditto". If this match happened to be in the Ro32 or Ro16, I think Trap would've won (even after watching today's gruesome games) but the fact he was playing to get into his first ever Final and went down early in the series is what I feel really sealed the deal then and there. It's one thing to say you're doing fine into a microphone, it's another thing entirely to have the experience of being in these sorts of situations year in and year out i.e. the essential difference between Maru and Trap, Champion vs Challenger.
| Maru vs
Trap | The Unstoppable Force
There's no way to sugar coat it, the 4-0 was just as brutal as it sounds – if you had told me we were watching a charity speedrun stream where Maru was just stomping nerds on the ladder I would have believed you.
- Set 1 | New Repugnancy | Make enough good decisions in a row and the game will "win itself"
The first thing Trap did at the start of the game was scout for proxies, that should tell you everything you need to know about how practice usually goes between these two. Maru decided not to play stupid and instead went for a solid macro game, where he was steadily building up his forces while the Protoss seemed busy trying to figure out what weird attack would be incoming. This was partially because the Terran did an extremely slick move, building a Raven and two Vikings & using them to go through most of the map and clear Observers leaving his opponent blind and worried. When we got to see Maru eventually set up his Tanks, Marines and Marauders almost on top of Trap's third base & slowly start pushing while still having the Raven to work with and a third base behind it to make sure he's not all in by any stretch of the imagination, I was thinking to myself "why doesn't everyone do this?". The Protoss had only a single Colossus out but quite a few Storms too, which it seemed like he used to the best of his ability to defend with, but the fact the Terran had cleared all the Observers prior to the push meant that he had set up his position perfectly before Trap could respond and after a sleek anti armor missile that hit most of Trap's army the game was wrapped up shortly after Maru took out the third base and then killed it again in the alternate position just as easily.
- Set 2 | Automaton | Dear god, not again
I love the quote "history repeats itself because no one was listening the first time", it's a friendly reminder you should learn from other people's mistakes unless you want to share their fate. Maru built four Hellions, paired them with a Reaper and ran into the Protoss player's open base again – just like he did on the first map in the previous round against Dear – to kill a much more conservative count of Probes than before but the fact Trap decided to move out to pressure the Terran after that is what allowed the follow up Cloaked Banshee (something he should have known was coming) make it so by the end of the harassment around 20 workers were still killed regardless, more than enough to tilt the game into Maru's favor. From there, the Protoss tried taking a fast third Nexus while harassing with Phoenixes and Adepts in order to come back, but the Terran defended brilliantly and ended up doing quite a "halfhearted" two base push – his attack upgrade wasn't ready, he built a third CC behind it and didn't pull SCVs – yet it still did more than enough to close the show after his Raven's anti armor missile hit pretty much Trap's entire army again and Maru steamrolled accordingly.
- Set 3 | Kairos Junction | The cracks
begin to showare all over the place
When I saw Trap proxy a Pylon and build only Stalkers for a few minutes off just two bases it genuinely felt like this was the desperation coming into effect. While he did well with that pressure and did transition eventually, it became clear the Protoss didn't understand his role in this match. The burden should have been on Maru to end the game, considering Trap's prowess in the later stages of the matchup (showcased best vs INnoVation in the Ro16), instead we saw the Protoss also slow himself down for no particular reason, essentially trying to catch the Terran sleeping. After showing that wasn't the case and getting rolling, Maru loaded up a bunch of Medivacs and paired them with a Raven – I can't compliment this move enough, my literal reaction was "holy shit why don't people always do this" – so when he unloaded at the edge of Trap's main base and started causing havoc it was understandable why the Protoss wasn't also ready to defend his late third Nexus against the second drop. By the time these attacks from the Terran were cleaned up Maru was up around 30 supply, he transitioned quickly to Ghosts, pushed again and around 11 minutes into the game shortly before his opponent tapped out he was up at least 50 supply. Unstoppable.
- Set 4 | Cyber Forest | The lesson everyone can take away from this series:
know your role
Maru did pretty much the same 5 minute push TY used on this map vs Trap, which is partially why the Protoss held it off. There were some heroics when it came to taking out the Siege Tank and also an Immortal that lived up to its name, in any case this was the definition of a "free win" for Trap after such a stellar defense. Once again, though, it can't be emphasized enough how important it is to know your role in a game. The counter attack from the Protoss came so fast and looked so deadly, you could be forgiven for thinking it was the correct thing to do. This is why having a killer instinct gets praised so highly, because if you're even a little bit off on that "star sense" you can throw the game instead. Trap decided not to go into a longer game and crashed (and burned) into Maru's solid enough defense, to the point where the Terran got ahead in upgrades – remember, after a failed all in – and soon enough sprinted across the map to easily stomp an army made of up mostly Gateway units from Trap and secure his spot yet again in the GSL Code S Final.
- Map of the Night – New Repugnancy was a master class of how to play TvP, this wasn't Maru abusing his mechanics to the point where you could never do what he did, instead it was him showing us what playing smart looks like. I loved every second of this map from the Terran, stellar performance everyone can learn from.
It's been a crazy season with so many wonderful stories, but now it's time to crown a Champion.
- Maru vs Classic already occurred last year in the GSL Semifinals of Season 2, where the Terran handily took care of business after a slightly rocky start, but I think it's fair to say these players have both evolved even further beyond that. Classic in particular has been playing like a man possessed and he even mentioned in a recent interview that there's a chance he could still go to the Global Final if he secures his spot this early into the year. I think among his best qualities this season has been the builds selection and ordering process he's utilized & what's definitely going to help is that he has three TvP series from his opponent to study which will feed him tons of data, while he himself hasn't shown any PvT in this season of Code S. The only thing standing in Classic's way to fulfilling this dream run at the twilight of his career is that he's going to have to kill the most successful Terran in Starcraft II history and potentially the most mechanically skilled player to touch this game. Maru has already done the impossible a few too many times to call it "luck", betting against him in the GSL has felt like betting against sOs outside of it for a while now. What's crazy is that I think today's games showed an even scarier side to the Terran all his opponents should be worried about, it's what he can do to you when he just makes smart decisions and doesn't have to rely on his godly mechanics to get him out of trouble. I'm much more impressed with his performance today than when he just dismantled Dear off raw skill alone. This version of the Terran King looks worthy of the title and the problem is that even if he can't always play like this, his "B" tier play might still be better than anyone else's "A" game, that's the level he can reach and has already shown many times. Classic will need to pull off an Mvp-esque performance in terms of planning every single map down to the second if he wants a chance at stopping this juggernaut and Maru will need to show up ready to defend his crown with everything he's got if he hopes to add one more jewel to it.
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 April 14th for what's hopefully going to be a legendary Final to an amazing season!
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
Classic vs Dark
Source: Original link
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