It feels like more often than not highly anticipated matches don't live up to their billing – an unfortunate side effect of having an actual competition as opposed to pure entertainment – which is why it's so exhilarating when we find ourselves watching a series or sometimes even just a map that's not only living up to our expectations but surpassing them entirely.
With the Final of the GSL fast approaching this weekend, I decided what better way to celebrate the ending to a fantastic season than to rewatch the best games? I think in scenarios like these if you "have to think about it" then it really wasn't that memorable of a map, so I genuinely went with whatever popped into my head (and then went through my Quick Recaps anyway to make sure I didn't miss anything too crazy from the early rounds that might have slipped through the cracks, as if to ruin my own premise).
Fair warning: if you care about spoilers, haven't watched all the games from this season of GSL and are still here, I don't know what to tell you.
Without further ado, the best maps of GSL S1 2019:
#10 | sOs vs Trap | Eye of the Storm
- Keywords: PvP | Storm | Alien Brain
- Map details: Ro16 | Group C | Match 5 | Set 1 | Cyber Forest
- Why this game: The absolute madman decided the perfect time to bust out a "Battle Storm" build was in a PvP match against his teammate and to his credit sOs pulled it off brilliantly & left many of us mere mortals in awe. Got banged out 0-2 immediately after that, of course, though it's telling this game was the one that got etched into my memory, not what happened after that. I'm almost sure this map/build isn't worth studying, but it was for damn sure entertaining to watch.
#09 | Rogue vs soO | Checkmate out of nowhere
- Keywords: ZvZ | Lurkers | Double Nydus
- Map details: Ro16 | Group D | Match 2 | Set 2 | Year Zero
- Why this game: The IEM Katowice Champion had just come back to Korea and it was already time to face another deadly ZvZ player in Rogue. I absolutely loved the defensive play for the majority of this map from the Jin Air Zerg, after which he threw down double Nydus Worms and used them to set up an unbreakable position with his Lurkers inside soO's main & the game immediately ended as a result. Rogue literally did what Serral couldn't on this map & it took him only 1/3rd of the time, absolutely phenomenal performance.
- Keywords: PvZ | Rematch | Comeback | Immortals | Boats
- Map details: Ro32 | Group E | Match 5 | Set 2 | Port Alexander
- Why this game: There's no doubt in my mind herO doesn't know how to play a boring series & has no idea how or when to give up. I thought Scarlett had him dead to rights so many times throughout the day it felt unreal, especially because by the of the night the only spot left in the Ro16 ended up going to the Protoss. The next map in this rematch was just as good, but it wouldn't have even been possible if herO hadn't given his all then and there to extend the night.
#07 | Classic vs Dark | The brilliance of deception
- Keywords: PvZ | Rivalry | Secret Proxy Adept Glaives
- Map details: Ro4 | Set 3 | King's Cove
- Why this game: You're going to need to watch the first two maps to fully understand how good this build was given all the context, but even on its own it's one hell of a plan to go for and relies on your opponent being very smart with their scouting (some might say a little too smart for their own good). Perfect planning and execution that ended up giving Classic enough of a buffer to take this series away and secure his spot in the Final of this season.
#06 | Bunny vs Solar | Don't stop believing
- Keywords: TvZ | Rematch | Battlecruiser Rush | Boats
- Map details: Ro32 | Group D | Match 5 | Set 3 | Port Alexander
- Why this game: After getting completely demolished 0-2, Bunny battled his way to the final match of the day where he had to face the man who'd already slapped him down pretty handily just hours before. I could have gone with the first map of this rematch as well because of Bunny's resilience, but I picked this one because the Terran was the one who pulled out some stellar pre-planned shenanigans and executed beautifully to steal away a spot in the Ro16 for himself.
#05 | Dear vs Dark | Never give up, never surrender
- Keywords: PvZ | Rematch | Nydus All In | Crazy Hold
- Map details: Ro16 | Group B | Match 3 | Set 1 | Automaton
- Why this game: This map has become my favorite example of how important small mistakes can be, because not having vision in his main base nearly cost Dear the game. He acknowledged and corrected that on the next map to devastating effect, but instead of giving up on this initial game the Protoss player decided one mistake was plenty and played absolutely perfectly to hold the deadly Nydus and eventually kill the Zerg. I'm sure the majority of even top level players in his position would have tapped out, Dear was ice cold.
#04 | TY vs Rogue | Domination through perfect planning and execution
- Keywords: TvZ | Timing | Speed Banshees
- Map details: Ro16 | Group D | Match 3 | Set 1 | Kairos Junction
- Why this game: I don't know if surprise played a huge factor, but it genuinely looked like TY nailed Rogue's third base at the absolute perfect time with what seemed at the time to be a bizarre push, but would in fact end up being the Terran doing a slightly odd style to utterly style on the former World Champion in what shockingly ended up being a very one-sided series. After stomping his way through the Group of Death, TY was up 8-0 for the season with virtually no obstacles in sight. Little did we know he hadn't practiced TvP in the past 5 months.
#03 | Maru vs Dear | Absolutely ridiculous display of mechanical skill
- Keywords: TvP | Mine Drops | Mine Drops | Mine Drops | Marauders & Liberators | Mechanical Skill
- Map details: Ro8 | Set 4 | Year Zero
- Why this game: Off the top of my head I can't think of another map where the player who would end up winning threw away so much resources and still managed to get ahead while doing so. People usually associate mechanical skill with micro, but it's just as ridiculous when it's abused to have literally more units than seems possible via macro. Maru has made a career out of leaning on his mechanical prowess to get him out of trouble and this was just one more entry to him. I suggest you turn your brain off, sit back and just enjoy the show.
#02 | Maru vs Trap | Masterclass in how to play this game
- Keywords: TvP | Planning | Decision Making | Positioning | Raven
- Map details: Ro4 | Set 1 | New Repugnancy
- Why this game: Aside from the fact it completely set the tone for the rest of the series – which Maru would end up winning brutally – I absolutely adored this map from the Terran because unlike when he abused the hell out of his mechanics in the previous round against Dear, this time around the Code S King was playing smart (and that's when you're really screwed against Maru). This was a picture perfect game from the Terran, brilliant decision making through and through, may as well be labelled "tutorial how to play TvP at the highest level".
#01 | herO vs Dark | When two wildcards collide
- Keywords: PvZ of the Year
- Map details: Ro16 | Group B | Match 1 | Set 2 | Year Zero
- Why this game: I'm not even going to bother trying to sum it up, here's an entire paragraph from my Quick Recap:
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.
- If you can't be bothered to watch anything else, this is the one I would urge you not to miss out on. Huge props to both players for putting on what ended up being the show of the season, for me at least.
Obviously these weren't the only cool games throughout the season – feel free to share your favorites as well in the comments & why you loved them – and the ordering is also of course in the eye of the beholder.
In any case, I haven't enjoyed the GSL this much in forever and I hope this post managed to give you a tiny window in to why. Here's hoping the Final will live up to this incredible season! (:
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