Potential is a dirty word, case in point both of our first time GSL finalists today having a painfully long circuitous route to get to this point in their careers despite having an abundance of talent.
It can't be denied, however, there's nothing quite like seeing a player who's always struggled with their demons finally overcome them.
The only question that remained heading into tonight was which one of them would be the one to do that in order to become the GSL Code S Champion.
Warning: Spoilers Ahead, Obviously.
Trap | ★★★★☆ |
Having unshakable belief in yourself can be an incredibly powerful tool, while also being the double-edged sword that prevents you from ever achieving your goals. I'm sure over the years Dark has had to come to terms with reality as he put on a brave face for the fans while watching his peers succeed time after time while he fell just short of the finish line again and again. Outside of his lone significant win all the way back in 2016, the Zerg had lifted no trophies and fallen further and further away from his goal of being remembered as the greatest player to touch this game.
In a bit of similar light, Trap's only victory worth mentioning was a trophy won all the way back in 2014 and although he's earned the respect of his peers throughout the years it's hardly any consolation when this Jin Air Protoss has had to watch his teammates write their names into the history books over and over while he was forced to sit impotently in the audience, inevitably thinking about why it wasn't him up there instead.
You might be asking yourself "what's the point" right about now, in terms of bringing up their unsuccessful history heading into today – the fact these two haven't given up in spite of their struggles. When you're one of the greatest players ever and as a result success seems to follow you around, it's easy to understand why you keep showing up year in and year out, at times it likely feels as if destiny itself will make it so the trophy ends up in your hands.
It's another thing entirely to be one of these absolute grinders like Dark and Trap, who refuse to accept their fate as secondary characters & will fight to their last breath to change that narrative. It's not a coincidence these guys survived until the very end of a Season where upsets were the norm, both of them were tunneled in & focused on their goal while the players around them found a way to fall one by one.
Taking the intangibles out of it, from their recent history you could clearly tell this match was always going to be incredibly close on paper, even based on style alone it was hard to get a read on who would have the edge. Dark clearly had more experience in high pressure situations, yet he had already choked those opportunities away many times over, at some point losing becomes a self fulfilling prophecy. On the other hand, it's not like Trap is particularly known for being clutch, you only have to go back a Season to see what happens when his opponent doesn't give him a way back into a series. In conclusion, if anyone tried to convince you beforehand they "knew" who would win, calling them on their bullshit would have been the safest bet of them all.
- M1 | Thunderbird | Lies & Deception
Aggression is how Dark found himself in his first ever Code S Final, which is why starting off conservatively while relying on Overlord Speed to stay safe already threw the game off its axis. Trap himself likely expected something more aggro, which is why he must have been disappointed when his Stargate opener didn't accomplish its goal so he quickly switched into Archon Drops to start poking his way to a win. Although quite a few workers were picked off through the Protoss harassment, the Zerg didn't really feel the burn as his opponent was giving him all the room in the world to grow on the map, culminating in a very sketchy Roach based push meant to throw off Trap while doing a three base-ish Muta switch while massively Droning up behind it and immediately moving on to Hydras as his follow-up. The confusion in the Protoss player's play was clear as he started overcompensating for the Mutas, stayed back even longer on the defense until he eventually realized Dark had duped him & went to attack the Zerg. The problem, however, was that by that point the Swarm was ready. Dark used his creep, huge army and even Mutas to take an incredibly favorable fight that would end up instantly snowballing this map into a win as he took out the key tech units and pushed all the way across the map to finish off this masterfully executed game.
- M2 | Turbo Cruise '84 | Chaos
submarines aggression, Dark used Trap's first map pick to show off some of his vintage cheeky play with a Hatch block. For whatever reason, the Protoss player didn't seem to mind playing a weird game so he let the proxy finish while doing a Pylon block of his own and using some Adepts to counter pressure, however it definitely must have felt pretty bad when the Zerg built some Lings from the larvae behind the wall and started causing some chaos. It was perhaps this move – or the fact Dark just doesn't like this map – that led the Zerg down a path he wouldn't be able to come back from, putting down a Roach Warren and going for broke to end the game. Trap's conservative build order – along with a pretty fortunate timely scout from his Oracle – let him comfortably hold the aggression, with his inevitable counter attack completely toppling Dark over, seeing as Droning & Praying isn't very useful against 40+ army supply banging on your door.
- M3 | King's Cove | Dishaster
I love when players who are perceived to be macro-oriented bring something cheesy to the table – Classic vs Rogue/soO/Dark over the past two Seasons, soO vs Dear this Season and even Stats mixing it up in the Ro32 recently – however to pull it off successfully it takes a combination of stellar planning, execution & your opponent being unprepared to deal with it. I don't think it's controversial to say Dark is the best low econ Zerg player in the world, going for the Cannon Rush into Has Robo Battery play really felt out of place here, even more so on this map. The instant Spines, creep spread and Ling/Bane counter bust from the Zerg made the Protoss build look like child's play to deal with & while you can point to some major mistakes on Trap's part I still think the fact Dark didn't know the meaning of the word "hesitation" in this game told the real story.
- M4 | GSL Cobalt | Pure Jazz
You can rest assured Scarlett and soO were sitting somewhere smiling as Dark started up the two base Lair and then put down the Infestation Pit. On the other side of the fence, Trap looked oblivious to the shenanigans from his opponent for the longest time as he went for pretty much the same build he already did on Thunderbird up to the point when he did spot the first Swarm Hosts shortly before the Nydus Worm popped up next to his main base and started spitting out a bunch of Queens along with Disposable Army Generators. The multiple assaults from various angles by the Zerg were only second to the Protoss player's sleek Oracle play, which helped him slow the game down slightly in order to successfully defend on all fronts. The lack of creep and late third played no small part in Trap eventually getting the upper hand, as he correctly baited out Locusts at every opportunity before taking out Dark's expansion and funneling his army into the Zerg's natural, cutting off the head of the Nydus and crushing the cooldown-dependent army with some good old fashioned brute force.
- M5 | New Repugnancy | Enter The Swarm
The balls it took to expand without scouting by the Protoss payed off as Dark didn't seem overeager to be aggressive early on his own map pick. Seeing as he'd already gotten away with murder once, Trap decided to try his luck with some DTs next before morphing them into Archons and while he didn't do too much damage there was definitely decent pressure applied. Dark, however, didn't look interested in that defense-based-lifestyle so quickly after mostly dealing with his opponent's harass he put down a Nydus and pulled a classic Terran move by attacking in at least three places at the same time, trying to tear his opponent apart. Although the game stabilized slightly after Trap cleaned up the initial attack, it felt like he was then trapped within his own bases now and couldn't establish any pressure on the map. Dark transitioned into mass Burrow Movement Roaches along with an unreasonable amount of Ravagers, loaded up the Nydus with some Queens to help out as well and launched a relentless Round 2 of assaults on his opponent, once again conducting a masterfully executed multi pronged attack, culminating in him taking out his opponent's only Warp Prism, killing tons of workers and using the aforementioned Roaches to overcome the power of the Immortal Sentry based force to wrap this one up in style and put himself just one map away from the coveted Code S Championship.
- M6 | Cyber Forest | This Is My World
Opening with a Pylon block always feels good as a Protoss, however this particular Zerg didn't look too bothered as he started up his early Lair & what's better this time around Dark put down a third Hatch in view of the only scouting Probe on the map. Throughout the night Trap used Stargates to stay safe, so it's certainly ironic that on the smallest map in the pool he put his faith in the Robo instead and essentially believed Dark's bluff of going into a later game. As soon as the Lair finished, the Zerg started morphing a Drop Overlord while he simultaneously put down a Nydus to utilize his flood of Lings to the fullest. The easiest way to pull off a magic tricks is to make the person you're trying to deceive look where they shouldn't be, which is why the small army smashing against Trap's gates at the front made the real threat coming in from the back so successful. Having secured some darkness inside the Protoss player's main, Dark managed to get his Nydus up inside enemy territory & funneled his armies through the breach to swarm absolutely everything in sight one last time.
It's not the same as beating Maru or Classic in the Final – not all Code S runs are equal, certainly – however there can be no doubt this previously Uncrowned King had already more than paid his dues coming into today. Another curse is broken in 2019, Legacy of the Void has its first ever Zerg GSL Champion and it wasn't Life, soO, Rogue or even Serral who managed to do it – his name is Dark.
- Map of the Night – It's really hard to pick between the masterful way Dark dictated the game on Thunderbird from start to finish, the crazy freestyle play on Cobalt from both players (honestly felt like the first interesting game I've ever seen on that map, so maybe that's a factor too) or perhaps it should go to the Zerg's relentless multi pronged aggression on New Repugnancy where he refused to take "no" for an answer. Honestly, I suggest you watch all three of those, I'll certainly be doing a double take on them myself.
Finally, here are some of my closing thoughts on each player and the Season overall:
- Dark has accomplished something neither soO nor Rogue could do, lift the Code S trophy. At just 23 years old, this Zerg has the most time left out of the three to climb the ladder of greatness, just like he's always wanted to and tonight was a nice first step towards that goal. It was a pleasure to watch Dark stick to his guns and play demon-free all night long and I truly hope like he himself said this is just a sign of things to come. I actually expected it to feel just as cathartic watching him win as it was when soO finally did it at Katowice, however the fact Dark remained ice cold all night long and played completely up to the high standard we hold him to really showed he wasn't going to let anything get in his way this time (I'm even willing to pretend there were no tears one minute into the winner's interview if he wants us to, truly always the showman). I'm looking forward to the next tournaments even more now to see how his rivals will respond to this unspoken challenge – Dark's hunger will not be satisfied by just one measly Code S trophy, this monster wants to be the best ever and will be gunning for that goal more so now than ever.
- Trap will likely eventually completely take over from the likes of Classic/Stats/sOs/Zest/Dear in terms of being considered the best Protoss in the world, but tonight was a fairly convincing reminder he's just not there yet. It was a bit surprising how hard of a time he was having dealing with Dark, since he'd previously had a pretty even matchup with him – really goes to show why we put different weights behind a GSL Final and random online games. I do think as he gains more experience in these high pressure offline situations he'll grow into it, however it's telling this series felt like a throwback to what happened when he went up against Maru last season or even those first four maps against Classic from this one – Trap truly is a great example of a solid player, who will take anything you give him and make you pay for it dearly, however when the opponent doesn't do that it's a much different story. In any case, the Jin Air Protoss had a significantly harder path on the way to this Final and so still had an unbelievably impressive run, he got comprehensively outplayed tonight but I fully expect him to be back in the Ro8+ next season & moving forward into the future as well.
- Season of Upsets is likely perceived as a malicious label, however it really shouldn't be, all these unexpected results have certainly helped reinforce the reality of how merciless the competition in Seoul is, where even if you slip up a little bit someone will immediately take advantage of that and send you back home to the ladder. During times like these it's even more impressive when someone can go against the trend and keep showing up week in and week out at their expected level or even higher, which is essentially what Dark and Trap did to end up in this Final, so lets see who'll be capable of joining the select few who consistently show up or whether instead we'll regress back to the mean slightly and the same old names will find their way back to the top, eager to erase this Season from our collective memory.
Keep in mind these are just my observations. As always, if you feel differently let everyone know why in the comments below.
Side Note: the Qualifiers for S3 of GSL Code S are already finished, Creighton Olsen did a phenomenal job casting them while maintaining an exciting & simultaneously chill atmosphere. You can check out the VODs from the qualifying games on Day 1 and Day 2 if you'd like, there were definitely some surprises and fun prospects heading into the final Season of the year.
Thanks as always for reading & see you when I see you! (:
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