Watching the top seeded player's preferred opponents fighting it out all day for 2nd place is definitely one way to kick off the Ro16 in the GSL.
Warning: Spoilers Ahead, Obviously.
The architect of this season's Group of Meh likely had a brief scare at the start of the day, but Classic still made a point to immediately clean up afterwards with four quick clean wins to come out 1st just like he had planned.
In the slugfest that would follow it was actually Hurricane who ended up on top after defeating both of the other players in the Group – as if to make it so there could be no doubt who deserved to survive in 2nd – and in doing so secured his first ever Ro8 in Code S since he first started competing in the tournament circa 2013.
| Classic < 2 : 1 >
RagnaroK | The Allure of False Hope
In what was possibly the biggest upset of the day, it was RagnaroK going up in the series initially by playing pretty much perfectly on New Repugnancy to hold the basically predictable Immortal push from Classic – who displayed uncharacteristically poor control and slightly questionable decision making, to be fair – and this meant the Zerg would be just one map away from the winner's match.
The problem on King's Cove ended up being that having played even one single bad game had seemingly woken the Protoss King up immediately, which was definitely bad news for the Zerg as the tech choice from Classic to go into Oracles and Adepts to harass while going for a more macro-focused game certainly payed off for him. Despite a surprisingly good switch into Mutas and even some cool Lurker play later on, it was clear by the end of the map that Classic understood his position and win conditions ever slightly better, which was more than enough to do small outplays throughout the game to ultimately secure it after RagnaroK was never really able to go up a base in a matchup that kind of requires you to do so.
To wrap things up on Kairos Junction we got to see a classic use of early Glaives Adept pressure after a briefly utilized Stargate which forced the Zerg into having to choose between taking a ridiculous amount of damage early or sacrificing some of his economy voluntarily to lessen the blow – side note, this is what you call a lose-lose scenario which is why it's a very effective tactic to go for in PvZ – and then Classic followed it up with a pretty swift Immortal Adept push that did its job against the already slightly crippled RagnaroK.
| Hurricane < 2 : 1 >
FanTaSy | Up is Down
What was going to be a long and drawn out game on King's Cove – both players seemed okay with going into macro, notably with FanTaSy doing his best to join in on the mech craze in TvP – got cut short when Hurricane basically decided to take a Warp Prism and some Gateway units and struck at the most opportune moment possible, dismantling the Terran in what felt like an instant out of nowhere.
On the flip side of things, what was going to be a quick win for the Protoss on Kairos Junction after killing more than 20 SCVs with some early Warp Prism harassment got flipped on its head when FanTaSy massed up as many units as he could and attacked as quickly as possible, kind of surprising Hurricane seemingly (who had essentially left him no other choice by that point than to go for the counter) and thanks to some great positioning & multitasking the Terran clawed his way back to a comeback into the series.
I'll be completely honest, I don't really have any idea what happened on Cyber Forest, the majority of the game felt extremely weird. It looked like Hurricane went for an iffy build to open with, then FanTaSy returned the favor by deciding to go for a questionable push (almost unprovoked) which was followed by the Protoss doing some kind of bizarre Warp Prism attack in the Terran's main base that kind of worked but also kind of felt like it didn't. All in all, this definitely wasn't the best game to watch, but we got to mercifully move on when Hurricane did a pretty neat Immortal drop on top of FanTaSy's only Tanks while pushing again that allowed him to get a serious amount of damage in & snowball the game out of control in his favor (even though we still witnessed a classic GG timing from the Terran nevertheless, down almost 100 supply by the time he finally tapped out).
| Classic < 2 : 0 >
Hurricane | Flawless Victory
This match was actually very close back in the Ro32, but today things were much different despite the result being the same in the end.
The proxy Stargate vs proxy Stargate on King's Cove could have been a recipe for disaster in terms of the favorite getting bopped, but Classic literally did everything better than his opponent on this map – more early damage, killed his expansion, removed his proxy – and after a quick Hallucination scout to confirm Hurricane pretty much knew it too & tapped out immediately after, down almost 40 supply not even 8 minutes into the game.
In order to continue his speedrun on New Repugnancy, we got to see Classic build some Gateway units and pair them with an Immortal & Prism to do a pretty straightforward 4 minute push that cancelled his opponent's expansion, got an easy Gate kill and then after a few key Force Fields went his way the relentless Champion got up the ramp and finished the underdog in what felt like record time.
| RagnaroK < 2 : 1 >
FanTaSy | Mech it work or die trying
The first ever match on Thunderbird featured Battle Mech vs MacroroK and actually felt pretty cool to watch. There was some signature Cloaked Speed Banshee play, interesting Nydus use for not all ins and generally great action/battles throughout the game, with the war of attrition eventually tipping over in the Terran's favor (killing almost every Drone on the map always helps).
The follow up on King's Cove was the Zerg basically saying "if it ain't broke…" by going for a very early Nydus with Roaches instead of putting his eggs in the macro basket against a pretty greedy Mech Terran build which essentially had all its production still in construction at the time the attack hit and completely rolled over him as a result.
The most experimental map veto of the night ended with GSL Cobalt, where the spawns certainly played no small part in the outcome – as is common when using four player maps – but a significant change also came from RagnaroK when he decided to incorporate some Swarm Host play into his plan to dismantle FanTaSy's Mech with some pristine pressure, great multitasking and some very favorable engagements.
| Hurricane < 2 : 0 >
RagnaroK | Over before it even started
Before we knew it we were brought back to GSL Cobalt and before RagnaroK knew it his Drones were dying to Adepts and Dark Templar. It was a foregone conclusion by the time the Zerg stabilized that Hurricane would go for the follow up Immortal Archon push that simply put RagnaroK didn't have the engine to fight off at that point, as soon as he took all that early damage the game felt like it was already over against such a dangerous timing player.
I definitely can't blame the Zerg for doing some regressing back to the mean on New Repugnancy, seeing as this was only RagnaroK's second cheese of the night and he'd actually done a great job in mixing up his identity recently by consistently going for macro games, but the Protoss player still slapped down the early Ling Flood so hard it felt unreal and made his first ever Ro8 appearance look all too easy in the end.
I'm not going to try selling you on this being one of the best days in recent GSL history since it clearly wasn't, but there was definitely a lot of stuff to appreciate from today – Classic's dominance, Hurricane's tremendous resilience to finally make it to the Ro8 after all this time, even a pretty nifty ZvT in the losers' match – I definitely recommend giving it a go if you've got the time.
- Match of the Night – Definitely a toss up because there were great maps scattered throughout the night, but overall I have to give it to RagnaroK vs FanTaSy in the losers' match as the best overall series, definitely one that felt like it could have gone either way (essentially the reason I couldn't find it within myself to give it to the first match of the day or the second one, where the winner looked all but certain by the end of those in spite of the score).
Finally, here are some of my Takeaways from Group A for each player:
Classic is the best player left in the tournament and looks to be on his way to a Maru-less final, which means another trophy may be on the horizon. There are still quite a few challengers left to defeat – perhaps most notably Stats, who is likely to end up on the opposite end of the bracket and meet this year's Super Tournament Champion in the Final if everything goes "according to plan" – but I'm finding it harder and harder to doubt this ice cold veteran by now. This version of Classic is just different – the guy keeps winning and doesn't look interested in stopping anytime soon, despite or almost because of how little time he has left to show us his greatness & I'm loving it.
Hurricane probably "shouldn't" be in the Ro8 but you can only beat the people in front of you. Similarly to how emphatically Bunny got swept after he got there, I expect something similar to happen to the Protoss underdog now but you can't really argue he hasn't earned his spot (especially after that final match against RagnaroK where he looked on a different level). This group was ultimately Classic's creation for a reason and Hurricane has reaped the benefits of it accordingly, here's hoping he continues going against the narrative and delivers another stellar performance in the next round to cause even more glitches in the matrix.
FanTaSy's showing in the Ro32 felt almost too good to be true and I think it's slightly harsh to say but he kind of proved that to be the case tonight. I didn't feel like he played too poorly in either of his series, but you could tell this definitely wasn't Maru or GuMiho behind the controls. That's certainty a very unfair comparison to make in the context of FanTaSy definitely not being considered on that level yet, but if you want to make it to the Ro8 and can't get through the likes of RagnaroK and Hurricane it really says it all, doesn't it? In any case, he's still one of my favorite Terran players to watch right now and I hope he comes back strong in the upcoming tournaments, I'd love to see him perform like he did in the first stage against Rogue, Stats and Leenock.
RagnaroK had some really cool moments tonight but similarly to FanTaSy by the end of the night it almost looked like his "true" level reared its ugly head. I really liked some of his stuff against Classic and the mech dissection against the Terran was very cool to watch, but against Hurricane it looked like he had nothing left, which is a shame because I think this was actually the most winnable match of the entire night for him and he went out in just over 10 minutes. I hope RagnaroK doesn't take this defeat too hard and keeps working as hard as he's done recently, because I still think he has a lot more fight in him than what he showed in the final match today.
Keep in mind these are just my observations. As always, if you feel differently let everyone know why in the comments below.
Catch you back this Saturday for more GSL action with the first Group of Beath!
Thanks as always for reading & see you when I see you! (:
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