Immediately after each break today, shortly before we got teleported back into the studio, there was a line repeated that I couldn't get out of my head by the end of the night: it's my turn now.
It might not have been clear at first, however this ended up being foreshadowing at its finest.
Warning: Spoilers Ahead, Obviously.
For the last four straight seasons of Code S there was only one King in the GSL, who overcame all challengers and set new records that may never be broken or even matched. Maru, specifically in the playoffs of this tournament, had looked insurmountable. What we finally got to see tonight was the workaround to this "problem": do whatever it takes to stop him before he ever gets there.
Patience shocked the world by inflicting the first blow to start off the chain of events that would lead to the King's demise, but that was done off the back of solid preparation, Stats-like aggression and his own unique flavor sprinkled in to catch the Terran sleeping. However what came next wasn't a surprise at all to anyone who'd been paying attention, it was the Kingslayer himself INnoVation stepping up one more time to end another tyrant's reign and thus making way for a new Champion.
| Maru vs
Armani | Levels
Lets go back to the start with the match that kicked off the season, where the best player at the tournament had to play against the worst one. That last sentence wasn't just meant to be a diss on Gucci entirely, it's actually how tournament formats and seeding are supposed to work.
Unsurprisingly – up against an unknown opponent tiers beneath him – the Terran decided to proxy a few Barracks on King's Cove a little closer than he should have and despite his build getting scouted pretty much immediately it didn't end up mattering, of course, since it's Maru. There isn't really much more to say about this map, except to compliment the Terran on his stellar Bunker placement and micro.
I guess you could say the surprises started showing up on New Repugnancy, where the Terran decided to play a more straight up game which was pretty uneventful up to the point when his Tanks got caught by a bunch of Lings. Although a few minutes later Maru was caught sleeping again with his Supply Depots down – classic – and took a ton of damage to his economy, the skill difference when it came to macro was clear as day when the Terran did a simple push across the map to end Armani's hopes and dreams for a comeback before they could even start.
INnoVation vs Patience | Ruthless Aggression
What can you even do against an opponent who shows you no respect, plays like a madman and is absolutely unpredictable? Patience looked utterly unleashed here in all his shameless glory.
I firmly believe this isn't just a game, it's a work of art, and you get to see a little piece of each player's soul in the way they play. As if to prove my point, Patience's entire being could be observed on King's Cove, where he kept proxying one building after the other, trying every trick in the book to bullshit his way to a victory. INnoVation held wave after wave of harassment and built up a decent chunk of army, however the decision to do a very late switch into mech instead of counter push & essentially give the Protoss player the space he needed to build up a real fighting force ended up costing him dearly in the end. I feel like Patience "pulled a Maru" here, by "playing wrong" to the point where he just smashes through & you're left to wonder what the hell even happened.
Automaton featured more of Patience's core being on display, where after what was essentially a failed proxy Gate build he just kept building Gates and Adepts with Glaives until INnoVation decided he didn't want to play this game anymore. There were quite a few technical details involved in this outcome – one of which undeniably has to be Patience's unpredictable use of Shades – but in the end it really felt like INnoVation thought to himself "yeah, no, fuck this".
Maru vs Patience | Cursed Monkey's Paw
Allegedly, before he got to the studio, Maru stumbled upon a magic object that granted him a wish. After thinking for a second or two, he wished he wouldn't have to face INnoVation in the winner's match. This might be why he looked so happy when his wish was granted & he walked over to comfort his fellow Terran after the loss to Patience, reassuring him he would still win in the last match of the day.
Jokes and foreshadowing aside, on Port Alexander we got to see Maru try to take down Patience with his classic "Mine Drops Forever" strategy, where he loses a million resources and still wins the game. What the Protoss did to circumvent this tactic – instead of trying to defend indefinitely and give the Terran room to beat him with his unmatched macro – was to build a bunch of Adepts and smash into Maru's walls over and over until he couldn't take it anymore. Seriously, that's actually what happened. As we got to see Patience eventually brake through with his aggression, it felt like the cracks were starting to show in Maru's boats.
What kind of let the Terran King back into this series on King's Cove ended up being the Protoss player's willingness to engage in a much fancier battle. In a typical game of "the floor is lava" both players only left their bases with dropships so we had to watch Mine Drops vs Storm Drops for what felt like an hour. It looked like Patience's ability to multitask and his mechanics just weren't good enough by the end of this back and forth war, though – a few more Storms not used to kill workers could have saved him, really reminded me of how Dear lost Port Alexander against Maru last season in the Ro8 – so when the Terran eventually did step on the floor with his army he had too many more units and evened up the score as a result.
Going back to what worked against INnoVation, on Kairos Junction the Patience Proxy Gates returned and the Terran Bunker was late. Anyone who's watched what successful PvT games against Maru over the past couple of months have looked like knew what that meant. Although he made a valiant effort to stay in the server, the relentless pressure from the Protoss ended up being too much as more and more damage was dealt, economy stifled and crucial units sniped. Props to Patience for figuring out what would give him the best chance to win as the massive underdog and never letting up when he smelled blood in the water.
| INnoVation vs
Armani | A Curious Case Of Mistaken Identity
There's probably a universe/timeline in which this Zerg player got out of Group A with a flawless 4-0 map score, but I very much doubt he would have ever done it playing macro games against the likes of Maru and INnoVation. It can't be understated how important the ability to identify your opponent's strengths and how they match up against your own is & this is something Armani will need to work on if he ever wants to have any success in future seasons.
There isn't much to say about the game on New Repugnancy between these two, INnoVation just did a standard build, kept up his macro and eventually applied an infinite amount of pressure to crack a Zerg player staying back and defending indefinitely, with no clear plan as to how he was ever going to win this map. The fact Armani looked distraught after this game was puzzling to me, it genuinely looked like he thought he would walk into the studio today and smash these players in macro games & couldn't handle the reality of the situation he was now in.
Here's where I have to give massive props to the Zerg player, though, as he switched his game up by going for a very early Ling flood that cancelled the Terran's expansion and Armani even took three quick Hatches behind that & snowballed the game into his favor immediately as a result. In spite of having such a terrifying position, though, he decided to go for something a little fancier than he probably should have – hold position Lurkers – which was very cool to watch and could have been amazing if it had worked, but what ended up happening instead was INnoVation calmly and steadily getting back into the game, wrestling back control of the map and securing what ended up being a straightforward 2-0 victory.
| INnoVation vs
Dread it, run from it, history repeats itself because no one was listening the first time.
New Repugnancy looked like the definition of a standard TvT, up until the point where INnoVation got some early damage in and followed it up with some sick positional play (arguably the most important skill in the matchup) that would result in him having every type of lead you can imagine, which the Kingslayer firmly kept throughout the game to secure his first win.
To no one's surprise, Maru still had a lot of fight left in him on King's Cove, where he made progress towards defending his throne by fending off a deadly push to the best of his ability and then somehow managing to come back using Liberators and Drops. While the hold from INnoVation in turn was good, he made a crucial oversight and fell behind in upgrades. As soon as he realized his error the Terran went for a discount base race with a weird Doom Drop, but Maru's lead was insurmountable so the score got evened up and we were taken to the last map of the series.
The absolute roller coaster ride on Kairos Junction was something else, with INnoVation deciding to proxy – at which point I literally thought he was throwing the game & Maru would get away with murder one more time – but even though his opening was pretty terrible and didn't do any significant damage, he was still the one setting the pace of the game. Maru defended as he scrambled to figure out what was happening and by all metrics seemed to be in the lead against an opponent who had failed a proxy and was now turtling to come back. The Terran King waited until he could wait no longer and marched his army across the map to crush down INnoVation's walls. By that point, though, his opponent had a superior position, faster upgrades and most importantly managed to take over the skies after some short skirmishes. Using brilliant positional play and tactics, INnoVation not only held off all of his opponent's aggression but found himself winning battle after battle, which let him blaze across the map while taking more bases of his own and growing the supply difference to an insurmountable point, which is when the 4x Consecutive Reigning Defending GSL Code S Champion finally tapped out and was slain.
What a way to kick off the GSL Code S. Outstanding performance by Patience to come out in 1st place – really showed the work he'd put into the matchup – and of course full credit to INnoVation for dealing the final blow to the King, we're finally going to have not Maru lift the trophy at the end of the season.
- Match of the Night – There's really no way to justify picking anything other than the series where the defending Champion would end up getting eliminated, is there? INnoVation really put on a clinic in spite of Maru's valiant effort to change his fate.
Finally, here are some of my Takeaways from Group A:
Patience is the real deal, this guy almost ended Classic's ST1 run and now his victory over Maru basically sealed the Terran King's destiny, considering his record against INnoVation (who Patience also beat, of course). This player is wacky, weird and extremely dangerous. It feels like he's a Protoss version of GuMiho, he has his own style and if you underestimate him your lights are going out. Really excited to see how he does in the Ro16, here's hoping the Group Selection doesn't go too poorly for him.
INnoVation is the Kingslayer, he took down Serral at IEM Katowice and WESG & now basically did the same thing to Maru in Code S after also eliminating him at the Chinese event, it's been incredibly impressive to watch him go blow for blow with these juggernauts and consistently topple them over. While I don't necessarily think his road gets any easier from here, it's undeniable INoVation has been instrumental in adding nuance to the narrative for 2019 when it comes to determining the best players in the world.
Maru has seemingly become the victim of his own success. There likely isn't a Terran player alive who has his games reviewed/studied more at the moment than him & everyone wants to be the guy who takes the King down. Although I'm sure many of us are disappointed he was eliminated in the Ro32 here, you have to take into account the seeding for this tournament was done pretty much entirely off results – that's how INnoVation can end up as a "Tier 3" player – so he definitely got unlucky. Then again, though, throughout these last four runs Maru's had his fair share of the ball bouncing his way. As far as I'm concerned, it's someone else's turn this time. The pressure is finally off Maru to tirelessly defend his crown and as a direct result I fully expect him to be back stronger and scarier than ever for next season, his story is far from over, the guy is like 21.
Armani had three really bad games tonight and one where he was on the verge of brilliance. I think that if he does some self reflection – basically goes through a reality check – he can not only come back next season but be a serious underdog with upset potential. There were some slick moves throughout the day from him and it's admirable he's trying to "play the right way" for the most part – or sticking with what got you to the dance – but you have to know when it's time to mix things up, otherwise you come off looking delusional & your destruction is assured.
Keep in mind these are just my observations. As always, if you feel differently let everyone know why in the comments below.
See you tomorrow for Group B and more Code S action!
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