Just a couple of days rest started feeling like an eternity considering we had three Groups back to back to kick things off this season, but the weekend is thankfully here now and that means even more GSL action.
Warning: Spoilers Ahead, Obviously.
It finally happened on our fourth try, we managed to go through an entire day without any major upsets in the Ro32. In that regard, it should come as no surprise to anyone that Dear was the 1st player to make it out of the group – granted, soO did present quite a few problems to him when he started using a weird two base style – and speaking of the Zerg, he was of course the one to make it out in 2nd, although certainly not without having to overcome quite a bit of adversity from every opponent.
| Dear < 2 : 0 >
Creator | No upsets allowed
In order to start strong on Cyber Forest we got to see Dear stock up on Adepts and utterly wreck Creator with them as a result. After losing a bunch of Probes and getting economically destroyed considering both players had two bases up, there wasn't much more to see in this game, Dear used his macro lead to transform it into an army advantage & inevitably close things out on the first map.
Things didn't go that much better for Creator on New Repugnancy, with his proxy Stargate getting scouted and shut down, but he got to stick around in the game for a bit longer (thanks to his own scouting finding the Dark Shrine before he could get bopped). Both players went for a slightly longer game and while the Jin Air Protoss did show off some decent Warp Prism Immortal harassment, Dear had the lead from start to finish in this game so he just stayed ahead and closed things out all the same in a pretty straightforward fashion.
It feels unnecessary to go too hard on Creator for this one, even though if you had to pick a weakness for Dear it seems like PvP would be it, since pretty much nothing went right for the Jin Air Protoss in this series. Against one of the best players in the world, you're never going to win as the underdog unless you get at least a little fortunate build-wise or even timing-wise.
| soO < 2 : 1 >
aLive | A bit of a mess
Today we got to see aLive get his NesTea award for 10 consecutive Code S appearances and as if empowered by that he looked completely on point at the start of this series. After a pretty failed Hellbat / Banshee opening on Cyber Forest, the Terran transitioned into mech – something we're getting to see more and more often regardless of the matchup or player, it seems – and played out an extremely solid first game. There were a few problems on soO's end, though, the main one being that he went for Ling / Bane / Muta blind into said mech, in spite of opening with Roaches and Ravagers to deflect the early pressure. Not scouting at this level of play is genuinely inexcusable and the Zerg ultimately paid the price for that choice as a result.
With the upset now immediately on the table as we were going into Automaton, aLive decided to go back to playing more standard – certainly to something he's shown to be more comfortable with – and built Liberators to harass this time & followed it up with Marines and Tanks. Unfortunately for him, this played right into soO's hands as the Zerg not only destroyed a bizarre drop in his main from the Terran relatively early into the game (that would allow him to freely engulf the map in creep) but it also meant he could now go for his preferred style and the game eventually ended as a result of all those factors when aLive went for the desperation base trade & was completely surrounded and obliterated comfortably by soO's swarm.
Out of desperation – or maybe some meta play/bait towards soO – the Terran decided to go for a CC first build on King's Cove and even put down a very greedy fast third CC (really reminded me of some classic MKP level of greed) but this time his opponent wasn't Rogue, who would have likely let him, it was the much more aggressive reigning IEM Katowice Champion. As if to make a point, soO utilized only one Ravager with his extremely early attack featuring quite a few Roaches and tons of Lings to instantly bang aLive out of the game and punish him for his complete lack of respect towards the potential aggression.
| Dear < 2 : 1 >
soO | Trying to put an end to the spam of Timings
I fully understand why ZvP isn't really appreciated right now as a matchup, but this series did a great job demonstrating whose job it is to change things up in order to make it more interesting and unpredictable.
I'm getting slightly ahead of myself, though, because on Automaton we pretty much stuck to the "script" – the Protoss player did his Robo Dark Shrine Archon Drop harassment and followed it up with an Immortal Archon push shortly after. Although there were quite a few cute details in this game – the main one being Dear's dastardly and brilliant use of two Prisms – it basically looked like most successful PvZ games nowadays do, with the Protoss player hitting a perfect timing and controlling well enough to stomp the inferior Zerg army (granted, soO at least had quite a few Hydras in his swarm but the result was still the same).
In order to get different results you have to come up with "new" strategies, even if sometimes that means pulling out something older out of your playbook. While things still looked great for Dear on Port Alexander, considering he got a bunch of worker kills with his Glaives Adepts and had full vision of the Zerg's bases thanks to his Stargate, he was surely more than a little confused when soO decided to go for a two base Lair. Completely throwing off the tempo of the game, the Zerg didn't opt to go for any all in or something weird beyond that, he just steadily built up his forces and that's why when Dear's army arrived to kill him with the predictable Immortal push it didn't do anything. soO held marvelously, repelled even the follow up attack and although he did overcommit slightly with his counter attack, after regrouping he still took out Dear's third base and basically sealed the deal then and there as he was now taking his fourth and his opponent was left completely dumbstruck. I guess you could say the Protoss player's boats weren't ready.
After that impressive display of control and understanding over the game, I think soO maybe took things a bit too far on New Repugnancy when he went for two base Lair again but this time put down the Infestation Pit. This is starting to become like when macro Terran players put down the proxy two barracks, isn't it, what's with top level Zergs & their obsession with that building? Regardless, for whatever reason the Zerg decided this would give him an even better chance to hold the incoming Immortal timing and unfortunately his Heart of the Swarm-esque build wasn't good enough to stop Dear's onslaught when he did arrive with his predictable push and after a short war of attrition snowballed things into an inevitable win.
Despite soO's slightly disappointing fall here, the Zerg definitely showed there's more than one way to play ZvP and I hope he doesn't give up on mixing things up (though admittedly I'd rather he tried what he went for on Port Alexander as opposed to attempting Swarm Hosts on two bases in 2019).
| Creator < 2 : 1 >
aLive | Underdog vs Underdog
Considering this was a match without any clear favorite, I was a bit shocked when the Jin Air Protoss kicked things off on Kairos Junction by dominating the early game using an Adept and Stalkers to delay the Terran expand what ended up feeling like forever. Although he displayed some classic miss-control a bit later with his Stalkers, it was still clear that Creator had set up an amazing buffer for himself so when the predictable two base Terran push arrived at his gates the Protoss still had enough time to barely hold on until his Immortals started incrementing out, eventually completely turning the fight and pushing all the way across the map to get the lead in the series.
Looking to close things out early on Automaton, it was the Jin Air Protoss showing early aggression again, this time with a proxy Gate. Thankfully for the Terran, he decided to scout and found the out of place building & immediately went for a Bunker that allowed him to completely counter his opponent. Creator, however, didn't seem to mind as he decided to keep putting down proxies with a Robo next to his Gate and a Nexus next to some gold minerals (side note, sOs called, he wants his builds back). aLive seemed undeterred though, he kept up with the wonky build and through very stable and safe play eventually completely overran the thinly spread out and infinitely far behind Protoss player.
With both players on the verge of elimination, you wouldn't believe how passive things felt on Port Alexander at the start. The harassment game was weak in the beginning – with neither the Oracle nor Cloaked Banshee getting any real work done – and it genuinely looked like both the Terran and Protoss were almost afraid to make a play and/or the first mistake. Eventually aLive decided to step up and showed some brilliant multitasking, hitting Creator seemingly everywhere at once, but nowhere near enough damage was done to end the game. Although both players got to build up their armies of choice – with aLive going for many Ghosts and Vikings – after an unfortunate chase into Creator's army a few money Disruptor shots looked to be the deciding factor as the two forces clashed and the Protoss player came out nearly 100 supply ahead, immediately going across the map in order to close things out before the Terran had any chance to recover.
| soO < 2 : 1 >
Creator | Rocky start, clean finish
Even though it's a great idea to mix in some aggression to throw your opponent off, I have no idea what soO was thinking on King's Cove when he saw the wall Creator was building and still decided to commit with a Baneling bust that ended up killing one Adept. This game was basically the exact opposite of the last map he'd played against aLive, where he ended up going for the perfect counter to his opponent. It basically looked like the Zerg shot himself in the foot here and it certainly felt that way as we had to watch him try to use mostly Lings to fight off Archons and Zealots before Creator mercifully took us into the next game.
Automaton after that was a bit weird, with Creator deciding to break the trend of timing attacks with an older build of two Stargates. Once again, I can't blame you for trying to mix things up especially against an opponent who has demonstrated they might be willing to play bizarrely themselves, but there's a reason this style has fallen out of favor. It basically looked like as soon as soO realized what he was up against he went into a very straightforward Hydra Bane build and soon enough rolled right into the Protoss base and instantly wrecked his opponent completely.
Going back to what works, Creator decided there was no shame in going for a pretty fast Adept Glaives Immortal push to make it to the Ro16. It was right about this point, though, when it looked like soO was done with losing to these sorts of builds. Although he did a pretty standard Zerg build, at around 6:30 when the push was moving across the map soO already had creep pushed out quite far and managed to take a good early engagement – picking off units and wasting force fields – and what's worse for the Protoss his Observer wasn't with his army, meaning he had to delay pushing back the creep or risk getting run over. These sort of delays are basically death if you're going for a timing, which is why when soO comfortably held it was a foregone conclusion Creator would have an extremely difficult time holding his own third base. After an attempt to Warp Prism Immortal his way to an unlikely victory, the Protoss reluctantly tapped out after the Zerg Swarm ran over his third Nexus and subsequently crashed into his Natural.
We got quite a few scares tonight – referencing primarily soO supporters here – but at the end of the day I think the best players moved on. Valiant effort from the underdogs and some cool & questionable builds also got showcased by pretty much everyone today. All in all not bad for a day of Code S.
- Match of the Night – It's really hard to decide between Creator vs aLive and soO vs Creator, but I think this time I'll go with the ZvP because if you can wipe that first map from your memory it was actually a pretty great series from the Zerg – showing some textbook play in terms of handling double Stargates and then following up with a perfect hold against the endless tide of Immortal all ins (using nothing more than great tactics, creep spread and great timing of his own).
Finally, here are some of my Takeaways from Group D:
Dear has been really unlucky, I feel, in the past two GSL tournaments but it's good to see it hasn't fully crushed his spirit. I think this should be another great Code S season for him seeing as there aren't that many obstacles in his way (though I still think the PvP problem for him needs some work, it's one thing to take out Creator but god forbid he goes up against Classic, Stats or even sOs). If he can only hit Zergs or even better for him Terrans, I can't see a reason why Dear won't make it extremely deep in this tournament (the fact Maru and Zest are already out is just gravy if you're a Dear fan).
soO slightly struggled with quite a bit of adversity today and he wasn't even facing the highest level of competition imaginable (to be frank, this should have been just another day at the office for him and it clearly wasn't). On the bright side, you could say this means he'll be firing on all cylinders in the next round – being untested at the start of the tournament is honestly worse, just look at what happened to Rogue or even TY last season – and that's where the show really gets on the road if you're soO. To be honest, when you've made it so deep in more tournaments than you can count, it's probably hard to get excited for Ro32 matches, so I definitely don't think today's showing is an accurate reflection of where soO's at when it comes to determining who'll be taking the trophy home this season (and to be fair, by the end of the night he looked back on the money).
Creator is the definition of "win X games to give fans false hope", until this guy literally wins a tournament I don't think I'll ever be able to take him seriously, which is a shame because I think skill-wise he's basically a top level player but there are so many bizarre moments in his games where you're just left scratching your head wondering what the hell happened more often than not. He's a very interesting player regardless and is part of the Jin Air machine, so I hope we get to see more of him in the upcoming tournaments, although I do feel trapped in a perpetual state of expecting him to do better when he's provably shown this is around where his real level actually is.
aLive really didn't make that many mistakes today and I'm glad he got his award, but this is another case where the player has shown you enough times this is around where you would expect him to end up. It's hard to imagine how he takes down Dear or soO in a drawn out series, which basically made it impossible to come out of this group almost before it began. I have to hand it to the Terran, he definitely has some shining moments in which you think he's maybe capable of so much more – I swear sometimes his multitasking gives me MMA/Bomber flashbacks – but at the same time it feels like those are only fleeting moments compared to the consistent current of only slightly above average play (when talking strictly about top level Korean Terran players) and that simply isn't enough to push into the later rounds of the GSL Code S.
Keep in mind these are just my observations. As always, if you feel differently let everyone know why in the comments below.
Small side note, I unfortunately won't be around for next week's groups – though I'll see what I can do when I land in Korea, hopefully I can think of a workaround. In any case, I definitely enjoy doing these threads and look forward to coming back for the Ro16, provided I don't run out of luck while a few thousand feet in the air (or even worse, during a faulty landing)!
Thanks as always for reading & see you when I see you! (:
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