To quote a daring smuggler oblivious of what the expected outcome should be: "Never tell me the odds".
The underdogs in Group F definitely needed to embrace that mindset today, seeing as Classic – the best Protoss player in the world – was here for possibly the last time, with one of the most accomplished Terrans of all time INnoVation in tow to clean up whoever was left in his wake. The idea of designating "Gatekeepers" is that they're the guys who end up making way for the truly great players to advance i.e. both KeeN and Creator were put in quite a familiar position, with nothing going for them and no one expecting anything out of either player against such overwhelming opposition.
Since I like to make a point of reminding everyone I'm an elitist at every given opportunity, that often gets confused for "hating" on underdogs or disliking upsets – if that's the impression you've gotten, prepare to be just as surprised as our two clear favorites were tonight after the first punches were thrown and things certainly didn't go as they had planned.
Warning: Spoilers Ahead, Obviously
The best type of upset is when the severe underdog plays to their full potential in order to win – a game during which you can clearly see the skill gap might not be as wide as you imagined or anticipated – and when that happens it's remarkable, the fact we witnessed it twice today was nothing short of unbelievable.
After shockingly upsetting both their higher Tier opponents convincingly in each respective mirror, KeeN and Creator would have a phenomenal winner's match to decide who would come out first – with the Terran managing to edge out a victory to secure 1st place – however the sleeping giant would then awaken to restore order as Classic found his center and went on to decimate both INnoVation and the Protoss who'd gotten the better of him earlier in a combined four straight wins to pull off the complete Reversal in order to take 2nd in the Group as his consolation prize.
Classic < 0 : 2 > Creator | ★★★☆☆ | Your Time Is Up, My Time Is Now
Nothing seemed to go right for the legendary veteran on King's Cove as his Proxy Stargate's Oracle got instantly shut down by his opponent's Phoenixes, which then drove Classic down a predictable path that would play right into Creator's hands. The underdog got his Immortal count high and was genuinely going into a straightforward macro game against the best PvP player in the world, when a desperate attack showed up at his entrance and completely failed to capitalize on any supposed timing possible – Creator was rock solid, with every type of economic, army and tech lead at his disposal there was no choice left for Classic except to tap out.
The shenanigans on Acropolis were so interesting to observe, with both players first going for Warp Prism Adept harassment that would end in Classic's favor, but then losing his Dropship would give Creator the room to utilize Immortal pressure first to put things back under his control. This was a true mirror match, which is why it was so shocking the underdog looked to be one step ahead as he got the Disruptor lead and utilized it brilliantly to snipe not one Nexus but two after some marvelous shots zoned to their full potential. At that point Classic went into overdrive to pull off the miracle while being sieged, tearing his opponent's base apart with a counter attack as he desperately tried to also micro back at home and even succeeded to a certain degree – however Creator's lead would end up being just a little too much as he kept his cool and finished off the best PvP player in the world one more time, securing the unbelievable 2-0 victory.
INnoVation < 0 : 2 > KeeN | ★★★☆☆ | Can We Double Check The Nameplates Now?
There is something to be said about having a lack of respect for your opponent, in other words arrogance can be a bitch. INnoVation had to learn that lesson the hard way on Thunderbird after trying to 1-A up his opponent's ramp while KeeN was completely entrenched and ready for the attack, resulting in three Ravens dying for no good reason on the favorite's side sending him back home. For a while after that it seemed like we would witness Mech versus Bio but that never really happened as both players stayed back extremely defensively and went into Sky Terran. Literally the entire map was taken before any real action ensued, culminating in a "base trade" of sorts where KeeN actually outmaneuvered his opponent so hard the majority of the enemy fleet was completely wiped out. INnoVation emptied out his bank not long after that to give it another go, but the underdog's resolve was unshakable by that point, defeating the second army even easier than the first to lock down this map then and there.
While things were a lot more tempered at the start on New Repugnancy and you would think having a Bio vs Bio game would make things even easier for the favorite, INnoVation continued to get outclassed shockingly as KeeN's timing looked impeccable, resulting in a TY-esque snipe on his opponent's Stim by utilizing a couple of Ravens. After that INnoVation's play looked visibly unhinged, going for an inadvisable push out of desperation more so than anything else, which of course got held handily by the more than ready underdog. Not only did KeeN get the lead, he then wasn't even remotely interested in going for the later game where he had already shown himself to be the superior player today – instead, fully aware of his army advantage, the Terran marched across the map to set up an unbreakable position & instantly smashed his much more accomplished opponent after a money Raven Missile felt like it tore his already smaller army in half resulting in the underdog stomping his way to the victory, sending a clear message.
| KeeN < 2 : 1 >
Creator | ★★★★☆ | Unreal
The start to this series on King's Cove was already sublime, with solid defensive Stargate play for Creator with some mild Oracle Adept harassment in an otherwise pretty straightforward three base setup for both players. The real action kicked off when KeeN decided it was time to move out, only to get delayed by a flaky Warp Prism distraction and then get his army tagged, allowing the Protoss time to set himself up for the best Feedback ever on a nearly full energy Raven which realistically ended the head on attack before it could even start as his fourth base was coming up. It's amazing that the Terran almost seemed oblivious of his difficult position, as KeeN simply loaded up some Medivacs after that and reminded us just how unbelievably good his multitasking could be – ping ponging his way to a Nexus snipe, killing so many Probes it felt unreal and shaving off important army units for his opponent as his own economy and production were being set up back at home. Creator did the best he could after finally stabilizing a bit, going for both the double expand to catch up and the counter punch, however another money Raven play from the Terran disabling the infamous Warp Prism and sending off a meaty Missile would seal the deal as KeeN then pounced on the compromised Protoss army to spike up viciously in supply & even an untimely Disruptor switch up couldn't stop him from kicking Creator out of the server.
The balls of steel on Thunderbird from KeeN to go for the 3x CC build combined with the most opportune Scan ever that spotted his opponent's wonky DT tech exposing the incoming pressure made it look like the Terran was in a phenomenal spot already. The creativity and no hesitation play from Creator to immediately put down the third Nexus and double Forge instead of going through with his compromised plan is what you expect to see from elite level players, not measly underdogs, so it was incredibly refreshing to see the Protoss do it. Now that he wasn't at all committed, Creator still did his best to do a pretty light attack with his two Warp Prisms that actually caused more damage than it realistically should have, forcing the lift on the third base and allowing the Protoss room to grow. KeeN realized the economic lead he supposedly had suddenly slipped through his fingers, so he went back to his multi pronged aggression but this time Creator was ready to match the multitasking and cleaned everything up handily with his airtight Blink Stalker defense resulting in a significant supply lead that would allow him to march across the map with a superior army and devastate his opponent, who did his best to make the Protoss turn around by going for an ambitious base trade that never really felt like it would work after he'd lost so much earlier.Загрузка...
Both players were fully in the zone on Acropolis showing off their micro from the start in what felt like intense skirmishes. KeeN kept that same energy heading into the midgame with an optimistic two base push using some Cyclones that barely got held by the Gateway Phoenix force from the Protoss. Creator was then tested again by some multi pronged aggro, which was eventually cleared but the price he had to pay were a bunch of Probe deaths and even worse a brilliantly controlled Mine drop popped off setting the Protoss player an almost unrecoverable amount behind. Fights suddenly broke out everywhere, however the most important one of all ended up being KeeN's drop which killed not only Storm before it could finish researching but also canceled one of his opponent's upgrades, the Terran's tactical play was completely on point just like in his TvT series prior. What then followed was KeeN's army regrouping and marching as quickly as possible in a parade-esque push across the battlefield, hurrying to take advantage of the opportunity he'd created for himself, culminating in the fact the Terran had double the army supply and managed to get a favorable engagement just before Storm could truly be utilized – forcing his opponent to get out and booking his ticket to the Ro16.
| Classic < 2 : 0 >
INnoVation | ★★☆☆☆ | ANniHilation
Classic looked almost unaware or uninterested in the fact this wasn't a PvZ on Cyber Forest as he built a bunch of Oracles and Adepts & crashed into his opponent's base. Not only did he kill the entire Marine army, the Protoss also sniped a Tank and got a bunch of SCV kills as the cherries on top. INnoVation decided his best course of action was to turtle Mech on three bases after that in order to come back, which would have worked had Classic allowed it to, however instead in what was extremely reminiscent of how he took down both GuMiho and Maru in similar positions the Protoss King launched a daring assault on his entrenched Terran opponent, taking a cost inefficient fight that nevertheless did what it was supposed to i.e. ripped INnoVation apart before he could truly get going, signifying Classic's killer instinct was now back online and on full display here.
The proxy Gate on Turbo Cruise '84 literally next to the Terran expansion was almost too predictable, yet Classic's Probe movement never gave the dastardly game away, resulting in his Gateway units completely rolling over his opponent – in part helped by a particularly traitorous Reaper, though at that point the series was admittedly already over, seeing as the Protoss King didn't over-commit and instead relied on a proxy Stargate as his follow-up to be the checkmate move when INnoVation pushed out with his Cyclones and got caught accordingly.
| Classic < 2 : 0 >
Creator | ★★☆☆☆ | The Last Laugh
Remember when Classic went for an Oracle and his opponent took complete control of the game by stopping it using Phoenixes? The reversal of that scenario would play out on Thunderbird and even a faster Nexus or two out of desperation from Creator wouldn't allow him to claw his way back into the map. There was a particularly questionable moment in time when the underdog had a considerable Blink Stalker force which could have dove onto his opponent's still low Immortal count, however as that opportunity became void and Classic's continued harassment started weighing on his opponent, the writing already seemed to be on the wall. The Jin Air Protoss set up as good of a defense as he could muster, but at that point Classic simply wouldn't be denied, walked up a ramp with his significantly stronger army and forced his way into yet another win.
There was no room to breathe given on King's Cove as the Protoss King marched a few too many Stalkers backed by an early Prism across the battlefield to put his foot on the underdog's throat from the start. Through seemingly sheer force of will, Creator used less Gateway units to not only snipe his opponent's Mobile Pylon but then also held the initial assault thanks to a single Oracle, a Shield Battery and marvelous control. While this would have deterred a lesser player or gotten them down, Classic frankly didn't seem to give a fuck – built even more Stalkers, got another Warp Prism, put down some Force Fields and smashed the underdog to pieces, letting him know who's the boss and taking his rightful place in the Ro16.
I wonder who feels worse after today, INnoVation fans or Creator supporters, seeing as for much different reasons they each ended up getting bodied. On a side note, it's amazing just how brutal the Ro32 of GSL truly is, even in a Group like this once again we got more evidence that no one is safe.
- Match of the Night – there's absolutely no question about it, possibly the best series of the tournament so far was KeeN vs Creator, the only reason you would argue otherwise or try to take some of that credit away is their name value (which to me would imply you simply didn't watch the first three matches today, since those passed the Eye Test like a motherfucker).
Finally, here are some of my closing thoughts on each player:
- KeeN either performed to the absolute peak of his ability today or even went beyond that, regardless what an incredible day for him, I almost feel like he got robbed by not getting to show what he could do against Classic (provided the one from the first match was up against him, not the murderer who showed up after that to devastate the opposition). Putting some obvious asterisks to the side, it's so exciting to see an underdog pull off upsets to this degree especially when their opponent didn't just roll over and die & they had to outplay them throughout the series. I can't wait to see what's next for KeeN, truly hoping he can show up in this sort of form at the next stage of the tournament – who knows, he might even get a second chance to put a stop to Maru's reign of GSL terror before it can get started back up again.
- Classic turned it up to 11 on the scale of 1 to 5 when it comes to his play, making it look like his opponents weren't in the same universe as him by the end. The dip at the start of the day was certainly a little scary, but once again the Protoss King reminded us a defining quality of his final form is the ability to recover after things don't really go his way. After leaving two Code S trophies on the table this year, now more than ever it's time for Classic to dig deep and give it his all in what's likely going to be the last chance to get another GSL trophy, especially as one of the clear favorites & best player for his race.
- Creator can break your heart if you let him, however if you're a long time supporter you've probably learned by now not to have hope anymore. It's unbelievable how well he played to dominate the best Protoss player in the world at the start of the day, he even put up a commendable fight against KeeN who looked unleashed tonight, however those last two maps unfortunately reminded us why he hasn't had the success you would think someone as skilled as this surely must have had during their career. I wonder how high he would rank on an all time list of players who didn't live up to their potential, in any case commiseration to every fan of his who still hasn't given up on him, it takes an incredible amount of resolve not to do so after all these years (the guy is only 22 too, he's just had such a tragic career trajectory, to the point where it's hard to see him ever overcoming the clear mental blocks).
- INnoVation isn't making it to BlizzCon this year, which is a tragedy in its own right because he's developed into the greatest thorn in the sides of both Serral and Maru – who are still considered the best players in their respective regions, albeit with some competition unlike last year – which really goes to show that styles make matchups regardless of perceived player strength. In that regard, maybe that's what ironically got in his way tonight or perhaps it was just one of those days & shit happens. In any case we all know on any given day INnoVation can show up and play as if he's the best player in the world, the label "Starcraft Royalty" certainly applies to players such as him and sOs – which can be viewed as a negative, seeing as the community puts them on a pedestal & dismisses any and all criticism of their play whenever possible, but on the plus side it also makes it so even when they get smashed like this it feels difficult to take it too seriously since we all know sooner or later they're just going to win another tournament, that's what makes them legends.
Keep in mind these are just my observations. As always, if you think differently let everyone know why in the comments below.
Catch you on Wednesday for Group G where GuMiho and Dear will need to keep their guard up if they don't want to add their names to the list of upset favorites, considering they'll have FanTaSy and Armani to deal with.
Thanks as always for reading & see you when I see you! (:
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