(cross-posted at http://wellplayed.org/forum/114/thread/3802942/show)
Echoes of the Past
It was the finals of GSL Team League II. The score was 4-4 following IMmvp's victory over SlayersGanZi. One final match of that final round would determine the team league champion. If there was a time to hold the line, this was it. Calling on their team captain and most clutch player, SlayerS sent out MMA. It was his job to stem the tide, now when it mattered most, and secure the last remaining win.
It was the finals of GSL Team League III. The score was 4-4 following MVPDongRaeGu's victory over SlayersGanZi. One final match would determine if team MVP was truly on the royal road, or if SlayerS was destined to be the first two-time team league champion. This was it. SlayerS needed a win.
And just as before, they turned to their captain, their anchor: MMA.
SlayersMMA was a heavy favorite to win his up/down matches earlier this month in a group that seemed stacked against Canadian LiquidHuK. But in a quick two games, HuK emerged victorious and remained the sole foreigner in Code S. This wasn't the first time MMA had to face a foreigner during his quest for Code S, however. In January, during the Code A qualifiers, he defeated Torch to successfully grab a Code A spot. The games between Torch and MMA were filmed by Artosis, and at one point Artosis remarked about MMA, "I think that guy's going to win, cause he looks familiar."
It was an uncelebrated cameo from a player who, a scant two months later, Artosis would dub the "Legend Killer". Though appearing for less than a minute, it would be one of the West's first glimpses at the heart and anchor of the SlayerS team.
A Brief History of Time
Going into the first GSL Team League, SlayerS was considered by far the weakest team in the lineup. Boasting no prominent players save for the Emperor himself, most did not expect the fledgling team to make it far. And they didn't. Falling in the first round to ZeNex, SlayerS' performance was about what was expected. But take a closer look at the SlayerS vs. ZeNex series, and a startling fact emerges: one player on SlayerS nearly managed a reverse all-kill. The last player SlayerS sent out, MMA (then known as SlayerSJjob), defeated three ZeNex players in a row and brought the score to 3-3 from a 0-3 deficit. Though ultimately losing to ZeNexON, it was the initial flashes of one of MMA's most prominent traits: the ability to hold the line when it mattered.
Fast foward to March, and the GSL Team League II. SlayerS was up against oGs, one of the toughest teams in the league. oGsMC had just trounced through two SlayerS players to equalize the score at 3-3. Once again, SlayerS was against the wall. Just as they did in the first team league, the team called on MMA to hold the line and secure a victory. And he did. In a short, technical game where the mechanics of both players was on display, MMA defeated MC to advance SlayerS to the round of four.
SlayerS would not be put into a similar situation until the Team League II finals, where MMA defeated IMmvp to gain both team league champion as well as team league MVP.
An Auspicious Start
ZeNex, the team that defeated SlayerS in GSL Team League I, was once again the opponent in GSL Team League III's round of 8. Though facing the same players that gave them so much trouble not three months prior, SlayerS had the weight of a championship on their shoulders. Their goal was to conquer the team leagues for a second consecutive time, and they could not fall in the first round as they did in the two teams' initial meeting. Not wanting to underestimate their foe, Slayers tested the waters with a relatively unknown player: SlayersTaeJa.
Despite everything that ZeNex could throw at him, TaeJa remained victorious. The team that even MMA could not defeat in the first team league was suddenly impotent against the very first player SlayerS presented. Quickly and decisively, SlayerS showed that even ignoring all other indicators of progress, this is how much they have improved. This is their current level of skill, and this is the practice and training they would take all the way to a second team league finals.
A New Challenger
Much like SlayerS, fOu was a team most thought would not get far in the first team league. And much like SlayerS, they didn't, falling victim to an all-kill from team StarTale. Ever since then, fOu has been struggling to show the world their strength. They came out in force in GSL Open Season 2, and have gradually declined in presence every season since then. In the most recent Code A matches, fOu ace Leenock fell out of televised GSL and into Code B. As much as SlayerS wanted to maintain their newfound strength, fOu matched that determination with a zeal of their own. Soundly defeating team TSL during the round of eight, fOu was a totally different team from the one presented in earlier months.
That zeal translated into a 2-3 fOu lead over SlayerS. One loss away from elimination, SlayerS needed two back-to-back wins to advance over their rival team. And as always, when the line needed to be held, SlayerS turned to MMA.
MMA held. In two close games against GuMiHofOu and SCfOu, MMA brought the score to a 4-3 SlayerS victory. They were in the finals.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the bracket, newcomer team MVP was quickly and decisively running though their competition. Flooding the most recent Code A tournament with new players, MVP is a team on the rise. Famous as the team who ousted Incredible Micracle from the league, MVP looked fated for the finals.
Overwhelming Prime and defeating oGs in a spectacular show of victory ceremonies, MVP was potent, flashy and confident. They were on the royal road, and would not detour for anything in their path.
During the GSL Team League III finals, Doa noted that the matches and win/loss patterns resembled two sluggers punching it out. Neither team gave quarter, and the score see-sawed back and forth. Ryung was sent out first, only to fall to MVPGenius. MVPGenius then fell to Min's mass roaches. Only to have Min lose to MVPKeen. Who then lost to SlayersFrozen's incredible blink stalker play.
0-1 became 1-1 became 1-2 became 2-2. And it wouldn't be until Frozen's second win over MVPviolet that the alternating cycle of wins would broken.
But the respite was short lived, and soon the slugfest began anew. MVPGuineaPig defeated Frozen. SlayersGanZi defeated GuineaPig. And MVPDongRaeGu would defeat GanZi.
3-2 became 3-3 became 4-3 became 4-4.
Harbinger of the Future
And so we return to where we left off at the last match of the final round of GSL Team League III. MMA, chosen for his reliability in situations where a victory is needed above all else. DongRaeGu, high off the previous night's win over oGs and eager to show the world the might of MVP. Both were fighting for their team.
Game 9 began with DongRaeGu taking a huge economic advantage. Droning nonstop, the MVP player managed to gain a big supply lead over MMA. Quickly teching to the standard zergling/baneling/mutalisk composition, the match seemed to be heading towards an eventual DongRaeGu victory.
But after a disastrous confrontation where DongRaeGu's army engaged marines and siege tank off creep, MMA was able to slowly decrease his supply deficit. Multipronged attacks appeared constantly, with drops happening across all of the Zerg's bases. The GSL observer could barely keep up, and Moletrap's and Doa's commentary veered wildly from location to location as MMA engaged in a whirlwind harass across all fronts.
And then, in the middle of a huge push by MMA, the game paused. The camera shifted back to Moletrap. He could barely breathe. The air was tense with anticipation, and DongRaeGu's keyboard problem was quickly sorted out.
The game resumed, and MMA continued his unwavering barrage of drops. Hatchery after hatchery went down, and despite everything he attempted, DongRaeGu was repeatedly denied his forth. Upgrades were researched on both sides, and tech switches common. The Zerg brought forth Brood Lords only to be met with vikings already prepared by MMA. Medivacs were sniped as they maneuvered through bands of roving mutalisks, and infestors fungaled marines into the red and beyond.
But, as always, MMA held the line. Slowly, surely, inevitably, MMA advanced. Tanks destroyed swathes of banelings and zerglings, and 3/3 marines ripped through mutalisks. Like the fingers of a slowly closing hand, the disparate tendrils of MMA's army converged onto DongRaeGu's forces.
Unlike MMA's Team League II finals match against IMmvp, this game didn't end in a sudden explosion of opportune violence after a long period of tense unit positioning. No, this game was an unrelenting storm of aggression and harassment. A microcosm of the larger slugfest displayed throughout the finals, the final match between MMA and DongRaeGu was a brutal affair that ended only after one player was pounded into submission.
GG flashed on the screen.
MMA had won. SlayerS had won. They were the first two time team league champions. The team rushed the floor. Cella looked like he was having a heart attack, and MVP could only look on in disbelief. Unfortunately, for them, the royal road ended there.
MMA will be at MLG Columbus. Do I really need to say anything else?