SlayerSRyung (Kim Dong Won) vs AnnyeongPrime (Moon Hak Seon)
2011 ended in a rough way for Ryung. After a Ro8 appearance in GSL October and sweeping Bomber and MarineKing in his November Ro32 group, he endured a series of failures that saw him drop out of Code S and the first group stage of WCG qualifiers. His relatively weak TvP played a large role in those losses, but similar issues plague him in all three matchups: an unwillingness to commit to small-scale harassment, a lack of offensive army movement, and a general passivity that squandered opportunities that aggressive play would have seized. In some instances these turned out to be an advantage (Killer and Tassadar were more than happy to donate armies in the Up-and-Down group) but TvZs generally get ugly for the terran when they let the zerg do whatever they want.
Annyeong is not entirely new to the GSL. He successfully qualified for GSL Open Season 3 and enjoyed the prestige for roughly one hour, during which Choya beat him 2-0. Since then Moon Hak Seon has quietly established himself as one of the mainstays of the ESV Korean Weekly. His record is not exactly stellar but he has his share of victories over good players: ForGG, Nada, Shuttle, and Younghwa over the last few months. Annyeong also impressed at WCG qualifiers and nearly upset MvP in the Round of 8. It would be a mistake to underestimate his chances in this matchup.
While Ryung is not as forceful in controlling the tempo of TvZ as his teammate MMA, TvZ is definitely the most “active” of his matchups. He uses the standard tricks of the trade (drop play, hellions, etc.) and constant sharking to keep his opponent on his toes. Expect his opponent to force the big engagements while Ryung tries to slowly grind him down with superior macromanagement. If we’re lucky, his affinity for ghost tech will turn into a nuke-happy lategame.
Annyeong is not a particularly stylistic player. He likes ling defense with a few spinecrawlers and will go 2 base spire if he can get away with it. Most of the time, Annyeong will do nothing risky and stick to ling/muta/bane for map control. Notably he will do delayed aggression whenever he sees a paltry defense, always making sure to establish an additional base before crashing a ton of banelings through the enemy natural. Occasionally he can be baited into very bad engagements, which would play right into Ryung’s TvZ philosophy.
Ryung’s playstyle generally collapses against fast Broodlord/Infestor, but Annyeong likes to stay on Lair tech for a very long time. As long as Ryung plays his careful macro style and scouts accordingly he can slow down the tempo of the game and make the zerg attack into a carefully positioned marine/tank minefield. Stage experience and recent success in this matchup should guarantee a victory for the SlayerS Terran.
Ryung 2-0 Annyeong.
StartaleBomber (Choi Ji Sung) vs TSLHeart (Kim Min Hyuk)
Bomber has looked surprisingly mortal post-MLG Raleigh. It would be easy to lay the blame on excessive travel to foreign tournaments, but his recent struggles have exposed the weaknesses that his overwhelming macro once compensated. His TvP, notorious for smothering its opponent underneath waves of marine/marauder, is heavily defensive in the early game and involves little to no scouting past the initial scouting SCV. Small wonder that Inca had the confidence to do a 1 gate double expand in their Ro32 series (he got away with it without a scratch too). His TvT games against asd in the FXO Invitational emphasized Bomber’s relative lack of tactical understanding compared to his peers. Bomber had more units on the map at all times, but asd maintained the better tank positioning and constantly outmaneuvered his opponent.
Code A purgatory may turn out to be a blessing in disguise. Bomber’s play has stagnated to the point where supposedly “inferior” players are constantly besting him by controlling the location of the battles. If he wants to return to Code S he must sharpen his micro and reevaluate his approach to choosing fights. Just recently he demolished New Star HoSeo in the GSTL, showing more finesse and better decision-making than in his Ro32 group. This could be the beginning of his turnaround.
Heart has the dubious honor of being one of two terrans left on the TSL roster after Alive abdicated his throne. Information on him is scant. He rarely participates in team leagues or online tournaments and VODs of his play are even harder to find. Heart has won a few online foreign tournaments but is untested against the best Korea has to offer. Without more games it is hard to tell what Heart will bring to the table.
Despite all my complaints about Bomber’s predictability he can be incredibly flexible in TvT. His reputation for macro doesn’t stop him from cheesing the crap out of his opponents: a proxy marauder rush is one of his favorite ways to punish a fast expand on a large map. Bomber is not fond of mech and stick to mass marine/tank play.
Heart plays fast and reckless. Many of his strategies are designed to punish the common FE style with marine defense: reaper-hellion harass with medivac support, 1 base marine-tank pushes with fast siege mode, cloaked banshees. Once he has established his natural Heart constantly pokes for openings with marine-tank forces. He can be very impatient and charge into siege lines when he believes he has the edge; alternatively he will double expand if he feels confident that his opponent cannot attack him.
Bomber has been slacking for some time but he is Bomber. Even at his worst it takes a great player to take him down. Heart is the type of player who can exploit Bomber’s tendencies with unorthodox timings or extreme greed. But whether he can execute his plans throughout an entire series is another question. Losing Alive is a giant blow to TSL’s presence in the Korean scene, and Heart will be feeling the pressure of his entire team’s expectations. I expect Bomber to lose one game to something bizarre but power through with better overall mechanics.
Bomber 2-1 Heart
oGsLuvsic (Jo Chang Ho) vs StartaleAce (Jung Woo Seo)
After a long hiatus Ace is finally back in Code A. Can you believe it’s been almost a year? His domination of IEM sets tongues wagging over the effectiveness of FFE into stargate, yet the hype never translated into results on the Korean side. A few losses to Coca and Violet in Code A here, a few wins in GSTL there, but Ace has never reached Code S. Hopefully he will be motivated by his teammates’ recent success and finally break through that barrier. Unfortunately he now meets his GSL bane, a zerg.
When it came to Up-and-Down, Luvsic choked badly. He didn’t expand when he was ahead, he didn’t attack when his enemy was vulnerable, and he didn’t micro when he needed to win a fight. And that game against Hero…
The horror, the horror.
I wish I could say that Luvisc is much better than I’m giving him credit for. Recent results suggest that he is marginally better. Currently he is stuck in a bad slump with only 1 win in his last 11 games.
Luvsic is somewhat notable for getting early zergling speed for scouting and defense. If he senses possible stargate or DT harass he deliberately overproduces defenses just to be safe. On open maps Luvsic favors roach/hydra compositions and attacks the protoss relentless as they are getting a third or teching to AOE damage. Going into the late game he stops at 4-5 bases and tries to beat the protoss over the head with multi-pronged waves of roaches and hydras. He is not particularly amazing at unit control and can be punished by good micro.
Ace is the prototype example of how current PvZ is struggling to standardize itself. Protosses like Brown and Seed feel like mechanically superior throwbacks to the old PvZ turtle playstyle, while JYP and MC are merciless in controlling the midgame and punishing zergs for the smallest of mistakes. Ace falls somewhere in the middle. He does early zealot harassment...sometimes. He likes the +2 blink stalker all-in…when it suits his needs. 2 base templar into a fast third, why not? With so many different ways to build off a FFE it’s hard to know how Ace will react to a situation. No matter how he plays a situation expect solid micro and positioning.
Crossfire is a difficult map for PvZ, and I don’t expect Ace to go for a macro game. Some type of +2 blink stalker timing would be recommended against the inevitable muta play. Regardless of whether Ace wins on Crossfire I feel very optimistic about his chances. While Luvsic is currently slumping Ace has been showing off solid play, especially in PvZ.
Ace 2-1 Luvsic
SlayerSTaeja (Yoon Young Suh) vs TSL.Hyun (Ko Seok Hyun)
The present success of the Emperor’s team is embodied in MMA, but its future rests with Taeja. He’s everything you could ask for in a young prodigy. He can play the 30 minute macro game and immediately follow with a proxy 2 rax; endless marine splits against banelings are well within his comfort zone; passive or aggressive, drop play or slow tank push, he can do everything. The only thing he can’t do is stay in Code S. Twice Taeja has battled his way into that elite league, twice he’s dropped out in the RO32. This is the season to prove that he belongs among the best and brightest.
Hyun is something new and old at the same time. He’s one of the many upstart zergs populating The SCV Life’s house. At the same time he is a Brood War veteran with half a decade’s experience playing on big stages in front of hundreds of fans and critics alike. That past creates certain expectations on how he will perform. Elephants, domination, blah blah blah. You know what’s up.
Hyun prefers to open a safe ling/bane style with a heavy emphasis on melee/carapace upgrades. He reserves most of his gas for banelings (sparing some to make 10-12 mutas) and focuses on spreading creep everywhere. This style allows Hyun to take much later fourth and fifth bases as he doesn’t need the geysers to support his mid-game production. +100 zerglings on the field is pretty common to see.
Taeja is a macro terran with a supreme sense of timings and strategy. He prefers to do marine-heavy openings for defense and secure a relatively fast third. From there he pushes out with his marine/tank army to secure strong positioning in the middle of the map, expands behind the direction of his push, and sends out drops everywhere for multipronged harass. Like Ryung Taeja tries to beat his opponent in the macro game, but Taeja prefers to get aggressive and systemically take out expansions.
Hyun has progressed nicely since he started to play in the competitive scene. Just getting past Code A qualifiers proves he has the skill to contend with the best. However he has not mastered the basic mechanics of SC2. He will often mis-rally units or completely forget to inject his hatcheries for a long period of time, which is an unavoidable weakness when facing a mechanical monster like Taeja. And since Hyun is so stylistic it makes planning against him that much easier.
Taeja 2-0 Hyun
SlayerSYuGiOh (Jung Seung-Il) vs NsHsSculp (Park Yong Hwan)
“Forever Code A” is an apt description of YuGiOh’s career. After dominating the Code A tiebreaker matches for GSL January, he’s been stuck in the nebulous void between widespread recognition and “oh look, one of those B-teamers is in the spotlight”. His ZvP has carried him through 2 Up-and-Down groups but no amount of SlayerS training can solve his crippling ZvT.
New Star HoSeo has never been the greatest at producing individual winners. As a team any player can step up to carry them to victory, yet only Jjakji has managed to make a memorable impact. Sage consistently flames out in Code A; Tassadar is struggling with an unstable lategame; San never recovered the magic of his GSL March run. Sculp has never had that type of exposure but he has been quietly becoming one of HoSeo's most reliable players. Consistency as well as skill is required in the GSL and Sculp could be the second HoSeo terran to make his presence felt.
YugiOh is as bread-and-butter as you can get. He expands at 15 supply, drones up while producing a few lings for scouting, and gets a fast roach warren for hellion defense. From there he techs to lair and takes a third just as his spire finishes. You’ll never guess where he goes from here. Ling/bane/muta, how did you know?
Despite the relative simplicity of this plan YugiOh is not amazing at playing it. Some parts of his play are commendable. His sim cities are always competent, he quickly reacts to harassment, and his creep spread is fairly good. What kills YuGiOh are terrible engagements, subpar control, and the refusal to build a single broodlord or ultralisk in the lategame. Watching his ZvT games compared to his ZvP games feels an awful lot like the last scene of Fight Club, two different personalities in one body.
Sculp plays the currently popular style of TvZ and does it very well. He typically opens with reactored hellions for map control and creep denial, being very insistent on killing any group of zerglings outside of the opponent’s natural. Then he transitions into marine-tank, delaying the starport longer than usual so he can get more barracks. His marine control and positioning aren’t as meticulous as Jjakji’s but under pressure they can be flat out amazing. Sculp prefers to sit back and absorb hits from the zerg rather than actively move around the map.
In one sense YuGiOh is extremely lucky: besides GSL May he has never had to face a Terran in the first round of Code A. Even though that streak is over it’s not like this is an automatic loss. Sculp is not great all the time and can be made to look very bad if his opponent plays slowly and carefully. But if he can play competently it should be more than enough to beat Jack’s Inflamed Sense of Rejection.
Sculp 2-1 YuGiOh
StartaleSquirtle (Park Hyun Woo) vs NSHSSeal (Lee Joon)
Squirtle is a Code S player with a Code A mindset. His careful control and meticulous build orders have earned him the gatekeeper position in team leagues; once in a blue moon Squirtle actually fails to get more than 2 kills. Squirtle is also one of the best PvZ players in Korea with a stunning 21-6 record in his last 27 games against zerg. Like Taeja he is a victim of nerves and crumbled when he had to get through his Up-and-Down group.
Seal’s most notable achievement is an all kill of ZeNEX in GSTL Season 1. Since then he has stayed out of the spotlight and mostly participated in smaller tournaments like the Korean Weekly. Seal has had some notable wins during that time but nothing comparable to his GSTL performance.
Before I talked about how Ace is capable of many different styles of play in response to an opponent. Squirtle is similar in the way he approaches PvZ except he has better execution, better crisis management and a better understanding of how to use his unit compositions. He usually uses zealots to harass far-away expansions and depends on blink stalkers to be the backbone of his army. Squirtle tries to make his armies as mobile and capable of controlling space as possible, adding phoenixes early in the game so he can zone out muta flocks.
Seal plays a long-term style that focused heavily on protecting his bases and overrunning his enemy with tech. One of his major priorities after taking a fast third is spreading creep all over the map. This makes protecting multiple areas much easier and gives him sight of any approaching armies. Seal prefers to tech quickly to infestors and hive; one of his favorite tricks is using burrowed infestors to harass mineral lines when his opponent is out of position. Once on hive tech he slowly creates the zerg deathball of infestor/broodlord/corruptor and pushes out to end the game.
As much as I admire Seal’s creep spread he should be severely outclassed. Squirtle is superior in the matchup, knows how to play against a zerg that turtles, and has the necessary stage experience to not choke in a Code A match. Even the maps are not particularly beneficial for the zerg. If Seal manages to win I would be shocked.
Squirtle 2-0 Seal
EGJYP (Park Jin Young) vs ZeNEXLife (Lee Seung Hyun)
When the nuclear holocaust comes and mankind is reduced to eating radscorpions and dirty water, ZeNEX will be furiously practicing in a Vault. Despite losing every single prolific player to a better financed team they still manages to surprise with their homegrown talent. Extreme almost singlehandedly pulled off an upset over oGs, Avenge swept Idra in last week’s Code A match, and now Life gets the opportunity to prove why he is ZeNEX’s golden boy. Just recently he won the second Iron Squid qualifier with a surprising 3-0 sweep over MVPKeen. Pretty good work for a 15 year old rookie.
Meanwhile JYP is recovering from a very disappointing Ro32 performance. Not only was he unable to overcome his terran Kryptonite, sC and Dongraegu utterly dismantled him. With Idra and HuK eliminated from Code A JYP is the last remaining EG representative in the GSL. The team pressure and stress of a new format might get to lesser players. But JYP has been in this situation before and rebounded quite nicely, so I don't expect JYP to be effected by any outside factors.
JYP is the type of protoss who likes to get fast aggression and he knows every build that punishes a fast third. Whether it's a delayed zealot + void ray attack or a DT attack his style always keeps a zerg on the back foot, limiting their production and opening up opportunities to take a third. JYP loves to exploit the mobility of blink stalkers for both offense and defense. Combined with his scary micro he can make short work of any zerg army that attacks at the wrong time.
Life starts out safe and proceeds to get more aggressive as he goes up the tech path. In the beginning of the game he focuses on denying any type of harassment with good overlord spreads and queens. Once he gets infestors Life moves out to take control of the map and crush any large pushes with giant flanks. Once he hits hive he loves to do tech switches between broodlords and ultralisks to punish overreactions. Once in a blue moon he will let his control slip in defensive battles and run all his units into a concave.
PvZ has always been JYP’s strongest matchup in my opinion, and the records alone should guarantee him an easy victory. However he has not looked great at all following HomeStory Cup. Losing to sC and DRG is nothing to be ashamed of, but JYP never looked particularly good while he was losing. Furthermore Zenio beat him lifeless in NASTL; considering his Korean ZvP record JYP should put on sackcloth and lament in the streets. Life will have considerable momentum and confidence on his side after beating out all his fellow Koreans in the Iron Squid qualifier. Either JYP will crush that momentum with prepared builds or Life will ride it to an easy victory. So I'm predicting a 2-0 but I think Life will be the one on top.
Life 2-0 JYP (close games)
StartaleVirus (Park Joon Yong) vs oGsCezanne (Kim Jung Hwan)
If there was ever a mountain of mediocrity, you can sure Virus and Cezanne are feverishly setting up base camps right below the summit. They are good enough to maintain a GSL presence and bad enough to never accomplish anything more. We’ve laughed at them for their blunders (and boy there are some big ones) and cried over their very existence among the best players in the world. Beyond those it’s very hard to write about their players in terms of a continuous story.
Once upon a time Cezanne was considered good in the Korean SC2 scene. He was never champion material but you knew he could play solid games at a moment’s notice. He was a hair’s breadth from beating Nestea in the Super Tournament and decisively beat the surging Bomber in the SK Champions Trophy April. Then everyone else got better over the next nine months and Cezanne stayed in place. His playstyle still feels like a relic from the earlier days of the GSL and he needs to change it up in order to advance.
Virus has played the role of Code S gatekeeper for over 5 seasons with varying degrees of success. Sometimes he squeezes past his group and gets to lose in the Ro16, other times he gets knocked out and squeezes past his group to retain Code S status. Throughout it all he has never been able to make a deep run in the GSL. It may be that his gameplay lacks the “style” that defines almost every other terran, or he could never improve at the same rate as the other players. Either way he finds himself one series away from Code B.
Cezanne is a very good macro player and relies on it to carry him in games. He plays the standard ling/muta/bane composition while expanding quickly, preferring more zerglings and banes as opposed to mutas. His micro and choice of engagements is usually poor and involves sending all his army to attack one front. Cezanne is very opportunistic on small maps and will all-in his opponent if he sees an opponent with weak defenses.
Virus is the epitome of what you want in a practice partner. He usually plays safe and standard but can execute almost any possible build. His execution is serviceable but his multitasking often fails him. Against zerg he does the typical hellion expand into marine-tank play without any notable strengths. Virus will try to mech on large maps against macro-oriented players as a surprise strategy if he believes he can defend any harassment. Virus will also all-in on small maps to catch his opponent off guard but mostly against protoss.
With both players capable of throwing games at a whim it’s hard to call a certain winner. While Cezanne’s poor performance was a recognizable trend, Virus’ flubs in his Up-and-Down group were uncharacteristic. Virus is solid, not extraordinary, and that has carried him through many GSL seasons while producing a few surprises. He is capable of pulling off good strategies if he is not overly nervous. Combined with the last map being Antiga Shipyard, which favors slow macro terran play, I give the edge slightly to Virus.
Virus 2-1 Cezanne (throw in a 2 base roach/ling all-in on Dual Sight for funsies)
NOTICE: I have no idea how to resize images and all that other jazz so important to making these blocks o’text bearable. Any help on that front would be appreciated. ^^