This is it. Dreams have been shattered and old juggernauts have been defeated this season, and so far the new GSL format has definitely given us compelling storylines and great games. There's no denying that both Genius and DRG both deserve to be in the finals. Both of the finalists used luck, skill, and sheer determination to cut a swath through the toughest Code S lineup so far, so this finals will definitely be a test of skill.
Who will come out victorious? Who will be the one kissing the Hot6ix 2012 GSL S1 trophy while the other applauds from the sidelines? We'll find out soon.
The beginning of the rebirth: 4-0 in Group D in the 2011 GSL Up-Down December
Genius has been on a journey of redemption this season, and his travels finally has brought him to the foot of the hallowed stairway towards his final goal; the GSL championship. In the past Genius had always been present in the GSL but never brilliant and he was one of the unfortunate examples of the mediocrity that the old 2011 GSL Code S format encouraged. His sole accomplishment was his 2010 Blizzcon championship, which increasingly became irrelevant as the Starcraft 2 metagame evolved.
As a result throughout 2011 most people in the Starcraft 2 community ignored Genius and looked towards the Protoss President MC and the young protosses like Alicia and Tassadar to carry the protoss banner. Even when MC fell down to Code A and the various young protoss hopes failed to live up to the hype, the community never paused to consider rallying around Genius. He was never as flashy as other protoss, never as dominant as MC, and as a result never in the spotlight.
Now though, things have changed.
Ever since the beginning of the new 2012 GSL Season 1, Genius has been playing with a fire in his heart. Despite being written off by many people in the community, Genius demolished his opposition in Code A, and went on to go undefeated in his Up-Down group to secure his spot in the new Code S. As most people continued to ignore him, Genius continued his rapid ascent through Code S taking out the likes of DRG, sC, MKP, and Nestea. When he faced off against the Protoss President himself in the Ro8, again people wrote Genius off. Once again Genius prove all non-believers wrong by not only defeating MC but dominating him 3-0.
Nestea and MKP were but a few of obstacles Genius overcome on his road to the finals
In his spectacular run this season through one the toughest lineup of players yet, Genius has not relied on talent or luck, rather relying on his own skill and preparation to win. Against MC his preparation showed as he read MC’s builds like a book and outplayed the PvP veteran. Against DRG and Nestea he showed a spectacular understanding of zerg timings against the two best zergs in the world in a matchup that used to be his weakest. Against MKP in the Ro16 he showed rock-solid mental fortitude in engineering one of the great comebacks this season by defeating MKP in an epic Bo3 after already being beaten three straight games across two sets by MKP.
This is not the old Genius. This is the Genius who does not care for hype, this is a Genius who is sick of coasting along and earning an easy Code S stipend, and this is a Genius who is hungry for a GSL championship. The title of “Best Starcraft 2 Protoss” be damned. Only one things matters to Genius, and that is to stand on the GSL stage with the trophy in his hands.
Where others would have been crushed, DRG endured. Now, he has a chance to laugh at the world with a GSL championship in his hands
As dominant as DRG has been so far, it is easy to forget how much he has had to struggle to get to this point. DRG has always been the one zerg that Starcraft 2 pros respected and feared the most, but throughout most of 2011 DRG struggled to live up to the hype. DRG only really excelled in the GSTL, single-handedly carrying team MVP to the grand finals in 2011 GSTL May and again in the October 2011 GSTL Season 1. For these feats alone he should have earned a Code S spot, but instead DRG had to slug through MLG Anaheim and MLG Raleigh to finally get a chance to play in the toughest Starcraft 2 league in the world.
When it looked like DRG finally got a chance to shine, his struggles only continued. DRG lost to Supernova in GSL October and hit a bad rut in GSL November by falling out of the Ro32 into Code A. DRG fought his way back through Code A to re-secure his spot in Code S, but the DRG faithful were already wavering. It really looked like DRG could not live up to the hype and the expectations that had followed him for so long.
MMA may have stopped DRG’s amazing comeback to take the Blizzard Cup, but the crowd chanted DRG’s name anyways.
Then Blizzard Cup finals blew away any doubts. In perhaps in the greatest GSL finals so far, DRG engineered the unthinkable and came back from a 3-0 deficit against a seemingly invulnerable MMA to force what has gone down in history as the most exciting game 7 to ever be played on stage in the GSL. DRG didn’t manage to beat MMA in the end, but he showed the world that his instinct and skill was very real. From there, DRG was vindicated, and he went on to dominate the King of Kongs tournament and crush his way to the finals of the 2012 GSL Season 1.
With these accomplishments and DRG’s history of spectacular games, any other lesser player in DRG’s position would have been complacent, but DRG has a greater goal than simply becoming one of the best in Starcraft 2. His victory in the King of Kong tournament and his decisive defeat of Nestea in the Ro16 to unofficially earn the King of Zergs title so far this year have all just been minor footnotes; DRG doesn’t only want to win this GSL championship, he wants to create a legacy in Starcraft 2.
It takes many championships to create a legacy, and DRG has his eyes on every single finals after this one. Some might think this might be arrogant, but for DRG the dream of creating his own legend is what has driven him through all of his struggles so far. After all, this is the same player who turned down Boxer’s invitation to join SlayerS to build his own legacy with his own skill. For DRG, it is all or nothing. There’s no doubt that DRG deserves this championship, but DRG knows that he’ll have to earn it on stage, and he’ll do everything to make sure that the 2012 Hot6ix GSL Season 1 finals is but the first chapter in his legacy.
The much-anticipated battle between two of Starcraft 2’s elites.
In a finals matchup between two teammates that know each other’s styles well, expect some weird and wonky games. Starcraft 2 at this level is heavily reliant on the metagame, and having two players who know each other well means that there’s a good chance for plenty of mind games as both players try to keep the other guessing.
That said there are a few constants we can look at when analyzing the matchup between Genius and DRG. Recently DRG’s main ZvP strategy has been based on the gasless fast three-base build, which relies heavily roaches and zerglings to keep the protoss pinned on two bases to buy enough time to protect the vulnerable fast third expansion. In almost all his PvZ games this season DRG has used this build, and he also used this build with great success versus Parting and Oz in the MLG Winter Arena.
DRG’s love for this build isn’t surprising given the current metagame in Korea, with protosses favoring forge-fast expands followed up by two-base tech and/or pressure in the PvZ matchup. By securing a fast gasless third hatch, it allows DRG to economically surpass a fast-expanding protoss while giving him the production needed for larvae-intensive roach production. The disadvantage and the risk with the build is that zerg tech is heavily delayed, making it vulnerable to protoss timings, and given how popular and powerful protoss two-base timings are it would seem silly that any ordinary zerg would call it their ‘safe’ build.
DRG humbling JYP with spectacular multi-tasking and timings in the Ro32, showing JYP that being good at the matchup doesn’t mean anything versus The DRG.
Of course, DRG is no ordinary zerg.
The reason why DRG has used this build with great success so far is because of his amazing instincts which allow him to read his opponents like an open book. DRG knows how to apply pressure and respond appropriately to pressure himself, which is key in protecting a exposed third. I covered his amazing instincts in my King of Kong Finals recap, but honestly words can’t do justice to how quickly DRG is able to read his opponents and how accurately DRG is able to respond.
If DRG senses that his protoss opponent is teching hard, he isn’t afraid to commit to a roach-ling-bling bust, and at the same time he isn’t afraid to sit back and tech himself behind some pressure. Parting learned the hard way how deadly DRG’s instincts were as DRG picked Parting’s strategies apart and demolished Parting two separate times in the Ro8 this season and in the MLG Winter Arena loser’s bracket.
However, there is one protoss who has recently defeated DRG’s gasless third build, and that just happens to be Genius. When they met in Group F in the Ro32 this season, Genius defied popular expectations by handing DRG two straight defeats in their series, punishing DRG’s greedy strategy with superb stargate harass and deflecting DRG’s mid-game pressure attempts. Genius also showed an understanding of the matchup he had never really shown before in previous GSL seasons, calmly calculating what he needed to win against DRG’s mutalisk transitions in both games and setting up enough defenses to win two base trades in their matches.
Peerless deduction, flawless forcefields, and Voidrays were just a few of the things Genius used to beat DRG 2-0 in the Ro32.
Genius then went on to show the same composure and unshakeable control of the game against Nestea in the Ro16, and in the final game on Bel’shire Beach when Nestea tried to use the fast gasless third strategy, Genius once again deflected Nestea’s numerous prodding attacks and steamrolled over Nestea’s unprepared army to take the series. From his games this season, there is little doubt that Genius is superb at making decisions in the mid-game. Thanks to his solid map-awareness he is completely dominant in the late-game with a high-supply micro-intensive army, which also happens to be where the protoss shines in the matchup.
It’s no accident that Genius has had a 100% winrate in the GSL when he has a 200 supply army, and DRG will find it hard to harass and pressure Genius enough to prevent him from building that army. What truly makes Genius scary though is that he shares DRG’s appetite for aggressiveness, and he is perfectly capable of executing a scary mid-game six gate timing attack as he is sitting back defensively to macro up. Once you add in Genius’s love of stargate play with his solid decision making and diverse builds, the formula for DRG’s success becomes very complex.
In terms of play styles both players are relatively even, with both Genius and DRG equally at home being aggressive or being completely reactive. Once you look beyond their play styles though, things start to stack up in Genius’s favor. Genius has proved this season that he isn’t someone who DRG can take lightly, and when you combine the practice time lost with his participation in the MLG Winter Arena in New York, DRG is at a distinct disadvantage. While DRG has found success with the gasless third expansion build so far in ZvP versus other protoss, he can’t afford to be predictable in the finals, especially since Genius defeated that very build three times so far this GSL season.
For DRG to win, he will definitely need to play more aggressively than he has in the past. MKP picked Genius apart with efficient multi-tasking in his victories over Genius in the Ro16, and DRG’s best shot at victory will lie in controlling the tempo of the games with his mutalisks and pre-positioned ground forces. As for Genius, expect him to play to his strengths by harassing DRG with stargate play and building a powerful army composition that DRG will not be able to meet head-on. Thanks to the current dynamics of matchup, Genius is more likely than DRG to cheese, and don’t be surprised if he opens with some funny proxy business in the first match on Daybreak.
DRG has the raw skill to take the championship, but he needs time and preparation to take down Genius’s strong PvZ, and he has precious little of both. With both MVP members in the finals, I’m sure that Genius and DRG have agreed to work on their finals match somewhat independently using their non-team affiliated connections. Without having the entire team pitching in help either player prepare, the player with the most time and a stronger history of preparation will have the advantage, and Genius just happens to be this player.
Arguably DRG has the superior instincts and a deeper understanding of the matchup, but these factors can only take him so far against a highly prepared opponent, and past GSL finals have shown that the more prepared player almost always takes the championship. Both Genius and DRG have stage experience so any stage fright or nerve issues shouldn’t be a factor, and with Genius being intimately familiar with DRG’s play, Genius looks like he will take the championship 4-2.
That said though, I’ll be rooting for DRG. It’s hard not to cheer for him, and if there’s anybody who can pull off the impossible, he’s the one. Regardless of who we’re rooting for though, let’s hope for a great finals series.
Brothers and friends to the end. May the best player win.
Image credit to GOMTV. Bumper graphics and text by jkc. Thanks for the support and feedback!