With the Starcraft II beta opening last week, it has rapidly become apparent that the days for Brood War are numbered. We could be looking at our last ever seasons of the OSL and MSL – although realistically that unlikely. What is certain though, the PokerStrategy.com TSL is the last major foreign event for BroodWar. Players will never again get their shot at the big money in Starcraft, and titans like Idra and ret will never win a SC TSL title.
We have only two matches remaining for foreign Starcraft – the 3rd/4th playoff and the PokerStrategy.com TSL Final. Both look to be exciting matchups, but we’ll talk about those in depth later on. The players who have made it this far couldn’t be more fit for the dying matches of BroodWar. In the 3rd/4th playoff we have the former TSL Champion IefNaij against the monstrous Sen. In the final we have the Mechanical Mastermind, Nony, up against the Genius German, Mondragon.
IefNaij has a very quiet year in Starcraft due to his commitment to real life, but he’s proven this season that if you were once good, you can get good again in no time. With minimal practice he has bested the likes of Terran and White-Ra before falling to Nony in the semifinal. These are impressive feats consider both Terran and White-Ra boast intense practice schedules. His ability to come back from nothing – both outside of the game and inside of a best of 5 series (as seen in his two 0-2 comebacks) – is extremely impressive and he is fully deserving of a top four placing.
Sen has been a great Zerg for a very long time now sporting a very ‘exploitative’ style, for lack of a better word. Sen is one of those players who is able to exploit a weakness in the opponent style with deadly precision. We saw him execute this against ret in his very close 3-2 win in the Round of 8 – he was able to take advantage of a small weakness in ret’s game and thus proceed to the semifinals. He couldn’t take on the genius of Mondragon in his match, but that’s not much discredit considering his opponent was Mondragon after all! In addition to being ‘exploitative’ he has refined mechanics and solid macro to boot – he really is the complete package.
The IefNaij vs Sen series is going to be peculiar to say the least. IefNaij has stated that he is least confident in his PvZ, but going by his track record this isn’t a claim I would take very seriously! Meanwhile, Sen absolutely demolished Draco in the Round of 16 so we know that Sen’s ZvP is right up there. There is a lot at stake here, over $1,500 worth, so I’m sure IefNaij will bring his best game to the party and give everything he’s got to try and win.
Unfortunately, I can’t just sit on the fence and say that both players are great and that I hope they have a good time and play some good games! One player is going to have to win this playoff, and I have to put my money on Sen. Despite his 0-3 loss to Mondragon, throughout the entire TSL Sen has looked mighty impressive. In particular, his series against Draco is a good example of why I think his ZvP is in excellent condition at the moment. IefNaij has been running on minimal practice and traditionally has a weaker PvZ – this puts him on the back foot in my opinion.
Is Sen going to have an easy time taking out IefNaij? Not by any means. IefNaij has shown that he is willing to fight hair tooth and nail to stay in this competition. I’m sure he will be playing the very best Starcraft he can and thus I think the series is going to go to a fifth game. Sen will probably have the edge on Fighting Spirit and Destination but I feel that Outsider suits IefNaij’s style better and Tornado is a map Sen is probably least experienced on nullifying a tiny bit of the practice advantage Sen has over IefNaij. Andromeda is a little bit of a Z>P map and is going to provide a fitting battle ground for the conclusion of the series. I expect an epic showing (hopefully with Sair/Reaver and Devourers !!) but with Sen eventually taking the series.
Now let’s look to our finalists. Nony is a hero on TeamLiquid, and rightfully so! He is a member of clan Liquid` and occasionally streams his games for us. Furthermore, he has dabbled in Progaming and easily looked like the most promising player to go to Korea in a long time. You simply do not fluke getting 2nd in Courage on your first try! Nor do you leave an impression on a Proteam like Nony did – what with his open invitation to go back and how he was able to help Sangho prepare for some PvP matches.
Nony’s strength lies in his preparation, builds and mechanics. While not as refined as someone like Idra, Nony’s mechanics are still amongst the best in the scene. Furthermore, he is one of the few players who is actually able to practice against a computer and get something useful out of it – in fact he did this at WCG 2008 when they didn’t have an internet connection (as did Stork). Nony is a force to be reckoned with, and his miraculous return to form over the past month has been absolutely outstanding and a pleasure to watch. Nony is the real deal, and he has his sight firmly set on the TSL grand prize of $10,000.
If Nony’s greatest strength is his mechanics, then Mondragon’s biggest strength is his brain. Here we have the classic showdown of Mechanics vs Mind – and what a fitting way to end Starcraft’s life. Mondragon has been hailed as the best ever foreign Starcraft player, and for good reason. For a very long time he was considered the undisputed #1 Foreign player since he just dominated everything he played in. His ZvP had a formidable reputation, in fact he was even able to defeat ZeuS 2-1 in a Blizzard showmatch in 2005 (MMI). While Mondragon may claim that his ZvT is his best at the moment, when your ZvP was that good, it shouldn’t be hard for him to regain that glory once again.
Day has talked a lot about Mondragon’s crisis management, and indeed, this is one of his strongest attributes. But something else I’ve noticed throughout the TSL is how Mondragon grows from series to series. He has looked stronger and stronger every week and that is why he is here in the Finals today. Any holes that were present in Mondragons game at the start of this tournament are now gone. For instance, his macro was slightly off against Brat_OK – completely fixed for his match against Fenix. But one thing has stayed consistent throughout his TSL run and that is his impeccable use of Defiler – his reaction speed is insane and he is getting those swarms and plagues off almost before the battle has begun. I’m really excited to see what strategies Mondragon is going to pull out in a Bo7 final for $10000.
Again, I am forced to make a prediction here. This showdown between Mechanics and the Mind is going to be incredibly interesting to watch for a number of reasons. Both players are not one trick ponies – Nony knows how to make a strategic play (after all that how he overcame Idra) and Mondragons mechanics are nowhere near subpar – they are very very good. However, if there is one thing that WaxAngel has taught me over the past few months it is that in tournaments the “best” player doesn’t always win, it is the player who is able to take that risk and gamble with a strategic play and simply outplay his opponent on the day. Mondragon is able to do that and I think that he will be able to play the Bo7 as a more “complete” series in the sense that he will be more in control of the flow of the series with strategically placed strategic plays. Thus, I think he will be able to take series 4-3.
This is the last tournament for foreign Broodwar and will be something you remember for the rest of your life. Sure there is a Gold Medal ice hockey match going on – but you can see that again in another 4 years! This is Starcraft. This the game we have grown up with, adored, and a watched for hours upon hours upon hours. You were never get the opportunity to witness Starcraft like this ever again, this truly is a once in a lifetime experience. Disregard everything else that is going on in your life, you can catch up on that later... Come and watch the TSL finals on Sunday at 2pm EST – it’s your last chance to witness the beauty of foreign Starcraft and an opportunity to witness history in the making.
It’s been a long road, but we are finally here. Tune in for Mondragon vs Nony on Sunday – I assure you you will not regret it for an instant.