With eight of the best players in the world gathered in Helsinki for the ASUS ROG Stars Invite, Evil Genius' IdrA emerged at the top of the pack and took home the first place prize of $6,000. It was another feather in the cap for the American, who has been enjoying a run of fine form since winning the IEM Global Challenge Guanzhou in October.
While Stephano was conspicuously absent, the event provided a good look at where the best of the west stood just weeks before MLG Providence and DreamHack Winter bring a close to what has been an amazing year for competitive Starcraft II.
Day One: RO8
The first match provided an early shock as hometown favorite Acer.elfi knocked out the reigning MLG champion EG.HuK 3-1. The use of four-gate, an old PvP standard, was critical in Elfi's victory. With the meta-game having long shifted towards Robotics Facility based builds, HuK seemed caught off guard by a build many considered to be on its last legs.
While fans may have been shocked – and some even infuriated – by the uspet, the reasons were all there. Of any player with a substantial sample size, Elfi has the highest TLPD PvP win rate with a whopping 73%, surpassing the likes of MC (70%), HuK (66%), and Sase (66%). Also, while travel can only provide so much of an excuse for a player who willingly participates in so many international tournaments, HuK's Korea-USA-Korea-Finland world tour would not have helped his conditioning.
While international fan support would definitely have been lopsided for the first match, the second featured two neck and neck fan favorites. mTw.DIMAGA and dignitas.SeleCT met in a rematch from the 2011 Blizzcon Invitational, where SeleCT earned a narrow victory through superior late game management.
The two continental representatives once again provided an exciting show for the audience, playing the kind of evenly matched, macro TvZ games that give the matchup its reputation of being the most entertaining in Starcraft II. On Shakuras Plateau in particular, there were echoes of Blizzcon, as DIMAGA played very well only to lose to SeleCT's brutal half-map macro play in the late game. The game on Metalopolis was another one of note, with SeleCT using an MKP-esque float-to-gold move for an early attack. DIMAGA was not amused, and he dispatched SeleCT with patience and poise. The series came down to the final game on Antiga Shipyard, which SeleCT took home with solid standard-game performance.
The third match of the day featured Idra and SjoW, two players who favor a drawn out slugfest to a quick and easy victory. Given their recent tournament performances, there was some surprise when SjoW bloodied IdrA's nose early by defeating him in a straight up macro game on Terminus. SjoW employed a mech style that looked down right abusive, rolling over Idra like a slowly moving glacier.
However, IdrA returned to his red-hot form in the following games and took the series with three straight games. When SjoW tried his mech style again during the final game on Antiga Shipyard, IdrA tossed aside his icepick and blew apart SjoW with some explosive, swarming macro play.
The final RO8 game had the enigmatic Liquid`Ret go up against the even more enigmatic Tt.White-Ra. For the first two games, it looked like Ret was toying with White-Ra for the lack of a better word. He seemed to be two steps ahead of White-Ra at all times, droning up at will while easily predicting White-Ra's fruitless attempts to harass and apply pressure.
First we make Stalker, then we... blah whatever.
Of course, being down 0-2 didn't faze White-Ra at all. Instead, he used it as a grand opportunity to show off his patented "Special Tectics" and came back with a 3-2 reverse-sweep. The fourth set on Tal'Darim Altar was a particularly good showcase of the Ukrainian's comeback powers, as he defeated what looked like an invincible force of Brood Lords with skillful use of blink Stalkers and Colossi. And to no one's surprise, White-Ra finished Ret off in the final set with his patented (and recently, much imitated) Warp-Prism tactics.
Day Two: Semi-Finals
The action resumed with Elfi going up against SeleCT in a battle of the very slow and very fast hands. The first game saw Elfi riding his four-gate build to yet another victory, as the fast-expanding SeleCT was completely unprepared for the early onslaught. However, SeleCT maintained his composure and fought back, defeating a two base Colossus rush in game two, and performing a strong one base marine-tank push in game three.
With the series on the line, Elfi was forced into his first real macro game of the tournament on Tal'Darim Altar. He proved to be just as formidable an opponent in a long game as in a short game, fighting evenly with SeleCT for over thirty minutes. While SeleCT was more than happy to once again validate his reputation as a wicked multi-tasker – harassing Elfi and denying expansions with vigor – the real surprise was that Elfi kept up with him for most of the way. Elfi's units were constantly making their way into SeleCT's expansions a handful at a time, killing dozens of SCVs and forcing Orbital floats.
In the end, SeleCT was just a little bit more dogged than Elfi about denying his opponent's expansions while trying to sneak in more of his own. Elfi found himself running out of mineable bases, while SeleCT continued to produce off of a respectable economy. Destructive battles continued to rage between the two sides, but SeleCT was able to reproduce his army faster. After a hard fought game, Elfi was forced to GG.
The second semi-final match pitted IdrA against White-Ra in an IPL3 rematch. Idra had mentioned in a previous interview that he didn't feel quite as good about ZvP as other match-ups, but it ended up seeming like a giant hustle.
White-Ra looked just as lost as he did against Ret in his first few games, but this time there was no last-minute magic to turn the series around. White-Ra offered just a glimmer of hope in the final game, but IdrA easily snuffed it out with dominating macro.
Before moving onto an exciting grand finals, there was a brief interlude as the 3rd/4th place matches were played between White-Ra and Elfi. With the difference between third and fourth place being $1000, it was not an entirely inconsequential match.
Four-gate was once again a key point in an Elfi series. This time, he mixed up a clever fake four-gate into Robotics build with a regular four-gate build to try and confuse his opponent. White-Ra opened with a fast three Stalker build in every game, but was fatally unable to choose the correct follow-ups. Elfi walked away with a 3-1 victory, taking home a well earned $1000.
Day 2: Grand Finals
The Grand Finals saw two of North America's finest show down for a handsome prize of $6000. For the umpteenth time in his career, IdrA found himself getting bunker rushed to start a ZvT series. And for the umpteenth + 1 time in his career, IdrA started the series 0-1 down.
However, such a frustrating loss did not cause IdrA to lose his composure. When SeleCT attempted yet another gold-float marine SCV all-in in the second game on Metalopolis, IdrA remained collected and cool as he planned his defense. Though he even fell into a very dire looking position as marines managed to commandeer his main base, IdrA did not panic. He executed a good Zergling counter attack while waiting to gather enough troops to secure his main. SeleCT took severe damage from IdrA's counter attacks while being unable to cause enough damage himself, and conceded the second game.
The third game on IdrA's much despised Xel'Naga Caverns saw a return of the "old" IdrA. After predicting a loss the map in a pre-match interview, IdrA did his best to make sure he was correct. SeleCT used dogged hellion harass to go into the mid-game ahead, and he was able to secure his gold base relatively easily. Down, but not quite out, Idra smashed some Mutalisks and Double-lings into SeleCT's gold base before quickly declaring GG while on even population counts. Apparently, he had decided that it would be better to move onto the next game than to expend too much energy on what would surely be a very up-hill battle.
The two players next spawned on diagonal spots on Tal'Darim Altar. SeleCT's reaper expansion build was unable to pressure IdrA adequately early, allowing the American Zerg to build up a powerful economy. The pesky drops SeleCT had been using so well in recent months were conspicuously absent and he found himself trying to fend off Mutalisks while IdrA got further and further ahead. With good harassment combined with overwhelming macro, IdrA took the game and brought the series back to even.
The fifth game on Shakuras Plateau ended up being something of a "best-of-Idra" game. SeleCT was coming off three impressive TvZ victories on Shakuras Plateau, with two wins against DIMAGA and one against GamaniaSen. By splitting the map in two and abusing his prodigious mechanics, SeleCT had been able to swat away waves of Hive units and wear down two of the top foreign Zergs.
At least from this game alone, IdrA appeared to be on a higher level. SeleCT tried to repeat his plan of holding the center while launching a series of to make sure his Zerg opponent could not take the central expands. While the plan seemed to work at first, it eventually became clear that IdrA had simply too much stuff. Wave after wave drove the Terran line back further and further until it finally broke. SeleCT had nowhere to make a last stand, and was forced to GG.
IdrA showed yet another aspect of his play in the sixth and deciding game on Antiga Shipyard. SeleCT went for a relatively quick third base as Terrans are inclined to do on Antiga, and IdrA pounced on the momentary defensive weakness caused by such ambitious plays. He used Mutalisks, Zerglings, and Banelings to bust through SeleCT's defenses, causing large amounts of damage. Though he was unable to finish the game, this mid-game damage put IdrA vastly ahead of his opponent. IdrA simply let his lead grow with time, and eventually finished off SeleCT with Hive tech to emerge as the ASUS ROG Stars Invite champion.
Day 3: Fun and Games
With the main tournament over, ASUS ROG also provided a series of show matches for the community. These fan-voting selected matches offered the viewers another day of top level gaming, while also giving the players a shot at additional prize money.
In the end, almost everyone ended up going home with heavier wallets, as SjoW, DIMAGA, and White-Ra were able to win their matches. Unfortunately for Ret, he was unable to garner enough votes in the fan-polls to earn a spot in a showmatch, while HuK lost both of the two he was voted into. After a night at a Finnish bar, those two may have gone home with slightly poorer finances, but were hopefully richer for the experience.
Even the event's commentator dignitas.Apollo was allowed to get in on the fun, facing ASUS ROG adminstrator Mudis in the final series of the tournament. While caster TotalBiscuit was unfairly robbed of an opportunity to display his skills as well, he was consoled by having the company of White-Ra as a casting partner for the Apollo-Mudis match.
And with that, the ASUS ROG Tournament came to a close.
Interview by: WaxAngel
Fans who have been following the international tournament scene will have noticed a name slowly creep its way into the rankings: Acer.elfi. After scoring a surprising upset against oGs.Nada at ASUS ROG Assembly Summer, Elfi has been a presence in global competitions for months since. Though his slow hand-speed and unorthodox play style has vexed many observers, one cannot argue against the results he gets. A second place finish at IEM Global Challenge Guangzhou marked a high point in the career of the former WarCraft III player, who recently followed up that good performance with the bronze medal at the ASUS ROG Stars Invitational. Elfi joined me to talk about the ASUS ROG, being underestimated, team Acer, and more.
First, could you introduce yourself briefly?
Hey I'm Samuli "elfi" Sihvonen from finland and I'm playing for team acer.
Let's start with your most recent tournament, ASUS ROG Stars Invite. How did you feel playing in Finland, your home country, against players from around the world? Did it feel any different from other tournaments?
Well ofc it was amazing since Finland is so small country and esports is really small here atm, I didn't even think there would be tournaments in Finland where world class players would come. But now there has been already three tournaments, this and Assembly winter and summer earlier. I'm really happy that I can play tournaments here also so I'm not the one who must travel abroad always.
Did you think there was any kind of home field advantage?
Hmm I don't think there is too much advantage. ofc there's a bit that you don't have to travel to other country but for really experienced players I don't think it matters where they play.
You managed to place third out of eight players at the tournament. What did you think of your play, and are you happy with your results?
I wasn't too happy with how I played against select and sjow but well it was expected. I'm not confident at all vs. terran and zerg atm and I have to do something about it, but overall I'm really happy with placing third. But I must say I think I was quite lucky to get protoss twice there, it's my favorite matchup and I feel I'm really strong in it atm so tournament went really good for me. When I looked the players list before brackets were out I couldn't have believed placing top three.
About PvP, TLPD says you have an incredible 73% win ratio in the matchup, which is higher than any other progamer (MC is 70%). What lets you play the match-up so well?
Well first of all I'm not playing the same opponents as MC. If I were to play in GSL etc. my PvP wouldn't be that high.
About the matchup I think I'm strong in it because I can exploit weaknesses in other players' strats, especially in early game after the patch people are feeling that 4gate sucks now and plays so risky. But tbh in my opinion 4gate haven't changed that much, it's a bit easier do a lot sentries since u can't warp to ramp, but since everyone underestimate 4gate now its easy to do it, especially vs. stalker builds it's possible just mass pylon in mineral line and kill alot workers. And if you mix your playing with super greedy fake 4gate, it's hard to know what you're doing.
You said you weren't so happy about your games with SeleCT. What did you think you could have done better?
Well I could have done so much stuff better in Shakuras, I made really big misjudgment I looked select is not having that much army at his main so I thought I could just attack and destroy his main totally since he had 2 medivacs ready to attack my mineral lines – that's 20 supply less. But then I lost my attack and my both mineral lines died so that was bad, I should have just put upgrades coming and storm and defend my bases. Metalopolis game I had chance to get few marauders and 10 marine for free but I misplaced my forcefields and lost the game pretty much there. Tal'darim game well there I think I didn't play that bad but there my observer control wasn't enough good and select sniped all time my observers so I think I lost game because that, and bit better control in fights would been needed.
You've had a lot of good results in the past few months including this tournament, but you still don't seem to be that well-known in the scene. Do you think you're underestimated?
Well I started doing good in tournaments only few months ago so it's not surprise people don't know me that much yet. There is so much tournaments and players so you can't pay attention to everything but yea I think I'm being underestimated bit. If I were some other player I would probably look that "hey this elfi kid just goes some surprising strat every game and hopes the best" but still I manage to win a few games, but everyone is probably thinking also that I can't go some rush every game so they won't make that good defends always. But well I actually do rush every game that I win but maybe in future I will mix my game with some macro but for now I think it's good that I'm being underestimated so people will concentrate to other players in tours and not how I play.
In general, you're known to have very slow hands for a pro-gamer. Do you feel that this is a big disadvantage in multi-tasking? And do you try to change the way you play because of it?
Well ofc it's disadvantage but you can't just change it, my apm will get bigger when I'm capable of doing more but I wouldn't say it's that much about being slow, but bigger problem is noticing everything at minimap. While in fights I probably won't notice every drop so that's my biggest problem looking the minimap all the time but like I said my apm will get bigger while I practice more and get better and mainly I think the whole being slow is all about people looking apm since I don't spam at start I have 6apm with 6 probes and not 400 like others.
So what are your tournament plans for the next few months? Obviously you will play in the big European tournaments, but do you have any plans to try and play MLG or American tournaments?
I still have 2 tournaments this year. First will be Dreamhack and after that I will go to WCG in Korea but after that I'm not sure what's my plans. I'd like to visit MLG it's seeming really cool tournament so I'm hoping next year I can go there at least once but for the other American tours like NASL and IPL I can't see my self playing those since the online is played at NA server and always when I go there I feel like if my opponent plays good I have no chance since delay there sucks.
Looking ahead at at DreamHack Winter, how do you think you'll be able to do? Do you think you're improving at a fast rate?
I think I was improving quite fast before going to IEM China but after that I think I've been going down all time mainly because not having time to practice. I was almost 4 week traveling from tournament to another and didn't really practice at that time and when I finally got home I was sick for week and didn't really feel practicing. And then ASUS ROG already was in next days so I haven't practised that much for like one and half month so I'm not feeling confident for Dreamhack since I got only 2 week time to practice but I will try my best.
What do you think of Foreigners vs Korea now? At IEM New York where you played, Koreans did very well, but Guangzhou was foreigner vs foreigner final with you vs Idra, while Stephano won IPL3 and HuK won MLG...
The overall level is total different still in Korea there is so much more good players but I think the top foreigners are quite close to top of Korea, not quite there yet but close. Like you said stephano won the ipl and huk mlg so there is good chance we will get closer to their level but it will be hard since I think it's so much easier going progamer in Korea because the culture there but the attitude towards esports is getting better in Europe now especially in Germany, France and Sweden so that will make it easier to go top.
Personally, how would you feel if you were matched up against Koreans at DreamHack?
If I were to play Korean who is terran or zerg I'm total underdog there but vs Korean protoss I would be confident since I would be so hardly underestimated there so in PvP I have good change to surprise them.
The 1.4.2 patch hit recently, making the situation better for Protoss all around. What did you think of the patch, and how do you think balance will be now?
Hahaha yea protoss is getting some buff funny thing was when someone said "elfi ur getting buff next patch," well then we looked what was the buff and it was uprgades +2 +3 every laughed so hard since yea, I'm getting buffed there I get those so often.... but ok so lets be serious I don't think the upgrades matter that much since when u get 3-3 u save 150/150 and then you have already 3-4 bases so that's small change but I don't think it will affect too much. About the emp nerf I've been expecting that some time already since it was earlier so hard to get feedback or storm off because the emp range was so good. I haven't yet tested how hard it's now to emp ht before it feedbacks but I think that's really good change for PvT. Ghost has been so good there taking 50% hps from every unit.
You've been with Team ACER for a few months now, how are you guys doing and how are they treating you?
I've been treated really well here I've met almost everyone from our team in tours already and I have nothing to complain. We have alot talent in our team so people will hear more from Team ACER soon but the best think here is that everything is so easy. In virus every lan event was so hard I basically had to do everything myself if I wanted things to work but here the team is capable handling my lan events^^
Ok, let's wrap up then. Any shout-outs or comments?
I wanna thank all my fans for their support and wish me luck for Dreamhack Winter and don't forget Maru.