Genius has played precisely five PvZs since he abruptly flipped the switch in 2012 and decided that he wanted to be a championship caliber player instead of Code S filler. The small sample size makes it difficult to look for patterns in his play, but we can still pick out a few trends.
The most noticeable thing about Genius' PvZ is how well he deals with backdoors and run-bys. Most of the time, he is able to predict the backdoor and have sufficient defenses to deal with the attack straight up, or buy enough time for forces to return. More impressively, he is able to make good decisions in all of his base trade-esque situations, doing just enough damage with his forces before returning them to defend.
Good decisions are a trend on the whole, or at least a tendency to make his opponent's decisions look bad. For example, on Bel'Shir Beach, Genius went for a relatively quick third base and induced a roach-ling attack from DongRaeGu which he thwarted without any trouble at all, making DRG's decision to attack instead of drone up look utterly foolish. Or, in another example, Genius' decisions to build a small group of phoenixes out of one stargate would always end up with his opponent having just few enough mutas for the phoenixes to be an nuisance. In that fashion, things seemed to flow Genius' way, allowing him to build his economy, army, and all the things he needed to win without being really troubled by his opponents.
Compared to some of the newer Protoss stars, Genius looks like he lacks a little in terms of finesse. His stargate units fly needlessly in range of spore crawlers, his force fields are good but not exceptional, savable stalkers die before blinking, etc. If it came to a two-base all-in, I could think of handful of other players who would seem better at the helm. However, Genius more than makes up for his generic micro in his overall ability to manage the game.
Strategy choice wise, Genius mixed it up pretty evenly this GSL – going for a two-base all-in twice, while going for a fast third base and a macro game in the other two games. The fifth game was one where Nestea 6-pooled Genius, causing a non-standard game pattern (Genius played that game about as well as one can after being 6-pooled). Genius played a similar basic opener every single game – a forge FE with a stargate and late +1 – so we weren't able to see how he executed some other PvZ standards. Some notable Protoss strategies we did NOT see from Genius: 4 gate +1 zealot pressure after forge FE, 2 stargate, immortal centered 2-base all-ins, blink centered 2-base all-ins, no-stargate play after forge FE, gateway first openers.
Overall, it seems that Genius is a Protoss player whose strength is in playing long macro games off three bases, but is also happy to mix in the occasional two-base all-in to keep his opponents guessing. If you think that sounds the description of every textbook Protoss out there, then you'd be right. Genius plays by the book, and he's doing it better than anyone else right now.
On the other hand, we've had a recent overload of DongRaeGu ZvPs to look at, as he played sixteen of them at MLG Winter Arena alone. Had any other opponent been awaiting him in the GSL finals, DRG might have been wary of showing too much of his playstyle ahead of the final, but since he was going up against teammate Genius, he probably knew there wasn't much to hide in the first place.
After watching DRG's extremely well rounded ZvT, where he's capable of using every strategy at every stage of the game, his ZvP can look a little one dimensional. Perhaps the match-up is to blame for pigeon-holing Zerg players into a certain style of play, but in any case DongRaeGu's ZvP is all about relentless attacks that come on all fronts. To that end, he greatly prefers the mutalisk tech tree (he used to enjoy the two base ling-festor build, but it's gone curiously missing from his playbook as of late), as their mobility allows him to cause chaos and force his opponent to spread his troops thinly, revealing holes in the defense.
Once DongRaeGu smells blood, he commits to an endless assault. When things go to plan, the Protoss player will move troops to cover a weakness at one location, expose a new weakness for DRG to attack, which will cause the Protoss army to relocate yet again, expose another weakness, and so forth until GG. Though this is an ideal ZvP winning pattern a lot of Zerg players try to achieve, few do it quite as well as DRG. His insane speed and multi-tasking are enough to disorient even the best PvZ players, and he's been seen effectively managing three-prong attacks on multiple occasions. DongRaeGu aggressively looks for opportunities to perform that one run-by or backdoor attack that will start a deadly chain reaction, although at times it looks like he's trying to force something that just isn't there, and pays the price.
As long as we're comparing ZvT apples to ZvP oranges, DRG's uncanny immunity to harassment and all-ins in ZvT hasn't carried over to ZvP. A well executed two-stargate build, 7-Gate blink rush, 3 immortal + 7 gate push, etc. can kill DRG like any other Zerg player in the world. It's something DRG has taken the time to complain about loudly via Twitter, stating that the outcome of such rushes is almost entirely in the hands of the Protoss and his ability (or inability) to force-field correctly. On the other end of things, DongRaeGu doesn't mind cheesing himself, whether it be a six-pool or roach bust.
Head to Head
When both players play 'standard,' the games should be a pretty straight forward duel of offense and defense. Genius has been a master of solid, safe play, able to execute his game plan while staying unshaken by any kind of aggression or harassment his Zerg opponent might try. On the other hand, DongRaeGu has been able to rattle the best PvZ players in the world, using rampant aggression to make sure they never regain their balance. It should be an entertaining duel, to say the least.
Genius was the victor once in the RO32. We all know that DRG's offensive capabilities are top notch, so it will be interesting to see if Genius is really a world class defensive player, or if he just had a lot of lucky reads against DongRaeGu in that earlier meeting.
However, we might not even see that many standard games, depending on how many all-ins the two players decide to bring. DongRaeGu has shown a fair amount of vulnerability to Protoss all-ins in his recent PvZs, and Genius is among the players who defeated him with a well executed two base attack. "Preparing for a PvZ series" is sometimes just another way to say "Slightly tweak existing two-base all-in timings to be more unpredictable," and as SK__MC has shown, it's a perfectly legitimate way to try and win a series. He defeated Leenock that way at the Blizzard Cup, and might even have beat DRG if he didn't waste one game going triple nexus into carriers (yes, that actually happened). Though Genius' standard play has looked strong in its limited sample, it would be no surprise to see him bring multiple, creatively timed two-base builds to try and catch DRG off-guard.
DRG will probably use his fair share of cheese as well, as he usually brings a 2 : 1 ratio of normal to cheese (the "Flash" ratio as I like to call it) in important series – a good ratio to keep opponents unsure as to whether they can play greedily or not, and pick up the occasional free-win when build orders match up appropriately. With that in mind, you can't rule out the possibility of a cheesefest finals. Genius has shown he can take on the 6-pool just fine, but we haven't seen how he deals with roach or baneling busts, which could be an important part of the series.
One thing we know almost nothing about is how a super-late game scenario would go, should a game reach that point. DongRaeGu has managed to go through his last twenty or so ZvP games without having a single meaningful hive stage game, which is not surprising given his commitment towards ending games with continued aggression. Genius hasn't shown us a late-game PvZ in what seems like forever, and we don't really know how he'll deal with hive units. He's been a beast in max-out fights in other match-ups, but that doesn't necessarily mean the same will apply to PvZ. With many of the maps being macro-friendly, we will probably see at least one game where this unknown comes into play.
Prediction: DongRaeGu 4 – 2 Genius
Genius has looked great in the five PvZ's he played during this run, but it's still just five games. Genius might be running ridiculously hot this season, and sometimes momentum can mean all the difference in the world. Still, I can't bring myself to buy into the hype. Not with just five games. While DongRaeGu's ZvP hasn't been as dominating as his ZvT, it's still an absurdly good 24 – 9 in 2012, which I will take every day of the week over 4 – 1. Genius has earned the respect of many, but to earn their belief, he will have to climb one more mountain.