Table of Contents
Rolling the Dice
Choya and Coaching Decisions
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Rolling the Dice
This is it. After three months of play, everything comes down to a single best-of-nine match in the desert oasis of Las Vegas. A season defined by incredible play, surprising upsets, disappointing defeats, and questionable coaching decisions will be decided in less than a day, putting the cap on GSL's first team-league run of the year.
The inaugural season of the year is poised to make a splash and set the standard for months to come, not only pairing itself with a large offline tournament outside Korea, the first time the GSTL has made an appearance in foreign land, but by becoming a spectacle all unto its own.
With the crew running rehearsals all week, MC CatsPajamas has been honing his role, perfecting and fine-tuning the introductions and preparing for the energy level needed on the biggest GSTL stage yet. The players, warmed up already from a series of open bracket or group games already, will be showing their full force. They will show their true colors, finally unleashing strategies on the world that they may have been holding back from IPL.
Get ready for quite a show. It should be a good one.
StarTale’s Battle in the Desert
The tension is high between rivaling teams StarTale and Prime. Going into the desert for one last battle and to be crowned GSTL Champions.
Recently looking as if they have finally conquered inconsistency, StarTale is fired up for these finals after there was a huge amount of momentum gained from the semifinals. Those the games were close, in the end StarTale took overpowered MVP 5 games to 3. StarTale, fighting without their macro orientated Terran Bomber, had a mountain to climb during the semifinals when facing off with MVP’s ever so powerful line up. Taking on Prime will be no easy feat. StarTale’s key players will be needed if they want to rain over Prime’s parade this coming finals day.
StarTale’s strength lies in players which have been performing well throughout the tournament and have shown top form lately. With Squirtle pulling the upset over DRG, perhaps MarineKing is in the Protoss’ line of fire? The confidence that oozes out of StarTale’s line is ever increasing, as they are flying the entire team roster out to Las Vegas to watch the finals and their fellow teammates play their hearts out for the coveted GSTL championship trophy, not to mention bragging rights when they return to Korea.
Even before considering last year's supposed-next-big-thing Bomber, StarTale has an extremely strong and much underrated line up capable of causing huge amounts of damage to the Prime roster. Both Curious and Squirtle taking two games against MVP could easily spell trouble for Prime. With MarineKing’s exceptional run against Zerg and Terran recently, it leads to the conclusion that maybe his TvP is slightly off, giving Squirtle a slight advantage if these two were to fight it out. Despite his loss to GanZi the day before the finals, PartinG is yet another strong Protoss in the StarTale disposal that will remain ready to unleash upon the world. After all, in his recent MLG run PartinG took a game off MarineKing and the experience should prove useful this weekend.
They will need to keep a close eye on BBoongBBoongPrime as there a lot of strong Protosses in StarTale’s line up, with the long-name Zerg's ability to strike down the better StarTale players selecting a time to take him out will be key. The possibility of an all-kill remains every present with Squirtle’s recent performance, even after a slightly disappointing finish in the open bracket of the IPL.
StarTale’s ace would be Bomber going into this final and could stand a very close chance sniping Marine King with his outstanding TvT which at the moment is his strongest matchup. Sending him out would be a wise choice to counter Prime’s decision. Bomber, a legend in his own right will definitely bring the A game everyone is looking for while still being able to please the sold out crowd in Las Vegas.
StarTale is a team which is known for their showmen like players, and with AcE having a strong open bracket showing his ceremony-dial should be turned all the way up. This weekend will definitely be a weekend to remember.
Blood will be spilled on the sand. This is StarTale's battle, and they intend to win.
Not too long ago, Prime was left for dead. MarineKing, after choking in the biggest match of his life in the semifinals of the $100,000 Super Tournament to MMA after being up 2-0 in the best-of-five series, began the biggest slump of his career. After losing his chance of becoming a GSL champion for the fourth time, MKP not only didn't make it back to a GSL finals or even semifinals, but he fell all the way down to Code A and didn't make it back to the round of sixteen of Code S for six months.
Polt, their player who did win the Super Tournament, left the team shortly after and joined the Team SCV Life to become their captain. HongUn, their best Protoss who had made various deep runs in Code S, also left the team and decided to join a foreign team. Anypro, one of their most consistent players, vanished from the face of the earth and hasn't been seen in what seems like a year. Maka, the player who everyone thought was going to win a couple of GSL titles due to his impressive results in the beta, never lived up to expectations after the first season and also decided to join a foreign team.
Their main sponsor, Sabasaba Chicken? Left them.
Their partnership with the Chinese team, World Elite? Gone.
What was left was a rag tag group of players led by a guy who had gone to the finals three times, had choked multiple times on the biggest stage possible, and was going through the toughest time in his progaming career. A team that once was known for it's upbeat attitude and close team nature, was now in shambles with people even whispering how long before they folded or when a foreign team would offer MarineKing a big contract to leave. It felt like the clock was ticking until the Prime team disbanded or their only star would leave for greener foreign pastures.
In what, at first, appeared to be a last ditch desperation tactic to save the team, Prime decided to essentially become their own sponsor. They teamed up with an online clothing store, turned their nerds into models, and created PrimeZzang, the first ever half Starcraft 2 team and half modeling service. Again, at the beginning, it all seemed quite foolish. Kids who only played a video game for 10 plus hours a day modeling online for clothes?
It turned out to be one of the best decisions they ever made. The online store was a success with not only the Korean community, but the foreign community as well with MarineKing as their main model. With an actual sponsor, the team was allowed to bounce back from the ditch they had fallen into, making a miraculous run in the GSTL playoffs after being the only team to sneak into the knockout rounds with a losing record. With the emergence of Creator, the fifteen-year-old Protoss, the memories of HongUn's blink stalker all-ins were quickly forgotten and a new team was shaping in front of our eyes.
While the old players were missed, a new generation was starting to take the stage. Alongside Creator, they had Maru, a fourteen-year-old Terran player who had once made Code A before falling in an embarrassing series against FruitDealer, and BboongBboong, an eccentric, but very popular, player who after winning a game in a team league would go to the bench for a snack before going back into the booth. Finally, there was GhostKing, formerly known as Byun, who joined Prime after Polt left to fill the void, but wasn't allowed to play after an incident with Coca in a weekly tournament where he made a foolish mistake that cost him a long suspension from competitive play.
After falling to MVP in last season's finals, everything started to come together. Creator, a player who always had potential but never was able to get over the hump, started to impress everyone with his double forge play against Terran and made a name for himself. Maru, the player who was the last player FruitDealer ever beat before moving to LoL, was now older, wiser, and not only qualified for Code S in his first go around, but topped his round of thirty two to the surprise of everyone. GhostKing, who finally come off his lengthy suspension, came up big in his first appearance on his new team, three-killing and getting the win for his team against the opponents they'll face once again in the final.
Prime is a team that is only still around because of their will to survive. Without sponsors, their best players leaving, and their star player in the biggest drought of his career, it wouldn't have been surprising to see them lose everything. They were literally a one man team with their second best player on the roster, GhostKing, suspended due to a "match fixing" scandal. Nothing was going right and it took real initiative to turn the sinking ship into what you see now.
A championship for Prime wouldn't be just another trophy to put on a shelf, but a symbol for how they've come. MarineKing, the player who was once known for choking and falling apart in his booth, has finally become the player that everyone had always hoped he would turn into. With his confidence at the highest it's ever been, two MLG titles under his belt, and a chance to bring a title to his team, this is the time for MarineKing to have the crowning achievement of his career.
Yes, MLG Winter Arena was nice and MLG Winter Championship gave out more money, but if MarineKing can deliver a championship to Prime, it will justify everything that he has gone through in the past year. While his friends have left him and the old members of Prime have faded, he has never wavered. He might not be the captain by title, but he is the heart and soul of this Prime team.
Grab your flags, Prime fans, for the night is upon us in the city of sin. The Prime Revolution is finally ready to begin it's march.
Choya, Coaching Decisions, and the Benefit of the Doubt
Alas, poor Choya. After quieting those who doubted the worthiness of his frequent GSL appearances by winning a respectable number of games, FXO's head coach/player landed himself in another heap of trouble during the GSTL semi-finals against Prime.
To a spectator, FXO is a team with a clear top four of Leenock, Gumiho, Lucky, and Oz, with a flexible fifth spot that can be filled depending on situation. By deploying FXOasd earlier in the evening, it seemed that FXO had precluded the possibility of Choya, or anyone outside of the four horsemen from getting a shot at playing.
GSTL viewers might have begrudgingly recognized Choya as FXO's fifth best player in the line-up, but his decision to play himself ahead of Oz in a situation where FXO had only two lives left (Leenock was preserved as the ace) crossed the line for many fans. By a variety of measures – tournament results or otherwise – Oz was clearly a superior player to Choya, and Choya putting himself ahead of Oz was an example of overwhelming idiocy or conceit.
That's an understandable initial reaction. On paper, it seems correct for a team to always play its top players, especially in situations where the stakes are high. However, it's almost always not that simple.
Years of team competition in professional Brood War have shown that there are a great many reasons to not always stick with your theoretical top players, even when it comes down to high stakes situations. Numerous Proleague games, including those in the playoffs, have been decided by unlikely heroes off the bench.
Beyond just simple 'skill,' roster choices depend heavily on maps, match-ups, and the ability to prepare for either.
Maps and match-ups are pretty obvious. Some maps favor a specific race (or at least teams and players will think so), and some maps will favor a particular player's style. In any case, it's often a big enough factor that it trumps overall skill level, where a lesser skilled player who's more suitable for a specific map will be picked ahead of better overall player. For instance, in the recent Proleague playoffs, KT decided to play Stats ahead of Flash (yes, that Flash) in ace match, because the map was the Terran-killing Neo Outlier. The move paid off, as Stats was able to beat Samsung Khan's Stork and close out the series. Match-ups are pretty much the same deal, where a lesser skilled, one match-up specialist might be a better choice against a specific opponent than the player who has a better all-around game.
Ability to prepare means that there's only a finite amount of time a player can invest in preparing for every combination of match-up, map and opponent, which gives birth to the concept of the 'sniper.' A player who has practiced specifically for one player on a specific map will have a big advantage against a player who practiced very broadly, and this can easily overcome a generic skill gap. A team might tell a rotation player to focus 100% of his practice for a specific opponent on a specific map, lying in wait to spring his trap on a superstar.
Outside of that, there's general roster mind-games to consider, ones that apply to any team-based competition, from football to American football. Making unintuitive roster choices to render an opponent's preparation for the 'obvious' pick largely useless, and many skilled leaders will play a chess-game where they try to outsmart the opposing coach. If teamleagues really were just about playing your top X players, there wouldn't be much use for head coaches.
Anyhow, the point of all this is to say that Choya probably had a good reason to play himself ahead of Oz, even if it was for reasons that's not entirely visible to a spectator.* At least match-up wise, you can start to see some of the reasoning. Oz has had a very poor record in recent PvTs (5 – 9), and while Choya isn't so hot historically in that match-up, he was definitely picking up the slack in that match-up during this season of GSTL.
Even further outside of that, it's entirely possible that Choya happened to have more practice on the remaining maps in the pool, or simply had a high overall level of comfort for them. Or perhaps Choya was the player who had a specifically prepared sniping strategy for a later opponent like MKP or MarU, and he was the better overall choice in the long run. In any case, Choya and Oz consulted with each other, and there were enough factors for them to come to the conclusion that Choya was the better choice in that specific situation.
Obviously, it didn't work out, and FXO will not be at the GSTL finals in Las Vegas. However, for FXO, I suspect it's only the result that's regrettable, not the choice. In the upcoming GSTL finals, it's likely we will see some roster choices that we don't understand, or don't seem to make sense at first. But it's worth keeping in mind that there are many things going on that we don't know as spectators, that both teams will be trying their best to win, and everything will be done to that end.
*I'm not even going to bother with the personal glory argument, because that's plain dumb. Choya's job is to maximize the success of his team, and he's done a damn good job at that. It's amusing for sure to poke fun at his GSTL appearances, but to seriously accuse him of consciously undermining his team when he's turned fOu from a GSTL free-win into one of its best teams, put his team into a situation where they have more international tournament opportunities than SlayerS or IM is f***ing stupid.
Writer: Heyoka, WaxAngel, Fionn, Pandemic.