Finally, we're back! After a week where real-life clobbered the GSTL team (and in the case of Waxangel, TLOpens), things are returning to normal, and coverage of the world's toughest Starcraft II team competition begins again.
With elimination matches put off until next week, this week it's just winners seeking even further glory. FnaticRC and Mvp are coming off against big wins against Prime and Slayers-EG respectively, and the winner of their duel will progress directly into they final-four bracket of the tournament.
GSTL kicks off at 09:00 GMT (+00:00)!
How They Got Here
As it was Fnatic RaidCall’s debut season, they had a lot to prove to the world as a fledgling team in the scary GSTL environment. Had they failed, all their investment and hard work to establish a team house in Korea would have seemed to be for naught, with much work still needed before it would bear fruit. Detractors would point and laugh at how much of a waste of money it was for a foreign company to establish a Korean training house with an almost full Korean team.
But Fnatic has succeeded, and they've proven to other international e-sports organizations that their team model was indeed viable, that their investment was sound. At first, few expected Fnatic to do well, as they were not a well-established team with only two Code S level players in Alive and Oz and a supporting lineup of relative unknowns. And although Fnatic had a relatively rough start with a close loss to TSL, they bounced back by beating two of the strongest teams in the GSTL, LG-IM and Prime. Even if Fnatic fall out of the GSTL at this very moment by losing their next two matches, they will have proven all their doubters wrong.
MvP, on the other hand, was seeded into the "Pennant Race" round of the GSTL due to their top 4 performance in the last GSTL. While they won the crown 2 seasons ago, MVP showed a disappointing performance in last season's semi-finals, with DRG notably under-performing and not taking a single game. And while MVP is much less of a one-man team than when they first broke into the scene, they still show a great reliance on their Ace. In last week's match versus Slayers-EG, for instance, even though Sniper got a quick 3-0 lead for the team, no one could take out the solid Protoss player, Puzzle, until MVP somehow found themselves with their backs against the wall, one game away from dropping down to the losers bracket, and were forced to send out DRG. Fortunately for MVP, DRG was able to close it out for the team, but I bet the MVP bench was sweating the entire time.
The Opening Match
The first game in a king-of-the-kill style team match is one of the most important games in the series, if not the most important. It sets the pace of the entire match and gives the winning team a distinct advantage by allowing them to set the tempo.
The big star of the opening match is Fnatic RC's Oz, who was once considered the master of PvP, boasting around an 80% win rate in the match-up in official games. His unique style of PvP, which included expansions before expansions were common in PvP, baffled his opponents and drove them into unfamiliar territory.
But one day, he famously told an interviewer something along the lines of "PvP is all about skill, and if you don't think so, play me and I'll beat you." Since then, many have done just that, challenging Oz to a mirror duel. And since that day, Oz has almost not won a single important series in PvP. With loses to Creator, Squirtle, Parting, MC, Socke, Mana, Alicia, and Grubby in the last two months alone, Oz might be wanting to consider retracting those bold statements. With this upcoming game, Oz will have his recently shaky PvP tested yet again, and this time he's had plenty of time to prepare. This will be another chance for Oz to score his first win in the GSTL, as he has gone 0-2 so far. If Oz does indeed want to prove that PvP is a purely skill-based match-up and that he is a valuable addition to his team, then he better start winning games, starting with this one.
Oz's opponent MvPfinale is obviously the lesser known player in this match, as he has never made it past the round of 32 of Code A in the GSL. However, if you pay attention to key team leagues, you will find that the MVP coach trusts in finale's skills a lot, sending him out much more often than most of his teammates. And Coach Choi's confidence in finale has been well rewarded so far, as finale has averaged a bit more than one kill per match. But truthfully, the real story-line is all about Oz, whether he will overcome this rather generic Protoss and manage win a PvP, or whether he will fail to live up to his bold assertions yet again.
MVP: Monster, Sniper, DongRaeGu
Once upon a time, MVP was known as a team consisting of a core of DRG, Genius, and sC . Now that Genius has officially left the team and sC has been slumping, partly due to health issues, MVP's has had to build a mostly new backbone. In fact, their strongest players these days are all of the same race, coincidentally the race that has been complained about the most recently: Zerg. MVPSniper made Code S this season and garnered three kills in MVP's last GSTL match. MVPMonster has been showing extremely good overseas results, placing high in both Dreamhack Stockholm and MLG Spring Championships, as well as winning GESL. And DongRaeGu is probably better than he's ever been, with his seemingly effortless sweep through the MLG Spring Championships.
As we saw from the MVP's last match versus Slayers-EG, having many strong players from a single race can be extremely beneficial. As Slayers-EG became desperate against the supposedly "easy" Sniper, they were forced to burn good "vs Z maps" against him, such as TvZ on Antiga, and PvZ on Entombed Valley. Then, when it came time for DRG to play, he had all the best maps in the map pool to choose from, greatly assisting in his victory.
Fnatic: Oz, aLive, ByuL, Moon
By now, Fnatic's core of key players should be firmly established in our minds. The consistent Code S performers of Oz and aLive are backed up by the Zerg duo of Moon and ByuL. Wait, that's not right. Looking at recent GSTL results, it should be something along the lines of, "The consistent Code B Zerg duo of Moon and ByuL are backed up by the lesser 'Code S' players, Oz and aLive." So far in the GSTL, Fnatic's Zerg lineup has gone 11-5, while the Code S players have gone 2-4. We know that Oz and aLive are capable of a solid number of wins from their previous team-league results in other teams, so it just remains a question of whether they can reproduce these results. Beyond the top four players in Fnatic, the rest of the unproven lineup looks rather bland, with Nightend and Rain showing not only disappointing games in the GSTL, but also builds that didn't seem to have a defined goal or purpose. Fnatic cannot especially rely on these players, so it becomes even more imperative that the Code S players in Fnatic step it up and prove why they are (or were) Code S.
"Zergs, Zergs, Zergs!" seems to be the theme of this season of GSTL, and neither of these teams runs short on good Zerg players. Look for this match to be determined by how well each team can use their Zergs and how well each team can use their Zerg snipers and anti-Zerg maps. Whichever team plays the first Zerg allows their opponents to use Antiga Shipyards and Entombed Valley to snipe them off, so one strategy might be to delay using Zergs until the very last moment. Or you can have your Zerg players prepare especially for the dreaded anti-Zerg maps, hoping to counter the snipers. And if all else fails, ZvZ!
While it's hard to argue against Fnatic's momentum, you have to look at the one team they lost to in their run so far of GSTL. Their weakness was against TSL and their strong Zerg ace in Symbol, who took out almost the entire team. Guess which other team has a strong Zerg ace.
MVP 5- 4 Fnatic