Table of Contents
An experiment in foreign exchange
Check out the GSTL on Liquipedia
Busan finals, redux
Let's try that again
It should go better
SlayerS was once the most prestigious and popular team in all of Starcraft II, founded in the early days of Starcraft II by THE legend himself, SlayerS_Boxer. Once before in 2003, Boxer had used his tremendous influence to found a team around him when he became the centerpiece of Dongyang Orion. Thought to be a risky venture at the time, Orion ended up enjoying huge success. The team recruited wisely, cherry picking elite players from other teams while also scouting out and cultivating unknown talent. Among their new recruits was iloveoov, a monster Terran player who won multiple championships, proving to be more than a worthy heir to Boxer's throne. Dongyang would later become SK Telecom T1, the winningest team in Brood War history.
His will was done
SlayerS peaked with MMA's Blizzard Cup championship in December of 2011, and then a process of decline began. The Intel sponsor patch quietly disappeared, followed by Razer's. Players departed as well, with Ganzi, then TaeJa leaving to seek opportunities abroad. Rapidly rising star CoCa committed a crime of ignorance, and the team was forced to lock him down just as he began to spread his wings. Slowly but surely, the remaining players started to slip, with MMA, Ryung, Puzzle, and Clide falling further and further down the GSL ladder. Not surprisingly, the team stumbled in the GSTL as well, failing to make the playoffs after winning their two titles. SlayerS even lost the inspiration of Boxer's pro-gaming pursuits in his old age, as he fell out of Code A and was forced to go inactive due to health issues.
If all of these events had happened at once, it would have seemed like a cataclysmic collapse. However, they happened so slowly, so gradually, that almost no one noticed the state of deterioration until it had reached an advanced stage.
As the first GSTL of 2012 came to an end in Las Vegas, SlayerS were in need of any kind of pick me up. A foreign tournament win, a deep Code S run... or a championship in the GSTL. However, all of those goals seemed far out of their grasp. Though they still had a decent team, it didn't seem like they could stand up to the might of teams with more rising talent, like Startale, Mvp, or Prime.
GSTL Season Two: Rebirth
Yet, by the start of the second GSTL season, SlayerS had somehow cobbled together a team that could make a credible, if long shot, title run. The two keys to the GSTL are streakiness and depth, and while SlayerS were never a team traditionally strong in the former department, they went overboard in stocking up on the latter. In a league starved for reliable starting talent, a partnership with Evil Geniuses saw SlayerS add JYP and PuMa, two players who would be regular fixtures on any other team. Combined with their existing core of Puzzle, Ryung, and MMA, they had an impressive five man core. Throwing in the return of CoCa from suspension, YuGiOh's slow rise to Code S level, and the addition of EG darkhorse ThorZaIN, SlayerS made a case to be the deepest team in the league. Though MMA's steep decline was worrisome, the team could still hope to win by the weight of aggregate talent.
As they entered the preliminary round of the GSTL (due to their failure to qualify for last season's playoffs), SlayerS-EG were about to find out if that plan would truly work. As it turned out, they were even more formidable than anyone imagined. In the very first match against NSH, Puzzle emerged out of nowhere to fill the need for streakiness, becoming SlayerS-EG's own streaky, multi-killing, Code B devouring answer to the DongRaeGu's and MarineKingPrime's they needed to compete with. With four straight wins, he finished off the NSH team.
Entering the second round, a new story emerged surrounding SlayerS-EG. After making only one appearance in the preliminary round, MMA was not deployed against team MVP in the opening match of the group, and was then left off the game day roster entirely for the next two matches. At first, it appeared to merely confirm something many fans already suspected to be true, that MMA's decline was indeed very serious, and he was no longer the ace the team could rely on.
While it was a sad revelation for fans of MMA, it had no effect on the fortunes of SlayerS-EG. Coming into the tournament with considerable depth, they showed they they had the most multi-killing power as well. On top of Puzzle continuing to slam out even more wins, CoCa unexpected joined the fray as well. CoCa, who had quietly served his suspension, allowing his skills to rot for several months during the prime of his career, showed no signs of anger as he returned to action – just a desire for redemption. With that as motivation, he executed one of the most impressive all-kills of the season, eliminating defending champions Prime by taking out all of their best players one by one.
By the semi-finals, SlayerS-EG looked even stronger than they had in their first two championship runs. Not only did they have unmatchable depth in their roster, but they also had CoCa and Puzzle, the two strongest aces remaining in the tournament. CoCa almost seemed like he was playing for fun as he polished off Team SCV Life in the semis, taking three kills as he took aim at the most wins award for the tournament.
Finals: The more things change, the more they stay the same
Over a year after SlayerS won two GSTL championships, they've become a hugely different team. Of the players that won games for them during their two title runes, only a single player, Ryung, is still grabbing wins for the team now. Otherwise, the team has been almost completely reinvented, not even needing their most iconic player and ace in MMA to make it to another final.
Despite all this change, SlayerS is once again, looking like the best team in the world. That fact, in itself, should be absurd. Over the course of a year, SlayerS has changed its team league identity, to become a team that gets over 90% of its wins from entirely new sources, and they're still on the brink of winning a championship. The last time an professional athletics sports team did that, it cost them a few hundred million dollars. SlayerS did it all for free. Yes, EG's JYP has contributed greatly to this success, but on the other hand, you have to remember that SlayerS was constantly missing key players due to foreign tournaments throughout this entire GSTL run. If anything, they were underpowered for large parts of the tournament, and still defeated the three of the teams that looked like the strongest: Mvp, Prime, and TSL.
On top of that, MMA returned to Code S with a convincing victories over HerO and viOLet, quashing some of the doubts that his demotion might have been due to declining form. Upon reaching the finals, SlayerS then returned MMA to the starting line-up, deploying him as their point man. Though that's still a demotion for the deadliest closer in the GSTL, it's a huge boost for this already stacked team. What would be the equivalent for FXO? A short term loan, where they get Oz and PartinG back for a day?
At this point, it's actually getting hard to root for SlayerS-EG. Yes, they're Boxer's team, and yes, they have one of the most loved players in the world. But now that Jessica and Cella have the GSTL cheat codes in their hands, the advantage for SlayerS has gone from unusual to ridiculous.
Well, SlayerS, you know what you have to do. You're well down the road to redemption, but this GSTL finals is far from the final destination. If you want to fully get back on your feet, stopping here is not an option.
An Experiment in Foreign Exchange
When it was announced FXO was going to be the first foreign team to compete in the GSTL, the community was split. On one side, you had people saying how excited they were to finally see foreigners compete against the best teams in the world on the grandest stage. The other half had a more pessimistic approach to the announcement, looking up and down the FXO roster, wondering how in the world a mostly unproven team of foreigners would have any chance against teams chock full of champions, Code S players and top notch coaches.
Even with the addition of the former Brood War player Twilight, who now goes by the name Oz, things appeared to be bleak for the new boys in the GSTL. In a group with heavy hitters like Startale and Incredible Miracle, getting a few map wins here and there in their campaign would have been good enough for most fans.
In their first four matches, the results came out as expected. Sheth and qxc, as FXO's foreign aces, did their best, picking up one victory each. The hopes and dreams of the first foreign team in the GSTL ironically fell on the shoulders of their only Korean player, Oz, who while showing great potential in his play, was not nearly good enough at the time to help them beat the best players in the world.
The half of the community that said FXO would embarrass themselves looked correct. They had been all-killed twice and the teams they were playing against were putting out B-teamers to get booth experience. They were the joke of the GSTL and all the teams were in on it, knowing that going up against them was almost a free win. With the team lacking major tournament experience, training time in Korea, and facing a seemingly insurmountable disparity in skill, it was all but confirmed that FXO was going to go home with a 0-5 record.
With their final match against the former champions Incredible Miracle, housing Mvp and Nestea, the two best players in the world, it felt like FXO would be better off saving themselves from more embarrassment by forfeiting. On that evening against IM, the miracle belonged to FXO.
The Bandanna Man had arrived.
The Transition from Bandannas to Koreans
Against Incredible Miracle, qxc came out. With nothing to lose and the Incredible Miracle team not taking FXO seriously, qxc played the games of his life. Defeating B-teamers Horror, BBi, and dreamertt, qxc had almost equaled the amount of map wins his entire team had taken the entire season. Now, with only one card left to pull out, Incredible Miracle threw out their champion, Mvp, banking on the fact that there was no one on FXO who could take a game from him.
They thought wrong, and qxc beat a taped up Mvp (showing his first signs of injury) and got the all-kill that absolutely no one thought was possible. Already eliminated from playoff contention and having nothing to play for after the game, FXO celebrated like they had just won the entire championship. Even if it was only one win, it made people realize that while they weren't the best team or maybe even ready to compete in the GSTL, that if you looked down upon them, they were still professionals and would kick your ass.
After beating Incredible Miracle, things started to change for FXO. Their two best foreign players, qxc and Sheth, both left the team. Sheth was released from his FXO contract and went onto sign with Liquid not too long after. qxc technically continued to stay on FXO for a while, but with his busy school schedule and only having time to play in the summer, wasn't able to play for them on a regular basis.
That is when fOu came into the picture. A decent, but not powerhouse team in Korea, fOu was on down times. Their team had never gotten far in the GSTL and none of their players were reaching their maximum potential. With not a lot of money, Choya, their coach, started to talk to FXO, wondering if something could be worked out. FXO had the cash, infrastructure, and management, but not the best players. fOu had good players, but they weren't living up to what they could be due to money problems and not having stable management.
With both teams needing each other, FXO absorbed fOu and the new FXO was born. Over time, the old FXO would slowly leave, leaving mostly fOu members and Oz, the last remaining original GSTL FXO member, who began his Starcraft 2 career on fOu. There was some backlash from fans, not liking the fact that a once all foreign team was now full of Koreans. No longer were they a team led by foreigners, but a team with foreign management and Korean players.
Even with the risk FXO took by changing their identity from a mostly foreign team to a predominantly Korean one, things worked out in the end. With the money and stability that came with being with FXO, the players on fOu could play to the best of their abilities, and even get opportunities at international tournaments. Choya, who was a player, coach, and the person trying to look for sponsorships and money, now could focus solely on the gaming side of things.
Early on in the partnership, they did lose sC, fOu's only player to ever make it deep in a Code S tournament, but it wasn't the death of them. With the emergence of Leenock, their young Zerg player, they were able to find a player to fill sC's shoes as the ace of the team. With a run into the finals of GSL November, FXO got their first player into the GSL finals and got to watch as Leenock fought Jjakji in one of the best finals we've seen in Starcraft 2 history.
Leenock lost, but it still made everyone take note that FXO was a team on the rise. With Leenock, Oz, Gumiho, Lucky and other emerging Code S level players, you could tell that Choya and the management of FXO were good at developing players. Instead of trying to sign big free agent Koreans or going for the poaching player tactic, they stuck with their B-teamers and continued to develop them into A-teamers.
In sports, even when a team rises, there are bumps down the road as well. Heading into this season, FXO's biggest was to overcome last season's disappointment. With a surprising semifinal showing in the first season of the 2012 GSTL, FXO was a team that had a chance to complete the story of the greatest turnaround in Starcraft team history. They would have gone from a team that went 1 - 4 as the whipping boys of the previous season, to changing their team entirely and getting to the finals the very next season.
The finals weren't in the stars, though. Leenock, their best player, wasn't able to transfer his play from GSL November to the team league and didn't look like an elite GSTL ace. Lucky, their best GSTL player, wasn't able to keep up his remarkable form and fell in the semifinals. And of course, in one of the biggest coaching controversies in the GSTL, Choya chose himself to come out as the team's Protoss player in the semifinals instead of Oz (albeit, after discussion with Oz), the longest lasting FXO player and former Code S semifinalist in his own right.
Choya's plan backfired, he lost and his team went onto lose to Prime, the eventual champions, by a score of 5-3. With their dreams smashed and people criticizing Choya for his decision, things only got worse when Oz decided to leave the team and join Fnatic instead. Without Oz, it felt like FXO was back to square one. They were a team with only one really accomplished player, Leenock, a very solid Terran in Gumiho, and then a bunch of players who were on the outskirts of Code A and B.
This team was not supposed to be in the finals. To get here, they had to go through two group stages and then beat the former champions MVP. At the beginning of the season, FXO was the team picked last to win the entire season. With the departure of Oz, the coaching controversy from Choya, Leenock's bad form in GSTL, and the team made up of a lot of unknown Korean players we've never seen before, FXO was predicted to regress from their Cinderella run and wind up back as one of the weaker Korean teams.
Through teamwork, good coaching decisions, and the ability to bring up younger players and develop them into dependable pieces of the puzzle, FXO has battled their way to the final. Choya, the much criticized coach of last season, has been able to take a team that wasn't even supposed to get out of the first round and get them all the way to Busan.
While a lot of credit has to go to the coaching staff and management, Leenock's single contribution played a huge role. Leenock has finally been able to break out of his 2012 slump and not only play well in the GSL, but in the GSTL as well. With his confidence at a new high, he has been able to help FXO out of many tough spots this season and was the sole reason they were able to topple MVP. With a 3-kill in the semifinals, Leenock was able to take out DongRaeGu in the ace match and send his team into euphoria.
This team is not made up of stars. There is no MMA, Mvp, MarineKing or DRG on this team. Leenock might be the closest they have to a star, but even then, he doesn't get enough recognition for his talent. Gumiho, Lucky, Tear, and the others are the backbone of the team and do their work dependably, to little acclaim. On one day, it can be Tear who is the ace and helps to the team to the victory, and the next day it can be Lucky who pulls out three straight victories and helps his team to victory.
FXO's biggest strength is their ability to develop players. From the top of their A-team to the bottom of their B-team, they are developing and training their players to be better. Players like Tree, Whale, and Sirius might not have had the most impressive performances this season, but with the experience they got in this tournament and a few more months of practicing, they might become the next Tear or Gumiho for the team. A season ago, Tear was played against in the GSTL, got romped and look like a bad player. This season, with a bit of experience, he has become their best Protoss and possibly their best player alongside Leenock.
If FXO wins the GSTL championship, it won't only be for the players who play for them now. It will be for the team of the past. It will be for the fans who believed in them when it was first announced FXO was braving the dangerous waters of GSTL and facing the best in the world. It will be for the bandanna man who shocked the world and made the Koreans realize FXO wasn't a joke.
They don't have Boxer, a GSL champion, or the huge fan support that Slayers does. All they have is trust in themselves, a strong management who will stand behind them through thick and thin, a passionate coach who will do anything to see his team succeed, and a belief that they can be the champions of the world.
Sons of the Emperor: MMA vs Ryung, Clide
The two standout players here of note are MMA and Ryung. Throughout the history of SlayerS, MMA and Ryung have been fighting for Boxer's love. In their first debut season of GSTL, it was MMA and Ryung who led the team, but somehow, little-by-little, MMA slowly crept up ahead, leaving Ryung as only the second favorite son. MMA was the ace of the team, the GSL champion, the international tournament champion while Ryung was simply the guy who got mediocre finishes at tournaments and constantly bounced back and forth between Code A and Code S. But recently, something seemed to have changed. Ryung began displaying a certain flair in his games, a hint that he indeed has the star-power to really accomplish something. And MMA, for whatever reason, was kicked out of the SlayerS house. When SlayerS-EG was tied 4-4 against Fnatic this season in the GSTL, it was Ryung, and not MMA who was sent out as the ace, perhaps an indication that the title of favorite son has been passed on.
But MMA will not go down without a fight. Recently in the GSL, MMA showed he still had it when he toppled Violet to once again reclaim his Code S spot. And in tonight's match MMA firmly declared that he is still indeed SlayerS with his entry as the starting player for his team. MMA, someone who amazing did not contribute at all to SlayerS' ascension to the GSTL finals, is ready to show what he's made of, hopefully for SlayerS, the same material that catapulted SlayerS to its first GSTL win.
And Clide is the odd man out. On paper, he's not nearly as strong as MMA, Ryung, or even Puma in his current state. The choice to put him in the line-up, especially after he was announced to be joining KT-Roslter as a coach, is intriguing. Perhaps this is a display of confidence in Clide, perhaps Clide has a specialty build planned out, or perhaps this finals will be his way to go out with a bang.
The Forgotten: CoCa, Miya, Min
SlayerS had never really been known for its Zergs. In the early days, SlayerS played team leagues with an almost all Terran lineup. In more recent times, SlayerS Protoss players gained the spotlight, with Puzzle and Alicia dominating GSTL and foreign tournaments respectively. With CoCa's banishment from competitive play, the SlayerS Zerg remained a forgotten species, and when GSTL began being dominated by Zergs, SlayerS seems like they would fall behind in the pack without a member of the Swarm to lean on. But then the CoCa we knew and love, the consistent Code S mainstay, the once top five Zerg in the world returned to us. Even though it took a longer time for CoCa to make a splash in the modern scene than his counterpart, Byun, the eventual splash he made could topple buildings. With an all-kill of Prime and a three-kill of TSL, CoCa secured SlayerS' place in the GSTL finals, and he did it in style. CoCa brings with him a style of Zerg that only he can perform. He seems to throw conventions out the window and plays by his own rules; with this attitude, CoCa hold the most wins in the GSTL this season with 11.
Miya and Min should also not be dismissed. The two players are frequently sent out in foreign online team leagues and perform relatively well for rather unknown players. Few remember that Min used to be the Zerg star for SlayerS in the first season of GSTL before he moved out of the house and, as a result, declined in skill. But now that he is back in the house, he seems to be just trending up, even qualifying for the OSL dual tournament. Miya is another notable Zerg, one that MMA calls a ZvT God. Even MMA, someone most would consider to have one of the best TvZs on the planet, says he doesn't win against Miya in practice, perhaps a signal that Miya will be used to snipe one of the Terrans on FXO. SlayerS also seems to have a ton of confidence in Miya, sending him out three times in this season of GSTL, even though his record is a pitiful 0-3. We will see this finals whether this confidence has waned or if we'll see Miya's fourth attempt to contribute to his team's success this season.
The Backbone: Puzzle, Alicia, JYP, Brown
Puzzle and Alicia, these days, seem like the most solid all-around players on SlayerS. With Puzzle's consistent performance in GSTL, and Alicia's consistent performance in foreign tournaments, these two alone make a solid Protoss lineup. And although Alicia has had more success overall recently, he still claims Puzzle is SlayerS' strongest Protoss, and apparently the SlayerS coaches think so as well, sending Puzzle out more frequently than any other Protoss. Puzzle has saved SlayerS' butt more than once this season, garnering and important string of wins versus NSH and Zenex, and almost taking a match single-handed against MVP. Look for Puzzle to play a key role in this match tonight.
JYP is EG's singular contribution to this lineup. Throughout this season of GSTL, JYP was sent out at a surprisingly high rate for the combination team. This season, JYP has a 5-2 record, and was sent out each time against a Zerg. Being sent out against Zerg isn't surprising, since it is by far his best match-up. Of course in any preview involving JYP, we have to bring up his horrid PvT. Well actually, there may be light at the end of the tunnel for his PvT. In recent history, JYP has actually beaten Hack, Thorzain, and Rain in PvT, a 100% record compared to his usual close to 0% record. As GuMiho, FXO's strongest Terran, is playing in the first game, JYP will be a perfect pick to send out in the middle of the match, seeing as FXO lacks other strong Terrans to challenge him.
Brown, although few may know of him, is notorious for his macro PvZ. His GSL record in this match-up is and incredible 6-0 and he was even brought out by SlayerS to successfully snipe Symbol. SlayerSCella has said that Brown just does not lose in this matchu-up, so look out for him to be a sniper.
Notable Missing Players: PuMa, ThorZaIN, YuGiOh, Crank, Genius,
These players are the most notable who are on Slayers-EG, but will not be available to play today or are unlikely to figure into the proceedings. Puma seems to be slumping lately, getting knocked out rather quickly from Dreamhack, NASL, and MLG. Thorzain has not been living up to his standard after moving to Korea, even losing to JYP's infamously bad PvT. YuGiOh also seems to be slumping, though he remains the King of Code A. Crank, a very promising player for SlayerS who provided us with a very interesting Carrier game during this season of GSTL, has since left the team. Finally, since Genius was just recently recruited, he is not eligible to play in this season of GSTL.
Wildin' Out: GuMiho, TheBest, asd
FXO's lineup of Terrans includes some of the most dastardly, insane Terrans Korea has to offer. Leading the charge is Gumiho, a player who thrives in chaos, and one of those types who just likes to see the world burn. Gumiho is one of the most stylistic players in Starcraft 2, and you can always tell that it's Gumiho playing. Throughout all three match-ups, Gumiho attempts to attack everywhere at once. The problem is you can tell he doesn't quite have the mechanics to execute it perfectly; often times his multi-pronged harass and attacks will go unmicroed and his money will build up as he tries to control four or more places at once. What often times happens though is that his opponents fall victim to this unique style, a style most people don't have sufficient practice against. Even though Gumiho's play has obvious flaws, his play is good enough to beat pretty much anyone, and is good enough to achieve top four in the GSL.
GuMiho's second in command is TheBest, a player mostly known for one base all-ins, poor banshee control, and looking very evil. These days, however, TheBest is trying to reform his image with rather solid macro play. And although he's had some success, the results aren't especially overwhelming. TheBest has not gotten back into the GSL since his cheesy days and he's only had mediocre results in the GSTL with a 1-1 record.
And the quiet guard in the background is asd, one of those Korean Terrans that just seems to blend into the crowd. You know who I'm talking about, the likes of Noblesse, dreamertt, and Lots. These players, most people have heard of, but none can name any defining characteristics. And unlike TheBest, asd has not failed so monumentally hard in a high profile game that you know him for just that; asd just manages to not play that well, and loses to superior players. But what you may not remember is that asd was actually once in Code S. Those days, however, are long gone and asd now experiences a steady decline into obscurity. In contrast to SlayerS who have a myriad of viable players to choose from, asd's insertion into the lineup seems like nothing more than just insubstantial filler.
What We Once Were and What We Could Be: Leenock, Lucky, Whale, Sirius
Leenock, FXO's best player in terms of results, is looking to make a comeback. Once heralded as a top 3 Zerg in the world along with DRG and Nestea, Leenock would be lucky these days to make a top 5 ranking. Since Leenock's MLG Providence win and his silver medal in the GSL, Leenock has not looked his Lee-nocky self. First off, Leenock's success in his best match-up, ZvT, was partially due to his skill at the 2 base mutalisk play. Like clockwork, Leenock would beat his Terran prey with the same mutalisk rush and ling/baneling followup for the majority of 2011. But as the metagame shifted from 2 base mutalisk to more infestor focused play and then to more 3 base dominated play, Leenock's success in the match-up gradually waned. Leenock stubbornly held onto the build that brought him his previous success. When he finally switched over the infestor style in the last season of GSL, he showed some of the worst games Code S had ever seen, proving he doesn't yet have enough practice with the style. For now, Leenock's ZvT will be a match-up he has to look out for
Leenock's ZvP, on the other hand, has a much different reputation. Even in his heyday, Leenock tended to rely on gimmicks such as roach ling all-ins and two base hydra infestor into muta in this match-up. But what we saw recently from Leenock looks like a new man. Against MVP, Leenock bravely took out both Tails and Lure, and in his post-match interview stated that ZvP is now his best match-up. What a new day and age we live in, one where Leenock is good at ZvP and bad at ZvT.
Lucky is in a similar boat as Leenock. He saw extreme success in 2011, placing second at IPL3 and even tasting the sweet nectar of Code S for a short duration. But he has since dropped to Code B, and should be humbled by the entire experience. While Lucky shows no signs of returning to IPL3 form, he can be counted on to provide a solid win or two for the team. As a well-balanced player with no really strong or weak match-ups, look for Lucky to show up anywhere in the middle of the match.
The twin Zergs of Whale and Sirius offer some new blood to the team. While they may seem like nobodies, FXO actually relies on them quite a bit in team leagues, much more than their lesser known comrades of other races such as asd, Tree, and Weekend. With some mentoring from their more experienced Zerg teammates, Whale and Sirius could be seen as Leenock Jr. and Lucky Jr and the future of the FXO Zerg lineup. Whale especially could do some damage, solely based on the fact that players named after marine mammals tend to do well in team leagues; just ask Seal and Otter.
Choya's Choice: Tear, Choya, Weekend
The big storyline here in Choya. Last season, in the GSTL, FXO was down 3-2 in the semifinals versus Prime, and Coach Choya needed a Protoss player to snipe Byun. In one of the most questioned decisions of the year, rivaling those made by the IM coach, Choya decided to send himself out instead of the much more prominent Oz. Perhaps Choya knew that Oz would be leaving the team soon and he would have to prepare for a world where the team could no longer depend on Oz. Whatever the case, Choya lost the game and the resulting backlash was enormous as many spectators thought Choya had put himself ahead of the general welfare of the team. This season, Choya has taken much more of a coaching role, appearing only once out of four matches. In the semifinals against MVP, Choya even showed up in a suit, the attire of a coach, rather than his team jersey. Personally, I doubt Choya will take the same risk once again, and I suspect Choya's entry into the lineup speaks more of FXO's lack of potential players rather than Choya's intention to play.
On a more upbeat note, the other storyline for FXO Protoss players is Tear. Although never having qualified for Code A, Tear showed a brilliant performance in this season of GSTL, filling the giant Protoss-shaped hole left by the departure of Oz. This season, Tear managed a 6-2 record for FXO and was instrumental to getting them to the finals. One thing to note is his affinity towards PvP and PvZ, especially PvZ. Against both TSL and Startale, Tear was sent out against Zerg players. Against NSH, Tear was not even part of the five-man lineup when NSH refused to send out Zergs. Tear was even lauded by Leenock as having excellent PvZ, claiming that Tear would be the ace against a Zerg-heavy team like TSL. SlayerS might not be especially Zerg heavy, but Tear is more than capable of taking down even the likes of CoCa.
The other storyline is Weekend. We might all be looking forward to the weekend, but definitely not this particular one. Weekend has never qualified for Code A and does not even have any results from any small online tournaments. The last time Weekend participated in a team league for FXO was back in March for the KSL. More than anything, this entry is telling of FXO's lack of depth. But then again, you only need five wins to win the GSTL.
Notable Missing Players: Tree
He was probably too busy cheering on his son, Seed, in the GSL finals. jk, Tree isn't really notable.
Finals Map Analysis
An often ignored aspect of team leagues is the map pool. The GSTL map pool contains 9 maps, one for each of the potential 9 games to be played in a match. The loser of the previous game in a match gets to choose both the next player and the next map, but it's not just as simple as putting a favorable player on a favorable map. There are many things a coach has to account for when choosing maps, including saving maps for his future players and denying maps for the opposing team. For example, if your team has many Zergs and few strong Terrans, you may send one of your Zergs to play ZvZ on Antiga Shipyard, denying your opponents of a favorable TvZ map. It is also in the team's best interests to get the more "imbalanced" maps out of the way first, both so you can reap the benefits of the perceived "imbalance" for your own team and to deny these maps for your opponents.
The Sniper Maps
As the smallest map in the map pool, this map leads to extremely aggressive play. Terran is favored here in TvZ because of the short rush distance and the easy to control middle platform. In TvP, Terran is also favored because of the rush distance and how particularly effective drops are on this map. More often than not, Antiga Shipyard is used to snipe Zergs, but seeing as the map was randomly picked as the starting map, there will be none of that going around, something FXO, the more Zerg-heavy team is probably grateful for.
Besides Antiga Shipyard, Entombed Valley is the most common map used used to snipe Zergs. But instead of Terrans doing the sniping, this time it's Protoss' turn. In fact, of the 18 times Entombed Vallee was used this season as a non-starting map, 10 of those times were Protoss attempts to snipe Zergs. On Entombed, it becomes extremely easy to secure a third, so Protoss can cut a lot of corners while Zerg, on the other hand, has much fewer viable options in the midgame. Standard PvZ on this map involves both races taking extremely greedy bases and fast teching to both broodlords and mothership.
Metropolis is notorious for being a Terran graveyard, especially in ZvT. Because of the extreme rush distance and the lack of multiple attack paths, Terrans find it extremely difficult to pressure Zergs at all. Players like MKP have figured out that the only way to win is to split the map in half, turtle on 5 base with PF, and get an ideal composition before pushing out. But whatever the match-up, we can expect to see half map versus half map turtle-fests. This can be seen in MKP vs Suhoshin, Nestea vs Symbol, or MVP vs Squirtle.
To some people, Atlantis Spaceship looks identical to Metropolis. Yes, they are both long macro maps, but Atlantis Spaceship offers a less linear layout so that attacks from more directions are viable. This helps to alleviate some of the split-map camping problems Metropolis has and offers more dynamic games. Especially interesting is the effectively four gas base in the center of the map that can be sieged from multiple directions. As with all long or large maps, Terran will be at a slight disadvantage, but every match-up is certainly playable here.
The Balanced Maps
Daybreak, for a very long time, has been the golden standard of Starcraft 2 maps; it is the Fighting Spirit of Starcraft 2. Noted for its balance, Daybreak is the home to extremely solid macro players. Players who choose Daybreak are confident of their abilities to outplay their opponents. Of the perhaps slight imbalances, PvT, especially late game PvT, might be considered slightly Protoss favored due to the large size of the map. Zerg versus Protoss holds different advantages for each race at different times of the game; two base timings are strong on Daybreak, but late game tends to favor Zerg when they can split the map and easily siege the center. Also, more often than not Zergs will pick this map against Terran rather than the other way around. But all of these advantages are small for each match-up, and this map, with his relatively large sample size has withstood the test of time better than any map we've seen.
Cloud Kingdom seems to be the spiritual successor to Daybreak. Although it has an entirely different layout, the overall size of the map is similar and games tend to play out similarly as well. Each race has picked this map against every other race, with the exception of Z picking it against T, simply because there are many other better ZvT maps in the map pool. This speaks volumes of the map and is a strong indication that it's here to stay.
Ohana, originally from ESV, is a relative newcomer to the scene, but it's being well-received. From what we've seen so far, Ohana is another example of a standard balanced macro, like Daybreak or Cloud Kingdom. Because it's one of the smaller maps in the map pool, it leans slightly towards Terran, especially in TvZ. And because the Protoss third base is relatively easy to take, it leans towards Protoss in PvZ. But compared to some of the other maps in the pool, balance is not too huge a deal and Ohana can still call itself a balanced map.
The Unknown Maps
One of the new maps introduced for this GSTL, Muspelheim is certain the most confusing. Filled with many possible attack paths, this map really test players in their knowledge of the map; whoever can maneuver the map best usually wins. Muspelheim is also the most untested map in the map pool as even Whirlwind was introduced in the GSL while Muspelheim only sees play in GSTL and some small online tournaments. While maps like Daybreak and Ohana are being played on the ladder everyday, Muspelheim is only played among practice partners, and possibly only intra-team. New tricks are consistently being found on the map everyday, most notably in the GSTL semifinals where Tails cannon rushed Tear from a hidden and unassailable position, something Tear had clearly never seen. If a player chooses this map, look for an extremely clever sniping strategy that abuses the map.
The other map that GSL introduced, Whirlwind is a monster of a map, close to the size of the infamous Calm Before the Storm. Even though it's so large, I like to think it has more in common with Entombed Valley. As a square 4 player map with an extremely open middle area, the two maps share a lot in common. However, in contrast to Entombed Valley, Whirlwind also gets rid the easy-to-take third base, replacing it with a more open and exposed one, mitigating some problems Entombed has. Whirldwind looks to be a great macro map, as can be seen in the GSL from Seed vs Symbol, but especially from the Ryung vs DRG game that we previewed here.
As Antiga Shipyard is the opening map, a map that is considered T>Z, T>P, and Z>P, it seems natural that we would start the day off with a Terran mirror. And as arguably the best two Terrans from each respective team, the winner of this opening match will offer a huge lead for his team. This is especially true, because each team as a Protoss player (JYP/Tear) that is weak in the PvT match-up, and both teams will give up their best chance to snipe that Protoss player by playing their Terran aces here.
Gumiho's best chance in this match-up is to use a strategy that is dissimilar to MMA's. Marine tank wars or mech wars can be determined by whose mechanics are better or by meticulousness each player is; neither one of these is Gumiho's strength. When both players have access to the same units, there's much less room for creatively. But when you play bio versus mech, mech versus bio tank, or bio tank versus mech, there's tons of options to harass, to multitask, and to make your opponent rip his hairs out. A brilliant yet deluded man once said, "Introduce a little anarchy. Upset the established order, and everything becomes chaos." Gumiho is that agent of chaos.
While MMA was mostly a marine tank player, he has recently ventured into the world of mech a lot more, both in TvT and TvZ. At his most recent TvT showing at IPL Hot Import Nights versus QuanticIllusion, MMA played both a game of mech and a game of marine tank. (He notably went mech on Antiga Shipyard.) In each game, he displayed mastery of his strategy, proving to the world that all TvT strategies are available to him. And as MMA is known for his multitasking above all else, he seems like the perfect candidate to receive Gumiho's style specifically designed to tax multitasking. The important question yet to be answered is which MMA will show up, the MMA who lost 0:4 to Polt in one GSL finals or the MMA who triumphed 4:1 over MVP in another.
Final Lineup Predictions:
MMA: The starting player for SlayerS, obviously he's in the lineup.
Puzzle: Puzzle is that all-around good player you can really depend on at a time like this. Even when Puzzle was slumping, you could count on him to always get a win or two. And because Puzzle has done so well in team leagues lately, SlayerS would be foolish to bet against a winning horse.
CoCa: CoCa, while less consistent than Puzzle, holds unbridled potential. As this season of GSTL has been the season of Zergs, it would be imprudent for SlayerS to not send out a single Zerg, just as it would be imprudent to not send their best Zerg in CoCa.
Ryung: I also definitely see Ryung in this lineup. It would be rather embarasing for him if MMA played in the finals and he did not when MMA contributed nothing to get into the finals. I would normally expect a Terran to snipe Tear, but seeing as Ryung's TvP is extremely weak, I can also see him appearing somewhere else in the lineup.
Alicia/JYP: Only one of these remaining should be used in this match-up. While Alicia's strength is his PvT and PvP, JYP's comes from his PvZ. Because FXO has a ton of Zergs and no really strong Terran after Gumiho eventually dies, I see JYP as a more likely choice for SlayerS.
Miya: Miya could possibly be played on the extreme off-chance that SlayerS is really desperate to kill a Terran. Other than that, however, he shouldn't be seeing any playing time in the match.
GuMiho: See MMA.
Lucky: Lucky will be sent out some time in the middle of the match. He's an all around good player, but definitely not good nor clutch enough to be a closer.
TheBest/Whale/Sirius: One, and only one, of these players will definitely be used, and I predict each has trained to snipe a particular player should he become too dangerous. TheBest has likely been assigned to JYP and the other two Zergs to SlayerS' other most likely player choices. Probably one Zerg will focus on Terrans(MMA/Ryung) while the other focuses on Zergs (CoCa and Miya).
Tear: Tear will be FXO's answer to Zergs and if desperate, Protoss players. FXO will most likely try to use him closer to the end of the match, as he is a valuable player and one of the rising aces of FXO.
Leenock: As FXO's best player, Leenock is the clear choice to be the closer. Once all the less balanced maps are out of the way, it's Leenock's time to shine. With the philosophy that no one can beat their ace on even ground, FXO charges into battle with the same strategy they used to take down MVP.
Writer: Fionn, NrGmonk, and Waxangel.
Graphics: Pathy and shiroiusagi.