Sometimes you experience a very somber atmosphere in life when it ends. As an outsider looking in, you never really know what the occasion will hold for the survivors, the friends and those left behind. SlayerS seemed a monolithic structure in a young world; stable, secure and reputable. Where other teams struggled with the bare minimums, they were prosperous. Where the competition consisted of unknowns and failed pro-gamers from a different era, SlayerS had BoxeR. Where other teams were gray and indistinguishable, their existence more a matter of fact than a reason to celebrate, SlayerS were vibrant, inviting and the kind of team foreigners loved to love.
Then it ended. Abruptly for many, unexpectedly for the casual observer and in great drama for everyone concerned. Dreams had unraveled, each individual strand turning into something else. New opportunities for the lucky few, a search amidst the great unknown for most and a nightmare for the ones caught in the center.
The GSTL match between SlayerS and MVP was the goodbye. It was a goodbye after a period of accusations, a time of strife. Those outside of Korea, with no inside knowledge of how the world of StarCraft II or perhaps StarCraft in general wondered what was on the minds of people there. It was watched with curious eyes. Would there be a cold reception? Would people even care? Would anyone show up, or would this be treated as another anonymous Saturday GSTL match?
As it turns out, this was an occasion for Mokdong to be filled. Likely, some wanted to say goodbye, some wanted to see the spectacle, some wanted to see BoxeR. But people came. And people cheered loudly. The crowd was animated for once, delighted for every small SlayerS triumph, groaning each time something went wrong. People wanted to cheer. They wanted to show that there was support and love; for SlayerS, for StarCraft and for BoxeR. It was almost a surreal experience to be watching the least relevant match in the GSTL become the most celebrated.
The Will of a King – The Rise of SlayerS
Coach Cella, who probably has had other things on his mind as of late rather than refining team strategies to take out MVP given his former b-team, sent out YugiOh first. Meanwhile, Killer, playing a new role as player coach of MVP, returned in kind with Noblesse. In many ways, this was a classic first round Code A encounter - both players somehow belong there. Yugioh of course has a long history of excelling in Code A while being somehow picked by team mates as a sacrificial lamb in Code S and most recently becoming the premier example of eSF players having mental breakdowns at the mere thought of approaching pachyderms. Noblesse on the other hand is more of the same, but not quite as illustrious or memorable.
Act 1. Noblesse.
When the King of Code A goes up against a representative of the Code A gray masses, it is reasonable to expect the king to win. A king has to lord over someone, and a rather ordinary member of his own kingdom is of course a good start. While Yugioh has looked like a very sorry version of himself recently, the game on Whirlwind gave some indication of a different side unveiling itself. While Noblesse played a decent early and midgame, spreading the SlayerS player thin with drops and hellions, he was never able to push his advantage into a very tangible way of winning. Yugioh was still able to tech up, first to infestors and then brood lords and was able to punish his MVP opponent for overstaying his brief welcome. Taking advantage of a bio force that could no longer be on the offensive, he turned the tide of the battle and went on the offensive with harassing lings and infestors. Facing brood lords controlling the middle and unable to hang on to workers at peripheral bases, Noblesse was losing ground by the minute and would ultimately type in the good game unable to come up with any reasonable answer to any of the questions asked by Yugioh.
Act 2. Vampire.
Welcome to Ohana, the poster child for soul trains. However, while some do have soul, others don’t and Vampire was made to look very pale indeed by Yugioh. Engaging the train in the middle, Yugioh first delayed the arrival before he decided to derail it completely. Setting up a fair amount of spines at home, he went straight for Vampire’s natural with roaches and lings. Vampire had walled off, but the damage output of Yugioh’s combined forces breached the sanctity of the natural. As Vampire was busy trying to counteract the damage done by attacking Yugioh’s bases, he missed the force field that would have saved his main base and capitulated shortly thereafter.
Act 3. Keen.
After beating a Code A regular and a Code S newcomer, the time had come for MVP to unleash a more familiar Code S face to take on the King. KeeN has shown a propensity for mass production of hellions and for aggressive early plays in general, things Yugioh has found it difficult to deal with in the past. However, as was the case with Vampire on the previous map, Keen let the Zerg into his base rather by accident. Walling off his natural with what turned out to be space for zerglings to walk in; Yugioh took full advantage of the offer and essentially ended the game there and then. Faced with a superior economy, a superior army and superior tech, he tried in vain to come back but soon realized that he was the third victim of Yugioh’s new found attitude and form.
An Empire Sniped – The Fall of SlayerS
Sniper was the third Code S player deployed by Killer to try to stop the King of Code A. While a new face, it has been apparent for a while that Sniper is DRG’s lieutenant and a possible heir. On Antiga, he looked superior to the SlayerS Zerg in every measurable way. Ling/bling wars went his way early on, developing a slight lead. He used that to launch a roach attack on his opponent who had taken a very risky third; essentially crippling Yugioh’s economy. He played out his advantage in a calculated and safe way, not skimping on neither economy, army nor tech and ended Yugioh’s streak and the spectator’s wish for an unlikely all-kill.
Intermission: SlayerS ‘Eve.
So this was to be the first time a woman had played a televised match in Gom’s circuit of StarCraft II competitions. A lot has been written about Eve, from her apparent lack of skill, via her resemblance to, and singing with Korean pop star IU, to her alleged status as a pure PR symbol. All those things aside, the fact is that she had never been a part of SlayerS competitively. She was clearly not in the best position to play, her main race apparently being Protoss but having to play Terran due SlayerS never having officially changed her registration (obviously, they never imagined they would have to play her). And she lost against a Sniper that has never scouted quite so meticulously for cheese before in his life in rather unspectacular fashion, as it turned out that a delayed four factory hellion attack off two base was not quite enough to overcome mutalisks. But the crowd roared, they cheered and applauded the symbolism of Eve playing. And when she had lost and looked distraught, the chants of ‘It’s OK!’ filled the studio.
In short order came Arthur, miso and Brown. Sniper took out all three with relative ease, Brown coming the closest to posing any real threat. We got to see the players of SlayerS EGMCSLRCMonster team play in studio, see them play in front of a crowd who wanted them to hopefully win but at least look good in defeat. And it was clear that this was not a match SlayerS had any real intention of winning. This was to have the players who had somehow avoided the worst of the fallout and perhaps suffered the greatest from it have a chance to shine. It is easy to say that MMA has suffered a lot from what happened with SlayerS, especially during the tumultuous period leading up to the collapse. However, MMA can play show matches whenever he feels like it, he can get a team and he is free to carefully choose his career path. Arthur, Miso and Brown are not so lucky. They are the ones who might have promise, who might have futures and who will find it very difficult to find a new opportunity in a world where SlayerS no longer exists.
Some may be disappointed of being robbed of a last chance of seeing Genius against DRG. However, while Genius must feel like he has had some real rotten luck in his team switch, he looked his usual mischievous, cheerful and supportive self as the three b-teamers were sent out. As much as a lot has gone wrong with the team, a good and forward-thinking decision was made in letting their unsung heroes get a piece of the spotlight in the final hour.
Sniper is the only real contender for MVP. He became the third player in three consecutive matches to all-kill SlayerS, following in the footsteps of Gumiho from FXO and YongHwa from IM. He looked comfortable in every match, never really at a risk of losing. His play was that of a Code S regular playing against not-quite-Code S caliber players and relishing in the opportunity to outplay every single one.
For his efforts, he secures his team the opportunity to face Incredible Miracle in order to advance. While it may be worrying that three players in a row lost before Sniper stepped up, it is not certain how much can be learned from what unfolded. It was a special night, and Yugioh certainly delivered an atypical performance. Noblesse looked pretty much like most Terrans do on Whirlwind going up against similarly skilled Zergs. Then both Vampire and Keen made glaring mistakes that one has to assume they do not make very often in practice, and definitely do not make habitually in the GSL. While LG-IM’s roster certainly is powerful, it looks susceptible to Zerg. Monster, Sniper and DRG represent a trio well equipped to exploit any such weakness.
The End is the Beginning is the End
SlayerS started with one strong man. As it turned out, one strong man was not enough to carry the team forever.
As with team as with match; it was a spectacle to observe. It started off on a high note and it had its successes initially. Then it failed and petered out. But as the team and the match became one and the same at the very end of things, people were still smiling amidst the sadness of the occasion.
Tonight will be the end of the road for one of this year's two GSTL champions. Prime, winners of Season One, go up against Season Two winners FXOpen in an all or nothing, elimination match for a spot in the playoffs. Neither team has looked quite championship caliber this season, both only capable of defeating whipping boys Fnatic RC while losing games to Team Swarm Life. Now, both redemption and survival are on the line.
Both teams have decided to skip the feeling out process and are opening strong, deploying some of their best players as point men. For Prime, Creator might actually be their best player if you look at how he's playing lately. While MarineKing dropped off from championship form, Creator went off and won TSL4 and WCS Korea, establishing himself as a top Protoss player. This season he's shaken off his GSL jinx and made it into the Code S Ro16, finally making up some ground on fellow youth movement leaders, Life and TaeJa.
On the other hand, we definitely know where Gumiho stands in the FXO hierarchy. #1 belongs to Leenock, #3 belongs to... somebody. But #2 belongs to Gumiho, a talented but inconsistent Terran who possesses the kind of streakiness to be a huge force in the GSTL. While he's had trouble making headway in the GSL (he's a lock to make the Ro32, but further progress has been difficult), he's always going to be an all-kill threat in the GSTL, as SlayerS learned in the last season's grand finals.
This should be an amazing match-up of styles. Gumiho is a berserker: He attacks relentlessly and without fear, sacrificing finesse for speed and strength. He's willing let allow himself to get wounded, as long as he can deal his opponent a killing blow. In contrast, Creator is a monolith, a player who plays with the patience and solidity of a mountain that has stood for eons. Every blow seems to glance off of him, while he himself attacks with the crushing, blunt force of a boulder.
Like all good players, both Gumiho and Creator know how to change things up every now and then, and we may see Creator go for an all-in or some other unusual pattern. But IF they do play the styles they are most famous for, this should be a really great game.
FXO: The Big Three and the Committee
As is the trend with many GSTL teams, FXO is very flexible about how they deploy their players. There are just two locks on FXO's line-up: Gumiho and Leenock. Since we've talked about GuMiho above, we'll move on to Leenock.
We've been raving about Leenock's skills pretty often as of late, but we aren't so tired that we can't do it one more time. Leenock has gone from being an incredibly smart, aggressive player, to being an incredibly smart, complete player. He has even MORE of the early-mid game weapons that were his trademark in 2011, and he's topped it off by mastering the turtle-hive play that everyone despises. In terms of pure depth of playbook, he's actually outdoing Life right now. You'd think Leenock would have a monopoly on the ace spot, but FXO has been comfortable playing Leenock at any position in the line-up.
It actually should be three locks on the team, as we're big believers in Tear. Tear's clutch performances in GSTL Season Two were instrumental in winning his team the championship, especially his three-kill over Startale. If I had to describe his style in brief, I would say he's a more efficient HerO – capable of similar micro tricks and harassment, but not as wasteful as the Liquid player who often seems to force things just because he wants something to do.
However, FXO hasn't shown full faith in Tear just yet, and he's not always a lock to play. Maybe he isn't as consistent behind closed doors as he is when he's in the GomTV booth? In any case, in a big match like this, it's hard to think he wouldn't be deployed at some point.
Compared to their three 'lock' players, FXO's bench can't help but look awfully weak at first glance. For the last two spots, they're forced to use some combination of Lucky, TheBest, JKS, Choya, asd, Sirius, Whale, or Tree: not the most confidence inspiring list of names. However, despite the lack of name value, FXO's bench has actually done a surprisingly decent job. Lucky and TheBest might have lost their GSL relevance in 2012, but they mysteriously find ways to chip in with a win or two. Batting slightly under .500 is entirely fine for FXO's bench players, as breaking even gives their big three more than a fair chance to take care of the rest.
Prime: Looking for the Fifth Man
If Prime were a rock band, they'd have a solid four-man core. MarineKing is the lead singer and front man, Creator keeps everyone steady on drums, MaruPrime brings flair on guitar, and ByuN plays bass because bassists are integral but under-appreciated except by weird fans. They're perfectly functional as a four man unit – in fact, they're actually rather good. However, they could really use a solid fifth member to take them over the top.
For a while, they had a very adequate fifth man in keyboardist BBoongBBoongPrime. However, B4 recently left the team to record a solo album, and Prime will have trouble filling that spot. While B4 was under-appreciated during his time on Prime, you really notice the void he leaves now that he's gone. While he wasn't a stand out star, B4 could carry his sections reasonably well, and added reasonably good Zerg play that rounded out the roster.
Prime has auditioned two replacements so far: ClassicPrime and Terius. Classic showed us some nice tricks by all-inning and cannon rushing in his games, which was enough to earn him two wins against TSL's Ragnarok and Revival. While he didn't show that he could do anything else, one win is already more than enough to ask from a fifth man (TAiLS has earned a spot on MVP's roster in that kind of role). In Terius' case, he won a more impressive victory by taking out Fnatic RC's ace aLive, but in all honesty it was a disaster of a match.
It's likely that both of them will be prepared for action, depending on specific map/race sniping scenarios. And even besides those two, even Salmosa might be waiting in the wings, ready to bust out with a saxophone solo that instantly earns him a starting spot.
Overall outlook and prediction
With two powerful players coming out first, there's the chance the winner of the first match will get hot, and go on a series swinging win-streak. What will be interesting to see is the reaction of the losing team: do they go to their bench and use a sniper? Or do they immediately follow-up with one of their better players to prevent the opposing team's point man from getting hot?
I'd like to think that snipers off the bench have a good chance at having a big impact, as they've been performing pretty well as of late. That factors in slightly in Prime's favor, as they could probably deal with something like, say, TheBest beating ByuN in a TvT, while FXO can't afford for Gumiho, Tear, or Leenock to lose to Classic or Terius.
This being an all-kill format match, the strength of each team's best player is crucial as well. In that department, FXO has a big edge in Leenock, who is absolutely on fire lately. Life is the only player you could say is definitely better than him, and many would pencil in Leenock as the second best player in the world. Maru, MKP, and ByuN are all good players, but they're hard pressed to beat Leenock in his current form.
For Prime, I think it all comes down to Creator. I think he is Prime's best player right now, and is a player who is capable of great things in the GSL. He's finally started to realize his potential, and could be Prime's best answer to Leenock.
In the end, I think FXO is favored by a small margin as they have the best player on either side. Prime could win if their risk of using Creator first pays off, but it could backfire on them hard as well.
FXOpen 5 – 4 Prime
Writers: Porcelina and Waxangel