The GSL is back! Again! With both IEM and WESG done and in the books, there will be no more mid-tournament breaks for GSL Code S as it heads to its grand finale. The aforementioned tournaments may have crowned their own world champions, but only in the GSL can a player earn the title of Korean champion—an honor unlike any other in StarCraft.
The first semifinal features two combatants carrying on from where we last saw them in the RO8, silently soldiering on in spite of the hardships and long-odds pitted against them.
Of the two, soO escaped the RO8 in more impressive fashion, but little can be inferred from his performance. soO cleanly slew Scarlett 3-0 using a combination of his masterful early game aggression as well as his mid-game prowess, but given his historically good ZvZ it was an expected result. soO hasn’t played in any other tournaments matches afterward, leaving us with a 1-2 defeat to Harstem at IEM as his last ZvP result.
Stats, on the other hand, had a much harder quarterfinal. While he ultimately bested Classic, their series went down to the wire, and both players looked capable of clinching a semifinal spot. Stats eventually came out on top in what many would consider an upset, perhaps signalling a reversal of fortune after a rough start to 2018.
Unlike soO, Stats has participated in a handful of online tournament games in the interim. He started his OlimoLeague February Finals run promisingly by defeating newly crowned IEM world champion Rogue, but his subsequent best-of-five loss to RagnaroK cast doubt once more on his form (as did a later loss to Impact in Ballistix Brawl).
And thus, two players square off, their respective skills in the match-up doubted for much of the new season, almost fated to meet. But if fate brought them together here, who will it now allow to fall?
Stats has done well to get this far, but it seems more likely that he will be the one to taste defeat. While his series preparation for the GSL this season has been good, his PvZ and overall form just seems too hit or miss (what a testament to Stats' general consistency that he made it the GSL RO4 despite playing some of his least consistent StarCraft ever). soO's record may show he's been struggling in ZvP lately, but his record also shows that there's no hardship he can't overcome in the semifinals.
One complicating factor might be the recent balance patch and removal of hatchery-stage overlord drops. Zerg's potent early-game threats of nydus all-ins and speedling/overlord drop tactics have been a key part of their recent success against Protoss—how will soO fare with one of those options curtailed?
soO 4 – 1 Stats
While soO and Stats have stayed mostly quiet over the past week, the same cannot be said of the other two combatants. After making strong runs through WESG 2018 (naming conventions be damned) where they crushed the rest of the field, Dark and Maru squared off in a grand finals that went down to the wire.
Until a few weeks ago, it seemed like Dark would be the favorite going into any match against Terran. He expertly bested nearly every single Terran he went against in 2018, including big names such as TY, INnoVation and ByuN. While Dark has suffered from some inconsistencies in his other match-ups—most notably against Protoss—his ZvT has been something he could always rely on.
Maru, however, has recently been turning heads and dropping jaws with his meta-changing play. There's been much debate about which race is favored in the ZvT late game throughout LotV, but recent trends seemed to indicate that Zerg had the upper-hand. Maru, with a little help from Blizzard and its raven patch, has decided to grab the bull by the horns. He's gone toe-to-toe with Zergs in the late game with an unusual raven-banshee-ghost composition, and has largely come out on top.
He first displayed his new style in spectacular fashion against Solar at IEM, making the Zerg slump in disbelief and resignation at the end of their series. While he would fall to Rogue in the next series, our collective imaginations were piqued. Maru did not disappoint those who wanted to see more, as he went on a Zerg extermination spree at WESG which culminated in a titanic battle against Dark.
While WESG proved Maru's late-game TvZ to be quiet powerful, it's still inconclusive as to how it matches up against Dark. Maru was starved out by an an extremely disciplined Dark, who seemed to perfectly understand the strengths and weaknesses of Maru's composition. Yet, that was only possible when Dark took an early-game lead with a roach-ravager attack. Late-game may have been the center of attention, but the series was effectively decided in the early game. Maru's used consecutive proxy-barracks rushes to close out the series, while Dark also made it a point to keep his early game strategies as unpredictable. Dark is a master at preparation, and he has plenty of valuable games to to study. Maybe this time, armed with a few different builds and tweaked overlord scout patterns, he'll be able to take his revenge.
Dark 4 - 3 Maru