Code S Ro16: Group A Recap
Results from Live Report Thread by opterown. Front page image by KingxXx/GomTV.
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A Change in the Weather
– SKT_Rain advances from Group A in first place, defeating Liquid`TaeJa and TSL_Polt
Sometimes, old proverbs are apt to describe the most modern of sports. In last night's Code S matches, it was a case of 'cometh the hour, cometh the man.' SKT_Rain, rising to prominence with his streak of PvZ victories in WCS Korea, came to show everyone that his PvT was no lesser a force. Put simply, he faced two of the best TvP players in the world, and beat both of them handily to finish first in his group. Rain is no longer merely the best KeSPA player. He is a championship contender.
Picking Liquid`TaeJa during group nominations might have looked silly at face value. However, for Rain the range of selections was narrow, and in hindsight, it's easy to understand why the KeSPA player had such confidence in his TvP. His first two games were a tour de force of how to beat a top player in PvT.
Rain never took big risks, insisting on over-producing observers to create an impenetrable drop defense while he teched up behind it. Cloud Kingdom and Antiga Shipyard can be tricky maps on which to hold off a Terran trying to stretch the Protoss defenses, but liberal use of cannons, templars and observers kept Rain safe from harassment that could have put him behind. While Terran's harassment was shut down entirely, Rain was devilish in his own torment of the Terran economy. Constant storm drops and zealot warp-ins meant that TaeJa never had the economic backbone to stand up to Rain in the late game.
Against TSL_Polt in the winners match, Rain showed another side of his PvT, denying Polt's scout and punishing the TSL player with a 4-gate on Whirlwind. On Antiga, Polt was able to hand Rain his only defeat of the night, taking the lead with a four medivac doom-drop and starving Rain to death in a long game. Facing off on Daybreak to see who would advance in first place, Rain pulled out a three nexus build and won with the same commitment to harassment brought TaeJa to his knees.
There are a few things that really stand out about Rain so far. The first match against Taeja was very Seed’esque, avoiding confrontations and harassing the Terran to death. His play against Polt was more reminiscent of Parting, with a fast double expand and a glut of storms. Of course, having similarities to Seed and Parting is far from a bad thing. Overall, his builds showed diversity, with a propensity to both play to the map and the player. However, his style is becoming quite clear; in a straight up game his plan will be to safely expand and simply run the Terran down slowly by attacking the economy, rather than trying to crush the army in a decisive engagement.
Incidentally, that is also how he played out his PvZs in WCS Korea. Patience, stellar defense and high activity through contesting mid map control and harassing are elements that define him as a player – and they were the highlights of his play in the group.
– Liquid`TaeJa repeats his usual loss-win-win pattern to advance in second place.
In the last three seasons of GSL, TaeJa has not only made the round of eight three consecutive times, he has also shown his resilience in an intriguing way. Three times before, he has advanced from his group after losing his first match, and he made it four times on Tuesday night.
In terms of his games, Taeja did not look quite as good as we have come to expect of him lately. Of course, it was impossible that he would look invincible forever. Taeja was given a master class in how his standard TvP can be defeated by Rain. The games were not lopsided, but Rain only looked really threatened when he made unforced errors. An unusual sight, as we've seen a substantial number of games where Taeja has been able to bend his opponents to his will rather than have to wait for hand outs.
The shakiness continued against MVPDongRaeGu in the losers match. Once again, it would be foolish to say that Taeja did not play some fantastic StarCraft II, but the feeling of something not being quite right lingered. Ultimately, he proved to be the MVP Zerg’s superior on the day through straight up play. While he lost the second game after his double barracks play failed to do much at all, all-in-all Taeja looked comfortable in making DRG's mass muta-bane-ling play look obsolete.
In the final match of the day, the TaeJa rebound came complete. Having looked outplayed and lacking ideas versus Rain, better but still not at his best against DRG, he showed brilliant and commanding marine/tank play against Polt. Once again, shrewd drops and beautiful positional play was combined with slick mechanics to put Taeja through to the final eight.
The best way I can describe Taeja’s play overall would be ‘muted’. Perhaps nerves still a play a factor, perhaps it was some recent losses to all-ins that made him feel the need to play more conservatively. At the very least, he seemed more averse to taking risks, toning down his iconic, flamboyant, bulldozer style just a little.
– The departed two
For Polt, this group always looked to be difficult. When Taeja looks like your easiest opponent on paper, you know you are in for a rough ride. Polt did impress, defeating DRG and taking the only game off Rain in the group. It would probably not have been unjust to see him advance over Rain altogether, as his losses were pretty marginal in the sense that a lot came down to maps and builds. With some more luck in either department, Polt could have advanced to the round of eight for the first time in over a year while looking impressive.
The last player of the group, DongRaeGu, still is a bit of a mystery. I think a fairly common sentiment would be that he is somehow much better than what both results and gameplay indicate. Today, he was almost taken aback by Polt’s play, not punishing him for an incredibly early third in the first game and falling to a marauder/hellion all-in in the third. Against Taeja he looked outclassed. His mechanics seem unchanged from when he was the best Zerg in the world; it was his decision making that fails him.
DRG insisted on playing a prolonged lair phase with mutalisk/ling/bling – a strategy that often seems brilliant when it works, hopeless when it does not. That particular trait is mirrored in DRG as a player at the moment. However, he still has the round of eight in the OSL to look forward to. Not as good as getting there in both tournaments, but to do that, you would have to be...about as good as Rain at least.
– Rating the spells of the day
Psionic storm: Magnificent, thunderous! 10/10
EMP: A slow day, sometimes hitting, but too often underwhelming. 6/10
Fungal growth: Infestors were on strike. No scabs allowed. Not rated.