After a preliminary round where poor, poor NS Hoseo was eliminated, the GSTL will kick off in earnest. The system is similar to last season, with the eight teams divided into two groups of four, each group playing in Code S style double-elimination format. Two teams from each group will move on to the "playoff" round, a single-elimination tournament to crown the final champion.
Tonight, we have the first math of group A, as the defending champions FXOpen e-Sports take on Fnatic RaidCall.
Here comes the champions
After winning the previous season in style, FXO goes into their title defense looking very solid. Their ace players look as good as ever, their mid-level talent has shown growth, and all-around they have a surprisingly deep roster. While they don't have the in-your-face name value of Startale or SK-Incredible Miracle, they showed last season that you don't need an all-star line-up to win if everyone plays their part.
In the GSTL, it has long been a winning recipe to have ridiculously strong aces. SlayerS and MVP have had MMA and DRG carry them when they won championships, while Prime had MarineKing as their savior. FXO’s win was somewhat unorthodox in light of this history; Leenock clearly played his part in securing a spot in last season’s finals, but FXO also depended on a variety of rotation players like Lucky and Tear to take games. Of course, the most celebrated performance was that of Gumiho in the finals, who massively stepped up his poor showings during the rest of the season to all-kill SlayerS in the final.
All in all, FXO looks to be a relatively balanced team. They have stars, they have depth and they have shown that they can surprise in terms of their personnel choices. Opposing teams will know most of threats will they have to prepare for, but it's difficult to figure out the combination and order.
While FXO might have been the Cinderella story of season two, Fnatic RaidCall also made a surprising impact. Knocking out LG-IM in the first round, they came up just one game short of making the playoffs, losing 4 - 5 to SlayerS in the final match of the Ro8. Not only did they produce impressive results, they were not reliant on a single player to pull them through. While Oz and aLive are most definitely their two best players in terms of GSL experience and results, Fnatic’s Zerg line-up flexed their collective muscles and made it clear that they would not allow ace sniping to take whole matches out of their reach.
In some regards, Fnatic looks like it could be FXO’s mirror image. It has a stake in Korea with foreign sponsors, two aces who are a cut above the rest, and a number of second string players who can produce on any given day. However, the depth is lacking in comparison, the aces aren't showing the same form as their counterparts on FXO, and Fnatic is awfully Zerg-reliant when aLive and Oz are not doing well.
In round one, Fnatic looked shaky. They were all-killed by YongHwa but rallied by defeating New Star Hoseo 5-4 to secure advancement. Losing to Incredible Miracle was not unexpected, but having such a struggle against NSHS might have been. It remains to be seen whether the team can overperform like they did last season, and the defending champions will be a formidable first test.
Fnatic seems fond of starting out with either The J Formerly Known As Luvsic or Moon in their team games. With Moon heading off to DreamHack Valencia, the honor falls to the former oGs Zerg. In FXO’s corner we find Sirius, a Zerg who for some time was quite famous for his standard ZvP play of going six pool into macro game.
In this case, we find two quite similar players matched up. J has not found much success, but has lurked around the ‘not quite good enough to qualify for Code A’ area. Sirius is similar, but has show growth in his game, culminating with winning his coveted Code A spot defeating hyvaa and Avenge on his way into the individual league.
It remains to be seen whether J can transform his middling play; it will be needed if Fnatic is to have much hope of repeating the successes of last season. A shallow roster means more pressure is put on the starter. On the other hand, Sirius may feel less pressure due to the relative success of his teammates, but should also relish the opportunity to contribute to his team and to show that he has what it takes to compete with the best.
This is what it must be like to leave the nest. You feel sorry you had to go, you wish all the best for your former team but the opportunities granted were too good to pass up. The world looks on, predicting that the ones left behind would struggle to fill the void, but nothing can be done about it. I wonder when Oz first realized that he had not only been replaced, he had been cloned. It is as if he left an Oz shaped hole in FXO, and Tear somehow dropped into it, assuming the form as if by magic.
Now, this may be slightly exaggerated, but it is amusing to see how Tear stepped up to replace his departed Protoss brother. He might not have had the individual results, but last season he really came through in tough spots for his team, especially in an elimination match against StartaleQ where he defeated Curious, Squirtle, and PartinG.
Oz remains a bit of a mystery. His PvP went from superb to atrocious after his famous comment about the skill based nature of the matchup (one day, Oz will reveal to us that it was a terrible miscommunication. "Skill? I meant luck, and only luck"). His games against both Terran and Zerg have a worrying trend of fluctuating between the sublime and the horrific. His rise to glory came when the hope for Aiur’s chosen were few and far between, rising like the phoenix from the ashes of the Sad Zealot fan club. Finding consistency after initial Code S success has been difficult, but he is the kind of player that could definitely show up on form in a team game.
This is where FXO shows off their depth. While Lucky and asd both are players with GSL experience, Gumiho is a consistent Code S player who shows flashes of brilliance on occasion. Neither Lucky nor asd had the best results last season, but Lucky captained his team to victory and is a capable sniper. On the other hand, asd was one of the many unassuming Korean Terrans when that was a theme in back in 2011, but unlike many of his fallen brethren, he has found it in him to re-qualify for the individual leagues. Though they aren't ace-beaters, both are certainly capable to taking games against most teams. Meanwhile, Gumiho is the kind of player that most teams would love to have; having the precious GSTL quality of being a streaky player, eminently capable of stringing together wins and turning the tide in his team’s favor.
For Fnatic, Rain and Byul are players that need to rack up some kind of results unless their aces can go on a four or all-kill spree. Byul made a very favorable impression last season and seems like a player poised to make the jump into individual leagues. Rain on the other hand has had a strange career path. Starting out with a second place in GSL, he removed himself from Korea, won good money abroad before returning, not only with different perspectives but with a different style of play - one that hasn't seen him repeat his earlier success.
Leenock is on his way to becoming a certified monster player. It sometimes seems puzzling how little credit he gets compared to both his skill and his results. I suspect it may have something to do with his personal image evoking expressions of ‘awwwww’ in contrast to the ferociousness of his play. What is certain is that he looks to be entrenched in the upper echelons of Code S, he has won two MLGs and he was a dependable ace for the last season’s GSTL winners.
aLive is likewise a player who should be in contention for round of eights in Code S. However, this season he is not; his reputation as a text-book, solid Terran is becoming a bit more dishevelled as of late, looking very vulnerable in TvZ and even in TvT. However, there can be little doubt that he is the ace of his team and that he is a fantastic player capable of securing team wins. With only Code A on the horizon for aLive, leading his team to GSTL glory would provide sweet validation.
With some inherent similarities between the teams, it becomes very hard to disregard the pure statistics of the situation. FXO’s first string players are showing better form than Fnatic’s, their roster is deeper and they have more players likely to go on win streaks. FXO might still have some things to prove after winning last season, but they are still a team that must be held as one of the best in Korea. Winning against what is probably the worst team remaining in the league is expected. If their better players perform as they should, it should be a rout.
An upset from Fnatic would have to involve Oz finding his a-game, aLive overcoming his recent difficulties or Byul pulling a Symbol. None of these seem all too probable. The other slim possibility is of course that Choya and Lucky decide to field a lot of second string players, but surely the defending champions will appropriately balance giving newer players exposure and you know, winning.
I think you are underestimating the factor Oz here.
He might have had a rough slump lately, but out of anyone he knows best how to deal with Leenock and Lucky (or even Gumiho)
Rain is the true Wild card, you never know what to expect from him, but he seems motivated after cheesing some HoSeo kids and taking out Heart 2-0.
Oz could turn out to be fnatics real Ace in this matchup, since Leenock wont find too much trouble dealing with aLive, but his ZvP is a lot more inconsistent and Oz can beat any Zerg as shown against Stephano.
FXO 5-4 fnatic would be a likely scenario, Choya might personally attempt to end his student's killing spree in a PvP ''dead serious face''
Last edit: 2012-09-21 11:31:07
RIP Seung Hyun 'Space' Park † 6/5/2013 - Undead hero and eSports rolemodel
plasmidghost Czech Republic. September 21 2012 11:23. Posts 1501