Code S Ro16: Group B Recap
- FXOLeenock reaches the final eight with wins over HerO and Squirtle.
It has been a long time since we last saw Leenock in the round of eight in Code S. Prior to last night, Leenock had been on a rough ride in Korean competition. Even though he lost to Jjakji in the Code S November 2011 finals, it was expected that he would be a solid contender in all of 2012. However, he couldn't get past the wall of the Ro16, and even his performances in supposedly easier international competition dropped off for much of 2012. However, Leenock made a late-summer recovery, rallying his team to a GSTL championship and grabbing himself a second MLG championship at Raleigh, and had built up momentum heading into this Ro16 group.
The group selection was not the kindest to Leenock. While it is a badge of honor to be among the last set of players picked, his opponents looked like the sort that had given him trouble since November of last year: two Protoss players with impeccable reputations for their PvZs alongside a loose cannon Terran player whom he would probably only be facing in the loser’s match – not an easy task for any Zerg. With Leenock’s history of having a shaky ZvP, it looked like the Zerg had drawn the short end of the stick.
Liquid`HerO vs. Leenock has given us some memorable games in the past; in season two HerO was just about able to edge out the FXO player in what would be HerO’s breakout Code S performance. On the other hand, Leenock beat HerO in the ace match between FXO and the now defunct oGs-TL in GSTL S1. All games featured what one has come to expect out of the two players, tons of action, constant aggression and things happening all over the map.
This season’s showdown neither surprised nor disappointed in that regard; Leenock started out strong when HerO missed his timing to execute a cannon rush successfully on his third in the first game. The Protoss followed it up with a seven gate, meeting some success but ultimately Leenock stabilized, took his fourth and overran HerO with lings, roaches and infestors.
Game two saw the fireworks start to go off. Eschewing his usual pick of Entombed Valley for Cloud Kingdom, the game followed the trend of having Leenock teching up behind aggression while HerO defended and counterattacked. With a spire sniped early on, Leenock relied on twelve existing mutalisks for both map control and for harass. But as the day of the mutalisks came to an end, HerO was the one denying bases and expanding. In the end, the sheer multitasking of HerO prevailed, the Protoss able to stretch Leenock’s forces too thin while setting up two flanks to kill off stranded brood lords and snipe infestors.
The decider came on Antiga Shipyard, a pick in line with other top Zergs in the tournament. In the round of 32, Symbol chose the map as his loser’s pick against HerO, almost engineering a victory despite getting battered by HerO's harassment all game. We saw the same type of game play out once again, though perhaps on a higher level. Leenock was never able to secure a fourth and struggled to force favorable trades with his lings and roaches. However, he seldom wasted his gas units, and built up a formidable infestor/brood lord composition while HerO invested a lot in his harassment. While Symbol vs. HerO ended when the Zerg had his army picked slowly apart as it was trying to deal a deathblow to the Protoss, Leenock was more frugal. He was able to encroach upon HerO’s map control and managed to decisively turn the game in his favor with a neuraled mothership vortexing the majority of the Protoss army.
In the winners match, Leenock moved on to face ST_Squirtle. The two games were more straightforward than the previous encounter with HerO. On Ohana, Leenock’s ten pool was able to cancel a building Nexus. With momentum on his side, he repeated much of what was seen in his first game of the night on Daybreak, never relenting from attacking until Squirtle had no option but to surrender.
Cloud Kingdom once again was the trickier map for Leenock. He fell behind to Squirtle’s Colossus based aggression, but sacrificed what he could afford to and put together another infestor-brood lord army. Squirtle failed to execute the same kind of flanks that let HerO take apart the Zerg army, and it cost him dearly. Once again Leenock was able to land a crucial neural parasite, leveraging his superb army control and immense infestor count to sweep the Startale Protoss.
FXOLeenock looked superb in advancing. It has become evident that some progamers change their stated favorite matchup as often as most people change socks, but Leenock did not joke around when he said he was currently favoring ZvP. He showcased the old Leenock style of unrelenting attacks in his first games against both opponents, but added to that a frustratingly patient late game that we have not seen too often from him before. His army control, always impressive, translates well to the late game style that defeated HerO on Antiga and Squirtle on Cloud Kingdom.
However, perhaps more interesting was his attention to what to fight over. He looked like a player who knew exactly how to win, opting to sacrifice the non-integral parts of his game plan while focusing on what really mattered: the unstoppable brood lord - infestor army. He played Antiga Shipyard, in a position where he was clearly behind in all categories, except the fact that he had a terrifying army that HerO would be forced to confront at some point in the game. While Leenock has previously looked like a player inherently more comfortable on the offensive rather than defensive, this new strength will mean that he is even stronger than before.
Last Action HerO
- Falling to the loser’s match after a 1-2 against Leenock, Liquid`HerO advances with wins over Heart and Squirtle.
Many progamers look to be fearless competitors, never fazed by unlucky losses, always staying calm and collected. I daresay not many people would include HerO in this category. After seeing his reaction to losing to Leenock, one had to wonder just how the rest of the group would play out for the Liquid Protoss.
However, perhaps it is time to re-evaluate some of the commonly accepted truths about HerO’s mentality. While he did look devastated after his loss to Leenock, it should be remembered that on his way to securing a spot in the semi-finals of Code S Season 2, he was in the same situation. He had lost his first match in the round of 32, looked nothing like a player on the brink of making himself a household name in Code S. But both times, he was able to find some inner strength to bounce back.
It has to be stated that his series against Leenock was gorgeous. He may have lost, but both players looked to be on form and in the last two games, HerO played some of his best PvZ. But while he won most of the battles, he lost the war against the re-invented Leenock and found himself facing elimination going up against Heart.
While coL.Heart is definitely a player capable of multiple styles, but the losers match saw him return to his much maligned caricature as BitbyBit the 2nd. However, HerO showed impressive stability in his early game PvT. On Ohana, he lost his natural to the first 1/1/1 attack but stabilized, getting three phoenixes just in time to crush the follow up marine/tank/banshee attack designed to breach his main. On Antiga, Heart opted for a hellion drop combined with marine pressure at the natural. HerO’s defense was stellar, taking no damage in the main while killing off the marine forces on the natural before being in any real danger. Miles ahead, he went straight up to a single colossus and pushed. Heart, cutting corners while trying to catch up in economy, had next to no defense and had to gg when HerO walked up the ramp, force fielded the Terran army in the main and devastated the expansion.
As predicted by Gom, it all came down to ‘If I can just defeat ST_Squirtle’ for HerO, as featured in the pre-match promotional videos. Very few would have held HerO as a favorite going into this matchup; he looked like the inferior PvP player in just about every aspect when Squirtle secured his spot in the finals in Season 2 with a crushing 3 - 0 sweep. However, HerO has found more confidence in his abilities in the Protoss mirror since then and it probably helped that he was able to defeat Squirtle in the online MLG qualifier for the Summer Spring Arena.
In short, the series was the best PvP HerO had ever played in the GSL. In the first game, his four gate stargate attack upon scouting Squirtle’s expansion was well thought out and well executed. The game seemed to stand on a razor’s edge for a long time, with Squirtle constantly looking to be on the verge of stabilizing, but just not quite capable of locking things down. In the end, HerO was finally able to translate his superb micro into victory.
On Entombed Valley, HerO once again looked to get an advantage in the build order department. Going fast blink against Stargate, he contained Squirtle inside his own natural, defended the phoenix harass and used his blink-stalker advantage to outplay Squirtle in a way that seemed impossible months ago.
Securing Liquid’s second spot in the round of eight should go a long way to make up for recent disappointments abroad and an abysmal previous Code S season. It does remain to be seen whether HerO’s victory over Squirtle means that his PvP will be up to the standard of his opponent in By.Sun, widely acknowledged as the best KeSPA player.
Perhaps most significantly, HerO looked improved in less tangible ways than just gameplay. It is always a good sign to be able to come back from the loser’s bracket, especially so for a player whose nerves have been an issue in the past. Of course, HerO has not looked as solid in foreign tournaments as his fans would have hoped, but since losing to MMA last season, his play in the GSL has been stronger and more solid. Self confidence has always been a crucial component of any champion, and self confidence has been a trait we have seen more defined in the HerO of GSL Season 4 than ever before.
- The best loser
Squirtle had a frustrating evening. It follows what is becoming a rather long line of frustrating evening for the Startale player. A rather new introduction to the Kong line, Squirtle has shown a consistency in not quite making it both in Korea and in foreign tournaments. With his statement that he wants to break Startale’s string of second places, his elimination will be a bitter pill to swallow. Going into the matches against both Leenock and HerO as a favorite makes it worse; he had previously beaten both in GSL Season 2 without losing any maps. He showed his trademark solid PvT and refusal to die when behind against Heart, but was outplayed by Leenock and lost in similarly disappointing fashion against HerO.
Pending how the rest of Code S plays out, Squirtle will probably still be considered as the most solid Protoss player. There is little doubt that he has strong points unrivalled by most. However, he will feel even more pressure to finally land his first gold.
- Heart, the Onion-Cheese King.
Heart has been an interesting part of this season’s Code S. There is no doubt that he is cheesier than what we are used to these days. Of course, with the heralded return of his predecessor BitbyBit as the ruler of the nation of SCV-pull, he might lose the title of Cheese Terran.
On the other hand, Heart gets very little credit for what he has been able to accomplish. Looking at his MLG results and his fantastic WCG Korea run, there is no doubt that he can play a macro game. What is undoubtedly better than being a solid macro player is being a solid macro player that no-one dares to cut corners against. With slightly better decision making or army control, he should have been able to convert his early game advantages against Squirtle into a win and a chance to take on Leenock for advancement.
While he was not able to make it out against the trio of Squirtle, HerO and Leenock, there can be no doubt that he is a very real threat to his fellow Code S players. Heart has come a long way in a short time; it is not long ago since he was not even recognized as the best player on Complexity. Now, he is a true wildcard of the GSL with an unrivalled ability to blind counter opponent’s default strategies against him. Not every spectator will appreciate his style, but it is easy to be fascinated by a player who has been able to polarize his play to a degree where he can dictate opponent’s reactions to such a degree.
- This season, only Life has been able to advance from a group without losing a single map.
- Nestea was the only player of this season’s Code S to not win a single map.
- Round of 16 had twice as many players finish 0-4 as Round of 32.
- Polt has lost the most games of any player in Code S this season.
- Life has the best win ratio thus far this season, going 8-1 for an 89% win rate.
- Zerg is 42-37 in games.
- Protoss is 49-46 in games.
- Terran is 59-67 in games.
- Symbol and Leenock were the only players to advance from a group by reverse killing their opponent.
- KeSPA is currently 10-7 in Code S.