SK Planet Proleague table and results at Liquipedia
Team Check Ups - Part 1
Round 1 End Standings
Round one of Proleague are over, and we've got an early feel for how the season could shape up. Seven games is a small sample for sure, and the rise and decline of players will surely sway the fortunes of the teams down the line. But there were still lessons to be learned from four short weeks of games, enough to give us a little insight into how the second round of games might go.
Here's our brief report on the eight teams of the Proleague, starting with the 8th through 5th place teams of round one:
Last place, a 1 – 6 record, and a staggering minus fourteen map differential is not what we expected out of the second best SC2 team of the hybrid season. It's another result that suggests the hybrid season was truly just a stepping stone.
While there were lackluster performances around the board, there were two factors that really crippled Samsung. First, their ace RorO failed to live up to his billing as one of the best KeSPA players in the early transition. A 50% win rate from your ace is something you'd expect from Air Force ACE, and not surprisingly, Samsung KHAN shares that defunct team's familiar last place position. Second, they couldn't get any kind of production out of Shine, their #2 for Zerg for much of the first round. Shine must have been doing something right in practice to earn so many appearances, but he failed to earn even a single win for his team.
You can see Samsung's plight in how deeply they dug into their bench. While other teams ran fairly short rotations, Samsung threw just about everyone out there in hopes that they might give the team a positive contribution. Alas, it didn't go well, and none of their players played broke a 50% win rate.
The sixteen year old BBatta comes in a total rookie, with no broadcast games in either Brood War or SC2. But considering how everyone else has been doing, you can understand how Samsung is willing to take a chance on such a player.
Samsung's position pinned to the bottom of the table still seems a bit unlucky. It's not like Samsung are a title contender, but they shouldn't be this terrible. Stork and Jangbi are pulling their weight decently in the middle, and if RorO (looking like a bigger IF by the week) can pick up his game, they should at least be fighting it out for a mid-table spot.
The all-kill format of the Winners League should help Samsung, especially since it's best of seven instead of best of nine like the GSTL. Samsung has three solid players in RorO, Stork and Jangbi, and their issues in round one stemmed from whoever was playing in the next three spots over. In the Winners League, they only have to fill four spots max, meaning their lack of depth is much better hidden.
We've mention him a lot already, but the most critical factor will how much RorO steps up his game. All-kill is an extremely top heavy format, and teams with super-aces typically dominate. RorO has fallen off a lot since the WCS World Finals, but he's shown us great play from time to time that suggest he can be that kind of super-ace. His stock might be low after round one, but don't sleep on RorO.
Many would think STX Soul to be a team with a clearly defined ace player, the GSL top 4 finisher, Innovation (aka Bogus). But a closer look reveals that many of Innovation's teammates have just as impressive achievements. Last took fourth place in the last OSL, Trap won rookie of the season during Hybrid Proleague, and hyvaa placed top 8 in the MLG MVP Invitational. Dear also proved himself last round, finishing with a 4-3 record, the 2nd best on the team. Unlike most other teams that have clearly defined aces, STX likes to pass around the burden/honor around among its regulars. In fact, four different players from STX have been chosen to play in the ace position, all with mixed results.
But after their 4 - 5 best core players (who are just average to slightly above average), it just gets bad from there. The rotating lineup competing for the last two spots is atrocious, and along with hyvaa, they've managed to accrue a 4 - 11 record in round 1. Consider this: all but two of STX's seven matches this round have gone to the ace match. (The other two were stompings courtesy of KT and EG-TL, two of the stronger teams in Proleague) STX seems to be able to fight toe-to-toe with most teams, but are unable to close it out early with a 4:2 or better score, because they always seem to have at least one default loss. Then when they get to the ace match, they are able to put out solid players, but don't have a reliable, designated ace to take it home each time.
Round 2 Outlook
Round 2 brings a new format that is a mixed blessing for STX. The biggest advantage for STX in winners league is that instead of being forced to field six players each time out, only four are required to win a match. This allows STX to only use their core four players if they wish, a core that is quite consistent and certainly much better than their bench. The absence of an ace match also helps out STX as that stress-filled position is one Soul has struggled to fill.
On the other hand, this round will be played in an all-kill format and all-kill formats have traditionally been dominated by one or two players (superaces). Innovation is good, but probably overrated after his Code S run. He's better than his 5 - 4 Round 1 record tells: he faced some of the toughest competitors in the league, losing to Effort and Taeja, but took down both Rain and Flash as well. He is definitely ace material, but doesn't show the dominating strength of a player like DRG or Symbol in their GSTL primes. Thus, once again, we come back to the core. Since Innovation cannot be 100% relied upon, in order to succeed in this league, all of STX's core will have to pull their weight and then some.
These two conflicting factors, the reduction from 6 players to 4 in the lineup and STX's lack of a particularly strong ace, bring us back to exactly where we started. STX will probably perform similarly to how they did in round 1, hovering in the lower half. The only probably difference is that in this all-kill format, they may be more likely to upset the stronger teams, but at the same time, they can be more vulnerable to the weaker ones.
Baby, one of the few established SC2 stars before the start of the Proleague, had a fairly mediocre round one, with his 50% win rate only redeemed by the fact that he went 2 – 1 in ace matches. While many would have predicted a last place finish from the Eights with their star ailing, it turned out that the rest of the roster was stronger than anyone imagined.
Speed, Jaehoon, and Ryul2 – who have annoyingly started going by Cure, Argo, and Savage, respectively – combined for 10 wins and 9 losses and gave the team the solid backbone they seemed to so sorely lack before the season. It's been a semi-crapshoot as to which of the unheralded BW players would end up blossoming as SC2 players, and T8 looks to have gotten pretty lucky so far with Speed and Ryul2. If Baby had lived up to his end of the bargain in round one, then we might even have seen the Eights finish in the top half of the table.
Team Eight played the shortest rotation of any team in round one, with five player spots 100% fixed for every single match, and the sixth spot taken over by the duo of Alone and check. In the Proleague format, we'd say that's a weakness, and that the team lacks depth. However, depth isn't nearly as important in a Bo7 winners league, and we can instead repackage that weakness as a strength in "they know for sure who their best players are."
While we'd love for MajOr to wow everyone in practice so much that he instantly makes the team's top four, in all likelihood we're not going to see a whole lot of him until we return to the Proleague format of matches. Still, with the maps determined beforehand, we can still hold out for the possibility of seeing him used for a mech TvZ snipe on a specific map.
Overall, Team Eight are in a similar position as Samsung. They have a solid line-up of players, but their ultimate success will depend on a talented, but highly inconsistent ace.
Damn, what happened to upheaving the existing order? The hybrid season champs had a great first two weeks of games, but were brought back down to earth by the superpowers SKT and KT. Not surprisingly, the team's success followed the rise and fall of ace player in herO[join], who had been the lynchpin of their playoff campaign in the hybrid season. After starting out 5 – 0 in round one and leading his team to an early 1st place position, herO finished his last five games with a 1 – 4 record.
Weeks 3 and 4 weren't actually that calamitous a "collapse," as CJ lost a series of very close games. SKT, Samsung, and KT handed them three straight 3 – 4 losses, and while the inability to win ace matches is worrisome, it's no cause for panic.
The real problem could be how top-heavy CJ is looking in the early going. Effort backed herO up with a 5 – 3 record, starting to ease into his old role from the Brood War days as an efficient Proleague win-machine. But outside the top two, the rest of the roster produced a disappointing 11 – 16 record.
Round 2 Outlook
Fortunately, being top heavy is the single most desirable quality in the winners league (the second being having just enough depth so that no player is a free-kill). HerO and Effort are one of the better one-two punches in the Winners League, more than capable of carrying a sagging bench to a few victories.
One point of curiosity, and perhaps concern for CJ Entus is how they'll choose to deploy their roster depending on the maps. CJ was very committed to using their players as map specialists in round one – Hydra on Arkanoid, BByong on Planet S, Effort on Tal'Darim, and SkyHigh on Bifrost – and the fixed map order of the Winners League could allow them to continue that strategy.
The loser's map-pick style of GSTL made the conventional wisdom to always play your top X players, but we could see that challenged in fixed-map style of the Winners League. Don't be too mad if Skyhigh comes out as the ace on Bifrost while herO[join] is left on the bench.
Match: SK Telecom T1 vs. EG-TL: Set5 VODs:English (subscription) - Korean (free)
Week Four's focus game is the very last PvP of 2012. This game features two top level Koreans, with Liquid`HerO playing for EG-TL facing SKT_Rain from SK Telecom T1 on Antiga Shipyard.
The analysis will focus primarily on Rain's play, as he flawlessly executes a stargate opening against a supposedly "soft-counter" build from HerO: a 3 gate blink-stalker rush. In the late game, Rain opts for an army composition that steers away from the old PvP tradition of always making more colossi, winning the game with a perfectly timed 200/200 push.
This map is particularly tricky to play a PvP game on. Early game cheese is always a possibility. The mineral configuration makes the main susceptible to cannon rushes and due to cross-only spawn positions on the WCS version, proxy-gating (either in-base or in the wide natural) is not uncommon (especially since many high level Protoss payers choose not to scout in PvP to optimise their build order). The configuration of the cliff surrounding the main bases makes this map extremely good for blink/obs play, as a result, fast expansion builds which are popular on other maps (gate expands builds with 4 sentries, as well as immortal expands) are seldom seen here.
Early Game Scouting and Openings
The SKT Protoss player opened with a standard 2 gate opening with the intention to use a 3 stalker rush. He scouted inside his main and natural after gate to be safe from proxy builds, and then scouted HerO's base at 18 food. The reasoning for a scout at this time is that the probe reaches the opponent's base as the core is being finished (when a tech structure can be placed) but before a stalker can deny scouting. A detail worth pointing out is that Rain did not send his probe right after building his core as many players would, but delayed the scout by 15-20 seconds so as to maximize mining time instead of arriving before there would be useful information to be gleaned.
His probe scouted a double gas before core opening, a chronoboost on the stalker and an in-base third pylon, all of which point to a tech opening from HerO and rules out the possibility of a 4 gate or any aggressive warp-gate play. Rain therefore decided to abandon the 3 stalker opening by not building the additional 2 stalkers and instead threw down a stargate as his stalker finished and queued a sentry and a zealot.
Rain's probe scout tells him everything he needs to know.
To explain this choice of tech, the PvP metagame shift in the past 2-3 months must first be explained. The trend has been that one gate openings always mean non-blink builds, while 3 stalker openings signal that a player was going for a blink build or a 2 gate expand. For non-blink tech, there's no need for 3 stalkers in the early game when the gas could be spent elsewhere.
As Rain scouted a single gate in HerO's main, with zealot first, he guessed that HerO wasn't going for blink play and decided to fake the 3 stalker rush into blink to go for phoenix play instead. On the other side of the map, HerO scouted the 2 gate opening from Rain indicating blink/obs play (especially likely on Antiga) and opted for a fast 3 gate blink rush hoping to hit a blink timing before Rain. HerO's blink finished at 7:00 which was the standard time for a blink all-in, but he went up to 27 probes to still be in the game if his push failed.
At that point in time, Rain's had gone for a build that had allowed him to take an early second gas, and place a tech structure at the fastest possible time while still being safe from any super-early gambit. The next timings he had to worry about was delayed 4 gate aggression (that can be dealt with by force-fielding the ramp) or more importantly the popular proxy robo 4 gate warp-prism build that is specifically designed to beat greedy tech builds. On Antiga, the only possible location for a proxy robo is at the five o'clock third base, which is why Rain sent his first phoenix there at 6:00 to make sure he was in the clear.
Rain decided to wait for 3 phoenixes before moving out, and stopped phoenix production at that number. His robo was started at the same time as the second phoenix, and he built a blind immortal upon completion (immortal before observer is standard with phoenix openers, as such builds are vulnerable to early blink play). His 3 phoenixes reached HerO's base at 7:15, which happens to be just in time to scout standard DT timings (and react accordingly by chronoboosting an obs and forcefielding your ramp) or blink/obs tech. However, it is too late to scout for the kind of obs-less play that HerO was going for, but continuing to be on top of things, Rain sent a scouting zealot at 7:10 to spot for enemy units staging near his base.
The only way to hold HerO's kind of 3-gate blink rush when opening stargate is to forcefield the ramp to buy time for immortals. Rain's zealot scout saw HerO's eight stalkers in front of his ramp at 7:14 and he reacted immediately by forcefielding his ramp at 7:16 while HerO attempted to blink a stalker on the ramp for high ground vision at 7:17. Had Rain reacted literally one in-game second later, he would have 99% lost the game to the rest of the stalkers chain blinking up.
Perfect forcefield with one second reaction time ? No problem...
Mid Game Transitions
After surviving the early game with flawless scouting, Rain used his three phoenixes to scout for expansion timings, harass the mineral line and force defensive stalkers. After Rain's second immortal popped, HerO abandoned the idea of busting the ramp and set up a contain with two sentries. Another possible transition for HerO would have been to expand and threaten a basetrade with his blink stalkers if Rain had wanted to push out, but he did not pursue this route.
To break a contain, Protoss players can either go for warp prism play (harassing the main while his army is outside your ramp), or a fast colossus to break down forcefields. Rain chose this second option. If his opponent expanded too early and made too many probes, he could have killed him with a one base colossus timing. Otherwise he would just expand, tech up, and the game would progress normally. As his first colossus was warped in, Rain ran down his ramp and broke the contain. Both players expanded at about the 11:00 mark with a slight advantage in expansion timing and probe count for HerO.
Units @13:00 when both expansions finish: Rain ahead in collossi count, HerO ahead in economy.
At that point in the game, HerO's army was slightly weaker than Rain's due to the fact that he had just begun his colossus production while Rain already had two out with thermal lance almost completed. However Rain could not push this advantage without leaving his main open to blink stalkers. He decided to split his army and play defensively while getting a forge to start +1 weapons.
Old Protoss saying "2 immortals, 3 zealots and a stalker in your main, keeps the stalkers away" (it rhymes in Protoss)
As both players transitioned for the PvP late game, they had the following priorities to take care of (more or less in this order):
Getting ground upgrades. Two forges are very seldom seen as you can't afford double upgrades without cutting too much in your army supply.
Getting double robo for colossus and immortal production
Twilight tech: teching to charge and archons
Securing a third base
Adding gateways to reinforce your army during a fight
If a player tries to play too greedily and do any of the previous bullet points simultaneously, he opens himself up to a timing push. In the game at hand, we saw both players playing very well, getting upgrades and double robo at practically the same time.
At 15:15, HerO blinked close to the cliff to snipe a collossus, but Rain immediately closed the retreat path with his main army and trapped all of HerO's stalkers with well placed forcefields. In the end, HerO lost all nine of his stalkers but managed to snipe a colossus and an observer with a final blink in the main.
Nine stalkers traded for one colossus and one observer, was it worth it HerO?
With the threat of blink stalkers neutralized, Rain was free to assume control of the map with his superior colossi count. He immediately took a third and pushed out towards HerO's base to deny any nexus from being planted. As a result, HerO was only able to expand a full two minutes later than his opponent.
Late Game Army Composition and the 200/200 Push
Until very recently in the metagame, PvP end game was always about the superior colossus count and positioning in maxed battles. One year ago you would see players go up to 9 or 10 colossi and try to catch opponents off-guard to force an engagement in a favorable concave. But about three-four months ago, Protoss players have figured out that it's more important to have an army composition that allowed multiple "layers" of units to mitigate colossus splash damage rather than than a large colossus count. A fellow Protoss writer described this layering well in a previous OSL article. The only real change in army compositions since then is an even heavier focus towards archons and immortals, a strategy shift spearheaded by Rain himself.
These army compositions are extremely gas heavy. That being said, Rain obtained a significant gas advantage in three ways.
Rain expanded 2 minutes earlier, getting a six geyser economy vs HerO's four.
If you pay close attention, you'll notice that Rain always timed his vespene geysers to finish exactly as his nexus was finishing, giving him an additional boost.
For the whole game, HerO had only 2 probes in one of his geysers due to losing a probe to phoenix graviton beam.
In this game, Rain showed a unique army composition as he stopped colossi production at five and brought his immortal count to 6. The extra gas he had banked up allowed him to morph-in six archons. As his +2 weapons finishes, Rain upped his supply to 200 with chargelot warpins and pushed into HerO's base.
With his earlier third, Rain knew that he was at a supply advantage when he maxed out. His superior army composition allowed him to walk into an unfavorable concave and still win the fight. His five colossi were below the number where they typically clump and become particularly vulnerable to splash damage, and his mass immortal/archon style soaked up a lot of the enemy colossi splash damage as well.
You thought more colossi and a better concave always won in PvP ?
This games illustrates very well the dynamic of a modern PvP.
From the mind tricks to get a build order advantage, to the specific timings to defend against all-ins, we saw the extraordinary refinement of Rain's early game PvP. He managed, through attention to small details, to be safe against any early game strategy and pulled off a solid defense against HerO's blink rush while going for a potentially disastrous phoenix opener.
The mid-game, while less tense from a spectator's point of view, is no less dangerous as players have to slowly tech up and prepare for any timing attack which can be deadly if they are too greedy at any point in the game.
In the late game, Rain demonstrated a perfect aggressive army composition designed to counter the traditional PvP composition. With only five colossi, Rain could afford up to six archons and six immortals for a deadly 200/200 push.
Writers: monk. Geiko, and Waxangel. Graphics: HawaiianPig. Editors: monk., and Waxangel.
Last edit: 2013-01-09 12:39:42
soulist United States. January 04 2013 13:21. Posts 910
This is a great look back for the first round. Really puts things into perspective which is exactly something that someone like me needs, someone who isn't all that familiar with how well these teams and players are doing in SC2.