Two to go.
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times; it was the age of Broodwar, it was the age of WoW; it was the epoch of the Jaedong, it was the epoch of Lomo; it was the season of Ret, it was the season of Lastshadow; it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair; we had everything before us, we had nothing before us; we were all going directly to Heaven, we were all going the other way.
If you felt like this as you got mashed about on the ladder, do not despair. All of us did. While day one started out alright, I'm sure that by mid week many of us had received enough beatdowns to last a lifetime. Yet, there is hope, fans of Broodwar, there is hope!
With that promise and I might add, a heartfelt apology to Dickens, we begin this TSL update. The week started out with Kwark racing to the top of the ladder and staying there for most of the first few days courtesy of a massive 65 game opening streak. Of course, as the top foreigners poured in the standings changed quickly and soon Idra sat at #1, a position which he lost to White-Ra but holds once again at the time of this writing.
It's a hard job being at the top, but someone's gotta do it.
As this first week draws to a close, we're now seeing more big names in the top and the ranks required to get there are increasing too. #1 through #12 are now at least A-, and #100 is B-, a massive leap from the first day or two when we saw D+ players in contention for a ladder spot. Looking at these stats there's one thing that's clear - this TSL is going to be the most competitive one yet.
Even with the top 10 well into the A- regions though, we at TSL coverage believe you still have to play. But why? Because Mondragon says so. Yeah, that's right - to keep you psyched and whet your appetite for ownage we went out and interviewed everyone's favourite Zerg. Here's Mondy with the what's what of Broodwar and why you should be playing the ladder!
Mondragon, let's talk a bit about where you've been these past few months. We've not heard a lot about you on the foreign scene and we'd like to know what you've been up to.
I haven't been around less than before, I just don't win as much as I used to do anymore. Even tho I'm more busy with studying nowadays it's not a valid excuse not to win as much anymore. Other people just got better!
Other people? Let's get to that straight away then - who do you see doing well in this TSL?
The usual ones in my opinion such as IdrA, ret, kolll, White-Ra.
Kolll, kolll, kolll - everyone wants to know about the new German on the block. Let's hear what you have to say about him.
He's young, he's talented, he's got a lot of free time, he's got the skill, he placed #4 at WCG, what else do I need to say?
You've only played him ZvZ obviously, but if you had to describe his style in general, how would you do it
His muta micro is top-notch and probably one of the best of the foreigners, if not even the best. Thus his ZvT and his ZvZ are very very good because he can rely much on his muta micro there.
And now ZvP too, I guess? What do you make of all the 'PvZ imba due to templar snipe' talk that's going around?
Well, I don't think it is so imbalanced if a protoss just keeps his army together. Mutas are not as useful in ZvP as it is in ZvT. ZvP is more about a decent macro and not about microing mutas in my eyes.
Yes, I meant the unit more than the micro - we didn't see a lot of muta in modern ZvP until spire first openings came about. Speaking of builds though, you had the #1 killer build on the ladder last time, and had a fantastic record with ling runbys. Have you tried that build this time around, and if so, has it worked?
Hell yeah, runby lings always work ;D but protosses got prepared and they can't be used as much as before unfortunately But still, its killer strat no.1
OK. In general, how has the ladder been so far? Any good games?
The lower ranks are usually more or less smooth, though i had some decent games, especially the game vs iNkA yesterday when I was streaming was a pretty close and good one in my opinions where Mutas saved me (not because of my Muta micro which is non-existent, it was just the fact that I had mutas)
Who else would you like to play on the ladder, and why?
I don't like laddering in general, I just do it because of tourneys mostly. I don't really have anyone specific I wanna play on the ladder, I just wanna qualify because that is what counts in the end, and nothing else.
So you're not aiming to hit #1 and play Nony, but just qualify for LDT (Liquid Dual Tournament - the TSL qualifiers)?
I would love to be #1, since you don't have to play several qualification rounds and it's definitely the "easiest" way to qualify - not saying that winning NonY is easy though.
I just think I cannot keep up with players such as IdrA, ret, kolll, White-Ra etc. who have a greater passion for mass gaming thus it seems impossible to reach #1 at the end of the season.
The season finishing at 13th December is a rather bad date for me as well since I have an exam right on the 12th and the time getting shorter until the 12th :p
OK, let's talk a bit about why you're even TSLing this time, especially with exams and stuff on the line. Why bother?
BW is still fun, BW is a way to compete with other players - thats even more fun and even tho I don't have big chance to win the whole thing, hope never dies!
So, while qualifying is obviously your goal, you're also in it for the games as well? That's nice to hear, especially from a top foreigner.
Yeah definitely. Playing tourneys is always more fun than just playing boring ladder games or standard practice games. The more tension there is, the more fun it is
There are hundreds, if not thousands of players out there right now who are either playing the TSL at the D/D- level or contemplating doing so. Since it is unlikely that many of them will make the Top 48, what should they do to make the most of their TSL experience?
If you are just an average player and barely got the chance to play against the top foreigners, you shouldn't hesitate to get games vs them now, it is your chance now to play against all the top foreigners since everyone starting at the same level now - although some people are already B+ or A- after 2 days which is unbelievable for me.
So you personally are all up for games with newbs?
It's not about being up for it, it's a ladder, you can't really distinguish good and "bad" players before, thus you just play in order to climb the ranks.
Well, I guess what I meant is - if someone wants a game with you, should they just /w you?
Yeah, why not, as long as they are not 2 ranks lower The best example for what I said above is G2G.Mirror, he was B- and playing all the top foreigners, although they were 1 or 2 ranks lower than him. He just wanted to experience playing against top players.
Yeah, that's definitely something unique you get with the TSL's open ladder format. Daily laddering can be hard though. Right now you're #16 on the ladder. Do you have a minimum number of games you have planned to play a day/week to make sure you stay in the top 48?
I'm definitely heading to be top 12 in order to only play 1 qualification round. Playing 3 qualification rounds can make you drop out rather quicker than you expect. Thus I wanna make sure to have the best chances to qualifiy which is either to get #1 or at least top 12.
Since getting #1 is pretty much impossible, I'll stick to the second option I guess.
Once you make it to the top 12, or Round 3 as we're calling it, do you think your chances increase? With your experience, a Bo5 will probably not be a problem at all for you.
Oh well, that is tough to say. It both depends on the opponent and on the matchup. A Bo5 can be really exhausting and you can lose concentration sometimes unfortunately. A bo5 zvt... I don't even want to imagine that.
Haha yes, that will be tough indeed. You've been playing Starcraft for a long, long time. Earlier on, you mentioned how foreign players have got better. With your limited practice time how do you hope to keep up with the increase in skill?
It's both the limited practice time and the fact that I don't have the passion anymore to practice as much as others anymore. Though I think there is still some skill remaining and did not disappear and that I definitely can beat everyone, but also I got more vulnerable to lose vs "worse" opponents as well. I have just became way more inconsistent over the last months.
Right Mondy, well all the best for the ladder, and definitely hope to see you in the TSL. Let's wrap this up with some smack talk. Who do you want to face (and own) in the TSL, and who is going to get a beatdown if he crosses paths with you?
Lol. Thanks for the interview, but I'm not the kind of guy that smack talks and I'll face whoever I have to face and give my best to win.
Haha, glhf and see you out there in games!
Thanks, take care.
Right, now hurry along and play some games. You went 0 - 15 earlier today? Well all the more reason to play, son! Broodwar waits for no man, and while losing games does suck, it's nothing like looking back on a finished ladder stage and thinking, man, I wish I could have played a game with
Before we begin though, here is the current status of F91 in this TSL - Due to lag, all Chinese players who want to play in the TSL beyond the lader stage will be required to do so from outside China. However, F91 will not fly out of China to play qualifiers on the 7th, as he can only make it for the round that starts on the 16th. Therefore, it stands that he will need to make the Top 12 if he is going to play in the qualifiers. If he manages to do so, the TSL is chipping in with a little something to make sure he can get there and play.
The New and Improved F91
You couldn't play the last TSL because of the restrictions on Chinese players. What made you decide to get around the China block by asking for an exception to fly outside the country and play the qualifiers in this one?
I did not think of playing in the beginning when I was told that Chinese players are banned from this StarLeague. Ash managed to convince me to partcipate in it anyway which is why I’m playing the ladder now.
You're well known around these parts thanks to your destruction of Liquibition. Do you think you will have similar success in the TSL, and if so, why?
I don’t think getting top 3 will be too much of a problem for me but it’s definitely not easy to win the champion because I think the foreigners have improved significantly.
Given the stiff competition from progamers like Idra and Ret from Korea, how do you see yourself approach the ladder stage? What is your goal for these next three weeks?
Idra has been in Korea for a long time, I think he will be very different from our last encounter. He is definitely going to be really hard to play against. On the other hand, ret has switched to ZvZ a matchup which I’m really confident to play against any non korean players so I do not really worry about that. My target for the next 3 weeks is to reach atleast top 12 in the ladder stage.
Your style of play is often called 'aggressive' and you are known for your unorthodox strategies. How do you think these will play out in a bo3 or bo5 series against an opponent, especially when the stakes are significantly higher than an exhibition match?
I am very confident in my style because I’ve always been the same player since I first debut in the scene and my style is the one which makes all my opponents being paranoid when playing against me. I think I am better than a psychologist when dealing with psychology war haha.
Let's talk a bit about Duskbin, your new team. What's up with that, and what happened to fnatic?
The atmostphere in DuskBin is very nice. All the players are still practicing very hard it’s quite an upset that they are not able to participate in this though. I have a lot of confidence in DuskBin to be the next big team. As for Fnatic there is nothing much to say, we’ve parted in a peaceful manner and I wish them all the best in the future if they happen to acquire another StarCraft squad.
As a top foreigner, you've no doubt seen people come and go in the scene. Who are some new players who have caught your attention this TSL and the months leading up to it?
I think it’s KOLLL from germany. I have watched the way he played from behind during WCG and I think he has very excellent micro with his mutalisk micro being the most notable one. It’s very rare to see foreigners having such an impressive micro nowadays and I think he will be the biggest underdog in this TSL.
Who do you want to face the most during the ladder or qualifiers, and why?
There is no one in particular who I would like to play against. Whoever he is, I will assure him that he will play a super F91 in the playoff stage.
Everyone wants to know where you think up your strategies, or how you put them together. Tell us a bit about how you come up with and test builds. What kind of thought process goes into making them work?
In fact I do not really test my builds. It all depends on my scouting and reflex. I use whatever builds that I think will be able to counter my opponents one.
Also, with the TSL on the line and you having to face so many top foreigners, will putting together creative builds be a priority for you? As we discussed earlier, this seems to be a hallmark of your play and we'd like to know if we should look out for it in your TSL.
I’m not too sure about that yet. I believe I will try my best to play safe and surprise my opponent once in a while in order to keep my chances high. I will remain unpredictable.
"I will do my best to win every game. You can look forward to my performance."
All in all, what do you hope to take away from this TSL?
I would be lying if I say I’m not eyeing on the champion and I hope everyone will be rooting for me. Thank you!
Two weeks to go, and two Zerg to keep you in the mood for more games. Of course, one of the best reasons to play the TSL ladder is that it is bound to produce good games, even at the D level. Why? Well, because everyone is playing for a reason here. There are fires burning everywhere, and even newbs have a goal. Hit D+/C-, play a top player or even just win three games in a row - whatever the goal is, you can be sure that people just like you are out there going after theirs.
A ladder, and especially a highly competitive ladder like the TSL, automatically increases the stakes of each game, even games played at the lower ranks. The D player who'd usually just gg at the sight of a DT will now hang on and fight. Why? Because there's a reason, a record, a score sheet to keep and a Top 100 to make. Keeping that in mind, let's now go to pangshai who tunes in from ground zero with a battle report from the first week of play.
Ladder Lowdown - Mondragon vs Inka
on Fighting Spirit
on Fighting Spirit
A ZvP between two well known names, one a veteran and the other a newcomer, Mondragon vs Inka is our TSL ladder game of the week. Inka, having competed in WCG USA recently, seems to be in pretty good shape, but the same cannot be said about his opponent Mondragon, who has been rumoured to be pretty inactive, having been overcome by the tribulations of school.
The game starts out on Fighting Spirit, with Inka in the bottom right and Mondragon in the bottom left. Finding Mondragon first, Inka is able to block his 12 hatch with a pylon, forcing him to put down a late 12 pool in his main, and to add on to the early game advantage, Inka then expands before getting his forge, throwing down a nexus before quickly adding a forge and gateway. With Inka's pylon blocking his nat, Mondragon starts a hatchery at the 9 o'clock gas expansion instead, and after his lings spawn, promptly lays waste to the pylon at his nat and starts a much delayed 3rd hatchery.
The midgame then begins with Mondragon taking a peek at Inka's defenses with 8 lings, perhaps attempting one of his runby tricks again. Two cannons and a zealot force him to reconsider, and he pulls back, losing 3 lings in the process. Both players now content with macroing and teching up, Inka adding a stargate and citadel, while Mondragon begins his spire after his lair completes. The game, however, rapidly veers from the standard 5 hatch hydra seen in most ZvPs today, Mondragon, instead, opting for quick lurkers, some scourges and a 4th hatchery at his choke.
Having scouted this with his corsair, Inka responds by throwing down a robotics facility and starting goon range, in the meantime, moving out with a small army to put pressure on the Zerg and prevent getting lurker contained. Unbeknownst to him though, Mondragon has planned a tech switch, and is massing up on mutas. Feeling confident with his defense of a couple of sunken colonies and lurkers, Mondragon heads over to Inka's main with his freshly spawned air force to find the mineral line barely defended by a single cannon. Taking down the cannon mercilessly, he then begins to rain death down on the helpless probes.
Alas, all is not well at Mondragon's base either. With his observer out, Inka decides to engage Mondragon's meagre defense, his ragtag army of zealots, dts, archon and dragoon easily overwhelming the two sunken colonies and lurkers. A couple of returning lurkers from his third and some new zerglings stop the army from progressing any further than his nat, but unfortunately, Mondragon fails to notice the DT that was snuck into his main, and it lays all the drones in his main to rest, putting him behind in that exchange.
After settling the DT problem in his main, Mondragon brings the fight over to Inka's choke, coming in with his existing mutas and some hydra lurk, fresh off the production lines. This time, both armies take major casualties, Inka losing most of his goons and Mondragon surviving with a couple of hydras. Both players reinforce, but with 6 gateways and the defender's advantage, Inka forces Mondragon back with the help of some good storming, and takes this moment to set up cannons in preparation of a third base.
Just as it looks like Inka is going to surge far ahead with a vastly stronger economy, Mondragon, once again, flies into Inka's main with yet another group of mutas, demolishing the two defending cannons. Inka's army returns to defend, but despite getting a couple of storms off, he does not have enough goons to finish the job, and his templars get sniped. Newly warped goons chase the mutas off, but with Inka's army out of position, Mondragon uses this opportunity to take out his expansion attempt at 3, before moving for a contain outside the bridges of his choke.
Inka now looks like in a lot of trouble, with his main out of commission due to mutas, and his army contained by a decent hydralurk force. In frustration, he tries to run his army out via the expo at 6, but Mondragon simply shifts his lurkers there. Although Inka successfully takes out all of Mondragon's hydras, his observer gets sniped, and when his army reaches Mondragon's choke and sees more lurkers there, he throws in the towel and GGs out of the game.
An amazing game from Mondragon in which the muta tech switches paid off very nicely for him. In today's environment where every game has Zerg and Protoss both mass expanding, this game was comparatively very fast paced and "low eco", with Mondragon coming out on top with some non standard play, demonstrating that despite his hiatus, he still has what it takes to be a top player.
Well, there you have it, a game to remember! There were many more played of course, and as the reps get released after the TSL is over we'll begin to uncover many of them. This isn't a time to be watching reps though; it's a time to be playing, and we hope that you'll join us here at TL as we clean our mice, fire up our launchers and get ready for another week of Broodwar. One down, two to go, and with everything on the line it's time to burn some mouse pad. Rock and roll, nerds, rock and roll.
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