Code S RO32: Group F Recap
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MMA <GSL Cloud Kingdom> Squirtle
MMA <Daybreak> Squirtle
MMA <Dual Sight 1.1> Squirtle
Leenock <Daybreak> NaDa
Leenock <Entombed Valley> NaDa
Squirtle <ESV Ohana RE> Leenock
Squirtle <Dual Sight 1.1> Leenock
MMA <ESV Ohana RE> NaDa
MMA <Antiga Shipyard 1.2> NaDa
Leenock <Entombed Valley> MMA
Leenock <Antiga Shipyard 1.2> MMA
Squirtle evolves to Code S Ro16
Leenock advances to Code S Ro16
MMA falls to Code A Ro32
NaDa falls to Code A Ro48
Out with the old, in with the (kind of) new
MMA has had one of the best careers in the history of Starcraft II, while NaDa can claim without exaggeration to be a true esports legend. However, their reputations meant nothing in Code S' group F, as rising stars Squirtle and Leenock dismantled the veterans. The two Terran stalwarts looked outmatched, losing lopsidedly in several of their games, and the only victory between the two came when MMA defeated Nada.
Evolved and ready for war
Amazing what a little confidence can do for a guy. Or, maybe, after going on a hellish run at IPL4, with forty nine games played, victories over ToD, Byun, SaSe, Ace, PuMa, Creator, MC, Bomber, MKP, MMA, and Nestea, and a 32 – 17 overall record, it's A LOT of confidence. Whatever the case, IPL4 seems to have transformed ST_Squirtle, turning him from a talented but extremely streaky player into one that can play championship level Starcraft at will.
Squirtle continued his roll in Code S, taking down superstars MMA and Leenock in some remarkably one-sided series. Though it was well-known beforehand that MMA and Leenock suffered against Protoss, it didn't take away from the fact that Squirtle played very well, showing that the clock had not yet struck midnight on his Cinderella story.
Squirtle seemed to have some jitters in his first match, losing an ugly game to MMA after some fatal mismanagement of high templars. However, he came back with cool, collected play in games two and three, expertly deflecting a bunker rush and deftly executing a non-all in version of a one-base blink stalker rush respectively, to take the lead in the games. From his advantageous position, Squirtle switched into the two base colossus play that allowed him to defeat MMA at IPL4, and once again, the SlayerS ace had no answer.
In the winners' match, Squirtle used a +1 gateway all-in to make short work of an unwisely zergling heavy Leenock in the first game, and seemed to be on his way to an easy second win when another two-base timing attack took out Leenock's third base in game two. However, Leenock recovered well enough to switch into both burrowed roaches and mutalisks, and used multi-prong, backdoor tactics to the fullest to claw his way back into the game. Squirtle looked like he was having a hard time staying on top of things at times, but he managed to stabilize and build up an army while never falling to the temptation of rolling the dice on a base trade. Leenock eventually wore himself out with his guerilla tactics, and Squirtle was able to take a well-deserved spot in the Ro16.
FXOLeenock was outmatched by Squirtle, but in turn, he completely dominated his group's two Terrans to take the second spot in Code S. Against Nada, he saw straight through the Tornado Terran's creative mech into bio build, and rushed to hive to tear apart a nearly defenseless Terran army with Brood Lords.
There was a little more variety in his games against MMA, but the dominance was all the same. MMA attempted an old school, 4-rax marine + SCV all-in in game one, a tactic that very nearly worked. However, MMA couldn't micro his marines and SCVs well enough against Leenock's banelings and was held off without inflicting enough damage. It was a simple matter for Leenock to then repay MMA with an old school strategy of his own, counter-attacking and finishing MMA with a massive, slow baneling bust.
Game two saw MMA try to go for his signature Antiga Shipyard TvZ, applying constant, annoying pressure while building up a strong three-base foundation. Leenock decided he would have none of it, and charged in with an uppercut straight to the liver. With three bases, 2/2 speedlings, and a ton of infestors, Leenock broke right through MMA's front door. MMA showed Boxer-like resiliency to stay in the game, but Leenock's initial barrage had already done him in. A deadly hive medley soon followed from Leenock, and MMA GG'd out as ultralisks danced.
Disappointment for Terran stars
It was an ugly day for two of the most popular Terrans in the world, as they were shown up by two rising contenders. After making it seem like Code A was beneath him, taking down Creator and Maru to reach Code S, coL.NaDa himself looked out of his depth in the GSL's premiere competition. His creative mech-bio build was cut apart about Leenock, while his mech TvT was similarly dismantled by MMA.
Despite beating up on last place Nada, SlayerS_MMA looked no better on the night. Unable to escape from his reputation as a weak TvP player, MMA was outmatched even in his vaunted TvZ. Leenock vs MMA was supposed to be the highlight of the night, but it turned out to be nothing but a campaign advertisement for Leenock's ZvT presidency.
Game of the night: ST_Squirtle vs FXO Leenock - Game Two
Squirtle used a two-base timing to take down Leenock's third base early, but the game was far from over at that point. Leenock used all of Zerg's mobility and abused Dual Sight's unique terrain to keep Squirtle off balance and try to force a fatal mistake. However, Squirtle showed great composure, prioritizing correctly and positioning his army well enough to put out most of the fires. Squirtle then did a fantastic job of corralling Zerg units on the notoriously open, backstabby map to finish off Leenock.
Code S RO32: Group G Preview
The day has finally come. Fourteen IEM penalty points, ten GSL losses, eight teams, seven probes, six GSL championships' worth defeated, one blown TSL3 final, one MLG Dallas Championship and one seed-worthy MLG Providence later, Quantic.NaNiwa will finally play in the world's most prestigious tournament. It's been a long journey for one of the few foreigners with the combination of determination and skill to try and make it in Korea, and in NaNiwa's reckoning, the journey won't be over until he wins Code S. But this is an important milestone nonetheless, and hopefully, for fans of foreigners everywhere, it will be the first step, but not the last.
NaNiwa's more recent victories over Koreans have come mostly against Zerg and Protoss opponents, while he's had only a few chances to face off against Korean Terrans. In general, there haven't been too many NaNiwa PvTs to watch in the last few months, which makes this two Terran group an intriguing prospect. Interestingly enough, NaNiwa mentioned in a recent TL interview that he actually feels more confident against Terran than Zerg – which will lighten the hearts of NaNiwa fans considering that he beat Leenock and Nestea in February. Additionally, living in the Startale house with PvT imba-master PartinG surely hasn't hurt NaNiwa's PvT game, and perhaps some of the know-how will have rubbed off.
At least, he'll go into the group with the knowledge that he can beat the scariest opponent in his group, the three time champion IMMvp. Alongside NaNiwa, Mvp might be the player who has the most to prove. NaNiwa said he doesn't feel like he deserves the Code S seed, but he'll sure as hell be trying to prove that he does. On the other hand, Code S' most accomplished player is facing an entirely different struggle, trying to prove that he's still a championship contender.
Mvp has been a fairly ordinary Code S player in 2012, which by his golden standard, is about equivalent to being high masters on NA. Somewhere between Sniper and IdrA, players who beat Mvp stopped looking better for winning, and it became just Mvp looking worse for losing. Going into this group, the scariest thing about Mvp's 2012 play is that he slumped while playing his previously invincible match-ups of TvT and TvZ. If that's the case, then how will he fair in a group with two Protoss, the race that was considered his weakness even when he was on top of the world?
Still, if we've learned anything from over a decade of Korean esports, it's that you can never count out a champion. The game is always changing and evolving, and by that very nature, no one can stay on top forever. However, players who had the skill to dominate in one age usually find a way to bounce back and stay relevant in another, adapting their games to fit the times. In Starcraft II, both Nestea and MC had their minor stumbles, but came back as still dangerous players. It might be hard for Mvp to rise to the absolute summit of Starcraft II once more, but we should have the faith in him that his eternal fate is not as an Code S RO32 player.
...and to completely shift gears, how about a final bit of bad news for Mvp? His first opponent is SlayerS_Ryung, who happens to be a
MSPaint TvT specialist, and also happens to be the main guy who helped MMA practice each time he crushed Mvp in an important finals. Despite being two of the biggest beneficiaries of Terran's heyday in 2011 and the ensuing TvT extravaganza, the two never ended up facing each other, making this their first relevant meeting in a very long time. It's probably just as bad news for Ryung as it is for Mvp, because 1 – 4 to Gumiho or not, Mvp is still f***ng Mvp, and no one wants to face him when he's had weeks to prepare for you in his first match.
On the TvP side of the story, Ryung is in even more trouble than Mvp, as he had a hard time beating Protoss players even in the days when the imba cries were reversed. His recent record isn't any better, so Ryung really will need to have made the best of his preparation period and brought some sweet strategies to prevail in this group.
Rounding out the group is Puzzle, who is... Puzzle. Yeah, SlayerS_Puzzle is pretty good, I guess. Of the players leading the Protoss revival in Code S, Puzzle is one of the best, but is the most vanilla as well. Is being too plain something you can call a weakness? Puzzle has good mechanics, makes good decisions, and mixes up all-ins and straight up games at a pretty good ratio. At least we know from Brood War, that being plain isn't a fatal flaw, though it's worked out so far that we've had almost entirely interesting champions in SC II. Watch out, Starcraft II, you're due your Mind one day.
Puzzle feasted on the mid-tier TvP players last GSL, with his quarter-final run built entirely upon TvP wins against Nada, Keen, MMA, and SuperNova. However, he got his clock cleaned by Gumiho in the quarter-finals, in a series oddly reminiscent of his quarter-final elimination against Jjakji in Code S November. Both times, he looked like he was evenly matched up against his opponent on paper, but while Jjakji and Gumiho rose to the occasion, Puzzle seemed to stay on the same level. Against Ryung, this shouldn't be much of a problem, but Mvp could be trouble.
Predictions and overall outlook
Mvp is the #1 pick to make it out, though it's definitely possible that he hasn't bottomed out yet, and will slip even further before starting to recover (barring retirement from wrist injury, I'm confident that he'll eventually regain some of his past form at some point). However, considering we had the faith in him and Nestea to place them at #7 and #8 in the IPL4 power rank, I'm gonna stick to my guns. Nestea repaid that faith with a good showing at IPL4, and I think Mvp can do the same in the GSL.
While I think Mvp will make it out someway, somehow, the rest of the group is up in the air. Predicting NaNiwa vs Puzzle is nearly impossible. Even going by recent PvP records, there's not much between them, not that a short winning/losing streak for either of them would have meant anything anyway. There are a number of match-up combinations I can see where either NaNi or Puzzle get through, through a mix of skill and luck. Any combination of Win PvP + Beat Ryung seems the most likely, but we've also seen players get through on PvP-PvT-PvP sandwiches in the past.
There's definitely less scenarios where I see Ryung getting through, due to his weakness in TvP. But it would be wrong to leave him for dead, especially considering he has a very decent chance of beating Mvp in the first match. He's not likely to beat two Protoss players in the same day, but if he can get past Mvp, he only needs two clever all-ins, or two inspired games to make it through.
NaNiwa > Puzzle
Mvp > Ryung
Mvp > NaNiwa
Puzzle > Ryung
NaNiwa > Puzzle
Mvp and NaNiwa advance. Ah well, being undecided on PvP, might as well go with the foreigner then?
Bañe-ata by shiroiusagi.
Graphics and Art: Meko and shiroiusagi.