Photo Credit: ESL
Jjakji: The Odd Terran Out
In 2014 Jjakji qualified for 11 premier tournaments with mostly middling results. In the Blizzcon lineup he seems like an odd man out, with his best place finish being 2nd at Dreamhack Moscow which had a weaker than usual lineup and Jjakji got the easier half of the bracket. In a time of protoss dominance, his higher placing finishes in the beginning of the year were more about his luck in avoiding Korean protoss and letting his TvZ and TvT shine, but his luck would soon run out and his play even in his stronger matchups would begin to falter. That luck did not continue to Blizzcon where he faces San in the round of 16 and potentially Zest, should he manage to advance.
In TvP Jjakji relies on constant harassment. His builds vary from game to game, but his style remains the same. Whether it be 3 barracks, fast widow mines or hellions, or a couple of barracks with fast medivacs, he likes being out on the map and in the opponents base as much as possible. He doesn’t go for the big split army or multitasking plays like Polt or MMA, but rather for more constant smaller pokes and harassment throughout the game. When faced with a situation where he can choose between a small amount of guaranteed damage or a larger amount of potential damage like a nexus or important tech structure, he almost always opts for the former. By taking a large number of seemingly small victories, he eventually has a force that overwhelms his opponent.
Jjakji vs San G1 on Merry Go Round
Jjakji vs San G1 IEM Shenzhen
Jjakji and San faced each other just over 3 months ago at IEM Shenzhen. Jjakji spawns at the top left and San spawns at the bottom on MGR. Jjakji starts with a normal reaper into reactor expand. He gets a full scout on San’s normal expand and is really active on the map with his reaper looking for any potential protoss shenanigans. Seeing nothing out of the ordinary, he continues with his plan for an aggressive widow mine drop.
Jjakji sends out the units that won’t fit into his medivac to the front of San’s base and drops 6 marines and a widow mine into the main. He plants one widow mine at the ramp to limit transit between the two bases while walking the second into the mineral line at the natural. Because of the pressure at the ramp, San misses the second widow mine walking in until it’s too late and eats 4 probe kills. He can’t retreat his probes to safety in the main anyway because of Jjakji’s strong presence at the ramp.
The key to this attack is the medivac. It doesn’t just provide longevity or an escape route for the marines, but its continued life means that Jjakji can continue to threaten pressure. Knowing this, San tries to target down the medivac, but Jjakji keeps it very safe during the attack. Jjakji elevators his marines into the main and starts applying pressure. He wants to force the overcharge at one base so that he can inflict damage on the other, but San is very patient as Jjakji pokes forward. Finally, Jjakji decides to go straight for the mothership core to force San’s hand and gets him to overcharge the natural. With that, Jjakji dives into the main to do whatever damage he can. Rather than heading for the probe line, which could escape from him, he goes after the army units for guaranteed damage. He ends up getting two stalkers for a small number of marines, which is a good trade, but San’s extremely fast colossus forces a pickup and escape before he can do more. The medivacs boost straight at the widow mine, still sitting at the ramp, to bait San into taking more damage and it works; another stalker falls.
Jjakji opt's for the guaranteed damage
At home Jjakji has transitioned normally into 3 barracks and puts down his third command center before his fourth and fifth barracks. His plan is to keep the pressure up on San while he expands, causing any damage he can while building up a big army at home for the eventual push. However, the moment his drop leaves the base he sees that San isn’t going to let him do it. Two colossus and a number of gateway units are knocking at his door. Without combat shields, vikings, or bunkers Jjakji is in a lot of trouble. Just like San was in the face of Jjakji’s pressure, Jjakji is patient. He wants to engage San in Merry’s wide open natural with SCVs where he’s most vulnerable. That way he can get a large concave and decrease the effectiveness of San’s sentries. Once his CC starts burning, he knows it’s now or never and pushes forward. He loses a couple dozen SCVs in the exchange, but manages to push San back. With some boosted medivac micro in the middle of the map, he even manages to clean up the rest of San’s army while taking minimal losses himself.
At the end of it, it’s 23 workers to 42, but with mules it’s effectively more like 35 to 42 and Jjakji has the ability to build workers 3 at a time, so he’s in an okay position against an all in protoss. Jjakji tries to go for the drops again, but runs into San’s army again. He splits up his army onto the natural and the low ground in order to get a good concave and flank and catches a rallied colossus. We almost see a repeat of the previous engagement at the natural, but San decides he’ll be worse off for it and retreats.
While Jjakji didn’t get to execute his plan in this game, the result is the one he desired. A much larger terran army pushes forward into San’s natural and destroys the protoss army, taking the win.
At Shenzhen, Jjakji would go on to lose the series 1-2 to San. The pressure plays he relies on were deflected by San either through good control or feigned aggression. Then in the face of a well defended macro protoss, Jjakji eventually did a couple of seemingly desperate scv pulls and lost them both. TvP has been his weakest matchup in a year where his performance has been middle of the pack.
As long as San can get into the late game where he’s most comfortable without taking any significant damage, Jjakji is going to have a tough time beating him. If for whatever reason San decides to go for a couple of all ins, Jjakji’s chances improve significantly because he has proven himself quite adept at holding them over the year as long as they’re not masterminded by MC. The key to a Jjakji victory is going to be getting damage in on San early and often and then striking with a decisive follow up. The task ahead of him is daunting, but the former Code S champion is capable of pulling it off.