Both players started out on Vaani by laying down a benchmark for how they would approach the rest of the series. Stats opened with a pack of phoenixes, dealing significant damage to ByuL’s economy with superb control, before instantly transitioning to carriers. ByuL meanwhile steadily built up a near-pure hydralisk army, with bane support to combat Stats’ adepts, and managed to hit a window before Stats had massed a critical carrier count.
Game 2 on Habitation Station was almost exactly the opposite in results; this time, it was ByuL who took the early lead, crushing Stats’ adept pressure before countering on the other side of the map with baneling runbys. However, despite that change in initial fortunes, Stats managed to crank out more carriers than before for ByuL’s maxed out hydra push, holding by the skin of his teeth and sending us into the late game. And a late game is certainly what we got—30-odd minutes of back and forth action. Perhaps reticent to repeat the errors of Vaani, Stats turtled defensively, waiting for a perfect composition with storm support before he was willing to engage, while ByuL was far more dynamic, expanding aggressively into his opponent’s half of the map to gain every income advantage he could get. Finally, with his bases running dry, Stats realised that it was time to push. It initially looked promising for the zerg, but as storms blanketed his army, melting his hydralisk core, ByuL was forced to concede.
After two games that very much embodied the changes brought in by patch 3.8, we got one that definitely wasn’t. On a much smaller map in Overgrowth, Stats finally turned to the same archon / immortal push that we’ve become so used to seeing. ByuL’s initial defence was excellent, sniping the prism and repelling the attack, and surprise mutalisks pinned Stats back in his corner of the map. ByuL maxed out, a good 80 supply ahead, but curiously made no attempt to abuse his position, content to poke at Stats’ bases with a minimal mutalisk count while teching all over the place—lurkers, ultras andthe greater spire. It all proved to be far too greedy; Stats himself maxed out on a huge archon count, rolled through ByuL’s ling-bane-ravager composition, and took the lead heading onto Newkirk Precinct.
There, we were treated to another display of ByuL’s fantastic defence against standard archon drop PvZ, consistently targeting the warp prism to force Stats to retreat. Baneling and mutalisk counter-harass pinned Stats back on his side of the map, and ByuL quickly expanded to five bases while constantly preventing mining at Stats’ fourth. Lurkers came on the field, and down on tech, army and economy, Stats was forced to tap out.
Much like yesterday then, it was all set up for a grandstand conclusion on Whirlwind; much like yesterday, game 5 was a bit of a damp squib. Stats opted for an old school sentry-immortal all in with adept support that went unscouted by ByuL. With no ravagers available, ByuL’s pure roach-bane defence was rendered impotent by clean forcefields from Stats, and the zerg was forced to tap out.
Stats advances to face INnoVation in tomorrow’s semifinal.
Stats: "I think we’ll be able to play games worthy of a final."
TeamLiquid: You won in a tough semifinal match. What was it like for you?
Stats: After I lost the first set, I thought it was alright because I still had the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 5th sets ahead of me. But then the game started leaning heavily toward Zerg in the 2nd set… I felt that it could be a disaster if the score reached 0-2, so I concentrated very hard. Fortunately, I was able to win that game, and finish things off with a decisive move in the 5th set.
You used Carrier compositions early on in the series. Were you surprised at how well ByuL handled it?
I was quite surprised at his ability to respond to it. ByuL was also very good at fending off my harassment and droning up to build a strong economy, so the games were very difficult.
When you were in that bad situation on Habitation Station, did you know that your composition still had a chance to make a comeback with one good fight?
The first set helped me, because ByuL insisted on making Hydras, Zerglings, and Banelings. I felt that if I could hold out and put together a high tech composition with Templars and Archons, even if I was behind, I could create a real opportunity to turn the game around.
Did you stop using Carriers in the later games because ByuL played against them so well, or because the maps didn’t suit the composition well?
The maps were a part of it, but also I had already prepared strategies like DT drop into macro, and a strong timing attack, so I didn’t go for Carrier builds in the later games.
Your finals opponent is INnoVation, who you already lost to once in the group stages. What do you think of this rematch?
I lost to him in the group stage, but I’m determined to get him back this time around. I practiced with INnoVation for a few games, and he was very good. I think it’s good that I’ll meet him in the finals.
I think we’ll be able to play games worthy of a final. I need to beat someone at INnoVation’s level, so that if I win, it won’t be because I won easily—he’s an opponent that will force people to recognize that I won the championship because I played really well.
Are you confident? Who has the advantage?
INnoVation has a playstyle he always uses. Even if you know it, it’s still very strong. Bringing a solid answer to his style would be a big help to me in winning the championship.
This is one of the first major tournaments on the new patch. Did you learn anything as you played through your tournament matches?
There were some plays I went for normally, and as I played through the tournament, I changed them little by little. I think you could say my skill improved a little as well?
Also, I’m the kind of player that plays better in tournaments than in practice. I think tournaments suit me.
Anything you want to say to wrap up?
After BlizzCon, my goal was to win a championship. I’m almost there now. I’ll prepare and think hard for tomorrow’s match so I can play well for everyone, so cheer for me.
Also, my fans came to the stadium at Goyang today to give me snacks and heatpacks, and cheer for me from the crowd. I want to tell them I’m really thankful for their support.