Sound Structure – Intriguing Designs That Hit The Mark

A week ago I wrote an article discussing the most stressful units in StarCraft II. Here’s the followup to that piece, a discussion of some of the most interesting designs StarCraft has given us. Here are units that prove that it is possible to create gameplay that is satisfying for the player without causing your opponent’s blood pressure to spike.

 

Stalker

Perhaps a trigger warning is necessary here for victims of the Blink-Stalker era. Either way, I do maintain my point from last week. Aesthetically speaking, my honest opinion is that Stalker is the Little Nicky of StarCraft designs. The Stalker’s gameplay, however, is another story, and in a way, distinct.

Among all core units in the game, the Stalker is by far the weakest in terms of raw dps. For its lacking offensive ability, the Stalker boasts superior mobility. Once its ability Blink is unlocked, the Stalker becomes unrivaled in its ability to pick-off priority targets.

Stalkers can’t survive prolonged engagements without the support of units higher up in the Protoss tech tree. Instead, as its name implies, the Stalker functions as a sniper unit for both cutting off units attempting to retreat, and giving the Protoss the ability to dictate the terms of engagement. The latter is usually achieved by using blink to hard engage a dangerous target before it can react, or up to higher ground to secure a tactical advantage.

Like most standard Gateway units, the Stalker functions as reinforcements in long engagements; they will eventually fall-off without actual heavy firepower at the rear, so focus fire is imperative.

The idea of taking a mobile low damage unit and making it a race’s core is a tough sell but the Stalker carved its own niche with its distinct and satisfying play-style. Now if only it didn’t look like a concept reject for Genesect.

 

Ghost

Conceptually, the Ghost seems like what you would get if you told a 10 year old boy to make a StarCraft unit. To start, it’s a spellcaster built to counter other spell casters. It can stealth and has massive burst that can shred even the tankiest units; if need be, it can call in a Nuclear strike, which, appropriately enough, is nowhere near as broken as it sounds.

That’s pretty much the theme of the Ghost. It’s a unit that, on paper, sounds like it should be all kinds of busted, but isn’t. The fact that it’s on one of the furthest ends of the Terran tech tree has a lot to do with this. Furthermore, its more outlandish abilities either require additional research or further investments to prepare.

Design

The Tactical Nuke is worth particular note for being the first supply pit in StarCraft. Ironically,  it is the best example of a supply pit done right. In both StarCraft and StarCraft II, each Tactical Nuke requires further investment to build. Usually only one could be prepared at a time. Although in StarCraft II, both the direct and opportunity cost is significantly lower than its predecessor.

The significant investment that goes into preparing even a single Nuke makes it a rare sight. But it’s still an exceptionally powerful tool that can be devastating in the right situations regardless. The rarity of the event just makes it that much more of a spectacle for both players when it actually does happen.

 

Arbiter

My personal favourite unit from StarCraft I, and possibly just StarCraft in general. The Arbiter is the unit at the furthest end of the Protoss tech tree in Brood War. Furthermore, even despite its heavy cost and even heavier build time (longest in the game, yes even longer than the Carrier), it has three further upgrades to research that collectively take close to 4.5 minutes, and 450 minerals/450 gas to complete.

In that way, it’s very unique. Most notably, for a unit at the furthest end of the tech tree, its direct offensive ability is almost non-existent. It has an attack, but it’s mostly negligible. Rather, the value of the Arbiter comes entirely from its spells and abilities. Of its three abilities/spells, the Arbiter starts with one, its Cloaking Field. Cloaking Field, as you can guess, cloaks (grants stealth) to every unit in an area beneath it.

Design

Its only two spells, both of which need to be researched, are Recall and Stasis Field. They both feature their own respective strategies for which they act as the focal points. Stasis Field freezes any unit caught within the spell’s area of effect. Under stasis, units are completely immobile and cannot be attacked for its duration. It’s a particularly powerful tool against Terran and Protoss for shutting down Siege Tanks and Reavers, respectively.

Recall is a global spell that teleports all units under a 5×5 spell area directly to the Arbiter. The Mass Recall strategy centered on this ability usually involves flying an Arbiter directly into an enemy base and using recall to teleport an army onto the enemy’s production facilities.

The Arbiter is unique as the only final tier support unit gated behind massive investments and research upgrades like none other, but somehow ends up being undeniably worth it.

Side Note: You’ve probably noticed from the Ghost to the Arbiter that there’s a reoccurring design principle here that StarCraft II ignored. That principle being – if you’re going to give a unit some seriously busted-ass spells, stick it at the furthest end of the tech tree and lock its potential behind a million upgrades.

 

Viper

I didn’t mean to order this list but it happened anyway, I guess this would be the number one spot. As much as I love the Arbiter, the Viper just wins on so many levels.

I’ll start with Parasitic Bomb, which proves it’s possible to create a spell for punishing mass-air deathballs without being a spell that instagibs mass-air deathballs. Furthermore, while Parasitic Bomb will significantly slow, if not stop, the advancement of a mass-air army, its effect can be significantly mitigated with practiced micro control that feels very satisfying to outplay.

This is a very rare mechanic in StarCraft where a punishing spell can actually feel somewhat rewarding on the receiving end for having successfully mitigated the full effect.

But by far, Viper’s most intriguing ability is Consume. It’s an ability that uniquely allows the Viper to replenish energy by sucking the life from (damaging) your own Structures. Not only is the spell absolutely ominous to watch, particularly when watching a swarm of Vipers kill their own Hatchery, but it adds a distinct depth to the Viper. After exhausting its energy, Vipers can be pulled from the front-line back to the Zerg’s base to replenish their energy at the cost of damage to their own structures, after which it can return to the field.

The Viper has its own synergy between its abilities, spells, and the battlefield itself. An intriguing novelty unlike anything else in StarCraft that I can only describe as an absolutely beautiful model of sound game design.

Design

 

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ASL Season 3: Round of 16 Preview

The second round of ASL is just days away. While my bae Stork may have made an early exit, the lineup is packed with legends and shows you absolutely don’t want to miss. Here’s your guide to the Round of 16.

 

Group A

Lee “Flash” Young Ho

Ko “HyuN” Seok Hyun

Lee “Shine” Young Han

Kim “ggaemo” Kyung Mo

 

Welcome to the battle for second place. Flash straight up got a free pass to the Quarters here. The second slot is a bit more tricky. Neither Hyun nor Shine have particularly stood out, both advancing second from relatively unremarkable groups.

Ggaemo is another story, but has yet to be tested in any matchup other than ZvP. To advance, he’ll have to prove himself against the best Terran to ever touch StarCraft, and at least one ZvZ.

 

Predictions: Flash, HyuN.

Airs: April 30th, 3am PST/6am EST

 

Group B

Yum “Sea” Bo Sung

Kim “EffOrt” Jung Woo

Kim “Bisu” Taek Yong

Kim “Soulkey” Min Chul

 

Despite sSak’s efforts, Group B somehow became the Group of Death. Without question, this is the group to watch. It says everything that not even Bisu can be considered safe here. Quite the contrary when you consider Bisu and Sea’s recent history. In the ASL Season 2 Quarterfinals, it was Sea that knocked Bisu out in a 3-0 shutout. With Protoss in general struggling under the current ASL map pool, we’re looking at a real possibility of Bisu making an early exit.

EffOrt looks like a genuine contender at the moment, steamrolling his way through Group B and Soulkey. He proved himself after knocking out the Season 1 ASL Champion on his way out of the Round of 24.

Literally every player in this group has a case to make for the Quarterfinals, and competition for the two available slots will be like nothing we’ve seen yet.

 

Predictions: None. But I’d put the odds ever so slightly on Sea.

Airs: May 2nd, 3am PST/6am EST

 

Group C

Doh “BeSt” Jae Wook

Yoon “Mong” Chan

Kim “IamMang” Seung Hyun

Kim “Jaehoon” Jae Hoon

 

With Protoss’ struggles in the current Season of ASL, it seems harsh that three of the four remaining ended up in one group. In reality, this actually ended up being the best case scenario for Protoss, guaranteeing at least one Protoss in the Quarterfinals, and a strong probability for a second.

Group C is another interesting one. BeSt got seeded in from his semifinal run in the last ASL where he took Sea to a Game 5 series. With this in mind, he’s a player that cannot be ruled out. Mong got into the Round of 16 at the top of his group, defeating Shuttle on the route out. We know he can hold his own in high level PvT, and in this group that makes him a genuine threat.

Meanwhile, IamMang advanced to the Round of 16 through two PvP wins, dropping Stork on his way out. His PvP is in proven form. In a group with three Protoss, he absolutely cannot be underestimated.

As for Jaehoon. He made it out of his group by 2-0’ing Light. If he can somehow make it past IamMang, and ends up against Mong in the Winner’s Match, I can see him possibly advancing. Of course, making it past IamMang’s PvP is no easy feat. Jaehoon does have a route out, but it’s undeniably a long shot.

 

Predictions: IamMang, BeSt

Airs: May 9th, 3am PST/6am EST

 

Group D

Lee “Jaedong” Jae Dong

Choi “sSak” Ho Seon

Kim “Last” Sung Hyun

Jo “hero” Il Jang

 

With Zerg dominating Season 3 so far, Jaedong would be a given. But a wrist injury in February does put his current form into question. He did participate in the I love StarCraft showmatch in March, so it’s likely not still an issue.

Last made it into the Round of 16 at the top of Group F. However, the level of competition he faces here is a steep climb from Group F. Despite an impressive performance, he’s yet to be truly tested which makes him a bit of an unknown.

This brings me sSak. For those of you lucky enough to read Naruto before it went downhill to its comically slow and painful death, you’ll remember Jiraiya. Jiraiya’s character carries a lesson: don’t judge someone’s capability based on their interests. The comparison to Jiraiya becomes even more relevant when you consider sSak’s apparent love for female Broadcast Jockeys and drinking streams. Unlike Jaedong, don’t let this distract you from the fact that sSak advanced from the Round of 24 at the top of a stacked group. sSak is more of a threat than he lets on.

 

Predictions: sSak makes a surprise advancement in first place, Jaedong advances in final match.

Airs: May 9th, 3am PST/6am EST

 

 

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Brood War

Brood War Adventures – Preparing for the Journey Home

 

A few weeks ago I wrote an article talking about the possibility of a Brood War Renaissance. It’s 2017, and Brood War is once again completely relevant to current events. This is not a wishful, “what if” piece. This is it, we’re actually on the trail. I have to wonder how many esports writers over the years have thought of this moment as a wild dream.

For so many esport writers and athletes, their passion for craft started with Brood War. Most went on to other games and other projects: League of Legends, Hearthstone, Overwatch. Yet Brood War was the starting point of that passion, and it’s for that reason it holds a sentimental place in the esport world. With that in mind, it’s a powerful experience to be here, writing about a game that meant so much to so many.

It is no secret that Brood War has a steep learning curve, even by StarCraft 2’s harsh standards. You’ve likely heard so much about it. What I’d like to talk about are the things they don’t tell you. The walls you run into that catch you off-guard.

 

Map Vision

You’ve heard so much about Brood War’s pathing issues that affect your ability to get around the map. But what you didn’t expect is the almost completely black screen you’re met with once you get into a game. Unlike StarCraft 2, which features a greyed out map from the start of the game, the maps in the original are completely black until you explore them for the first time in that game. This means that before you get into a game, it will be worthwhile to spend some time studying the map layouts.

A good starting point is just picking a single map, study it and play an AI game or two to get a feel for the terrain. Lost Temple and/or Luna are good options for their popularity. There’s a useful page worth looking at containing a list of the most popular maps in Brood War, courtesy Team Liquid.

Once you’re comfortable enough with a map that the black screen isn’t as much of an issue, try hosting a few games on it. If someone refuses to play you on a map you’re familiar with, just call them an LotV scrub and block them.

Brood War

Luna: an infamously straightforward, macro-focused map. Good for learning the basics of the game.

 

Builds

If you’ve done your research on Brood War, you’ve likely heard and perhaps even studied a few of the more famous builds. As commendable as that is, just forget them. At least for your first month. Macro in Brood War is an exceptionally complicated affair. Your first goal is to be able to start producing units. Rather than following a strict build order, just keep a priority list in mind and a general idea of what your end game strategy will be.

Of course, this is not to say Builds should never be used. Build Orders are especially important later down the line as you’re looking to refine your technique with pinpoint accuracy. But you’re better off avoiding them until you’re at least comfortable enough that you’re producing units at a steady pace.

 

Basic Defensive Tactics

 

Positioning in Brood War is everything. Even more than in StarCraft 2. In your early studies on maps, it’s important to identify choke points and open areas you’ll either want to hold or avoid depending on what race you’re playing. If you’re playing Protoss vs Zerg, for example, you’ll want to avoid straying in open areas or risk being surrounded. Furthermore, you’ll want to focus on positioning your units on choke-holds. With Zealots positioned at the bottom of the ramp and Dragoons holding the top. Zerg players will want to focus on baiting Protoss into open territory, usually by threatening map control.

It’s worth noting that in Brood War, attacking into high-ground from the low ground is suicide. This is due to units having a percentage chance of missing when attacking units at an elevated advantage. A final point, specifically for Protoss players, don’t be afraid to split your units. In StarCraft 2, Protoss can’t split units in the early game, but this couldn’t be more different in Brood War. Creating lines of defense is an important tactic for all races. Especially when making an attack into an enemy position, it’s good to have a defensive position held for your assault team to fall back to in case the attack goes badly.

Brood War

Priority zones: Green – A Ramp Protoss can favorably hold with Zealots and Dragoons, Blue – A funnel Terran can exploit using Siege Tanks and Spider Mines, Red – An open area Zerg can use to flank from multiple angles

 

 

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Proxima Station

Protoss Insight: Stats’ Three-Act Performance

While reception towards the generally one-sided GSL Finals between Kim “Stats” Dae Yeob and Eo “soO” Yoon Su was less than warm, undeniably Game 2 on Proxima Station was a showstopper. The mind games played by Stats embodied everything that makes us love strategy games. This grand performance from the best Protoss in the world gave us a lot to learn from. Let’s take a closer look at Stats’ strategy on Proxima Station.

 

The Premise

Before we get into the strategy, we should first talk a bit about the setting. In the late game of Zerg vs Protoss, Protoss is generally favored. Particularly, late game Carrier builds. Proxima Station itself is a very defensive map. It has a safe pocket expansion for its natural, and while the third is a bit more exposed than the main and natural, it’s still a highly defensible location.

For this reason, Carrier builds are very common for Protoss players on this map, where Protoss can safely wall off and greedily rush to their expensive late game build.

 

The Show

With this in mind, Stats set his bait. He opened his game by expanding directly into his third. This let Stats feign the premise that he went for a very greedy three expansion opening. Stats played out this act even further by walling off with a StarGate at his third. Knowing Protoss’ preference to play turtle strategies on Proxima, soO’s scouting information showed all the signs of Skytoss preparations. By the time the first Void got out, soO was already sold on the premise and started preparations to punish a greedy Carrier rush.

Proxima Station

The Twist

With the bait taken, Stats started preparations to put his real plan into effect. Instead of committing to air tech, Stats invested into a mass of Warp Gates. At this point, soO was in the middle of preparing a Hydralisk timing attack to punish what he thought was Stats’ Carrier rush. If Stats was really going for a greedy triple expansion into Carriers, he would have been vulnerable for a short window. A massive Hydralisk push would’ve been able to break Stats’ defense and end the game before he got to a critical mass of Carriers. Instead, soO was hit with waves of Adepts, the hard counter to his Hydras.

Proxima Station

The Finale

Stats’ plan didn’t end with the counter, however. After warping in a mass of Sentries into his main army, Stats began his final attack by making a huge warp-in of Adepts into soO’s main, baiting the Zerg back. As soO was dealing with the diversion, Stats made his real attack on soO’s third. As soO attempted to respond, the Protoss blocked off the ramp to the main with Forcefields.

With a small mass of Sentries available, Stats could have kept soO locked into his own base for as long as he needed. Shut out of his third, soO could only watch as Stats crippled his economy and was forced to tap out, bringing the show to its close.

Proxima Station

 

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SSL

StarCraft Weekly Recall

Welcome to my seventh ever Weekly Recall, a recap of the major events in the StarCraft Week.

 

StarCraft II Starleague (SSL) – Premier

 

Players

Joo “Zest” Sung Wook, Han “ByuL” Ji Won, Cho “Maru” Seong Ju, Kim “Stats” Dae Yeob, Lee “INnoVation” Shin Hyung, Park “Dark” Ryung Woo, Kang “Solar” Min Soo, Kim “sOs” Yoo Jin

 

Highlight Match

sOs vs Solar

 

Zest vs ByuL

 

Often it seems Zest’s biggest issue is his self-confidence. It seems ironic to say that about Zest. Someone who looks like they would be voted most likely to date a Victoria’s Secret model.

But lately Zest just seems completely unwilling to play into the late-game. Instead, he prefers to close early through timing attacks. In Game 1 on Overgrowth, Zest attempted an Adept all-in, from which the game was decided once ByuL held.

Again in Whirlwind he over-extended an attack that he could have used to set himself up for a healthy mid game. Instead it seemed like he wanted to close the game through Archon harassment. Zest over-extended his harassment, rather than teching up while he had map control. After losing all four Archons, the game was pretty much over.

SSL

The irony of Zest’s situation becomes all the more apparent when you consider Game 2 on Daybreak. The only game that went relatively late was the only game that Zest won. Deciding the game from a fight at disadvantageous positioning with superior crisis management. Using his available PsiStorms perfectly to deflect a baneling flank.

In the end, ByuL’s defensive ability to hold Zest’s early aggression in Games 1 and 3 saw him through to a 2-1 victory.

 

Maru vs Stats

Stats’ form at the moment is the stuff of a legend, considering this series was played the day after the most important Protoss vs Zerg of Stats’ life. This was against Maru too, one of four Terran horsemen. Stats didn’t break a sweat here. Game 1 on Daybreak was heavily in Stats’ favor from the first engagement.

After dismantling Maru’s MMM attack, Stats expanded into four bases while transitioning out of Phoenix-Adept into Thermal Lance Colossi.

Near the end, Maru attempted a retaliatory attack onto Stats’ 4th with perfect timing just before Stats finished production of his first Colossi wave. The Protoss lead was already too massive at this point. Properly understanding the situation, Stats abandoned the 4th to buy time to get out his Colossi, which shut down Maru’s attack, ending the game shortly after.SSL

Newkirk was another stomp, but largely a build order win. Both players went for proxy air tech openings, but Stats was able to scout out Maru’s StarPort and dealt with the worker before it could complete construction. The Oracle out of Stats’ proxy StarGate secured massive value, decimating Maru’s mineral line on his natural and the handful of marines protecting it. The game was a landslide in Stats’ favor from this point, and he easily closed out the series 2-0.

 

Innovation vs Dark

 

Dark took control of Game 1 on Newkirk early with repeated zergling harassment. By the mid-game, Dark had such a commanding economic lead, it would have been easy to say the game was his.

The decisive moment of the game, however, came when Innovation made a doom drop into Stats’ main at the perfect time as Dark made a push with his slow Ultralisk-based army across the map. The damage was catastrophic, and on the retreat Dark’s army was eventually pulled apart and dismantled from all sides.

For a Dark fan this would have been a hard game to watch. Even Dark seemed almost unable to process the sudden flip in advantage, trying to fight on from an impossible situation to the bitter end.

SSL

Game 2 on Overgrowth was completely in Innovation’s control from the get-go, however. Innovation, unwilling to give Dark breathing room, hammered Dark again and again with harassment while he macroed up a death-ball behind it. By the time the final engagement came, the game was long over.

 

sOs vs Solar

 

sOs kept pressure on Solar throughout the early stages of Game 1 on Whirlwind. The critical moment came at the eventual head-on engagement where Solar crushed sOs’ main force with his superior positioning. Solar took the advantage here to keep sOs in check with a Roach drop.

Then, in a move you would expect from sOs himself, Solar set a baneling trap, coupled with surprise transition into Swarm Hosts. Caught off-guard in the worst way, sOs tapped out within seconds.

Game 2 on Overgrowth was much more of what you would expect from sOs. Opening with a proxy Gateway Adept all-in, then a Dark Templar follow-up, both of which Solar held comfortably. Solar was well ahead early in the game and prepared for everything except sOs sneaking an expansion into a Gold base. After putting on a spectacular defense, Solar was forced to tap out after realizing the massive economic gap.

This took us to Abyssal Reef. Meeting every expectation, it was the best in show for the night. sOs almost had Solar’s back against the wall early on after a massive Adept warp-in following a WarpGate explosion. Solar, however, quickly leveled the game with a baneling run into sOs’ army. From here, Solar took control, shutting down base after base with Swarm Host guerrilla tactics.

In the end, Solar took the fight right to sOs after securing a massive lead at a critical time. He hit sOs just before he could finish PsiStorm research to close the game, ending the best series of the night, 2-1.

SSL

 

 

Brood War v1.18

 

StarCraft and StarCraft: Brood War, Patch 1.18 has been delayed at least a week. Pushed back from its originally planned release from March 30th.

 

For specific information, see Blizzard’s official thread.

 

 

 

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Soo vs sOs: Fifth Time’s the Charm?

At last, the series we’ve been waiting for has arrived: Eo “Soo” Yun Su vs Kim “sOs” Yoo Jin. A thunderous clash of style, smarts, and story. What a treat it was.

In one corner, we have Soo. This man has fought and clawed his way to the GSL finals for the fifth time, a feat that only the great Jung “Mvp” Jong Hyun has done. Despite this fact, he has never won. Will this legendary Zerg confirm his cursed career as an eternal silver medalist, or stand as a shining beacon of perseverance?

Against him we have sOs, one of the most feared players of all time, and last season’s grand finalist. A man that has won everything under the sun but a GSL championship. Tastless called sOs the “definition of a winner.”

On top of their successes and history, we have a clashing of brilliant minds. Soo is a stone wall of Zerg. His macro is perfect and his speed and intuition are remarkable. He completely embodies Zerg. He sees everything, he has units everywhere, and when you try to attack him, his numbers are simply overwhelming. Soo has a keen sense of when and how to take fights, and has some of the best Zerg mechanics in the world.

On the other side of the spectrum is the scariest player a solid Zerg like Soo can imagine. sOs is most likely the smartest player in the world, and because of that, no one wants to play him. He has a thousand different builds and he may never do the same one twice. He has a seemingly endless bag of tricks, and he always knows which one will hurt the most. He’s thinking what you’re thinking he’s thinking YOU’RE thinking, then he’s doing the opposite. He’s throwing mind games and fake-outs around like other Protoss research Warpgate.

 

Game 1

Game 1 was like watching someone punch a brick wall. sOs came in with his “Harlem Globetrotters” moves, full of finesse and multitasking, juggling around his adepts and warp ins.

 

 

…But almost no drones died. An attack designed to kill at least twenty workers was crushed almost perfectly. Artosis rightly pointed out that Soo would probably just roll him over in a few minutes, and he did.

 

 

Game 2

In Game 2 sOs appeared to be going with the exact same build. Fast expand, one Oracle, one Phoenix, some Gateways. sOs came in with yet another Adept attack with the intent to cripple, but this time it worked. He used Soo’s memory of the first game against him, canceling shades he would have previously completed and vice versa. This attack killed 20 drones as intended, in addition to a few from his surviving Oracle.

 

 

By the time Soo launched his signature Hydralisk/Baneling sledge hammer of a push, sOs had some juicy Storms waiting. Constant Warp Prism harassment would keep Soo at home while sOs began a full air transition. With an economy too weak to build anything but Hydras, Soo’s final attack would get absolutely crushed by Storms and Interceptors.

 

  

 

Game 3

Game 3 began with a double Pylon block from sOs and evolved into the standard double Archon drop.

Soo’s kiting would prove too strong, and handily pushed back sOs’s multi-pronged Warp Prism pressure.

After sOs botched a retreat and loses critical units, Soo poured all his money into Ravagers. Some well placed Currosive Biles would separate the Protoss’s Immortals from their support units and close out the game.

Game 4

Game 4 was the best of the whole series. Both players finally had the chance to showcase their incredible improvisational skills and strategic wit. sOs took an early lead with a Sentry/Immortal/Adept attack. With some clever Adept shades and Force Fields, sOs killed the third hatchery and even a few drones while his own third finished up.

 

Artosis made a great point here; the old Soo would likely find his position irrecoverable and launch a complete all in. But this is the new Soo, a more confident Soo. He’d try for the catch-up game. Soo would stabilize with Lurkers, forfeiting map control to the Protoss. In response, sOs would pump out a high count of Immortals and Storm tech, the perfect composition to surround and flatten Soo’s impatient Lurker push.

 

aOs would have an untouchable ground army for the next few minutes, but played hesitantly and patiently. Little did he know that a greater spire was on its way to make his Immortal ball obsolete.

The real chess match began when Soo’s Broodlords came into play. Confronted with six Broodlords and enough lurkers to rule out a forward blink, sOs knew a fight was out of the question.

 

With no chance of an air transition or sufficient anti air force, sOs had to get creative. He spent the rest of the game putting on a master class on how to play against Broodlords.

Repeatedly, Soo set up his unstoppable army on sOs’s side of the map, and repeatedly sOs counter attacked. More so he coaxed Soo to follow with tempting pokes. SOs would kill a base, bring the Broodlords all the way back, and recall to a newly finished Nexus. Then he’d wait, rinse, and repeat. It worked remarkably the first three times, killing Hatcheries and running the Broodlords all around.

Soo wasn’t falling for it any longer. He cut down the Protoss economy with lone Lurkers and packs of lings. By the time sOs had finished his fourth bait-and-switch, sOs had no economy to jump back to, and had not even enough firepower to finish off the newest hatchery. GG.

 

Game 5

In Game 5 Soo got the sOs special with extra cheese. When you think of a StarCraft player that can whip out a never-before seen strategy in a crucial match, sOs is your man. The most standard opener in the PvZ matchup has been DT Archon Drops for months now. Sos was playing perfectly standard, right? Wrong.

 

Soo had fallen comfortably into thinking he was facing a build he’d dealt with countless times in practice. The DTs drop off in my main. No worries, I have a Spore Crawler. But this is SOS! Another Prism came in with another hit squad of DTs.

 

Before long, there were Archons and Chargelots killing the Lair while another force hit the third. The beating would not end there.

 

  

Grouping up at Soo’s new fourth, sOs would charge onto Zerg’s creep like a wrecking ball, boxing the Zerg into the corner and flooding with Speed Zealots.

 

Game 6

This was the most one-sided game of the series, even more than Game 1. A Pylon rush failed completely, largely due to a lack of focus fire on the Hatchery.

 

 

After the attempts to damage from sOs’s Adepts and Oracles were mostly wiped out, Soo would once again launch a deadly Hydra/Baneling attack. Once again, he would wipe sOs off the map.

 

 

This series puts Soo at one of (if not the) best Zerg in the world. Equal to Dark and maybe better, Soo showed some of the highest level Zerg vs Protoss we’ve ever seen. It was his minimalist defense against sOs’s warp prism play – the quality of his engagements.  Soo showed how to out-maneuver a quicker army and how to retain a high drone count in the face of blistering aggression. The question that remains is, does he have what it takes to go one step further?

Tasteless: He is the perfect range of Zerg, there’s really nothing he can’t do.

Artosis: Win a GSL?

 

ALL PHOTOS COURTESY OF AFREECA.TV

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SHOUTcraft Kings: March

StarCraft Weekly Recall

Welcome to my fifth Weekly Recall, a recap of the major events in StarCraft over the past week.

 

Highlight Games

 

GSL Semifinals – Eo “soO” Yoon vs Kim “sOs” Yoo Jin (Abyssal Reef)

GSL Semifinals – Kim “Stats” Dae Yeob vs Kim “Ryung” Dong (Daybreak)

SHOUTcraft Kings – Joo “Zest” Sung Wook vs Tobias “ShoWTimE” Sieber

SHOUTcraft Kings – Stats vs Artur “Nerchio” Bloch

GSL Semifinals – Stats vs Ryung (Daybreak)

 

 

GSL Semifinals

 

 

soO vs sOs

 

Echo

Game 1 on Echo was an interesting idea from sOs. Here he attempted to keep soO on the defensive through repeated multiprong Adept harassment while teching up back at home. Instead he continually traded out waves of Adepts for very little return. By the time sOs had completed PsiStorm it was just too late. soO army easily overwhelming sOs in the end to take an easy lead to the series.

Whirlwind and Proxima Station

This game would set the theme of the series. Where sOs maintained the role of aggressor while soO’s defensive ability would be put to the test. sOs would break soO’s defense on Whirlwind, getting himself into a favorable mid game to tie up the series. Again on Proxima however soO’s defense would hold out against sOs’ series of aggression letting him take 2-1 lead.

Abyssal Reef

As they always do, things eventually did get interesting on Abyssal Reef. sOs took a massive economic lead early into Game 4. Taking out soO’s 3rd Hatchery with an Immortal drop reinforced by Adept Warp-Ins. From there soO maintained an airtight defense that allowed him to get back into the game. sOs would again take a massive lead after soO attempted to engage sOs’ from a choke point. soO would lose most of his Lurker based army in the engagement forcing him to retreat. A tech shift into Brood Lords would catch sOs off-guard letting soO again bring himself back into the game. Unable to fight soO in a head-on engagement sOs instead used his superior mobility to his advantage. While sOs played a strong tactical game for a while he was eventually cornered and without a base to retreat to. Putting soO at a 3-1 lead.

Cactus Valley and Newkirk Precinct

sOs went into Cactus Valley with a standard Dark Templar-Prism build. Following up with a second Prism and a second wave of Dark Templars sOs dismantled soO through multi-prong harassment. soO wasn’t able to recover from sOs’ early lead taking us to Game 6 on Newkirk Precinct.

It’s possible this match could have gone to a Game 7 had sOs’ play been up to standard. Or at least the same level we saw in Cactus Valley. Instead he went for a Pylon rush into soO’s third failing to kill the hatchery after a lackluster engagement. He would later attempt to followup with a massive Adept push but seemingly forgot to research Resonating Glaives. soO took a huge early advantage just by holding off sOs’ attempts at aggression which sOs would never recover from. Running over sOs in the inevitable counterattack, soO closed the series advancing to the finals 4-2.

SHOUTcraft Kings: March

Hatchery bleeding almost as heavily as sOs’ supply

 

 

Stats vs Ryung

 

Abyssal Reef

Stats had a rough start to Abyssal Reef losing his first Oracle to a Widow Mine. Shortly after his third was to cancel by an early push by Ryung denying any chance of early aggression. Stats and Ryung fell back into a defensive game for a short time to build up their tech. As both players entered their mid-game tech the game became a street fight.

Stats made the first engagement with an army of Colossi, Adept and Phoenixes. After trading out his Adepts for worker kills Stats was forced back and Ryung made his counterattack. Stats’ main was brought to its knees by Ryung’s bio-drop, having most of his expensive tech taken out. But Stats would retaliate with Adept harassment sending Ryung’s worker count plummeting.SHOUTcraft Kings: March

Behind the frantic attacks at eachothers bases Ryung teched into Ghosts while Stats built up his High Templar count. The final stage of the game was decided by EMPs and PsiStorms. While Ryung landed several solid EMPs Stats’ superior positioning let him deal crippling damage with PsiStorms deciding the game.

Act II

Echo was decided in just over 30 seconds where Stats found a gap in Ryung’s defense to land a Prism right behind the mineral line of Ryung’s main then cutting off Ryung’s army as he attempted to fall back. One game later on Cactus Valley, Ryung crippled Stats’ economy in the same way, exploiting a gap in Stats’ defense to make a massive drop into Stats’ 3rd base.

This put the series at 2-1 heading into Newkirk Precinct. Apparently not wanting a repeat of Cactus Valley, Stats’ defensive game was completely on point in game 4. Defensive play made all the difference in this game as both players made attempts at harassment. While Ryung had some relative success with a single Reaper, overall Stats’ was able to clear Ryung’s aggression taking very little economic damage in the process while dealing economic damage on the other side of the map. This created a huge economic gap that Ryung wouldn’t recover from.

The deciding moment of Proxima Station actually took place in the first few minutes of the game. Stats attempted a proxy StarGate but failed to do anything with it. After losing both his Void Rays while failing to secure any real economic damage, Ryung was given a massive advantage he never let go off taking the series to Game 6.

Daybreak
SHOUTcraft Kings: March

Well, you don’t see that everyday

Stats went for another proxy StarGate again on Daybreak. And if possible, this went just as bad as the last. While he did get some damage in, he would lose his Oracle for it. A widow mine drop into Stats’ base would level the game for Ryung and propel him into an advantage. From there the game entered a deadlock with both players seemingly determined to take the game as late as possible. Stats kept up his attempts at aggression while teching up in the background. Each took there own turns attempting to cripple the others economy. Stats focusing on small economic attacks. Ryung on the other hand went big, pinning Stats’ 6th base with a Tactical Nuke. At one point Ryung had as many as three silos available.

For all their tactics however, it eventually it came down to a final engagement. Stats having repeatedly picked off Ryung’s Ghost with Feedbacks and had the advantage with free use of PsiStorm. And after several Storms weathered down his army, Ryung was forced to tap out advancing Stats to the finals after a 4-2 victory.

SHOUTcraft Kings: March

 

 

 

SHOUTcraft Kings: March

 

SHOUTcraft King: Han “aLive” Lee Seok

 

Streaks

aLive: 4

Kim “herO” Joon Ho: 4

Stats: 3

ByuN” Hyun Woo: 2

 

 

Map Pool Updates

 

New Maps

• Ascension to Aiur by SidianTheBard
• Blood Boil by Avex
• Sequencer by NegativeZero
• Defender’s Landing by YoungRustler

 

Dropped Maps

• Newkirk Precinct TE
• Bel’Shir Vestige LE
• Cactus Valley LE
• Honorgrounds LE (Please for the love of Tassadar NO)

 

Mapmaking Community Discussion

 

 

 

 

Featured images courtesy AfreecaTV and Blizzard Entertainment.

Follow me on Twitter: @Stefan_SC2

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Diva Cup

Diva Cup Insight With Allaryce

 

Just over two weeks ago, AfreecaTV, organizers of StarCraft II’s flagship event, GSL (Global StarCraft II League), announced their first ever female tournament, the Diva Cup.

With the Diva Cup just days away, I got a chance to talk to the event organizer, Allaryce, for some insight into the tournament and the female StarCraft scene.

Note: This interview has been edited and revised for clarity.

 

The Diva Cup

 

The Game Haus: How did you first become attached to this project?

Allaryce: “Someone from Afreeca Global reached out to me and asked if I would be interested in running a female only tournament, so of course, I said yes! I started participating in tournaments only 3 weeks after I first started playing so running a tournament is something I’ve always wanted to try.”

 

To your knowledge, how long has the Diva Cup been in planning?

About a month

 

What can you tell us about the behind the scenes planning involved in this project?

“When it comes to running a tournament, it’s pretty simple. You figure out the format (this one is double elimination), the players, and the prize pool. Since Afreeca was providing the prize pool and I got other additional sponsors, the rest was easy!

The only tricky part of the planning comes from finding a time and date that works for all the players considering they’re all in different time zones. It’s all about staying on top of communication between everyone, even while I was away for IEM Katowice in Poland. With my work schedule and other obligations I have, it’s also great to have the team at Afreeca work on the promo/PR stuff for the tournament.”

 

At risk of asking the obvious, is there a story behind the name “Diva Cup” or is it just because of the Overwatch character?

“Yes, it’s inspired by the Overwatch character. D.VA‘s lore, for anyone who doesn’t know, is that she’s a pro StarCraft II player who became the GSL Code S champion at 16 and went undefeated for 3 years. I would love to see that story step out of fiction and into reality. Someday, I hope we can see a female lift up that trophy in a moment of glory on the big stage!

Many people seem to think that I, as a female, have ignorantly chosen this name for my tournament. To me, that’s very laughable. It’s meant to be a double entendre. It’s meant to be a provocative and funny play on words. I hope that people can appreciate my sense of humor and laugh with me! Even if they can’t, I would encourage them to look past the name and focus on the players instead!”

 

 

“I’ve asked many of my guy friends how many girls they think play Starcraft II and many of them estimate around five and are surprised to learn there’s about 20+ that I know of. It’s not sexism… It’s just unawareness.”

 

TGH: One of the key criticisms that has been brought up regarding female-only tournaments has been: why is there a need for a male/female division? How would you respond to this question?

 

Allaryce: “There’s no defined male division, it’s just that they’re more likely to sign up more often for online and offline cups. Girls are more than welcome to join and there’s nothing stopping them but themselves. I can only speculate that a few of them don’t feel like their skill levels are up to par and therefore don’t enter. I refuse to speak for the other girls and make assumptions about this matter since it’s not a question I’ve asked them about. Everyone has their own individual feelings about it and deserves their own voices.

For me, the Diva Cup is a way to highlight the many female players in the scene that people may not know about. It’s not meant to be a gender divided issue.  Many of these girls don’t promote their social media as much or may stream every once in a while. Others participate in the FSL (Female StarCraft League) or they just play on their own. This is a way to bring awareness to them as players and promote their play.

I’ve asked many of my guy friends how many girls they think play StarCraft II and many of them estimate around five and are surprised to learn there’s about 20+ that I know of. It’s not sexism… It’s just unawareness.

There was a really great article published by Polygon that explains the need for female tournaments and uses Chess as an example. In summary, the female demographic is under represented and it’s a good way to foster growth in the community and encourage other girls to try the game and compete!

I also hope that these girls will join more online and offline tournaments, regardless of results. There are many that cater to all skill levels no matter the player. Regardless of the reason why girls play in female tournaments or gender neutral tournaments, what’s important is that they’re putting themselves out there to compete and enjoy the game we all love to watch: StarCraft II!”

 

 

“I, personally, don’t think it’s demoralizing to see SCII being a male dominated scene. Anyone who plays StarCraft II enjoys the competitiveness to a certain degree.”

TGH: I’d imagine it’s also potentially demoralizing on many levels to see a competitive scene so male dominated. There’s a psychological aspect there that isn’t often explored.

I’ll use a contrasting example, if my first competitive experience were to be against 100 women, I think it would make an already intimidating situation exponentially more so. And if I were to get crushed, it would psychologically reinforce the idea that I didn’t belong there.

Regardless of the reason, I think it’s important to have events like these to let the female StarCraft world know there are competitive outlets available for them.

 

Allaryce: “I, personally, don’t know anyone who’s cocky enough to enter a tournament and expect to win. I’ve spoken to a few of my friends who are pro gamers and almost all of them are very humble about their skills. They mostly just want to perform well enough to their own standards. When it comes to competition, failure is inevitable but it’s how we cope with our losses and come out stronger that matters. It’s a character building tool, if anything, which is why I think tournaments are important. This is one of the reasons I enter tournaments no matter what skill level I’m at.

This is why it’s called ‘tournament experience.’ You’re forced to face your opponents head on, in real life, in defeat or victory. How you choose to handle your sportsmanship says a lot about yourself.

Again, I cannot speak for the other girls, nor would I want to generalize their experiences. I, personally, don’t think it’s demoralizing to see StarCraft II being a male dominated scene. Anyone who plays StarCraft II enjoys the competitiveness to a certain degree. Many people have different reasons that drive them to play the game. That being said, seeing it be male dominated encourages players like me to do better and raise myself up. I can still find role models in the men because I see them for the player they are and not their gender.

Speaking from a personal perspective, I have never once felt like I didn’t belong in the scene. Quite the opposite, in fact. People have been nothing less than generous with their time when it comes to teaching me how to play and my understanding of the game. They encourage and inspire me to improve every day. Some even go as far as to ask me ‘so… when are you getting GM?’ I love the Starcraft II community!”

 

Follow up question; do you think growth of the female StarCraft scene is possible and what do you think is necessary to foster further growth?

“Yes I think it’s just about having a community they can be a part of. This game can be quite intimidating to get into, regardless of the gender, so having friends to talk to is important!”

 

Players

 

TGH: So now let’s move on to the participants. Who would you say are the players to look out for?

Allaryce: “Based on her track record, I think Koshkii has a really good shot. Miyako also seems to be a favorite among some of the girls so I’m looking forward to casting their games! We also have a few newcomers that I haven’t seen play before so I think it’s still anyone’s game.”

 

Any personal predictions?

None

 

Fair enough, any players you would like to see participating in (potential) future Diva Cups?

“Most of the girls, on average, are diamond and above so I encourage any of the other girls to get to diamond and come to compete!”

 

If you were competing yourself, where would you rank yourself among the competition?

“I’m a bit out of practice because of my work and travel so I don’t think I’d make it past the second bracket. I only get maybe two to three hours of practice these days. Some of the girls are better practiced and have a better shot!”

 

Allaryce

 

TGH: Finally, let’s talk about StarCraft a bit. What are your thoughts on the current state of the game?

Allaryce: “I think we’ve seen some of the most exciting gameplay lately in premier tournaments and even online ones. I’m excited for the new changes to Zerg (which is what I main) and to see how that translates amongst the top players. I’m also excited to play on a new map pool! Who isn’t hyped for that?”

 

It really has been a great year of StarCraft gameplay so far. IEM produced so many amazing games and the GSL Quarters was just one mic drop moment after the next. It helps as well that we have a really exciting map pool at the moment. I would be surprised if there’s ever been a map that has delivered as many amazing games as Abyssal Reef has in the short time its been live.

 

If there is one change you can make to StarCraft what would it be?

“I think if they made it free to play, it would be really great for people who are hesitant to pick up the game. We’ve seen that kind of success with LoL and DOTA so I think Starcraft II could benefit from it as well. They’re starting to finally move towards DLC, which I think is a good direction but there needs to be a good balance for people who can’t afford some of it.

I think for everyone who’s purchased the game up until now, they can release some kind of exclusive skins or content to ease the transition. I’m no expert about what this would mean for Blizzard internally, so I’m not sure how feasible the strategy is.”

 

I share this sentiment. Though I think it’s still a bit early to go free to play, currently. Of course I’m no expert on this either but I think there needs to be more micro-transactions available than what we currently have to make it a feasible model. I expect there will be a huge spike in traffic and interest if StarCraft II does go free to play, the game should be well stocked with cosmetic options to capitalize on that. Blizzard is on a good track at the moment.

 

 

TGH: Finally, any last words to close?

 

Allaryce: “Regardless of viewership, I’m really happy to be working on this tournament with Afreeca and give these players a platform and a little extra cash! I’m also excited to cast with my friend Temp0 since we see each other at events often but have never done a cast together before.”

 

 

Tune into the Diva Cup on Saturday March 18th at 12PM PST on Afreeca.tv/Allaryce

 

For more from Allaryce follow her on Twitter, AfreecaTV Global and Twitch.

Follow me on Twitter: @Stefan_SC2

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Skytoss vs Zerg - Leviathan

Unit in Review: Zerg vs Skytoss

To start with the obvious, late game Skytoss vs Zerg has been a community concern for a while now. The balance team has been attempting to address this, but a large part of the community has felt they’ve been consistently missing the mark up to this point. As of the latest fix, Terran has now officially been dragged into a Protoss/Zerg feud.

As such, I think it is a good time to look at the road up to this point so we can try to figure out where we have to go from here.

 

The Carrier-Corruptor Conundrum

 

Naturally, we need to to first talk about Corruptors. The current answer to the Carrier problem. At first, the balance team focused on nerfing the cost of Interceptors before it became clear it did nothing to solve the core issue. Now, Corruptors have always been a hard-counter to Carriers. The latest update which buffed their ability to hunt, just makes them more efficient at doing so.

Corruptors still get zoned out by Archons and PsiStorm though. Attempting to chase Carriers with Corruptors behind an Archon frontline is effectively suicide. This has always been the core problem, and this update does very little to change this.

Interestingly, while this update was meant to help ZvP, it actually has a much more profound impact on ZvT. Corruptors were already very effective against many Mech-Terran and Starport unit compositions. Even before the buff. As it is now, Corruptors can out-micro or out-damage every Terran air unit, making them the undisputed kings of the sky in ZvT.

So it raises the question, if buffing Corruptors isn’t the answer to Carriers, then what is? Well, I think a good starting point is looking at units that aren’t already great at doing their jobs. Rather than ones that already are.

 

Swarm Hosts

 

Now, understandably, when you think of a unit for countering Skytoss, the Swarm Host usually doesn’t come to mind. For starters, it doesn’t even attack air. But when you consider the defensive nature of Carrier strategies, the value of Swarm Hosts become more apparent. Teching into Carriers is a massive investment for Protoss which provides a window for Zerg to attack. The problem is currently, Zerg still struggles to break a Protoss turtle, even during this window of “vulnerability.”

Skytoss

We’ll call it “Mutate Electromagnetic Disruption… Wings?” Yeah I have nothing.

If Zerg is unable to break Protoss’ defense, then the obvious answer is buffing the Zerg unit designed around breaking fortified positions. A shield damage upgrade seems the safest option as it entirely avoids interfering with ZvT and ZvZ. Naturally a concern would be Swarm Hosts becoming too oppressive against Protoss in the mid-game. For this reason, gating this buff behind an expensive upgrade with a short research time seems apt. An expensive investment makes the upgrade an actual decision rather than a go-to; but a short research time ensures that it can still be used as an immediate response to scouting a Carrier turtle.

The investment behind Carrier strategies means Protoss is supposed to be vulnerable during their production. If Zerg scouts a Protoss walled in and vulnerable for an extended period, then logically the Swarm Host should be able to break Protoss during that time.

Ultralisks

Patch 3.8 rebalanced the armor of the Ultralisk, resulting in a net of -1 after Chitinous Plating. But as of how the meta has played out since then, perhaps that nerf is no longer necessary. The obvious effect this would have is Ultralisks can more easily drive back Archons. Since Ultralisks have never batted an eye in the direction of a PsiStorm, the only real issue would be Void Rays. But Zerg does have other means of dispersing Void Rays, as is, namely Parasitic Bomb.

Admittedly, this is the one I was hesitant about. Since I’m not entirely sure what the impact on ZvT would be like as a result. But given Terran’s main counter to Ultralisks are Ghost’s “Steady Targeting” which ignores armor anyway, I’m inclined to believe the impact will still be less than what Corruptors are currently doing.

 

Vipers

Naturally, I had to save my favorite for last. Even as a Protoss player, Vipers are among my favorite units in the game. When it comes to picking off units, Vipers are the best in class. That’s really what the problem has always been here. Corruptors can kill Carriers. They’ve always been able to. But they need to actually get to them which is where Vipers have always excelled. The problem is, to get within range to “Abduct” a Carrier, the Viper has to risk entering the range of the Protoss’ High Templars, consequently getting Feedbacked to death.

It’s a bit of a tricky situation. Because Abduct and Feedback have the same range, you can’t buff the range of one, without becoming a hard-counter to the other.

One possibility is to temporarily increase the range of Abduct by increasing synergy between the Viper’s spells and abilities. I’m of course referring to “Consume.” Consume has always been intriguing, but for an ability with the occasional side-effect of killing your own structures, sometimes you could get a bit more value out of it.

Giving Vipers a temporary buff after using consume is one way to do that. A temporary range buff on Abduct would allow Vipers a home-field advantage against Carriers and High Templars. Most importantly, it makes engaging Zerg’s base with Skytoss a much less straightforward affair.

Skytoss

Let’s be honest, “Consume” is easily the most ominous animation in the game. And any excuse to see more of this can only be a good thing.

 

 

 

Featured images courtesy AfreecaTV and Blizzard Entertainment.

Follow me on Twitter: @Stefan_SC2

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IEM XI

StarCraft Weekly Recall – IEM Katowice Special

Welcome to my fourth Weekly Recall, a recap of all the major events in StarCraft over the past week. What better way to celebrate one month than with an Intel Extreme Masters World Championship special recap.

 

Intel Extreme Masters XI – World Championship

 

Because there’s so much to cover, we’re going to be changing up the format a bit this week. The priority here is getting you to the good stuff.

 

Group Stage Highlight

Zest vs Nerchio: Newkirk Precinct

 

Quarterfinals

 

Players

Han “aLive” Lee Seok, Lee “INnoVation” Shin Hyung, Koh “GuMiho” Byung Jae, Jun “TY” Tae Yang, Joona “Serral” Sotala, Park “Dark” Ryung Woo, “ByuN” Hyun Woo, Kim “Stats” Dae Yeob

 

Highlight Games

aLive vs Innovation: Newkirk Precinct

aLive vs Innovation: Abyssal Reef

Byun vs Stats: Newkirk Precinct

Byun vs Stats: Cactus Valley

 

With the exception of Dark vs Serral, the IEM Quarters was a street fight for a sport in the next round.

To comment on Dark vs Serral, Dark at the moment seems to be near unbeatable in ZvZ. He delivered Kang “Solar” Min Soo a 3-0 defeat one round earlier. Solar, notably defeated Dark 4-3 in the finals of the last SSL. It seems since then, Dark has focused on refining his ZvZ to the frightening point he is now at.

The final score of the TvT’s speaks for themselves. Both Gumiho vs TY and aLive vs INnoVation went the distance. Of the two, however, aLive vs Inno was the show to see. Whereas Gumiho vs TY played out as a cerebral game of chess. There was a very savage form of strategy being played between aLive and Inno. To the very end, neither player would budge. This was a pattern defined from the very first game, as INnoVation brought the game to an almost deadlock for several minutes after having his economy entirely wiped out.

IEM XI

Command Centers are overrated anyway.

 

ByuN vs Stats

Despite the final scoreline, ByuN vs Stats was arguably the best match of the day. Despite ending 3-1 for Stats, in a round with two full best of 5’s, at no point in this series was any player in clear control. Most of the games were won through almost unthinkable comebacks. Game 2 in particular featured both players trading commanding leads before the end.

Even aside from the incomparable ferocity of their competition, there is a fierce rivalry story building between both players. ByuN, the current World Champion, was the one to eliminate Stats in the Semifinals of the WCS Global Finals in November. They faced again in the Round of 32 at GSL 2017, Season 1, where Stats defeated ByuN 2-1 in the Group G Winner’s Match. Every time these two face is always a spectacle, and the ferocity of competition in their games continues to escalate.

 

Semifinals

 

Highlight Games

aLive vs TY: Abyssal Reef

Dark vs Stats: Proxima Station

Dark vs Stats: Newkirk Precinct

 

aLive vs TY

 

Act I

A back and forth series if there ever was one. aLive and TY spent the first few games swapping roles of aggressor and defender. The first game on Newkirk had TY taking complete control of the game from the get-go through repeated harassment. One game later on Proxima, aLive dismantled TY in the same way, pinning TY into his base, unable to respond in any meaningful way.

 

Act II

Cactus Valley was the first game that showed a clear battle for control. aLive opened with Cyclone harassment, TY returning in kind with his Helions. By midgame TY had taken map control. After taking a favorable engagement on the open map, he sieged the base of aLive, forcing evacuation of his third and pinning him to his natural. Establishing a clear economic advantage, TY had Cactus Valley won. However, an eager attempt to end the game early resulted in a massive mis-positioning that left his third completely exposed. This allowed aLive to counterattack, forcing TY out of the game in one swift, decisive strike.

With his back against the wall, TY came into Honor Grounds determined to make a case. Similar to Game 1, TY pinned aLive down with harassment. While never establishing control, aLive did manage a valiant fight, finding retaliatory damage where others would have folded. Ultimately, he had no economy, and was eventually overwhelmed in one crushing engagement.

 

Finale

This brought us to Game 5 on Abyssal Reef. For such a scrappy series, this match could not have ended in a better way. This was a non-stop skirmish, start to finish, with both players clawing at the others base in a constant struggle to return economic damage. aLive started the game with an early push into TY’s third, forcing him to evacuate the Command Center back to his main. TY responded with a drop into aLive’s natural, while sieging a pair of tanks across the gap, completely decimating aLive’s worker count. He would then double around to aLive’s third, forcing lift-off and taking a massive economic lead.

IEM XI

Tally-ho

Not even a minute later, aLive would make a retaliatory attack with Ravens into TY’s natural and landing Vikings into his main, managing to pick off at least 20 workers in the attack, leveling the game from a harsh disadvantage. Unfortunately, perhaps the most critical moment of this game happened off-screen around this time. As aLive made his retaliation attack, TY managed a drop into aLive’s base to finish off the third Orbital Command he bruised minutes prior. aLive continued to siege at TY’s base for several minutes, leveling himself economically and taking an upgrade advantage. When TY eventually did stabilize his base, the fact that he still had an Orbital Command to move to his third put him at an economic advantage from that point forward.

An advantage TY would further secure with a drop into aLive’s base, denying aLive the breathing room to rebuild a third. Unable to keep up with TY economically, aLive would eventually have his army wiped out in a retaliation attempt shortly after, ending the game and advancing to the Finals 3-2.

 

 

Dark vs Stats

 

Proxima Station
IEM XI

Come to daddy

Games 1 and 2 of Dark vs Stats were among the best of IEM. Proxima Station is a map with a secure pocket expansion and a tight choke point on its third. This makes it ideal for defensive strategies. With Zerg currently struggling against late-game Skytoss, Carriers are a natural choice on Proxima. While Stats dictated the pace of the game through constant harassment, Dark’s vigilant creep spread. It let him slowly march a blockade of Spore Crawlers deep into Stats’ territory and allowing Dark to push the burden of engagement onto Stats.

The need to stop Dark’s creep spread forced Stats’ eventual misstep, which Dark capitalized on without hesitation, Abducting Stats’ Carriers with his Vipers and running through the ground army with Ultralisks.

 

The Marathon Event

The second game on Newkirk may have been one of the scrappiest PvZs in StarCraft history. A marathon game with almost non-stop aggression on both sides. Multiple times, Dark looked just on the edge of breaking Stats, only to be pushed back. At one point, he even leveled Stats’ main base and all the air tech, only for Stats to survive by buying time through counter-aggression.

Stats’ resilient defense put Dark into a situation where he was forced to move into Stats’ side of the map.IEM XI Having nearly completely mined out his side of field, Dark invaded to steal one of Stats’ last remaining bases. Stats responded by decimating Dark’s side of the map and boxing Dark into one expansion. Eventually taking the fight right to Dark, even after blanketing his army with repeated PsiStorms, the final engagement ended up being too close to call. Not until the final units were left standing did it become clear that Stats had just won the game.

Dark’s position on the map ended up being the pivotal factor. After trading out his army, Stats was able to Warp-In a reinforcement of Stalkers at the nearby WarpGates right outside of Dark’s base.

From this point forward, Dark seemed completely unwilling to play a late game, opting for early all-ins and timing attacks. Stats’ resilient defense would prove too much for Dark, however, allowing Stats to close the series, advancing to the finals 3-1.

 

Grand Final

 

Highlight Games

Abyssal Reef

Honor Grounds

 

Without question one of the closest finales in the history of StarCraft 2. This match could have been a best of 11 and I would put the odds on the series going to the final map.

 

Newkirk Precinct

If you ever wanted a guidebook on defensive PvT, this game is it. Stats took control of Newkirk from the get-go just through his airtight defensive play. TY played an aggressive game, attempting to find economic damage. His attempts at harassment were consistently deflected on multiple fronts though. From here, Stats just played the game by the book. Returning harassment damage but never compromising his defensive positioning as he teched up into splash damage.

After crippling another aggressive push by TY with a single Purification Nova, Stats would safely push out after playing a highly cost efficient game, eventually overwhelming TY with relative ease.

 

Proxima Station

Proxima, on the other hand, could not have gone more differently. TY opened the game with a widow mine proxy can, getting in massive economic damage in the early game as Stats failed to accomplish much with his own Oracle. TY’s harassment game was much more on point in Game 2 compared to Newkirk.

This economic lead TY took in the early game would pay dividends in the late game, allowing him to hit a window of vulnerability for Stats as he attempted to tech into High Templars. TY hard engaged into Stats just before PsiStorm could complete, ending Game 2 in dominant fashion.

 

Abyssal Reef

This took us to Abyssal Reef. If you’ve been following, you already know this is going to be amazing. This one, beautiful map put out one amazing game after the next for all of IEM; and this may have been the best in show. TY took early control of this game, dealing near crippling damage, taking out Stats’ third. Within minutes, Stats would retaliate with an Adept drop, closing the economic gap. Able to stabilize just a bit, Stats teched into a Templar Archives almost immediately, clearly not wanting a repeat of Proxima.

This would end up paying off, as Psionic Storm would complete as TY attempted an engagement. Several PsiStorms would cripple TY’s army, letting Stats take the fight and forcing a retreat, putting himself in a favorable position.

Unable to take Stats in a head-on engage, TY split his forces up, resorting to multi-prong harassment. Several defensive PsiStorms would prevent TY from getting any real economic damage, but kept Stats at bay. Unable to mount a full on attack into TY’s base without leaving himself exposed to harassment, Stats attempted to transition once again into Thermal Lance Colossi and Tempests.

With Colossi on the field, Stats made another attempt at sieging TY’s base. Expertly taking advantage of the general low mobility of Stats’ comp, TY outmaneuvered him, making a beeline to his base. This baited Stats into splitting his army in an unfavorable position, allowing TY to get a surround. With Stats’ army split up and superior positioning that prevented him from even retreating, TY easily took the engagement, ending the game.

IEM XI

What’s wrong with this picture? That’s right, 720p

 

Paladino Terminal and Bel’shir Vestige

What followed from here were two quick harassment focused games, back to back. On Paladino, Stats quickly overwhelmed TY with a Phoenix, Double Oracle push, ending the game and tying the series once again. On Bel’shir, TY decimated Stats’ economy with Helion harassment, coupled with a Widow Mine drop. TY then quickly followed up, showing us for the first time his Liberator, three Siege Tank push. With his economy in shambles, Stats was unable to mount a defense.

Honor Grounds

TY returned again with his Helion, Widow Mine harassment. Stats however was much more prepared, deflecting the Helion attack with seemingly little effort and intercepting the Widow Mine drop with a few defensively positioned Stalkers.

From here TY followed up again with his three Tank push, though instead of having his Liberator cover his Siege Tanks, this time he sent his Liberator to harass the mineral line of Stats’ natural. This time, in a much more stable position and without the Liberator complicating matters, Stats easily took the engagement.

With his push stopped, TY returned to drop attempts. At this point however, Stats’ defense was as airtight as in Game 1.

The game entered a deadlock at this point, with both Stats and TY trading failed attempts at economic harassment. TY would eventually find his opening. Again, taking advantage of the low mobility of Stats’ army, TY would make a doom drop into Stats’ base. Stats would lose both forges in this attack and TY would further secure his upgrade advantage.

TY pressed his advantage further by sieging a mass of Liberators over Stats’ fifth base, forcing every probe in the area to evacuate. At this point TY seemed to have a near unbreakable hold. Stats in turn would exploit the lack of mobility of TY’s Liberators to maneuver out of their attack range. Stats would lose all of his Colossi in the attack, but would succeed in wiping out the bulk of TY’s Liberators.

After a short period of trading bases, Stats would eventually corner the rest of TY’s army to end the game and bring the series to Game 7.

 

Cactus Valley

This was a short and one-sided game sadly. It was an unfortunate end to one of the closest, most intense finals in StarCraft history. TY again returned with his three Tank, Liberator push, and Stats fumbled the engagement hard. He left only one Stalker to deal with the Liberator, and initially forgot to focus fire his other two Stalkers. By the time Stats attempted to correct this oversight, both TY’s Liberator and Siege Tank had gotten in several seconds of near uncontested damage, nearly wiping out Stats’ ground army by the time the Liberator went down.

TY closed the series 4-3, becoming the IEM Katowice Champion.

 

Featured images courtesy ESL.

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