A Story of Fandom and the Journey of the Last Terran
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Background -- NesTea's Joker
I haven't ever been a real fan of a player up until recently. In Sc2, that is. Typically I'll be watching GSL or a VoD or reviewing a replay, and to me it's just a competition between two players. I enjoy analyzing and hearing the analysis of the game, and wondering who will win. I even have players I favor over others-- HerO for his swagger, SUPERSTAR for his insane smile, or NaDa for his suave sexiness. I can't ever say I was really a fan of these players though, not in the way others were. There were no nerdchills for me. I just preferred one player to win, and hoped for a good match. I paid for my GSL tickets not to follow one player or another, but to experience the game. I must admit part of me just wanted to support Esports, but there you have it.
At some point this season, though, I realized I want Mvp to win. Like, really want him to win. I'd always liked Mvp, if for no other reason than that he was the Joker to NesTea's batman, the wrench in his perfect plan. At his most invincible (and this may seem like a distant memory to some), NesTea just didn't lose matches. Sure, he'd drop the occasional set or maybe lose a group stage game, but nobody knew how to beat him. He hadn't lost a ZvZ series ever, except once against Dimaga. People were beginning to sling around the B-word, much to the consternation of older members of the community.
The story goes that even NesTea had his kryptonite, and it was ZvT. What people didn't realize, though, was that NesTea's ZvT was as godly as his other matchups. In fact, NesTea's ZvT enjoyed the same ~75% winrate as his ZvP if you factored out one specific opponent. NesTea, you see, had one great weakness. It was not ZvT, but rather, ZvMvp. NesTea's tournament runs either ended in victory or a game against Mvp. Whereas other players flailed around like little babies whenever they played NesTea, Mvp somehow trounced him. He was something special.
Mvp was a master of TvT, and in the days of "GomTvT", he was the hero we needed. Code S was awash with mid-level Terrans, and Mvp stood out. He was a champion. But as a Terran in those days you also needed to beat the small but powerful group of non-Terrans in Code S. Hongun, Huk, Alicia, Losira, NesTea, July-- all were formidable opponents in top form during the summer of 2011. And of these opponents, NesTea was the scariest. Although Mvp's TvP was by far his weakest matchup, he
Ro32 -- The First Pangs
So you see, every Terran player in a way is a fan of Mvp. Like it or not, we know he carries the banner of our race. He is, if you would, our MVP. So when I realized I became an Mvp fan, I barely noticed. It was probably in the loser match of Ro32 Group G that I first realized I was emotionally invested in his success. You see, getting eliminated in the Ro32 groups is brutal-- and if you have the misfortune of taking 4th in your group, you need to fight through Code A to even qualify for up/downs. At least the 3rd place player automatically qualifies for up/downs, and Code A is just a chance at direct Code S entry.
So, it was with trepidation that I watched Mvp do glorious battle with Puzzle. Puzzle's robo push scared me to my very core. Here was a scary Protoss ground army pushing to Mvp's lonely single bunker.
Nothing puts fear in the heart of a Terran like an Immortal push.
Mvp reacted perfectly, though. He denied the pylon, then instantly sensed the observer and shot it down, forcing Puzzle up the ramp. In the face of numerous forcefields, he held fast. His push against Puzzle was too glorious to be captured in a single screenshot. Featuring waves of reinforcement, a powerful 2-prong with a couple dropships, and a landed factory to divert reinforcing zealot AI, it thoroughly convinced me that TvP was no longer Mvp's Achilles Heel. His subsequent cleaning-up of Puzzle on Daybreak seemed almost a waste of time.
It was fun watching him utterly school Ryung on the dangers of Mech TvT though.
As the final game against Ryung wrapped up, I realized I was clutching my armrest. My heart was pounding. I was relieved-- Mvp had won. Everything was okay.
I was a fan.
Ro16-- The Savage Time
In a way, Mvp got the most advantageous possible group for the Ro16 group stage. He successfully avoided both of the groups with more than 1 Protoss player, and wouldn't have to play in Group C, which was that stage's "Group of Death", containing PartinG, Taeja, MKP, and TheStC. For that, though, he had to trade any possibility of TvT in his group-- he'd be fighting Zerg and Protoss all day. Still, with a lineup like HerO Leenock and July, Mvp seemed destined for a comfortable top seed coming out group stages, qualifying him to play SuperNova, a skilled macro Terran, rather than Naniwa, a dangerous macro Protoss. By the end of his first series, against July, though, something seemed wrong. Mvp DID trounce the aggressive Zerg in Game 1, but Game 2 was a travesty, and all throughout Game 3 he seemed on the brink of losing. His skilled defense and drops gave him a win, but you could tell it wasn't easy for the man. He was even looking bad in the post-game shots.
"I'm getting too old for this crap."
I began to feel it again. It's that feeling when you're waiting for the professor to open the door for your midterm, or the interviewer to finish with the guy ahead of you. An anxious uncertainty washed over me, and I knew Mvp felt it too. As HerO contained Mvp up his ramp, I knew something had gone horribly wrong. Mvp did his best to put on pressure, but HerO carefully developed his early lead into a solid dual-tech 3-base PvT made stronger by Cloud Kingdom's geography. For every trick Mvp used, HerO had the perfect counter, and with blink there was little that could be done to stop HerO's reign of terror.
In Game 2, Mvp did what he did best. He showed us something new, something beyond what we already understood. You see, a new build in PvT is the 15 Nexus FFE. Contrasted with a traditional 15 Nexus Gateway FE, this build completely abdicated early map control against a gasless expand. The traditional 1 rax FE has no chance of breaking the cannon, and the early forge allows extremely aggressive upgrading from the Protoss. As a 15 Nexus build, it can react with a gateway instead of a Forge against gas builds, making it airtight against 2 rax and quick reapers. As soon as Mvp scouted the Forge, though, he knew what to do. Like most Terrans, he took a quick third. Unlike most Terrans, he ninjaed the hell out of that third. He remained up at least one base on HerO all game and there was nothing left for the TLAF-Liquid Protoss to do.
Nothing to see here. Just 1-upping the new PvT meta.
His play rekindled hope within me. For a moment, I saw Mvp stare into the abyss of Protoss macro, and when the abyss gazed back, he dealt it a swift blow to the jaw. You can imagine my horror at Mvp's play in the following game. The third game of the set, Mvp went for a proxy tank 2 base cheese which utterly collapsed as it was scouted and HerO cranked out an Immortal to defend it. Mvp lost, and would have to play on. It was time for another nerve-wracking Match 5.
Leenock and Mvp faced off in glorious combat. We all knew the stakes. Winner goes to the Ro8, loser goes to Code A Round 3 to try his luck with the masses. It was all on the line. I knew, in my heart, that Mvp could win this GSL if only he made it to the bracket stages. And as he opened with a highly economical 12/14, I knew things were going to work out. Leenock was playing defensively, of course, and with a 15H 14P he'd be able to defend so oh my christ how did those get in there oh no not the CC oh no don't oh god he cancelled it no not the scvs oh no oh no oh noooooooo
There was no recovering from that-- Mvp dropped Game 1. My heart plunged into my stomache. I felt ice well up within me, clutching my organs like the pain of the first time a girl rejects your confession of love. Mvp was going to lose. The legendary full mech user, the Game Genie Terran, the Joker, was out of tricks. He had met his match. I pushed my chair away from my monitor, as though distancing myself from the screen would make that reality further away.
As Artosis and Tasteless talked me into watching Game 2, I let sadness wash over me. Tenderly, though, Mvp gave me hope again. His push into Leenock's fourth then third was the slowest in the history of TvZ, but it was no less determined for its speed. Mvp creeped forward and chipped away at Leenock until there was no foundation for the broodlord transition to rest upon. Slowly he chipped away banelings, infestors, and my doubt.
At last, after a long and brutal struggle, victory was at hand. As we went to the final set, I felt hope again. Game 3 was the same brutally long grind that Game 2 was, but somehow Mvp pulled through. He knew, as I do, that sometimes people deserve to have their faith rewarded. And, as their economies dwindled and they microed their units to the last step, I felt exhileration. I felt nerchills, if you would. Leenock tapped out and enormous relief washed over me. Mvp was moving on to the bracket stage.
He looked glad to be done, too
Ro8 -- What is Necessary
As Ro8 dawned, the world was athunder with love for Quantic_NaNiWa. He had a real shot at the prize. As a notoriously good foreigner who badassed his way through both his groups dropping only 1 set to Puzzle, he represented the hopes and dreams of foreigner fans everywhere. In fact, many considered him to be a better player than Mvp. Had Mvp successfully won his Ro16 group he'd be in a comfortable TvT with SuperNova, but losing it condemned him to do battle in his weakest matchup for at least the next two rounds. Sporting his new LG-IM duds, Mvp strode out into the booth with the doubts of many weighting him down.
But so strong was my faith that mere facts could not shake it. And as Mvp executed his first build to perfection, I realized NaNiWa was not untouchable. Cloud Kingdom for all its chokes and horrible spacing for bio was perfect for a 2-base tank all-in; Mvp would not be stopped.
Carnage in chokes.
As he busted into Nani's natural, mowing through immortals and archons, I felt satisfaction. The PvT winrate on Cloud Kingdom doesn't matter to Mvp; he doesn't give a shit how other Terrans play. He'll pull something out of his hat if he needs to. But during the cutaway to the player booths, I suddenly felt a tinge of concern. Mvp's arm was hurting. It was clear his RSI was progressing and he was in pain. His coach made the most of the in-between time to try to alleviate some of the stress on the 3-time champion's overworked tendons.
The pain of a warrior.
Naniwa opened the next game with the latest PvT meta build: The Nexus First FFE. Something worth noting about the PvT Nexus First FFE is that it does have a specific vulnerability to cheese. If you undermake cannons against a marine/scv cheese, you will be overrun. Luckily, almost any marine/scv cheese has to be initiated before the Terran could possibly realize what build you're going, and other typical PvT builds are rather safe against this sort of cheese. Assuming you 9-scout and react appropriately to your scouting information, you will always be able to get up enough cannons to stop any sort of gasless cheese.
Unless, of course, your opponent is Mvp, and he hides the extra 2 barracks, denies your scout, and moves his marines across the map in two groups so it appears he has a normal amount. If that's the case, you won't realize what's happening until he is almost upon you.
There is no spoon.
I must give credit to NaNiWa; he executed the build perfectly. People believe his probe pull was late, but that wasn't the problem; the problem was that it was too small and he wasn't aware of the magnitude marine/scv all-in until moments before it struck. He started his 3rd cannon as soon as he realized the marines had pushed past the xel'naga tower. He pulled 6 probes because there was still a possibility this was just a very aggressive 1 rax scouting poke-- he didn't want to take an economic hit, so if there was no attack these 6 probes would become a maynard. He pulled additional probes quickly after Mvp moved up the ramp... but it was too late. The cannons fell by then, and so did the spirits of foreigner fans everywhere.
At this point I was feeling pretty solid. Mvp being up 2-0 meant that Naniwa would have to win 3 sets in a row without dropping a game. Although Mvp's 2 base tank play was torn up by Naniwa's superb control and impeccable macromanagement during set 3+ Show Spoiler +
, I still felt great. Mvp had this locked up and nailed down. All there was left to do was drop the hammer.
The audacity of cheese knows no bounds.
I believe this final set of the series was the most controversial of them all. Although Game 1 was an all-in, it was a 2-base tech all-in, not too different from the sort of +2 blinkstalker allin we see in ZvP or the 2 base Colossus play that used to be more common. I don't think anyone really cared about that one. Game 2 may have been excusable in the context of a larger series of non-cheese. After all, the Nexus First FFE is probably the greediest build in existence, and a blind cheese to punish the possibility of such a build isn't actually unreasonable. Even Game 3, the second 2-base tank all-in in the series, wasn't so bad. In fact, Mvp even lost because Antiga Shipyard doesn't reward Tank play quite as well as Cloud Kingdom does. No, I think what it really comes down to is Game 4.
You see, even the Game 2 cheese was a pretty normal TvP cheese-- the 3 rax cheese. It's hard to stop and it deserves to be mixed in. Mvp went to great lengths to hide it, and Naniwa didn't know what was coming until it was too late. That happens. Game 4, though, was something special. Mvp executed a proxy 11/11, and Naniwa scouted it before the barracks even completed. At that moment, the game should have been basically over. 11/11 isn't even that good against Protoss. Naniwa slapped down a 15 Gateway, which is a bit on the late side for a gateway but really isn't so bad. If there was ever a time a proxy 11/11 should fail, it should be when it is immediately scouted in a PvT by a mechanically skilled Protoss who laid down a 15 gateway. Somehow, though, it succeeded. It wasn't easy, but Mvp bunker rushed his way up the ramp and into the Protoss main, destroying first the Core, then the Gateway, and at last firing upon the nexus itself from within his bunker. He was relentless and brutal and he made a cheese that by any measure should not have worked succeed.
Watching Naniwa fruitlessly struggle against the power of the bunker cheese, though, I couldn't feel remorse, I couldn't feel panic or sadness as his cannon came up 1 hex too far to the left to defend the bunker cheese. All I felt was cruel, hideous pleasure. Adrenalin flowed through my veins. It was the middle of the night and I was wide awake. Mvp had won. He would proceed. He had used every tool at his disposal, every cheese, no matter how brutal. As it were, Mvp knows what I know.
"There is only one thing that matters, you guys."
All that matters is winning. All that matters is taking the crown. Sometimes that means macroing. Sometimes that means practicing and putting off your RSI surgery a month to play in the world's most prestigious tournament Sometimes, though, that means cheesing a guy who you know won't be prepared for it. Sometimes that means all-inning him 4 times in a row and watching him crack under the pressure.
Mvp doesn't apologize for who he is or what he does. He is a champion, and what he does is what is necessary to stay that way.
Semifinals -- On the Precipice
A clash of the titans.
Finally, the Semifinals were upon us. Mvp is the last Terran in the running, the final hope for another trophy for the strongest race. SuperNova and Taeja didn't just die; they died like punks. They both got 3-0ed, hard, in the face. Our final flagbearer, though, is our bravest of warriors, the greatest of his kind: our Mvp. His opponent, though, was ST_PartinG-- THE PartinG.I'm going to talk about this and I bring this up because it's important to contextualize exactly what was on the line and what was expected as Mvp went into the Ro4.
PartinG is kind of crazy good. If in October you asked a typical GSL Viewer who PartinG was, he'd reply by saying "huh? what? stop saying random words to me" because, in October, PartinG was just another guy playing the ESV TV Weekly. He then proceeded to show up in Code A during GSL November and beat TOP, Clide, and Killer, advancing directly to Code S for the 2012 GSL Season 1.
PartinG's skills are impressive and deserve introduction.
He then proceeded to make a mad deep Season 1 run. He busted through his Ro32 group, crushing Puzzle and NaDa. He had a bit of trouble in his Ro16 group, dropping a series to MC's incredible PvP but beating Jjakji very handily to go to the Ro8. In the Ro8, he was brutally crushed by DRG, but then again, DRG went on to win the whole tournament, so that's not so bad.
We are now in 2012 GSL Season 2, and this is PartinG's 3rd season, only his 2nd in Code S. He is clearly a player with great potential. But looking closely at his play, we see something more than that. People are beginning to take notice of this amazing player.
You don't get 70 replies and 8500 views unless your 1 gate FE is damn good.
PartinG isn't just any Protoss: he is an amazing macro player with superb control. He hasn't lost any PvTs that go past 25 minutes. Ever. He's cautious and once he has Storm, he does not lose. His ideas have worked their way into the metagame, showing Protosses how to be greedy and get away with it, and how to enter the endgame safely. Going into this match, PartinG was far and away the favorite. TvP was never Mvp's strongest matchup, and PartinG seemed untouchable.
That's part of what made Mvp's triumph so glorious. In the liquibet thread, there were a few of us, hardcore Mvp fans, who denied the inevitability of PartinG's victory. But this had moved beyond logic, or who should win, and had become something more. Mvp was my boy. Sometimes being a fan means supporting your player when the world is against you. Sometimes it means staying faithful in the face of dissention.
Now, you may have suspected Mvp of cheesing his way through this series. But that's not at all close to the truth. Mvp had better things to do. He opened up Game 1 standard as hell, and so did PartinG. However, PartinG got just a LITTLE bit greedy, and went for a tech switch from Colossus to HT a too quickly on 2 bases. Mvp perceived this and proceeded to pull scvs for an easy win.
Who says you can't pull workers after colossi are out?
As Mvp pulled those scvs, I felt the glory of the scv pull. As PartinG's army crumbled before him I snorted. I could barely contain my happiness. I suddenly realized I could feel my heart beating, that I was getting worked up over the first game victory of an Ro4 match in the GSL. I'm okay with being a nerd like that though. People will inevitably give Mvp some crap over the scv pull, but he clearly wasn't planning on all-inning, then saw an opportunity and just went for it. I'd honestly expect no less from a sharp-eyed champion like him .
Mvp vs PartinG Game 2 was something special. Game 2 is the analogue of Mvp vs Naniwa Game 4. I say this because Game 2 shouldn't have happened-- or at least, PartinG shouldn't have lost. As you know, the 1-1-1 all-in has gradually become deprecated. A combination of superior Protoss scouting and defense coupled with larger maps and the Immortal range buff have made it largely a relic. I can count on my left hand the number of successful 1-1-1 TvP all-ins I've watched on GSL during 2012. The incredibly skilled Protosses have mastered beating the 1-1-1, and PartinG opened with a 1 gate expand into 3 gates 1 robo, which is perfect for doing what needed to be done. The initial harassing banshee, in fact, got only a single kill (probably due to lack of cloak).
Retired, Extremely Dangerous.
The thing is, despite the fact that PartinG chose the correct response to Mvp's outdated all-in, Mvp somehow just heroed his way into out-executing PartinG. He ballered his way into PartinG's natural then badassed his way through the gateway/robo army and phoenixes. It was a blast from the past, and like the 11/11 that got scouted, shouldn't work in a modern game of TvP. 1/1/1 as an allin has been retired. But as we know, with Mvp all the rules get chucked out the windows. He's just too badass.
At about this point. I was furiously slamming my keyboard into the skype group I share with a few Sc2 friends, spamming "OH YE OF LITTLE FAITH" to all my Terran brothers who liquibetted that PartinG would win. I had a grin the size of Kansas plastered across my face. And I suppose plastered may have been the right word, as I poured myself a finger of whiskey to e-celebrate with my brothers-at-arms. The fact that it had been not just a cheese, but a cheese that ostensibly no longer works in the modern metagame just made it that much better. I aggressively predicted "Mvp 3-0 PartinG" and generally was pleased.
Game 3 was less than pleasing, however. Both players opened standard, and everything seemed pretty normal until Mvp made an enormous positioning blunder that instantly cost him the game.
Guys guys guys, where are we going??
And that's that. Even after this game, though, I was in high spirits. "Don't worry", I told my comrades-at-arms, "Mvp wins 3-1." However, some of them still would not believe. They believed PartinG's comeback would begin here. I knew better, however. The only thing that PartinG won for himself was a little bit of time. There was no fear, no cruel sadness preying upon me today. I knew Mvp would win. There was no question.
As game 4 began, I mentally pleaded with Mvp. "Just cheese him, man," I asked the Code S Terran. "Try that proxy 11/11 again! I don't care what you do, just win." In those moments, though, I realized that I had lost faith in Mvp. Those very words I thought were in support of him were apostasy incarnate. After all, Mvp is so skilled he doesn't NEED to cheese to win. He just does so when he wants. He doesn't care what people think, and he certainly doesn't care what I think. I relaxed, sat back, and enjoyed his 1 rax FE.
Standard. As. Hell.
You see, this was the best game of the series. Mvp was comfortable with an impromptu all-in Game 1, and even 1/1/1ed PartinG Game 2. For his 3rd win, though, he played what is by far the most standard game path for Terran in TvP: 1 Rax FE -> 3 Rax -> Starport -> take 3rd behind medivacs. This gameplay is so standard and old that even I know it. I've literally done the build and the stuff that Mvp did, and I do it all the time on the ladder. It's super standard, super normal.
And that's why it's so amazing how badly Mvp beat PartinG with it. He just loaded the shit he had lying around into his normally-timed medivacs, dropped it into his base, and proceed to unfetteredly dance all over PartinG's face. He didn't just beat PartinG, he beat him with the most standard of standard plays, and beat him so badly it looked like PartinG didn't even belong in the GSL. And this is really meaningful for me. I showed this to my friends and they were all flabbergasted. Everything they ever thought about Mvp's level of play relative to PartinG was shattered.
You see, if Mvp had won his late game with like a proxy Thor or some ridiculous bullshit, people might say he got lucky. Hell, if he opened 1 rax expo expo or went for a quick ghost push off 2 bases or something weird like that, people might still blame the build. But there is literally no build order more standard than what he did, right down to the timing of the 3rd and the scout factory. He brutalized PartinG, and he did it in a way that unequivocally confirms: Mvp deserves to be in these finals, and all y'all haters can get out.
The Finals -- Almost There
Mvp, we're almost there. Maybe it's because you're the last Terran. Maybe it's because you are utterly, totally unafraid to cheese. Maybe it's because you're NesTea's Joker. Maybe I just like you because you're the best Terran on LG-IM. Whatever the case is, I am your fan. You have my support. Your glory is the glory of the Terran race, and against all odds you are here at the final. Your path this season has been long and arduous, but you have never faltered. Even now, staring at your destiny, you are unafraid.
I want you to prove them all wrong. All the people who smugly liquibetted for NaNiWa, or PartinG, or Squirtle-- sure, those people-- but really, I want you to crush the whiners. I've seen a lot of QQ in my time, but the one thing I could be proud of as a Terran player was that we didn't whine about balance. We were the imba race. Somehow, it seems we've become a bunch of whiny Zerg and Protoss players who just happen to choose Terran at the race pick screen. Prove them all wrong, Mvp.
I suppose things have gotten a bit long, now. That's how it can be with these fan blogs, I guess. I know people are talking about Squirtle's winning streak or whatever, but what they forgot to take into account is how WRONG They are. Mvp is going to crush Squirtle 4-0 and it's not even going to be a series. People will leave it saying "wow another lame GSL Final" because of how brutally he will be crushed. There will not be another Protoss champion.
Mvp, you will prevail.
This is part of Blazinghand's Blog Series covering The GSL. If you enjoyed this article, check out his articles on Mvp and NesTea's Flanking Tactics or Hack's Progamer Pride.