The Stuff of Champions
Table of Contents
Strategy vs Mechanics
Strategy vs Mechanics Top
It's hard to follow the GSL without knowing about Mvp and NesTea. These LG-IM players hold between the two of them seven GSL trophies-- they've been competitive players since the beginning. Even in times of balance whine and blizzard nerfs, they represent their respective races with passion, bringing home the cup countless times. They have their streaks and slumps, adding drama. NesTea took the crown without losing a game in July, then "slumped" by getting eliminated in the Ro16 and Ro32 recently (he was back in Code S by season end, of course). Mvp crushed with his hilarious TvP run last season and had a slump of his own, all the way down to in Code A last year. They are always near the top, though, whether they're winning or losing.
An unmodified press photo of the two champions.
Fans will tell you that Mvp and NesTea post less entertaining results at foreign events. Sure, Mvp will win an event or show up in a finals here or there, and NesTea makes his fair share of deep runs-- but something's missing in their overseas event play. People chalk it up to a lack of endurance coupled with jetlag, as well as these players having a distinctive playstyle. You see, the IM Champions are masters of analysis and preparation. In fact, it explains why both of them are strongest in the mirror matchup. Give Mvp (or Nestea) a week to analyze your style (typical for GSL bracket play) and he will brutally crush you in a mirror series. Beyond the basic mechanics needed to control armies, TvT is a matchup that hinges a lot of decisionmaking, both at a macro and micro level. Entire wars are fought over tank positions, catching players unsieged, or even the perfect stim attack that hits at an unsafe part of a build order. ZvZ is the ultimate extension of the larvae mechanic, with most of the early game being dictated by players' larvae allocations-- a single larva, a single drone or zergling pair, can make the difference between winning or losing on the spot.
Pictured: One Larva making the difference.
That isn't to say these guys are at the ceiling of mechanical skill and all that matters is strategy. The mirror images to Mvp and NesTea are arguably the most famous and stylistic players of their respective races, and in my mind the real rivals for both IM Champions: MarineKingPrime and MVPDongRaeGu. MKP and DRG represent the "other" playstyle, one that exemplifies superior mechanics. This isn't to say that MKP and DRG don't have amazing strategies prepared (they do) or that NesTea and Mvp don't have amazing mechanics (they do). What's clear is that two of these players are stronger strategically and two of them are stronger mechanically. It's the reason MKP and DRG roll face at MLG but, despite making deep runs in GSL, never close it out as well or often as Mvp and NesTea regularly do. The format for MLG favors exemplary mechanics, and the format for GSL favors spending a week perfecting your TvP mass BC build for Metropolis that literally nobody has seen before.
Pictured: Mvp doing his thang.
NesTea's Foresight Top
A microcosm of how the two playstyles differ is found in the 2012 GSL Season 1 Code S Ro16 Group D games between NesTea and DRG. For those of us who don't remember, this was the Group of Death with NesTea, DRG, MKP, and Genius. Yeah. That Group. So, the first series was between NesTea and DRG. After a nail-biting first two games, we come upon a final game on Antiga Shipyard. NesTea busts out a 10 pool speedling attack. DRG holds it with his 15 hatch , and Nestea executes a move that makes me metaphorically crap my pants.
Due to the timing of the larvae cycles, DRG is about to have more speedlings than NesTea, and will be able to push him back to his base. NesTea, anticipating not only this speedling production, but the burst of production he'll get from a larvae inject (since he's on 1 hatch, 1 queen vs DRG's 2 hatches, 0 queens), starts a baneling nest and peels 4 zerglings off into DRG's third as he pushes into DRG's nat, masking a baneling flank that won't take place for another 90 seconds. In ling-bane ZvZ, 90 seconds is a lifetime, an epoch, an eternity.
Pictured: NesTea's foresight.
As NesTea predicts, with perfect precision, DRG's lings come out, forcing him back until his spawn-larvae lings appear, and then he chases DRG back out onto the map. DRG has no overlords in the area outside his own natural. The baneling nest finishes and the four banelings finish. The four banelings step out directly into the path of all of DRG's lings. DRG has a split second to react to the blips on his minimap. If, at this point, I told you he lost his army, nobody who hadn't seen the series would doubt me. DRG didn't lose his army, though. In that fraction of a second, he split his speedlings and flowed around the banelings, escaping to the protection of his spine crawlers. DRG's ultimate mechanics countered NesTea's ultimate tactics. In the space of a split second, the very core, the soul of the glorious struggle between these two players was laid bare before all, and the casters couldn't stop screaming.
+ Show Spoiler [some screen caps of the action] +
This intense planning and brilliant strategy of NesTea, pitted against the unstoppable mechanics and indomitable will of DRG, made for a great series. Whether you're a fan of NesTea's brilliant style or DRG's superb control, it's moments like these that define our favorite pros, and bring out their flaws and their virtues.
Mvp's Flank Top
I think we each felt differently about the conclusion of the 2012 GSL Season 2 Code S Finals. If you haven't seen it yet, do so here before reading further. You should watch it first for two reasons: one, I'd hate to spoil it for you, and two, it's a damned good series. Drama, Action, Comedy, Romance-- it's amazing. The final game was really something else (for better and for worse), and I think after that play-by-play of NesTea's flank, Mvp deserves a little time too.
Mvp, like NesTea, was backed into a corner, in the final game of an important series. Like NesTea, he chose a cheese build that led to a very micro-intensive early game. Unlike NesTea, however, he wasn't playing a player known for legendary control. Stay your blades, friends! Squirtle, of course, is an exemplary player. His strategies and mechanics are top-notch, making him one of the best Protosses in the world. He was on his way to a Code S championship during his debut season. This guy was no lightweight-- and so eyebrows were raised as Mvp's BO for game 7 became apparent. Very raised.
In This Picture: Mvp presents his solution to the Protoss Deathball.
When Mvp is forced to pull back after Squirtle fends off his initial bunker pressure, he realizes he'll need an edge in the inevitable battle at his proxied raxes. Against a zealot and 2 stalkers, you need an impossibly perfect engage to prevent the protoss from retreating and trading stalker shield for marine life. Having lost a couple scvs and several marines, Mvp is in a tight spot in the final game of the finals of the most prestigious Sc2 tournament in the world. Squirtle is now stable and ahead 14 probes to 8. It would seem the 11/11 cheese has failed-- all hope for Mvp is lost. But the crafty Terran has one final trick in his bag: he sets up a flank, and he does it just like NesTea did.
Marines go south, away from the Rax.
Squirtle finally has enough gateway units to move out and attack or maybe camp Mvp's proxied rax. Mvp takes the 4 marines he has out on the map, and rather than combining them with the units coming out of his rax, he sends them to the south, away from his production. He rallies his rax northwards, building up marines behind them. As Squirtle moves out to engage the production facilities, Mvp draws him forwards, then flanks from the south with his 4 marines, picking off 2 of Squirtle's 3 units. There is no room to micro-- even for a player as skilled as Squirtle. The jaws of fate clamp shut about him, and wolf down 4 of his 6 precious army food. Without his crucial gateway units, the ST Protoss crumbles under the continued pressure.
Getting your stalkers outmaneuvered by Marines is sad times ;(((
Maybe DRG would have microed his way out. Maybe he would have avoided the situation altogether. Maybe he wouldn't have even made the finals (which was the case, that season). Maybe this sort of move is the least-discussed thing on any Starcraft Strategy forum. How many articles on build orders, compositions, and micro have you read without learning something like this? Maybe this is obvious-- maybe it wins GSLs nonetheless.
Maybe this is luck.
Maybe, though, this is the stuff of champions.
This is part of Blazinghand's Blog Series covering The GSL. If you enjoyed this article, check out his articles on Mvp's Path to the Finals in GSL 2012 Season 2 or Hack's Progamer Pride.