PartinG vs MarineKing
The first match of the round of eight featured two players that had a long and bitter history between each other, which was centered around their controversial GSL match. In a fateful game on Entombed Valley, both players showed some of the best play they had to offer in a long macro war. As PartinG looked like he was in a position to take the game, MarineKing abruptly disconnected, which ended up leading to a re-game that the Terran ended up winning. As their series started, MarineKing lagged for a few seconds. Whether this was an omen of another controversial series, or simply just MarineKing’s computer lagging behind slightly… actually, I’m fairly sure it was the latter.
PartinG set out to end the first game as soon as possible, choosing a proxy oracle leading into a four-gate, void ray all in against MarineKing’s CC first. However, MarineKing managed to hold with minimal losses despite choosing possibly the greediest build he could have thought of (he started his first refinery some time around 6:15), using good unit and bunker positioning. PartinG tried another 1 base allin on Catallena, but his proxy immortal-based four gate eventually fell flat against MarineKing’s 3 barracks + stim transition out of another CC first due to poor engagements.
Down 2-0 and playing on King Sejong Station, PartinG elected to go for what looked to be another one base play, as he ran a probe below his main in order to hide a twilight council. Unfortunately, his probe narrowly missed two proxy barracks that MarineKing had set up, and he had no idea about what was coming until the first bunker in his main was nearly half done. MarineKing pulled most of his SCVs in order to maintain repairing on his bunkers and PartinG slowly lost his main nexus, and with it, the game, leading to a 3-0 victory for the MVP terran.
Zest vs Soulkey
Soulkey recently advanced 4-0 from his mostly terran group, defeating sKyHigh and Flash 2-0 with aggressive and decisive play, and game one of his series against Zest displayed a continuation of this. Soulkey immediately opened up with a 14/14 against Zest’s passive nexus/gateway opening, and added on a baneling nest in order to try to defeat Zest outright. However, Zest managed to keep both of his bases intact, although he lost about half of his probes, and Soulkey was forced to back off and take his natural and third. However, he managed to claw back into the game by ensuring that Zest never made it across the map using his remaining zerglings and banelings to constantly threaten an attack while he built up a heavy drone count. Eventually, he flooded Zest’s third base attempt with mass zergling/roach while constantly backstabbing with attacks in the natural and main and took the first game.
In game two, Zest attempted to adjust to Soulkey’s aggressive play by opening phoenixes and taking his third base after he got a colossus out. This ended up working fairly well, as Soulkey went for more passive play at first. When Soulkey tried to go for aggression with 35+ zerglings after taking some economic damage from the phoenixes, there was no third base to deny and Zest was well prepared on two bases. After passive play from both sides, Soulkey attempted to seize the initiative by successfully killing multiple void rays and colossi for free with a large mutalisk/corrupter cloud. Zest took this as a cue to attack, and after an extremely strange base trade, Zest very narrowly came out on top to take the second map.
So far, Soulkey had shown two excellent macro games against one of the best protoss players. In an attempt to stop the game from getting to that point, Zest tried a two base blink all in. While Soulkey saw everything happening, he was not able to stop it and fell behind 1-2. In the fourth game, Zest successfully cannon rushed the natural expansion and the third base of Soulkey. While he hadn’t lost much and allowed his opponent to complete 6 pylons and three cannons that would be useless for the rest of the game, Soulkey elected to all-in immediately with banelings and zerglings, but Zest caught the banelings morphing and managed to reinforce his wall long enough to force a GG, securing a 3-1 win.
Day Two Preview
sOs vs INnoVation
With the arrival of the #dreampool, nostalgia seems to have settled into some aspects of the pro scene, creating a variety of interesting matches in both the distant past and the present. MarineKing made an unexpected return, riding a wave of defeated protoss players as well as passable TvT and TvZ, in order to face PartinG in a rematch one of the most decorated rivalries in Starcraft II history. Soulkey tried to recreate his 2013 form in order to earn himself a match with the best protoss of the year, who he is 0-7 in series against. sKyHigh and Bbyong, both long-time brood war veterans with wildly different backgrounds, create a potentially wild team-kill TvT to help round out the bracket.
However, sOs and INnoVation, while both being consistently high-level players over the past two years, are only connected in one way: their WCS 2013 Season 1 finals. What happened there? INnoVation, on a massive win streak, crushed sOs 4-0 despite a powerful tempest-based strategy in game 4. This match, in many peoples’ eyes, defines their entire history with each other. Ignore the other four matches they have played (sOs won two of those) and any matchup-related issues either of them might have had. sOs, a player that is famously inventive and usually has a rabbit to pull out of his hat, was weak against one of the most mechanical, gimmick-less, strong macro players to ever play the game during a period where both of them were playing near their peak performance.
sOs quickly became a code S fixture in 2013 through innovative builds, which ended up contributing a major part to how Protoss viewed PvZ specifically. His advantage in the GSL was a vast array of builds, any one of which he could use at any time to great effect, before his opponents caught on and started figuring them out. During his peak in early 2013, he took this play style all the way to the finals of Season 1 before losing to INnoVation. However, he found difficulty against terran players in every form at this point. On the way to the finals of WCS Season 1, sOs took a discouraging loss to ForGG. In WCS Season 2, he was knocked out by Maru.
After his Starleague loss, sOs beat almost no notable terrans, save his excellent blizzcon performance, for the rest of the year. However, in 2014, he would attempt to turn around his PvT woes with consecutive wins against jjakji and TaeJa in the $100,000 IEM tournament. However, he scarcely got another opportunity to prove his PvT, as the next four months pitted him almost exclusively against a gauntlet of powerful zergs and protoss players. In that time, he played 18 games against protoss, 27 against zerg, and only 9 games against terrans (including a 1-3 loss to Dayshi). Between that particular sequence of games and the Hot6ix cup, sOs’s only games against terran consist of him beating up Reality, who has weak TvP, and losing a Proleague game against Flash.
sOs’s occasional flashes of excellent play against Terran remind us that he is still unproven in the matchup. Simultaneously, sOs has far fewer matches played against terran, so he will be an unknown all the way until the finals. While he has won most of his recent PvTs, they have been against question marks like Heart, Reality, and Miso, players that are not close to the caliber of the remaining terran players.
An INnoVative title
Two months ago, INnoVation became the fourth person to defeat soO in the Grand Finals of the GSL, claiming a title that should have been his 16 months earlier. Against Soulkey, INnoVation took a commanding 3-0 lead, but eventually threw it away in the form of disadvantageous build orders and medivacs. However, despite losing the first two games to soO in similar fashion, INnoVation managed to beat him 4-2 with proxies and macro games. Although some of the reason of INnoVation’s comeback can be attributed to soO mentally crumbling, his composure was significantly improved despite having full information against an all-in and still losing in one of the games.
However, INnoVation is still susceptible to crumbling in unusual, high pressure situations. Against TaeJa in Blizzcon, technical difficulties originating from a keyboard malfunction delayed the second game in the series, where INnoVation was in a losing position, by an hour. This may have ultimately led to a loss for INnoVation, as he played at a worse level in the following games, eventually losing 1-3. Against herO in the RO16, he lost fairly convincingly at first. In his post-match interview, he explained that his initial loss was due to nervousness and failing to adjust his monitor properly. If INnoVation has no technical problems, he’ll need to make sure that sOs’s unusual play style does not cause him to tilt.
INnoVation’s current TvP is hard to decipher. Besides his games in the group stage, INnoVation has not played a TvP since September, where he eked out extremely close wins over PartinG and Stats in Code S but lost 2-0 to MyuNgSiK in the WECG qualifier. In the Hot6iX group stage, his wins over Stats and herO were not as convincing as he might have liked; Stats gifted two armies away and herO played like a different player compared to their first series, so few conclusions can actually be drawn from those games.
Both players are vastly unexplored in this matchup and the result could be 3-0 either way or a close 3-2. However, I’m going to have to give INnoVation an edge. In game, INnoVation is has seemed better equipped to deal with the strange, low eco scenarios that he has been put into compared to sOs, and he is a stronger macro player. However, sOs could be very deadly depending on the situation.
sOs 1-3 INnoVation
Bbyong vs sKyHigh
CJ Entus is a very interesting team to follow. From their musical antics to an active twitter, they are an extremely visible and unique team. Even though none of their players ever really individually stood out in terms of personality or excellent play, they were able to come together and become a high-level, high-personality team. Eventually, their players started showing their individual selves as the top four proleague team became less focused on the korean team league. EffOrt retired for family and military reasons. Hydra and GuMiho went their separate ways, taking wildly different paths as they prepared for 2015. herO continued to be a individual league threat, taking a second place at KeSPA cup, as well as a top four finish in Dreamhack Stockholm. Sora continued to threaten the top players at the replacement tournament of WCG.
The Sky Also Rises
sKyHigh, out of everyone on his team, remains a complete unknown. He is not a globally recognized player compared to many of his teammates, nor is he expected to drop out of the qualifiers of every tournament he enters. Yet, he seems to be doing just that. After his victories over players such as Maru, Classic, and Flash on the way to the round of 8, he can no longer be ignored in the grand scheme of things. As one of the major upsets of the tournament, sKyHigh has proven what his hopeful fans have expected several times over. However, his other tournament results have not told anywhere near the same story. sKyHigh, praised for his stellar TvT in this tournament, lost 0-2 to SuperNova in the Homestory Cup qualifiers as well as TY early in the WECG qualifiers.
Admittedly, his runs in these qualifiers weren’t bad at all. Most of his losses come from high-level players such as Stats, Solar, and Super, while he beat a wide variety of protoss and zerg players. However, many of the series he wins are 2-1, suggesting he hasn’t found a way to go on a sizable win streak yet. He went 0-3 in his RO16 group here before managing to put together four wins in a row against Classic and Flash, an action that deserves its fair share of recognition.
While sKyHigh looked very strong in macro TvTs against Flash, it’s hard to gauge exactly how good one is at a matchup based on two games. Outside of the Hot6iX cup, he hasn’t taken a single TvT game since mid-August, and it’s impossible to know if his 2-1 against Reality and 2-0 against Maru in the qualifiers are actually worth anything, considering MarineKing also 2-0’d Maru. Still, with no games to analyze outside of those most recent two, he is reasonably expected to put on a repeat performance.
Bbyong cruised into the RO8 of the Hot6iX cup riding on the roof of a medivac, kicked back in a fancy chair and sipping lemonade. Using almost exclusively drop-heavy, macro-oriented play, he crushed both PartinG and Zest 2-0, having the easiest path to the RO8. More notably, his strategy appeared to be something cooked up by CJ’s sKyHigh. In fact, sKyHigh used almost exactly the same strategy against Classic in his group in order to take two straight games off of him. In his post-match interview, Bbyong claimed that he was testing himself by trying out sKyHigh’s build order and that he had been having a lot of difficulty against protoss; additionally, Bbyong also said that there was more to show. These statements, taken together, suggest that Bbyong is extremely scary at taking whatever style he finds to be appropriate and executing it at the right time.
This match will be a curious one for him, as TvT looks to be his current weakest matchup. Admittedly, this isn’t saying much with his recent performances against top protoss players as well as several strong zergs. Either way, it is unlikely he will play a spontaneous game here with so much preparation time and knowledge of his opponent; there’s an excellent chance he will have planned out the entire series going into the booth.
Since neither of them have shown more than one good TvT series in the previous months, it’s tempting to immediately pick the player that defeated Flash 2-0. However, team-kills are often more about mind games and build orders than solid play, and Bbyong’s style is generally to be able to execute anything he feels ready to use, no matter how ridiculous it seems. Such antics could take sKyHigh off-guard and lead to a very different series than expected. Still, sKyHigh should be aware of most of what Bbyong has to offer. One never knows…
sKyHigh 3-1 Bbyong