Aquatic Bird Opens - February 2019 Report
Light told me he wouldn’t let me ask his hot cousin to be my valentine.
February marked a few changes. While the usual suspects like Johnathan, Nemesis and mLty returned for SDO #52, SDO #53 allowed for relative newcomers, MajorSpaniel and EmBánGiày, to shine making it to the Losers' Finals and Grand Finals respectively.
mLty would then claim his third SDO championship that week. Though he’s usually one with an aura of unstoppability, thanks in no small part to his aggressive style, for the first time in a while EmBánGiày made him look mortal, stopping his aggression right in its tracks, bringing the series right to the ace.
EmBánGiày would have his time the following week with SDO #54, becoming the first Terran SDO champion since Porosha won SDO #44 in November. EBG beat Sunokasuri during the Grand Finals in a rematch, with their previous encounter ending in a 2-0 victory for Suno. Double elimination’s pretty good.
Sea Duckling Open Monthly Stats
MSO #12 had plenty of opportunity thanks to the notable absence of regular and top player, Salivanth. In the ensuing race to the top, two players distinguished themselves, German Zerg player, Xil and Australian Protoss player, Saxy. Hey kinda like Salivanth.
Both players reached the Finals dropping only a single map in mirror match-ups, with both of them possessing a certain amount of clutch factor with Xil’s Ling/Bane positioning and Saxy’s last second Blink Stalker micro. In the end Saxy proved that he had more than just a country and in-game race in common with Salivanth, and coming in as last month’s runner-up after an 0-3 loss to Sal, Saxy took his first MSO championship after doing the same to Xil.
Biggest change of this month though is the announcement that SDO and MSO will now be biweekly, alternating each week. This change brings more opportunities for Masters players to compete (looking at you Volt) instead of having to wait an entire month between each shot at a championship. This also brings about more Masters players to look out for and feature in each report.
Speaking of which, Light is also telling me to consider having each report in seasons lasting about six weeks instead of every month for more data to work with. Also this means that categories will be split between SDO and MSO. Sound like a good idea to me personally, still needs a name though.
Also, also. Time for the awards for this month.
Aquatic Bird Monthly Awards
Terran Of The Month: EmBánGiày
Runner-up: not even close
While February had a fair share of Terran sign ups, there was only one contender for Terran of the Month, the first Terran champion since Porosha back in November, EmBánGiày.
EBG was our pick last month too, but for his skill he had one weakness that kept him from winning a championship, his nerves. EBG would tell us that when playing in Bo5s, he’d let his nerves get the better of him whenever his opponent was on match point. In addition to his self-doubts when playing his weaker match-ups on any given day.
All that changed with SDO #53 when he reached the Finals for the first time. Though mLty would get the better of him then, one fateful game would permanently change his mindset. Game 2, where mLty was up 2-0 thanks to Winners' Bracket advantage, EBG held his Bane bust all-in and kept himself in the series.
No longer afraid, even when down 2-0, EBG resolved to keep calm to the very end, and brought it with him the following week to become the first Terran SDO champion in over three months.
Zerg Of The Month: mLty
Speaking of resolutions, following the January report mLty told us that it was time for him to step it up after noticing his runner-up position for Zerg of the Month.
And it shows, reaching the finals of every SDO he signed up for, picking up his third championship, and finally getting the better of his nemesis, Nemesis. Twice actually.
While Sunokasuri came close, being a contender for most entertaining player (if that wasn’t exclusive to CranKy Team League award ceremonies so Yaku can win something for once) and reaching the finals of every SDO she signed up for as well, their paths in SDO #53 and SDO #54 though eerily similar had one major difference. Both players faced EmBánGiày in the Winners' Finals, both players won those series but when it came to the rematch, mLty won his and Suno didn’t.
That and well, you know, 2:2 and 1:1 may be the same ratio but one is greater than the other. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Protoss Of The Month: Nemesis
Runner-ups: Johnathan, MajorSpaniel
And so the cycle returns to not that many Protoss sign-ups compared to the other races, or at least Protoss not having a single player that stands above the rest and is as impressive as the other two races.
That said, Nemesis has been as reliable as always, making it to the Losers' Finals twice and falling just short of it only once.
Though Johnathan and MajorSpaniel were able to make it further once, this category is more for consistency and Nemesis, the gatekeeper of championship, with multiple deep runs and regular sign ups is almost synonymous with the term.
The Underduck Award: Johnathan
When Johnathan first signed up for SDO, he was Plat 2-ish at the time, but still able to make the high Diamond contenders work for their wins. Towards the end of 2018, Johnathan cornered the previous Best Non-Diamond of the Month award until hitting Diamond 3 at the end of November.
By the time February came around, Johnathan was promoted once again to Diamond 2, but since he was never able to make a deep run, with his two weeklies before SDO #52 ending in the second round against mLty and EmBánGiày.
Despite his new ranked division, his reputation as that one Platinum player made him underestimated, at the cost of his opponents and awe of the viewers.
He swarmed Yakuzaku with well upgraded gateway units, put Nemesis on the back foot and even knew how to hold mLty’s aggression if the execution was just a little off.
There’s always something in watching the growth of a player, and with his first Finals appearance, Johnathan has grown into a player who going forward should be considered an underduck no more.
Best SDO Series: mLty vs EmBánGiày (SDO #53 Grand Finals)
Honorable Mentions: Sunokasuri vs EmBánGiày (SDO #54 Winners' Finals), Sunokasuri vs EmBánGiày (SDO #54 Grand Finals)
mLty’s approach to tournament matches goes something like this: all out aggression from the start of the game until his opponent can hold it. It’s a very effective style and very much how he won his second SDO championship without dropping a map. One would think that a trade-off to this is that if his opponent knows how to hold, then that’s the end. The truth is more like, kind of.
While holding the all-in is a guaranteed win, it’s only a guarantee for that one game, and mLty has proven that he knows how to utilise other styles in Bo3+ series’. So his opponent for this series, EmBánGiày would prove to be his final, most difficult test.
After using his signature aggression to bring the series to match point, EBG had no choice but to defend. Much more prepared this time with a bunker on the high ground, one mistake could still mean disaster and between Hellions caught outside the wall and more than a couple of Bane-busts, the calls were way too close. With well-thought out Sim-city however, EBG held wave after wave after wave losing as little workers as his control would allow, and mLty who had been tunnel visioned for too long was forced to call GG.
Now confirming his opponent’s ability to hold his aggression, mLty completely switched gears, playing a more greedy, passive style. Though EBG’s initial Banshee opening was deflected, the Terran player knew better than to let his opponent get comfortable and started harassing anywhere he saw an opening.
These drops did little to hinder mLty’s economy, but it did give EBG scouting information, buy him time and less tangibly, stretched mLty’s attention to its absolute limits. Even from a viewer’s perspective you could tell, mLty’s thoughts kept getting disrupted to the point where he was initiating fights with less than ideal unit compositions, perhaps believing he had units he hadn’t made yet.
Both players pushed and over-extended, but in the game-deciding battle, mLty engaged EBG’s Bio-Viking army with his Corruptor/Broodlord/Hydra composition, only realising that Vipers were missing when it was too late, and EBG pushed through the creep mLty spread to every edge of the map to bring the series to the ace-match.
Finally on the ace-match, EBG continued to show a mass-harass style with drops and Liberators, going for the strategy of killing him before he gets Broodlords. But mLty this map would prove that EBG’s harass was no match for his own macro teching to Broodlords anyway.
Learning from his mistakes in the previous game, mLty spent less on Hydras, opting for more Ling/Bane and remembering to get Vipers. After what seemed like a costly but ultimately successful trade for EBG, the GG button was prepared to claim a new Terran champion, but mLty would prove this was merely a single step in his plan, instantly remaxing on Lings and catching EBG’s moving army on creep before pushing all the way and taking the whole tournament.
In a close series with closer games, EBG was able to make his mark as *the* Terran player to watch out for and mLty was able to join the ranks of players like Ruiyichi and Lumiya as a fellow three-time SDO champion.
Best MSO Series: Saxy vs Xil (MSO #12 Finals)
Honorable Mentions: Xil vs mLty (MSO #12 Semifinals), Saxy vs AtomicTNT (MSO #12 Semifinals), Saxy vs Cerdoken (MSO #12 Quarterfinals)
With the absence of Salivanth, players who faced him and knew how scary he was were reinvigorated, struck with a flash of passion, knowing that this was their time.
In what was perhaps the shortest MSO yet, clocking in at around three and a half hours including breaks, most of the series’ casted were short 2-0s, with even the 2-1 semifinal result of Saxy vs AtomicTNT consisting of individual one-sided games.
On paper, Saxy vs Xil seems like the same story, a quick 3-0 to round off a short tournament, but when this series lasted about one third of the entire broadcast, I had to reconsider.
Though the start of the series would indicate more of the same, with Saxy swiftly punishing Xil’s greed with a quick Chargelot build. This was more a warm-up for Xil however, who proceeded to do the same, but much better, in Game 2.
Though Saxy switched up his build this time, Xil was far more prepared nonetheless, and after deflecting Saxy’s harass, got to a comfortable three base economy before denying Saxy’s third and getting a scary Ling/Bane/Hydra army with Lurkers. But this was when Saxy would prove himself the better at positioning, after avoiding Lurkers to snipe a Xil’s third and making use of Hallucinations for a buffer, the game evolved into a stalemate not dissimilar to that of TvT, with Xil’s Lurkers facing off against Saxy’s army.
But as any good TvT players know, if you sense a stalemate could go on, you go for a drop. Saxy knew this well enough, harassing Xil’s main, going for key snipes and spreading his opponent thin while the army he’d been continuing to produce pushed into Xil’s side of the map at every angle.
With Saxy now on match point, Xil remembered that one build that’s really effective against Protoss, La Cucaracha. Saxy who despite being caught off-guard was still confident in the effectiveness of his Adept/Immortal army, but with each concave Xil got, Saxy was losing ground. That’s when Saxy himself remembered that one unit that has the potential to be really effective against Roach/Ravager, a unit that based on previous matches seemed like his signature, the Disruptor.
With each Purification Nova shaving off a sizable chunk of Xil’s army, Xil knew his window was gone, and fell back to defending his bases while sending Ling runbys, of which Saxy would respond with his own Adept harass. Both players now kept in a perpetual state of low economy, Xil had to find a way to take efficient trades against Saxy, opting to bait him into Lurkers, which worked for a while before Saxy realised how ahead he was.
After building up his army for a while, Saxy made one final push into Xil’s base, and with his unique style, proved that he was more than just a shadow of Salivanth, but an MSO champion in his own right.
Player Of The Month: EmBánGiày
The cool thing about having a tournament and then getting someone to keep reports on them is the ability to watch the growth of players and how they evolve over time.
EmBánGiày came in towards the end of January where he already proved himself a noteworthy player, reaching the semifinals of his first SDO after only playing what he considered to be his worst match-up, TvP.
In February, EBG after learning much from his previous tournament run would declare that TvZ was now his weakest match-up, but beyond his weakness’ in individual match-ups, his biggest weakness was not as easy to overcome, his nerves, especially when down in a series.
While it would seem that all it took was one single map to start overcoming his weakness, context matters. In the Grand Finals of SDO #53, EBG was already down 2-0, against mLty who had previously reverse swept him to make it as the first finalist, all would weigh down on any player. So holding against mLty’s aggression to keep himself in the series was the only sign that he needed to tell him he could do it.
Even if he didn’t crack the championship that week, EBG showcased how he could play of unhindered, with a drop-heavy harass style which made me worried about my own bias before Light told me that he agreed with EBG as Player of the Month.
More importantly, with a new change in mindset, EBG knew he had it in him not to make history repeat itself. With his opponent in the grand finals of SDO #54 Sunokasuri first sweeping him in the Winners' Finals and then getting up to match point, the EBG from January may well have crumbled under the pressure, but this was a new EBG.
Keeping his composure to the very end, EBG knew that so long as he could play his game, he could still be a champion and with Suno calling GG on the final map, EBG proved his theory correct, becoming the first Terran champion in three months.
Watching the growth of a player is always something special, and watching a player evolve as drastically as EmBánGiày in a matter of weeks is simply spectacular.
Writing: Yakuzaku | Proofreading: Light_VIP & Steelmold | Editing: Kuro
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