2019 Cranky Events Season 3: Steppes of War
Sea Duckling Open #58-#60 | Master Swan Open #16-#18
Light told me he won’t sponsor my new motherboard.
We’ve almost come full circle, after ZvZ Duckling Open in the early days, to P Duckling Open, we’ve come to Open TvTD(uckling). Those are awful, scrap ‘em.
The Terran apocalypse swept through the CranKy tournaments, each with their own horsemen. XenoBlaze led the charge in SDO, with his back to back SDO championships crushing his underdog status. By his side were AionLeader, who denied him the three-peat and eventually won SDO #60, PotatoPleb, an SDO regular who briefly switched to Protoss before switching back and placing 2nd in SDO #60, and Tsuneo, another regular who managed to finish in the semi-finals of SDO #58. Not to be confused with SunoKasarino.
MSO wasn’t spared either, with even more Terran representation. Not only did we have three different Terran champions in XPA, Emin and Cerdoken, we also had two runner ups in PanFuncio and TerranLord, with Voltacus and the previously mentioned PotatoPleb and AionLeader managing to break into the Semifinals.
Against the onslaught of humans, Protoss and Zerg contenders had to stand out, carrying the banners of Aiur and the Overmind.
Ravenflames in SDO #58 proved to be a worthy challenger, managing to take out Xenoblaze in the upper bracket Finals, but fell after a hard fought match in the Grand Finals rematch just one map shy of victory.
Not one, but three Protoss players would challenge XenoBlaze the next SDO, but all of them were crushed under his heel. Nemesis put up some resistance, taking a map with a Chargelot rush before finding herself outfoxed by XenoBlaze’s contain. XenoDactyl showed promise, planning to turn the tables and be the aggressor, but XenoBlaze proved to be just as adept at defense. After pulling off a bit of an upset, beating XenoDactyl in the lower bracket Finals, StarDuck was hyped up as his final challenger, only to be swept 3-0 after one of the most intense of slugfests on the final map.
Almost all non-Terran resistance was crushed by SDO #60. With as many Terran players as the other two races combined and almost all of them knocked out in the first few rounds, this time it was Korean new-comer AionLeader taking the championship after beating XenoBlaze and PotatoPleb.
2019 Season 3 Stats - Sea Duckling Open #58-#60
MSO continued the Terran domination right out the gate with the top four players all being Terran in MSO #16. A special MSO casted by Light_VIP and Yakuzaku, while Kuro stepped out of the background, as is the tradition for tournaments number 16. She managed to place in the top 8 before being beaten by Voltacus, who in turn forfeited to eventual champion, XPA. XPA became the third player to win more than one MSO and first back to back MSO champion after perhaps the shortest tournament we’ve had.
XPA looked poised to make the three-peat the following MSO, but in the Quarterfinals it was fellow German Terran and close friend of his, Emin who took him out 2-1. Making it to the Finals from the other side of the bracket was three-time SDO Zerg champion, mLty. Making it to his first MSO Finals, mLty carried the hope of the Zerg race and looked to start a new reign of terror similar to his SDO dominance. But ultimately, he perished before Emin who became the fourth player to win more than one MSO.
After it seemed like the Terran players cannibalised one another in both the upper and lower brackets of MSO #18, TerranLord emerged as the first finalist, and made it look like we’d get our fifth two-time MSO champion. Instead it was a newcomer Cerdoken, who got his revenge on Lord 3-2 by taking advantage of his weakness in the early game, winning his first Duckling title.
2019 Season 3 Stats - Master Swan Open #16-#18
With this much Terran representation, it seemed that we were coming to a new era, from having mostly Zerg players, to mostly Protoss, Terran players were now taking their revenge, denying a championship for the other races 6 weeks in a row. But this also made those Zerg and Protoss championship contenders stand out more. Time to take a look at some of them.
Aquatic Bird Awards
SDO Terran Of The Season: XenoBlaze
Honourable mentions: AionLeader, PotatoPleb
An Underduck no more! After XenoBlaze made it to the finals of MSO #15, we expected him to win an SDO fairly soon. What we didn’t expect was for him to win two SDOs back to back and cement himself as not only the Terran King of the Hill, but also the most dominant SDO player in a good while.
An extremely versatile player, XenoBlaze has showcased some of his proficiency in almost every stage of the game. Whether he’s defending in the early game, trying to win in the mid game with a timing attack, or amassing a powerful late game army, Xeno’s superior macro and army control has seen him overpower his opponents time and time again.
Whether he tries to be a show man or not, Xeno’s “Overkill” Mech style was an absolute treat to watch. Characterised by almost mono-battling with very few supporting units, the barrage of sieged Tank fire, light show of Liberators or inferno of Hellbats could only bring the slightest smile to even the most diehard Bio-Terran faces.
Though Ravenflames proved that gods can bleed, XenoBlaze coming back from the lower bracket and winning his first SDO in a reverse-sweep proved that they could also heal, and have their vengeance.
SDO Zerg Of The Season: Quirky
The Swarm was hit particularly hard this season, having the fewest sign ups and lowest results. From a tournament where you could have your pick of any Zerg player to choose from to having only 3 players total compared to Terran’s 6 and Protoss’ 8, it felt like a great migration occurred.
Still, there was one Zerg player that stayed behind and gave it his all, and that player was CranKy’s very own Quirky.
After a 2-0 finish in the first round against eventual champion XenoBlaze, Quirky was knocked down to the lower bracket where he had to face not one, but two of the other horsemen, PotatoPleb and Tsuneo.
Though the games weren’t casted, we have it on good word (Quirky dipping in and out of clan voice chat in between series’) that once it got to the Bo1 stage, Quirky knew that there was one build that would give him the best chances. His quick and lethal surprise attack, a build that was only good for a single game and his signature move that made Yaku apprehensive about accepting him into the clan after encountering him once on ladder; his trademarked Baneling Bust.
Blindsided, PotatoPleb and Tsuneo had to yield and Quirky would have his rematch in the lower bracket finals. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it as they say, and after a few tips from CranKy Captain Light, the series plan was set, Quirky would open the series with a Bane Bust and go for a Roach timing game 2.
Unfortunately, XenoBlaze’s defenses proved absolute and his Hellions proved deadly, both games keeping Quirky on too low a Drone count and in Game 1 being able to kill his Lings before they had a chance to turn into Banelings.
Though the number of Zerg sign ups were at an all time low, Quirky defiantly carried the banner, and came out of the season with his best tournament finish yet.
SDO Protoss Of The Season: Ravenflames
Honourable mentions: StarDuck, XenoDactyl
Who else to take the mantle of Protoss of the Season than the player who gave the Terran of the Season the biggest run for his money?
Ravenflames came in at the very start of the season steadily making his way down the royal road, only to be denied at the final stretch by XenoBlaze.
I like to view this run as prophetic, would we return to Protoss dominance if Ravenflames won the ace match in the finals? Would Ravenflames then become the new dominant player in place of XenoBlaze? There’s no way to know that since Ravenflames hasn’t signed up for another tournament since his SDO #58 run, but we do know that he certainly has the skills for it.
Easily the best PvT player throughout the season, Ravenflames’ uncasted games against both Tsuneo and PotatoPleb ended 2-0 in his favour, before facing XenoBlaze twice where he once even used his playstyle against him. Steelmold: I can’t this sentence
He kept XenoBlaze's SCV count low, forcing an all-in. He defended harder, taking even trades over and over. And he found the smallest chinks in Xeno’s defenses, which he pushed through all the way to the victory screen. Oh and there was also a proxy double Immortal game but that’s not as interesting.
Though denied the championship at the last minute and unseen for the rest of the season, Ravenflames proved to be a championship contender, made it the furthest and displayed the highest calibre we’ve seen from Protoss this season.
MSO Terran Of The Season: Emin
In the midst of the Terran Apocalypse, someone was needed to lead the charge in MSO. With the sheer amount of Terran players that made it into the top 4 each week, we were completely spoiled for choice, but one player barely edged out the competition and that player was Emin.
A champion from the early days of MSO, Emin started the season with a reasonable Semifinal finish in MSO #16, but the manner of his defeat left doubts in the minds of those watching.
But form is temporary, and if he’d won an MSO before, he could do it again. All it took was a morale boost from a friend. XPA in many ways could be seen as Emin’s partner in CSI/FSeS, and the two faced off in MSO #17, ending in the 2 time champion passing the torch to his German brother.
From there, Emin’s MSO run was mostly smooth sailing, dispatching his opponents with overwhelming macro and clever openings to achieve his second MSO championship, making him the fourth 2 time champion.
While every MSO champion this season was Terran, Emin was the only one to consistently place highly outside of his championship run, making him stand out ever so slightly more from his peers.
MSO Zerg Of The Season: mLty
Runner-up: not even close
Satisfied with his third SDO championship back in January, mLty dedicated himself to hitting Masters league and competing with the Swans. From there though, mLty the Terror of SDO became a small duck in a big pond.
Though able to make the semis a couple of times, where he was previously in the short list of best players, mLty was now “merely” a notable Zerg player. To get back to his previous form, something had to change.
And change we saw, the most notable of which being his complete overhaul in how he approaches a series. While his previous style was self described as “very aggressive until they learn how to hold it,” mLty’s done a complete 180 of what we were used to from him, focusing on macro oriented builds and opening fairly greedy more often than not.
Rebuilding these fundamentals definitely paid off, with mLty seemingly more comfortable with the late game and Hive tech as well as having more freedom to play a diverse mid game, as seen with his Roach play.
Still remembering the style that made him a 3 time SDO champion, mLty has now reserved his early game Ling aggression for match point, regardless of whether it’s him or his opponent on the line, sometimes giving him a free win.
Though unable to claim the championship, mLty was without a doubt the biggest non-Terran hope in a season full of Terran champions.
MSO Protoss Of The Season: WarbuffII
WarbuffII was the most anticipated player to appear in a CranKy event, since the showmatch against Yakuzaku was “cancelled” (Steelmold: Due to one person not being physically able to play against himself), and with a 3rd place finish in MSO #18, he made sure that no one was left disappointed.
He came out of nowhere, only signing up out of a case of insomnia, and took out mLty the Triple Champion Terror, Light_VIP the Only 5DO Champion, mintcrystal the Slayer of Emin and Starduck the Other Slayer of Emin as well as a former SDO champion and runner up. All conveniently while Yaku’s PC was broken.
Knocked down to the lower bracket in the first round, War’s tournament life was on the line in a series of volatile Bo1s but this was where he showcased why everyone was so eager to watch him play.
Like a certain other player, supporting Warbuffl is an incredibly stressful position to hold because of how often he seems to just put everything on the line with the sheer amount of moments he could end the game, but doesn’t, instead opting for losing a decent number of supply but then winning the game anyway.
War also showed off a diversity of builds ranging from the standard Stalker/Immortal in PvP to the off-meta but not unheard of Disruptor drop into Colossus in PvT to the utterly confusing Mass Oracle into Chargelot/Sentry/Carrier in PvZ which just has to be some variation on The Buffalo Flotilla™
After his enviable tournament finish, taking out the favoured Masters players, Warbuffl came out of the season as the most successful Protoss player. And since he's still in Diamond league, he plans to participate in SDO to let the buffalo roam.
The Underduck Award: Quirky
Persistence pays off. Week after week, Quirky’s high sign up rate gave him little to show for other than some new replays to go over during dojo.
But Quirky’s had flashes of brilliance several times, making it to the Semifinals of SDO #40 and #46, taking out 3 players in a row in VTL as our starting Plat, and much more recently, taking out a Diamond 1 player in the Diamond Team League despite bordering Plat1-Dia3 MMR.
When the stars aligned in SDO #58, Quirky’s run had one of the roughest starts, facing off against XenoBlaze in the first round, someone who’d become one of the most dominant SDO players.
Once in the lower bracket though, Quirky was free to do what he did best, and used his signature Bane Bust to take out the likes of PotatoPleb and Tsuneo, doing his part to keep Zerg dreams alive throughout the start of what would prove to be a Terran dominated season.
Though unable to exact his revenge on Xenoblaze in the lower bracket finals, Quirky claimed the 3rd place medal, achieving his best tournament finish yet.
Best SDO Series: Ravenflames vs XenoBlaze (SDO #58 Finals)
Honorable Mentions: XenoBlaze vs StarDuck (SDO #59 Finals), XenoBlaze vs AionLeader (SDO #60 Semifinals)
The match that would set the tone for the rest of the season. The winner would go on to lead their race and themselves to domination.
Already up by one from the upper bracket advantage, Ravenflames started the series seemingly impatient, opting to go for a quick Blink for a quicker win. His plans though were forced to change when the initial Stalker force met XenoBlaze’s push in the middle of the map, turning the tables from aggressor to defender. Acknowledging his opponent now, Ravenflames did a complete 180 playing patient and greedy.
Both players now switched to a defensive harass style, between Stalkers and Missile Turrets, Medivacs and Warp Prisms were shot down on sight. Between Recalls and siege units, armies would trade skirmishes over and over before licking their wounds and trying again. In the end it was Ravenflames who found the smallest chinks in XenoBlaze’s armour, taking small chunks of Xeno’s army and economy before snowballing into a final decisive push.
Behind 2-0 and his opponent on match point, XenoBlaze needed a miracle, a new plan. Something a little unorthodox, something so off-meta his opponent would have next to no experience playing against it... something like Mech vs Protoss.
SDO#58 - 12/04/19, 2019 GSL Super Tournament 1 - 18/04/19.
While Mech is now seen as a viable alternative in TvP, not only did this match take place shortly before this was proven and popularised by the likes of Maru and GuMiho, it also wasn’t the much more popular Battle-Mech TvP style, but rather more reminiscent of the traditional Siege-Mech of the past.
Ravenflames, caught completely off-guard, scrambled to find a counter. Disruptors were made to counter Thors, Void Rays to handle Liberators and Immortals to take care of the Tanks, but left neglected were the buffer units. Once surrounded in the middle of the map, Ravenflames’ remaining forces could only barely slow down Xeno’s victorious advance.
Things slowed down for the next map, King’s Cove, where, upon confirming his opponent was planning to do the same slow Mech style, Ravenflames decided to fight slow expensive units with slow expensive units, teching into Fleet Beacon for a classic Golden Armada army composition. In a long drawn-out game, our two players would stay passive for 15 minutes before Ravenflames decided to break the monotony.
Unfortunately for him, this was the game composition the balance team was looking at to validate the buff to Thor range, which was evident as his expensive Stargate units were targeted and shot down one by one. And with that, Xenoblaze evened up the score 2-2, bringing the players to the ace match.
Switching things up now on Automaton, Ravenflames opened the way he intended to since the first game of the series, with a quick Blink into the main. Ravenflames chipped away at Xeno’s base, careful not to overextend, but Xeno, confident in his timing attack, pushed forward with Blue Flame, +1 and half of his SCVs… only to get sandwiched between Zealots, Immortals and Stalkers.
With a Warp Prism in his main and his opponent building up at home, Xeno had to do some damage. Sending out 6 Hellions and saying a quick prayer, the drive-by got the job done and then some: not only taking out 30 probes but getting into Ravenflames’ head, prompting him to push out immediately.
This time, finally Ravenflames got the orthodox army composition to beat Mech, the Archon/Immortal and, being ahead in army supply, the push actually wasn’t the wrong call. Problem was that while he previously engaged Xenoblaze’s push with a brilliant sandwiching, this time Ravenflames fought in the worst position possible, engaging a clump of Tanks up a choked ramp, losing his army and the championship in a single click.
And just like that, Xenoblaze claimed his first championship and ushered in a new era of Terran domination, with no one but himself leading the charge.
Best MSO Series: TerranLord vs Cerdoken (MSO #18 Finals)
Honorable Mentions: Tassadar vs Kuro (MSO #16 Ro16), Voltacus vs Kuro (MSO #16 Quarterfinals), Templar vs Light_VIP (MSO #17 Ro16), mLty vs WarbuffII (MSO #18 LB Round 1), TerranLord vs Cerdoken (MSO #18 Winners' Finals)
Is it any more fitting that the season of Terran dominance should end with a TvT? Once the rest of the competition was eliminated, Terran players now faced off against each other and in the ensuing blood bath, two players emerged to face off not once, but twice in the same bracket. Terranlord and Cerdoken.
The series started off with classic Marine/Tank vs Marine/Tank positional battle. Cerdoken proved himself to be the more cunning of the two, pinpointing Terranlord’s few blind spots to chip away at Tanks and bait Marines into his own Tank range. Terranlord on the other hand proved to be the more meticulous of the two, producing like the macro machine he’s known for being and never neglecting map information to take advantage of catching his opponent’s army unsieged.
After 15 minutes of back and forth, Terranlord found his opportunity to bludgeon Cerdoken over and over again until finally, Cerdoken’s last desperation push was sandwiched and snuffed out by Lord’s already superior army, putting him on match point.
Terranlord was now primed to take his place as the fifth two-time MSO champion. Cyber Forest though, with its short rush distance and Terranlord’s tendency to delay the main wall, gave Cerdoken an opportunity. He funnelled his Reaper/Hellion straight into Lord’s mineral line, taking the game shortly after and finally discovering a weakness he could exploit, Lord’s vulnerability in the early game.
Relentless in his assault, Cerdoken went straight for reactored Reapers, setting up his Reaper/Hellion concave right outside Lord’s natural to delete his scouting force and completely deny him any map control. A Tank drop in the main brought Cerdoken ahead by twice the worker count, leaving Lord defenseless to the push at 8 minutes.
Finally, in the ace match on King’s Cove, Terranlord wouldn’t fall for the same early pressure, but Cerdoken wouldn’t commit to it either. We were back to Marine/Tank vs Marine/Tank, but instead of the noble positional battle we saw on the first map, this game was much more of a chaotic slugfest.
The roles were reversed, where Terranlord previously had the better army and Cerdoken had the better economy, Cerdoken now had the better army and Terranlord the better economy. Cerdoken proved himself quicker to adapt in this scenario, beating Terranlord at his own game. He kept his Marine count high, kept him busy with aggression and even managed to catch Lord’s army unsieged.
While I’m sure many were starting to get weary of TvT by the end of the season, all it took were two of the best players on the bracket showing just how exciting the match up can be to rejuvenate the viewers of one of the longest weeklies we’ve had.
SDO Player Of The Season: XenoBlaze
Getting knocked out in the first round in his first appearance, turning it around to make it to the finals of MSO just a week later, only to move on and win his first championship in SDO another week later, and claiming his second two weeks later in the next SDO. XenoBlaze has proven himself the most dominant SDO player in a good while.
A very versatile player, XenoBlaze has used a diverse range of tactics, and seems perfectly comfortable in every stage of the game from start to finish.
If one aspect of his play sticks out to me though, it would be his defense. Time and again, Xeno has displayed an in-depth understanding of the maps, knowing exactly where to place his siege and spotter units for an unbreakable defense.
A defense as unbreakable as his spirit, coming back after a discouraging first SDO appearance to not only have to fight from the lower bracket but also reverse sweep his opponent in the finals to begin a new era, with XenoBlaze at the helm.
With his strategies, skill and spirit, the question is no longer if XenoBlaze can rise above his current achievements and claim the MSO championship, but when he will do it.
MSO Player Of The Season: Emin
“EMIN (...) of course stands for EXPENSIVE MARINES IN NUMBER” - Once again, Caerwyn provides invaluable insight.
Emin played in the first MSO where he finished in the Semifinals and then was the second ever player to win an MSO championship. He stuck around for a while after that, placing in the Semifinals a couple of times and finishing as the runner-up of MSO #7, but likely due to the fact that MSO was a monthly tournament back then, he always seemed overshadowed by the rest of the competition.
While we knew he was a championship worthy player, it seemed Emin was doomed to the fate of the forgotten champion, especially with a less than flattering defeat in the Semifinals of MSO #16. Everything changed only 2 weeks later in MSO #17.
Apart from XPA in the Quarterfinals, Emin completely dominated the competition, outclassing the opposition in such a way that it was tricky to determine just what it is he excels in.
One thing that contributed to his success could perhaps be described as adaptability. Like XPA last season, Emin seems to be able to evaluate scouting information fairly quickly and arrange his style and army composition accordingly.
Though flexible, Emin has also proved capable of playing very firmly, coming up with game plans and sticking to them, often resulting in very quick and aggressive victories.
Bringing his all to the forefront in MSO #17, Emin, the lurking champion, achieved his second MSO championship since MSO #2 in April 2018, reclaimed his old glory, and forged a new legacy that forces all to take notice.
Writing: Yakuzaku | Proofreading: Light_VIP & Steelmold | Editing: Kuro
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