We're finally into the Ro8! The Ro16 was just as exciting, if not more exciting than the previous season, with plenty of close calls, big upsets, and pleasant surprises. We had to say goodbye to some of best BW players around, but we've still got so many good names yet. Is this Soma's rise to dominance? Is it Larva's or Best's chance, finally, to make their mark? Can Rush prove he's not just a Ro24 gatekeeper?
Of course, the real story of this tournament is: Can Flash win this season playing Random? It's only three games, but right now, Flash is undefeated through a combination of luck, clever builds, and pure determination. We haven't seen any Zerg from him yet, but with a Bo5, there's a higher chance that we might see it. Either way, this Ro8, in literally the most unpredictable Season of ASL so far, should be fun!
Any other time, a Bo5 against Flash would be a foregone conclusion, but against Random Flash, maybe Rush does stand a chance if he gets the right matchup on the right map. But when you try to prepare for everything, are you really prepared for anything?
Both players managed to secure their Ro8 spot in mirror matches, with Rush cinching a comfortable losers game win against Leta and getting his revenge with his back against the wall against JyJ to advance second in his group. Meanwhile, Flash’s Protoss roll managed to outsmart and beat Snow’s stellar PvP (which he was able to showcase by the end of group in the best match in the tournament thus far, lest you forget). Unfortunately, that leaves us without a real understanding of what Flash’s PvT or zerg play looks like.
A Bo5 gives more chances to see Flash roll Zerg, and thus more chances to lose.
It should also be noted that Terran does have it comparatively the easiest when it comes to dealing with random since they don’t have to deal with specific building placements for matchups, so it’s very possible that Rush can and should try to open as safely as possible on each map.
As said in my last preview, if Flash rolls Terran he just wins.
Set 1: Plasma
I really think that if Flash rolls Zerg he should try to do what Action did against BeSt and proxy a hatch. It’s unlikely that Rush would particularly be looking for it, but it’s a decent choice for the map since there are so many places to scout. A straight up game will rely on his mutalisk micro which, while good, is not at the level of top Zergs. If he rolls Protoss, I expect about the same thing: proxy gates into a zealot/dragoon bust or contain.
If the game ends up being long on this map regardless of what matchup is drawn, it certainly won’t be planned by either player, so expect it to get sloppy and crazy.
Set 2: Eclipse
Playing on a 2-player map is a good advantage for Rush because it makes scouting a lot more precise and allow him to quickly confirm and adjust this build against whatever race Flash has rolled. In televised games, Zerg seems to have done a lot better on the map against Terran, whereas it’s quite the opposite when it comes to sponmatches. A Protoss roll would put Flash in the advantage, as it’s not Rush’s best matchup and Flash’s PvT is quite stellar by all accounts. Either way, expect a far more standard game than the first map.
Set 3: Ringing Bloom
Aside from maybe a potential proxy robo play at the third base location, (which I really hope Rush scouts ASAP), it should really lend itself to be a safe game overall. That backdoor natural is such a prime location for harassment, be it reaver drops or vulture drops or even lurkers, that it makes a huge difference in which race is being rolled. In general, if Rush is playing TvZ, he should have a good time, especially the longer the game goes on this map.
Set 4: Polypoid
A few games between Flash and Rush exist to give us a frame of reference on this map. Linked below, Flash rolls Terran, and after a slugfest of vulture/tank wars near Rush’s natural, Flash finally breaks through and wins the rather short game. He also played a ZvT vs Rush on Neo Sylphid, another standard map, where he went for fast speedlings off 2hatch vs a barracks expand from Rush, so we might expect something tricky like that from Flash. It would be interesting to see how a PvT from Flash would look on this map.
Set 5: Shakuras Temple
If we do come to Game 5, Rush is in luck (unless Flash is also Terran). Rush definitely has the upper hand against Protoss and Zerg on this fantastic tank map, which is excellent for mech pushes and contains because of how many ramps there are and how much the Terran can siege from the top of the ramps. If Rush is a little aggressive at the start, he can easily capitalize on getting his army of tanks parked on the ramps in front of the killzone at the natural to cut off Flash’s Zerg/Protoss army from a third.
All in all, Rush needs to approach Flash’s race rolls appropriately. Against Zerg, it’s going to be more of a strategic approach, maybe a cheese or something a bit more unconventional to catch him off guard. Against Protoss, it’s going to be a bit more macro based and conventional tactics. Flash may not have the experience to make the right decisions if his initial plans go off the rails, so scouting is going to be key. If Rush is able to scout Flash’s race early and catch any proxies/tactics thrown at him, he’s going to be in a lot better situation.
Flash 3-2 Rush
Flash advances to the Ro4!
Luck of the Draw
Snow’s final Ro16 game is the stuff of legend in what is becoming the “Season of Storylines”. His incredible tenacity during the game and emotional response in the immediate aftermath won the hearts of many, myself included. If you haven’t watched the game yet, you seriously need to do so.
Alas, he arguably couldn’t have drawn a tougher foe than Soma, especially because the meta seems Zerg-dominated. The young amateur has yet to lose an offline ZvP match and looks like a real contender for the title.
Snow’s PvZ saw a tremendous improvement since his return to the premier scene. Once considered exclusively a PvT specialist, Snow slowly but steadily grew fearsome across all matchups. He defeated defending KSL champion Soulkey in Season 3 and ZvP expert Action in the semifinals of ASL8 although he narrowly lost to Larva in the Ro16 in ASL9. He produced memorable games with specialized builds or he dominated in more standard fashion through his solid fundamentals.
Lately he tends to prefer the latter: using the now standard gateway expand builds with emphasis on early pressure to build up a strong midgame. As far as fundamentals go, Snow’s army movement and tactical skills were really showcased in his game against hero in the Ro16 where he played engagements as close to perfect as possible.
His peak in form seems to have passed, though, judging from his online results in the matchup. He manages to keep his head above the water with a 51.4% win rate since August. He has losing records against most top Zergs and an alarming 9-23 score against his opponent on Tuesday. Soma hasn’t streamed in a while, but Snow has not fared well recently against other Zerg players either, evidenced by a humiliating 0-5 record against Action in October.
Soma, on the other hand, does not seem to have any reason to worry about his ZvP. He’s still undefeated in premier offline tournaments with a total map score of 13-2 since KSL4. That includes a really scary 9-0 map win streak, and three of those were against Snow. Until he stopped streaming in the second half of September, Soma had a 61.4% online win rate versus Protoss, and while he claims he needed a break from the game, his play doesn’t seem to have lost one bit of its flair.
Just like his opponent, he’s known for his incredibly strong midgame that result from setting up innovative builds that allow for his monstrous macro to kick in. While he preferred specialized builds to throw off opponents in the past, he now seems bent on getting an early evolution chamber and forgoing spire for a while, at least as far as standard games go. Soma nearly worships optimization, making sure every drone mines what it needs to when it needs to and that every larva is used as efficiently as possible (until all of them start morphing into hydralisks, 5sh6sh7sh8sh). He somehow manages to produce more hydras than even hero, and I haven’t ever seen a Zerg have a supply lead on Protoss opponents like he consistently does. Long story short, Soma is as scary as they come.
Regarding maps, Soma got to pick first, and unsurprisingly, he picked Benzene with it’s 61.8% win rate in favor of Zerg. It’s also lurker drop heaven. He also picked Shakuras Temple for Set 3, one of the biggest macro maps in the pool. Snow, also to little surprise, picked Plasma (70.4% in favor of Protoss and a semi-island map) and Optimizer for Sets 2 and 4, respectively. This lends credence to the idea that Snow might try to use tailored builds like he did to great effect versus Soulkey on Whiteout in ASL7. If the match progresses to a fifth game, it will be played on Ringing Bloom. Stats-wise, the three other maps beside Benzene and Plasma appear fairly balanced.
Honestly, this matchup appears somewhat lopsided. Snow is incredibly good, but Soma’s ZvP is just something else. History, both online and offline, is heavily in his favor, and what we saw most recently against Shuttle and Mini didn’t look promising for our Protoss player. Even if Soma doesn’t build up an insurmountable advantage through macro and build optimization, he’s incredibly incisive and will promptly find a way to slice open the opposition’s defenses. In a more standard game, he’s the favorite.
I’d really like to see some niche builds from Snow, maybe a Reaver build, heavier drop play or even skipping corsairs and going for the vaunted Dark Archon (though we might have to wait for Best vs ZerO for that). This season sure is full of surprises, and Snow’s tenacity has shown to be unsurpassed, but my money is on the Zerg player. One thing that I’m certain of is that we’ll see some top level PvZ.
Snow < Soma
Snow > Soma
Snow < Soma
Snow > Soma
Snow < Soma
Soma advances to the Ro4!