Russian Cyber Games are back with the Ro16 featuring some of the best players from the Former Soviet Union, North & Latin Americas, Europe, and the rest of the World all vying for a spot in the offline bracket stage in Vladivostok.
RCG has done a very good job seeding players. Consequently, the Ro16 matches that start off our group stages mostly seem fairly predictable, with a couple key exceptions.
Hitting off, we have Terror vs Ultra. Both are strong South American terrans, Terror hailing from Peru and Ultra from Chile. I expect a solid match to happen, but there is also a clear favorite.
Terror successfully dethroned Bonyth last season of the BSL – after getting second place the season before, and comes into RCG looking like one of the top favorites. During BSL11 and BSL12 these two also happened to face off – and Terror won both times. (3-0 in individual matches).
Ultra has very strong mechanics, and I think he is probably Terror's equal in terms of his ability to play a strong SK terran against zerg. However, in terms of decision making and army positioning, Terror is clearly stronger. Terror is a complete player, who can be decisive when the situation calls for it, but whom is also comfortable being patient and playing a longer, more drawn out game if that's what the situation calls for.
I expect the games to look even for the first 10 minutes, possibly Ultra finding himself in a decent spot, perhaps even holding a small supply advantage. But then I expect Terror to keep making the right moves and to eventually solidify a win for himself. 2-0 Terror.
g0rynich vs BoA
This, in my opinion, is the hardest matchup to call, and the one game where I'm unable to name a clear favorite.
As players, they are fairly different. BoA leans towards relentless aggression. He has very crisp openings, and often does a lot with a little. His initial sair+ zealot/dt aggression often yields dividends and puts him in a very strong position for the mid game – which is normally followed up by more aggression, into more aggression, into killing the zerg or starting to get a bit strained himself.
g0rynich on his side, does not have crisp openings, and in the zerg vs protoss matchup, he doesn't tend to do very much until he has a lot. A common trend watching g0ry play against top protosses is that he tends to be a bit disadvantaged from the early stages, before he starts clawing himself back later on. He is an expert at playing the hive stage and very good at defending up until that spot – but we rarely see him mix in any type of allin play – g0rynich does not open 2h muta, 3h hydra or send big ling floods.
These games should be entertaining, and from my perspective, it's the best matchup of the group stages. The players are fairly evenly matched, but have entirely different approaches, and that tends to produce fun matches.
Gonna call BoA winning 2-1 – but I can easily see it go the other way too.
For the rest of the group, I am just giving a quick prediction of the possible matchups (because we don't actually know what matchups will happen):
TerrOr vs BoA: 2-1 for TerrOr
TerrOr vs g0rynich: 2-0 for TerrOr
g0rynich vs Ultra: (very even), 2-1 for g0rynich
BoA vs Ultra: 2-1 for BoA
I think we see TerrOr and BoA advancing. That said, aside from Terror, whose level is 1 above the rest, I think the other three are really closely matched, and if Ultra or g0ry takes the second spot, there's nothing weird about that at all.
Dewalt vs babo
Arguably the most one-sided game of the group stage, I can only see one outcome here. My opinion is that Dewalt's pvz is the best in the scene, and that babo on his side has zvp as his worst matchup.
Still – while I consider Dewalt an overwhelming favorite and very likely to win 2-0 – some analysis is still in place. Dewalt is the most complete player in the foreign scene. He still does not have the same trophy-accumulation we've seen from Bonyth, and he does look a bit vulnerable to strong mind-games from capable players in bo1 or bo3 games.
However, looking at how he plays, there are very few obvious flaws. His builds and timings are crisp. His macro is always on point. His multitasking is fantastic, and when he has a sair fleet, speed shuttles and a ground army, there's no foreign zerg that he can't pull apart. Generally, he's also a very smart and knowledgeable player who has everything in his arsenal – although, as mentioned, he has been successfully mind-gamed in the past. While Dewalt leans towards reactive play (which he excels at because his timings are so crisp – he knows exactly what he's supposed to scout at what point to determine what zerg's options are), he can open gate FE or forge FE with equal skill and ability.
Babo on his side has always seemed a bit more predictable – and a bit less capable. Don't get me wrong – babo is a fine player, and I think his zvz in particular is very high level. Having a background from team games, his muta and zergling micro are both top notch, and he has a solid early game.
However, watching him – and playing him – has given me the same experience, time and time again, and I don't picture Dewalt losing against it – especially not in a bo3. Babo almost always opens 3h spire into 6h hydra. He makes enough lings to hold off zealots, occasionally enough lings to try to bust a natural if he sees an opening (especially against gate FE), and then once his spire is done, he starts +1 air armor, and then he times a mass muta-scourge attack for when +1 air armor is supposed to be done. This is a potentially very strong opening which can catch a lot of players off guard – if protoss only made 1 cannon in their main while producing sairs from 1 stargate and they get a little bit too aggressive with those corsairs, then the muta-scourge counter will often succeed in killing them. However, it's also a 'this tends to work once' – type of play, and I've seen babo employ it on more than 10 different occasions – with limited success.
Following that attack, babo tends to go into a fairly straight forward 6 hatch hydralisk, which he does competently, as his mechanics are pretty strong. However, the transition into a fourth+ and into taking a hive tends to be a bit slow, as he normally spends a lot of gas on mutas+scourge.
Now, maybe he surprises me and does a committed 3 hatch hydralisk. Maybe he has studied old ty2 replays (he's one zerg who actually used to have Dewalt's number) and has practiced 3 hatch hydra with fast drop. Maybe he exploits Dewalt's assumption that Dewalt will win the game if he does not lose early, and open with speedling into an insane drone flood. There are ways for babo to approach this game in a way that gives him a fighting chance. However, based on what I have seen from both players, that's unlikely to be the case: They will both stick with the guns they know and are most comfortable with, and then Dewalt will win 2-0, because he is the better player.
Sziky vs Casper
Sziky vs Casper is also a bit lop-sided, but at the same time, quite a bit less predictable.
Sziky is one of the great players of the scene. In a way, I consider him the zerg player the most similar to Dewalt – he plays a reactive style of play with fantastic mechanics. He very rarely allins, rather preferring to rely on doing more things faster and better than his opponent.
Casper is not like that.
Casper plays brood war like he lives his life – hard and fast. By all means – he has very solid mechanics, and he's not limited by his mechanical ability in the way many other cheesy or allin-y players are. However, he is uncharacteristically aggressive for a terran player, and he takes risks that many other terrans don't. For example, Casper will often naked expand, trying to keep so much aggression going on elsewhere that his opponent ends up failing in the recon-department, or that he's unable to dispatch units to handle the expansion.
Proxy raxes or factories are possible. One base play – particularly the super fast bunker tank push, likewise. Other than that, Casper seems to favor mech play. When up against a player of Sziky's calibur, I don't expect Casper to play a standard SK terran style of play, because I think he will – rightly so – conclude that this scenario would have him be a solid underdog.
However, I also think he's a solid underdog if he goes mech. Consequently, I'm giving this series to Sziky. I'm not quite as confident in this one as I am in Dewalt vs Babo, but I still think 2-0 for Sziky is the most likely outcome, and I think IF Casper snags a win, it'll be in a game that was decided before the 7th minute of the game.
Potential matchups for the rest:
Dewalt vs Sziky: 2-1 for Dewalt
Sziky vs babo: 2-0 for Sziky
Dewalt vs Casper: 2-0 for Dewalt
Casper vs babo: 2-1 for Casper.