Fans can get into the mindset that TvT is boring so it gets little interest at times but the build orders, the units, and mind games between gamers is not boring at all. Among the three mirror match-ups, it has the best balance between resources, tech, and army, and its trend has evolved as time passed. This article attempts to shed light on a man who played a part in the evolution of TvT, XellOs.
Game management in TvT is 80% managing units other than the minimum required to defend.
Here is a way to gauge a Terran gamer’s skills and style. Pre-XellOs TvT consisted of using your units to draw the battle line where frequent skirmishes happened at the battle lines. Once a gamer took an advantage, he would defend his increased territory with Tanks and Turrets and overpower his opponent with the army advantage gained from having a better economy.
This mindset resulted in belief that regardless of the build order used, TvT is a fight for territory. Even mobility-based units such as Wraiths and Dropships are the same – killing Tanks with Wraiths and going for the contain and taking expansions with Dropships was how TvT was played.
In game 3 of MSL losers bracket, XellOs loses to Goodfriend 1:2. Looking at the content of the games, in the first game, XellOs gets shaken up by Goodfriend’s Vulture harass compounded by his mistake resulting in a loss; second game, noticing Goodfriend’s drop with his amazing game sense and winning; third game, he makes a comeback with a well-timed push and expanding but losing all his army because of one bad decision and losing the game.
Perhaps this loss ended up helping XellOs, as his TvT goes on a scary winning streak. In the WCG preliminaries, he hands a 0:2 loss to his rival NaDa, proving that NaDa is no longer dominant over him. In the Tuscon team league finals, he beats Boxer, in the You’re a Golf King MSL, against Sync, he was showing a tremendous amount of skill in TvT.
Then he meets a man in the round of 8 of MSL who was looking to take is fourth consecutive gold medal, iloveoov.
As XellOs was behind 0:3 in past matches against iloveoov, there were few that predicted his win but he makes a big mark in the history of TvT. In the 1st game on Arizona, XellOs takes his natural expansion later than iloveoov but in a dogfight including using SCVs to attack, he won.
Perhaps feeling pressured from the first game, iloveoov makes a critical mistake in build observation and hands the game to XellOs. He mistook XellOs’ Command Center before Barracks build as a proxy Barracks and built a bunker in his main.
Their bad relationship didn’t end there. XellOs, who moved onto the semi-finals after beating iloveoov, lost to one of the best Zergs at the time – GoRush -- and again met iloveoov, who survived by defeating JulyZerg in the losers bracket.
XellOs beats iloveoov 2:1 here. The invincible run of the best Terran at the time -- who was shining in the glory of three MSL wins followed by an OSL win -- was stopped.
Later in team leagues and OSL round of 8, XellOs wins 3 times in a row, and completely dominates iloveoov. At that moment, a losing record of 0:3 turned into a 7:4 record.
iloveoov’s strength in TvT was in giving up the initiative temporarily for an economical advantage while playing defensively, and taking back map control with the strength of his economy. If his opponents were to attack iloveoov’s defense line, they get stopped by his defensive skills and if they were to stay back, they were afraid of the strong push that will inevitably come.
Here, XellOs returns iloveoov’s demand to make the choice between offense and defense. He attacks iloveoov’s defense lines but not enough to get countered, and while iloveoov is focusing on defense, he gets his expansions running. He gets over the handicap of a later natural expansion with Dropship tech and defends the timing push while deterring iloveoov’s 2nd and 3rd expansions with a small number of units. And when he calculates that his army is at an advantage, he pushes without hesitation. It was great to watch battles involving all his natural SCVs or piercing placement of his Tanks while iloveoov’s army was out of position.
iloveoov’s strategy of thowing down rock paper scissor without committing and changing his build based on his opponent’s selection, similar to FD in TvP, was denied repeatedly by XellOs’ strategic movements.
As a result, XellOs removed the boring battle lines and wrote a new bible in army usage.
The key point in XellOs’ TvT was that his army moved around constantly.
Unlike other Terrans, he left the minimum amount of units at each battle line and the rest were constantly moving in Dropships, following his opponent’s movements. When he was behind, he took profits by dividing his army and when he was ahead, he kept his army together so when his opponent tried to come back by attacking a certain point, he would put out the fire by quickly flying to that location and solidifying his advantage. The current theme in TvT of scattering and focusing the army was completed by XellOs.
The main strength that allowed this to happen was in XellOs’ tactical insight. There was no other like him that can calculate approximately how much army is required to break through his opponent’s Tank line. Even if he got dropped in his base, losing his natural expansion -- even if his Factories were on fire, XellOs would not panic and target his opponent’s base or expansions while defending somehow with the additional units that were produced. When attempting to avert XellOs’ eyes with drops or moving their army around, XellOs would simply unsiege his Tanks and march forward.
He didn’t necessarily need Dropships. If needed, he could use his Tank positioning alone to put pressure on his opponent and accomplish both offense and defense, and when he decided he needed to defend, he would sit down without hesitation and solidified his lead. On the other hand, players who tried to solidify their early game advantage would find themselves losing to the timing pushes that came their way.
One of the most dominating games in TvT history against Hery
Turning the tables with one Factory drop which sealed the game against Casy
Against Midas, who had the best army positioning battles, XellOs showed that he’s one level higher in the game on Rush Hour.
With nothing fixed in his game, XellOs defeated his opponents by making the best decision in any given scenario.
Around that time, Goodfriend also opens his eyes to a revolution in TvT.
Initially, Goodfriend followed Nada’s style of gaining an advantage through tech/harass and keeping his expansions safe based on fast expansions and unit production – a high level TvT. Even at the time when he played against XellOs in the MSL losers’ bracket that was mentioned previously, both players could not escape the old style of TvT but interestingly, both XellOs and Goodfriend showed tremendous growth at around the same time and continuously got in each others' paths. Goodfriend also showed dominance against the #1 defense Terran, Midas, and was the person who stopped him in the round of 8 twice.
If the nickname given to XellOs was the monster of TvT, Goodfriend was comically called the fairy of TvT.
Goodfriend, similar to XellOs, defeated his opponents through army movement based on great tactical insight. Their difference was that whereas XellOs focused on dynamic movement, Goodfriend preferred the art of defense that comes from the strength in army positioning. The reason why Goodfriend is so ahead of XellOs in their record against each other is that he could read XellOs’ movements and defend accordingly.
The game XellOs and Goodfriend played in CYON MSL showed all the fine points of TvT. XellOs harassed with Wraiths, Goodfriend limited his opponent’s movements with Vultures and mines, unrestricted movements that doesn’t even consider Turret contains, and bloody tactical battles. There is great meaning in this one game.
Goodfriend lost in this game but when he met XellOs again a year later, he won 4 games in a row, succeeding in his revenge, and in their last game in GOMTV MSL Season 2, XellOs wins. And with Goodfriend’s retirement, the match between XellOs and Goodfriend will never be seen again.
XellOs fell into a great slump in 2006 and he lost his nickname as the best TvT player. Later in GOMTV MSL Season 3, which was a turning point for a comeback, he showed a class of TvT from his prime and made a great achievement of getting to the semifinals. And XellOs is currently continuing his 2nd chance as a gamer in the Air Force.
Nowadays, there are still fights for territory but it is hard to see a boring standstill at the battle line. Other than in some maps, the battle line in TvT is always dynamic and players try to gain even the smallest tactical advantage by comparing their army movement speed and decision speed.
The TvT style that played laid back Go was gone and a time for TvT that must follow the ever-changing army movement by staring at the dots on the minimap came to be.
Although XellOs’ legacy became the core idea in TvT, the creator’s name was slowly forgotten. Many people believed that everything Terran was iloveoov’s compilation and erased XellOs’ name. Now, he is just remembered as the master of han-bang rush in TvZ, and a player with a strong TvT.
GOMTV MSL Season 2, after suffering a comeback defeat to XellOs, Canata went to shake his hand with a smile on his face. Perhaps that was to congratulate the return of a great man who opened a new era of TvT.