Cover image by alffla
Hot_Bid’s GomTV3 MSL Preview
TeamLiquid: Final Edits
"32 players is just too many. As far as I'm concerned, the MSL doesn't start until after the first round."
–DJEtterStyle, former Power Rank columnist
Bracket by LonelyMargarita:
+ Show Spoiler [Ro32 Bracket] +
Now that the bastardized part of the MSL is over, we can finally talk about what many consider the superior league this season. I am not going to be making predictions. Given the volatile nature and relative parity of progaming, predicting brackets correctly is just as much luck as it is skill. I could give my opinions on maps and matchups and cite detailed statistics, but that would be boring. Instead, I will just ramble along with disjointed thoughts about the players, the bracket, and the MSL in general.
Notice the crowd laughing when they see FBH.
Before we move onto the players, I have to say the opening video is fantastic. The music pumps you up and the theme is great. The players look intense and cool, tracing beams of light that eventually converge on Bisu, who looks like a giant badass. Thank you MBC, your opening is finally on par with the OSL’s. The opening video perfectly captures the heart of the GomTV3 season: it is all about Kim Taek Young. He is the two-time defending champ and it is his MSL to lose.
You should also notice that two of the GomTV2 MSL semifinalists, GoRush and FireBatHero, are featured prominently in the opening yet are nowhere to be found in the bracket. Bisu’s "Zerg Slump Touch" that he slapped Savior with apparently works on every Zerg. It seems like Bisu beat the success right out of GoRush, who is 4-8 since that horrific showing. GoRush lost in his Ro32 group in the most painful way possible (win, loss, loss) and was eliminated by the same guy (Mania) that he had beaten earlier that night. The good news for GoRush is that approximately 800 players will qualify for the next MSL.
Do not insult the Brood War Gods.
FireBatHero, much to my delight, follows in Midas’ footsteps in satisfying Karma Theory. Midas, as I predicted in March, was doomed to fail after picking Savior in the Shinhan3 bracket selection. The Brood War Gods are notoriously vengeful and do not look kindly upon disrespect against the player they choose to be the bonjwa. As a result, Midas did not qualify for the OSL, MSL or WCG, and he opened Shinhan PL2 with a horrible loss to Odin on the TvZ happy land known as Monty Hall. Midas has officially dropped off the Progaming map. On the bright side, he can always find work as a chef for SKT1.
FBH did this after his GomTV2 quarterfinal win against Savior. As soon as I saw him do the dance, I knew he was screwed. Three months and two Rock photoshops later, FBH has a stellar 3-13 record, did not make OSL, did not make WCG, and 0-2’d his MSL Ro32 Group. Dancing much now? Do not mess with karma.
Who will be the next 910?
Every match in the Ro16 is incredibly important because they are for seeds into the next MSL. For that reason, we all hope the big names manage to secure seeds, but true fans know this just does not happen. One of the Mind-Lomo-Mania trio is going to upset a favorite in the Ro16. It is guaranteed to occur—we can call it the 910 Rule. Whoever "pulls a 910" is going to be hated, because nobody wants to see Oov, July, or Free lose and be forced to struggle through qualifiers again. This lose-lose situation is the curse of being an unproven Terran in a bracket overloaded with unproven Terrans—you can only be the spoiler, not the hero. When the GomTV4 MSL rolls around, we are going to see one of these three guys’ names on the seed list, shake our heads and ask the obligatory 910 Question: "what the hell, 910 got a seed?" (Replace "910" with Mind, Lomo, or Mania).
Take that scenario a step further and imagine next season’s seeds as Mind, Mania, Lomo, Stork, Hwasin, Light, Canata, and ForGG. We would be on our way to our first ever TTTTTTTT Ro8 and the death of every exhausted Korean announcer who has to fill the silence during those boring TvT stalemates. It would be worse than—gasp—Geometry. Just thinking about it makes me fall asleep.
If only Liquibet was this easy.
Bisu, Stork, Hwasin, and Savior are arguably the four best players in the entire MSL. Two of them will not make the Round of 8. How did this happen? The blame squarely falls on Bisu and Stork. While you cannot blame Bisu for having a little trouble with his absurdly difficult Oov/Nada/Flash group, it was his decision to switch into that group in the first place. Now Bisu has to play Hwasin for a seed instead of a trophy, but his opponent could get easier with every round he wins.
Stork should have advanced easily out of his group, but instead he had to play two tense elimination games. He even resorted to cheesing Orion despite having the ability to beat him straight up. As a result he takes his weakest matchup to Ma Jae Yoon’s house, where Stork is 1-4 (his sole win almost two years ago). I did not think Stork had any chance of getting past Savior, but then WCG showed us that anything was possible. Stork, we have Wufan’s contact information should you need it.
In this photograph, someone is practicing and someone is not.
This match was probably the biggest upset in Starcraft history. PJ was horrible on SKT1 and extra horrible in PvZ. He gave up trying to make it as a pro in Korea and went back to China, only to come back four months later to 2-1 the best ZvP player of all time. In what twisted universe does this result make sense?
When I was watching Tasteless go over the replays, I kept thinking that maybe there was a mistake and Savior was the real winner. I was waiting for PJ to grab his own face and rip it off, revealing Bisu underneath. As I typed out "PJ beat Savior 2-1..." I kept hoping I could add "...on OPPOSITE day!" but I could not. It actually happened. Apparently, the secret to beating Savior is to buy a plane ticket. Bisu went to Thailand and PJ went to China, so if Ra and Stork vacation together in Indonesia, they are sure to beat Savior in GomTV4.
Savior has no excuse. Yes, he likely underestimated PJ and definitely did not play well, but he was still up 1-0 and PJ did not cheese in any of the games. What a debacle—Savior will be crucified by fans in Korea. Hopefully the effect on him will be profound. In a perverse way, I am almost glad this happened. Two possible results:
- The embarrassment and humiliation forces Savior to wake up and return to form. He wins both the OSL and MSL and re-establishes his dominance.
- Savior rolls over and dies, never winning another Starcraft match again.
"Insurance" picks will lose to whatever I choose to build.
The rivalry started when Bisu picked Hwasin for his Daum OSL group, called him "insurance," and then embarrassed him with mass scouts. Hwasin is a proud guy and clearly held a grudge. He was seething after the 2-3 loss to Bisu in GomTV2. I am sure that the loss drove Hwasin to practice like a madman, and now he is very strong in every matchup. In previous seasons he has been a bit unlucky, losing to eventual champion GGPlay 1-2 in Daum and eventual finalist Savior 2-3 in GomTV1. But this time Hwasin seems like a man on a mission, and he will get his opportunity for revenge against in the Ro16. Whoever comes out of this match will be the favorite to win the entire MSL.
The good old days of unstoppable macro.
This may be one of Iloveoov’s last chances at a title. He looked great 2-0’ing his group, but do not let that fool you—Oov has recently been horrible against Terran (3-7) and mediocre against Zerg (5-5). His road to the finals will likely include July and Savior. But the bracket is not his biggest problem—motivation is. In the ODT against UpMagic, Oov looked like he just gave up after the first TvT tie. Ever since Boxer left, Oov simply does not seem to care as much. I hope he has enough drive left in him for one last serious run at a title.
Imagine this: Oov wins the GomTV3 MSL by beating July, Savior, and Bisu, and then immediately announces his retirement. He remains retired for a year and returns to Progaming as co-captain of Boxer’s new SC2 team. In his first televised game, Oov overloads the MBS macro system so badly that it causes a blackout of the entire OGN studio. It could happen!
The real reason July went to SKT1.
Something is different about July now that he is on SKT1. Maybe his win over Bisu in the ODT gave him confidence. Maybe he is enjoying Midas’ cooking at the SKT1 house. Whatever it is, July got his mojo back and has a chip on his shoulder again. He wants to prove that HERO made a mistake on him. Nothing would be sweeter than beating Light or Bisu in the finals, except leading SKT1 (currently 3-0) to the Proleague playoffs while MBC (1-3) struggles. Either way, I am just happy to see the big guy play so many ZvTs on these new maps. After he disposes of Mania we may see a Gillette-esque old school Bo5 between him and Iloveoov. If this happens, July and Oov should make a bet: whoever wins this series gets all the Starleague wins (7¹) between them. This would instantly give the winner the diamond mouse, which they would then sell to Yellow and use the proft to buy 10,000 bushels of bananas. Everybody wins.
Free was 17-7 (10-3 PvT) in Proleague last season.
Free is finally in a major league. The guy wants to be successful so badly. His salary is so low relative for an "ace" player, and he puts his heart out there in every match. It is very easy to cheer for someone who embodies the Protoss underdog spirit. Free fights so hard, yet consistently gets screwed by the circumstances. His bad luck continues—in the last two months, Free is 0-4 vs. Savior and Stork, and 7-3 vs. everyone else, including 2-1 wins over Sea and Midas. Should he beat Lomo, his Ro8 opponent will be, of course, Savior or Stork. The universe should give this guy a break. Good luck Free, you will need it.
Kwanro’s Hit List. You are next, Light!
Kwanro is mentionable only because of his schedule. He had to play July and Sea to get here, and now he must play a red-hot Light, with Bisu or Hwasin waiting for him in the quarterfinals. Nobody has a more hilariously difficult road to the semis. Kwanro, like Free, is just happy to be in the Ro16. Will he settle for that or is he destined to follow in Savior’s footsteps as the next great CJ Zerg? He clearly learned a few things in the practice house, beating Sea with the no-lurker ultralisk build that Savior used against Light in WCG Korea. Can Kwanro do what Savior could not and put a dent in Bisu’s impeccable PvZ? + Show Spoiler +
No he cannot.
It is sad that Nal_Ra has become somewhat insignificant. When Ra’s wacky proxies work, he is the most entertaining, creative, non-Boxer player in Korea. Unfortunately, entertainment and creativity do not translate into wins. Bisu is flat better than Ra in just about every aspect of the game, and Stork only lags behind in PvZ. Ra has become a relatively distant third on the Protoss food chain. Let us hope that when the semifinals roll around, Ra still has some innovation left.
One of these guys is smooth, cool, and marketable. The other guy wins.
Xellos can only ride his Olympus OSL win for so long before he becomes Sync. It was a big deal for the “the man” of CJ to drop to B-team to practice due to lack of results. The stint seems to have paid off, as Xellos breezed through a relatively easy Ro32 group. But how far has he fallen when fans are happy with a Ro16 appearance? Xellos may seem to be a changed man, but nothing short of the semis will prove it.
Can one of these guys make "the leap?"
These three have different expectations than Mind, Lomo, or Mania. Light is playing much better than the other two, They all have the potential and experience to be great players, yet they all have glaring flaws that prevent them from being champions.
- Light is never noticeable but always there, qualified in both leagues. He is a legitimate threat to Bisu in the MSL and he just beat Hwasin in the OSL week 1. But can you picture the headline "Light, MSL Champion?" I cannot. Light does not seem to have that special something that wins Starleagues.
- Canata was one of those fabled SKT Terrans. He was hyped like crazy but never lived up to his potential. He is not young anymore by pro-team standards, and Shudder has eclipsed him as the new rising Terran on his own team. Canata, once regarded as an heir to Boxer and Oov, seems destined to stay mediocre.
- If ForGG ever learns how to properly micro, watch out. His macro is like he listens to a subliminal "we require more minerals" message every night while he sleeps. It is funny how many units he makes and even funnier how many he then loses with sloppy control. He is already good enough to be a solid Proleague contributor (10-8), and if he learns how to use those blobs of units he makes, he could be a champion.
My list of players' chances to win the MSL, in descending order:
14-16. Bright-Eyed Chaff
Mind, Lomo, and Mania will not last long. One of them will luck an upset win, but do not expect two.
13. Impressively Ordinary
Canata has played more games (60) than the three new guys combined (42). He is a threat TvT but has yet to advance past a Ro8. That trend will continue.
12. So Impossible That It Almost Makes Sense
Kwanro’s side of the bracket is loaded with Zerg-killers, but he just might be crazy enough to pull it off.
10-11. My Name is Danger
The big names do not want to face Free or ForGG. On a bad day they beat themselves, on a good day they beat anyone. Unfortunately these two do not have the nerves or experience to go all the way.
8-9. The DeLorean Has Two Terran Drivers
Iloveoov and Xellos attempt to recapture their old glory by beating the young guns with experience, guile, and fresh attitudes.
7. So Proximate, Yet So Far
Just a year removed from the MSL finals, Nal_Ra still struggles with consistency.
Savior would be three spots higher if he never went to Seattle. A few cracks in his armor have turned into rather large holes. We may have to accept that he might never come back.
Do not underestimate the power of momentum (just ask Daum GGPlay). July (8-2) and Light (12-4) have been on fire since August and are hoping to streak right into the finals.
3. The Pride of South Korea
Stork has most of the country cheering for him. Can the WCG champ reinvent his PvZ to beat Savior and July so he can get back to the finals? A week ago I would have said no, but a week ago PJ was not wearing a silver medal.
2. Revenge, Retribution, and... ... Passion...
Hwasin will treat his Round of 16 match against Bisu like it is the MSL finals.
1. The Reigning Champ
Bisu is the consensus favorite and could win his third MSL title this year. He would be in good company: Nada, Oov, and Savior are the only players with 3 MSL wins.
I hope you enjoyed this preview. The MSL Round of 16 Week 1 begins October 11th at 18:30 TL time. Enjoy the games!
¹ I know they are not all of July and Oov’s titles are OSL wins, so "Juloov" technically would not get the diamond mouse, but let me make my joke, OK?