Love him or hate him, you can't deny that Empire.Naniwa is one of the strongest players in the world today. He sky-rocketed to fame after he became the first person to win three Zotac Cups back to back during the beta, using an extremely powerful 4 Gate build. Infamous for his bm, he was also nicknamed "Naniwahhh". As time went on, he was pegged as a one trick pony and some even referred to him as "Onebaseiwa" since he would play one base every game. Knowing that this style wouldn't work forever, Naniwa carefully re-evaluated his play once SC2 was released and began to work on a style which didn't revolve around the power of the 4 Gate. He eventually settled on a reactionary style which encompassed strong defensive macro play at it's core - for instance he used play 3Gate Robo Observer into an immediate expansion in PvT - a very flexible opening system.
During his rebuilding, his results suffered and he dipped slightly from the public eye. Nevertheless, he managed to perform well in the EPS before being disqualified due to accumulating too many penalty points. Since then, Naniwa's play has transformed into something magnificent. Nani's bm has been substantially reduced and his play resembles nothing of his 4Gating days. He is a straight up and solid Protoss with a flexible system of openings for every matchup. When you watch his games, it is clear that Nani is the better player from how to controls the game and consistently makes excellent decisions. It is these traits which allowed him to dominate the field in our second PokerStrategy.com TSL3 Qualifier.
We got a moment to talk to Nani after his victory:
An interview with Empire.Naniwa
TeamLiquid: Congratulations! You qualified for the PokerStrategy TSL3. How do you feel?
Empire.Naniwa: I feel amazingly good after hearing about how popular this tournament was in Brood War and I'm excited to be a part of it in SC2 ^^
TeamLiquid: Give us a little background about your RTS history.
Empire.Naniwa: I used to play warcraft 3, in the teams MTW, then later fnatic. I didn't play so many LANs because of school and could therefore not put in the hours needed to be a top notch player. My only noticeable achievment would be Top3 Gamegune Spain. Before this I didn't play any other RTS.
TeamLiquid: How would you describe your play style? What are your strengths and weaknesses? Best matchups / worst matchups?
Empire.Naniwa: My playstyle is just being able to read my opponents and acting on what I see. I think my strength is my decision making. Best matchup - Zerg, worst Protoss.
TeamLiquid: Many fans know about your disqualification from German EPS. Anything you want to say about that situation?
Empire.Naniwa: I will make it short, since I mainly want to forget about this and better myself for the future, and never let such things happen again. Basically I wasn't informed of the rules as the manager ( Sunny ) was fired and they didnt find a new one. My German is very bad and the rules are not in English. This resulted in some penalty points early on and later I forgot to upload a replay which resulted in me getting above the border for maximum penalty points.
TeamLiquid: You've made more positive headlines recently. Many people speculated you were "MeatyOwlLegs," the account at the top of the Global ladder with an 80% winrate. Was this you? How did you achieve such a high rating?
Empire.Nani: Basically, I asked around to my friends for a unused account so i could practice in peace without people knowings its me. And I just got better and better the more I played, gaining alot of consistency which seems to have really helped me now later on in tournaments.
TeamLiquid: You seem to do particularly well in long tournaments. You finished Top 4 in the last TL open and now you won this one. How did you feel after your loss last week and what was your plan throughout these TSL qualifiers?
Empire.Naniwa: I felt cheated out of the win last tourney because I know that if I play my best I can beat anyone. I made the huge mistake of being satisfied with a Top 4 spot before I even played my game vs Kas. But my plan is always to win, no matter what tournament I enter, and my mindset is just to take one round at a time.
TeamLiquid: Your teammate Empire.Kas won the last TSL3 Qualifier. How is your team? Do you guys practice together often?
Empire.Naniwa: Our team is kind of spread out. I'm Swedish and he's Ukrainian, so we don't really talk a lot or practice, so it doesnt really feel like we´re teammate in that aspect. But management wise the team is great and have done everything they promised me so far.
TeamLiquid: You won the semis and finals relatively easily, were there difficult times during this tournament? Or was it surprisingly smooth to get through and qualify?
Empire.Naniwa: I was pretty close to losing to an SCV allin in Round 6 or 7 against Swu. but other than that I felt that everything went the way I planned.
TeamLiquid: Now that you've qualified, are you excited to play against the other TSL players?
Empire.Naniwa: I am extremely excited about the main tournament. I haven't really seen or heard who the other players are except for there being Koreans as well. I am very eager to measure my skill with the koreans
TeamLiquid: Are you a student right now? What are your goals for SC2? Do you have plans to travel to Korea? What do you want to get out of SC2?
Empire.Naniwa: Right now I'm not a student, I have had some motivational issues after leaving Germany but those are all over now. I would love to be professional full time but for this game but I don't think this is possible at the moment. If I can go to Korea, I will go for it. No doubts there. My Goal is to go to Korea and become the best player.
TeamLiquid: Any last words to fans or teammates?
Empire.Naniwa: I want to thank every fan who has supported me, I really appreciate the support. I also want to say that I hope I can change from being known as a "bad-mannered" player to instead be known as just a good player. I know it will take time for people to believe I'm serious and forgive the stupid deeds I've done, but I hope in time people can overlook my faults in the past and aim for the future
Also shout out to team Empire, The Swedish community and Bischu / forsen / Sjow. / David.
TeamLiquid: Best of luck in the TSL.
A snapshot of Nani's prolonged success in SC2
Of course, there are some invitations which are not included in the above graphic. Naniwa's play has been truly exceptional of late, and in particular he has reached the Winner Bracket final in Takesen's HomeStory Cup II where he will play White-Ra. Naniwa was also the first person to reach 4000 points on the ladder under the account "MeatyOwlLegs", a feat usually reserved for the Korean server. In addition to this, he was also the first person on the NA server to hit 3000 points. There can be no doubt that Nani belongs in the TSL - he is one of the best of the best. Let's take a quick look at one of his games from the PokerStrategy.com TSL3 Qualifier from today just to see how solid his game play is:
Naniwa warped in as the green Protoss at 2 while KawaiiRice set up camp at 12, the map being Scrap Station. Kawaii had played the same build in the previous two games – a marine/tank/raven push off of one base into expansion. As such it was fairly likely that Kawaii would play the same build once again, despite the architecture of Scrap Station not being as favourable as other maps for that style. Naniwa open standardly – gate core zeal warp gate – and began chronoboosting his Cybernetics Core. Despite not taking his 2nd gas, Naniwa didn’t add any more gateways – indicating that he was just going to pressure with some units while taking an expansion rather than going his ‘traditional’ 4 gate. Meanwhile Kawaii was executing the same build again – rax fact bunker reactor port – it remained to be seen whether Nani had figured out how to defeat it.
Kawaii began his first banshee (without cloak) while Nani took his expansion. Just as the banshee completed Nani poked in with his modest force but upon seeing two bunkers he retreated, but managed to sneak a scouting Zealot into Kawaii’s main to see that he was doing the same build as the previous two games. Kawaii’s banshee was unable to do any damage, as the moment Nani engaged the ramp he warped in two Stalkers into his mineral line to deflect the pesky air unit. Unable to do anything with his banshee, Kawaii opted to change things up and expand – and so the game settled into a macro war.
Kawaii prepared to for a Tank/Marine/Raven midgame while Naniwa warped in a Robotics bay signalling his intention to go Colossus/Gateway. Since Kawaii’s build was unable to kill any probes, and the fact that Kawaii skipped a few SCVs to get everything out in time (in case Nani was 4gating), he had ended up behind in peons – he was about 10 workers behind after accounting for MULEs. Knowing this, he gathered up his 2 banshees and went to harass – Nani however was prepared and had a cannon complete just in time, making Kawaii’s harass attempt mostly useless; he was only able to kill 3 probes.
The news wasn’t all bad for Kawaii, despite being behind in workers we was still even in army. Given the cost effectiveness of Tanks, he still had a fairly good chance. But if he couldn’t even up the worker count he would only have one push, and if that failed the game would be over since Nani’s superior economy would allow him to reproduce far better than him. He had researched Blue Flame and prepared a drop, and went for a drop in Nani’s main in an attempt to square things up. 4 Hellions dropped in, and they were able to take out about 7 probes before Nani’s growing Colossus/Stalker/Zealot ball crushed them. Kawaii now was only around 3 peons behind (after MULEs) – the match was evening up.
Nani took the initiative and was the first to take his third at around 100 supply. The game settled for a bit as both sides took time to grow their armies. Nani however, was also adding upgrades and was researching +2 attack and Charge while adding a Templar Archives. Since Kawaii was slightly behind and had very few Vikings, Nani knew that he would be able to successful add Templars to his army and in doing so would likely be able to clinch the game. Kawaii readied another Hellion drop and went after more probes, but a second cannon drastically reduced the effectiveness of the harass and once again Kawaii was unable to kill more than a handful of probes.
The supplies however, were now dead even – 153 a piece – and their army values were slightly tipped in Kawaii’s favour. Nevertheless, Templars has started to warp in and Storm had just finished researching. At 170 supply it was time for Kawaii to move out – and his fearsome Tank/Marine/Viking army marched forward and occupied the Xel`Naga Watchtower. But with no third in sight, this push had to deal significant damage.
Nani positioned his forces, and engaged – cleverly sending 3 Zealots ahead to soak tank fire. With all of Kawaii’s firepower being wasted on Nani’s chargelots – Nani’s Colossus and Templar were free to get significant amounts of damage off. Two deadly storms later, and Kawaii’s expensive army was completely crushed. Not even two PDDs could halt the onslaught as Nani ploughed ahead. The only thing working in Kawaii’s favour was that he was able to reduce Nani’s Colossus count to 1 – but with Templar in play it was a hollow victory.
Kawaii had built a fresh Command Center, which he loaded up with SCVs and floated to the island – there was no way he could take his normal third since Nani had map control after winning the major fight. Nani took advantage of the fact he had map control by occupying the Xel`Naga Watchtower and expanding to the Gold base (which would further increase his economic lead). Kawaii had another group of Hellions go harass Nani’s natural – but some instant warp ins were able to save move of his probes and once again Kawaii could only grab a handful of probes.
Nani now had a 20 supply advantage and an 3 fully mining bases to Kawaiis 1 and island (which was poorly saturated). The situation was looking dire for Kawaii. He had a fresh Command Center ready to float into his third and as such positioned his tanks and units around the back of the minerals as to reduce the effectiveness of Nani’s chargelots. Nani knew he Kawaii had moved into position, and prepared to break his tank line. Lines of chargelots flooded in, soaking Tank fire and cutting through the cold metal of Kawaii’s tanks. Nani’s advantages had reached the tipping point, and there wasn’t anything Kawaii could do to remain in the game – he tapped out.
This game demonstrates how Naniwa has completely changed his playstyle from the beta. He's playing excellent and careful Starcraft, he gained a small economic advantage and he didn't let that go despite Kawaii's continuous harass - the mark of a truly well rounded and skilled player. Even in his battles he was engaging wisely - always letting his Zealots take the Tank fire saving his Colossus from unnecessary damage. An outstanding game from Nani, and a very well played game by Kawaii as well.
You can see Nani's other games either by downloading the reppack from this thread or checking out Chill and DJWheat's commentary of the Semifinals and Finals which will be available shortly on our YouTube Channel.
The TSL Qualifier Leaderboard has been updated to reflect the results of TSL Qualifier #2. Ciara and Goody share top spot with 100 points each - with Naniwa removed from the leaderboard the chances of Ciara and Goody making the cut off have increased quite a bit. Naniwa was the only person to finish in the Top16 in both TSLs which suggests that these TSL Qualifiers are the hardest TL Opens yet; two semifinal appearances may just be enough to see you through to the main tournament!
Don't give up hope yet everyone, you still have your chance to qualifier for the PokerStrategy.com TSL. The next TSL Qualifier will be held on the NA Server on Saturday, Jan 22 5:00pm GMT (GMT+00:00) - perhaps you will be the next person to qualify!
Best of luck.
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Discuss with other fans in the TSL3 Forum.