Startale vs. Prime
Startale Head Coach and Life
Azubu vs. NSH
Brackets and results on Liquipedia
One Year Later
One year and five days after the infamous Las Vegas GSTL final, where a disconnect played heavily into Prime's 5 – 2 victory over Startale, one had to admit that the rivalry had cooled off. The 'victim' of the disconnect, PartinG, had since left for greener pastures, and both teams had spent a year absent from the GSTL title picture. Yet, it was still a match fans couldn't help looking forward to, hoping there were still a few drops of bad blood left, and that the teams would bring some fire to the match for old time's sake.
Instead, what we got was a match that signaled the Prime-Startale rivalry was something that belonged to a bygone age, with Life, a player not even on Startale one year ago, stealing the show by reeling off three easy wins to secure his team a 4 – 2 victory.
Live Report Thread
MarineKing <Bel'Shir Vestige> Golden
MarineKing <Akilon Wastes> Avenge
Maru <DMZ> Avenge
Maru <Red City> Life
Creator <Whirlwind> Life
ByuN <Icarus> Life
MarineKing <Bel'Shir Vestige> Golden
MarineKing <Akilon Wastes> Avenge
Maru <DMZ> Avenge
Maru <Red City> Life
Creator <Whirlwind> Life
ByuN <Icarus> Life
Terrans pull Prime ahead to a 2 - 1 lead.
The opening match featured former Quantic player ST_Golden facing Prime's top star MarineKingPrime on Bel'Shir Vestige. While GSTL teams have had success this season giving their lesser known players a chance, it didn't pay off for Startale as Golden lost a one-sided game where MKP held off his baneling-zergling bust with ease.
It was a potentially dangerous start for Startale with the streaky MarineKing getting a win, but they quickly recovered by sending out the aptly named Avenge. Avenge also went for an all-in attack, striking with 4-gate blink stalkers off one base. This time around the Prime Ace couldn't find a way to hold out against the early assault, and GG'd out with just one win as his contribution.
The back and forth continued in the third set, with MaruPrime emerging to force the momentum back toward Prime's side. Avenge decided he would go for a normal game after showing his all-in play in the last, but he didn't look quite as proficient at it. Maru got off to a great start, killing ten probes with his marine-medivac-mine-hellion play, and held off Avenge's counter attack while taking barely any damage. Avenge was unable to alter the course of a game already heavily in Maru's favor, and GG'd out helplessly once Maru brought a huge bio force knocking at his doorstep.
Life finally delivers for Startale in the GSTL, winning three games to end the match.
While every single choice in a best of seven team match is bound to be critical, the decision of the night came in the fourth set as Startale decided they would send out Life, the team's ace and a player considered by many to be the best in the world. While Life had done well for ZeNEX in the GSTL, he had been a disappointment during his time on Startale. He quickly set about repairing his reputation.
First, Life took down Maru to tie the series yet again at 2 – 2. In terms of technical play, it was one of the highest level TvZ's seen so far in HotS, with Life using muta-ling-bane with incredible speed and precision to control the map and shut down most of Maru's drops. Maru on his end showed what Terran resilience is all about, relentlessly dropping until he finally succeeded at killing a few expands, and keeping everyone aware that a Zerg using ultralisks is always one misstep away from suddenly blowing his lead.
While the game was entertaining and well played, it never really reached a boil as Life never looked like he was ever truly in danger, even when Maru was able to get a few licks in. Once he achieved his final composition of ultralisks, infestors, and brood lords, Life trampled all over Maru's forces and forced the GG. Still, the game earned an effusive tweet from GSL Director Mr.Chae, who seemed more than happy with the future the two sixteen year-olds offered StarCraft II.
Life then took his second win, swatting down Prime's next runner in Creator. Creator attempted to go for his fast skytoss build that saw him defeat Crazy in Code S, but against a player of Life's caliber it proved to be insufficient. Creator's decision to skip ground units and go for almost pure air allowed Life to maintain hydralisks as his primary anti-air, all the while using small groups of lings to hamper Creator's economy. Life was able to categorically pick Creator apart, take battles whenever it suited him, keep Creator's economy completely in check, and even had the audacity to switch to mutalisks against an opponent with three stargates knowing that he had things well under control. After running circles around Creator for about twenty-three minutes Life finally applied the finishing blow by running him over with hydras.
Down to their last man, there wasn't any question who Prime would send out. ByuN, star of the all-kill against Azubu, was charged with the weighty task of defeating Life and possibly salvaging a win for his team. Unfortunately for the Prime team, ByuN was the victim of another sort of 'four-kill,' as he had his stim-researching tech lab destroyed FOUR times. By deciding to make his tech lab part of his main base wall-in on Icarus, ByuN opened it up to all sorts of abuse from roaches and banelings. It never occurred to ByuN to build his tech lab in a new location until he lost it three times, but by the time he finally relocated it the game was all but over, with roaches and banelings running rampant in his main.
With the victory, Startale vaulted up to first place in the early running of the season. But more importantly, Life showed that his best in the world title finally applied to the GSTL as well. With a full powered Life in hand, it's hard to not to look at Startale as the early favorites to take the GSTL.
Winner InterviewStartale Head Coach Kim Gwang Bok and ST_Life.
Q: How do you feel after winning today?
Head Coach Kim: Because of the challenger league preliminaries, I told the team to just focus on that, considering the new format and all. It's so important to them. For the GSTL, there would still be six more matches in the season anyway, so I told them to focus on individual leagues. Also, I told the players to focus on Code S and Code A, and I'm happy that five of them got through the preliminaries. We won this match on top of that, so it's been a really great week.
Life: I felt a lot of pressure about GSTL before, and I was nervous. I think I won't be as nervous next time, and I can do better.
Q: Weren't you good in GSTL before?
Life: That all went away since I moved to Startale.
Q: Did you expect a victory?
Coach Kim: I didn't think Golden would lose the first set, but I thought to myself "this could get tough" when he lost. But it went well once Avenge defeated MKP. If he had lost too, it could have been hard. We came here without expectations.
Q: Squirtle and PartinG left the team, leaving a big gap in your key players. How is that situation for you?
Coach Kim: They were key players, that's true. But everyone always prepares thinking they could play both team or individual leagues. Even if you look at the recent prelims you can tell. Right now no one has had a chance to really stick out just yet, but if you keep watching you will notice that it's not a big problem for us that Squirtle and PartinG departed the team.
Q: Did you think you could turn the series around?
Life: I was worried, but the games went surprisingly well, and I was lucky so I think I was able to win.
Q: You took out Prime's top players, how do you rate your play? Anything you did particularly well? Anything you didn't do right?
Life: No, there wasn't anything I felt bad about. I'm satisfied with my performance.
Q: There are a lot of complaints about Skytoss being tough to face in ZvP. How do you feel about it?
Life: I don't think direct Skytoss without ground is hard to face. If you keep mining and keep attacking they can't stop it. So it was easy to face.
Q: You saw Creator going 3-stargate very early.
Life: When I saw him keep making voids, I felt that he was going Skytoss so I thought I could win.
Q: Is it easy to prepare for Prime because of their race composition?
Coach Kim: I was sure what they would use, so we prepared focused on Terran, and also with Creator in mind.
Q: Bomber said he was going to snipe Creator in his Code S interview. Was that the plan?
Coach Kim: No comment regarding our line-up.
Q: Other teams have a few players choosing the non-Korean regions of WCS. Did Startale consider that too?
Coach Kim: I asked the players their opinions. Their overall opinion was that they wanted to succeed in Korea. For this year at least, I think we will all stay in Korea.
Q: Any final comments?
Coach Kim: Everyone was stressed out because of prelims this week, so I'm thankful everyone did well. Also thanks to the players for preparing for the GSTL on top of that. Also thanks to Won Jong Wook, Startale's top supervisor for putting so much effort into broadcasting Startale TV.
Life: Thansk to my fans for cheering for me, thanks to my teammates, thanks to sponsors Red Bull, Zowie, and JoyGear.
Escaping the Abyss
Azubu and NS HoSeo came into the GSTL as two of the more mysterious teams, with the majority of their rosters filled with Code B players who had little to no chances to display their skills in HotS. After much waiting, we finally caught a glimpse of the two teams two weeks ago as they played on back to back days against Startale and Prime.
It wasn't pretty.
Both teams were massacred, on the receiving end of brutal 4 – 0 all-kills. ByuN slashed through SuperNova, San, VINES, and Symbol from Azubu, while Sound took out NSH's Tassadar, SaNaEE, SalvatioN, and jjakji to send both teams to the bottom of the league table. It was hard to say either Azubu or NSH looked better or worse than the other, with both Zergs on either team putting on a valiant losing effort, while the other players on the team fell haplessly.
After such humiliating defeats in their opening matches, there's no doubt that the teams will have redoubled their efforts heading into their second match, looking to redeem themselves and wash off that shame... ...or so that would have been the case if not for the Challenger League prelims that occurred on the 10th and 11th. The new WCS makes the Challenger League a life and death affair for 96%+ of eSF pros, and we wouldn't blame any pro-gamer for putting team pride aside briefly when actually having a career or not is on the line.
Anyway, it's not like practicing for the preliminaries is the worst way for practicing for the GSTL. Everyone will surely have focused on preparing against a wide variety of opponents and strategies (i.e. laddering), and that will give them a solid foundation. Just don't come expecting the overall level of sniping and player specific preparedness we see in other GSTL matches.
Azubu: Slightly more illuminated.
While Azubu is still an enigma as a business, we did get to learn a little bit more about their team recently. Everyone lost their matches against ByuN in the GSTL, so that wasn't very helpful, but we did see three of their players make it through the Challenger League preliminaries. Strangely enough, it happened to be the same trio of players who got pummeled by ByuN in the GSTL who made it through: San, VINES, and SuperNova. Not only that, but they all made it through without dropping a single map, going a combined 6 – 0 in the preliminaries.
We can't say that they faced any well-known opposition in the in the prelims, but the fact they totally crushed through supports the theory that their defeats to ByuN in the GSTL were just flukes, more ByuN being red hot than Azubu being a team of weaklings. On top of that, InCa, Genius and GanZi almost made it as well, dropping out in the final round of the preliminaries.
One big advantage Azubu will have over NSH is that three of their best players, viOLet, BBoongBBoong, and Symbol, didn't have to bother with any preliminaries, having secured spots in the Korean and American regions already. Surely they'll be the ones picking up the slack in this match, having prepared for this week's match while allowing their teammates to focus more on WCS.
Overall, Azubu look like they deserve a mulligan on their first match performance, and bear more looking at as time goes on.
NS HoSeo: ZeNEXT
In contrast, the Challenger League preliminaries have only given us reason to be even more negative about NS HoSeo's chances. MadBull, SaNaEE, SalvatioN, Tible, Tassadar, KySarr, and Brave all fell before even reaching the final round. The team's ace, jjakji, was the only one who got that far, and even he was eliminated in the end by the unknown Swim. That's right, the entirety of the NSH team has been eliminated from the WCS system.
Sadly enough, NS HoSeo no longer resembles the NSH of old, a plucky underdog team that had a fighting chance against any team in the world. Instead, they seem more like team ZeNEX, a team super-glued to the bottom of the GSTL, and having cause to celebrate when just one of their players manages to break through into Code A/Challenger League. Even their one hope, Jjakji, has been fading in recent times, even though he's still a force to be reckoned with.
NSH has to hope that Jjakji still has something left in the tank, that his spirit hasn't been destroyed over the last year and a half, and that a taste of MLG is enough to keep driving him to try and return to greatness.
The other hope NSH has is that their partner Western Wolves can bail them out. In terms of renown, SortOf and Sting definitely pale in comparison to the kind of help Axiom is getting from the Acer duo of Scarlett and MMA. But they're definitely players who know how to get it done in live settings, with SortOf making top four in NASL Season 4, and Sting using his aggressive style to great effect at the ESET UK masters and IEM Singapore. They might be the boost NSH need to have a chance at scratching the playoffs this season.
Starting Match and Prediction
WW.SortOf vs. Azubu.GanZi
We haven't been able to see much of SortOf since he traveled to Korea a month ago to train with NS HoSeo, but apparently he's become good enough to earn the starting spot in this GSTL match. That, or SaNaEE, Tible, and KySarr were all-in on the preliminaries and that left SortOf as the right man for the job. In any case, it will very interesting to see one of quickest rising foreigners of 2012, and still one of the favorites of elitist hipster fans, finally make his Korean debut.
GanZi has seemed revitalized since joining Azubu, earning spots in team leagues, just barely being denied WCS Korea this season, and even becoming something of the team's unofficial spokesman. Still, we haven't seen him in a live setting outside the GSTL pre-season showmatches, and this will be an important test. Overall, this match is one we don't really want to speculate on when there's so little known about the players in HotS.
In the big picture, you have to favor Azubu to take this one. I don't want to say that WCS Korea tells the whole tale for this GSTL match, but when one team has two players in the premier division and three who passed through the qualifiers, and the other has been totally wiped out, that has to count for something.
Azubu 4 – 2 NS HoSeo