I don’t trust statistics—never have. That’s not to say I don’t study them or use them as a starting point for many of my StarCraft-based arguments, but I don’t like to rely on them. When it comes to predicting the outcome of a particular match, I’m much more likely to trust my own intuition regarding the players and maps than believe what the statistics say about both parties.
My feelings on this OSL final are no exception. The statistics, without a doubt, are on GGPlay’s side. Compared to Iris in TvZ/ZvT, GGPlay has a better career record, a better record since the beginning of 2006, and a better record since April of 2007. This final statistic is perhaps the most meaningful: GGPlay is 13-5 during that span of time, whereas Iris is only 5-3. While the difference in percentage isn’t huge, it’s important to note just how much ZvT GGPlay has been playing. In this OSL, he’s only had to play one game against a non-Terran opponent. Iris has faced considerably more racial diversity, and while he has played four TvZs this OSL, his most-recent games were against Stork. Iris has only had a week to prepare for this Bo5. GGPlay, one could argue, has been preparing for it since the beginning of June.
Then there are the maps. Thanks largely to GGPlay, who is 4-0 on the map, Zerg players are a perfect 7-0 ZvT on Fantasy. Hitchhiker, despite looking like a Terran wonderland, is currently 13-12 in favor of the swarm. Python is sitting at 20-18 in favor of Terran—not exactly a blowout—and while Monty Hall currently favors Terran 12-8, Savior, Silver, and GGPlay have all shown the ability to win on it. All told, the maps are just fine for ZvT. So a player with GGPlay’s ZvT statistics should have no problem taking down a player like Iris on this set of maps… right?
Well, no. And the reason is this: Iris has looked unstoppable as of late. He looked sharp against Savior, and he looked invincible against Stork. I challenge anyone to watch Iris’ Bo5 against Stork and point to something that Iris did wrong. When I extended that challenge to Jathin, he said, “There was a point when a vulture died unnecessarily. He could have, y’know, moved it.” That’s basically the extent of it. Iris’ execution was flawless.
But I don’t mean to sell GGPlay short. Despite his series against Flash ending 3-2, GGPlay only made one real mistake during that set of games, but it was a big one: his ill-advised mutalisk-zergling attack on Python, that vain attempt to save his newly-hatched expansion. Aside from that debacle, GGPlay’s play was practically a work of art. His timing, micromanagement, and decision-making were all spot-on. Even though Iris, in my mind, is the favorite to win the OSL, GGPlay is playing as well as he ever has; anyone who denies his ability to win this series is making a huge mistake.
Game 1 – Python
Python is a very standard map, and I expect very standard play from both players. GGPlay's goal has to be, one way or another, to secure a gas expansion beyond his natural for an extended period of time. Though this is a pretty typical goal in ZvT, it's more difficult on Python due to how the map forces Terran activity. The map's relatively low mineral count—as opposed to a map like Longinus—means that Terrans must be constantly pressuring, scouting, and actively using their armies. Turtling until they have a nearly-unstoppable blob of troops isn't an option. The map's wide open middle means that, for Terrans, numerous small skirmishes are preferable to a single large one. Bunker rushing is a viable option on Python, but whether Iris attempts to or not, I'm predicting that he makes a second command center before his refinery so as to be able to more-easily replenish his army as he relentlessly hunts for expansions.
Game 2 – Fantasy
Iris surprised me with aggressive play against Stork on Fantasy, but I don't think it will work against a Zerg. If Iris spawns in the lower-right and GGPlay in the upper-left, for instance, GGPlay could literally start creep colonies and finish the sunken upgrade in the time it would take Iris to travel between the two bases. Being that pro-gamers look to develop and practice consistent strategies that will work at any starting position, look for Iris, like Flash, to try to gain an early economic advantage one way or another. Barring anything non-standard from Iris, GGPlay is my pick to win on Fantasy.
Game 3 – Hitchhiker
I've never liked Hitchhiker; it's too easy, in my mind, for Terrans to abuse the narrow passages. But that hasn't stopped Zergs from finding success on it, and I can only commend them for that. After watching Flash's massive, SCV-cut tank push from last week, I have a hard time believing that Iris won't try something similar. He is the "Berserker Terran," after all. If GGPlay can survive to the late-game, however, Iris could be in trouble. We've all seen how effectively GGPlay makes use of defilers, and defilers show their true strength in narrow passages. My own preference on Hitchhiker is to start climbing the tech tree towards mutalisks before adding a third hatchery. Doing so effectively counters an early tank push and, due to the cliffs above the natural expansions, can still prove effective against a Terran fast expand build. To my knowledge, however, only Savior and Yellow[Arnc] have taken my advice in this regard.
Game 4 – Monty Hall
I've heard many, many Zergs complain about Monty Hall, and after watching a lot of TvZs on the map, I've written their criticisms off as baseless; Monty Hall has a ton of gas, rewards players who expand frequently (read: Zergs), doesn't allow for bunker rushes, and has numerous flanking opportunities. GGPlay and Iris have only played one ZvT/TvZ apiece on Monty Hall, and both were virtuoso performances. I'm looking forward to this game more than any other in the series.
Game 5 – Python
I've said this regarding pretty much every Bo5 I've previewed, but the point is so important that I have to drive it home: as fans, there's nothing better than seeing a series go to a single, decisive game. In terms of sheer tension and entertainment, nothing in StarCraft can compare. Imagine the amount of time that GGPlay and Iris have practiced specifically for these games—somewhere in the realm of 100 hours each (assuming 14-hour days for a week). And in the end, it could all come down to one game, something that rarely takes more than a half hour. All that practice, all that devotion, over something that could be decided in the blink of an eye—it's the reason we love sports.
Here's what the rest of TL had to say:
Hot_Bid: "I believe [Iris] is absolutely dying to win this final. If he loses, he's going to go home and slit his wrists. He's angry, determined, and is probably practicing for this final with such a single-minded fervor that I really don't think anyone can match at this point."
RowdierBob: "Iris has to end the games before GGPlay can get a three-gas strong hive economy working, or at least gain a big advantage. GGPlay is pretty unstoppable if he gets his hive tech working with three gases in his possession."
Carnac: "[GGPlay's] late-game management rivals Savior's. If Iris doesn't succeed in damaging GGPlay in the early- to mid-game, he will have an extremely hard time beating him, no matter on how much of a roll he is."
ManaBlue: "You can see the fire in Iris' eyes every time he steps onto the OSL stage now. He's at the point where skill and practice are irrelevant. He's pissed, he's driven, he's coming to smash the world to pieces. If I were GGplay, I'd be terrified."