GOMTV Hot6ix Cup
Day 1 Recap
Rain and Dear advance
Day 2 Preview
soO vs. Maru
Bomber vs. Soulkey
Brackets and standings on
Rain, Dear advance on Day 1
Two of KeSPA's top Protoss players in SKT_Rain and SouL_Dear advanced to the semifinals on day one of the Hot6ix Cup, handily defeating AZUBU.Symbol and Samsung_RorO.
Rain (3 - 0) Symbol
Rain took Symbol to the cleaners with a 3-0 drubbing in the first series of the night. Amusingly enough, the series between two former WoL finalists started off with a rather retro-feel, as Rain took a quick third and killed off Symbol with a stalker-colossus timing before hive tech could be reached. Rain then went up 2-0 by hitting another sort of timing entirely, following his fast expand with a 4-gate that made short work of Symbol's greedy build.
After winning with two piercing timings, Rain put on a macro PvZ clinic to close out the series. After grabbing his third following a standard stargate-robo opener, Rain seized control of the game and never let it go. His forces constantly denied Symbol from taking a fourth base, burning down hatcheries and retreating while Symbol tried to keep up. All the while, zealot warp-ins and phoenixes added to Symbol's misery. Even though Symbol survived to make a sizable army of ultralisks off three bases, it was not enough to swing the game. Having secured four bases, Rain happily took an even trade against Symbol's ultralisks before finishing him off with superior reinforcements.
Dear (3 - 1) RorO
Defending Code S champion Dear had a slightly more difficult time against RorO, but emerged with the 3-1 victory nevertheless. The first game saw the the 4-gate strategy rear its head again, and once again it gifted the Protoss an easy victory. RorO then tried to go for some cheese of his own in game two on Yeonsu with an early spawning pool, but poor Zergling micro allowed Dear to survive with enough probes remaining to have a small lead. Dear opted to follow with a big +2 blink stalker and immortal timing, but Roro somehow found a way to squeeze out enough hydras and zerglings for a successful defense. With the core of his army broken, Dear GG'd out to tie the series 1 - 1.
Dear was the aggressor once more in game three, going for oracles and dark templars to keep RorO on his toes. RorO managed to keep his losses at a reasonable level and was even able to gather a dangerous force of hydralisks for a counter-attack as Dear attempted to take a third base. Unfortunately for RorO his force didn't have the firepower to raze the nexus before it was taken down, and the tables quickly turned against him when Dear launched a counter-counter-attack with a warp prism in the Zerg main. Having taken too much damage from the warp-ins, RorO GG'd out after a half-hearted muta switch.
More aggressive tactics saw Dear close out the series on Polar Night. Void rays combined with a pesky sentry drop wreaked havoc inside of RorO's main, all the while Dear prepared back at home to hit with a follow-up force of colossi. RorO's hydralisks and roaches were powerless to defend against the next wave of attackers from Dear, and he bowed out of the tournament.
Subplot of the Night: 4-Gate Rides Again
It's official: the PvZ flavor of the week is gate expand into 4-gate pressure. After San used the somewhat simplistic strategy to eliminate Hydra and Effort at IEM Singapore, both Rain and Dear were able to use it to take games in the Hot6ix Cup as well.
Considering that it was one of the very first follow-ups to gate-expand to be popularized, it's hard to tell why Zergs are losing so haplessly to this build at this point in time. For now, it seems like it's a case of an old strategy making a surprise comeback and players getting caught off guard. It's often been the case that a retro strategy can lead to a few easy wins before opponents add it to their mental list of things to keep an eye out for. The other possibility is that Protoss players have found some new nuances in the build and found more effective ways to play it in the present PvZ metagame. In any case, it's a strategy to pay attention to in the following week.
Dear and Rain have booked a semifinal date in the top half of the bracket, guaranteeing there will be a Protoss player in the finals. Now, it's time to see who will come up from the other half of the bracket.
Quarterfinals - Day 2 Preview
Quarterfinal 3: Maru vs. soOby Waxangel
With his OSL championship run that saw him beat Symbol, INnoVation and Rain, MaruPrime looked like he was going to be our breakout player of the year. Unfortunately for the young Marine Prince, he was out-broken-out (yes, we're making up words) by Dear the next season, who handed Maru back to back semifinal exits from WCS while he himself went on to win back to back titles.
Besides Dear taking some of the air out of his tires, Maru has been rolling along at a steady pace since taking his OSL title. He's definitely no one-hit wonder like some thought after his Ro16 elimination in the WCS S2 finals—he more than made up for it by placing in the top four of three consecutive WCS tournaments (Korea, Season Finals, Global Finals). It's a little hard to notice with TaeJa taking all those international titles, but Maru has actually been the best WCS Terran in the last few months.
As for Maru's opponent, SKT_soO, it's hard to know what to make of him. He was the runner-up of WCS Korea Season 3, a season full of underdogs and upsets. Honestly, we didn't even really know what to make of the champion, Dear, until he went on to win WCS Season 3 in Canada to prove that he was not going to become the next Seed or jjakji.
But soO? He dropped out of the Ro16, leaving many to wonder if his run to the WCS Korea finals was just luck after all. As mentioned above, even Maru flopped in the WCS Season Finals immediately following his OSL win, and he quickly recovered by showing great form in the following tournaments. It could very well be the case for soO, who is similar to Maru in that he was a rather ordinary Code S player before he made the leap one season. With a strong performance against Maru, soO can prove that he's for real.
Overall Outlook and Prediction
soO and Maru played each other somewhat recently in the WCS Season 3 Finals, where Maru took a 2-1 victory. That series was decided mostly in the early-mid game, with soO losing the games where he was unable hold off Maru's marine-hellion-medivac pressure, and winning the one game that went long. That sort of fits with the mental image we have for the two players, Maru being a constantly attacking player with great micro, and soO being a more big picture oriented player.
Without much recent data this is more of a gut feeling prediction, so I'll go with Maru to win it again by a narrow margin.
Maru 3 - 2 soO
Quarterfinal 4: Bomber vs. Soulkeyby Zealously
Consistency, meet inconsistency
Through this year's soaring highs and disappointing lows, only one thing about ST_Bomber has been truly consistent: his inconsistency. More so than any other player, Bomber is the player whose skill bounces back and forth between championship level and something like Code A level with almost alarming frequency. However, it's a clear improvement over the earlier versions of Bomber, whose capacity to go from Code S champion to Code B scrub inside the SAME SERIES created the dead-horse idea of "Bomber's Law." While he has looked clearly outmatched a few times this year, it has mostly been in the playoff stages of incredibly tough tournaments, where no one can be expected to easily advance. For all his supposed disappointments, it's hard to deny that 2013 has been the year when Bomber finally got it together (more than once). However impressive his MLG championship in 2011 may have been, 2013 has been Bomber's best year by far. Had he not suffered a loss to Scarlett at Red Bull Battlegrounds, he could be coming into Hot6ix Cup as a favorite and one of 2013 best performing players. Alas, that didn't happen, and Bomber must once again fight his reputation as a choker as he continues his quest for maximum success before his military service.
It is only fitting that Bomber's opponent is Woongjin_Soulkey, a player who is all the things Bomber (usually) isn't. With a strong claim to being 2013's best player, Soulkey comes into Hot6ix Cup as a dual WCS/WCG champion. Having beaten Innovation to win WCS Korea Season 1 and, despite losing to him in WCG Korea, winning the WCG Finals after his rival forfeit his spot to go to Dreamhack instead. Soulkey has managed to break free from his image as a ”consistently good but not the best”-kind of player that seemed to follow him around in the first parts of 2013.
More than anything, Soulkey embodies consistency. Since 2012 GSL Season 5, Soulkey has reached seven Premier tournament quarterfinals quarterfinals, all of them either GSL or WCS. While he did fail to make it to the season 2 finals after being eliminated in the Ro8, Soulkey has never looked weak, never looked like he even knows how to spell slump. In an environment where most players fluctuate, where it seems no one can be taken for granted, Soulkey has stayed true to his reputation as the Iron Wall of Korea and remained a threat to win any tournament he participates in, and the Hot6ix Cup is no different. Unlike players like Roro, Symbol and Rain, who secured spots before they faded from the spotlight, Soulkey hasn't fallen off in the slightest. He is just as much of a threat now as he was in Season 1, continuously ironing out any flaws in his play and further polishing his strong aspects to become a more complete player.
But despite Soulkey's astonishing consistency and recent WCG championship, I can't shake the feeling that this match is in large part Bomber's match. That doesn't necessarily mean that Bomber is the favorite to win the match, but that the result will likely be decided from Bomber's side. Soulkey is the constant, Bomber is the variable.
At the Season 2 Finals, Bomber utterly dismantled Jaedong to take an easy 4-0 victory and he showed similarly impressive play against Soulkey in the quarterfinals of Blizzcon, picking him apart to take the series 3-1. Everyone knows that Bomber is capable of beating Soulkey, and probably anyone else in the world as well. But it takes something special for that to happen. People like to crack jokes about some cosmic law that forces Bomber to lose once he has looked impressive for a little while, but this year has been one long exercise in disproving that. No, the issue for Bomber (and indeed, anyone attempting to predict his matches) is that it's impossible to know when he'll come out with guns blazing and when he'll suddenly realize that he forgot to pack ammunition this morning.
Most days, Soulkey might actually be the favorite to take this match. His ZvT hasn't been weak at any point in HotS and although we've seen none of it since his loss to Bomber at Blizzcon, we must remember that Scarlett has beaten Bomber twice in the match-up over the last few weeks. Scarlett isn't by any means a slouch herself, but it's no stretch to say that Soulkey is her better in ZvT. If Soulkey has learned from his loss at Blizzcon, if he knows what he did wrong and has managed to fix those flaws, Soulkey will probably take Bomber out and advance to the semis. Of course, we then presume that Bomber isn't going to bring his near-unbeatable A-game, which is a dangerous thing to do. His losses to Scarlett indicate that he might be in slightly worse shape now than he was at Blizzcon, which is understandable after a long season with many games, but I have a hunch that Bomber will bring something to the table for Hot6ix Cup. Can he become the Bomberman in one more tournament this year, or has he used up all of his nitroglycerin?
It's impossible to know with the mixed signals he has been giving off recently, but one thing is certain: he is as impossible to count out as he is to count on.
Prediction: Bomber 3 - 2 Soulkey