Classic: Virtually Anything Can Happen
Classic is one of the most versatile Protoss players we’ve ever seen in StarCraft 2. He has demonstrated an incredible array of builds in all matchups, and is a serious contender to win Blizzcon. While Polt is a daunting opponent, Classic absolutely has the skills he needs to win his first match. In PvT specifically, he has shown an ability and willingness to utilize an array of builds that few other players can match. Polt will have his work cut out for him to account for the plethora of options Classic has at his fingertips, even in the recent patch in which Protoss options have diminished.
Just for starters, in his recent IEM matches against Flash, he demonstrated proxy gateway strategies and safe phoenix/colossus builds. In other games, he has shown oracle openers, safe expansion builds, blink stalker all-ins and blink stalker pressure, proxy tech, greedy economic openings, and varying midgame compositions for different purposes. Classic’s main strength is his versatility, and his exceptional ability to run away with a game after securing an advantage. He plays towards having an advantage in the mid game and stopping Terran from abusing the period at which they are ordinarily strongest. He has some exceptional colossus play and execution, and his preference for phoenix/colossus builds demonstrate an interest in winning before late game, or at least securing an enormous lead before it gets to the late game.
Classic vs Maru on Frost
Let us examine a game he played on the way to his GSL championship and arguably one of the best games of the year. In the Ro4 of Season 2 GSL, Classic was matched against the best Terran in the world at that time: Maru. In this game, Classic demonstrates a rare build which relied on his ability to predict Maru’s decisions in order to deny scouting and deflect early pressure. This game demonstrates the core playstyle of Classic, from his mid game-focused opening, to his immaculate mid game positioning and pressure, and to his stunning late game multi-tasking and transitions.
The game opens on Frost, with Classic in the top right position and Maru in the bottom left position. Classic opens with a risky nexus first, an opening that is still rare due to the fear of reapers. However, Maru is not known for consistently opening reaper. On top of this, Classic decides that this is not enough greed against a player of Maru’s caliber. After scouting Maru’s 1-Rax gasless FE and ensuring he has control of the watchtowers and map control, Classic takes a third Nexus at 6:00, before he’s even finished his warp gate tech. Classic then proceeds to demonstrate his excellent knowledge of scouting patterns by catching the SCV and denying scouting of his base while teching up to blink and then colossus. Maru’s initial pressure of un-upgraded marines and marauders doesn’t find the third Nexus until 8:00, by which time Classic has a finished third and all he needs to deflect the attack. He snags some free kills with some solid force fields and relies on a Sentry and Stalker composition until Colossus are out.
Maru continues to pressure, determined to force Classic to defend and do enough damage so that he can catch up. Fortunately for Classic, his excellent pylon placement and probe movement allow him to see the incoming pressure in time to position himself correctly, and he snags a few more units. Normally in PvT, Terran starts to pull ahead in supply, but not in this match. Because of his excellently greedy opening and his good engagements, Classic has secured himself a supply lead going into the mid game. His solid pylon positioning to spot incoming drops and blink tech allow him to rush up to colossus on a small gateway count and still react to Maru’s pressure, knowing that he has killed just enough that Maru can’t effectively split his army to attack.
More small engagements occur, which go in Classic’s favor. Because of his fast third, he is able to add on a second Forge and get double upgrades while still producing Stalkers and Colossus in high numbers, as well as adding on templar tech. Classic’s extensive map vision and army movement patterns are able to deflect several large split attacks from Maru without suffering significant damage. He maxes out, and then expands to his fourth, still ahead of Maru on economy. He goes up to a large Colossus count with High Templar, adding on cannons to defend his outlying expansions and Stargates to prepare for a tempest transition. Maru adds on Ghosts to his composition, preparing for a long game and knowing he will not be able to win soon.
Classic shows off a few cute tricks. For instance, he uses Hallucination to produce fake Colossi to draw Maru out of position. However, with an opponent like Maru, the game cannot yet be called "won". Classic takes an engagement in the middle of the map slightly off, and Maru picks off a significant portion of Classic’s army and resets the Colossus count. Knowing he won’t die immediately but needing a way to delay Maru further, Classic decides to add a Dark Shrine for the late game as well as a second Robotics Facility to rebuild his Colossus quickly. The players continue to expand, and Classic maintains a one-base lead. His Dark Templar are able to buy enough time for him to rebuild his army and enable him to take a solid engagement mid map. He destroys all of Maru’s vikings.
Despite this setback, Maru's production is rolling and he is able to produce enough to keep up in supply. He notices how spread out Classic is with his rapid expanding, and splits off several Medivacs worth of units to harass. Maru’s harass catches Classic off guard for the first time in the game, and Classic makes the bold decision to attack immediately, knowing that Maru’s army must be weak after that previous engagement with so much of it split off. Maru takes out several bases worth of Probes and destroys a Nexus, but loses a lot of his forces and workers in the process. After this turn of events, the game is surprisingly close with both players dead even in supply around 100. Maru’s production is superior, so Classic turns to his Dark Templar once again to buy him time.
Maru turns to his drop harass once more, and is able to kill a large number of Probes and take out another Nexus, but he loses his fifth base to a large Zealot warp-in in turn, and then loses his fourth while his drop at Classic’s fourth is cleaned up. By the end of it, Maru has mostly mined out due to his inability to secure additional bases and his use of mules, and Classic is able to starve him out and take a substantial supply lead. One final engagement seals the deal, and Classic takes the victory in an incredibly action packed, back and forth PvT.
This game testifies to Classic’s brilliance. His ability to research his opponents, understand them, and exploit them oftentimes brings him an advantage. It shows his readiness to employ unusual builds which normally suffer from significant weaknesses, knowing that it won’t be punished. Polt's general success in multi-pronged aggression to destroy a Nexus or two may not work on a player like Classic who prepares well for his opponents. On the other hand, Classic also showed some significant sloppiness in this game in several of his engagements. In this game and in others, particularly the recent IEM games, he has failed to control his army efficiently more than once and occasionally runs portions of it in one after another rather than all together. His lack of polish creates an opening for Polt to defeat him if he is able to prevent Classic from securing an early lead. Whether or not Classic is able to take a decisive lead early on will likely be the determining factor in the winner of this upcoming series.