Best Games of the Month:Compiled and written by Ej, Elentos, and Durn
MEGA-March 2019 Edition
March was so densely packed with entertaining StarCraft II matches that we decided a normal edition of Best Games of the Month wouldn't do. Instead, we're bringing you a super-sized, MEGA Best Games of the Month list, with nearly TWICE the Best Games goodness. Some might even call this The Best Best Games of the Month.
Yes, We're Opening With a Goddamn Ladder Match
Classic: You doing some deviant s*** again?
sOs: Of course.
Elentos: You know, I don't think I get enough hipster cred for watching every single competitive StarCraft II game.
Yes, indeed, this is the very first ladder game featured in the best games series. It's not a tournament game with any real stakes attached to it, but it was just so weird and entertaining that Wardi picked it up and gave it the proper caster treatment for a wider audience.
This is probably the game everyone expects to happen if Has and sOs collided—except it's four-time premiere tournament champion Classic instead of Has (which is really a terrible indictment of the Protoss faction). It's wild, chaotic, and it doesn't make a whole lot of sense. But there's a lot of fast-paced fun to go along with the weirdness, and most importantly of all, it has shadow stride Dark Templars making a difference.
The icing on the cake was sOs getting cheeky in the chat, bringing up his impending RO16 match with Classic in GSL Code S. Though Classic got the last laugh in the GSL, it's hard to imagine anyone but sOs laughing during this game.
The Case for ZvZ, Part 1
• Serral vs soO on Year Zero - IEM Katowice 2019 - Quarterfinals
If the path to redemption was easy, then redemption wouldn't be worth it.
In a month that was flooded with great games, this one is probably the crème de la crème for most fans. It's already a 2019 game of the year candidate and quite possibly the best ZvZ of all time. This match was the turning point in soO's miracle IEM Katowice run. He was damn lucky to get through the group stage on tiebreakers, but he earned this hard-fought point against the seemingly invincible Global Champion.
Watching this game live, seeing soO build up his bank of over 4,000 minerals at one point, many viewers wondered "Why isn't soO using his economy to tech up and increase his advantage?" According to soO, the reason was that once he found himself behind in tech, he determined that catching up was a hopeless waste of time and resources. And given the fantastic decision-making, battle-micro, and positioning he showed with his Roach-centric armies, we can't argue with that call. After all, throughout StarCraft II's history, when it comes to the Roach in ZvZ, who can truly call themselves the equal of Eo Yun soO?
The Case for ZvZ, Part 2
• Dark vs Solar on King's Cove - IEM Katowice 2019 - Quarterfinals
ZvZ doesn't suck. YOU suck.
Amidst all the hype surrounding soO vs Serral and soO becoming the IEM World Champion, this game finds itself tragically overlooked. That's the same thing that happened to Dark and Solar at last year's IEM Katowice, when they played a group stage game that became our Best Game of 2018.
This game might be considered the sequel. The stage was set in the quarterfinals, with Dark needing just one more win on King's Cove to advance to the semis. As Solar made liberal use of the the new Nydus to probe Dark's defenses, Dark remained steadfast, utilizing his incredible reaction speed and awareness to repel the sneaky tunnelers. Unlike soO, both Dark and Solar were comfortable teching up to Hive and unleashing Zerg's high-tech arsenal, with their mastery over Lurkers and Vipers deciding the game in a tight finish.
You Can't Spell "Best Games" without "GuMiho"
• GuMiho vs Serral on Year Zero - IEM Katowice 2019 - Ro24
Mech god GuMiho strikes again! After pairing with Reynor to give us the best TvZ on last month's list, he's back with another tremendous match against Finnish Phenom Serral.
GuMiho opted for his trendy battlemech style while Serral decided to play a more reactionary game, leading to a typical split-map scenario on the massive Year Zero. However, the game entered unusual territory when GuMiho looked to make a tech-switch to gain an advantage. GuMiho seemed to declare "Hey, Zerg players, making ten Mutas in the mid-game is a tech-switch for babies. Real men go for six-starport Battlecruisers.
Of course, a BC transition takes a lot of time and resources, which should theoretically open up a huge window of vulnerability. However, GuMiho was very crafty about hiding his fleet, and stayed just active enough with his standing army to dupe Serral into thinking this was just normal harassment/trading. Serral, none the wiser, committed a sizable portion of his bank to 17 Brood Lords. When GuMiho finally called in the fleet, the Global Champion found himself staring down the barrel of a Yamato Cannon.
Good Friends, Better Enemies
• TY vs Zeston New Repugnancy - Olimoleague February Finals - Semifinals
Why is it "New" Repugnancy when Dropships have always been repugnant?
Teamkills in StarCraft II have a well-deserved reputation for containing weird, questionable, and otherwise bad strategies. And just because Proleague ended doesn't mean that matches between players who still regularly practice with each other have stopped being weird, questionable and otherwise kinda bad. Case in point: the chaotic mess seen above. A quick +1 air weapons from Zest, an early Ghost academy, a 3-Ghost lazy boy pull—all the ingredients for a quick, forgettable game. TY went through with his attack, the two players lost a combined 40 workers, and then... the game wasn't over?
Incredibly, both players found themselves wounded but still very much in the game. Zest's twenty worker advantage gave him a chance to win if he could just stop TY from reloading, but TY was well aware of his situation and gathered himself for the kill-shot...
It's Raining Nukes
• INnoVation vs Serral on Cyber Forest - WESG 2018 - Grand Finals
If we get matches like this, maybe missing out Maru vs Serral isn't so bad.
One of the biggest talking points in the SC2 community throughout March was the apparent weakness in Serral's play. His streak of undefeated offline matches came to a crashing halt at IEM Katowice at the hands of INnoVation. Although the Finn took the first map, it felt like INnoVation was in total control for the next 90 minutes as he choked Serral out in two grueling, turtle TvZ games.
Was late game TvZ simply unwinnable for Zerg as INnoVation and Maru insinuated? Had the lack of extremely high end Terrans on the European ladder finally caught up to the World Champion? Was the match just not important enough for Serral to care, as he had already won the group?
When Serral opted to play the first few games of the WESG finals extremely aggressively, fans responded with "Serral is clearly afraid of Inno's late game!" But in that sense, it was Serral who would have the last laugh (figuratively, since we know Serral doesn't laugh). Down 2-3 with the ever so slight gap of $110,000 between first and second place, Serral went back to his comfort zone: a game as standard as can be. Lo and behold, INnoVation's 2-1-1 accomplished nothing and Serral was able to go into the late-game with an economic advantage.
Ultimately, the game didn't conclusively answer any questions we had about Serral, INnoVation, or TvZ. But it did give us something else we really wanted: an absurd, late-game slugfest between two of the best players in the world.
A View From the Pinnacle of PvT
• Maru vs Dear on King's Cove - 2019 GSL Code S Season 1 - Quarterfinal
Finally, one can say "Maru vs Dear is still a great rivalry." without being ENTIRELY sarcastic.
20-0. No, Dear's not the Undertaker, but he's made plenty of Terrans rest in peace in 2019. His prior victims even included Maru, which made some believe the Code S champ was in danger of quarterfinal elimination.
However, Code S Maru was a different beast from all of Dear's prior opponents. Code S Maru hadn't lost a Code S playoff match since June 14, 2017. Code S Maru had won the championship three times in a row. Code S Maru had defeated Zest in under 45 minutes of game time, TWICE. So when Maru opened the series up by saying "f*** your streak" and brutalizing Dear on Kairos Junction, no one should have been surprised.
Fortunately for the fans, Dear only seemed to get more excited after seeing his own blood, as if he was thinking 'finally, a worthy opponent.' Game two ended up being a fantastic match played between the two best players in their respective match-ups. Such matches are often effectively over the moment the first mistake is made (as happened in some other games in this series), but game two on King's Cove was competitive, brutal, and wildly entertaining.
Stalemates are for Wimps
• Solar vs Trap on New Repugnancy - Olimoleague Weekly #148 - Semifinals
Disruptors, a dream and a lot of praying to MCanning.
PvZ has been a bit of a stale match-up from the Protoss side of things for a while. Build order variety for Protoss is not generally considered amazing (unless you're Classic), and the compositions are practically identical each in every game. In this game, our players left the status quo way behind. A big Adept attack, a double robo follow-up, and Disruptors to hold against a potential Roach-Ravager attack? This game could have been played in 2016.
Anyway, Solar ended up making Ultras, prompting Trap to make Immortals in response. Solar responded in turn by going up to Brood Lords, to which Trap responded to by making Tempests. So on and so forth it went, until both players had built nearly every single unit available to them. Now, in this situation, many other players would have opted to play it safe, turning the game into a chilly staring match. In the case of Solar and Trap, they agreed to meet in the center of the map and bash their heads against each other until their brains started oozing out their ears.
The Obligatory non-Serral Foreigner Game, but Unironically
NSFW! Hot 13 DT on Planetary action!
Neeb doesn't get a chance to flex his PvT muscles very often, simply due to the top-tier player distribution on the WCS Circuit. But he's managed to impress in his limited showings against Korean Terrans, even when he doesn't win the match. He showed us strong performances against TY in GSL vs the World (2017) and the previous Code S semifinals, defeated TY in the BlizzCon group stage, and recently helped boot Maru out of the IEM Katowice group stage.
The scoreline of this WESG match between Maru and Neeb says Neeb got bulldozed, but the American Protoss actually put up a good fight. Game one left him looking totally outclassed, but game two on Year Zero was an absolute Protoss masterclass at every stage of the game. Okay, let's amend that to 90% of the game. And yet, given how obscenely patient Maru can be in the late game, it's hard to blame Neeb for eventually imploding. That's just the nature of facing Maru at his best.
The "Has Award" for games that make us wonder when we're going to wake up from this horrible fever dream
Wardi: "We don't think she deserved game 1, we don't think she had game 1. But she definitely had game 2,3 and 4."
A lot of things have to go very wrong in a major tournament series for professional casters to straight-up call it a clown fiesta (that, or they don't believe the tournament will be around to not-hire them next year). If you just looked at the results in Liquipedia, you'd probably assume that Scarlett stole a few maps with some clever all-ins in a series where Maru looked superior in standard games. You'd be right to think that, but also really, really wrong.
So let us dive into what had occurred before Maru walked away with the bronze medal. Game 1 was a clash in the super late game of TvZ, a stage of the game that Maru has said is good for Terran (progamer speak for "goddamn near impossible for Zerg"). Scarlett did a great job keeping up and surviving despite Maru dropping enough nukes to make even the Sid Meier's Civilization™ version of Gandhi uncomfortable. At over 1 hour and 15 minutes into the game (making this the longest recorded game at a premier tournament in Legacy of the Void), Maru sacrificed all of his Vikings in a failed attempt to take out Scarlett's last Brood Lords and GG'd out after it failed. This sounds like it makes sense, but in reality, Scarlett had no way to win the game anymore. The game was a draw, because Terran buildings float. Both players hilariously allege that they didn't think of that at the time, which is at least a little bit questionable. If not for the worst brain fart since herO forgot the win condition of StarCraft II, we could have seen a rematch.
In game 2, Maru simply died to a nydus all-in. Probably expecting Maru to proxy now that she was on match-point, Scarlett blind countered his 2-rax strategy with her opening. She then set up for another nydus all-in, which fell flat on its face. Since Scarlett was still on match-point, Maru opted for another 2-rax proxy. This time, Scarlett scouted it and forced Maru to cancel a barracks, at which point About 12 minutes later, she tapped out of the game.
This series is so bizarre you have to see it to believe it.
More recommended games from MarchBut wait, there's MORE!!!
Astrea vs Neeb on King's Cove - VOD
Cure vs FanTaSy on New Repugnancy - VOD
Dark vs herO on Year Zero - VOD
Dear vs Dark on Automaton - VOD
herO vs Trap on Cyber Forest - VOD
INnoVation vs Serral on King's Cove and Automaton - VOD
Lambo vs INnoVation on Automaton - VOD
Rail vs INnoVation on Year Zero - VOD
ShoWTimE vs Neeb on Cyber Forest - VOD
TY vs Solar on New Repugnancy - VOD
Credits and acknowledgements
List committee: Ej, Elentos, Durn
Photos: Andre Hainke (via Blizzard)
List committee: Ej, Elentos, Durn
Photos: Andre Hainke (via Blizzard)