China Team Championship: Season 2GSL Code S might be taking a break for Asia's Mid-Autumn Festival, but a number of Korean progamers are still scheduled to be in action in the China Team Championship. The first two weeks of games delivered an interesting mix of favorites dominating and underdogs punching above their weight classes—what kind of results will week three bring?
Week 2 Recap & Week 3 Preview
Group A, Week 2 recap: Newbee and KaiZi to the topby Ziggy
Finding themselves in the first ace-match scenario of the season, Jin Air's Trap handily dispatched LP's star player Impact in a rather one-sided game on Thunderbird to nab his team its first win of the season. Unfortunately for Jin Air, some of the teams weaknesses were more notable than strengths.
Nothing has changed in regards to their glaring Achilles heel in Rex—the Taiwanese Zerg is now sitting on an 0-4 map score in the second season of the CTC, which puts him on pace to somehow do worse than his 1-13 showing in the inaugural season. He's yet to convince me that he's anything more than Jin Air's buy-in fee into the league. Also, Jin Air are still holstering Maru, and it's anyone's guess as to when he'll finally be deployed (absent again in week 3 line-ups listed below). However, Cure has proven time and time again that he can fill Maru's shoes in CTC, so perhaps this particular 'weakness' will remain unexploited.
The Four Horsemen ride again in the CTC! Or at least one of them does, as INnoVation made his debut. Bolstering the lineup of KaiZi Gaming, a team created for the very purpose of competing in the league, the Machine took down iAsonu in a rather convincing 2-0. While the Chinese Zerg did his best to fight back and actually pulled a few good moves, the ten-time premiere tournament champion proved too tall a hurdle to jump over.
The all-Chinese roster of Invictus Gaming got off to a good start, with Coffee 2-0'ing Misaki (the unlikely key to KaiZi's success, as we pointed out in week 1) in a somewhat one-sided match. However, KaiZi's Korean Terran duo turned things around. After INnoVation took his set, Bunny closed things out against XY despite his extreme greed (seriously, XY, a no gas expo into a quick third into two Armories off one Factory?).
Fresh off a 4-2 over the league's (supposedly) fiercest team in Jin Air Green Wings, Newbee continued their roll. Taking down Brave Star Gaming in a 5-1 series, Newbee now share the #1 spot with KaiZi in Group A.
Dream will have to make a recovery to pre-military form if BSG is to be successful this season. While he hasn't quite got back to his 2014-2015 form just yet, I'm optimistically going to say that he has what it takes to make a successful comeback. But given Dream's current level-of-play, Dear's 2-0 over the former SKT Terran wasn't necessarily surprising—nor was Scarlett's win over Cyan in the closing match of the series. What indeed proved the hardest to predict was the TIME vs Hurricane match that ended up in a tie. All in all, it was a decent showing from BSG considering low expectations.
Group B, Week 2: Season 1 Rerunsby Ziggy
Triumphant Song Gaming rose to the top of the rankings, taking down PSISTORM Gaming in an unforeseen, two-way upset bonanza. Whilst some could argue Korea's prodigal son TRUE squeezing in a map win over Solar shouldn't be construed as an upset per se, Nice's unlikely tie against GuMiho basically ended the series for PSISTORM. The decorated veteran and one-time GSL Code S champion isn't quite living up to the status of PSISTORM's ace, and with just three more series to go in the group stage, he's running out of opportunities to prove himself.
Redeeming himself after a week one loss to SpeCial, soO managed to pull off a quick 2-0 over Black Night's Daydreamer. The Chinese player's antics that saw him and Solar swap mains on Ephemeron last week ran into a wall that was the IEM Katowice champion's defense. Chivo cemented their win with a convincing 2-0 from RagnaroK, whose ZvZ proved too tough a nut to crack even for his fellow countryman Armani. Black Night, though falling straight down to the bottom of the rankings, managed to put two map points on the board for themselves, as their most recent amateur pickup DynaMite 2-0'd Taiwanese player ExpecT in a bizarre TvT series.
The Terrorist Terran strikes again! FanTaSy is quickly building momentum in the CTC, with his two wins helping P1 climb to the top of the rankings early in the season. Starting off the series, PartinG's Soul Train-esque timing attacks struck home, with TooDming's defence crumbling under Immortal fire. In the following series, SpeCial appealed to my sentiment that upsets are a key attraction in a teamleague, as the Mexican Terran dropped a map to Chinese underdog Firefly. To close out the match, former FanTaSy snuck four Hellions into an unprotected base, trading out workers against Zest's proxy Oracles. Coming out with the upper hand, FanTaSy then treated the fans to a textbook showing of TvP mech on Thunderbird, catching the Kingslayer unawares.
Weekly Spotlightby TheOneAboveU
Weekly MVP: P1.FanTaSy
Week 2’s MVP Award goes to Pixel 1’s FanTaSy for his dominating performance against OG.Zest. His 2-0 victory secured an important win for Pixel 1 against one of the bigger threats of Group B, and established P1 as the top challenger to defending champions TSG in their group. FanTaSy not only defeated Zest quite comfortably, he also did it with panache, successfully fielding a mech composition in the second game between the two players.
FanTaSy may not have escaped his Ro16 group in GSL Code S, but he is more and more becoming one of the most dangerous and entertaining players of the CTC. We look forward to the strategies he'll bring in week 3, and hope that other Terran players might find inspiration in his creative style of play.
Taiwanese Player Spotlight: TSG.Nice
Sen and Has are the two names that have dominated Taiwanese StarCraft II for years, reigning over local qualifiers to compete at various international events. Nice is one of the few players who was able to step out from under their shadow. His most notable run was back in WCS Leipzig in 2018, where he went all the way to the Ro16. Later that year, he defeated Has to earn the right to represent Taiwan at IEM PyeongChang.
Unfortunately, Nice was handed a four-month ban from competitive SC2 in 2019 due to ladder-abuse during qualifiers. Whether or not you think that punishment was sufficient, it's been interesting to see how he's immediately made an impact in the CTC in his return. In both Week 1 and Week 2 of the league, he was able to tie 1-1 against Terrans Dynamite and GuMiho, securing vital points in the battle for first place. Players who fill the China/Taiwan/Macau/Hong Kong quota struggled to break even during CTC season 1—if Nice can actually be a positive contribution, it would be a huge boon to TSG's title defense.
While Nice’s map split with BN.DynaMite in week 1 was not surprising, his week 2 victory over GuMiho was a bit of a shocker, especially the manner of his victory. Nice did not need to play like his infamous countryman Has at all—he won in a very straight-forward macro game, even after taking early game damage from a Hellion attack. Nice kept a cool head, defended the following harassment attempts very well, and continued expanding ahead of GuMiho. An opportune engagement for Nice in the center of Triton combined with a simultaneous Zealot run-by at the Terran’s third, which killed many SCVs, dealing a serious blow to GuMiho’s chances at victory. Nice very accurately judged the situation right to apply further pressure, and took another engagement at GuMiho’s natural expansion, breaking through his defenses.
With more solid play like this, Nice could make defending champions TSG an even scarier team than they were in Season 1. Going outside of the CTC, it will be interesting to see if Nice can bring this level of gameplay to his local WCS qualifiers and have an impact on the Circuit as well.