Pretty Cool: NationWars 2019 Round-of-16 by Wax
NationWars 2019's round-of-sixteen turned out to be highly competitive, with even the powerhouse nations subjected to close-calls and elimination scares. Some traditional powers such as Poland and the Netherlands didn't advance at all, suffering eliminated in tough groups. Here's how each group played out:
With all the Ro16 matches completed, that brings us to the single-elimination, bracket phase of the tournament. Round-of-eight matches will be played online on November 30th-December 1st, while the round-of-four and grand finals will be played live from Paris on December 8th.
The Ro16 also marked what are likely to be the final major tournament matches in the 4.10.X era of StarCraft, with HomeStoryCup XX (Nov 21-24) set to be played on the balance mod—days ahead of the official, new balance patch. Before we move on, here's my list of cool (and not so cool) things from the NationWars Ro16.
1) Goddamn amazing: soO vs Neeb
In the Ro24, NationWars 2019 delivered one of the weirdest, funniest, most delightful, 'so-bad-it's-good'-type matches of the year in the form of Bly vs Acqueron. In the Ro16, soO tried his best to one-up that performance, piloting the supposedly unbeatable BL-Infestor composition into a disastrous loss against Neeb.
I'm not quite sure why I'm attracted to these kinds of games. Maybe it's a problem of scarcity—I've become so spoiled by being able to watch the best players compete on a regular basis, that the only StarCraft II high left to chase is watching the best players compete poorly. Is that weird? C'mon, I can't be the only one.
In any case, I'm glad soO finally has his major championship in the bag so we can tease him like this from time to time. A year ago, you couldn't really mock him for blowing a 10k bank against Maru without being filled with deep sorrow and guilt, knowing that his horrendous late-game play might forever prevent him from winning a major title. In the post-IEM Katowice 2019 world, soO really seems to be living his best StarCraft II life. He's the one mocking his late-game play, mocking his propensity to overproduce Corruptors, and just generally mocking everything mockable about his entire being. He knows his legacy is secure, and everything attained after this—including another NationWars title for Korea—would just be icing on the cake. Hmmm, that was a weird tangent—just go watch this game.
2) Pretty cool: Goblin making RotterDaM proudOccasionally, a StarCraft II commentator will become the vocal, public advocate for an underappreciated player, breaking the unwritten rules of impartiality to try and give them some shine. This kind of caster-advocacy typically seems to go pretty poorly, whether it's the Yonghwa of Artosis' eye or whatever NA player feardragon decided to hype this week.
Thus, it was cool to see Goblin impress despite Croatia's elimination, taking maps off the entire Poland squad and even Serral in the Ro16. While I thought Goblin was better than his results showed in the 2019 Circuit (Winter: Ro32 -Spring: Ro8 - Summer: Ro32 - Fall: didn't qualify), he didn't fully justify RotterdaM's extreme man-crush throughout the year. Rotti must feel quite vindicated now, knowing that his favorite Croatian Protoss player (seeing that this is Rotti, he probably actually has them ranked 1 through 17) has gone from hipster darling to more of a mainstream star.
Goblin's one-base DT rush builds against Terran were pretty cute, but the highlight of his NW2019 performance was clearly his improbable win against Serral. Did Serral play at his usual level? No. Did Serral sorta forget what how many Queens you need to beat mass Phoenixes? Yes (I think? Maybe?). But in a year where few Protoss players managed to defeat Serral in matches of consequence, you had to be impressed.
3a) Intriguing, but whatever: Serral being just a little bit shakyHere's the thing about Serral: When he's playing at his peak level, he could be described as 'mundanely perfect.' You just end up taking it for granted the way he doesn't make any mistakes, which is why it's so noticeable when he actually commits unforced errors.
There were a handful of those on Finland's Ro16 matchday, such as failing to Bile down a Prism that had set up a little too close, move-commanding a key early-game Ravager to its death, messing up the timing on some Drone/Spore Colony cancellation tricks.
Ultimately it's not something anyone should worry about, since even Serral has bad day occasionally. For all I know, he could have been on the phone while he was playing his matches, discussing whether he wanted oak or mahogany for his new, custom-ordered trophy case.
3b) Intriguing, but whatever: INnoVation being good againOf all the Ro16 groups, Group B would have benefited the most from being played offline, if only so I could see INnoVation's face after he was forced to drag Stats and soO (who flopped against Harstem and Neeb) across the finish at 10AM Korean time. Well, it would have been the same face as every other INnoVation face, but you could probably have felt the disdain and annoyance emanating from every pore.
Anyway, does this mean INnoVation is good again? Uhhh, no idea. After leading South Korea to the NW Ro8, INnoVation promptly lost his very next competitive match to Patience in the WESG Korean qualifier [Correction: The 'real' INnoVation did not the play the qualifier. The player that lost to Patience was a different player using the same ID]. That really shouldn't surprise anyone—that's just how things work with the present version of INnoVation. Maybe he'll lead Korea to another NW title, smashing Serral and Reynor along the way. Maybe he'll suck, and ask if O'Gaming has any EU LoL accounts he can play on after Korea is eliminated in the semifinals. Either scenario seems equally likely.
4) I hate it, but it was kinda funny: Scarlett squeezing the last few drops out of the imba stoneThere's a point at which an abusive, cheesy player becomes SO brazen and unapologetic about their dastardly deeds that it actually becomes charming. Usually this applies to Protoss players like sOs or Has, but Scarlett has almost pulled off the Zerg version of this in NW2019. With the new patch looming, she seemed determined to show us every last form of Nydus Worm abuse before it gets nerfed into
While I thought this made Scarlett's games super hilarious (which is almost as important as actually winning), it was also super disgusting. My verdict: Scarlett should be sent to StarCraft prison, but like a nice Scandinavian prison with computers and anime.
5) Pretty lame: Has not being Has-likeHas was out-Hased by his Taiwanese teammates Nice and ButAlways this tournament—quite prominently in the case of ButAlways who briefly vexed Reynor with a two-base Carrier rush. It really seemed like ButAlways had a narrow windows of strength where Reynor wasn't totally sure how to react. Unfortunately neither did ButAlways, and he eventually died to every single Zerg unit that shoots air.
Anyway, back to Has. The not-so-dirty secret about Has is that he just hasn't been particularly Has-y in 2019, with a disappointing number of buildings built inside his own base. The reason I'm disappointed by this isn't because it has affected his win-rate—it's because it's affected the entertainment value of his matches. The reason entire Has has a cult following is because his games are uniquely entertaining regardless of the result. Things like four-Stargate Oracle (when better players will later prove that just two will do), the consecutive failed proxying of multiple tech buildings the same game, cannon-rushing inefficiently—that's the essence of Has. Sadly, he's been more of a garden variety, cheesy Protoss player in 2019, which is a great loss for StarCraft II fans everywhere.
Credits and acknowledgements
Written by: Wax
Written by: Wax