NationWars 2019: Quarterfinals Previewby TheOneAboveU
After HomeStory Cup XX ushered in a new season of competitive StarCraft 2 with much flair, O'Gaming's Nation Wars has been passed the torch of passion. We now continue the international tournament with the playoffs, with the quarterfinal winners advancing to the offline phase of the tournament.
There are no more second chances now—no losers' bracket. It's do or die in the single elimination playoffs. Can the teams relying on their sole ace players continue to steamroll through their opponents, or will the teams with strong roster depth be able to finally use this strength to a decisive advantage? Can France reach the offline stage to once again play at home and re-summon their magic from 2016? Will the reigning champions from South Korea fall early, or can they continue their mission of defending the title?
Quarterfinal #1: Italy vs. MexicoSaturday, 30. November at 18:00 GMT (+00:00)
Italy: Reynor (13-1, 1 All-kill) | Ryosis (2-2) | Ryu (1-3)
Mexico: SpeCial (10-5, 2 All-kills) | Cham (2-4) | JimRising (2-5)
NW Match History: None
The Italian flag may feel a bit unadorned compared to its Mexican counterpart, as it does not have a badass eagle feasting on a snake. But what Italy does have is one badass Zerg player who reached the grand finals of BlizzCon, which should make them the slight favorites in this match-up despite their lack of roster depth.
Italy had a bumpier start into the tournament than many expected, with the Protoss trio from Taiwan pushing them to the edge of defeat in their very first match, but Italian ace Reynor kept things together in the end. Reynor also secured a rather easy victory over Canada to take first place in Group A. The Mexicans on the other hand had to battle through the losers’ bracket in Group D, after being swept cleanly by Germany in the first match: they overcame their Latin American rivals from Brazil with an all-kill by SpeCial, and went on to defeat China in a true team effort, with an especially strong performance by Cham, who was able to win two maps against China’s ace TIME to secure second place in the group.
Thus, in terms of non-ace players, Mexico may actually have the upper hand, with Cham and JimRising having proven their ability to make important contributions at this level of competition. On the other hand, Ryosis and Ryu looked largely ineffective during the group stage, but Ryosis’ win over NoRegret could be a good sign. After all, this match is going to be an absolute fiesta of ZvZs, a match-up that will definitely feel the Nydus and Lurker changes, and that may well be a bit volatile in the first few weeks of the new patch.
Battle of Aces: Reynor vs. SpeCial
Not only are Reynor and SpeCial their countries’ aces, they have some personal scores about food from HomeStory Cup XX to settle in their very likely upcoming duel. TL.net suggests the two arrange a sidebet on the result of this match: If Mexico wins, Reynor has to eat a slice of hawaiian pizza with ketchup on top. If Italy wins, SpeCial has to eat... ionno, a Taco Bell Doritos Locos Taco?
There can be no doubt about Reynor being the favorite coming into this—with the exception of their encounter at GSL vs. the World this year, the Zerg player has dominated their meetings ever since late 2017. His masterful ZvT performances at HSC XX against Cure and INnoVation will strengthen his confidence further, and they probably didn’t make it much easier for SpeCial to prepare, as the young Italian showed quite a variety of styles: from the still effective Brood Lord/Infestor composition, to old school Ling/Bane/Muta, over to a more modern Lurker based playstyle—Reynor can pull off any of them.
SpeCial’s preparation abilities are never to be underestimated—his HSC casts showed a mere glimpse of the detailed level of thought SpeCial puts into his matches—but the HSC XX runner-up’s execution looked very tight and crisp, his styles already quite well adapted to the new patch. Historically, Terrans have always surged ahead a bit after a new patch hit, able to adapt to the new environment quicker than their Zerg colleagues, but if HSC XX was an indicator, this historical trend may have found an end. It very much looks like Reynor will close this one out for Italy.
Prediction: Italy to advance!
Quarterfinal #2: Finland vs. USASaturday, 30. November at 20:30 GMT (+00:00)
Finland: Serral (14-1, 2 All-kills) | ZhuGeLiang (1-3) | TheMusZero (1-4)
USA: Neeb (9-4) | Future (7-2) | MCanning (2-4)
NW Match History: None
The estimated population of Finland—about 5.5 million people—could comfortably settle in New York City and still leave parts of the city a ghost town. But if there is a country on Earth that personifies Yoda’s eternal words of wisdom that ‘size matters not’, it might well be Finland, a headache for superpowers at least since 1939.
The Finns, a superpower themselves in StarCraft 2 at least, almost fell victim to their own mojo, only narrowly escaping disaster against Croatia in the group stage, before recovering with a Serral all-kill against France to make it out on first place. The US had to struggle a bit more to advance, but team efforts against Ukraine and the Netherlands eventually lead to success, after they had to bow down to the Koreans in their group’s winners’ match.
In previous editions of Nation Wars, these two teams could basically be grouped in the same category of one-man teams, with only their ace players being the reason for their relevance in the competition. But the United States actually look much more solid this year with Neeb getting very good support from Future and MCanning—so much so that they really don’t fit the mentioned category this year. All three of their players can easily match up with Finland’s support cast of ZhuGeLiang and TheMusZero—hell, I’d even go so far as to calling MCanning slightly favored against both of them. So when it comes to the Proleague-phase of this match, the self-proclaimed home of the brave could well score some important points. They’ll need them...
Battle of Aces: Serral vs. Neeb
...because Finland remains a one-man show. If HSC XX hadn’t happened between the Ro16 and now, I’d go on about how shaky Serral looked online against Croatian youngster goblin, and how Neeb’s chances of defeating him were perhaps the best for a long time. But HSC XX did happen, and Serral did win it. Not, perhaps, in the most dominant fashion we’ve seen before—INnoVation did send him to the losers’ bracket, and he did drop maps to uThermal and Kelazhur—but Serral came through in the end and got his revenge against Reynor for their BlizzCon semi-final clash. What Neeb, specifically, should be afraid of, is the 9-1 ZvP record Serral amassed during the tournament, with 3-0's over both Zest and Trap, and a 2-0 over PtitDrogo. ShoWTimE was the only one to take a map from him in the match-up, and that was a hard-fought one. It suffices to say that Serral’s ZvP doesn’t seem to have lost any lethality on the new patch.
The only advantage Neeb has is secrecy. We haven’t seen him play tournament matches on the new patch yet, as he declined to attend HSC XX. We don’t know about his ideas, his approach to the changes, to the match-up. Neither does Serral, or so we can assume. So there is certainly some room for Neeb here to perhaps come out with a nice surprise for the Finnish Phenom—but blindsiding Serral is notoriously difficult, and even it works one time, give him five minutes to adjust and he’s never going to fall for it again (ask INnoVation about it). The US would deserve a better finish for finally sending a team with more depth, but life is unfair and so is Serral.
Prediction: Finland to advance!
Quarterfinal #3: Germany vs. FranceSunday, 1. December at 20:30 GMT (+00:00)
Germany: ShoWTimE (7-1) | Lambo (5-2) | HeRoMaRinE (4-2)
France: Clem (10-3) | MarineLorD (5-4)| PtitDrogo (5-5)
NW Match History: None
It’s quite surprising that such a classic showdown in the history books as Germany vs. France hasn’t yet happened in an edition of Nation Wars, but this will actually be the very first match these two neighbors, rivals, and friends will play against each other in the history of the tournament series. They may very much be lovers nowadays, but when StarCraft II powerhouses clash there can be no compromises between these countries.
Germany took the expected first place in their group, sweeping aside Mexico before winning a hard-fought battle against China for which ShoWTimE did the heavy lifting against TIME. France is coming from the second place seed in Group C, which they were able to secure through two wins against Poland—one being rather close, the other one quite comfortable thanks to young talent Clem—after being sent to the losers’ bracket by the power of Serral.
It’s an interesting match-up for sure, since both teams securely fit into the category of teams with a lot of depth in contrast to the more ace-dependant nations. Germany fields three of the best players of their races in Europe, offering a perfectly balanced line-up. France—we just have to repeat it, because did patch did indeed not delete the race from the game—lacks a Zerg, and thus a bit of strategic diversity, instead opting to field two very strong Terrans and an elite Protoss player. Comparing rosters one to one, Germany’s surely must look a bit scarier, but since an offline appearance in front of a home crowd in France is on the line here, the French should be considered extra motivated to do well here, which might be enough to equalize the odds. A lot is going to depend simply on match-day form here, and how well these players can adjust to the new patch.
We’ll also a get a fascinating clash of styles: the three Germans are known for their rather standardized, defensive gameplay, especially ShoWTimE and HeRoMaRinE. They prefer the safe, reactive macro game, where their superior economy eventually leads to victory. Lambo, a player very well versed in the theory of the game, may also come up with some smart stuff newly made possible by the recent patch that few people have yet seen, surprising his opponents. In contrast, the Frenchmen very much shine with their aggression: Clem is a hurricane of attacks and multitasking, and PtitDrogo can be as cheesy as anyone if he deems it necessary. Their weakest member is probably MarineLorD right now, but he can easily switch between aggression and strong macro play.
Battle of Aces: ShoWTimE vs. Clem
As stated, this is going to be very close and much will depend on the daily form of these players. If someone has a bad day on December 1st, his nation will be at a strong disadvantage. If it comes to an ace situation, ShoWTimE and Clem seem like the most probable choices. Die Mauer has so far done most of the heavy lifting for Germany and had the highest finish of the three at HSC XX (he’s also the best at water sliding). Additionally, his defensive style would be the best match for Clem’s tempo play. There is also the mental edge: ShoWTimE by now is a very experienced tournament player, while Clem still seems to make a higher rate of mistakes the later a tournament goes. Under a high pressure situation, ShoWTimE can be counted on. Keep in mind, really any player on both teams could be called upon as the ace here—that's the beauty of such deep line-ups.
Prediction: Germany to advance!
Quarterfinal #4: South Korea vs. CanadaSunday, 1. December at 18:00 GMT (+00:00)
South Korea: INnoVation (7-0) | soO (5-3) | Stats (4-3)
Canada: / Scarlett (12-3, 2 All-kills) | THERIDDLER (4-4) | NoRegreT (1-5)
NW Match History: South Korea 1-4 Canada (NW4 Group Stage, Winners’ Finals)
What would any Nation Wars playoffs be without the juggernauts from South Korea? Truly, something would be missing without them. Of course, this sentiment might not be shared by Canada which has to face the might of Korea in these quarterfinals—not an impossible task to overcome, but quite close to it.
The Koreans have had their smoothest group stage performance yet in Nation Wars history, qualifying for the playoffs without dropping to the losers’ bracket first (two editions ago they suffered this fate at Scarlett’s hands), beating both the Netherlands and the USA with 4-2 scores. The Canadians had a close battle with Russia, before being sent into the losers’ bracket by Italy, but were able to overcome Taiwan thanks to an all-kill by Scarlett, who really matched the Taiwanese in terms of cheesy and abusive play this time.
Obviously the Koreans are favored heavily here, there’s no way to sugar coat this. With two thirds of the Canadian roster also living in Korea, not even server lag will likely be an issue, and time will affect most of the Canadians the same way, so the circumstances are pretty good for Korea as well. In terms of preparation, the advantage may be on the side of Canada: all three Koreans played games at HSC XX on the new patch, giving plenty of material to Scarlett to work with—which is something you don’t really want. You also just know that INnoVation, Stats, and soO are already looking past NoRegreT and THERIDDLER—it's on the Canadians to try and punish their hubris with carefully crafted sniping builds (NoRegret baneling busting Stats into oblivion would be far from the craziest thing we've seen in NW history).
The Korean losses so far all came from Protoss players (Harstem and Neeb), which is something Canada is lacking entirely, unless Scarlett wants to off-race. Meanwhile, Zergs and Terrans haven’t proven to be a problem for Korea so far. The Korean trio looked pretty solid at HSC, having adapted to the changes quite well, but Solar eliminated both Stats and soO, so maybe that’s something Scarlett will take a look at and try to emulate.
Battle of Aces: INnoVation vs. Scarlett
Scarlett's biggest obstacle will likely be INnoVation, who at times looked quite like his old self at HSC XX despite being hindered by an eye infection on the final day of the tournament. He finished first in his group and sent Serral to the losers’ bracket with what looked like Bio-Mine play from his peak. Reynor and then Serral did defeat him decisively afterwards, but as good as Scarlett is at times, she’s not near the level of those two. INno is also the only player in these quarterfinals, who is still undefeated, perhaps evoking the spirit of team league INnoVation, who has carried the South Koreans to victory in past NW competitions.
Scarlett vs. South Korea is going to be a very tough match for the Canadian, and she likely bit off a bigger chunk than she can chew here, if there is no substantial support from her team.
Prediction: South Korea to advance!
Credits and acknowledgements
Written by: TheOneAboveU
Written by: TheOneAboveU