NationWars 2019: Italy, Finland, France, Korea to Semisby Wax
The NationWars 2019 quarterfinals gave us a taste of many of the great things team tournaments have to offer, including an ace's all-kill courtesy of Reynor, ridiculous upsets through cheese from NoRegret, and a star-making performance from Clem.
Italy, Finland, France, and South Korea will move onto the live, offline portion of the tournament, which will take place in O'Gaming's Paris studio. The semifinals, 3rd place match, and grand finals are all scheduled for a one-day extravaganza on December 8th, which will bring the sixth ever NationWars tournament to a close.
Before we move on, we leave you with some thoughts and observations from the quarterfinal round of the tournament.
Absolutely fantastic: NoRegreT beats INnoVation and StatsNo, the best part of the quarterfinals wasn't Serral and Reynor continuing their rivalry in NationWars or Clem continuing to carry team France. It was actually NoRegreT taking two maps off South Korea in a loss for Canada (3-4), which has convinced me to completely reverse my stance on there being no such thing as 'moral victories.'
NoRegreT's win against INnoVation was the more 'reasonable' of the two upsets. Losing to a Baneling bust because you refused to do any research on (or just blatantly disrespected) a player whose entire competitive reputation is based on being cheesy? It's something astute StarCraft viewers might have seen coming, especially given upsets similar underdogs have scored in the past (See: Has, Meomaika).
It was NoregreT's victory against Stats was the truly hilarious and baffling one. The Canadian explicitly-NOT-a-progamer got off to a poor start, losing a few drones to Oracle harassment and barely doing any damage with a speedling attack on Stats's warping third base. The only move for NoRegreT there was to go even more all-in, and he squeezed out a scrappy army of no-speed banes, no-speed hydras, and speedlings for a desperation attack. Somehow, this actually worked, and Stats found himself horribly out of position and overwhelmed at his one weak timing. You know, now that I think about it, maybe this series was more of a 'moral defeat' for Korea than moral victory for Canada.
A third victory was almost in reach for NoRegreT as well, with his early speedling all-in nearly forcing a GG out of soO. Unfortunately for NoRegreT, soO happened to be the best ZvZ player in Korea for basically of HotS, and you don't achieve that without being kind of good at ling-bane micro.
While NoRegreT is out of the tournament, there's still a possibility that his spirit will live on in the semifinals. TheMusZero, ZhugeLiang, Ryosis, Ryu—make your countries proud and find a way to take down the opponent's ace! Or, at least, could you entertain us with some crazy s*** while you try?
Serral and Reynor's trash-talkAfter scoring an all-kill for Italy against team Mexico, Reynor offered up some very mild smack-talk for semifinal opponent Serral and team Finland (though Finland hadn't defeated theUSA yet, it seemed a foregone conclusion to Reynor and everyone else).
Reynor said he was due a victory against Serral in their upcoming match, as he had lost to Serral at HomeStory Cup XX, and the two had basically traded series one-for-one during the entirety of 2019. Reynor concluded with a cheeky and clearly jocular "I'm very confident—it's basically Italy champions already."
This prompted disproportionate retaliation from Serral following Finland's victory against the USA, with Serral saying "He tends to send a bit too many [messages]. But, whatever, I don't care too much. I think it's going to be a bit of a lop-sided match, honestly." He was quite eager to bite at follow-up questions from ToD and FunKa, continuing "That's what he tends to say, but I mean, reality is a bit of a different place."
The best part of all this, however, was how Serral repeatedly said "No need to make any stories here," despite clearly being the one who escalated the level of trash-talking and having spent twice as much time talking about Reynor than than vice versa. Well, too bad, Serral! You can't control the free press here at TL.net! (Well, if he offered to bribe us...)
Anyway, to be serious for a second, it's nice to see O'Gaming's commitment to pre/post-match interviews pay off. The segments have been hit-or-miss in the past (Korea's interview sans translator Hajinsun was a total disaster), but it's precisely what we need right now when Reynor and Serral are engaged in the fiercest rivalry in years. While the duo always entertain with their matches, I'm almost as interested in hearing what they have to say before their countries' semifinal match.
This looks familiar...: Serral playing [Brood Lords + stuff] in ZvPWhile BL-Infestor tainted the last few months of competition in WCS/GSL 2019, it's unfair to compare it to the BL-Infestor plague of WoL. In 2019, we saw a handful of top Zergs become utterly unbeatable in the late-game. In contrast, 2012 had the much worse problem of mediocre players having their results boosted far above what they achieved in any other era.
Top end Zergs in 2019 were more akin to Maru in early 2018, when he abused pre-nerf Ravens to become utterly invincible in the late game. The difference is, there was only one Maru to contend with, and the community seemed to be willing to tolerate him as an exception. But having four unbeatable Zergs (let's just say they were Dark, Rogue, Serral, and Reynor) at once? That just felt like too many for a scene the size of StarCraft II, even if they were all top players.
With all that in mind, I wasn't that worried to see Serral shred Neeb's late-game sky-Protoss army with BL-Infestor-Corruptor-Spore-Viper. It's a complex composition, and I seriously doubt it will be as imitable as [build thirty Infestors]. Serral had to really work to find safe angles for his Infestors to use reduced-range Neural Parasite, and it's easy to envision other Zergs failing to use it effectively at all. Vipers and Parasitic Bomb seemed crucial as well, and Serral made sure to point out that it's game over if Vipers get picked-off by Templars before a crucial battle.
I think the 'best case' here is that spell caster-heavy, ultra-complex late-game ZvP composition is something only one or two players can master. It would be similar to Dark circa 2016, where it really seemed like he was the one player in the world who was capable of making late-game Zerg armies seem overpowered.
Of course, I could be wrong, and all the best Zergs could just learn to wield this slightly more difficult late-game composition, further distorting competitive StarCraft. Wow, there's so much to look forward to in 2020!
So, how about that Clem?With a 13-3 record so far and 3-kill performances against powerhouses Poland and Germany, France's Clem is clearly the breakout player of NationWars 2019. And while the French fans are justifiably hyped about the seventeen-year-old Terran player finally having a statement performance, I think I'm also justified in remaining a bit skeptical.
The obvious comparison for Clem is his teammate MarineLorD, who hard-carried France all the way to the actual championship back in NationWars III (Dec 2015- Jan 2016). MarineLorD's performance was even more more impressive than Clem's, as he racked up an insane 21-2 map record while recording all-kills against Australia, Sweden, Finland, AND South Korea. After that kind of showing, MarineLorD seemed set to become the new savior of the foreign scene. Unfortunately, things didn't quite play out that way, with MarineLorD putting up mostly Ro16 finishes in 2016 (with one, second-place finish at WCS Valencia standing out).
Looking at Clem's HSC XX—where he lost to every Korean he faced but Bunny—one has to think his hot-streak will come to an end in France's semifinal match versus South Korea. But if Clem truly is the real deal, and 2020 is to be his breakout year, then at least he has the best possible stage on which prove it.
(While I'm unsure about Clem, I do predict PtitDrogo to remain consistent as a top-tier meme-maker in 2020).
Credits and acknowledgements
Written by: Wax
Written by: Wax