Headed into game five of the Super Tournament finals, Maru faced a daunting 1-3 deficit against one of the best Zergs in the world. In the prior three games, Dark had shrugged off whatever Maru threw at him—fast Hellbats and cloaked Banshees were barely slowed Dark down as he rode roughshod over the Jin Air Terran in macro games. Even Maru's usual ace in the hole hadn't worked, with Dark shutting down proxy-Barracks Reapers in game four. Only Dark's decision to ram his Hydra-Ling-Bane force straight into a Tank push in game one had allowed Maru to even salvage a map.
Them, with just a single game remaining between him and defeat at the hands of a seemingly insurmountable foe, Maru seemed to ponder a question: What if he, you know, just played like Maru?
Which is to say, what if he played like the Terran player with the completely unfair skills package of the best micro, the best multi-tasking, and the best macro? What if he played like the player who won four-consecutive Code S championships between 2018-2019?
Fortunately for the fans, and unfortunately for Dark, Maru showed us the answer. What if you play like Maru? You pull off one of the more amazing comebacks in GSL finals history. Over the next three games, Maru completely reversed the previous roles, crushing Dark with straight-up, standard play. No Proxy-Barracks gimmicks were necessary—all Maru did was send ceaseless waves of Infantry and Medivacs to wherever they could cause Zerg the most pain
To Dark's credit, he acquitted himself as well as anyone could while giving up a commanding lead. Up until game five, he had dominated the series. And even when Maru began his comeback, Dark was able to absorb an unholy amount of damage before GG'ing out. If StarCraft II was a combat sport, the referee would have called for the bell a hundred times over to save Dark further punishment. Instead we were left to gape at how Dark could somehow muster the strength to take some futile, retaliatory swings at his opponent.
Invoking the Maru meme does oversimplify some of the factors in how he pulled off the comeback. In game five, Maru got to exploit a significant upgrade advantage after Dark invested in one of his signature Roach-Ravager pokes but failed to get much done. With perfect hindsight, we could question Dark's decision to go for Roach-Ravager-Baneling in game seven—it's not exactly a composition tailor-made for chasing Medivacs around the map. But ultimately, even acknowledging that there are actually countless complex and random factors that go into a best-of-seven series between progamers, Maru still made winning look as simple as flipping a switch in his head.
After the matches, Maru also made it a point to 'just interview like Maru,' saying he had only prepared for his semifinal against Solar (a 3-0 sweep) and didn't come in with any ambitions of winning the championship. Of course, SC2 fans will be familiar with that excessively self-effacing demeanor: it was also the humorous backdrop for his completely dominant 4x Code S title run. Here's a wacky fan theory to consider: What if Maru's skill is directly proportional to his humility? In that case, the Super Tournament championship might be the beginning of another streak.
As the broadcast ended, the first Code S tournament of 2020 was announced to begin on April 11th. With Maru back in shape, Dark continuing his run of good form, and a GSL finals actually surpassing its hype, we've got a lot to look forward to in the upcoming season.
Most fans predicted that Dark would drub notably troubled PvZ player Trap in the semifinals—I suspect the ensuing beat-down was even more brutal than they would have expected. Personally, I found it curious that Trap didn't go for any crazy all-ins or one-shot builds. I'd have to go back and check VODs to be sure, but I feel like Trap has an okay-ish success rate when going for all-out, no-tomorrow strategies (yes, I realize he botched a cannon rush against Dark in last year's Code S finals). Maybe such drastic tactics don't fit Trap's personal style, and maybe his practice games gave him reason to believe that he could win in straight-up games. But with the benefit of hindsight, one has to say some uncomfortable risk-taking would have been preferable to the figurative 'rolling over and dying' that actually occurred.
Maru fulfilled another Terran meme in his 3-0 semifinal victory over Solar, making sure we never saw his 2-rax proxy strategies lose. Game two on Nightshade was certainly the highlight of the series—or lowlight if you're a Zerg player. Solar jumped ahead to an enormous lead after scouting and cancelling Maru's proxied Barracks and seemed to be guaranteed a victory. Unfortunately, Solar tried to force an ending with Roach-Ravager for just a little bit too long, resulting in the craziest dual throw-comeback game of the tournament.
Written by: Wax