Gold Series Team Championship: Spring Seasonby TheOneAboveU
Week 2 Recap
After an opening week full of surprises and upsets, week 2 of the Gold Series Team Championship seemed like a return to the old order. The stars and championship favorites prevailed, sometimes straight-up dominating their opponents. But there was no scarcity of good games and team league weirdness, regardless. The second week of play also brought us our second ace match, starring once again the newcomers from Dian Lake Gaming, who seem hell-bent on clawing their way into the playoffs.
Please take note, the GTC will be on pause next week due to holidays in China. Regular season play will return on the 13th and 14th of April. Keep an eye out for our preview of the coming matches next weekend!
Week 2 Results
Having suffered a shocking defeat at the hands of Dian Lake Gaming during the opening week, the pressure was on TSG to recover from the loss and re-establish themselves as one of the GTC’s toughest teams. Alpha X actually went into the week at #1 in the standings, and now it was time to see how they matched up against one of the 'real' title contenders. What ensued was a series that delivered some imperfect but ultimately exciting games—the peak GTC experience.
TSG.Solar and αX.Zoun opened up the festivities with a rather unspectacular match—Solar laid the smackdown on his opponent in the first map, overwhelming some hapless Blink Stalkers with Zerglings to end the game. Zoun fired back with a Cannon Rush on Ever Dream, but failed to even destroy Solar’s natural expansion after some misjudged cancellations. Zoun tried to knock Solar off-balance once more with a tricky triple-Stargate Oracle follow-up, but was overwhelmed by the Zerg swarm nonetheless. Not an inspired showing from Zoun, who seemed a step ahead of Hurricane last week.
In the second match it was TSG.TY’s chance to redeem himself for his lackluster 1-1 result against DynaMite in week one. This time, he was challenged by αX.Astrea, who had managed to go 1-1 vs Dream in his previous outing. Things started better for TY this time, with his Marine/Hellion drop opener killing workers and Stalkers at Astrea’s base. Astrea retaliated with some harassment of his own, but his Warp Prism died to one of TY’s Widow Mines, leaving him no choice but to GG when TY went for the kill with Marines and Tanks. Astrea fared much, much better on the second map, deflecting TY’s harassment and crippling his attack force in the center of the map with Blink Stalkers. Forcing a longer game this time, Astrea’s game plan was very reminiscent of his victory against Dream the week before, unleashing massive waves of Zealot counterattacks whenever TY left the vicinity of his bases. Taking favorable trades and keeping the Terran economy in shambles, Astrea managed to get a point on the board and kept his win-rate at 50%.
That left the TSG.Star to try and secure a victory for his team in his GTC debut, while αX.BreakingGG looked to force an ace-match with a 2-0 win. If you expect the all-Chinese matches in GTC to be scrappy-yet-entertaining, then boy, did these two deliver. None of the players wanted to risk a cheese—Star, apparently, was very nervous going into this series—and preferred to stick to a standard macro approach. The TSG Terran showed some solid harassment and map activity, but couldn’t push through BreakingGG’s equally solid defenses. However, as the first map went into late game territory, it became very apparent that this was outside BGG's comfort zone, as he he seemed absoOlutely overwhelmed with the management of a late game Zerg army. While his counterattacks remained devastating, his main Brood Lord army was absolutely ineffective. The game dragged on with Star hanging in there by a thread, until he was able to conjure up some amazing engagements with his Ghosts. Just as it looked like Star had turned the tied by sniping yet more Brood Lords... STAR. LEFT. THE. GAME. After hanging on for 30 minutes and nearly snatching victory from the jaws of defeat, he just gave up! IdrA himself couldn’t have decided upon a worse GG-timing. Instead of sealing the deal on TSG’s win, Star put his team in danger of playing an ace-match for the second week in a row.
I can't even...
Fortunately for Star, he righted his mistakes with a dominant second game, rolling over BGG with a mech and Battlecruiser composition this time. But his nerves and his lack of confidence were still apparent, with BGG allowed to keep things needlessly close with constant counterattacks. BreakingGG simply did not have the right composition to deal with Star’s army in the end, but he did drag things out against an indecisive Star. Ultimately, Star found the composure to "just kill him" as the saying goes, extracting the final GG and locking in the win for TSG.
What’s there to say about this match? The disparity in strength was very clear from the beginning, and things went pretty much as expected with DPG claiming their second straight victory in dominant fashion. Still, one can't help but shake the feeling that iG do have it in them to take out some lesser opponents after what they showed here.
At least things started a bit better this time for Invictus Gaming, with their returning star player iG.iAsonu overwhelming DPG.Firefly with a strong Roach-Ravager attack on the first map. He kept up the aggression in game two on Zen, Proxy-hatching and then besieging Firefly’s natural base with Spine Crawlers and Queens. Firefly kept being pushed back slowly, walling and re-walling constantly—not unlike an actual ancient siege. But Firefly's tenacity eventually paid off, and iAsonu's blows started to soften as he ran out of steam. Eventually, his Immortals were able to overpower the Queens and Spines, forcing iAsonu to concede.
In the second duel of the series, iG.XY met DPG.Cure in what we expected to be a massacre, but it turned out to be not-that-bad—at least for a 0-2. XY actually got ahead in the first game after Cure took some bad trades in the mid-game, but blew the lead when let eight Siege Tanks get trapped in his main while Cure went around killing bases for free. XY went for a cheesier build in game two, sneaking a Starport right underneath Cure's base on Golden Wall. Combining the liberator from there with a distraction by a Reaper/Hellion attack at the front, XY actually managed to get a respectable amount of worker kills. However, Cure answered with cloaked Banshee, ravaging XY's main in return. XY continued to use Golden Wall’s terrain for his aggression, trying a siege at the cliff of Cure’s main base. He bungled the execution and timing, however, and was forced to GG after his push was crushed.
The last series of the match between iG.Coffee and DPG.PartinG provided a fitting end to a weird day of games. PartinG started to chat with Coffee, saying he needed the advantage of distracting him this way since he himself was just a noob—we can only imagine how many days of KeSPA Jail PartinG would’ve had to endure for this sacrilege back in Proleague. The Big Boy seemingly got into some trouble, as Coffee managed to do quite a bit of worker damage with a two-pronged Hellion attack, but PartinG’s Blink Stalkers made up for it by ravaging Coffee’s main base. Pulling the boys in desperation, Coffee managed to destroy the Protoss natural, but a counter had devastated his own economy and he couldn’t push further. Similar events transpired on the second map: early game chatting and a bit of early skirmishing from both sides. PartinG confronted Coffee’s mid game move-out a bit overeagerly, losing two Colossi, which prompted Coffee to pull the boys again. But PartinG managed to delay him long enough to get Archons out in time, squashing the all-in. The two Chinese Terrans showed some promise again, but the skill level difference between them and their opponents remained very apparent.
We had feared this wouldn’t be a very triumphant return to team competition for Team LP and it really, really wasn’t. KaiZi Gaming made an example out of the former runner-ups, showing every other team out there that 0-6 is a realistic fate when facing them. It was an emphatic show of force, which definitely reinforces KaiZi’s position as the greatest rivals of Dragon Phoenix Gaming.
The one-sided nature of the series did show itself in some of the matches, and LP.Patience against KZ.INnoVation was one of them. The Terran remained in control throughout the two maps, and though he let Patience get in some minor blows in the form of harassment and counterattacks, INnoVation was always prepared for what the Protoss had cooked up and ended both games with strong bio-tank move outs. On the second map his economic advantage was so great, he didn’t even make the effort to split his units against Patience’s Disruptor shots, replacing the losses and sending over wave after wave.
Much closer were the games between LP.Jieshi and KZ.Nice. The Protoss from LP was greedy on the first map and was almost at the point of being able to transfer his economic advantage into a better army, but Nice moved out at the right time and cut Jieshi’s hopes short. Similarly, Jieshi expanded first on the second map and deflected Nice’s Oracle harassment—though he lost three Sentries to one of the raids—as well as his Dark Templars. It very much looked like Jieshi had it in the bag, but somehow Nice, who had shown rather sloppy control before the fight, was able to hold a massive attack on his natural in large part due to his Warp Prism micro. Jieshi had spent too many of his costly units on the attack and died to the counter.
The last match between LP.Impact and KZ.Dear—two of last season's best regular season players—was a letdown, turning into a one-sided slaughter akin to Patience vs. INnoVation. On Ever Dream, Impact took the forward rich gas base first, which turned out to be indefensible against Dear’s Glaive-powered Adept pressure. With his worker count severely impacted, Impact was unable to defend against the following Immortal-Sentry attack. On the next map, Dear played a similar Glaive-Adept pressure build, but this time following it up with Dark Templars, for which Impact was utterly unprepared—he GG’d instantly as the invisible warriors began slashing up his hatcheries. A catastrophic start for Team LP, and one that certainly will sap their morale. Their chances of victory may not have been high from the start, but not even taking a single map surely stings.
This series presented our second ace match in the second week of play, and guess who was involved again? Yep, the newcomers from Dian Lake Gaming. Though DLG weren't able to squeak out a victory this time, their ability to force ace-matches pegs them as a tougher group than most people predicted. As for Brave Star Gaming, they showed a much more consistent performance this week, recovering from their week one upset.
Swedish Zerg DLG.SortOf definitely proved his worth again this week, bringing DLG up 2-0 in a solid ZvP showing against BSG.Cyan. The Chinese Protoss did get a bit unlucky on the first map, not scouting SortOf’s Roach-Ravager-Queen aggression and thus going ahead with his economic build-up instead of producing units. On the second map, SortOf went for Swarm Hosts, which he didn’t use to their peak effectiveness offensively, but they secured him a successful defense of Cyan’s attack, the Locusts helping his Roach-Ravager swarm to rout the Protoss army and tear his base on the counter-offensive.
Unfortunately, DLG.EF couldn’t overcome his position as the massive underdog against BSG.Dream to capitalize on SortOf’s success, being victimized by the Terran in what was probably the most one-sided game of the season so far. Dream played Battlecruisers into Mech in both games, roasting drones left and right while taking minimal damage himself, going on to end the games at his leisure. Though EF showed improvement in the second game, actually winning a fight with Neural Parasite, the overall difference in skill level between the two players was simply too great.
With the score being 2-2, both teams now looked to DLG.DynaMite—last week’s MVP and hero in DLG’s fairy tale debut—and BSG.Hurricane, who had to redeem himself for his rather lacklustre performance the week prior. The first map devolved into an incredibly scrappy game, with both players making plenty of mistakes, but ultimately delivering a very exciting duel. Hurricane opened with a Blink and double Forge build, being active on the map with his Stalkers and a Warp Prism to do damage. DynaMite did his best to defend, but suffered some losses. His drop play was what kept him in the game, as he was able to deny his opponent’s 3/3 upgrades three times over the course of the game, and managed to somewhat offset his economic disadvantage. Trading massive blows in several battles—which seemed more like one non-stop skirmish with constant reinforcements—it seemed like the two players were at a deadlock until DynaMite swung the tide and game by taking out a critical reserve of High Templars. DLG was on match point, and DynaMite looked once more like he could be the man of the hour. Hurricane, however, did not want to repeat his failure of last week and looked more solid in the second game—which actually looked rather similar to the first map in the early game, only DynaMite’s drops remained largely ineffective this time. Having secured a lead, Hurricane crushed a desperate attack by the Terran in the center of the map and countered to force the ace match.
For their second ace match, DLG switched things up and sent out SortOf to face BSG’s choice: Hurricane. Showing the same amount of daring as last week against Solar (since both DynaMite and SortOf cheesed him), SortOf opted for a cheese build to secure the win: the proxy hatch spine crawler rush we had already seen from iAsonu against Firefly. Unfortunately for DLG, Hurricane knew exactly what he had to do and managed to hold the rush with relative ease, delaying the spines with Zealots, placing a cannon in range of the hatchery, and getting Immortals out quickly. SortOf had to tap out after his forward position was broken. Hurricane redeemed himself and gets important points on the board for his team.
Weekly MVP Award: BSG.Hurricane
While it’s not the rule that our MVP is always an ace match winner, you don't get much more valuable than forcing the ace match and then bringing it home for your team. And Hurricane did just that for Brave Star Gaming this week. Did he look amazing in his game against DynaMite? Not exactly, but this isn’t a beauty award where we score how well played a match was. Hurricane got the job done, and that’s what counts in the end. He held SortOf’s brazen rush off brilliantly, showing a much different approach to the defence than Firefly had against iAsonu, and secured BSG a much needed first victory, when he easily could've fallen apart under the pressure.
An honorable mention must be made of Solar, whose effort secured Triumphant Song Gaming their first victory this week, keeping them in the race for the top positions.
Chinese Player Spotlight: TSG.Star
What a debut in the GTC it was for the young—we could now confirm that he is indeed 15 years old, not 17, as conflicting reports had said—Terran player Star! In a way, it couldn’t have gone better, because everyone who watched his series against αX.BreakingGG will forever remember that first map where he suddenly left the game after having severely misjudged his own position and his opponent’s. He certainly got our attention, for better or for worse.
Now, obviously leaving that game at an inopportune moment wasn’t a decision Star made to gain international publicity: he clearly misjudged the state of the game and lacked confidence to continue the struggle—after having put in 30 minutes of hard work to stay in the game, he must have thought himself to be in a truly desperate predicament and absolutely unable to win to so suddenly give up. He made a mistake, and hopefully he can learn from it. For so young a player at so early a stage in his career, such a miscall isn’t extraordinary, especially since there was a lot of pressure involved in the situation. Star himself even said in the pre-game lobby that he was nervous.
But like many StarCraft II fans, we'll always be optimistic about the potential in youth. No, not every 15-year-old playing at a low-pro level is going to develop into the next Serral or Reynor. But what we’ve seen from Star's gameplay looked reasonably promising: Star didn’t lean on any shenanigans. He played two standard games showing different styles, remained active on the map throughout the games, and in principle did everything a Terran was supposed to do. It wasn’t the onslaught of multi-pronged aggression that makes KZ.TIME so dangerous, but we should remember that TIME was barely notable in his early years as well.
Let’s remind ourselves that development is part of the reason GTC exists to begin with—why bother with the Chinese player quota otherwise? TSG certainly understood this and gave their young player an opportunity to earn his spurs. However Star's career pans out in the end, it will be interesting to follow his journey in the GTC.
Credits and acknowledgements
Written by: TheOneAboveU
Stats: Aligulac.com & Liquipedia
Written by: TheOneAboveU
Stats: Aligulac.com & Liquipedia