The round of sixteen kicked off with Dark and Dear advancing from Group A at the expense of Scarlett and TaeJa. Quite the predictable result, one might think. However, the way the group arrived at that conclusion was anything but expected.
Dark, despite having hand-picked TaeJa as his first opponent during the group selections, barely survived by the skin of his teeth in their opening match. The first game saw Dark try to force an unorthodox Hydra-Roach-Lurker-Viper army, which TaeJa responded to by gleefully exploiting the composition's lack of mobility. TaeJa was basically able to play exclusively on Dark's half of the map, expanding at will while Dark vainly tried to put out fires the Terran army was setting everywhere. Eventually, Dark ran out of steam, giving TaeJa a previously unthinkable macro-game win against the BlizzCon champion.
Realizing the weakness of his previous army, Dark changed things up in game two by going for Muta-Ling-Bane (Dark later said that he had wanted to present a new meta in game one, but trashed the idea instantly after seeing its shortcomings). Things went just barely better for Dark in the mid-game this time around, but it was enough for him weather TaeJa's constant attacks and pull out a late-game victory with Ultralisks.
Game three was tightly contested as well. This time around, Dark's army was a retro Ravager-Bane-Ling composition, which was barely able to keep TaeJa's Marines and Tanks from running him over. Dark was constantly forced to abandon bases while re-expanding elsewhere, trying to scrounge together enough money for upgrades and Hive units.
The winning move for Dark ended up being constant backdoor attacks. TaeJa had been less than diligent on defense in game two, which might have been the reason Dark tunnel-visioned on sending swarms Zerglings to attack TaeJa's under-defended expansions (that, or the fact that a hasty fight against the Terran main army could have turned into an instant loss). In any case, Dark's backdoor attacks slowly turned the tables, making it so TaeJa was the player slowly losing economy and army over time. Perhaps a bit shaken by the previous two games, Dark played one of the strangest, most patient ending sequences we've seen from him. He continued to eschew big battles while constantly chipping away at the unguarded parts of Terran territory. Slowly, but surely, TaeJa saw his army and economy erode away until he had no choice but to surrender.
Scarlett pulled off an upset against Dear in the other opening match, although one might say we should have seen it coming. After getting dissected by Dear's Oracles and Adepts in game one, Scarlett decided it was time to swap to the all-in heavy approach that allowed her to upset Rogue in the RO24. In game two, Scarlett used a Bly-esque proxy-Hatchery Ravager all-in to punch through Dear's defenses. In game three, Dear sensed something was up—unfortunately for him, it was a Ling-Bane all-in, and not the Roach-Ravager all-in he was expecting.
That set up a winners match between Dark and Scarlett, with Scarlett being yet another one of the players that Dark had singled out as a desirable opponent. Yet again, Dark had to eat crow in game one—surprisingly enough, Scarlett didn't need to cheese, winning in a more or less straight-up game. Ironically, things went downhill for Scarlett once she started to use her shadier tactics. In game two, a fast +1 melee-upgraded ling "timing" fell apart before it even got off the ground, and Dark cleaned up with Ravager-Zergling. In game three, Scarlett went for her trusty ace in the hole: the 12-pool offensive spine crawler all-in. However, Dark scouted it in time to rally his defenses and take the series, advancing to the quarterfinals in first place.
The train of cheeses didn't stop there, as TaeJa went old-school in the losers match against Dear. Three times in a row, TaeJa proxied all of his army production buildings in a nook of the map, trying to cheese down Dear with a mixed-tech army reminiscent of the 1-1-1 from Wings of Liberty. The first time around, it worked beautifully, catching Dear off-guard as intended. The second time around, Dear had things figured out. He sent a small detachment of units to camp the proxied buildings, putting TaeJa in an impossible position of having to both attack but also defend his proxied production buildings. The third time around, Dear decided he wasn't even going to waste his time with cute tactics. He hunted the proxy early, killing two SCV's sent to build the first Barracks and preventing its completion. This effectively ended the game before the two-minute mark, though TaeJa waited until 4:28 to actually GG.
That set up a rematch between Dear and Scarlett with the second quarterfinal spot on the line. Scarlett tried to be tricky again in game one, going for some off-tempo Speedlings to cancel Dear's third base alongside an Overlord drop. Unfortunately for Scarlett, there was no third base to counter, and she was runover by Dear's bizarre Disruptor drop into Disruptor-Colossus attack off two-bases (perhaps the most creative strategy of the night). The series ended on an anticlimactic note in game two, with Dear getting an early economic advantage with Glaive-upgraded Adepts. Scarlett tried to play out a normal macro game from there, but couldn't stop a player of Dear's caliber from snowballing his advantage into a straight-forward win.
Recommended games: The initial series between TaeJa and Dark should be a delight for nostalgic fans, or supporters of the Team Liquid squad in general. It might not be the greatest viewing for Zerg fans, however, who might wonder if #TerranPatch is actually giving Terrans free units.
Coming up: The Code S RO16 will resume on Saturday, May 09 4:00am GMT (GMT+00:00) with TY, Solar, Stats, and Cure competing in Group B.