Hope for military returners came from an unlikely source, as DongRaeGu topped Group A to reach the Code S playoffs. It was an incredible personal accomplishment for DRG, who had last played in the Code S playoffs in 2014. The moment was also significant because it offered hope that mandatory military service doesn't have to be a career death sentence, and that players might return and have more than just token success.
TY squeezed through in second place in the group, exacerbating concerns about his poor form after winning the Code S Season 1 championship (notably, his prior group stage elimination in the Douyu Cup). For fans who are waiting for TY to shift into another gear, they might be concerned that said gear doesn't exist. Unfortunately for fans of foreign players, neither SpeCial nor Scarlett could take advantage of this relatively easy group, as both were eliminated from Code S.
Initial match #1: TY 2 - 0 Scarlett
The night started off with an action-packed brawl between TY and Scarlett on Golden Wall, with the map's characteristics coming into play. Scarlett's decision to mine out her backdoor minerals gave TY's Marines and Tanks the opportunity to execute an "inside out" push through the south side of the map, taking out the Zerg main and even the razing the natural. Scarlett did the best she could to recover, evacuating to the north side of the map and launching several counter attacks. However, with access to both the northern and southern sides of the map, TY was able to push in from multiple directions and eventually overwhelm Scarlett.
The second game on Deathaura went concluded much quicker, with Scarlett opening fast Mutalisks but failing to get much done. TY then gathered his Marine-Tank-Medivac force for a two-base push, and was able to force the GG out of Scarlett with some good micro.
Initial match #2: DongRaeGu 2 - 1 SpeCial
SpeCial started the series by bringing Mech-Terran back to Ice and Chrome, looking to repeat his RO24 successes against soO. Unfortunately for SpeCial, he ended up repeating the same errors from his match against soO, and this time those mistakes were fatal. DongRaeGu managed to blind-side SpeCial with a mass-Mutalisk transition, and unlike with soO, DRG's mutas were enough to end the game directly and give him a 1-0 lead.
SpeCial quickly tied up the score on Deathaura with a proxy 3-Barracks all-in, which combined with three Bunkers at the front, was enough to negate DRG's best efforts on defense. SpeCial then tried to get another quick win with a proxy 2-Barracks cheese on Pillars of Gold, but DongRaeGu was able to Overlord scout it in time to defend against it with acceptable losses. While SpeCial made a transition to the standard Marine-Tank-Medivac composition, DRG decided to go for the slightly unorthodox Roach-Ravager composition in the mid-game. After fending off an overly ambitious Marine-Tank push from SpeCial, DRG decided it was time to slam his footdown on the Roach pedal and look to end the game. DRG's mass Roach-Ravager attack hit its mark, sending him to face TY in the winners' match.
Winners' match: DongRaeGu 2 - 1 TY
Game one on Ice and Chrome might have reminded DongRaeGu of his Wings of Liberty days, as he started off by defending against blue-flame Hellions, transitioned to a fierce mid-game tug of war of Muta-ling-bane vs. Marine-Medivac, and eventually teched up to Ultralisks to round out his army. However, unlike in many WoL games, the Ultralisks actually ended up contributing to a victory, as DongRaeGu was able to overpower TY in the end.
TY took a cue from SpeCial in game two, looking for a quick victory with a proxy 2-Barracks all-in on Golden Wall. Only this time, DRG's Overlord scout was slightly slower, and his execution on defense was considerably worse. A blunder from DRG allowed TY to get a significant amount of damage done with his early Marines, which then let him end the game with a Hellion drop.
Game three saw TY pull out all the stops, opening with a barrage of consecutive harassment with Hellions, a Marine-Mine drop, and even Cloaked Banshees. While DRG did bend by losing some Drones, he refused to actually break. The early game harassment was not the end, however, as TY continued to pile on the pressure with Marine-Tank pushes and continued drops. In an odd move, DRG opted to go for Hydra-Ling-Bane, which seemed ill-suited to rapidly respond to TY's rapid attacks (DRG later said he was inspired by Serral's play). But in the end, DRG managed to stabilize and add Vipers to his composition, which finally let him go on the offensive. DRG burst out with an attack straight up the middle of the map, covering Tanks with Blinding Clouds and taking out one of TY's key bases. This attack shifted the momentum of the game irrevocably in DRG's favor, as now he was the one playing on the Terran side of the map, launching attacks on every front, and exploiting TY's inability to defend every base at once. While TY had enough juice left in the tank to try one final counter-offensive, he was eventually battered down by waves of Zerg.
Losers' match: SpeCial 2 - 1 Scarlett
SpeCial opened up on Deathaura with a Hellion-Raven build, getting some early Drone kills and keeping Scarlett's creep spread well under control. This set up a strong Marine-Tank push a few minutes later, which was able to overpower Scarlett's Ravager-Bane-Ling comp and give SpeCial the first win.
Game two on Ice and Chrome saw SpeCial get off to another good start, with his Hellions and Liberators dealing a decent amount of early Drone damage. SpeCial played this lead out slowly and safely, securing his expansions and pushing into Zerg territory with Marine-Tank. Scarlett seemed like she was at the end of her wits trying to deal with the combination of SpeCial's ground forces and constant drop tactics, but she barely managed to keep a foothold in the game. Her opportunity to turn the game around came when she got a miraculous engagement on the Terran army, her Banelings getting the juicy hits needed to give her a temporary army lead. Muta-Ling-Bane swarmed all the way to the Terran main, where they threatened to actually end the game as they sat atop SpeCial's production buildings. While SpeCial managed to fend off Scarlett with new produced troops, he had taken a huge amount of damage while Scarlett had put herself firmly in the driver's seat. From there on out, Scarlett controlled the game, and went on to finish off SpeCial with Ultralisks.
Scarlett's tenacity did not avail her in the final game, however, as SpeCial was able to close the series out on Eternal Empire. While Scarlett dealt with SpeCial's initial Battlecruiser rush with ease (though the solo hero-BC continued to provide great value for SpeCial throughout the game), she made the curious decision to go for a Hydra-Lurker-Viper composition in the mid-game. Whatever the theoretical advantages of the composition were, it did not work out in practice as SpeCial had little trouble dancing outside of Lurker range and continuing to pile on the pressure with infantry and Tanks. Once Ghosts were in the mix, the Vipers were neutralized as well, allowing SpeCial to tank push his way to victory.
Decider match: TY 2 - 0 SpeCial
The final showdown of the night saw SpeCial give his teacher a stiff challenge, but the master ultimately prevailed in the end. Game one was a classic Mech vs Bio duel, with TY exploiting the superior mobility of his infantry against the concentrated power of SpeCial's tank-based army. While TY comfortably seized map control in the mid-game, SpeCial still had a chance to win once he pushed out with his finished army. However, TY navigated the perilous situation expertly, strategically ceding ground to SpeCial while counter-attacking with his infantry. The base-trades went in TY's favor, and he was later able to take out SpeCial's main force and take the game.
Game two on Ever Dream saw both players go mech, but counter to mech's reputation, the game ended up being more chaotic and fast-paced than most bio vs bio games. The lead changed constantly in the 27 minute game, with attacks, counter-attacks, and counter-counter-attacks continuing in a seemingly endless sequence. In the end, TY's army movements were just a bit decisive and faster than SpeCial's, and he managed to secure the economic lead needed to close out the game and advance to the RO16.
Recommended games: The final match between TY and SpeCial was the best TvT of the season so far, with battle-mech armies constantly fighting it out all over the map. While there were a handful of throws and moments of poor defense on both sides, it contributed to the overall unpredictability and drama of a very entertaining match.
Next up: The Code S RO16 will resume on Saturday, Jul 18 4:00am GMT (GMT+00:00) with Group B of the RO16, featuring INnoVation, Dark, Bunny, and PartinG.