On the heels of DongRaeGu's first place finish in Group A, GSL Code S delivered another round-of-sixteen surprise. First place in Group B went to neither Dark nor INnoVation—instead, it was the underdog PartinG who beat the odds to top the group, earning his second consecutive Code S playoffs appearance in the process. While we just called PartinG the underdog, he would probably object to being billed as such. PartinG made it a point to chastise his doubters in his winner's interview, calling out foreign fans (and perhaps this website) in particular.
With PartinG advancing in first place, the second place spot ended up being contested by Dark and INnoVation in a battle between GTC stars. INnoVation had raised eyebrows by picking Dark as his first opponent during the Code S group selections, but the KaiZi Gaming ace showed the reason for his bravado as he advanced by taking two 2-0 victories over Dark. Unfortunately for Bunny, his last place finish ended up being the only predictable part about the group, as he was unable to repeat his strong performance from the RO24.
Initial Match #1: INnoVation 2 - 0 Dark
The much-anticipated clash between Dark and INnoVation looked like it might start with an epic macro-game on Deathaura, but an early error from Dark took the air out of the tires. Dark either forgot or bet against the possibility of Cloaked Banshees, and thus took severe Drone damage early on. To Dark's credit, he recovered about as well as anyone could from the mishap, but with that kind of early setback, his Roach-Bane-Ravager was doomed to be overrun by INnoVation's bio forces in the end.
Game two on Ice and Chrome ended up being similarly anti-climactic. INnoVation took an aggressive approach to the game, sieging Dark's third base with a Tank from the low ground while sending a Marine drop into the main. While Dark staved off these attacks, INnoVation kept piling on the pressure with continued Marine-Tank-Medivac attacks by ground. Dark did his best to stall with Ling-Bane-Queen while going quickly up to Hive tech, strategically ceding ground to INnoVation in the process. However, there was ultimately no payoff for Dark's patience, as INnoVation gave him no breathing room add high-tech units upon reaching Hive. INnoVation's continued attacks finally broke Dark's defenses, giving him the 2-0 victory.
Initial Match #2: PartinG 2 - 1 Bunny
Bunny quickly drew first blood to start the series, going for a 3-Barracks Marine + SCV all-in (one Barracks in the normal position, two proxied out on the map). PartinG was caught completely off guard, and could not help but laugh after GG'ing out.
It was PartinG's turn to cheese in the second game on Deathaura, going for an offensive Assimilator followed by a proxy-Robo Immortal Drop (Has had showcased a similar cheese in the DH Summer Finals). However, the strategy didn't quite work out as planned, with the Immortal-Prism harassment failing to do much damage, while the follow-up Immortal-Chargelot-Archon attack failed to kill Bunny off. Despite taking heavy SCV losses from the attack, Bunny survived with a huge army advantage, and looked to close out the series with a drop into PartinG's main. However, Bunny dropped in a fashion that allowed PartinG to gain max-value from Battery Overcharge, turning the drop into a catastrophic failure and soft-resetting the game in a somewhat even state.
The second act of the game had a number of twists and turns as well. PartinG killed off some SCVs with a storm drop, prompting Bunny to halt upgrades to gear up for a 3-base all-in. Then, Bunny randomly got a lot of Probe kills with Liberator harassment, making him change his mind and focus on playing out a longer game. Regardless, PartinG eventually assembled his "every splash unit" Protoss army, which let him erase Bunny's bio and tie up the series.
Bunny brought out another proxy-build in game three, walling off his main base with a Barracks but placing a second Barracks and Factory out on the map. However, PartinG's diligent Probe scouting uncovered the hidden buildings in time, forcing Bunny to cancel his buildings and belatedly try and start to play a normal game. Unfortunately for Bunny, his early-game units and buildings had become so delayed that he had a hard time dealing with a simple 3-Stalker poke from PartinG, putting him even further behind. While PartinG threw half of his lead away with some suicidal Blink-Stalker harass and poor defense against Bunny's tank push, he still had enough of a buffer to seal the 2-1 victory after composing himself.
Winners' Match: PartinG 2 - 0 INnoVation
Headed to Deathaura for game one, PartinG made the curious decision of using the exact same proxy-Robo build he had used against Bunny. This seemed to be rather unwise, as INnoVation scouted the strategy and started pumping out Marauders off the bat. Some early game tussling over the proxied Robotics Facility ensued, resulting in PartinG saving the Robo but losing any window to do meaningful harassment.
However, PartinG had a rather audacious follow-up this time around, as he decided to hide an expansion at the Rich Vespene Gesyer location on INnoVation's side of the map! INnoVation must have been surprised when his scouting revealed no Nexus at PartinG's natural, and he must have been even more taken aback when a High Templar drop came out of nowhere to fry SCVs in his natural. PartinG once again geared up for a big Immortal-Chargelot-Archon follow-up, but INnoVation had seen the last game, and played conservatively off two bases while erecting a daunting Supply Depot wall in his natural. PartinG decided to change course, taking his natural and preparing for a longer game.
It was once again INnoVation's turn to be proactive, and he made a series of quick moves to seize the advantage. He dropped into PartinG's natural to cancel the building expansion, sent another drop into PartinG's 'hidden' base and killed off some Probes, and moved out with his huge army of Tanks and infantry to secure his third base. This put PartinG in an extremely awkward and difficult spot, where he had plenty of high-tech units from his aborted attack, but had no upgrades and only two mining bases. However, pressure brings out the best in top players, and PartinG proved his playoff worthiness in the following minutes.
When INnoVation moved out to finally kill PartinG's hidden base, PartinG responded by counter-attacking and killing INnoVation's third base, crippling both their economies. Then, when INnoVation's army gave chase, PartinG goaded him into a position where he could pull the trigger on a once-in-a-lifetime engagement, where he was able to blanket the much larger Terran army with a deluge of Psionic Storms (granted, INnoVation was at fault for his positioning). Smashing the Terran army gave Parting the crucial time he needed to get his expansions up and running, as well as catch-up and overtake INnoVation in upgrades. While INnoVation managed to keep the game close for a while longer, eventually he fell to the superior tech and upgrades of the Protoss army.
PartinG then booked his ticket to the quarterfinals with another clutch, defensive engagement on Ice and Chrome, but this time in a much earlier phase of the game. INnoVation went for a pure Marauder-Tank push off two bases, which looked to be a perfect blind-counter to PartinG's trademark Blink Stalkers. However, INnoVation didn't account for the fact that Probes are the perfect counter to Marauders and Tanks—at least when they're backed by Battery Overcharge in the extremely early stages of the game. It was the kind of magical defensive hold PartinG is famous for, except it happened in a GSL game and not while streaming on the NA ladder.
Losers' Match: Dark 2 - 0 Bunny
After successfully begging Dark off of picking him in the Season 1 group selections, Bunny had accepted it was time for him to finally accept Dark's kiss-of-death in Season 1. Unfortunately for Bunny, Dark proved to be too much of a mountain to overcome. Dark won an Eternal Empire macro-game in game one, and then finished Bunny off with an early Ravager attack in game two.
Decider Match: INnoVation 2 - 0 Dark
INnoVation vs Dark resumed where it left off, with INnoVation taking yet another easy victory on Ice and Chrome. INnoVation opened with a fast Battlecruiser into a 1/1 Marine-Tank attack off two bases, which was enough to just kill Dark straight-up.
Game two on Submarine finally delivered that all-out, split-map macro game we had hoped for, with Dark's Roach-Ravager-Baneling taking on INnoVation's Infantry and Mines. However, the game was never that close—or at least, it never seemed to be outside of INnoVation's control. Most of the fighting occurred on Dark's half of the map (minus some run-bys from Dark), as he struggled to keep pace with INnoVation's signature parade-push. INnoVation eventually wore Dark out with his constant attacks, with even the arrival of Brood Lords on the battlefield was too little and too late.
Recommended games: While some may consider standard macro games between high-level players to be the pinnacle of competitive StarCraft II, there's a unique delight to watching progamers be less-than-perfect as they adapt to unusual scenarios. 'Unusual' barely begins to describe the game that unfolded after PartinG opened with a proxy-Robo into hidden expansion versus INnoVation in their first clash, which is our pick for game of the night.
INnoVation fans will probably enjoy his second game versus Dark in the decider match. It was a 'classic' INnoVation game, as an endless, implacable wave of Terran bio beat a top Zerg player into submission.
Next up: The Code S RO16 will resume on Wednesday, Jul 22 9:30am GMT (GMT+00:00) with Group C of the RO16, featuring Maru, Solar, Trap, and Dream.