Zest advanced in first place from what TL.net users projected to be a tightly contested Group B, earning his first Code S playoffs berth in 2020. Triumphing in two PvZ series against Solar and DongRaeGu, Zest demonstrated a peculiar new style based around mass Void Rays in the early/mid-game.
DongRaeGu advanced from the group in second place, presenting further evidence that his semifinal run in the previous season was no fluke. The strong TvZ that saw DRG sweep INnoVation in last season's quarterfinals was on display again, as he took two series victories against Cure with expert use of Muta-Ling-Bane. Cure's Code S journey ended in the RO16 for the second straight season, continuing his quiet slump ever since his loss to TY in the Code S Season 1 finals.
Recommended Game: Hopefully, some Protoss progamers will explain what exactly the point of Zest's bizarre 8 Void Ray rush was. Did Zest just redefine the PvZ meta for the second time in 2020? Or did Solar just get flustered and overreact to an unorthodox strategy?
Coming up: Code S will be taking a brief break for Korea's Chuseok holiday. Matches will resume on Wednesday, Oct 07 10:30pm GMT (GMT+00:00) with Stats, ByuN, PartinG, and Maru in Group C of the RO16.
Initial Match #1: DRG 2 - 1 Cure
Game 1 - Deathaura: DongRaeGu's attempt to play a macro game went south the moment he picked a terrible fight with Zerglings against Cure's initial Medivac + Stimpak-Marine poke, leaving him scrambling to defend against a chain of following-up attacks. Cure was able to essentially play out the entire game on DRG's half of the map, while building up a strong economy and infrastructure back at home. The best DongRaeGu could do was to sit tight on four bases and survive to Lurker tech, but by then Cure was ready to apply the finishing blow with a massive Marine-Tank push. DRG never had the breathing room to add Vipers to his army and had to GG out.
Game 2 - Golden Wall: DongRaeGu's second try at a macro game also went awry early on, this time due to his poor defense against Cure's Hellion harassment. Unlike the previous game, DRG did a better job of defending against the follow-up attacks, and eventually put together a strong army of Muta-Ling-Bane. DRG then seized control of the game, keeping enough of his army at home to defend against Cure's incursions onto Creep, while also diverting Zerglings and Banelings to damage Cure's economy. Cure never found a way to really hurt DongRaeGu while his own economy took a beating, and he was eventually overrun by an Ultralisk-supported Zerg swarm.
Game 3 - Pillars of Gold: DongRaeGu was rattled by Cure's early attacks for the third straight game, this time losing a considerable number of Drones to double Liberator harassment. However, DongRaeGu was able to take control of the game once he stabilized with Muta-Ling-Bane on four bases, yet again staving off Cure's ventures onto Creep while diverting his forces for damaging counter-attacks. Cure decided to commit his army to a major attack that destroyed DRG's fourth base and an ill-placed Ultralisk Cavern, but DRG was able to inflict heavy casualties on the Terran army in return. As it turned out, DongRaeGu didn't even need Ultralisks to finish the game, as he was able to just keep up the pattern of defending and counter-attacking until Cure wore down and tapped out.
Initial Match #2: Zest 2 - 1 Solar
Game 1 - Pillars of Gold: Solar went for a variant on the recently popular Speedling all-in, sending several Drones to drill through the gap in the Protoss wall. With Drones preventing Zest from re-walling behind his initial wall, he had no choice but to GG out to the flood of Speedlings entering his base.
Game 2 - Ever Dream: Losing to an early all-in didn't seem to faze Zest at all, as he went for an audacious, fast 3-Stargate Void Ray strategy in game two. However, it wasn't for some kind of surprise, all-in attack—Zest nonchalantly showed Solar that he had produced more than one Void Ray, almost as if he wanted to force a reaction. Zest stopped at eight Void Rays, and was content to just poke around the edges of Solar's territory while making a late transition to Chargelots and Archons.
Solar seemed just as flummoxed as the viewers, first getting a Spire for Mutas, but then switching to Hydras once Zest made a handful of Phoenixes. Zest's unusual strategy culminated in an equally unusual 'timing attack,' with Phoenixes, Void Rays, and assorted Gateway able to take down Solar's fourth base. While Zest couldn't finish Solar off, he was left in a strong position, allowing him to transition into Templars and Carriers.
While we've seen other Zergs pull off comebacks by turtling with Hydra-Lurker-Viper, Solar wasn't able to pull it off. For one, he didn't actually turtle, and his ambitious attack at Zest's fourth base turned into a Zerg massacre. Zest then applied the finishing blow by sending his Mothership into Solar's main for a stylish Mass Recall. With fantastic positioning against Zerg units forced to walk back up their own ramp, Zest crushed Solar's remaining troops and tied the series.
Game 3 - Golden Wall: Zest pulled out the Glaive-Adepts into Disruptor drop strategy that's becoming a standard part of the Protoss repertoire, and used it to great effect. Despite not doing much damage with his early Adepts or his Disruptor drop, Zest was still able to launch a deadly attack with Stalkers, Colossi, and his two Disruptors to overpower Solar and clinch the 2-1 series victory.
Winners' Match: Zest 2 - 1 DongRaeGu
Game 1 - Ever Dream: DongRaeGu took a quick first win, using the predictable but powerful Speedling all-in on Ever Dream. While Zest averted the total-disaster scenario of letting Zerglings through the gap in his wall, he still put himself in a pretty rough spot by making a Stalker as his first Gateway unit and then sending it out to chase Overlords (in his post-match interview, Zest mentioned that the layout of Ever Dream makes it particularly tricky to wall-off on).
Game 2 - Deathaura: DongRaeGu channeled Dark and went for a one-base Zergling rush with an offensive Hatchery at the enemy wall. However, this attack didn't really achieve anything but to put DRG behind, as Zest defended against it easily by re-walling and getting a Photon Cannon up. "I'm no Dark" said DRG, in his later interview.
Advantage in hand, Zest went for his weird eight-Void Ray mid-game strategy once more. Again, Zest used the Void Rays to merely prod around the edges of Zerg territory, not committing them to any serious harassment. Was there a point to the Void Rays? Maybe, maybe not. In any case, Zest made a late transition into a ground army, blanketed DongRaeGu's Hydralisks and Banelings with Psionic Storm, and tied the series up at 1-1.
Game 3 - Pillars of Gold: It was Zest's turn to go for an early-game all-in in game three, going for an extra-fast 1-Immortal + slow Zealot all-in off of two bases. While DRG scrapped together a defensive army in time to avoid losing outright, he was still forced to give up his third base. Both players proceeded cautiously from this low-econ situation, with Zest steadily cranking out Disruptors from one Robotics Facility in preparation for his next attack.
When the Disruptor count hit five, Zest went in for the kill once more. Zest was able to put DRG down for good this time around, aided by some massive Disruptor hits in the middle of the Zerg army.
Losers' Match: Cure 2 - 0 Solar
Game 1 - Deathaura: Cure went extra all-in with a proxy four Barracks strategy, which eluded being detected by Solar's probing Overlords. Waiting until he had a dozen odd Marines to launch his surprise attack, Cure took an easy victory over the unaware Solar.
Game 2 - Golden Wall: Cure closed out the series with a strategy that could only be done on Golden Wall. It started with another another proxy-Barracks strategy—this time, it was a less drastic 2-Barracks variant. Caught off-guard by a fast Bunker rush, Solar decided to just cancel the Hatchery at his natural expansion and take his backdoor expansion instead. In turn, Cure responded by committing to a full 3-Bunker contain at Solar's natural, while also placing Marines behind the central mineral wall to prevent Solar from mining his way through. This effectively locked Solar into the south side of Golden Wall for the entire early game, and forced him to to take his third base on the south side of the map as well.
Cure macroed up on his side of the map, and then finished off Solar with a Marine-Tank push. It's hard to tell exactly how much Cure's containment contributed to his win—the success of the initial Bunker-rush may have been the most impactful factor—but it was still fun to see him execute a map-specific follow-up strategy.
Decider Match: DongRaeGu 2 - 0 Cure
Game 1 - Deathaura: DongRaeGu picked up where he left off versus Cure, yet again falling behind after taking damage to Terran harassment (this time in the form of mid-game Mine drops). But, as in the previous games, DRG was eventually able to stabilize with Muta-Ling-Bane on four bases, after which point Cure looked completely helpless. Again, DongRaeGu had no trouble splitting his forces between defending and counter-attacking, eventually wearing Cure down and forcing the GG.
Game 2 - Pillars of Gold: Finally, DongRaeGu got through the early/mid-game without taking any significant economic damage, and thus handed Cure his most one-sided defeat yet. DongRaeGu didn't even have to stay purely focused on counter-attacking this time around, able to charge head-on into Terran bases on occasion. All-in-all, it was another dominant showing from DRG, putting him 4-0 against Cure on the night when playing Muta-Ling-Bane.