2020 GSL Code S Season 3 - Finals Previewby Orlok and Wax
Grand Finals: TY vs MaruStart time: Sunday, Nov 01 5:50am GMT (GMT+00:00)
When you watch esports, it's hard to tell what part of the story you're at. Is a championship run the start of a great legacy that will reverberate throughout history? Or is it just a single lucky strike, where astronomical odds somehow went in a lucky team or individual's favor? Sometimes, a bitter, closely-fought loss becomes the impetus for a competitor to become stronger—it's the moment that stokes their competitive fire and pushes them to new heights. Or, sometimes, it's just another loss among thousands, barely registering in an ocean of bitterness.
However, amid all this uncertainty, there are some rare events that feel inevitable. These are the broad, preordained, repeating patterns of history, around which the smaller details are merely filled in. A Korean player winning IEM Katowice. A new PvZ all-in that's unbeatable for two months. Terran falling into the gulch of agony and despair... ...and being dragged out of it on the backs of a few elite players. No matter how lop-sided balance may seem to appear, no matter how low their form may dip, the eventual resurgence of star Terran players is a phenomenon that's as natural as the seasons and the tides.
This time around, it's TY and Maru.
Looking at TY and Maru's careers side by side, the parallels and contrasts are striking. Both players started as prodigies who made their broadcast debuts when they were just thirteen years of age—TY in 2007, Maru in 2010—and that innate talent has led both players to have tremendously successful careers. The main difference, however, was that Maru realized his potential much earlier than TY, becoming the youngest ever player to walk the OnGameNet Starleague royal road in 2013. In contrast, TY languished for years as a symbol of semi-squandered potential, stuck in the ranks of 'good but not great' players.
In 2017, TY made up for nearly a decade of lost time, winning back-to-back jackpots at the super-major tournaments of IEM Katowice and WESG—even defeating Maru in the finals of the latter competition—and then went on to place top four at BlizzCon. After a long journey that spanned through all three expansions of StarCraft II, it seemed like their careers had finally evened out.
But the book had not yet closed on Maru. 2018 would be the beginning of an improbable late-career prime, eight years after his debut (many a career has begun and ended in that time). In perhaps the most dominant stretch of form ever seen in StarCraft II, Maru won four consecutive GSL Code S Tournaments over the course of sixteen months, cementing himself as the greatest GSL player of all time, if not simply THE greatest, full-stop.
TY was the player who came closest to breaking Maru's streak, taking him to game seven of the grand finals as Maru looked to take Code S title number three. The whole series was memorable—certainly ranking among the most entertaining Code S finals ever played—but it was capped off by an intense, nail-biting ending sequence in game seven. Maru decided to bet everything on a two-base all-in, and by the difference of just a handful of units, was able to barely cash in.
When we look at careers as a whole, it was obvious that Maru had taken an insurmountable lead over TY. But there's still an undeniable vibe of "whatever you can do, I can do..." in what TY has achieved so far in 2020. TY has willed himself to his own late-career revival, a second peak that's come thirteen years after he debuted (at this point, TY has spent over half his life as a progamer). He won the first Code S title of his career in 2020's Season 1, reached the semifinals in Season 2, and has returned again to the grand finals in Season 3. As if to intentionally increase the degree of difficulty, TY has done this while holding the position of the GSL's main color commentator (although, given his many deep runs, one might say substitute commentator Curious has actually taken the first chair).
While Maru and TY are not traditionally connected as rivals—their high stakes battles are few and far in between—it's apt that they meet again at this particular point in time. TY is looking for a victory that would put a capstone on the second apex of his career. As for Maru, a Code S title here would win him the hallowed G5L trophy that eluded even the vaunted MVP, and usher in the third golden age of his career. Or maybe it would be his fourth? Fifth? In any case, it would reaffirm him as StarCraft II's most timeless player, and the game's most inevitable force.
Head-to-head and predictions
|28 wins||–||27 wins|
|7 wins||–||6 wins|
|26 wins - 11 losses||23 wins - 6 losses|
All records via Aligulac.com
*After 4.12.0/Widow Mine patch (2020-06-09)
Maru has played a plethora of Terran vs Terran matches over the past couple of weeks, mostly in the online major of King of Battles where he took down INnoVation, Clem, and Cure to win the championship. Looking at those matches, alongside his Code S RO16 match against ByuN, you come away with one very important thing to watch out for in the Code S finals: mass Ravens.
It's no huge revelation that Ravens are really good in Terran vs Terran, but Maru's preference for Ravens seems to be taking things to a new extreme. He's been very eager to shorten the mid-game fighting between Marine-Tank-Medivac-Viking and get into situations where he can just play Marine-Tank with Raven support. Those Ravens end up being the ultimate siege-breaker for Maru, who uses them to lockdown tanks and largely nullify the enormous defenders advantage that normally exist in TvT.
From a limited sample of games, it's hard to definitively conclude that this is the 'right' way to play TvT—even if Maru did end up winning King of Battles. He had to eke out some close wins (the score lines somewhat flatter Maru), where players like Clem made the more 'conventional' composition of Marine-Tank-Viking-Liberator seem plenty strong in the late-game (TY has played less TvT's than Maru in the recent past, but he did show a preference for that more conventional style). Still, even if Maru hasn't been as hyper-dominant in the late-game as he was in 2018, his confidence alone is an important connection point back to his old peak.
TY and Maru two actually did play one, late-game, air-based TvT back in their 2018 Code S finals clash, where we saw mass Ravens standoff against each other for a while. Maru ended up getting the win, as he made a more effective transition to Battlecruisers. Two years removed, I don't think it portends much for this particular finals. However, there is one detail I'm intrigued by: TY made a solitary Ghost in that game. While the Ghost came out too late to make a difference back then, I'm curious to see if TY will pick up where he left off and stalk Maru's Raven flock with Ghosts in Medivacs.
But maybe I'm getting too ahead of myself. That late game battle was just one game out of seven, with the other six being decided in the earlier stages of the game. The Code S finals are notorious for being underwhelming, with games often decided by who won the rock paper scissors-esque duel of preparing strategies on a given map. While 2018's game seven was very exciting and very close, it was also ultimately a game in the 'can he defend against this timing attack or not' archetype. While Maru was the one testing TY back in 2018, the tables will probably be turned in 2020.
The key to 2020 TY's Code S success has been in how heavily he's leaned into the tournament's preparation-heavy style. TY's approach to BO5+ series has been to try and find ways to get early game advantages (if not end the game straight-up), which he's been remarkably successful at. He's been a great macro player when he's needed to be, but more often than not, he's looked to manufacture an 'easy' win for himself instead. His philosophy seems to be "why out-multitask my opponent for fifteen minutes when one Hellion drop will do the trick?"
While TY has certainly awed us with the sheer variety of build orders and mind-games he's deployed, it's hard to say he's given us entertaining games in the traditional sense. TY's games have been must-see StarCraft in a much darker sense, where you can't help but stare in horror as he breaks yet another player's mental. For better or for worse, this finals might end up being an endless succession of the 2018 final's game seven.
This should be a close series, but I think TY will have the slight edge. Here's how I'm looking at it: Maru has been in great form over the last month and half, but he's still nowhere near as dominant as he was in 2018. On the other hand, even though TY may have been a better macro/weekender tournament player in the past, he's become a far better GSL-style player than he ever was. Given that a weaker version of TY just narrowly lost to the best version of Maru in seven games back in 2018, I'm picking present day TY to get his revenge in the rematch.
Prediction: TY 4 - 3 Maru