DreamHack Masters: WinterThe DreamHack Masters Winter regionals concluded with two rising stars finally winning their first major regional titles.
Clem takes Europe, Astrea wins North America
Clem came out on top in Europe, defeating Reynor 4-2 in a finals rematch from the Fall season. In North America, Astrea dodged the kong curse by finally claiming the championship after two runner-up performances, taking down Neeb in a 4-3 finals match.
With all the regional tournaments completed, the Winter season will conclude with the season finals (Nov 10-15), where the top sixteen players from all the regions will compete for an additional $57,000 in prize money. The RO16 groups are as follows:
DH Masters: EuropeIt's unusual to say a championship has been 'a long time coming' for a player who's just eighteen years of age, but Clem is not your usual player.
He followed in the lineage of players like Serral, Reynor, and even Maru who came to prominence at an early age, placing expectations unusually high from the very start. There were glimmers of potential, but more often there were stretches of disappointment that left fans (French fans in particular) to think 'oh well, maybe next year.'
'Next year' finally came in 2020. Third place at DH Europe Summer. Second place at DH Europe Fall. And now, finally, first place in DH Europe Winter. It's this kind of incremental progress that's seen Clem aptly compared to an anime protagonist, who eventually defeats even the most daunting of foes with continued hard work.
Last season, Clem managed to take out Reynor in the upper-bracket final, only to lose to him in the grand finals despite having a 1 map advantage. This season, Clem was sent down to the lower-bracket by Serral, but fought his way back up, eliminating Serral in a lower-bracket rematch before toppling Reynor in the grand finals.
If Clem was previously the lone resident of Europe's 'tier 1.5'—the limbo between the Reynor-Serral and everyone else—he's now a full, initiated member of Europe's championship triumvirate (amusingly, Reynor still calls Clem 'kid,' despite being his junior).
Clem's next challenge has already been booked for him, as he heads into the season finals where he'll face not only Reynor and Serral but the top Korean players as well. While Reynor and Serral have honed Clem to be a deadly TvZ weapon, there are still questions about how Clem will fare against the best Protoss and Terran players from Korea. With potential clashes against players like TY and Trap coming up, we're eager to see where Clem's story arc goes next.
Grand Finals: Clem 4 - 2* Reynor
*1 map winners bracket advantage.
Game 1 - Jagannatha: Clem looked to start with an early game hellbat-marine strike, but Reynor's careful scouting gave him enough clues to prepare for the attack. Reynor's zerglings and queens defeated Clem's forces handily—so handily, in fact, that Reynor was able to launch a zergling counter attack and score a quick win.
Game 2 - Submarine: Clem seemed to get off to a poor start once again, as his fast banshees achieved very little and put Reynor at an advantage as the two players headed into the mid-game. Reynor went for hydra-ling-bane as his main army, and he had little trouble keeping Clem's bio forces at bay as he seized control of expansions and teched up to hive.
Despite ceding map control to Reynor and being unable to build a strong economy himself, Clem still had a window to do damage with a large bio army at his 2/2 upgrade timing. But in typical Reynor fashion, he ran speedlings in for backdoor attacks just as Clem wanted to be aggressive, taking some of the steam out of the Terran advance. Clem took out Reynor's sixth base, but it seemed like a consolation prize in a game where he was headed toward defeat.
It looked as if Lurker tech would put the nail in the Terran coffin, but the course of the game took an unexpected turn due to some disastrous army positioning from Reynor. He burrowed his new hatched Lurkers in the path Clem's withdrawing army, looking to catch them off guard. Unfortunately for Reynor, the 'seaweed' sight blockers on Submarine obscured the much of the Terran army as it passed by, which meant Clem actually ended up ambushing Reynor's Lurkers.
Having taken out most of Reynor's Lurkers in one fell swoop, Clem seized the opportunity to march his forces straight down the center of the map and into Zerg territory. Reynor wasn't able to recover from having his Lurker core broken so abruptly, and soon GG'd out to the unstoppable Terran push.
Game 3 - Lightshade: Clem changed up his opener yet again, going for a fast 3-CC opener followed by a battlecruiser rush, and then transitioning into mech. Reynor's diligent overlord scouting let him check up on Clem's plans nearly every step of the way, and he responded by looking to break the Terran defenses with mass Roach-Ravager-Corruptor before the mech could hit critical mass.
However, Reynor's plan didn't play out at all as he would have liked, as his fourth base was delayed due to harassing BC's, and he couldn't seem to decide on a good timing for his attack. With Reynor skimping on upgrades, tech, and economy, it was clear that he had to go for a killing blow—but he just wouldn't pull the trigger.
Reynor finally decided to strike as Clem looked to secure his fourth base, but the swarm failed to kill an expansion or cause any serious SCV damage. Reynor had enough resources in the tank to reload for a couple more attacks, after which he finally managed to force down Clem's fourth base. However, Clem's mech army was already quite strong by that point, and was ready to move out onto the map. It was Clem's turn to take the fight to Reynor, controlling the map with roving Cyclones while his blue-flame hellions darted into unprotected bases and did massive damage to unprotected drone lines.
Reynor tried to make a late switch to Brood Lords, but it was too late. He had already taken far too much damage against the Cyclones and Hellions, and he soon had no army or resources with which to stop the mech attacks.
Game 4 - Oxide: Clem varied up his openers yet again, opening with a 2-1-1-style build and going for a fast stimpak-upgraded marine + hellbat attack. Reynor's speedlord scouting gave him a general idea that there could be some kind of early attack, but his defending force of queens and zerglings couldn't shut down the attack completely. While Clem was unable to deal much economic damage, he got an excellent value trade against the queens and zerglings, putting him in a great position to secure a 3 base economy and move into the mid-game.
Reynor decided that he needed to make a drastic move and opted for mass Roach-Ravager once more. But he was unable to find a weak point to strike at, as Clem refused to cut corners and invested heavily in tanks and bunkers. Reynor was left in a dire situation where he couldn't even pull the trigger on his all-in-ish attack, and was forced to belatedly try to catch up in a macro game. It went rather poorly for Reynor, as he didn't even have baneling speed when Clem's 2/2 bio-tank force moved out. The Terran army mowed through the Zerg defenses with ease, forcing the GG and put Clem up 3-2.
Game 5 - Pillars of Gold: The fifth game opened up without any major early game twists, as Clem went for 3-CC with hellion-banshee (he did go a bit hellion heavy and got some solid early trades against lings), while Reynor went for a standard ling-bane based macro game. The table seemed set for a lengthy mid-game macro duel, but the game quickly spiraled out of control for Reynor when Clem moved out to apply pressure with marine-tank at his 1/1 upgrade timing.
Initially, it looked like Reynor would shut down this light pressure with ease, as he used his speedlings to pick off the two siege tanks while also diverting an overlord for baneling drops in Clem's territory. However, Reynor might have underestimated how strong Clem's continued advance with marines and medivacs would be. While Reynor had plenty of money, he just didn't have the larva or time to morph a giant batch of banelings to sweep through the advancing bio. Instead, Clem got to use his fantastic micro against queens, zerglings, and small numbers of banelings in repeated skirmishes, getting further and further ahead each time. The army advantage rapidly snowballed out of control in Clem's favor, leaving Reynor no choice but to concede the European championship to Clem.
Astrea may not have enjoyed the same kind of spotlight as Clem, but his rise was being foretold throughout all of 2020 as well. Before the global pandemic sent him back to the US, he had trained in Korea and made himself a Code S player. Playing for Alpha X in the Gold Series Team Champion, he powered the underdog team to the playoffs during the spring season.
That overseas experience paid off in the DH North America events, as Astrea claimed second place in the Summer and Fall regionals. The old guard of Scarlett and Neeb stopped Astrea before, but he finally got over the hump in the winter season with a close 4-3 win over Neeb in the grand finals.
There was a North American flavor to Astrea's long-awaited triumph, as bizarre cannon rush games played a huge factor in deciding the outcome. Astrea had a sense of humor about this, however, acknowledging that NA is called a "clown fiesta" by players from other regions, but retorting by saying "we are a clown fiesta, but we're powerful clowns."
Grand Finals: Astrea 4* - 3 Neeb
*1 map winners bracket advantage.
Game 1 - Lightshade: Neeb opened up with a 2 gate expansion while Astrea looked to get aggressive early by proxying his third gateway out on the map. Neeb's hallucination scouting let him discover Astrea's plan in time, and he managed to hold off the stalker pressure with good micro and the help of shield batteries.
That left Astrea a bit behind in both tech and his expansion timing, and he used his early army to contain Neeb while he tried to catch up. The contain backfired on Astrea, however, as Neeb had gone for fast Stargate tech. Neeb's Oracle was able to attack an undefended main and further widen the economic gap between the two Protosses.
The two players converged toward the standard 3-base, blink-stalker mid-game, with Neeb retaining an advantage in tech and army size due to his accumulated advantages from the early game. Astrea decided to take a gamble on dark templar tech, knowing the game would only snowball further in Neeb's favor if he didn't make a decisive move. Using two DT's to distract Neeb's army, Astrea sent his stalkers into Neeb's third base to kill off several probes. However, Astrea suffered heavy army casualties in the process, and was vulnerable to an immediate counter attack from Neeb.
Despite Astrea's best attempts to pick off Neeb's detectors and defend with dark templars, Neeb's army advantage was just too great at that point and Astrea was forced to GG out.
Game 2 - Romanticide: Neeb opened with 2 gate expansion once more, while Astrea looked to go for proxy Stargate this time around. While not scouting the proxy directly, Neeb collected enough scouting info to prepare a battery in his base, negating the early Oracle. Ultimately, the two people players ended up expanding at around the same time and heading into a macro game, with Astrea's failed stargate tech manifesting in a forge upgrade disadvantage.
A passive build-up ensued, with both players going up to three bases and continuing to mass blink stalkers and supporting units from their robotics facilities. The two players veered slightly here, with Neeb going straight to disruptors while Astrea cranked out some immortals first. That seemingly small difference would help decide the game, however, as the two players moved out on the map as they took their fourth bases. The two armies missed each other as they were traveling by opposite paths, and Astrea's force arrived at Neeb's base first. Neeb's initial two disruptors were caught idling at the third base, allowing Astrea to pick them off instantly.
Neeb recalled his forces back to defend, but the loss of his initial disruptors was an irrevocably huge blow. With four immortals to support his blink stalkers, Astrea was able to blast through Neeb's force and take the victory.
Game 3 - Deathaura: It was Neeb's turn to go for proxy tactics this time, building two gateways and a forge at Astrea's third base. Meanwhile, Astrea started with a low-ground gateway at his natural.
It seemed like Astrea might be vulnerable to Neeb's cannon rush, but a terrible micro mistake saw Neeb lose his probe before it could warp in several cannons and spotting pylons. However, Astrea let his guard down too soon, and he cancelled his defensive forge at his natural (while his scouting probe gas-stole both of Neeb's geysers). Neeb belatedly restarted the cannon rush once his back-up probe arrived all the way from his main, now supported by two zealots from his main. Astrea had to scramble build yet another forge and re-wall his natural, desperately trying to buy time to build another wall at his main ramp.
Neeb's six zealots tore down the natural wall and almost broached the main base as well, but Astrea's pylons and cannons completed just in time to stop the attack (caster Rotterdam conjectured that Neeb could have just brute forced through the main wall and won the game).
While Neeb's offensive was halted, he was still in a great position as he had been able to expand behind all this. While Astrea went for stargate and void rays to try and counter, Neeb had stalkers out with plenty of time to spare (even with the double-offensive gas steals early on). Astrea found himself contained to his main, while Neeb could just continue to crank stalkers out on two bases. Astrea's last ditch attempt at a void ray + shield battery push completely flopped, forcing him to concede the map.
Game 4 - Oxide: Both players opened with plans to one-gate expand, which only led to both of them pylon blocking each other with their scouting probes (Astrea going the extra mile and adding a cybernetics core block as well). With this early harassment concluded and Nexuses finally warping, Astrea went for a fast stargate while Neeb went for standard blink tech. Astrea actually went for phoenixes instead of oracles, picking off a few stray probes and getting scouting done.
The two players proceeded to passively build-up on three bases, with Astrea going for blink stalkers and robo tech while Neeb looked to change things up by going for what seemed to be a zealot-archon-stalker army. While it looked like Neeb might have a window to overwhelm Astrea with his gateway unit army, he changed his mind abruptly, belatedly switching to stalker-disruptor after he got two archons. On the other end of the map, Astrea was making some non-orthodox choices of his own, supplementing his stalkers with four colossi and some immortals instead of the usual disruptors.
This unusual build up led to an even more unusual conclusion to the game. Maxed out on three bases, Astrea finally went on the offensive. Neeb was stuck in a very awkward spot where most of his supply was in blink stalkers, with just a couple of disruptors and archons as support. While colossi aren't exactly the counter to stalkers, their superior range let Astrea dictate the terms of the battle, eventually goading Neeb into an aggressive offensive blink. Astrea' mixed-tech army took a decisive victory against Neeb's mostly-stalker force, putting Astrea up 3-2.
Game 5 - Jagannatha: Both players looked to go for standard 2-gate starts, but Astrea quickly changed tack by adding two more gateways for a 4-gate stalker attack. However, Neeb's careful probe scouting discovered the proxy pylon Astrea intended to use for offensive warp-ins, and Neeb was able to take it down before it could be used.
Astrea tried to force an attack anyway, but the loss of the proxy pylon had cost him too much precious time. Astrea saw his frontal attack sputter out against Neeb's defenses, while an oracle arrived in his main to ravage the undefended mineral line. Astrea GG'd out, sending the series to a sixth and final game.
Game 6 - Submarine: Astrea decided to give Neeb a taste of his own medicine, going for a proxy 2-gate + forge strategy of his own. Neeb seemed to defend well at first, cancelling most of Astrea's attempts to warp in high ground cannons while buying time to make defensive cannons of his own. However, some micro mistakes on Neeb's end saw Astrea retake the initiative once his zealots arrived, which he used to escort a probe to the undefended back-side of Neeb's mineral line.
Neeb was helpless to stop cannons from going up directly behind his minerals, and he GG'd out as his main nexus went down.