TeamLiquid Starleague 6by Wax
TSL6 is building to its grand finale in week three, where the surviving twelve players will contend for the first place prize of $6,000. Will one of the established powers like Serral or Reynor take the crown? Or will it end with an unexpected twist as in TSL5, when soO came out as the sole survivor?
Week 2 Recap: Tables TurnedIn week one, it looked like TSL6 would continue the trend of foreign domination from ASUS ROG Online as Clem went out in the early going. In week two, the situation flipped completely, with Elazer and ShoWTimE scoring major upsets over Stats and TY to advance to the winner's semifinal. Alongside Serral, they have claimed three of the four upper-bracket spots (with only ByuN advancing for the Koreans), while most of Korea's stars were banished to the lower bracket gauntlet.
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Matches of the Week: ByuN vs. Cure & Serral vs DarkTvT has always been one of the most entertaining match-ups in Starcraft II, but its thrilling nature has been especially highlighted over the last few months in tournaments like GSL and King of Battles.
TSL6 got in on the fun as well with a blockbuster match between ByuN and Cure, where two of the most skilled and most aggressive-minded pros delighted the fans with five maps of TvT bloodshed.
Given how the bracket worked out, there's a chance we might not see another TvT for the remainder of TSL6. While that would be unfortunate, ByuN vs Cure would be quite the high point to end on.
If ByuN vs Cure was the best match of week 2 in terms of in-game entertainment, Dark vs Serral told the best overarching story. Back in 2019, after Dark defeated Reynor to win BlizzCon, he mentioned that he had actually hoped to face Serral. Even as Dark lifted Blizzard's Gosu Trophy and locked in $210,000 in prize money, he still wanted something more: the validation from beating the consensus #1 player in the world. In TSL6, Dark finally got the match he wanted—even if the stakes weren't quite as high as they were a year ago.
Dark seemed to have Serral's number in the first two games, going up 2-0 with a Mutalisk style that Serral seemed uncomfortable with against. However, Serral's resilience came to the fore in that dire moment, and he fought back to tie the series back at 2-2. The final game on Jagannatha almost saw Dark's Spire-style secure him the series, but his Mutalisks ran out of midway through the game. Meanwhile, Serral eased into turtle mode with Lurkers and Vipers. What resulted was a combination comeback-throw, with Dark sending wave after wave of Ultralisks to their deaths until he was forced to concede the reverse sweep.
Damn, isn't it great when a match delivers on the hype? Some other highly anticipated match-ups could sure take a hint. The best thing is, we could actually see Dark vs Serral happen again in TSL6... ...IF Dark can survive the perilous lower bracket.
Best Plot Twist: ShoWTimE and Elazer Climb the Winner's BracketWhile Serral and Reynor have achieved great success against Korean players, the Korea-World rivalry only gets really heated when other members of the foreign legion are able to get in on the action. Some fans called DreamHack Winter a new low for Korean StarCraft, which ended up making Korea's dominating comeback at ASUS ROG Online all the more dramatic. Whichever side of the rivalry you support, or even if you're just a neutral fan chomping on popcorn and reading forum posts, you have to admit that this has made for some very compelling viewing.
If Astrea, Neeb, and TIME were the unexpected stars of DreamHack Winter, it's the OG's of Elazer and ShoWTimE who are making things spicy at TSL6. ShoWTimE took down two-time GSL champ TY 3-1 in the RO16, with TY Medivacs unable to find a hole in Die Mauer's defenses. ShoWTimE then went on to defeat Zest 3-2 in a close match to secure his winner's semifinal spot. Meanwhile, Elazer used a series of decisive all-ins to send Stats down to the lower bracket, and then swept Reynor to remain in the winner's bracket.
Given the skill levels of ShoWTimE and Elazer, these aren't the most shocking results. At the same time, there's still something wistfully gratifying about seeing them play well in 2020. The two duo helped blaze the trail for players like Serral and Reynor, reaching the playoffs at the very first region-locked BlizzCon in 2016—it's great to see them continue to get the job done four years later.
Week 3 PreviewMatches played on Dec 19-20. Start time: 16:00 GMT (+00:00).
ByuN vs Serral, Part. IIAfter wishing for Maru vs Serral for around two years, we ended up getting the Monkey's Paw version of the match-up in TSL6. Even before the match began, there was a laundry list of extenuating circumstances for Maru: his deteriorating shoulder health, bad losses in the DreamHack qualifiers, the late time of the match, server lag, you name it! And, indeed, the match ended up being a flop, with Serral crushing Maru in a 3-0 sweep.
For those of you looking who are interested in an actually good TvZ rivalry, may I suggest to you: ByuN vs Serral. Their quarterfinal match at ASUS ROG Online was one of the best overall series of 2020, with game four on Romanticide getting instant nominations for game of the year. While that single match is Serral and ByuN's only meeting since ByuN's return from military service, it's already a better 'rivalry' than Serral vs Maru.
With Serral taking on ShoWTimE and ByuN taking on Elazer, there's a very good chance that we'll get a winner's final rematch between Serral and ByuN. And, if things break right, the two might even collide one last time in the grand finals. It seems improbable that they'd top a series that's already being touted as one of the best of 2020, but with the benefit of a best-of-seven, they just might make it happen.
The ZvZ Holy WarLast week, Reynor tried to pull out an absurd Queen-drop harass build in a ZvZ against Elazer, contributing to his surprising 0-3 loss. As punishment for his lackadaisical attitude, Reynor has been sent down the lower bracket where he has to play even more ZvZ. While his initial opponent is the relatively manageable RagnaroK, his next opponent will be either Rogue or Dark—the two best Zergs in Korea.
Could this possibly be a reward, and not cosmic retribution? While I'm sure Reynor would obviously prefer to be up in the winner's bracket, ZvZ is still a pretty good draw for him. The Zerg mirror might have an infamous reputation for being volatile—as proved in Reynor's loss to Elazer—the Italian Zerg has been remarkably consistent on the whole. He's recording an 80%+ match win-rate on the year, and if you go by Aligulac.com ratings, only Serral was a better all-around ZvZ player in 2020. If there are precious few 'easy' draws left in the bracket (and one could argue Reynor already got one in Ragnarok), it might be better for Reynor to play ZvZ than brave the late-game waters against someone like Stats or Maru.
Another interesting twist to this sector of the bracket is that the dormant flames of the KR-EU ZvZ ideological war were stoked last week, with Solar and Lambo exchanging barbs on the TSL6 broadcast. While Solar might actually face Reynor directly down the line, it seems more likely that we'll have a proxy war between Reynor and Dark/Rogue to see which region is truly the best at ZvZ.
Which Empire Strikes Back?As mentioned above, the recent chapters in the Korea vs. World rivalry have been some of the most entertaining yet, where the balance power seems to shift on a tournament to tournament basis. Right now, the Koreans are down in TSL6—but they're certainly not out. Remember, TSL5 had some mid-bracket upsets of this ilk as well, with MaNa defeating PartinG and uThermal defeating Zest. Back then, the Korean players ended up rallying in the final week, where they didn't drop a single series to their international opponents.
The seeds for a similar comeback have been laid, with the One Man Army of ByuN looking dangerous in the upper bracket, already having a famous win against Serral under his belt. Meanwhile, seven Korean players are barring Reynor's way down in the lower bracket. If Elazer and ShoWTimE can't conjure any more magic, then the chances further increase for Korea taking back-to-back-to-back TSL titles.
On the other hand, TSL5 also saw Serral eliminated early on, losing ZvZ series to European peers Elazer and Reynor. With the pre-eminent Korean-killer sent packing, soO and INnoVation were able to sweep up the rest of the pieces. This time around, Serral hasn't given up any upsets and has won all the matches he was 'supposed' to. If he keeps that up, TSL6 will end with the most steady and reliable StarCraft II result of the last two years: Serral wins.