DreamHack Masters: Last Chance 2021by Wax
For over a decade, fans have acclaimed Terran vs Zerg as the best spectator match-up in StarCraft II, deaf to elitist claims that Terran vs Terran is the true pinnacle of the competitive scene. Fortunately, both sides should be happy with this next DH: Last Chance group, as lone Zerg Reynor takes on a trio of Terrans.
RO16 Group C: Reynor, Bunny, INnoVation, HeroMarineStart time: Thursday, Jan 14 2:00pm GMT (GMT+00:00)
In the summer of 2020, Reynor enjoyed a new peak in his already incredible career, winning back-to-back DreamHack Europe titles and winning the combined Summer Season championship. Part of his success was due to his ZvT going up another level, as he took out elite players like INnoVation, Maru, and TY across a number of major tournaments. It seemed as if the young Italian was on the verge of becoming the same kind of 'untouchable' as his rival Serral, where he would no longer be dropping championships on account of his ZvT.
As rosy as Reynor's TvZ outlook was toward the end of summer, things took a dramatic turn for the worse in the fall. It all started at King of Battles, when a slumping Cure eliminated Reynor (and then Serral) by relying heavily on drilling claws mines. Next came DreamHack Europe: Winter, where it was Clem's turn to have a breakthrough moment as he eliminated Reynor on his way to the championship. The most painful blow for Reynor came at ASUS ROG Online, where ByuN handed him a 2-3 defeat in the group stage, after which Maru eliminated him by the same scoreline in the playoffs. Reynor had been the source of countless grievances for Terran and Protoss players in the past—all of the sudden, he was the one making frustrated tweets (later deleted), whether it was rueing his own strategic decisions or implying that he needed to go for Korea for ZvT practice.
That's not to say Reynor's ZvT fell off a cliff, as he's still an extremely strong player in the match-up. His mid-game might be even stronger than Serral's, swallowing up the map with ease and making Terrans look dumb for even thinking about stepping a few feet outside of their territory. And, of course, no-one is better at looking for backdoor attacks, with Terrans liable to lose the game due to the tiniest defensive lapse. The trouble, though, seems to come from the epiphany Terran have reached in the late-game, where they've figured out the exact combination of Ghosts, Tanks, Mines, and support units needed to create an impenetrable defense, making it nigh impossible for Zergs to close out a game. Terran has reached this state in a handful of past metas, and each time, the frustration emanating from the suffering Zergs has been almost palpable. It's novel and interesting now, but if ByuN is still grinding out turtle games on Romanticide in April, I'll probably join Reynor in sending out some annoyed tweets.
But, until we reach that point, I've got to say this is the most fun TvZ has felt in quite a while. So much of our love of TvZ is based on our anticipation for the epic clashes at the top of the mountain, where it feels like either side has a chance to claim the title. What would TvZ have been without match-ups like MMA vs DRG, TaeJa vs Life, or Dark vs ByuN? For a while, it just didn't feel like we had those kinds of duels—now, I'm excited for any number of TvZ match-up combinations because I genuinely have no idea who will win. This group is must-watch StarCraft, if only to see how Reynor handles this potential ZvT crisis.
INnoVation hasn't gotten in on the Korean Terran revenge party yet, but there's reason to believe he might join the fray. I speak, of course, of odd-year INnoVation theory. It's basically pure mythology and narrative, but it's too entertaining not to mention here.
Since INnoVation's infamous 2016 campaign—which was so bad it was essentially a sabbatical year—he's been running on a peculiar alternating year cycle. Consider the following: 2016: The worst year of his career by a huge margin. 2017: The most dominant year of his career by his own admission with multiple championships. 2018: The second worst year of his career, never making it to the Code S playoffs. 2019: The year he won WESG, earning his single biggest payday of $150,000. 2020: A solid year by most player's standards, but poor for INnoVation with 0 championships. Going by this pattern, then you know he's due at LEAST one championship, and maybe even a stretch (however brief) as the best player in the world.
Look, there will be plenty of time in 2021 for TL.net to talk about INnoVation's win-rates, his gameplay, his Aligulac rating, and things of that sort. But what other opportunity than the start of 2021 do we have to present this dumb theory, and imagine that there might be some truth in its madness?
Even if INnoVation is empowered by cosmic energies, surely Reynor will take down HeroMarine, right? Big Gabe might be Europe's top Terran, but his head-to-head match record against Reynor in the 2020-21 EPT season was rather poor at 4-11, and he's currently on a brutal eight match losing streak. Still, their two most recent matches were narrow 2-3 losses for Gabe, and while I don't want to draw huge conclusions from the games I was able to watch, the two seemed fairly evenly matched—at least compared to some of the more one-sided affairs in mid-2020.
As for TvT, it's a bit hard to say how things will go for HeroMarine. Over the last year or so, his tournament bracket draws have led him to face barely any Korean Terrans at all. Aligulac.com ratings say he should lose to INnoVation and defeat Bunny, but given the volatile nature of BO3, perhaps there's a chance of an upset over the machine.
Finally, we have our requisite Code S wildcard player in Bunny, who—you guessed it—has "a puncher's chance" against anyone in the group. Yes, I know it's a cliche I repeat often, but not all cliches are bad. The reason an underdog like Bunny is in this tournament at all is because he actually DID manage to KO both ByuN and Maru in the qualifiers, which bodes well for him given the Terran-heavy make-up of this group (coincidentally, Team NV released their statement about Maru's ailing shoulder health shortly after this loss). We've already seen RagnaroK take out Zest earlier in Last Chance—Bunny could very well throw a wrench in someone else's plans, and if he's lucky, maybe even advance to the quarterfinals.
Predictions: While Reynor has been vexed by the likes of ByuN and Maru, there aren't any Terrans of that caliber in this group. That is, unless cosmic rays activate the powers of odd-year INnoVation...
In any case, I'm going with the boring pick of Reynor and INnoVation to advance. I wouldn't be surprised to see Bunny or HeroMarine steal a series off the favorites, but two upsets seems like a reach for either player.
Reynor > Bunny
INnoVation > HeroMarine
INnoVation > Reynor
HeroMarine > Bunny
Reynor > HeroMarine
INnoVation and Reynor to advance.