Trap Wins Super Tournament #1by Darkhorse
- Tournament Recap
It seems we have finally entered the age of Trap. The Afreeca Freecs Protoss has now won three premier tournament finals in a row with victories at DreamHack: Last Chance sandwiched between two GSL Super Tournaments (four, if one includes NeXT Winter). With this run of incredible form Trap has firmly taken the title of world’s best Protoss. Not only that, but he could very easily be considered the world’s best player, and might be the favorite headed into IEM Katowice later this month. Let’s take a look at Trap’s road to victory and how the rest of 2021’s first GSL event played out.
The Round of 16 - Death to All ZergsZerg was the least represented faction at the GSL Super Tournament with just four players, as Rogue was notably absent from the bracket after his upset losses to sOs and SpeCial in the qualifiers. And within a single round, the number of Zergs in the tournament went from four to zero.
Dark vs Trap was a potential finals matchup that unfortunately came in round one, and it ended in a 1-3 defeat for the DPG ace. While Dark’s loss can hardly be considered a shock considering Trap’s recent form, the rest of the Zergs didn’t exactly pull their weight. DongRaeGu and Armani were swept aside relatively easily by Dream and Zoun respectively. Solar had more success in his series against INnoVation where he at one point had a 2-0 series lead. However, INno seemed to get better and better throughout the series, and by the end, was completely pulling Solar apart with brilliant macro play.
In particular, one has to note that Zerg's late-game ZvP struggles continued in the Super Tournament, where the Protoss composition of Carriers, Templars, and Disruptors was able to roll over whatever the Zergs could muster. Armani seemed well out of his depth against Zoun, while Dark was much more successful in keeping his games close against Trap. The recently popular 2-Stargate openers played a key role in the ZvP's, and Zoun’s game two win over Armani with a three base void ray push prompted this tweet from Solar:
While DRG and Armani lost badly in their respective first round matches, the dubious honor of worst performance of the tournament has to go to Cure. Cure is, of course, an online powerhouse and given his form coming in could have been considered a real threat to make a deep run here. However he was abysmal in his opening series against PartinG. He began his ill fated Super Tournament campaign by leaving his depots down and allowing PartinG to shade six Adepts into his main base and it didn’t improve much from there. One bad series isn’t the end of the world, but a one sided beatdown like that can’t be good for Cure’s confidence going into Katowice.
On the subject of disappointing TvP performances, ByuN looked a little lost in his series against sOs. While he won two games, one based solely on his ability to detect sOs’s cheeky Dark Templar play, his preference for unorthodox two and three-rax openers was perplexing. sOs had absolutely no problems dealing with ByuN's stim timings without medivac support, and seemed perfectly content to whittle down Byun’s fragile bio forces with Blink Stalkers. While ByuN must have had success during practice with such openers, it would be hard to imagine him even taking a game against someone like Trap playing like he did against sOs.
SpeCial versus Zest ended in a 3-0 victory for the Protoss, but the series was more interesting than the scoreline might suggest. Each game featured a quirky strategy: a proxy Void Ray all-in in game one, a rare Mech-versus-Protoss attempt in game two, and fast Blink-DT's in game three. As you might have guessed by the result, Zest's gambits worked out better than SpeCial's.
On the flip side, the lone Terran TvP victory of the round came surprisingly from Bunny versus Stats. Coming directly after Cure’s lackluster performance Bunny’s inspired play was a fantastic Terran palate cleanser, and it was the second tournament in a row that Bunny punched above his weight early on (he topped his RO16 group at DH: Last Chance with wins over INnoVation and Reynor). Meanwhile, it was the second tournament in a row that Stats failed to progress past the opening round and as the clock continues to tick on his pending military service, Stats’ time at the top of the pecking order in Korea may be coming to a close.
Quarterfinals - The Protoss ComethDays two and three of the Super Tournament were all about PvT, with six of the eight matchups featuring Protoss vs Terran. The first two quarterfinals PvT’s could not have been more different.
INnoVation actually had Trap on the ropes to some extent in their quarterfinal match, as he took a 2-1 lead and seemed to have a handle on how to play against Trap’s Phoenix openers. Game four was back and forth and at times looked in INnoVation’s favor, but a few missteps including a failed doom drop led to the Terran player throwing away much of his army advantage and ultimately allowing Trap to snowball to victory. Game five, however, was not close. Trap immediately did massive damage with nothing more than an exploratory push with two Stalkers and an Adept, and his Phoenixes completely shut down Innovation’s attempted mine drops. The series as a whole was high quality, but Trap seemed to become more solid as the match went on and he out-thought and out-macro’d INnoVation by series end.
Conversely, and you’ll be shocked to hear this, sOs opened his series against Dream with all kinds of cheese. Game one was an sOs victory on the back of a proxy Void Ray all in, while he opened game two with a cannon rush followed by Dark Templars. Still, Dream stabilized and overpowered sOs in games two in three once the games had reached more standard mid-games. sOs, perhaps realizing that his proxy Stargate build was by far his most successful, went for some proxy Oracles in game four. Dream attempted a proxy Starport of his own for a fast Hellion drop, but sOs did more significant damage and the game spiraled in his favor rapidly. Unfortunately for the creative Protoss, Dream looked much stronger in standard macro during game five, and Dream became the only non Protoss to reach the semis.
While PartinG had an easy ride in round one against Cure, his match against Zoun was anything but. Game one was back and forth, but PartinG made a crucial mistake by leaving Zoun’s third just barely alive when he retreated just slightly too early from a fight. From there Zoun outmaneuvered and out-teched him, as PartinG’s army composition lacked the disruptors the Zoun possessed and it showed. In game two PartinG got too eager and pushed his way into Zoun’s main, but a quick recall led to a resounding fight loss for the veteran Protoss. While PartinG made it respectable by winning game three after forcing Zoun into an awkward attempted base trade, game four seemed stacked in Zoun’s favor from the start. The younger Protoss held PartinG’s proxy robo easily and PartinG brought about his own downfall by overextending in a mid game fight at Zoun’s heavily fortified fourth base.
The final series of the round of eight was about as one sided as it could get. After Bunny’s fantastic TvP against Stats in round one, it can only be described as a let down how hard he got outplayed by Zest in this series. Game one was Zest simply out-positioning Bunny and rolling him with charge-Zealots and Storm, while in game two he took a strong early lead with Stargate harassment and never looked back. As bad as those two games were for Bunny, game three was even worse as Zest didn’t even need to move beyond a simple Gateway army and a Warp Prism in order to completely pick the Terran apart. Zest, Zoun, Trap, and Dream advanced to the semifinals.
The Semis - One Favorite FallsDue respect to Dream as he definitely came to scrap against the odds on favorite to win the tournament. He apparently decided that the best way to do that was to play fairly greedy, cutting corners to go for three early Command Centers in game one. Unfortunately that led to him taking fairly significant damage from simple Stalker-Adept poke with not even a Bunker to defend his natural. Against Trap, starting a game from that much of a deficit will almost always lead to a loss, and that’s exactly what happened. Game two saw Dream try the fast 3-CC start again, but this time he got away with it against a more passive Trap. This allowed Dream to mass a huge mid-game army of bio that smashed Trap's paltry Zealot-Archon force, and he even dropped a manner-mule from what seemed like an unloseable situation. For a moment, it looked like Dream might suffer an embarrassing loss when Trap held his ground on defense, but he ultimately won the game on an endless rally of bio forces. Trap’s Phoenix play took center stage in game three, as his endless harassment left Dream chasing his own tail and Trap’s superior army eventually simply marched into Dream’s natural for the win. To close out the series, Trap went with a simple yet effective two base Blink-Stalker attack, punishing Dream's third attempt to go for a triple CC strategy. With Dream tapping out, a PvP final was set between Trap and the winner of Zest versus Zoun.
Do you have fifteen minutes to kill? Then you can watch the entirety of the PvP series between Zest and Zoun. With Zoun apparently deciding that he should set a semifinal speedrun record, he served up a variety of cheeses to Zest with great effect. Game one was a proxy Stargate Void Ray all-in with a healthy supply of Shield Batteries placed outside Zest’s natural. This worked like a charm against Zest's predictable fast expansion on Pillars of Gold, giving Zoun an early lead in the series. Game two’s cheese du jour was a proxy robo from Zoun. While Zest managed to stall at his natural by building Immortals of his own, the tide turned in Zoun’s favor once he started adding Disruptors into the mix. A few Purification Novas later, Zest was down 0-2 in ten minutes. Somehow Zoun seemed to think his first two games actually took too long, because he went for a Cannon rush in game three. And with how practiced it looked I would hate to run into Zoun on the ladder. Zest looked flustered and sent his lone zealot across the map to die to Zoun’s one defensive cannon, while Zoun simply filled Zest’s main with cannons of his own. While the wacky builds produced a moment of comedy where we found out who wins between five cannons and one cannon with three shield batteries (spoiler alert, it’s the five cannons), Zoun moved on to the finals against Trap at lightning speed.
The Finals - Trap’s Time to ShineSo for the second consecutive GSL Super Tournament, Trap would play a PvP to determine the winner. Zoun came out of the gate with an advantage, scouting out Trap’s proxy robo early on. Zoun's Void Rays shut down the initial Immortal push, and then he had plenty of Immortals of his own to stop Trap's desperate Blink-Stalker follow-up. Zoun then simply counter-attacked to take a 1-0 series lead. While game two was for the most part on even footing throughout, Zoun made a crucial misstep in not having an Observer with his army. This led to a huge chunk of his Stalker force getting caught in a Stasis Ward, and the ensuing fight in which his army was segmented and out of position was a rout in favor of Trap. Game three saw Trap’s proxy robo go up against Zoun’s Stargate opener, and it again went to the Afreeca Freecs Protoss as Zoun simply didn’t have enough firepower to win a fight against Trap’s immortals, especially with Trap’s immaculate Warp Prism micro.
Zoun wasn’t about to go down without a fight however. The two players headed to Deathaura for the only real macro game of the series, and they progressed evenly through tech stages, trading engagements between mostly Blink-Stalker armies. Eventually the two reached the Disruptor duel stage of the matchup, and while Zoun appeared to be in the lead, the momentum seemed to swing after Trap paused the game due to an apparent issue with his monitor. After the game resumed, Trap aggressively blinked onto Zoun’s Disruptors while simultaneously killing Zoun’s fifth base with a Zealot run by. Alas, Trap was overeager in pushing forward with his army, and ate a massive Disruptor shot before being enveloped by a devastating Zealot flank. Trap's forces were shattered, and he was forced to tap out and tie the series at 2-2.
Unfortunately, that was the end of the high quality PvP we had seen. Zoun, who had played brilliantly throughout the tournament, completely came apart. He went for a one-base all-in on Jagannatha, but shot himself in the foot by losing his crucial Warp Prism before he could even initiate his main attack. Zoun rebuilt his Prism and went for the all-in attack anyway (with one less Immortal than he would have liked), which Trap shut down without much trouble. Artosis neatly summed up Zoun’s strategy by saying, “It looked bad, and then it was”. Game six was on Pillars of Gold, and Zoun went for a Void Ray all-in against his opponent's fast expand, similar to his approach against Zest in the semis. Unfortunately, some key differences made his attack much less potent. First of all, instead of proxying his stargate right outside his opponent’s base, he built it at his wall in plain sight of Trap's scouting Probe. Secondly, Trap had Stalkers out on the map to severely stall Zoun's weak attempts to set up proxied Shield Batteries. There was truly no climax and no actual “hold” per se. Zoun’s attack simply fizzled out and it left him at a severe economic and tech disadvantage. Trap’s follow up attack with Immortals came a few minutes later with a gigantic army supply lead, and Zoun who had played so well coming into the finals, and honestly throughout, went out with a whimper.
So here are some takeaways from the first offline event of 2021. First off, a Zerg drought may be very real coming up, at least in Korea. Rogue looks to be in a bona fide slump and aside from Dark, none of the Zerg representatives in the Super Tournament looked particularly good. Of course, there are Serral and Reynor to tangle with come Katowice, but the Korean Zergs did not acquit themselves well at all. Secondly, cheesy Protoss play can be a lot of fun. sOs of course brought out a variety of odd and exciting strategies, but it was Zoun who truly stood out. Oddly enough the first two rounds saw Zoun generally holding off rushes from his opponents Armani and PartinG rather than initiating the aggression, but his series against Zest was both brilliant tactically and hilarious to watch. Truthfully the takeaway from this Super Tournament is that I am sad there isn’t a wild card spot in Katowice that we can give to Zoun off the back of this performance because I definitely want to see more Zoun gameplay as quickly as possible.
And finally, Trap is arguably the world’s best player and is my pick to win IEM Katowice. One Super Tournament win would have made him a contender. But two in a row surrounding a win at Dreamhack where he beat Serral in the finals makes him the favorite. The only player to come close to beating him was INnoVation, and much like in his series against Zoun, Trap only seemed to get stronger as the series progressed. Right now it’s hard to see many players sticking with Trap over a longer series, and the former Jin Air Protoss has earned his moment at the top of the Starcraft II world.