Maru wins ASUS ROG Fall 2021A week after Serral broke his ten-month title drought in the DreamHack Masters Fall Finals, a fellow StarCraft II legend broke a similar drought. Maru, who had not won a major trophy since King of Battles in October of 2020, triumphed over a fiercely competitive field of competitors to claim the championship at ASUS ROG Fall. Taking down Rogue 4-2 in the grand finals, Maru won his first major title of 2021 after two runner-up finishes (DHM Summer Finals & Code S Season 1), reaffirming his place as the top Terran player in the world in the process.
The tournament was almost a correction to prior DHM Fall Finals, where the absence of top players like Reynor, Rogue, and Maru had been conspicuous. While the Italian Zerg may have been a bit rusty after coming off of a break, the two former Jin Air teammates made it a point to show the StarCraft II world what they had missed. After going through Neeb and Clem in the group stages, Maru proceeded to take imperious 3-0 sweeps against DHM Fall champion Serral as well as HeroMarine before arriving in the finals. Rogue emerged from the opposite side of the bracket on the back of an equally impressive run, taking victories over Serral and Astrea in the group stage, followed by wins against Clem and Dark in the playoffs.
Alas, a duel between two Code S champions seemed to bring the 'GSL finals curse' with it, with most of the games unfolding as one-sided stomps in the favor of whoever gained an early advantage. However, the two finalists also delivered a fantastic game on Romanticide: a rip-roaring clash of Terran Infantry vs Muta-Ling-Bane that redeemed the entire series. Even the typically prescient commentator Lambo was vexed at times, unable to say who was ahead in an intensely violent and chaotic game. While Rogue ultimately triumphed in that memorable bout, his early game decision-making and defence were found rather lacking in the other games, leading to Maru taking a comfortable 4-2 victory in the end.
Amusingly enough, Maru's reaction after winning the finals was to continue to dwell upon his loss to Trap in the Code S quarterfinals—apparently four days wasn't long enough for his disappointment to subside. Still, even if the effusive praise from Twitch chat didn't console him, then perhaps the $6,000 first-place prize and 250 EPT global points will have cheered him up a tad.
Thoughts and ObservationsBest tournament ever* (for Korean elitists): For the subset of fans who insist that Korea is the best (if not ONLY) region, ASUS ROG Fall was surely the most satisfying tournament in quite some time. The playoff bracket looked like something out of the pre-Serral days, with two of the most-hyped foreigners getting eliminated from the RO8 in brutal 0-3 sweeps, and with a Europe vs Europe match being the only thing preventing an all-Korean semifinals.
While it's a noticeable result that will have certain TL denizens taking victory laps for weeks, I don't really think there are any major takeaways going forward. After all, for almost a year now, we've seen the StarCraft II scene become an incredibly competitive place where all of the top players can seemingly beat each other on a given day. Think about this sequence of results: Two weeks ago, Trap outplayed Maru in the GSL quarterfinals. A few days later, Serral ran a buzzsaw through Trap in the DHM Finals. Then, a few more days after that, Maru stomped all over Serral in ASUS ROG. Were any of those results really surprising? I would say no. While there might be some differences in each player's race match-up abilities, on aggregate we remain in a place of incredible parity. Individual dominance might simplify storylines and make the scene easier to follow for some, but for hardcore fans, this is an exceptionally interesting time in StarCraft II.
Gabe comes up big: Anyway, it wasn't all bad for the European contingent at ASUS ROG Fall, as HeroMarine built on his solid DHM Fall run by earning an immense top four finish.
Big Gabe's #2 spot on the Aligulac.com TvP rankings still seemed suspect after DHM Fall, where he 'proved' his abilities by defeating a soon-to-be-retired sOs in consecutive series. However, Gabe backed his reputation up with a massive victory over Trap in the ASUS ROG group stage, defeating the PvT specialist and eliminating him from the tournament.
HeroMarine then went on to take a colossal dub against regional rival Reynor in the quarterfinals, eking out a dramatic reverse-sweep victory (perhaps the best overall series of the tournament). This wasn't quite as galactic an upset as the two players' contrasting resumes would make it seem—HeroMarine has a very respectable head-to-head record against Reynor over his career. However, it was arguably his most elephantine victory against Reynor in such a high-stakes match, and it's certainly one that we'll be keeping in mind during the upcoming DHM Europe regionals.
Will Maru ever lose TvT again?: With Clem showing further cracks in his TvZ, it's looking like Maru's TvT is the game's single most overwhelming match-up at the moment. Maru has a 16W–1L–2D record in 2021, with his only loss coming to the now-retired TY during the IEM Katowice group stages. Maru's ASUS ROG semifinal match against HeroMarine may have been #1 vs #4 in terms of Aligulac.com ratings, but the gap felt much wider than that in terms of both in-game play and the 3-0 result.
Inevitably, this run of dominance has to end—Maru is playing way above his 2020 level when he dropped series to basically all of the top Terrans (TY, Cure, INnoVation, Clem, etc.). Knowing that, however, makes you appreciate what he's doing in the present even more.
Mandatory Clem TvT/TvP commentary: While this is the most important dead horse in the SC2 scene, I'm a bit tired of beating it for now. Let us know your thoughts on Clem's TvT and TvP in the comments.
Dark and Rogue play the 'best' game of the tournament: Clashing in their third BO5 series of 2021, Dark and Rogue delivered a bizarre yet hilarious game worthy of two players who have spent far too much time thinking about how to beat one another.
Dark opened up with a 12-pool, offensive Spine Crawler all-in on 2000 Atmospheres, which Rogue responded to with an even more drastic measure of pulling all of his Drones for a counter-attack Dark's main. That move triggered a frenzied series of events that resulted in one Drone and one Zergling racing to kill an Extractor before an off-Creep Queen could arrive to save it. The Queen ultimately did get there in time (just barely), forcing a stalemate end to a short but exhilarating game.
A quirky detail about this game is that it was actually the second time this year that Dark and Rogue played to a draw result after a Spine Crawler all-in, repeating their equally unorthodox game from Code S. It doesn't seem like Dark has refined his offensive technique, or that Rogue has learned a hard counter on defense, so I look forward to seeing this outcome repeat itself many times in the future.
Statistics and records: Liquipedia