In EPT Cup #96, GSL Code S champion Cure won his first KR cup since week #81, Clem dominated the European edition to claim gold with only one map loss, and Astrea defeated a slew of star players for his third AM cup victory.
KR cup: This last cup was a bit more stacked than usual, with the Code S champion Cure returning to his online stomping grounds, ByuN continuing his run of good form, and top Chinese player TIME making an impressive run to the finals. The previous winner herO was unfortunately eliminated rather quickly, with Zoun beating him 2-1 in round of 16.
Despite dropping maps left and right, Cure made a strong TvP-based run to the finals with wins over NightMare (2-1), Creator (2-1), Classic (3-1). While Classic was overshadowed by the eventual winner, his run was a good reminder of his rapid improvement, managing to eliminate Protosses PartinG (2-0) and Zoun (2-1)—well done for a military returnee.
ByuL, another returnee, didn't leave as strong an impression, as he lost early on to eventual finalist TIME. The former DHM China champion made a solid run to the finals, taking down ByuL (2-1), Has (2-1), and then ByuN (3-1) to earn a shot at Cure for the ESL KR Cup title.
TIME managed to take the first point on Berlingrad in a standard TvT macro game that went on to 4-5 bases and lasted 15 minutes. TIME was more aggressive on 2000 Atmospheres with a proxy 2 Rax build, but ended up playing from behind after failing to inflict enough damage early on. He still managed to stay in the game for quite a long time (10 mins or so) before finally being forced to tap out. Game three saw TIME finding small advantage after small advantage on Hardwire, eventually finishing off Cure with a 2-Medivac drop onto a poorly defended expansion. However, Cure showed his champion's resolve from down 1-2, and went on to win the next two maps in action packed macro games to finally prevail 3-2 and win the KR cup #96.
Upset(s) of the day: TIME beating ByuN 3-1 in the semi-finals was the biggest upset for me this time. Even though ByuN is not a TvT specialist and it is arguably his weakest match-up, he is still a notch above TIME and was dominant in their head-to-head record prior to that match. The entire run of TIME was noteworthy, ending in a narrow 2-3 defeat against the Code S champion. An honorable mention goes to Classic for beating PartinG 2-0.
EU Cup: The European cup was very eventful this week, with almost all of the top players besides Reynor (I won’t count Serral since I am not even sure he even participated once) participating, while Trap decided to try his luck as the a Korean representative. The seeding ended up being altered as a result (Trap having the most EPT points), giving us Clem versus HeroMarine in the semifinals instead of the grand finals. SpeCial ended up being a beneficiary of this unusual bracket, making a deep run to face Clem in the grand finals.
The Trap side of the bracket was full of unexpected results, with DnS making a spectacular run to defeat goblin, Trap, and ByuN to reach the semifinals. However, he fell victim to SpeCial's TvP rampage, with the Mexican Terran having defeated MacSed and MaxPax earlier on in the bracket. SpeCial really got to show off his TvP prowess in those series, not even dropping a single map.
On the other side of the bracket, HeroMarine had a strong, undefeated run before he was felled by Clem in the semifinals. Prior to that match, Clem had taken out BabyMarine, MaNa, ShoWTimE—the latter of whom he played rather noteworthy match against. The two players engaged in a 45+ minute showdown that saw mighty empires rise and fall, with 2 Stalkers and 2 Probes rising from the ruins for ShoWTimE, while 2 Medivacs, 4 Marines, and 2 SCVs survived on the Terran side. Having failed to preserve a Nexus, ShoWTimE could only play for a draw at best, while Clem could still try and force a victory. Ultimately, Clem prevailed in the demolition derby, managing to break through ShoWTimE's last line of defense with intense load-unload micro on his Marines and Medivacs (VOD from Harstem).
Unfortunately for SpeCial, Clem was on a mission that day, and didn't do him the favor of switching to Protoss for the finals. On the first map of 2000 Atmospheres, SpeCial tried a very cheeky build with 2 proxy-Starports for Battlecruisers, while Clem opted for a more standard Cyclone drop with Hellion-Reaper. Though SpeCial had enough units to defend at home, Clem's harassment allowed him to notice the conspicuously missing Staport and eventually discover the hidden Fusion Core. Clem had Ravens, Cyclones, and Vikings out in time to defend against the BC's and launched a big counter-push to win the game. On the second map of Blackburn, SpeCial opted for proxy Marauders, but with Clem’s SCV scout noticing a Factory being built at SpeCial's wall, he was able to track down the proxy-Barracks rather quickly. The defense was a bit chaotic and SpeCial followed up with an expansion and Banshee that did some damage, propelling him ahead economically. However, Clem took a good position to abuse the Factory being in the wall of SpeCial. This allowed him to set up a big containment and slowly but surely get back economically, getting to 3 bases versus the 2 of his opponent. SpeCial ultimately broke the contain but was too far behind and could not defend his third when he tried to land it. The third map of Berlingrad saw both players opt for more standard openers, with SpeCial trying a fast 3CC build. However, Clem used his additional troops to put more pressure and once again managed to contain SpeCial on 2 bases, while taking his own third. Juanito managed to sneak his third base at a far-away expand, which Clem eventually found. This forced SpeCial to do a last ditch attack with SCV's in tow, but Clem defended perfectly to win 3-0 and grab the EU title once more.
Upset(s) of the day: several outcomes could be considered upsets in this cup. The most notable one for me is SpeCial beating MaxPax 2-0, since the Danish Protoss is a very strong PvT player that usually is only stopped by HeroMarine or Clem (and managed to overcome that weakness in recent cups). Aligulac.com does not really agree with me since it estimated SpeCial to have 46:54 odds to beat MaxPax—indicative of his overall strong TvP results in the last few months—but I'm still keeping this as my upset of the day.
Kudos to DnS for taking out Byun and Trap even with latency advantage, and MacSed for 2-0'ing Gerald with server disadvantage. In fact, MacSed's upset was the biggest of the day if we're just going by pure Aligulac.com percentages, having only a 17% chance to win at all, let alone win in a 2-0.
NA Cup: The NA cup was one of the most stacked in recent memory. Clem declined to go for the double, but there were still several strong Terrans in contention: ByuN, Cure, Gumiho and SpeCial. While the Zerg field was rather shallow, there were almost too many notable Protoss players to list. Zest, Zoun, MaxPax, Astrea, herO, Has, Nice, and Cyan were just some of the Protosses who came to play, and surprisingly, it was Astrea who went all the way to win the championship.
As expected for such a stacked field, the competition was fierce. Code S champ and KR cup winner Cure took out herO early on (herO himself defeated fellow returnee GuMiho), but fell to ByuN in a 0-2 loss. Zoun seemed like he might have a relatively easy path with Chinese champion Cyan and Gerald—while he beat Cyan 2-1, he got upset by Gerald with the same score. NA Protoss DisK managed to beat Asuna and LATAM champion SpeCial before losing to MaxPax, who was in turn defeated by Astrea. ByuN showed how scary he is in these cups, beating Has 2-0, Cure 2-0 and stopping the run of Gerald with a dominant 3-1 to reach the finals to meet Astrea. The American Protoss was on fire as well, beating Nice, Zest and MaxPax in consecutive matches.
In the finals, Astrea was merciless like Clem a few hours before, not letting his opponent take even one map. On Hardwire, he defended the relentless attacks of ByuN using Gateway units supported by Colossus-Disruptor while harassing himself with Zealots and Blink DTs squads. This eventually took the steam out of ByuN's attacks, and Astrea won after a hard fought, 20 minute battle. The second map was Berlingrad, where Astrea used Phoenixes to harass ByuN and take an economic lead. This compelled the ByuN to try to all-in with his SCVs in support, and while this very nearly breached the Protoss defenses, Astrea finally defended with several rounds of reinforcements. On Glittering Ashes, Astrea opened up a bit more aggressively with Blink Stalkers and a prism, while ByuN opted for a fast 3CC build. Both players came out of the openers relatively evenly, but the early blink DT and Prism harass of Astrea forced ByuN into a hasty engagement to try and get some damage done in return. However, ByuN didn't find any success against Astrae's Disruptor-Colossus based force, and the American Protoss was able to win his third ever AM cup with a 3-0 finals victory. It was an amusing turnaround from a few hours earlier, when ByuN had booted Astrea from the EU cup with a 2-0 victory.
Upset(s) of the day: there were several upsets happening in the AM cup as well! Basically, the entire run of Astrea was the biggest upset, and Gerald’s run was very impressive as well. Bear in mind that it was on his server, but Astrea beat Zest 2-0, PvP specialist MaxPax 3-1, and the strong PvT player ByuN by a one-sided 3-0 score. Gerald on the other hand decimated Korean Protosses one by one: he beat consecutively the amateur ReBellioN, Big Boy PartinG 2-1 and Zoun 2-1, before losing against ByuN in PvT. If that was not enough for you, Canadian protoss DisK beat EU finalist SpeCial 2-0 in the round of 16.
European Server Cup #96 (Click for full bracket)
Americas Server Cup #96 (Click for full bracket)