Week 99 saw Dark once again participate in the Korean cup and win with ease. Europe featured a classic clash between HeroMarine and Clem in the finals, with Big Gabe triumphing to take his 39th total cup win. That's more than Clem (24) and ShoWTimE (12) combined! Finally, the American server cup went to Zest, though Hellraiser's upset-laded finals run was the bigger story.
KR cup: Winning two cups last week did not seem to satiate the appetite of Dark, who decided to participate in both KR and NA cups once more. While he was stopped by an unexpected foe in NA (more on that below), he did go on another impressive championship run in Korea.
Overall, participation was down since last week, but there was still solid representation for each faction. Creator, Has, herO, MacSed, Nice, NightMare and Zest showed up for the Protoss, ByuN, Gumiho, Ryung and SpeCial came out for Terran, and ByuL, Dark, DRG, RagnaroK fought for the Zerg swarm.
Unfortunately for Terran fans, they did not have much success this time around. SpeCial, GuMiho, and Ryung were all packed into one quadrant of the bracket early on, but it ended up being ZvT specialist DongRaeGu who survived to reach the semifinals. Elsewhere in the bracket, ByuN got beaten in the first round 1-2 by Creator, and that was it for the hopes of mankind.
Protoss players did a little bit better, but ultimately could not overcome the Swarm. Has lost in the first round 0-2 against RagnaroK, while Nice, MacSed, and herO ended up fighting each other for the right to be eliminated by Dark in the semifinals (that 'honor' went to herO). Meanwhile, Zest found himself as the beneficiary of an easy bracket by only having to go through fork and Creator to reach the semifinals, but lost 0-3 to DongRaeGu and his supposedly poor ZvP.
That set up DongRaeGu vs Dark in the finals. Starting on Blackburn, both players went for the early gold base and proceeded to make tons of Zerglings and Banelings. Dark won the knife fight, putting him up 1-0. The second game on Berlingrad also started on a blade's edge with Banelings and Zerglings, but eventually stabilized into a more standard game. Dark squeezed out a small squad of Mutalisks that got in successful harassment, allowing him to win with superior Roach numbers after. Game three saw DongRaeGu make a big play on Pride of Altaris with an early gold base, which Dark scouted a bit late. Dark tried to overrun his opponent with a lot of Zerglings, but the DongRaeGu's economy had already kicked in and he was able to win with Roaches and Lings. The final game on Glittering Ashes was a return to low-econ starts, and once again, Dark traded better with Ling-Bane to build an advantage. Dark finished DRG off with Roaches, sealing his back-to-back Korean server victory.
Upset(s) of the day: There weren’t many upsets this week. DRG 3-0'ing Zest could be considered an upset, but Zest seems to have dropped in form significantly after his Code S runner-up finish so it may not have been that surprising to regular viewers of SC2.
Therefore, I will go with Creator beating ByuN 2-1 as my pick for biggest upset. At least the mighty Aligulac algorithm seems to agree with me, calculating that DRG had 33:67 odds of defeating Zest in a BO5 while Creator had 24:76 odds of beating ByuN in the BO3. Though, as a caveat, the exact scoreline of 2-1 for Creator was estimated at a 14% chance while DRG 3-0'ing Zest was around 7%.
EU Cup: HeroMarine came out on top in Europe with a victory over frequent Cup opponent Clem, but the path to the finals was somewhat convoluted. While Reynor never played a game due to an unfortunate early forfeit, he was technically signed up for the tournament for just long enough to affect the bracket seeding. The end result was that Clem, ShoWTimE, and MaxPax were all on the same side of the bracket, which is unfortunate because they were all very successful in the last few cups. On the other hand, HeroMarine benefited from the peculiar seeding, landing on the easier side of the bracket.
Big Gabe stumbled a bit early by dropping maps to both Harstem vs Kelazhur, but put up a dominant 3-0 scoreline against Spatz in the semifinals. It was the first time ever that Spatz had reached the top four—defeating DnS, PtitDrogo, and Cyan along the way—but he couldn't threaten the all-time winningest ESL Open player.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the bracket… ShoWTimE had defeated MaxPax in two recent cup finals (#95 and #98), but MaxPax was able to get his revenge this week with a 2-1 victory in the quarterfinals. Unfortunately, that only led to a match against Clem, with the French Terran winning 3-0. Clem had struggled a bit against Hellraiser earlier on, but coasted his way to the finals after that with a 2-0 over Spirit and that 3-0 versus MaxPax. That set up a grand finals match with his arch-nemesis of the European cup: HeroMarine.
Clem won the first game on 2000 atmospheres, catching HeroMarine off guard and slightly out of position with a Marine-Tank-Medivac push into the enemy third. Unfazed by this first loss, HeroMarine beat Clem on Curious Minds by forcing a fight in the middle of the map, using his Ravens to disable two key Tanks and snowballing to victory from here. He was pretty much all-in with no further upgrades and with SCV production halted at 63, but it was enough to kill Clem after that first big fight. The third game on Berlingrad featured a lot of maneuvering and action on both sides, with the lead going back and forth. HeroMarine ultimately prevailed with superior army movement throughout the majority of the game. The last game on Glittering Ashes went the distance, lasting almost 30 minutes. Although both players had good moments, HeroMarine managed to win once again to grab the gold.
Upset(s) of the day: Spatz' entire run was the upset of the day for me. He started by beating Cyan 2-0, which is not a crazy upset especially with server advantage, but still nice.
However, he then picked up two very solid wins by beating the two best French Protoss players in PtitDrogo and DnS back to back. Spatz was probably a bit lucky to “only” face DnS in quarterfinals instead of the top 1/2 seed as would normally be the case (it should have been Reynor or HeroMarine probably), but you can't blame a player for beating the opponents that the tournament puts in front of him. An honorable mention goes to Kelazhur for beating Elazer 2-0.
NA Cup: Dark was probably feeling very confident for this cup since he managed to achieve double victories last week, even beating top terran Clem 3-0 in the American cup finals. However, someone else was meant to shine in week #99: Hellraiser, who had the EPT Cup run of his life. Even though 1st place eventually went to Zest, the Ukrainian Protoss deserved just as much acclaim.
The competition was fierce with a number of good players participating. SpeCial had a good run, beating lesser known players NoMercy and ForJumy before facing herO in quarterfinals. Seeing the good form of herO these last few weeks, betting on him would not have been unreasonable, but SpeCial did not care and simply beat him 2-1 to face Zest in semifinals. herO prevented NA players from doing well in their own cup before facing SpeCial by beating American Protosses Rhizer and Astrea 2-0.
Zest beat old school players Golden and Creator in the bottom bracket, which led to a showdown with SpeCial in the semifinals. Betting on Zest winning this encounter a few weeks ago would have been a no brainer, but it was harder to call in his current shaky form. Still, after being down 0-2, Zest pulled off the reverse sweep to qualify for the finals.
Looking at the bracket, one would have surely predicted Dark to be Zest's finals opponent, or perhaps MaxPax if there was a crazy upset. In reality, neither of them made the finals because we got the craziest upset, with both of them losing to a flaming hot Hellraiser. The Ukrainian Protoss started off by beating American streamer Neuro 2-0 as a warm-up, followed by another 2-0 against Gerald. Then, instead of accepting his doomed fate against Dark, Hellraiser managed to fight back and pull off an incredible 2-1 upset (VOD).
The first game saw Hellraiser win by capitalizing on some poor Queen positioning from Dark, using 2-Stargate Void Rays to take a game-winning lead. While Dark tied things up with a Baneling bust in game two, he was tempted to try and play against 2-Stargate Void Rays straight up once more in game three. Unfortunately for Dark, even his famed Queen + Microbial Shroud style couldn't compete against the might of +3 Carriers, and he was forced to concede defeat. Hellraiser then capped things off with another dramatic upset in the semifinals, going down 0-2 to MaxPax before magically conjuring a 3-2 reverse sweep.
It seems like this cup was the cup of reverse sweeps, because it also happened in the finals. Indeed, HellRaiser took the first game on Blackburn in a lengthy macro game that went to Carriers, and won game two on Berlingrad in a few minutes by defending a Cannon rush from Zest. The DPG protoss came out aggressive again in game three, but was victorious this time with a 1 base Blink-Stalker all-in against Hellraiser's Void Rays. On Hardwire, a few Stalkers and an unscouted proxy-gate allowed Zest to win super quickly after the 3 minute mark. To try to seal the deal, both players went to 3 bases on Glittering Ashes, with Hellraiser once again opting for Void rays and Immortals-Stalkers. However, Zest managed to kill him with mass Blink Stalkers and Chargelots on the ground, winning the finals in a 3-2 comeback.
Upset(s) of the day: Hellraiser beating Dark in a BO3 was a huge upset (10 : 90 according to Aligulac), and beating MaxPax in a BO5 as well was the cherry on top (17 : 83 odds). Of course, almost 3-0'ing Zest was impressive too. Congratulations on such an epic run!
European Server Cup #99 (Click for full bracket)
Americas Server Cup #99 (Click for full bracket)