[The RO6 matches will have concluded by the time you read this, but perhaps some recaps will be welcome for those who don't keep up with the GSL on a day-to-day basis.]
StarCraft II fans knew that the addition of a new Round-of-10 phase to Code S in 2022 was sure to shake things up, but no one could have predicted the sheer chaos that would ensue in the inaugural round robin.
Most notably, the Terran contingent was completely wiped out, with Maru, ByuN, and Ryung all being eliminated after failing to place in the top three of their groups. Maru's elimination was especially surprising, as he gave up losses to the underdog duo of Creator and DongRaeGu.
That tied into another shocker from the RO10, with both Creator and DongRaeGu far surpassing initial expectations to advance to the playoffs from Group B. RagnaroK managed to advance from Group A as well, making the success of underdogs one of the key stories from this first ever RO10.
Another subplot was the mixed success of Protoss players. Trap had been very vocal about how the new balance patch had made things very difficult for Protoss in his RO20 interview, but nonetheless came through as the first place finisher in Group A with a 3-1 record. Yet, Aligulac's #1 ranked Protoss player herO was far less successful, as he was eliminated in last place from Group B.
Group A, Day 2
Match #6: RagnaroK [0 - 2] ByuN
Game 1 - Berlingrad: RagnaroK opened Gas-Pool for fast speedlings and managed to pick off a few early Marines from ByuN's Reactor-expand opener, but it wasn't really that big a deal as both players continued into macro play. Unfortunately for RagnaroK, he didn't get to play for that much longer. He was caught off-guard by ByuN's Cloaked Banshee harassment, and was so shaken up he allowed Hellions to slip in and attack unprotected Drones as well. RagnaroK ended up taking crippling Drone damage to the Hellion-Banshee combo, setting up a game-ending Marine-Tank push from ByuN shortly after.
Game 2 - Hardwire: RagnaroK went back to normal 3-Hatch play, whereas ByuN threw a curveball at his opponent by faking a typical 1-1-1 build with Hellions while actually going for a 2-1-1 with Hellbat support. Although RagnaroK had enough Queens to hold off the initial Marine-Medivac attack, ByuN's continued aggression paid off as he was able to inflict a decent amount of damage before Mutalisks and Baneling speed were done.
Though RagnaroK wasn't in an ideal spot, he was far from dead—he still had a chance to take the game back by winning some mid-game fights. Unfortunately, his Muta-Ling-Bane army took enormous damage from ByuN's well-placed mines when he tried to envelop the Terran forces, and he tapped out to ByuN's onslaught of infantry soon after.
Match #7: Trap [2 -0] Ryung
Game 1 - Glittering Ashes: We got to see a hidden 2-1-1 in TvP as well, as Ryung employed it to try and trick Trap. However, Ryung's build never really got off the ground, as Trap's signature early-game Oracle-Adept harassment did significant damage to Ryung while scouting everything out.
As in many of his earlier PvT's at IEM and in Code S, Ryung had to go into defensive mode, only emerging from his shell once he had a deadly bio-force near max supply. And, as in his previous PvT's, Ryung showed exceptional skill at late-game combat when he finally started fighting, taking solid trades against Trap across multiple battles.
However, Ryung couldn't stay even with Trap in the big-picture conflict, as Trap doggedly shut down additional Terran expansions while sending in Zealots to chip away at the SCV count. Eventually, Ryung ran out of money to fund his war machine and GG'd out.
Game 2 - Berlingrad: Ryung unveiled his second bit of trickery, showing Trap a 1-1-1 opener and a Medivac for a fake drop. His real plan was to gather a handful of Tanks and Marines for a quick attack, sneaking them across the map while Trap was distracted by the Medivac. This deception ended up working beautifully against Trap's defensive Blink build, as he kept all his Stalkers at home to defend against the non-existent drop while Tanks sieged up right next to his third base.
Despite falling for Ryung's initial sleight-of-hand, Trap displayed great crisis management to get back into the game. He shrewdly sacrificed his third base to counter-attack with Blink Stalkers, inflicting economic damage and making it difficult for Ryung to continue his offensive. Trap followed up with the classic "random DT's" move, which bought himself further time to rebuild while continuing to cut into Ryung's SCV count. When it was all said and done, the two players ended up in a relatively even situation headed into a macro mid-game.
If the previous game was a combat showcase for Ryung, this time Trap got to show the fans what he could do. After assembling a mid-game army with Stalkers, Colossus, Templar, and Immortals, he went for what seemed like a risky attack at Ryung's third base. But although Ryung had a high Marauder and Tank count, Trap made up for this with his army movements and positioning. He was able to deploy his troops on the battlefield first, engaging favorably with Ryung's forces that belatedly streamed into the firefight. An initially close battle turned into a rout, leaving Ryung with no choice but to surrender the series.
Match #8: ByuN [1 - 2] Rogue
Game 1 - Golden Wall: ByuN opened CC-first at his backdoor expansion while Rogue started with standard 3 Hatchery play on the top side of the map. ByuN showed his preference for 2-1-1 openers yet again, but his initial Marine-Medivac harassment didn't achieve much against Rogue's solid defense.
However, ByuN wasn't done being aggressive, as he delayed his third CC to go for heavy Marine-Tank pressure in the early/mid-game. A dangerous Marine-Tank push threatened Rogue via the southern path on the map, and Rogue only barely stopped it by cutting Drones to produce a swell of Zerglings and Banelings. Attacking through the south side of Golden Wall was key here: ByuN's 2-1-1 had let him prevent Rogue from spreading creep through the south side, and thus let him fight on incredibly good terms.
Rogue had only slightly delayed his demise, as an even more powerful Terran force soon came knocking—this time through the north side of the map. Creep spread was limited in this direction as well, and ByuN blasted through the Queens, Lings, and Banelings to force the GG.
Game 2 - Nautilus II: This game was one of the most entertaining of the night, featuring plenty of TvZ action that didn't involve Muta-Ling-Bane.
ByuN brought out another tricky build order, going for extra-fast Cloaked Banshees after expanding by skipping the usual Reactor for a direct Tech Lab. While this succeeded in catching Rogue unaware, the Zerg had been Droning hard enough that losing seven odd workers still left him in a pretty good position.
The real action was soon to come, as ByuN stayed on two bases and committed to a hard 2-base Marine-Tank push to take advantage of the close spawns (horizontal). He may have expected to face much less resistance after his successful Banshee, but Rogue had enough Roach-Ravager-Queen to repel this first attack. Still, ByuN had plenty more gas left in the tank, and established his third base before continuing with his march across the narrow gap.
It turned out Rogue wasn't going for the 'normal' Roach-Ravager comp he had favored in the past, but transitioning into Ravager-Ling-Bane (choosing melee upgrades instead of range) with the aim of adding Ultralisks later. The two players battled fiercely in the mid-game, with Rogue desperately trying to hold onto his expansions and survive until Ultralisk tech.
Normally, sending Ultralisks into Marauders and Tanks would just be a waste of money, but Rogue had the unusual advantage of being ahead on upgrades due to ByuN's focus on army size ahead of all else. The arrival of Ultralisks and Vipers turned the tide in favor of Rogue, finally giving him some breathing room and letting him take some much needed expansions across the map.
Rogue eventually ended up slowly snowballing this advantage to a win, but there a few extenuating circumstances popped up as the game rolled to an end. First, ByuN made the enormous error of walling nine tanks inside of his main during a crucial portion of the match, when he might have been able to launch one last major offensive to swing the tide of the game. Another factor was that ByuN's dreaded wrist-pain related pauses made a return. This may not have affected the outcome—the missing Tanks were clearly a more detrimental blow—but it certainly didn't help him.
Game 3 - Hardwire: ByuN decided to recycle his 'Hellion 2-1-1' from his match against RagnaroK, which Rogue was somehow underprepared for despite having seen the strategy an hour earlier (Rogue later said he knew it was coming but messed up his timings). In fact, ByuN came close to dealing serious damage with the initial Marine-Medivac-Hellbat push as Rogue started Baneling production very late, allowing ByuN to jump on the eggs and kill almost all of them before they hatched. Unfortunately, some unfortunate focus fire from ByuN saw him fail to kill one last Baneling, and its explosion forced ByuN to retreat (he basically gambled that A-move would do the trick instead of focus-firing).
While ByuN had managed to keep up Marine-Medivac pressure against RagnaroK, Rogue's defenses proved to be far more airtight. Rogue got Mutalisks out without much trouble, and then used them expertly to totally seize control of the game. A macro master-class from Rogue ensued, as he maximized the mobility of Muta-Ling-Bane to slowly batter ByuN into submission.
Match #9: RagnaroK [2 - 1] Ryung
Game 1 - Glittering Ashes: RagnaroK's penchant for trickery continued as he pulled out a Gas-Pool build to start, but he shot himself in the foot as he ran up against a CC-first build from Ryung. The 'macro' version of the Gas-Pool build RagnaroK used doesn't actually hit in time to prevent the natural CC from building, so he ended up quite behind economically to start.
Attempting to play out a macro game from there, RagnaroK focused on meticulous scouting with speed-Overlords to see if Ryung was following up with a committed 2-base Marine-Tank push. This read was correct from RagnaroK as Ryung did indeed go for a 1/1 Marine-Tank timing off two bases. Despite this knowledge, RagnaroK simply didn't have the army numbers or upgrades (critically lacking Baneling speed) in time to stop the attack and he GG'd out.
Game 2 - Hardwire: Ryung was the one to go for a slightly unorthodox build this time, opening fast Battlecruiser with a transition into mech. RagnaroK didn't cut any corners on Queens or Spores and held off the BC harassment without trouble, turning the early/mid-game into a passive macro build up on both sides.
This relative peace continued for quite a while, and it was only when Ryung had 2/2 upgrades that he finally decided to move out. The Thor-Tank-BC army looked like it might do serious damage to RagnaroK who was defending with Ravager-Bane-Corruptor, but Ryung was repulsed without doing any significant damage thanks to reinforcing waves of Ling-Roach. Ryung went back into turtle mode from there, while RagnaroK secured more bases on his side of the map and settled on a Brood Lord-centric composition.
Ryung started pushing into Zerg territory again once he had 3/3 upgrades and mass Thors. While he was able to get small wins here and there by picking off perimeter bases and taking decent trades against the defending Zerg units, he wasn't able to secure any decisive gains or push the standoff line past the halfway mark on the map. Ryung might have eventually won if he kept accumulating those small wins, but he got a little too greedy in a pivotal moment. After taking another good trade against RagnaroK's forces, his Thors overstayed their welcome on the Zerg side of the map to try and get some extra damage done. However, the injured Thors were swarmed over by newly hatched Roach-Baneling forces, finally breaking the critical mass that's so crucial to mech.
RagnaroK pounced on this by slamming Ryung with wave after wave of Roach-Line-Ravager, taking down several expansions and decimating the SCV count before Ryung could finally stabilize. The turtling power of mech let Ryung survive, but the RagnaroK had already taken a decisive advantage. Ryung was able to drag the game out until the 29 minute mark but eventually GG'd out to RagnaroK after he finally added mass spellcasters to his Swarm.
Game 3 - Berlingrad: RagnaroK went for some light Roach pressure after a 3 Hatch opener, while Ryung went for some fast Marine-Medivac harassment after expanding. The timings worked out amazingly for RagnaroK as his Roaches hit Ryung's natural just as the Medivac full of Marines was halfway across the map, forcing it to return to defend while he killed a lot of SCVs and Marines.
After cleaning up the Roaches, Ryung tried to force a fast counterattack with 2 Tanks and whatever Marines he had, but RagnaroK was able to scrape together enough Roach-Queen-Ling to hold on defense and take a massive economic lead. RagnaroK calmly snowballed his lead from there, allowing one last desperation push from Ryung but still winning the game without much trouble.
Match #10: Trap [2 - 1] Rogue
Game 1 - Golden Wall: Trap opened with a backyard expansion into a proxy-Stargate for Oracle harassment, while Rogue went for standard 3 Hatch play across the north side of the map. Trap dealt quite a decent bit of Drone damage with his early Adept-Oracle harassment, which softened Rogue up for his Chargelot-Archon timing off of two-bases.
Despite the economic blow, Rogue was still able to get out enough Roaches and Queens to stop Trap's initial attack with two Archons and a flood of Zealots (Trap later said he screwed up by trapping his third Archon inside some buildings). Still, it was far from gameover for Trap, as he preserved his 2 Archons with a Prism and built up for a second army with even more Archons and Immortals to go along with his Zealots. This second attack with 5 Archons and 2 Immortals was too much for Rogue to handle and forced a GG.
Game 2 - Nautilus II: The randomness factor of four-player maps was on full display in this short game.
The two players spawned horizontally across from each other on the bottom of the map, and Rogue decided to open with a 12 pool and blindly send his Zerglings to Trap's starting position across from him. His first Overlord had gone north and confirmed there was no Protoss there, so he basically guessed correctly on a 50/50 coin flip that Trap would be horizontal from him instead of diagonal.
Unfortunately for Trap, he was not so lucky as his Probe scouting pattern saw him check the two empty bases before finally going to the real Zerg base. It was far too late by then, as Zerglings arrived at the unguarded Protoss wall to depower the Gateway and end the game.
Game 3 - Hardwire: Trap opened up with Stargate for some Oracle harassment, and even went for 6 early Adepts to really put the pressure on early. This ended up doing some decent Drone damage early, and Trap safely transitioned into macro play from there.
For a moment, it seemed like Trap would go for heavy Stalker-Colossus play in the mid-game, but instead he changed course to taking a longer view by expanding again and teching up to Carriers. Meanwhile, Rogue was focused on building a strong ground based army of Roach-Hydra-Lurker.
Trap had a brief scare when he sloppily allowed some key defensive Disruptors to get picked off just as his first Carriers were coming online, giving Rogue a window to attack with his big ground army. However, the Carriers + the remaining ground troops were enough to hold the line, putting Trap in a very comfortable position with a strong economy and a tech advantage.
Trap played his advantage very well, dancing around the holes in the Lurker-Spore defense line and preventing Rogue from establishing the expansions needed to really entrench himself into an annoying turtling position. Eventually, Trap assembled a Carrier task force powerful enough to plow through the entrenched Zerg defense line, forcing Rogue to surrender.
Group B, Day 2
Match #6: DongRaeGu [2 - 1] Maru
Game 1 - Berlingrad: DongRaeGu opened up with a pretty standard macro build while Maru went for a much more peculiar strategy. After initially going for some pre-Stim Marine-Medivac-Hellion harass, Maru transitioned into a very rare version of Mech centered around speed-upgraded Banshees and Cyclones in the mid-game.
However, this was completely countered by DRG's follow-up: A Roach-Ravager-Queen all-in with the Queens traveling in drop-Overlords. Maru's omission of Tanks made it impossible for him to stop this timing and he had no choice but to surrender.
Game 2 - Hardwire: DongRaeGu opened with a proxy-Hatchery at Maru's fifth base for a fast Ravager-Roach all-in (well, the typical fifth location in a normal game) while Maru went for a normal Reaper expand.
Maru's Reaper scout let him see Roach Warren in DRG's main just in time for him to scramble on defense, putting down some emergency Bunkers and starting a Cyclone. Several SCV's had to be sacrificed as meat shields to buy time, but Maru was able to pull off a decisive hold and force a quick GG from DRG.
Game 3 - Nautilus II: DRG spawned at the bottom-right base, while Maru started north of him at the top-right position. DongRaeGu went back to a macro oriented start, while Maru opened with a fast Battlecruiser while looking to transition to a typical Tank-based mech army.
Things went beautifully for Maru in the early game, as his initial BC managed to distract DRG's Queens while his Hellions slipped by to deal significant Drone damage. It seemed like Maru had set himself up perfectly to make his transition to mech, without having to face some of the typical mid-game threats from Zerg.
However, Maru might have gotten a little overconfident as he decided to take an aggressive fourth base toward DRG's position (while you could see this as the 'normal' fourth base position on Nautilus, there's a safer fourth you can take by tearing down destructible rocks). This might have been fine against a Roach-Ravager or Muta-Ling based army, but DRG decided to go for Swarm Hosts instead. Thus, Maru's forward expansion resulted in giving a great target for DongRaeGu to send his Locusts against from a short distance, while Maru didn't really have the critical mech mass to just shrug the Locusts off.
Maru's initial resource advantage let him hold the line for a while, but even his famed defensive skills couldn't withstand mid-game Swarm Hosts attacking from such a great position. Despite playing at a 60 to 80 worker deficit against a meching Terran, DongRaeGu was able to keep pummeling Maru with Swarm Hosts—and later supporting Roach-Ravager-Corruptor—to make sure Maru could never really stabilize. With Queens pushing Creep up aggressively toward Maru's side of the map, DongRaeGu was then able to strike into the heart of Terran territory and force the GG.
Match #7: Creator [2 - 1] herO
Game 1 - Glittering Ashes: herO tried to mind-game Creator by going for a 'hidden' Gateway behind his natural mineral line and taking a fast expansion behind it. That didn't really seem to achieve much for herO, as Creator followed his standard 2-Gate opener with a proxy-Gateway and Shield Batteries for a committed all-in attack. Not having the usual wall at his natural made it tricky for herO to defend, and he simply couldn't get a high enough Void Ray account to hold off the encroaching Stalkers and Batteries.
Game 2 - Berlingrad: Both players went for 2-Gate expansion starts, with herO opting for a hidden Dark Shrine while Creator went for Oracles. herO decided to sacrifice quite a few DT's and Adepts in order to cut into Creator's Probe count, which seemed like a potentially risky tradeoff as Creator jumped ahead in Army supply. However, the threat of continued DT's was enough to keep Creator from attacking, and herO's worker advantage soon manifested as an army advantage.
herO was clinical in closing the game out once he had the lead, using his quicker Blink upgrade to pin Creator down while establishing more expansions. Creator tried to play the game out into the mid-game for a while, but GG'd out without even bothering to fight once herO hit him with a frontal attack + a big Zealot warp-in in the main.
Game 3 - Hardwire: Both players opened with 2-Gate expansions again, with Creator following with Twilight Council while herO made a brief detour at Oracles before following him into Blink tech.
herO made a lot of aggressive early-mid game plays, harassing with Oracles and getting off a handful of very impactful Stasis Traps. He also delayed his Robotics tech to focus on Blink Stalkers, and went for some daring forward Blinks to pick units off. Creator wasn't inactive on his end, and he got a nice Adept runby to cut into herO's Probe count. Ultimately, all that back-and-forth didn't lead to either player taking a decisive advantage, and the players went up to 4 bases and similar Archon-Immortal-Zealot-Stalker compositions on relatively even terms.
One big fight decided everything, as herO decided to charge headlong into Creator's fourth base. Creator managed to set up his troops in better position, funneling herO's Zealots into an Archon incinerator. This allowed Creator to win by a huge margin in the fight, and he counterattacked to seal his third series victory in the group.
Match #8: DongRaeGu [0 - 2] Dark
Game 1 - Hardwire: DongRaeGu opened with one of the rarer Pool-first Zergling rush variants, building and instantly canceling a proxy-Hatchery to build a single proxy Spine Crawler on the lingering Creep. However, Dark executed a great defense from his Hatch-first opener, with his precise Drone micro allowing him to hold off the attack off with minimal damage taken. While DRG's build allowed him to take his own expansion during the attack, he was still very behind in Drone count at the end.
DRG's deficit wasn't so huge that he couldn't come back if Dark made some mistakes, but the game ended up playing out without any complications. Dark just safely snowballed his economic lead into the mid-game and finished DRG off with a bigger Roach-Ravager army.
Game 2 - Berlingrad: Both players had the same idea early on as they both opened 12-Pool and took their naturals behind it. There was one major difference in their builds as Dark also went for Gas and Zergling speed after his opener, whereas DRG was playing gasless. This difference ended up deciding the game, as Dark feigned playing out a regular macro game while actually massing Speedlings for an all-in. This caught DRG with his pants down as he attempted to transition into a longer macro game, forcing a quick GG.
Match #9: Maru [2 - 1] herO
Game 1 - Hardwire: herO tried to turn up the heat early with a Stargate-before-Nexus build, looking to get some damage done with fast Oracles. On the other hand, Maru went for an expansion into Mine-drops. All this resulted in neither player dealing much damage to each other early on, but Maru came out ahead on balance due to his more economy-oriented start. herO dug himself into an even deeper hole as he tried to force some follow-up harassment with Blink Stalkers and Oracles, but couldn't get much done against Maru's solid defense.
Maru was firmly in the driver's seat at that point, and for a while it seemed like he would slowly suffocate herO to death with his economy and tech advantage. However, herO managed to hang in there for just long enough to add a lot of Disruptors to his army, which he wielded to great effect. The game-swinging power of Disruptors was on full display through a series of battles, as herO got in some enormous hits on clumped bio. The momentum rapidly swung in herO's favor, and he was able to launch counterattacks that severely damaged Maru's economy.
It looked like the tables had turned and herO would be the one slowly choking Maru out, but the game had one more semi-twist in store. herO became very reckless once he was in the lead, bleeding away a lot of his Robotics artillery until he was forced into taking extremely inefficient trades with mostly Gateway units. Maru came close to pulling out an absurd comeback victory, but herO's resource advantage barely won out in the end.
Game 2 - Berlingrad: herO opened with a regular expand-into-Oracle build this time around, while Maru went for expansion into Mine drops yet again. Like the previous game, neither player got much done with their initial harassment, but Maru pulled ahead by sneaking a Liberator into herO's main as herO went for an unsuccessful attack with 2 Phoenix-3 Oracle.
herO made an audacious attempt to take a third base and transition into a macro game, but didn't really have any chance of holding it against Maru's Marine-Cyclone attack. Maru stayed on 2 bases and just finished herO off with more infantry and Cyclones.
Game 3 - Glittering Ashes: herO went for his third Oracle opener in a row, and this time he finally got ahead. Maru tried to go directly into Cyclones in this game, but a daring 3-Oracle dive from herO let him focus-fire down 2 Cyclones without losing a single Oracle. Removing Maru's key early tech units let herO transition very comfortably into a macro game, while Maru went for his usual move after a bad early-game and adopted a hyper-turtle posture.
The ensuing marathon game actually resembled a lot of Maru's TvZ matches, with herO expanding freely and using his vast stockpile of resources to try and brute force his way through Maru's defenses. However, Disruptors, Carriers, and Tempests were all insufficient against the best defensive player on the planet, and herO saw his resource advantage slowly evaporate. The game eventually came to a classic Maru conclusion, with Maru launching a VERY late counterattack against an opponent who had run completely out of steam.
Match #10: Creator [0 - 2] Dark
Game 1 - Hardwire: Creator opened with a 2-Stargate build, showing Dark a Void Ray but going for mass Phoenixes behind it instead. This attempt to fool Dark probably ended up backfiring on Creator, as Dark was actually preparing a Nydus-Queen-Ravager all-in off three bases. Creator was helpless to stop Dark from razing his third base, but belated Immortal production out of two Robotics allowed him to hold the line at his natural.
Unfortunately for Creator, Dark followed up with a switch to Swarm Hosts which rendered the Immortals rather useless. Dark kept up his onslaught with Nydus-Swarm Host, chipping away at Creator's units and buildings until he was forced to GG out after a last ditch attack.
Game 2 - Glittering Ashes: Creator tried to play a mind game off of game one, showing Dark an early Void Ray only to tech-switch into mass Glaive Adepts (a popular mix-up during the peak of the Void Ray meta). This strategy came close to succeeding, but good Zergling scouting from Dark let him catch the Adepts just as they started to cross the map. Hurriedly produced Spines, Lings, and Roaches let Dark hold off the Adepts without taking much damage, and this solid defense led seamlessly into yet another Nydus-Ravager-Queen attack on the other end of the map. Losing his Adepts left Creator without much to defend with and he conceded defeat.