Disasterpiece Theater #6By: Mizenhauer
One Of The Weirdest Games You Probably Forgot: Maru vs Leenock
Welcome back to Disasterpiece Theater! Last time, we tried to take the shine off a very well-regarded BlizzCon game. This time, we're looking at a game that received very little regard to begin with. The early days of Legacy of the Void were rather wild, and it bears reexamining some long forgotten horrors…
Early Legacy of the Void: What the F***I know a lot of people look back fondly on many of the events that occurred during the launch season of Legacy of the Void in 2016: Neeb became the first foreigner to win a major tourney on Korean soil, Jin Air finally won the Proleague title, and ByuN made a storybook championship run at BlizzCon.
But even those wearing the rosiest of lenses cannot deny that parts of 2016 were… ...peculiar. Many of the maps were terrible, and some were even ported directly from Heart of the Swarm with insufficient consideration for the changed gameplay. Balance was in a chaotic state, with new units like Cyclones and Adepts getting constant adjustments. Tankivacs completely changed the faction-identity of Terran for an entire year, in a way that most fans didn't seem to find very fun.
However, the 'star' of this episode of Disasterpiece Theater was another new unit which didn't receive as much initial attention as the others. However, on one spring evening in March, we all learned how ridiculously powerful the Liberator could be.
2016 Proleague: Round 1 Playoffs
Jin Air Green Wings vs KT Rolster
Real fast, I really miss Proleague countdown screen with the fans chants.
Jin Air Green Wings vs KT Rolster
Real fast, I really miss Proleague countdown screen with the fans chants.
The match took place on March 22nd, 2016, as the Jin Air Green Wings took on KT Rolster in the Proleague Round 1 playoffs. The round playoffs were being played in the all-kill format at the time, and Jin Air had gone up 2-1 after Maru had taken down Stats and TY. KT's Leenock—much diminished from his prime but still chugging along as a decent rotation player—was handed the unenviable task of trying to stop the rampaging Maru.
The bout opened in rather unspectacular fashion on Prion Terraces (the beginning of LotV was so messed up that we're just going to skip over the fact that this map had GOLD MINERAL NATURALS). Reapers and Hellions tried to find an opening but Leenock established his third base having only lost a few Zerglings. Maru was persistent, however, poking at Leenock’s main with one Hellion drop after another. With his upgrades on the way and three-base production established, Maru defiantly marched onto Creep. It didn’t go well. He was rebuffed with shocking ease by Zerglings, Baneling and Queens.
It was quite a decent start for Leenock, who was considered a heavy underdog heading into the match. While he wasn't able to achieve much with the swell of Mutalisks and Zerglings he made afterward, he was left largely unthreatened as he made his transition to Hive tech. Maru, meanwhile, seemed content to stay holed up on three bases for a while, but with the quirk of researching air attack upgrades and beginning Liberator production.
It's hard to provide context here without giving away the upcoming punchline, but at the time, Liberators dealt a whopping 7x2 anti-air damage, 40% higher than its current 5x2. A handful of Liberators shutdown Leenock's Mutalisks harassment, giving Maru the breathing room to take his fourth and fifth bases on the map. However, Maru didn't just stop there, as he continued to upgrade his Liberators, and even add more Starports to churn them out more quickly.
Why did these gamblers have to force KeSPA to take away the game time?. It makes writing these more difficult than it needs to be.
With Ultralisks and Vipers bolstering his swarm, Leenock began to test the borders of Maru’s domain again. The efforts proved futile, as even in 2016, Maru could still turtle pretty well when he put his mind to it. Seeing that ground troops weren't going to get it done against the growing fleet of Liberators in the sky, Leenock wisely cut his Ultralisk production short and made the transition to air with Corruptors and Brood Lords. Well, perhaps it wasn't so wise in hindsight, but there may simply have been no correct decision for the Leenocktopus.
Now, no one can blame Valdes for getting the call wrong in this game. When he saw Brood Lords starting to morph en masse, he proclaimed, “Look at the composition of Maru. He has 8 Ghosts and 13 Liberators. There isn’t a single Viking on the map.” Maru’s composition was still nominally "bio" with Marine-Marauder-Ghost, but the backbone of the army was actually the Liberators in the sky. Valdes clearly believed that the Liberators would not stand a chance against Brood Lords supported by Corruptors, Fungals, Parasitic Bombs, Queens, and even some slowly advancing Spores on the ground (Wolf added that Liberators do pretty well against unprotected Broods. Thanks. I never realized the unit that can’t attack the other would be at a disadvantage).
The initial engagement seemed to go okay for Leenock, as he chipped away at some buildings while killing sixteen SCVs with a Zergling runby. Ghosts and Liberators came running in defense, and the two players played the usual range dance between late-game armies. Eating an EMP on one of his Infestors, Leenock temporarily ran back to the cover of his Spores and Queens to regroup.
What came next was strange. Just strange. It was the kind of fight you see in a 4v4 of gold leaguers, not a game between decorated pros. 20 Liberators dove straight into the teeth of Leenock's forces, and seconds later, 12 Brood Lords were dead. The cost? Just 10 Liberators lost. It didn't matter that Maru's pre-split was somewhat hasty and shoddy, and that he had eaten a Fungal and three Parasitic Bombs directly to the face. The sheer DPS of the Liberators had simply erased the Brood Lords from the sky.
Before and after.
Now, nearly everyone at the time knew Liberators were pushing the envelope of OP-ness. But this? It was patently clear Maru understood something about Terran’s newest tool that none of us had even fathomed.
If you thought Maru was done with the Liberator shenanigans, you would be woefully mistaken as a swift glance at the production tag showed six more of them in production. As for Leenock, his bank was big enough that losing 12 Brood Lords didn't mean an instant GG—he was arguably still slightly ahead with more expansions and control of the map—but he had been given a big scare. He set about reassembling a Brood Lord-Centric swarm, but this time with many more Vipers and Corruptors in anticipation of contested skies.
The two players settled into something of a quasi-stalemate from there, as neither was eager to initiate a fully-pitched air battle. The two main air forces engaged in a standoff over the central path of the map (with the occasional almost-fight), while guerilla warfare raged across the map.
Maru was not yet viewed as THE late game master at this time, but he showed elements of what made him so strong in the future. He was much better at getting value out of the mobile portion of his army than Leenock, finding ways to kill Zerg bases while gradually securing more territory for himself. He pulled off moves like triple-nuke harassment, taxing Leenock's multitasking while slowly pushing him back. Eventually, Maru reached the point where he wasn't just destroying Leenock's expansions, but he was taking them for himself.
Then, at around 29 minutes on the clock, Maru abruptly attacked with his main army. The move felt like it came out of nowhere—the game was certainly trending toward an eventual Maru victory, but the equilibrium hadn't been totally broken yet. Both players were still on max supply, and the banks actually favored Leenock by a thousand odd gas or so. Perhaps, after nearly half an hour of play, Maru realized 'wait I have the single most OP unit in this game, why don't I go kill him?'
Maru had 24 Liberators, 16 Vikings, and 12 Ghosts. As for Leenock, he had 12 Brood Lords, 27 Corruptors, 6 Vipers, 3 Infestors, and a smattering of Queens. The additional focus on anti-air didn't help at all—Leenock's army was deleted within seconds. The Liberators tore through Brood Lords, Corruptors and Vipers alike and survived with 10 still in the air.
Shortly after this, Maru queues up 11 more Liberators on his production tab to replace all of his losses at once.
A minutes-long closing sequence only heightened the 'disasteriness' of the game. For some reason, Leenock marinated in his defeat as he sent his Ultralisks and Zerglings out for the saddest basetrade attempt of all time. They barely got to even take a swipe at anything, because every time they stopped dozens of Liberators sieged up and forced them to scoot. After a few more laps Leenock finally GG’d, maybe thinking he'd sufficiently softened Maru up for Zest (Zest did end up beating Maru and Trap, but he lost to Rogue in the ace match).
A Lesson Well Learned?We never got to see much more of this mass-Liberator composition in Korea, as the Liberator's air attack was nerfed to [5 + 2 light]x2 in May of 2016. Later, in November, the +light component was removed entirely. However, this singular performance was certainly one to remember, even if not for positive reasons. It was simply one of those games that felt wrong, where you failed to comprehend why things were happening the way they were.
Here's what David Kim stated when Blizzard first introduced the Liberator during LotV development:
”We want this unit to make the Starport more rounded along with the other changes we’re bringing into Legacy of the Void, like the Banshee movement speed upgrade and the Battlecruiser Tactical Jump ability. By introducing this unit to the Starport and separating out the Terran mech vehicle and ship upgrades, we think it’ll allow for a more diverse set of strategies for the Terran. It will be difficult to upgrade all three of the Barracks, Factory, and Starport tech routes, so we’re hoping to see a good variety of mixed tech units depending on the matchup and strategies players choose to go.”
Whether or not you think 'Sky' compositions should have a place in StarCraft II, this early LotV version of Sky Terran was clearly an experiment gone terribly wrong. It showed that given the chance, even progamers will play like your average gold leaguer: mass the most powerful all-purpose air unit available.
Still, years later, with a reasonable version of the Liberator in play, I'm glad that Blizzard got it wrong the first time. Because how else were we going to see dozens of liberators make mincemeat of everything in their path?
Behold, the face behind the most horrendous Terran war crimes in history.