Terrans swept week #152 of the ESL Open Cups, but it wasn't just the usual suspects who claimed glory for their faction. While Europe was taken by cup stalwart Clem, TIME was the player who conquered the Korean server while Future was the surprise winner of the American cup.
Another Terran who enjoyed some success was Kelazhur on Liquipedia" target="_blank" href="https://liquipedia.net/starcraft2/
The ESL Open Cup Korea kicked off the week with a strong line-up; Dark, ByuN, GuMiho, Solar, Classic, Creator, TIME, and several other strong contenders all signed up. The week was filled with upsets such as Chance showing his quality in a win against GuMiho, and NightMare continuing his upward trend with a nice 2-0 takedown of Classic.
But the real star of the cup was TIME. The KaiZi Terran went on a brilliant run, taking down Dark in a close 2-1 series and Creator in an extremely hard-fought semi-final. On the other side of the bracket, Solar displayed some dominant play in ZvT and ZvP alike. He didn't drop a single map as he went up versus Firefly (who has been looking strong in various competitions as of late), ByuN (who seems to dominate these weeklies), and herO (who is in a class of his own).
This set up the grand finals between Solar and TIME (VOD). Game 1 of the TvZ finals kicked off on Tropical Sacrifice with a mech opener from TIME, which he cleverly disguised by faking a floated Factory to attempt to trick Solar into thinking it was standard bio. Despite the bamboozle, Solar seemed unfazed and was able to consistently find ling runbys and inflict worker damage on the Chinese Terran player. Quick Mutalisks furthered Solar’s lead as he found even more worker kills. Despite suffering over 40 worker losses before the 10 minute mark, TIME was able to use the map to stabilize and secure his four bases.
Solar tried to continue his aggression but found that trying to break an entrenched mech Terran can be very tricky. TIME managed to take some good trades on defense, which set up his first big push to try and retaliate. Unfortunately for TIME, Solar was waiting for this and counter-attacked to cripple TIME’s economy with ling-bane runbys, killing several unlifted Orbital Commands. Still, as TIME’s main army of 3/3-upgraded Thor-Tank-Hellbat remained very strong, he knocked out three of Solar’s bases before constant Zerg reinforcements whittled the force down.
This left the game in a surprisingly even position with Solar having a much more mobile army, while TIME had the stronger army in a straight up fight. Eventually, Solar caught the remaining mech army without any Hellbats left, which allowed Solar to get a decent clean-up with Zerglings, Ravagers, and Vipers. Towards the end, Solar’s Corrosive Bile and Blinding Cloud usage let him whittle down the Terran army, giving him the 1-0 lead.
Game 2 on Waterfall started with TIME opening with 3-CC and Banshees, but he was unable to get anything done with an attempted Hellion runby. Solar deflected TIME's light harassment and got into Hive-tech relatively unscathed.
This relatively passive build-up worked in TIME's favor, as he demonstrated some of the best positional late-game TvZ I’ve ever seen from someone not named Maru. TIME set up an impregnable defense, which Solar flung waves of Hydra-Ling-Bane-Viper at to no avail. TIME simply left no openings to exploit, and after 15 minutes of cost inefficient break attempts, Solar tapped out.
Game 3 took us to Data-C where TIME went back to mech, this time with a 3-CC Battlecruiser opener. Solar took minimal damage and went into the mid-game with a small lead. However, TIME once again showed his prowess at strong positional play, setting up his 4 bases with relative ease. Solar gobbled up the map in order to try and crush his opponent in true swarm style, but TIME’s defense proved to be solid once more.
Solar transitioned into a late-game composition this time, going for Brood Lords, Infestors, Vipers, Corruptors, and Spore Colonies on the ground. However, this didn't help Solar make any headway toward breaking the Terran defenses, and TIME eventually took his 5th, 6th, and 7th bases. As Solar's army roamed around the map, looking for an opening to take a good engagement, the unthinkable happened once more: Solar’s Brood Lord army got nuked for the 3rd time in a professional match (Twitch clip). This nuke wasn’t as devastating as the two nukes that hit him previously on Romanticide, but it still evaporated a significant portion of his force. By this point, the resources lost differential was getting out of hand and TIME’s bank was gigantic, forcing Solar to eventually concede the match after several more Terran-favored engagements.
Game 4 found TIME once again opening BC-mech on Inside and Out, but for the first time in the series it felt like Solar had a handle on it right from the get-go. Solar was able to hit a strong Roach, Ravager, and Corruptor timing—the classic weakness of that style of mech—and find himself a significant lead. TIME was never able to stabilize and secure four bases as in the previous games, which allowed Solar to knock him out with Brood Lords and force a fifth game.
As game 5 started on Stargazers it seemed as if Solar was done with the series. He opened with a Roach Ravager Nydus all-in, perhaps expecting another greedy 3-CC mech opener on a turtle-friendly map. However, TIME actually opened with a Liberator into bio. He found the scouting Overseer and prevented a Nydus Worm from going up in his main base, forcing Solar to try a less threatening push from the front. With a clutch repair and Liberator unsiege to dodge Corrosive Biles, TIME was able to hold the line on defense. The failed attack was a massive economic commitment from Solar, which left him with no choice but to GG out to TIME's first bio-tank push.
European Cup (partial bracket shown)
The European Cup featured many of the top regional players as always, including Clem, MaxPax, HeroMarine, SKillous, the Shopify brothers Harstem and Lambo, as well as many others. Unfortunately for Shopify, Harstem and Lambo faced off in the round of 8 with Lambo winning the tussle 2-0. Kelazhur took down HeroMarine in the round of 8 with a 2-1 win—a big result for the Liquid Terran—before he was knocked out by Lambo 2-0. MaxPax looked untouchable until he ran into Clem in the RO4, where the young Frenchman took an exciting 2-1 win.
This set up a clash in the Grand Finals between Lambo and Clem (VOD). Game 1 started off on Waterfall with a relatively uneventful early game. Both players found small amounts of damage that mostly canceled each other out. Lambo took a nice macro lead going into the mid-game and managed to get 15 workers with a Ling-Bane runby. However it wasn't as cost effective as it needed to be, and Clem seized the opportunity to grind Lambo into submission through continued trading with his bio-mine forces.
Moving on to game 2 on Tropical Sacrifice, Clem opened up gas-first in order to pop out earlier Hellions than normal. After finding 7 Drone kills early on, Clem went into the mid-game with a nice advantage and followed up with a standard bio tank push. Clem microed to perfection and was able to snowball to another victory.
Game 3 on Moondance saw Clem once again open with gas-first and quick Hellions, and once again he found early-game success by nabbing 9 Drones. Lambo tried to go into 1/1-upgraded Roach-Ravager-Nydus to catch Clem off-guard, but the Liquid ace figured out the strategy and shut it down. Lambo tried to transition into Ravager-Ling-Bane, but Clem’s bio-tank attack hit before the critical Baneling speed upgrade could complete and Clem took the game and the series, 3-0.
American Cup (partial bracket shown)
This brings us to the Americas Cup where the absence of some of the strongest regulars such as MaxPax and ByuN left the doors wide open for a winner from the home region (the most notable 'outsider' was Creator). And by god, did Future ever stand up and answer the call. Midway through the bracket, he was able to take down his fellow American Terran Epic 2-0 in a very fun and somewhat wonky series. Next, he outfought and out-microed Creator in an extremely impressive 2-0. In the semi-finals he was able to once again flex his strong TvT, taking out the Brazilian Terran Kelazhur. On the other side of the bracket, the two PSISTORM teammates SpeCial and Gerald met up in the RO4 with Gerald edging out a close 2-1 win to secure a berth in the Grand Finals.
Game 1 (VOD) of the Grand Finals took place on Moondance where Gerald appeared to be experimenting with a 2-gate expand opening. This seemed to achieve its objective of canceling the Command Center, but Gerald failed to detect Future's counterattack with a 1-base Tank Marine all-in. With no Shield Battery at the natural and far too few units, Gerald was eventually forced to tap out.
Game 2 on Inside and Out saw the same 2-Gate opening come out from Gerald. This time, however, Future opened with a high-ground CC and defended with no problem, and then inflicted significant damage with a Marine-Mine counterdrop which killed 11 Probes (an Armory allowed one of the Mines to detonate twice). Gerald tried to go for a DT drop to even things up, but he was just so far behind that even killing nine SCV's only put him even on workers. As Future moved out with an over 40 army-supply advantage, Gerald warped in more units aggressively to try to force Future into stimming up his natural ramp where a Disruptor was waiting. However, Future read the situation correctly, and calmly advanced forward with his superior army to force the GG.
Game 3 on Stargazers started out with Future opening up with an unorthodox 2-Barracks-before-expand strategy, starting with a Marine and then making two Reapers. This mix-up did not fool Gerald who took no damage and seemed to be in a solid position going into the mid-game off of a proxy Oracle that found several SCV kills. This would all quickly be reversed as Gerald Blinked his Stalkers directly into a 3-rax bio force, losing most of them and erasing his lead. This allowed Future to stim into his opponent's natural and take some good trades vs. Gerald’s army. Gerald desperately tried to tech up into Psi Storm but Future was too far ahead. After constant aggression, Future was able to overwhelm Gerald with superior numbers and secure the 3-0. With this victory, Future secured his second ESL Open Cup victory and joined an exclusive list of players who did so without dropping a single map. Truly, it was a great victory for the Future of Terran.