GSL is the most significant tournament circuit in the history of Starcraft 2. Legends were born, tempered, and sometimes destroyed by, the competitive furnace that was the Global Starcraft 2 League. Thousands of Korean fans would come out to watch the titans clash, to see who was able to lift that trophy, and claim a coveted GSL victory pin. In 2013, during the very first season of the Blizzard sanctioned “WCS Korea”, we saw two of these immortal figures, INnoVation and Soulkey face off in a series that could never be forgotten.
InnoVation was looking absolutely unstoppable going into this finals, having overcome Rain, HyuN, Flash, Life, RorO, and Symbol to get there. Soulkey was certainly no slouch, having taken down Maru, YoDa, Flying, PartinG, and sOs to reach these finals, but Inno was a bit of a favorite. Known for his impeccable mechanics, and ability to just have more units on the field relative to most Terran counterparts, InnoVation was already known by that time as, “The Machine”. Reaching the finals of a Premier event was also a career first for both of the finalists, so no matter who was crowned, a new champion would be born.
“Greetings from Seoul Korea” said Tasteless, and so began one of the greatest Starcraft finals of all time. In game 1, InnoVation opened up with an uncharacteristic cheese, a proxy 2 rax. With a late scout of what was coming, Soulkey was fighting an uphill battle from the get-go. InnoVation was able to leapfrog bunkers, pushing up to Soulkey’s natural expansion, eliminating the drones and grabbing a quick 1-0 lead.
Set 2 opened with both players taking a quick natural, and Soulkey searching the map fervently, looking for a proxy that wasn’t coming. The Korean Zerg then threw down a 3rd base, while InnoVation powered up on 2 bases, getting ready to hit with a fast Hellbat drop. With great scouting Soulkey was able to push away the attack with ease, even sniping the medivac before it was able to get out. With some Hellion run-bys and fancy micro with his follow up Hellbat drops, InnoVation was able to find some drone damage, but certainly nothing crippling. After pushing away a big mid game attack, Soulkey, in an effort to position his army to protect the 4th base he had just thrown down, moved off of creep with his entire army. This proved to be a fatal mistake, and not one that InnoVation was about to let go unpunished. The Terran bio pounced on the Zerg force, composed mostly of Hydra/Roach, and swallowed up about 80% of it. That was the beginning of the end in game 2 for Soulkey. His 4th wasn’t able to finish, and while he was able to push InnoVations main army back, “The Machine” swung a drop behind the front lines into the Zerg’s main, taking out almost ⅓ of Soukley’s economy. Soulkey ended up chasing InnoVation’s main force all the way home, but lost everything to the rallying forces from the Terran main. InnoVation then hit the main with yet another drop, and broke down the front door at the same time, pushing his lead in the series to 2-0.
In game 3 we saw another standard opening from Terran, but Zerg decided to get aggressive with a Baneling bust. Soulkey was able to run lings into the main almost instantly, taking out the reactor on Inno’s factory, slowing down his Hellion production. With Lings running wild and Banelings morphing in the Terran main, things were looking bleak for the STX Soul player. Some incredible control by InnoVation kept his workers alive, and with a mis-detonation of his last two Banelings by Soulkey, the rush was almost over, and it hadn’t dealt nearly enough damage to have justified the cost. A futile Baneling bust at the natural ramp was able to make a breach in Terran’s wall, but the units were cleaned up, and the wall closed up quickly. In a fit of last ditch desperation, Soukley geared up for a Roach Baneling push into Terran’s front door, but like earlier in the game, some damage was dealt, but not enough. From there, InnoVation took full advantage of Soulkey’s lack of Mutas, and picked the Woongjin Stars Zerg apart with relentless drops. One last fight in the middle of the map sealed the fate of game three, and put InnoVation in a commanding position, up 3-0, one game away from his first title.
I stayed up until 5AM to watch the finals, and by the time Inno took his 3rd map, I was exhausted, and frankly a little bored. Soulkey just seemed to have shown up missing something that day, and I was ready to stop fighting my body and get some sleep. It was clear to me InnoVation was going to be the new Code S champ, and I didn’t need to see Soulkey get slaughtered again to know it. What a mistake that was.
Game 4 saw both players opening up conservatively, with standard, solid macro play. With some well positioned Overlords, Soulkey was able to avoid damage from InnoVation’s early game Hellions.We then saw InnoVation push out and take a relatively fast 3rd base, to which Soukley’s answer was a Roach/Bane explosion. InnoVation was able to keep the first part of the push at arms length, but the second wave of Banelings was too much for the Korean Terran to fend off. Soulkey proved he was capable of drawing blood from InnoVation, but still had an insurmountable task in front of him.
In the 5th set of the series, Soulkey, having tasted victory with a Roach timing, decided to try it again. InnoVation took crippling damage to the Roaches and Banes Soulkey threw his way, and was entering the mid game down more than 50% economically. Soulkey powered up on three bases, and when he did finally move out, it was with a 70 supply advantage. InnoVation was able to take a very efficient fight at the mouth of his natural, but it was too little, too late. Zerg morphed a boatload of banelings right outside the Terran base, and was able to fight his way up the ramp into the natural, pushing the series to a 6th game, still down 2-3.
InnoVation, feeling the heat, decided game 6 was the time to get aggressive again. Going for the same strategy as game 1, the proxy 2 rax, InnoVation was willing to risk it all in an attempt to close out the series. This time though, Soulkey sniffed it out quickly, and was even able to delay one of the Barracks with Drone harassment. InnoVation was able to force the cancel on the natural expansion, but with a Spine Crawler in the main, InnoVation wasn’t able to push further. With a flood of Lings and Banes, Soulkey was able to break the series of bunkers Inno had laid down outside Soulkey’s main. The push then instantly swung to the other side of the map, with the Zerg swarm busting down the front door of Terran, overwhelming all resistance. InnoVation was feeling the heat, Soulkey had evened up the series 3-3, and the crowd was roaring.
The ultimate set proved to be the closest of the series. Both players opened up the game with a focus on standard, economy focused play. InnoVation reached into his bag of plays and pulled out the Hellbat drop again, picking off a lot of Lings, but barely escaping with his Medivac. He followed that up with an even more committed Hellbat attack, to less success this time. Losing both medivacs, and only picking up 4 workers total on the game, InnoVation gave Soulkey an early lead. Zerg opted to tech into Mutalisks, and was able to secure a 4th base with almost no pushback from the Terran. Soulkey was able to keep InnoVation on his side of the map for the next few minutes of the game with great army movement of his ground forces. The next major blunder by Terran happened when he flew 3 full Medivacs into the Zerg main, only to have them intercepted by the Muta flock before they could unload. Followed up almost instantly by a push from Soulkey that looked terrifying, but got cut short prematurely when a huge Ling force was obliterated by a patch of Widow Mines. Soulkey’s unreal multitasking started to shine through though, when he simultaneously destroyed Terran’s 3rd and swung back into the main with his Mutas, dealing huge economic damage. The Mutas were then able to sit above the production of InnoVation, destroying infrastructure, and Terran’s ability to replenish his forces. After deflecting the last significant Terran push, Soulkey overwhelmed just about all of InnoVation’s locations at once. Terran was able to keep his head above water but just barely, and then pushed out for one final desperate attack. Soulkey devoured InnoVations last forces whole though, and completed the greatest comeback, maybe in the history of Starcraft 2, and certainly of GSL history. The shots of Soulkey’s mom crying are permanently ingrained in my memory, just as the shot of InnoVation in absolute disbelief is as well.
With players like InnoVation returning to the scene after their military service, the history of Starcraft II is still being made. It’s important to me that these pieces of Esports history are remembered, as they help preserve the context of how we got where we are. Thousands of fans may not be showing up for the GSL in 2023, but even a decade after that finals, InnoVation will be. I’ll be watching live, remembering that anything can, and will happen in the greatest game ever made, and that I can’t sleep until someone lifts that trophy.
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