Maru Wins 2023 Code S Season 1
Maru extends his historic record with a sixth Code S titleby Wax
The greatest GSL player of all time has added another championship to his untouchable legacy.
Maru, already the only player to have won five Code S championships, clinched a record-breaking sixth title with his 4-2 victory over Cure in the Code S Season 1 finals.
Considered a virtually invincible Terran vs. Terran player through most of the 2020's, Maru had looked unusually vulnerable since late 2022, suffering an unexpected string of losses. One of those losses had come at the hands of Cure himself, who had triumphed during their RO8 group stage match.
However, the Maru that showed up to AfreecaTV's Jamsil studio for the final day of GSL Code S was right back in untouchable form. After a 3-1 victory over Bunny in the semifinals, Maru advanced on to rematch Cure in the grand finals. Cure had just barely survived his semifinal clash with ByuN, winning 3-2 after ByuN's chronic wrist issues flared up in game five.
Maru put on a TvT masterclass in the grand finals, demonstrating championship-quality play in every phase of the game. To Cure's credit, he showed he was Maru's near-equal in mid-game Marine-Tank combat, which was how he took game one in the series. However, Cure was outclassed by Maru in the late-game, with Maru winning the last two games of the series through his mastery of endgame armies. After using Battlecruisers to finish off Cure in game five, Maru closed out the series with a stunning comeback victory in game six where he defeated Cure's own Battlecruisers with mass Marine-Raven.
With the victory, Maru washed off a second place jinx that had been weighing on his mind since he had gone one for five in his last five major tournament finals (any other player would consider this a fantastic 'problem' to have). Buoyed by his victory, the often understated Terran announced atypically ambitious goals for the rest of the year, saying "Recently, I was losing every time I reached the finals, so I wasn't very confident. But since I've proven myself with this result, I'll try to win number seven and eight." Then again, is it really that ambitious? After all, when the only "6SL" champion in history is involved, otherwise impossible goals may be quite reasonable.
AfreecaTV CEO Jung Chan Yong was present in the studio to pin a sixth GSL badge to Maru's jersey, but he had a gift for all GSL fans as well. Mr. Jung announced that the following season of GSL would be returning to full offline/live play from the FreecUP studio, a much welcome return to normalcy after the mostly-online Season 1.
Semifinal #1: Cure 3 - 2 ByuN (VOD)Game One - Dragon Scales (ByuN win): ByuN opened with 2-Barracks Reapers, with one in the main and another proxied out on the map. While ByuN got in a few SCV kills against Cure's 1-Rax Reactor opening, he didn't inflict critical damage. ByuN tried to keep applying pressure by proxying his Factory and Starport as well, but Cure was actually ahead on his production buildings and was in no danger.
With Cure on defense for the time being, ByuN decided to risk taking a much faster expansion back at home. Cure eventually broke out of ByuN's soft-contain and expanded, taking down the proxied Factory in the process. This snowballed into Cure having a huge early Tank advantage of four to zero, but for whatever reason, Cure continued to play the game out extremely defensively. This allowed ByuN to get away with his fast expansion without any repercussions and start mass Marine-Medivac production.
ByuN got his signature multi-directional attacks going, and Cure struggled to keep up with the combination of ground and drop attacks. Amidst the chaos, Cure was goaded into moving out with his Marines and Tanks, but ended up taking a terrible fight against ByuN's well-positioned army. With his main force wiped out, Cure surrendered the first GG.
Game Two - Babylon (ByuN win): Cure risked a CC-first build to start, while ByuN went for a typical Barracks-Factory-CC opener. ByuN got in a few SCV kills with a Reaper-Hellion strike, but was otherwise content to join Cure in a slow macro build-up during the early game. The two player's plans soon diverged, with Cure going for standard bio while ByuN decided to go for
Mech (perhaps due to forgetting Stim?).
Considering mech was involved, the game ended up being decided in relatively quick fashion. Cure tried to exploit mech's immobility with a Marine-Medivac drop into the opposing main, which netted him SCV kills at the cost of heavy army losses. ByuN pounced on this opportunity, pushing rapidly across the map with his deadly Tank-Viking-Raven army. Unable to face this force head on, Cure diverted some of his troops for a semi-basetrade. ByuN got the better end of this exchange by far, smashing the portion of Cure's army left behind on defense while minimizing losses back at home. Left with a 40+ supply advantage as the mech player, ByuN easily closed the game out at around the 13-minute mark.
Game Three - Ancient Cistern (Cure win): ByuN went for an aggressive cheese to try and close the series out, proxying two Barracks inside of Cure's natural. However, Cure pulled off a near perfect defense after scouting ByuN's empty main, predicting exactly where the enemy Reapers would initially enter and having his troops there to greet them.
ByuN tried to make up for his disadvantageous start with Cyclone drop and Liberator harassment, but Cure continued to be rock solid on defense. ByuN had no choice but to follow Cure into a Marine-Tank macro game on worse footing.
Cure's advantage mostly manifested in superior tech, namely Ravens. With the superior Raven count, Cure was able to push across the map and set up a strong siege line just outside of ByuN's base. As Cure's forces slowly pushed in, ByuN split up his forces to try and defend and counter-drop at the same time. Unfortunately for ByuN, his backdoor drop achieved very little, whereas he took heavy damage from Cure's Marine-Tank push before finally repulsing the attack.
Trailing in both economy and army, ByuN forced a doomed basetrade before surrendering the map.
Game Four - Royal Blood (Cure win): ByuN's love of proxies continued in game four, as he went for another 2-Barracks Reaper opener (one in main, one proxied in center). Unfortunately for ByuN, Cure made the perfect blind read by going for THREE Barracks Reapers out of his main. After picking off ByuN's first two Reapers, Cure gathered his own Reapers for an attack that forced a GG at around the 4:15 mark (it didn't help that ByuN was down around 200-300 minerals per minute due to mis-rallying his SCVs).
Game Five - Gresvan (Cure win): The two Terrans started diverging builds once more— ByuN opening Rax-CC while Cure went for Rax-Factory-CC—but neither player took a meaningful advantage in the early going. Cure added on a fast second starport to go into focused Viking and Liberator production, whereas ByuN opted for a faster third Command Center.
The game swung in ByuN's favor after a pre-stim skirmish between Raven-Tank-Marine forces, where ByuN's 3-to-2 Raven advantage allowed him to eke out a victory. Cure was forced into a defensive stance, while ByuN prepared to pummel Cure with his aggressive Marine-Medivac style.
The game appeared to go ByuN's way, as he strained Cure's defenses heavily with his constant attacks. While some of ByuN's attacks were chewed up by waiting defenders, the big picture view saw ByuN freely take map control while pinning Cure in a corner of the map.
Tragically, ByuN's stress-induced wrist pain recurred at this critical juncture, and he called for a pause to recover. Perhaps it's just confirmation bias from what we know of ByuN's wrist condition, but ByuN seemed to slow down after this point in the game. Cure took advantage of a brief respite in attacks, marching his Marine-Tank-Viking-Liberator force across the map to take out a few key bases. While ByuN retained the lead, it kept the game within Cure's reach.
ByuN tried to keep playing his aggressive style, but Cure was able to slowly creep out onto the map, taking more and more territory. With Cure eventually matching ByuN in infantry upgrades, and finally completing the advanced ballistics upgrade for Liberators, ByuN found less and less opening to exploit.
After forcing Cure to spread out his forces on defense, ByuN went for his ace in the hole with a massive frontal Marine attack. However, Cure had just enough Tanks in position to turn it into a slaughter, and the game swung decisively in Cure's favor. The might of Cure's tech units finally surpassed ByuN's mobility advantage, and he eventually forced the ByuN to surrender the series at just over 29:00 on the clock.
Semifinal #2: Bunny 1 - 3 Maru (VOD)Game One - Royal Blood (Bunny win): The two Terrans opened with similar-ish Rax-Factory-CC openers, and initially looked to be headed toward a passive Marine-Tank build-up. However, Bunny went for an unorthodox play, plopping down extra factories to go for mech. Bunny did a great drop of masking his intent, and surprised Maru with a fast Tank + Hellbat timing attack. Hellbats proved to be quite strong at the early-middle phase of the game, costing Maru over thirty SCV's in a desperate defense. Maru tried a last-ditch counterattack after barely holding, but GG'd out after Bunny easily halted the attack.
Game Two - NeoHumanity (Maru win): The two players' openers diverged with Maru opening CC-first against Bunny's Rax-Fact-CC. Bunny was able to annoy Maru a bit by performing some Banshee harass and poking around with Tanks and Ravens, but ultimately wasn't able to affect Maru's plan too much. That plan happened to be going for fast 1/1 upgrades & stim-shield Marines, which Maru had used to defeat ByuN back in the group stage.
It seemed like Bunny would have enough troops to stop Maru's 1/1 timing, but the element of surprise worked in Maru's favor. Bunny caught Maru's initial Marine-Tank-Medivac move-out, but he briefly lost track of the troops in the fog of war. Bunny made the ill-fated decision of placing his Ravens and Vikings at the edge of the map to defend against a potential drop, while Maru's actual plan was a frontal attack. Maru's Ravens were allowed to fly up and Matrix all of Bunny's Tanks for free, followed by a deadly charge of 1/1 Marines. Maru's initial attack inflicted significant damage, and a follow-up attack extracted the GG from Bunny in just over 9 minutes of game-time.
Game Three - Ancient Cistern (Maru win): Maru started off with a 'light' cheese, opening up with 2-Barracks Reapers (1 proxy, 1 main) while also getting a fast expansion. However, this backfired on Maru, as he lost his initial 2 Reapers due to uncharacteristically poor micro. Bunny counterattacked with a small cadre of Reaper-Hellion, killing off some SCV's and securing a healthy early lead.
Bunny seemed like he might have a chance to put the game away quickly, setting up a siege outside Maru's natural with Ravens and Tanks. However, thanks to some good Raven usage from Maru and slow reactions from Bunny, Maru crushed the besieging force to get himself back in the running.
Still, the game favored Bunny moderately, with Maru's sole advantage being his faster infantry upgrades. Maru played the scenario out patiently, looking for an opportunity to seize back the momentum. That chance came in a big Marine-Tank battle in the middle of the map, where Maru fought from a superior position with his 2/2 Marines against Bunny's 1/1 infantry. While both sides lost similar amounts of supply, Maru cut significantly into Bunny's tank count and brought the game back to virtually even (if not favoring himself due to his infantry upgrades).
The two players continued to exchange blows with neither side coming out conclusively ahead, but Maru eventually found a game-deciding move. After launching a diversionary strike on one side of the map, Maru walked his main force up to one of Bunny's key expansions on the opposite end. Bunny engaged in a bloody defensive battle, losing a significant chunk of his SCVs and army. The blow proved to be too much to recover from, and Bunny GG'd out minutes later.
Game Four - Gresvan (Maru win): Maru and Bunny engaged in some intense Hellion-Reaper fighting to start game four, with neither player coming out conclusively ahead. Both players took a short breather to secure their third bases and prepare for a Marine-Tank war, and the hostilities quickly resumed once they had stimmed Marines and Medivacs.
Both Terrans had the idea to slip a drop into the opposing main, except Maru went with two Medivacs while Bunny only sent in one. Maru's drop did quite a bit more economic damage, but he lingered too long and lost all of his Marines. That gave Bunny a window to counterattack with his army advantage, but he deliberated a bit in choosing his target. He eventually settled for a drop into Maru's natural, but by then Maru was ready with another drop into Bunny's main. This perpetual basetrade did not favor Bunny at all, and he took far more economic damage than he meted out at the other end of the map.
Still having a slight army supply lead, Bunny consolidated his forces for a frontal attack. However, Maru's army was ahead where it really mattered, having three Ravens to Bunny's zero. Maru's Ravens shut down Bunny's Tanks, nullifying the counterattack and forcing the final GG out of Bunny.
Grand Finals: Cure 2 - 4 Maru
Game One - Altitude (Cure win): Maru and Cure began the finals with a hellacious game on Altitude. Cure won the mindgames to start, pulling out a CC-first build against Maru's Rax-CC. Still, some dogged Medivac harassment from Maru was enough to put the game in a fairly even state as the two players prepared for an all-out Marine-Tank war.
Maru took an aggressive stance first, playing with most of his army on Cure's side of the map. While Cure's defense prevented Maru from inflicting any serious damage, the map control allowed Maru to take a slightly faster fourth base. After focusing on defense, Cure briefly tipped the scales in his favor by sneaking out a detachment of Marines to raid Maru's bases. However, Maru matched Cure tit-for-tat, abusing the lack of Marines to punish Cure's own expansions.
After a brief pause to stabilize, the two players dove straight back into bloody combat. Cure looked for another big backdoor attack, taking a somewhat risky army-for-SCV's trade. However, it ended up working out for Cure, with a failed counter-drop from Maru forcing him to finally withdraw from Cure's territory and take a more defensive stance.
The positions were flipped, with Cure's main army crossing into the enemy half of the map while Maru became the one looking for opportunities to backdoor. However, this went much more poorly for Maru than it did for Cure, as his first major counter saw him take heavy casualties from defensive Tank fire. Cure exploited this sudden army gap ruthlessly, chasing down Maru's forces and taking down key expansions. Cure refused to give Maru an avenue back into the game, snowballing to victory at around 21:40 on the clock.
Game Two - Dragon Scales (Maru win): We got our first proxy-Reaper sighting of the finals in game two with Maru opening 2-Barracks (1 proxy, 1 main). Despite having his proxy Barracks scouted by Cure's scouting SCV, Maru committed even harder to his cheese by proxying a Factory and Starport as well (these went unscouted).
Whereas Cure easily held off a similar cheese from Byun in his semifinal match, this time he was lulled into a false sense of security and went for quick cloak Banshee tech. Maru capitalized with an off-beat Reaper-Hellion attack that killed 8 SCV's, which he followed with a Viking-Reaper-Tank push. While the arrival of Cloaked Banshees forced Maru to retreat, he had already expanded and assumed a commanding lead. Cure briefly went through the motions of playing the game out before GG'ing out with a last ditch attack.
Game Three - Gresvan (Cure win): Maru opted to go Hellion-heavy in the early-game, while Cure played it safe with two quick Cyclones. Cure got the better of the early skirmishes, but Maru seemed unfazed as he put down two fast Engineering Bays despite his army disadvantage.
Cure became the first player in the RO4 to actually exploit Maru's fast upgrades, bringing along his Tanks, Marines, and Vikings (having swapped his Starport to Reactor) along for a quick push. The key moment of the game came just after Cure sieged up his first two tanks, and Maru came to counter with his own Tanks supported by Ravens. Cure unsieged his Tanks just before the Interference Matrix projectiles could hit, letting him walk his Tanks away and waste Maru's precious Raven energy.
Cure relocated his Tanks and laid siege again as his Vikings gave him full vision. Surveying the situation, Cure saw that Maru was even weaker than expected, and he made the call to land his Vikings for an all-out attack. Cure's forces blasted through the defenses, dealing game-ending damage. Maru allowed himself one final drop attempt and then GG'd out.
Game Four - Babylon (Maru win): Never one to shy away from cheese in a dicey situation, Maru went for full-on proxy 2-Barracks Reapers as his opener. While Cure had defeated ByuN's similar cheese easily by correctly guessing which direction the Reapers would enter from, he wasn't so lucky against Maru and lost a significant number of SCVs to four unimpeded Reapers. However, Cure soon got Maru back with a Hellion drop, leaving the two players near par.
The ensuing Marine-Tank war saw the two players continue to stay neck and neck, with neither player able to seize a meaningful advantage. The pace of the game gradually slowed down, with both players making the late-game transition and focusing on air units.
The game stayed even for several minutes after moving to the Viking-Raven-Liberator phase, with the two players settling into a half-map split. However, after several inconclusive air battles, Maru finally swung the game in his favor at around the 21:00 mark. Despite trailing in Viking count, Maru outgunned Cure in the sky thanks to his superior upgrades and Raven support. Having established air superiority, Maru pushed his way to victory with Tanks and Liberators.
Game Five - Ancient Cistern (Maru win): It was Cure's turn to dip into the cheese well, proxying two Barracks for an early Reaper attack. While Maru did well to parry Cure's first few thrusts, a belated attack from an unexpected angle netted Cure enough SCV kills to make his opener worth it.
However, Cure's marginal lead was erased once the two players entered the Marine-Medivac phase. Maru found an unguarded drop path into Maru's natural, and he was able to gun down several SCVs and a researching Engineering Bay.
Unlike previous games where Maru had looked to go on the offensive with an advantage, Maru went for an entirely different approach by trying to secure five bases and transitioning into the late game very quickly. While Cure's powerful mid-game Marine-Tank army looked threatening at moments, Maru got into mass Raven and Battlecruiser production without facing any real danger. Not only that, but the Marines he sent on suicide missions to free up population inflicted a fair bit of damage, furthering improving his situation.
Cure followed suit and tried to match Maru in an air transition, but without the Battlecruisers. However, Cure didn't realize until too late that he needed to commit completely to the air war. Maru had been quick to divest out of Marine-Medivac entirely, whereas Cure retained the vestiges of a mid-game Marine-Tank army with a high Tank count. Maru absolutely smashed Cure in the first full-fledged air battle, forcing the GG.
Game Six - Royal Blood (Maru win): Reaper cheese was on the table once more as Maru opened the game with 2 Barracks (1 proxy, 1 main). In a callback to game two, Maru proxied a Factory as well. However, this time Cure made sure to check up on the proxy location with a belated SCV scout, discovering the proxy Factory. Maru abruptly changed plans, decommitting from hard aggression and expanding quickly back at home. This risky move ended up biting Maru in the behind, as he was ill-prepared for Cure's Tank-Viking push that soon came knocking. The push dealt what initially seemed like fatal damage, but a desperate Marine-Medivac counter from Maru evened things up considerably. Once Maru removed the encroaching army from his doorstep, he was left in a playable, if disadvantaged, position.
Having found success with defensive play in the previous game, Maru decided on a similar approach in game two. Except, previously, Maru had started with an advantage as a buffer, and this time he would cede complete mid-game control to Cure. The game ended up resembling some of Maru's TvZ's, with Maru staying holed up in a corner of the map while his opponent expanded freely. But unlike Maru's TvZ's, this was a mirror, and his opponent could theoretically make just as powerful an army.
Cure seemed to have adapted from the previous game, making a faster air transition and adding more Ravens to his Viking mix. Maru briefly tried to match Cure, but then pivoted into a throwback army of Marines supported by mass Ravens (this was probably due to his dwindling resources). Intentional or not, this ended up being an exceptionally cruel move from Maru, making it seem as if he had intentionally taught Cure the wrong lesson in the previous game.
Having primed Cure to focus on air superiority, Maru mercilessly attacked him where his ground defense was weak by Matrixing Tanks and charging in with mass Marines. As it turns out, it's okay to trade Ravens and Tanks one for one when the rest of your army is composed of the most cost efficient unit in the game. Maru burst out of his little corner of the map, reclaiming expansions that Cure had boldly taken with his map control. Going for Battlecruisers only made this situation worse for Cure, as armor-shredded BC's can't stand up to mass Marines. Cure could only use them to get in some token harassment, as Maru continued to reclaim more bases and achieve a true 50/50 split of the map.
At around 29:00, Maru gathered his Marine-Raven force for the game-ending push. The unstoppable army cut a path straight across the map and into Cure's main, disabling every Tank along the way. With his production camped, Cure signed off on Maru's 6SL with his final GG.
Credits and acknowledgements
Records and Statistics: Aligulac.com and Liquipedia
Records and Statistics: Aligulac.com and Liquipedia