The first day of 2012’s fourth MLG championship series may have begun after a lengthy delay, but the day’s fantastic play made it all worthwhile, and challenged the notion that comebacks aren’t possible in StarCraft 2.
Freelance writer Andrew Groen covered the action late into the night, and brought us this recap.
The tournament’s group play began with a bang as Brood War legend Flash (Lee Young Ho, Terran) took on European fan-favorite and Warcraft 3 icon, Grubby (Manuel Schenkhuizen, Protoss.)
The two exchanged words on stage before the match with Grubby eschewing his usually reserved self in favor of boisterous self-confidence. “I know a secret,” he said. “I know that Flash is not a God, and you will know it too when I first draw blood,” he continued, referring to Flash’s tongue-in-cheek nickname “God.” Flash responded only, “Crush him.”
The two faced off in a very good Game 1 on Ohana with some back-and-forth momentum switches. Flash pushed a mid-game advantage and attacked with a strong bio force, but some good Psionic Storms from Grubby’s High Templars restabilized the game. Flash answered with great ghost play as his EMPs and picture-perfect snipes tore through Grubby’s gateway-heavy force.
Game 2 fulfilled Flash’s “crush him” prophecy as he easily fended off a Warpgate push from Grubby on Daybreak before pushing with a medivac-bio force that proved too much for the Dutch Protoss.
The Scarlett Creep
The best matchup of the day was a breakout performance from Canadian Zerg Scarlett (Sasha Hostyn, Zerg) over lauded South Korean Terran player, Bomber (Choi Ji Sung, Terran.) The so-called “Zerg Queen” actually dropped the first game after outplaying Bomber for the entirety of the match. A single misstep in which she forgot to engage a group of zerglings in a decisive battle allowed Bomber to gain an ever-so-slight advantage which he exploited to take down her third base. It was fortunate for Bomber that he managed to pull it out at this exact moment because the attack was essentially a last-ditch effort as Scarlett’s insane creep spread had advanced all the way across the Ohana desert and into Bomber’s natural expansion, preventing any possibility of expanding to a third base.
The second match was the real turning point, and it may well prove to be one of the best matches of the weekend. Bomber came out swinging with a two barracks rush attempt that he abandoned after Scarlett managed to destroy his forward bunker with only drones. Bomber’s push never stopped though. He pushed again a few minutes later with a squad of marines, but Scarlett sensed it was coming (caster Sean “Day” Plott even praised Scarlett’s “Spider-Sense”) and managed to build enough zerglings in time to fight it off. It came at a heavy price though as she lost her third and a hefty zergling count.
Without giving Scarlett a chance to breathe, Bomber attacked with a blue flame hellion force and managed to roast conga lines of lings and drones before the harassment was cleaned up. But Scarlett wasn’t stopped so easily, and she continued to expand to a fourth base while teching up to hive to get brood lords. All the while, despite expanding, teching-up, and defending constant harassment, Scarlett had once again managed to spread creep right up to the doorstep of Bomber’s natural just 15 minutes into the game. The creep speed boost proved pivotal and she was able to run right over Bomber’s large mech force with an army of brood lords, roaches, infestors, and queens.
Scarlett went into Game 3 with a big boost of confidence coming off a stunning comeback victory, but neither player showed their nerves. The game proceeded in a fairly quiet macro-style which once again allowed Scarlett’s creep to spread unchecked, this time covering practically the entire surface of the map aside from Bomber’s base. It ultimately held him back to three bases and shut down his macro game. At this point Scarlett was literally playing with one knee up on the computer desk looking relaxed. Soon after, her banelings rolled right through Bomber’s force backed up by Brood Lords, and with too little income to rebuild, Bomber was forced to tap out. The normally somewhat icy Scarlett was all smiles after the match, and for good reason: she played extraordinarily well against one of the best Terrans in the world.
A Protoss show of force
Afterward, Oz (Kim Hak Soo, Protoss) took out Hyvaa (Shin Dae Kun, Zerg) 2-0. The first match went by quickly as a slow zergling rush failed to bust through the Protoss wall-in. However, the second match was one of the better games of the day and will definitely be one of the VoDs to look out for. In this highly complex and fairly long game the momentum must have shifted five times as the players took turns decimating each other’s armies and sniping bases. Ultimately Oz took home the victory and will move on.
Oz is coming off a heartbreaking loss at last night’s MvP Invitational in which he almost managed to mount an impressive comeback against SoO. He’ll undoubtedly be looking to make up for that silver medal with a victory at MLG.
The final notable match of the day was Daisy (Lee Jong Hyuk, Protoss) versus Soo (Eo Yoon Su, Zerg.) The first match began as a highly contested back and forth war leading to a 6 base Zerg vs five base Protoss stand off. It devolved into a somewhat boring stalemate as both players invested their spare minerals in spine crawlers and photon cannons making most positions unassailable. It was worth it though as it led to a giant end-game battle that even featured several of the rarely seen Protoss carriers cloaked in the neon blue of a mothership. Soo’s corrupters, infestors, and spine crawlers proved too much though and we were treated to an epic laser light show as the Zerg force overwhelmed Daisy.
The second and third games were a show of force by a deadly Protoss player with a perfect unit composition (stalkers, zealots, sentries and immortals) as he was able to manhandle superior Zerg roach-heavy armies in both games with devastatingly perfect force fields. In the second game, Daisy marched into the natural of Soo and managed to segment the Zerg army into three pieces, taking each out one at a time while pecking away at the 2nd base. In the third game, he marched right into the natural again and was able render a large roach-zergling force useless with forcefields while he destroyed a pack of mutalisks before taking out the ground army methodically. Any Protoss fan will get a kick out of watching this impressive show of force.
Tomorrow we have another spate of awesome matches, as the open bracket brings us KeSPA star Rain versus Liquid Sheth, Binski versus Thorzain, Demuslim versus Insur, and MC versus Moonglade. Rain in particular faces increased scrutiny in his play as he forfeited his position in GSL Code S to play in this tournament. A decision which has sparked considerable controversy.
Once the open bracket wraps up we’ll also be seeing matches headlined by MLG Summer Champion Leenock, First, TheStc, TaeJa (the top 4 finishers from the Summer Championship,) as well as Violet, Naniwa, and Heart.
Without a doubt, Scarlett emerged as the player to watch after her great best-of-three. However, she faces incredibly stiff competition from some of South Korea’s finest. Everybody’s always looking for the next “foreigner hope,” and Scarlett’s win at WCS North America and her convincing victory today will no doubt rally the hopes of foreign fans.
That said, we’ve still got a number of hungry competitors and we’ll be following the stories of Flash, Leenock, Rain, and Life (the GSL champion who routed Major 2-0 today) very closely as they progress through the tournament. The action resumes at 4 PM GMT / 12 PM Eastern today, and you can watch here.