Welcome to the PvZ-SL, we've got
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- Living Legends with 3 Code S Finals between them: Dark, Stats
- Underdog Supreme the textbook player with nothing more than a puncher's chance: Impact
- Enemy Unknown, the USA hope with his first ever GSL appearance: Astrea
This is the definition of the perfect setup for a Group – two abundantly clear favorites in Dark and Stats with each bringing some intangible weakness to the table (i.e. literal injury and impending military doom) that can potentially be exploited by a hungry underdog in Impact and a starving newcomer in Astrea, absolutely ideal scenario for the Ro24.
Warning: Spoilers Ahead, Obviously
Falling ever slightly short of being flawless, Dark monstered his way through this Group regardless to secure 1st place thanks to solid and varied play.
Stats then cleaned up in the M5 "rematch" where he won in record time and effortless fashion to lock down 2nd with ease.
| Dark < 2 : 0 >
Astrea | ★★☆☆☆ | Hail To The King
- Deathaura | Glaives o'clock was the theme of the night, kicked off by the newcomer with a slight twist, namely a Sentry meant to pull out the good old ramp FF trick, which couldn't work as intended considering there were Lings completely surrounding the entire Protoss army along with Ravagers on the way before any lasting damage was done, meaning the Zerg forces cleaned up sooner rather than later, allowing Dark to mass up units to both deny the attempted followup all in and then chase down & completely roll over the defenses accordingly for the win.
- Ever Dream | The switch up to an Oracle opener already telegraphed things would be slightly different here, with Astrea even getting three bases before it was Glaives time again. Most notably, though, the followup was actually a double Robo play and considering the Protoss had 70 workers and remained equal or ahead in bases for the majority of the game there was no rush at all to end things on Astrea's part. Dark certainly didn't help things by being overly defensive, so the game quickly devolved into a war of attrition where no one was even trading that many resources to begin with. Storms, counter attacks, Hydras everywhere, Spores galore, Zerg spells hitting everything – you know the drill by this point, the entire defensive nightmare culminated in an Ultralisk Corruptor "switch" from the Zerg after which he flew into his opponent's territory around 25 minutes and wiped out the majority of his army, then just kept up the pressure and never let him take full advantage of the bank he'd massed up, picking off strays left and right until he secured the krushing blow and the win with it not long after.
| Stats < 2 : 0 >
Impact | ★★☆☆☆ | Levels
- Deathaura | Stats heard my prayers so he opened Oracle and followed it up with a Robo and third base instead of Glaives, then just started poking around with a tiny squad of units as Impact was going into Melee upgrades, Bane speed and Spire. From there the Protoss understandably pulled back, got his Storm and Blink, queued up some Phoenixes and after holding an attempted counter attack cold around 10:30 Stats decided it was time to finish up before Impact had any real shot of utilizing his Hive to the fullest, perfectly splitting his forces and basically hitting the entire map all at once and then simply winning every engagement simultaneously to end the game.
- Pillars of Gold | The idea to go for an offensive Hatch by the Zerg was nice enough, however the perfect reaction by the Protoss to not only double Pylon block and then start murdering Drones with Adepts before the game could even get going was just something else, with the cherry on top being a random Overlord getting sniped for a soul crushing supply block, after which some straightforward Glaives o'clock action finished off the crippled Impact as you would expect at that point.
| Dark < 2 : 1 >
Stats | ★★★☆☆ | Here Comes The Swarm
- Eternal Empire | The gentleman's agreement to go for an Oracle opening here did give Stats some map control and solid harassment, however Dark basically got to pull off his fast three base play and even add on the fourth Hatch ahead of schedule unpunished all the same, which is bad news if you're a Protoss fan. Stats then tried poking out and getting his own fourth, only to find the Swarm knocking on his door and then pulling it off its hinges, at which point Dark decided to retract his forces and it felt like Stats was never really allowed to leave his base anymore, giving the Zerg enough room to even sprinkle in some bizarro Brood Lords that got wiped out of existence only for the low tier and ridiculously high supply Swarm to run over the Protoss regardless when Stats felt compelled to push out and get caught losing one Immortal too many and his fourth for the final time this game.
- Deathaura | The decision to go 12 Pool after playing AFK defense all night, the sick acting with a Drone in the natural that caused not one Pylon block but two, the proxy Hatchery location that walled off Stats from being able to save his own Gateway… Dark's early game here was just magnificent and would have given him the win against any other Protoss player in the world. Instead, Stats kept his cool and reminded us why he's considered the defense Protoss, utilized the insane worker lead along with great control over the few units he had – and lets be honest, some Shield Battery nonsense helped – and then finally did a pivot into an Adept Glaives Warp Prism counter attack that pulled Dark apart in an absolute nailbiter of a game.
- Ever Dream | Things calmed down significantly on the final map with both players going into standard openings, which meant Glaives o'clock wouldn't be too far behind. When the Protoss "harass" didn't do game ending damage and Stats tried transitioning into some DT Archon play after that, it was actually Dark that pulled a rabbit out of the hat by going for some uncommon Roach Burrow Movement shenanigans, which culminated at around 9:30 when the Zerg unleashed a devastating multi pronged attack on the entire Protoss base, butchering Stats' economy and taking out his fourth base, basically putting him in a hole he could never dig himself out of – with the Zerg nearly 100 supply in the lead by the time the assault was getting remotely close to being cleaned up – securing first place in the process.
| Impact < 2 : 1 >
Astrea | ★★☆☆☆ | So Close Yet So Far
- Eternal Empire | In what can cheekily be described as a "proxy" Nexus first opening which was followed up by the closest thing resembling terraforming in sc2, Astrea bent this map to his will and no amount of Lings from Impact could change that. From there the game slowed down considerably, the Zerg opted for some Swarm Host Nydus play while the Protoss kept defending and massing up his Colossi Stalker force, culminating in a truly WoL-esque deathball that ran wild on the Swarm, making Impact run out of steam as his surviving bases dried up and army supply plummeted.
- Ever Dream | The gentleman's approach with the Oracle opener was met with Queens marching across the map from Impact after the Zerg decided going over 40 Drones was for losers. The ensuing Ravager-centered bust almost collapsed before the Protoss fleet ran out of energy, thankfully for Impact he had too much left when it eventually did, running over his slightly too greedy opponent – who had only Probes and Oracles left – as you would expect.
- Golden Wall | The balls to immediately take the Gold expansion by the Zerg really set the tone for this final map and a muted response felt like it telegraphed the outcome, only for Astrea to put on a show with some truly devastating consistent harassment while investing minimal resources himself and losing literally nothing. The decision to then take his own Gold base as a third looked fine enough in the context of all that damage and with a significant chunk of army massed up and ready to defend it, however Impact basically felt forced to assault that position after being completely unable to handle the harassment, forcing the game-deciding fight which ultimately went his way when Astrea made some crucial mistakes, namely not pulling his Prism back immediately to help juggle Immortals and not sending reinforcements over to the battlefield in time to make a difference, resulting in the loss appropriately.
| Stats < 2 : 0 >
Impact | ★☆☆☆☆ | Humiliation
- Ever Dream | You know you're going to die to Glaives o'clock when the army supply is even and the rush hasn't even started yet, truly a bop in the worst way possible and to make it worse it would happen twice in the same series.
- Golden Wall | It took him a bit longer on the last map of the night, in fact for a very short while it looked like it wouldn't work, however Stats still made sure to confirm Glaives o'clock would reign supreme today.
This day took a bit of a dive, didn't it? There were definitely some silver linings but overall the quality of the games themselves certainly wasn't anything to write home about, although I fully admit my view could be tainted due to the mind numbing number of Glaives games we had to watch today.
- Match of the Night – I feel like there's no real argument against picking M3 here, basically for the second game alone; I still can't believe Stats didn't give up inside that one, Dark duped him so hard and it still wasn't enough to break through, definitely the most interesting game/match to rewatch for me at least (can't forget to mention those burrowed Roaches in G3 either, that was some sick execution of a multi pronged assault).
Finally, here are some of my closing thoughts on each player:
- Dark cleaned house tonight and was in for a clean sweep before his partner Living Legend's resilience got in the way. Considering the current state of ZvP, it's hard to judge whether this means he's truly back to his top level – definitely feels like we need to watch Dark dance with the likes of Maru/INnoVation/TY or even Cure in the next Rounds to get a better gauge of how or even whether his injury has healed – so I do think the only thing we can safely say is so far so good.
- Stats didn't have to show too much tonight and got through without having to deal with the mirror, overall this Group in hindsight feels like he'll be laughing all the way to the bank. I'm not sure whether he's at the top of his game, like I already said the state of PvZ is just something else right now, so I guess we'll find out moving forward when he has to face better competition and more importantly show us what he has to offer in the other matchups, I do hope Stats has that one last deep run in him.
- Impact did what was expected of him tonight more or less i.e. got plowed in the matches he was supposed to lose and shakily secured the one series he was historically favored to win. It's been a while since we've been impressed with his play, lets not even mention he almost didn't make it to this Season of Code S, so really nothing new under the sun for this player, even though his level tonight felt even lower than you'd expect, that M5 certainly made it look a lot worse for him.
- Astrea's debut didn't turn out so hot; although he did prolong one of the games against Dark, he was convincingly outclassed regardless and then even faltered against an extremely vulnerable Impact he could have realistically upset to bring us into the mirror. I'm pretty sure Stats would have taken him out regardless, however I wanted to see what the foreigner had prepared for PvP, a notably upset-heavy matchup. Still, we have to mention this was Astrea's first time and the Royal Roaders are the exception, certainly not the rule; here's hoping we get to see more of him in the coming Seasons, where I expect his performance will improve thanks to this initial experience in the studio alone.
As always, if you think differently or have something interesting to add, feel free to do so in the comments below.
Catch you on Saturday for Group C, where Rogue and Solar will be looking for redemption while TaeJa hunts for the upset and Super does his best to avoid being the designated punching bag of the night.
Thanks as always for reading & see you when I see you! (:
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