If there’s one thing to take away from the first day of the Season 2 WCS Finals, it is that betting on professional StarCraft is not a safe retirement strategy. This is the kind of day that nobody could have seen coming -- with top players like INnoVation and Maru going down early.
ONE CRAZY MORNING
It started safely enough, with a terrific series between Lee Jae Dong and Jang “MC” Min Chul. Any other day, that set would have been the big story. In Game 1, it looked like a base race in MC’s favor, as his army of Stalkers ripped through Jaedong’s expansions. Jaedong’s Mutalisks then attempted to break through MCs defenses, but he didn’t have enough Mutas to take out MC’s army.
Unless MC made a mistake, which he ended up doing by recalling half of his army while the other half stayed at Jaedong’s base. Jaedong didn’t hesitate: his Mutas took the opportunity to destroy the formerly invincible army piecemeal.
At first it seemed like Jaedong might take that momentum to a quick victory in Game 2. He had a huge lead, but then seemed to get frustrated at MC’s defensiveness and frittered away his hopes in a series of ineffective attacks until MC forced a GG after 45 minutes.
Bad judgment cost them both but it came down to a final game at Bel’shir Vestige, where MC’s early aggression destroyed Jaedong’s third base and had him teetering on the cusp of defeat. But MC overcommitted to continuing his attack, even as it slowly ground to a halt and Jaedong reclaimed the initiative. By the time MC realized he needed to back off, he’d handed Jaedong a lead and, ultimately, a victory that would send Jaedong to the quarterfinals and MC into a decider match tomorrow against Rain.
Choi “Bomber” Ji Sung’s best match of the day, on the other hand, may have been the one he didn’t have to play. Choi “Polt” Seong Hun, who looked so strong recently and was undoubtedly the biggest threat in the group, dropped his set against First, meaning that Bomber was spared another meeting with the deadly Terran. He instead faced Kang “First” Hyun Woo, whom he beat 2-0 to move through to the quarterfinals.Tomorrow, Polt and First have a rematch tomorrow to decide who will advance.
Polt’s unexpected defeat was the opening bell for complete pandemonium. It started with Lee “INnoVation” Shin Hyung’s series against Taeja, where things came to a decisive Game 3 that became an instant-classic only halfway through its 45-minute length. TaeJa went with a standard bio build against INnoVation’s Hellbat-heavy mech, and the result was a tense back-and-forth where TaeJa kept nearly knocking INnoVation out… and then INnoVation kept battling his way back into the game. With both players using Medivac drops as makeshift carpet-bombing runs, it was truly the next generation of TvT.
As Hellbats kept dropping on top of his siege lines again and again, drawing deadly friendly-fire, TaeJa would later say: “I wasn’t upset or annoyed…I was just frustrated, because I knew the game was mine, but he kept pushing me back in those skirmishes, and the game kept dragging on.”
TaeJa beating INnoVation was a mild surprise, but it was INnoVation’s series against Johan “NaNiwa” Lucchesi that truly put his invincible reputation to rest. INnoVation seemed like a sure bet for advancement, and nobody would have predicted that his tournament would end in a 0-2 defeat by NaNiwa.
AN UNLIKELY PAIRING
The madness was far from finished. As Acer’s Sasha "Scarlett" Hostyn took on teammate Mun “MMA” Seong Won in Group D, beating him handily 2-0 in a textbook ZvT series, Evil Geniuses’ Han “aLive” Lee Seok was busy sweeping Season 2 Korean champion Cho “Maru” Sung Choo 2-0.
The day’s final match, then, was between Scarlett and aLive, perhaps the unlikeliest pairing for a winner’s match of the entire day. Yet Scarlett was feeling confident against the Korean Terran, so much so that she’d even hoped for his success because beating him “would be easy.”
It didn’t work out that way. He derailed her in Game 1 with a proxy attack that took out her natural, and Scarlett never seemed to recover. She never got her own gameplan together in Game 2, losing a Lair to a Medivac drop that set the tone for the rest of the match. aLive harassed at will, while Scarlett spent the entire game putting out fires.
That she survived into the late game, and got within an engagement of turning things in her favor, was a testament to her toughness. Scarlett later tweeted: “So nervous played not great that game.”
She’ll need to overcome it to beat Maru in tomorrow’s decider match for the final spot in the quarterfinals.
The Group State deciders matches begin Saturday at 1 a.m. PDT, followed by the quarterfinals at 5 a.m. PDT. The Season 2 semifinals and finals will begin at 3 a.m. on Sunday.
Watch the live broadcast on Twitch, with casters Stemkoski, Carrol, Shaun "Apollo" Clark and others calling the action.
For the latest news follow Red Bull eSports on Twitter.