The knockout format has generated some memorable moments, like when Scarlett ended her alliance with Polt at Battle Grounds North America last year and crushed him on the final day. It's a format where individual skill only goes so far, and the best way to survive is to ensure that you're always getting the fights you want.
That's what both the winners of the Battle Grounds Playoffs attempted to do for three straight days. They made promises, recruited allies and tried to set each other up to fail. Despite their best efforts, however, both the Protoss Archon of MC and HuK and the Zerg Archon of DRG and TRUE are going to the Grand Finals with a team they'd hoped to eliminate in Santa Monica, California.
What went wrong?
With friends like these
There was a lot of bargaining and deal-making before the tournament even began, but what was interesting in talking to the winners after the event was the fact that most of those deals contained at least one traitor in the mix.
"On Day 1, there was an alliance between all the Koreans, but we didn't want to be in there," DRG said. So he and TRUE found a way to break their agreements without anyone noticing.
"We picked to be eighth to see how Day 1 would pan out. Then on Day 2 we were going to go to the finals with the Axiom Protosses, Alicia and CranK, so that's how we picked," he said.
Alicia and CranK also weren't really interested in sticking to any Day 1 agreements. Their strategy, to become as invisible as a Dark Templar, involved a lot of evasive answers.
"Looking at the other teams, there is a lot happening. Many alliances, many things," Alicia said on the first day. "People asked us to join their alliance, but we just said, 'Yeeeeeeah, we'll think about that.' We're trying not to make them angry at us."
HuK and MC, meanwhile, kept trying to find someone they would like to go to Washington with. Their two requirements were that their Archon buddies would have to be cool travel companions … and they'd have to be just bad enough that HuK and MC wouldn't have any problem beating them.
They may have overshot the mark on that last criterion.
"The first day we allied with TaeJa and TheStC, but they got knocked out," MC said on Sunday night.
"We thought they were going to be pretty good, but they sucked," HuK said, still in the straight-shooting, trash-talking mode that made him so memorable all weekend. "Which sucked for us, because they're our friends. And then after that, we chose to partner with Bails and PuCK, and then they died too."
The best laid plans
That was the other problem with making alliances during the playoffs: Eventually, for all your planning, things would have to get decided between Archons on the battlefield. This is where HuK-MC and DRG-TRUE kept watching their alliances fall apart.
One of the monkey wrenches at Battle Grounds was the Terran duo of Beastyqt and qxc, who were consistently underestimated until the final day.
"On Day 2, [Alicia and CranK] lost to Beasty and qxc unexpectedly and things got messed up," DRG said of his alliance. "On Day 3, we were coming up with different scenarios to get the Axiom Protosses through, but they lost AGAIN to Beasty and qxc. So me and TRUE decided to end their misery."
MC and HuK were frustrated that none of the Terran players seemed to understand that they were all destroying each other's chances.
"Protoss is strong against Terran in this patch," MC admitted. "But Terran vs. Zerg is not too bad for Terran, I don't think. They had to pick DRG and TRUE, but they didn't. They just went 'TvT, TvT, TvT.' There were just suicide Terrans this weekend."
On the final day, HuK and MC decided to ally with Beastyqt and qxc, since they knew DRG and TRUE were trying to get the Axiom Protoss to the finals.
"We were hoping to go to D.C. with qxc and Beastyqt," Huk said. "But because of the way it worked out, after we'd lost to Alicia [and CranK], we mathematically couldn't. We were pretty confident we could beat anybody here. We're just sad that we lost one game against Alicia and CranK."
Even though things didn't go to plan, HuK loved the format.
"I had a lot of fun because of this format," HuK said. "Talking trash was a lot of fun."
He admitted he'd been running his mouth but said it came down to a question of competition. "If it was Heart of the Swarm and I was playing against INnoVation and other good players, I wouldn't talk trash, because I wouldn't think I would win," he said.
He and MC feel much more confident about the Battle Grounds Finals on Sept. 19. They don't expect much trouble from Bomber's team or from viOLet and MaSa. The only serious competition they have, HuK said, was DRG and TRUE, and HuK and MC have already beaten them once before. Political games or not, he's confident they can do it again.
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