5TWL from HSC V
|Author: Thorin||Like aceresport.com:||10.07.2012, 21:00 PM|
With a varied field composed of top tier players looking to dominate, would-be contenders seeking legitimacy and a sizable section of underdogs seeking that one upset which could spark their careers HomeStory Cup V was a melting pot of international players all gathered under TaKe's roof with $10,000 as their goal. Mvp and MC provided the marquee names, MaNa and DIMAGA wanted to prove Dreamhack Summer was more than one good tournament run and the likes of Snute, monchi and Destiny were just looking to grab some maps off the top players or play well.
With the event in the books and the champion crowned here are five things we learned from the Krefeld-based event.
Nerchio displayed consistently top tier ZvP play
Back in April, at Dreamhack Open Stockholm, Nerchio's ZvP level had been difficult to gauge. The Polish Zerg had lost to SaSe in the second group stage, lost to Genius in the third and then beaten NaNiwa to make the playoffs. In the bracket stage he didn't get a chance to face any Protoss before being eliminated in the quarter-final.
Online Nerchio tore it up over the next few months but in June Dreamhack Summer came around and we got a chance to see him facing top Europeans offline again. Once more no Protoss opponent appeared in his section of the bracket prior to his elimination, once more at the hands of a Zerg and once more in the quarter-final. Online results aside noone had any reason to imagine Nerchio might turn out to be the best ZvP player at HomeStory Cup V, especially with the field containing dangerous Protosses like MC and MaNa.
Nerchio's overall performance proved dominant en route to the HomeStory Cup V title, going 22:5 in maps and 10:2 in the playoffs alone, but it was in ZvP where he really shined. Of those 27 maps played 22 of them came against the representatives of Aiur and Nerchio managed to go 18:4 for a 77.77% map winrate. In the playoffs he faced three consecutive ZvPs and his bracket run finished with a 14:2 map run. ToD, Socke and HasuObs are all good European Protoss but not top tier in the calibre of the Koreans, and the hotly tipped YongHwa is admittedly not as strong vP, but Nerchio's 3:1 semi-final victory over MC was quite the statement to make.
In the exact stage of the tournament at which he had been eliminated from HomeStory Cup IV, and against the very same opponent, the self-proclaimed best PvZ player in the world: MC, Nerchio took down the President of Protoss after only four maps had been played. With Mvp's elimination and MC's dominant play to that point of the tournament many had been predicting he would go back-to-back at HSC, but Nerchio proved otherwise and pushed past the Korean to reach the final. In many ways one could make the case that their semi-final had been the "real final" and whoever won it would go on to take the title, as proved to be the case at this and the previous HSC.
In the official final Nerchio faced YongHwa for the second time, the first being a 2:1 second group stage victory for the Poles, and this time unleashed a 4:1 beating on the IM man to seize the $10,000.
Nerchio's ZvP victims:
1st Group stage 2:0 ToD
1st Group stage 2:1 Socke
2nd Group stage 2:1 YongHwa
2nd Group stage 2 2:0 BlinG
Quarter-final 3:0 HasuObs
Semi-final 3:1 MC
Final 4:1 YongHwa
Overall ZvP map record: 18:4 (77.77%)
Playoff ZvP map record: 10:2 (80.00%)
Mvp doesn't look like Mvp anymore
The difficulty in assessing the current level of a player like Mvp is the mystique his history of excellence and success that surrounds him. Juding his career as a whole it's hard to make any case that he isn't the very best player in SC2 history. Nevertheless Mvp came into HomeStory Cup V as an unknown quantity. The IM Terran had been tossed from the most recent GSL Code S season, Season 3 of 2012, in the Ro16 group stage after only managing to win one map in two series. A number of notable figures at HomeStory Cup, including IdrA and MrBitter, said they didn't think he was even the best player at the German event. When play began it was difficult to disagree with them.
The first group stage should have been a cakewalk for the Mvp we remember lifting GSL Code S trophies, matched with Korean GSL Code A player Golden, internationally unknown Protoss monchi and fnatic's confident-but-bordering-on-mildly-delusional NightEnD. What should have been a quick three series campaign turned into a battle for survival as a 2:1 win over Golden was followed up with a 1:2 loss to monchi, the player who have seemed least likely to have a chance at upsetting the GSL champion of two seasons ago. With danger bristling around him Mvp pulled out a 2:0 win over NightEnD to qualify in first place, a solid clutch win to pull himself out of a position he, by all rights, should not have been in based on his calibre.
In the second group stage a draw of the very same Golden, Ret and Naama looked pretty good for Mvp. When the group had finished he was sat tied for bottom place with only one win, once more over Golden. In the second series of the group Ret had punished him without giving up a map and then the series which would decide his fate in the group, against the Finnish Naama, was a three map loss. Mvp was out of HomeStory Cup V before the playoffs had even begun.
Win or lose the storylines around Mvp nowadays are dominated by his injury, when he wins people point to any game which didn't develop beyond the mid-game as a crafted plan by the Korean to avoid taxing his body and any loss the excuse of the injury is always close at hand. The real problem is that since none us truly know the extent of his injury, which may apparently be something which has come on over a long period of time, it is very difficult to synch up those problems with Mvp's level of play at any given time. Do specific in-game actions cause him pain while he plays? Is he able to focus when in discomfort or does it affect his decisions on how to play out a specific situation?
Perhaps the most interesting question would be whether not it is the physical effects of his injury which plague Mvp the most or the psychological impact of his injury. If his injury lowers his performance level then it's easy to see how that could lead to frustration, trying to force specific situations and feeling as though the solution to any problems with his play are waiting for treatment so he is injury-free. All we know for now that is Mvp is not the Mvp of his glory days and the current Mvp is injured and in need of change in one way or another if he is to climb the mountain again.
Losing in Krefeld was not as much a huge dent to his reputation as a boost to those of the players who bested him, nevertheless for now all we can do is take Mvp's results at face value, knowing his situation may not change or be entirely resolved in some time.
PvZ/ZvP was the matchup that mattered most
In many ways Dreamhack Summer set the stage for HomeStory Cup, both in terms of being the last big tournament on the resume of many of the competitors but also because the last three series were all PvZ. With only seven Terrans amongst the 32 players competing at HSC things looked prime for a battle of the 12 Protoss and 13 Zerg. Admittedly the powerful Ukrainian Kas dropped out but aside from Mvp, who himself was underwhelming, Terran was not represented with much strength at all.
In the playoffs seven of the eight series contested were PvZ and the champion, Nerchio, played seven ZvPs out of the total of nine series for the whole tournament. Despite five Zergs making it into the quarter-finals there was only one ZvZ played there, which was also the only five map series of the tournament to go the distance.
MaNa's ascension was short-lived
Just under three weeks prior MaNa had been the toast of the European scene with his Dreamhack Summer victory, and thus the Polish Protoss came into HomeStory Cup with expectations surrounding him. Having won his first big event and showing off a distinct style against Zergs MaNa headed into an event packed with more Zergs than players of any other race. Three series into his HSC campaign the mouz man was rendered a spectator for the rest of the tournament.
In an all-Zerg group of Sleep, Snute and Destiny the Polish player should have been shoe-in for the second round. This is the same player who had handled Stephano 2:0 and DIMAGA 3:1, in his Dreamhack Summer semi-final and final wins respectively. The same matchup which had seem him waltz to the Dreamhack crown had seen him eliminated in Krefeld. Snute and Destiny are a long way from Stephano and DIMAGA and this result throws the harsh spotlight of scrutiny on both MaNa's victory in Sweden and his place amongst the world's best players going forwards.
The big criticism thrown at Protoss players who go on one hot run is that they are streaky, either by virtue of simply playing above their level for a few games or due to having brought a new or unusual style to the table which surprised opponents for long enough to gain those players a top placing. That last part is really the key for trying to understand the contrast between MaNa's results in Sweden and at HomeStory Cup: was his Swedish success in part a result of players not having time to adapt to his style of play?
The beauty of a tournament like GSL, and what makes it so incredibly hard to win, is that all the boxes are checked: the player must play well, study his opponent's style and tailor his play to his opponent's likely approach. Even if a player comes up with a surprising or novel style that can only last so long as every future opponent will have time to break it down and key in on potential weaknesses or counters to neutralise it. At Western tournaments, which typically take place across a 3-4 day span at most, there is little time to break down an opponent and a lot of the emphasis is placed more on reacting in-game and trying to come up with solutions on the fly or between maps in a series.
With all of that in mind it could certainly be speculated that MaNa came into HomeStory Cup with the bullseye on his back and as a result all the other players, but the Zergs in particular, have had time to come up with counters and solutions for his style of PvZ. Not even necessarily just because of him specifically, but by virtue of the way the metagame is effected everytime something that works is discovered, with everyone on the ladders implementing it and thus forcing the opposing race to adapt or struggle. Was MaNa in the right place at the right time with his approach? Will he bounce back at the next event and show his overall game to be inherently solid irrespective of metagame changes?
For now MaNa's claim to being one of the elite players in the world looks shot to pieces and he is back to being just a good European player in many's eyes. At Dreamhack he was impressive, but at HomeStory he was forgettable. At Dreamhack there was no Zerg who could beat him when it mattered, at HSC he could only beat Destiny.
IdrA's comeback was cancelled
With the hole IdrA had dug for himself in the first half of 2012 HomeStory Cup needed to be the venue for him to build up his in-game reputation again, else calibre as a top foreigner would be long gone. As it turned out the American didn't quite make it in Krefeld. The first group stage, which had the benefit of containing players who might pull off an upset but were not by their own rights Europe's strongest, saw him clean up with a solid three series wins and only one map lost. The second was where everything went wrong though.
Starting out with a 0:2 loss to HasuObs put IdrA immediately in grave danger, in a group where the fight for second would be especially fierce. When he lost his second series in three maps to sleep his HSC was a done deal and he didn't play out a final series vs. Happy. That HasuObs victory ended up looking even worse when one considers that the German Protoss was swept 3:0 by another Zerg, eventual champion Nerchio, in the playoffs. A month ago that Polish Zerg was still being accused of cheating online, now he had handled the player who had put IdrA half-way out the door.
It's tough to say HSC really amounted to much of anything for IdrA. In the past people often took solace in the fact he would lose to top tier Koreans but in a manner which saw him either take a solid map from them or play to a high level for most of the game. Has his credibility dropped to the level people can take comfort in knowing he took a map from Sleep before losing? Or that he eliminated three severe underdogs, in terms of reputation and accomplishments, to get to the second group stage? They say in a sport like basketball sometimes it's good just to see the ball go through the hole a few times, suggesting that even easy baskets can help a player regain his confidence to play better. At HomeStory Cup though were those initial results really enough to turn around a six month slump?
Initially IdrA's group looked to be a tricky one, but looking back from a results standpoint none of those players advanced past the quarter-finals. Playing well in losses is all well and good but only in the short-term, results are the only currency which matters in the long-run, and that means winning. At HomeStory Cup V IdrA wasn't able to do that and so the spotlight remains as cold and blindingly bright as ever.
(Photographs all courtesy of their respective owners, including TaKeTV)