GSL Season 4 Code S Finals Preview

By: Scott

This season has shown some of the highest level Starcraft play we have seen in the history of Starcraft 2, and the finals this Saturday should continue that trend. This match has absolutely everything going for it. To begin with, the match is a TvZ. While TvP has evolved beyond 2-base colossus timings and proxy 2-rax allins, TvZ is still the match-up that holds the most potential for exciting, back and forth games. More importantly, this match will showcase two amazing players who are each fighting for more than just the $50,000 first place prize. Will MVP secure his 5th Code S championship and further solidify his position as the greatest Starcraft 2 player ever? Will Life be the youngest Champion in SC2 history as well as the first to walk the royal road? This will be an event not to be missed; no matter the result, history will be made.

Let us take a moment to reflect on MVP’s amazing career. He was the first Terran to win a GSL ever in January of 2011, defeating MarineKingPrime in a devastating 4-0 and beginning a yet-unbroken tradition of one-sided dominance between the two. Several months later saw MVP winning the GSL World Championship (again defeating MKP in the finals) as well as MLG Anaheim, his very first foreign tournament.

Thus began the reign of MVP. He placed top 4 in every premier tournament he attended during the next five months, won his third GSL Championship, placed 2nd against MMA in GSL October (his 4th GSL finals) , won Blizzcon the very next day, and ended the year with the gold medal at WCG 2011. This kind of dominance placed MVp at the very top with his teammate Nestea, and secured his spot as the worlds best Terran. However, early 2012 had people wondering if MVP was losing his edge. Players kept improving, and MVP was no longer showing results. He began suffering from wrist and spine problems, making practice difficult. He had a series of disappointing results in foreign tournaments, being eliminated in ways that were indicative of a severe lack of practice. Even when MVP learned that it was a spinal issue and not carpal tunnel, he postponed surgery as he feared it would essentially result in retirement from professional gaming. New Terran heroes began making claims to the ‘Best Terran’ title; MarineKingPrime experienced a sudden resurgence, MMA dominated every Zerg player who dared face him, and Taeja began showing some of the most solid play we have seen from Terran yet.

In GSL 2012 Season 2, almost everyone thought he was the weakest remaining player in the round of 8. It was a time when Protoss was considered overpowered, especially in TvP, and MVP’s bracket had him facing one in the round of 8, semifinals, and finals. He was the only Terran in the semifinals, among 3 of the greatest Protoss players in the world. Exceeding everyone’s expectations in one of the closest, scrappiest finals GSL has ever seen, MVP secured his 4th GSL title with a score of 4-3. Following that he won IEM Cologne, making him a champion on 3 continents. Now, MVP is in his 6th GSL finals in the last 2 years. A win would give him a seemingly unreachable 5 GSL championships. It would give him the #1 spot in all time tournament winnings at roughly $360,000. More importantly, according to an interview with MVP following his win in the semifinals, it would allow him to be comfortably called Starcraft 2’s first ‘bonjwa’.

If this trophy would be the finishing touch on the legend that is MVP, it will be just the beginning for 15 year old Life. One of the world’s youngest professional players, Life has had success in various online cups but was never able to make it in the GSL. Coming from Zenex, a team that suffered and eventually died from lack of sponsorship, Life is a great underdog story. He made a splash in the GSTL when he all-killed Team Liquid in Season 2, following it up by taking out Coca, Crank and MMA before finally having his streak ended by Puzzle. His record that season was 9-2, having only played in 3 series.

Unfortunately for Life, his thunder was stolen by Symbols incredible success at the same time. Life all-killed Team Liquid, but Symbol reverse all-killed Incredible Miracle in one of the most amazing feats of GSTL history. Symbol then broke into Code S and had strong showings in foreign tournaments, making many people forget about Life, who had looked so strong only weeks before.

Another factor working against Life was the fact that Zergs in general were experiencing a strong wave of success. Some wrote him off as another ‘patch-zerg’, or someone who is only good because of the recent patch that improved the Zerg early game. With so many other Zerg players finding success like never before, Life found himself lost in the shuffle. With his Code B status in the GSL individual league, he didn’t have a further chance to prove himself.

This has all changed rapidly in the last few weeks. Barely making it into Code S through the Up and Down matches, Life was the dark horse of the tournament. Hipster nerds reminded everyone of his dominating GSTL performance, but few took him seriously. Rather tellingly, Life was actually chosen last in the ro16 group nominations, something usually reserved for the most feared player. The players obviously knew something that the spectators didn’t. Now he’s in the finals of one of the most stacked tournaments in Starcraft 2 history, only dropping 2 maps in the process.

A win for life would make him the youngest Champion as well as the first person to walk the royal road (win a StarLeague on his first try) in Starcraft 2 history. In a time where Korean Zergs are struggling and the title of ‘Best Zerg’ is still up for grabs, Life is making his case quite clear. A GSL championship, especially if he doesn’t drop into a slump right afterwards like so many have, would be just what he needs to establish himself as one of the best.

MVP has shown some excellent Mech TvZ in the last few months, and was able to win IEM Cologne as well as topple Symbol in the ro8 based on this alone. His decision making and crisis management is second to none and his late-game army control is good enough to end the game when he decides to. He is probably the best in the world at balancing his build order choices in order to be completely unpredictable, something that many of his peers recognize as being terrifying to play against. In a bo7 series like the GSL finals, expect to see some early 3-base mech play, a marine-tank timing push, as well as a clever early game all-in or two. His unpredictability will be his biggest asset, and if he can get inside of Life’s head and stay there, he should be able to pull out a win.

Unfortunately for MVP, if there is anything Life is known for it is early and mid-game aggression. Life has been on a tear against top-tier Terran opponents lately, defeating MKP 3-1 and culminating in an incredible upset with a 3-0 win over Taeja in the semis. Life’s ZvT is truly scary to watch, as he can play a strong Lair mid-game as well as the more standard late-game Hive composition that has become so standard. MVP has shown that he can crush standard Hive play, but he is less proven recently against the early/mid-game aggression that Life is capable of. Expect some early roach play in order to punish MVP’s mech style. We might even see the nydus roach all-in on Abyssal Caverns that has been so popular lately. If Life can get the momentum early in the series with some well-timed aggression, he could easily take the series.

My heart and my head says MVP will earn his 5th Code S title. How often have people doubted him recently, citing his injuries and slumps, just to be proven wrong when he wins in spite of these things? His series against Rain in the semis has shown that it doesn’t matter how dominant a player looks in a match-up. MVP will find a way to win regardless.