Saturday Highlights and Recaps: Round of 8
Saturday was another exciting day for NASL spectators. Everyone was still very much hyped from the matches the day before, looking to support their newly found players to love and support. As I walked around the exhibit hall, I saw many more spectators than the day before, of which I assume that the people from Friday had somehow convinced their friends to come to day 2 of the grand finals. It even seems like the internet has all focus on the NASL grand finals, for the big sites such as TL.net, Wellplayed.org, and even twitter is abuzz from the friday matches. Above all of the progamers and celebrity figures in esports walking about, I must say that the production value of NASL increased tenfold on Saturday. I was even more excite to see what kind of great matches would transpire today. Each of the following matches are based on a best of three, eliminating losers from the NASL finals for good.
Puma vs Squirtle
This was an amazing series, and really showcased the abilities of TSL Puma, who to us in the foreign scene is more or less a relative unknown. Puma played so well that immediately there were fans born right then as he took away the games with a hard earned 2-1. Meanwhile, Startale squirtle played briliantly as well, proving that he could stand on equal footing against Puma. Puma had stated in an interview on friday that he had hoped Squirtle would win so he could fight him, and of course got his wish granted. In game one on Metalopolis, we have Puma opening with a Barracks, Factory, Starport, meanwhile Squirtle opting for a very risky one gateway expo. Puma scouts with a fast hellion and takes note of this. He then proceeds feint a drop with an empty medivac first and then proceeds to do a timing push with Marines, Tanks, and some SCVs, prompting many people in the crowd to gasp in surprise as the casters note that this is a potential All-in for Puma. Squirtle's reaction being superb, warps in a few stalkers, and even chronoboosts an Immortal to try to repel this push. Unfortunately, due to a flaw in Squirtle's building placement, the Immortal was boxed in, and unable to help in the fight against Puma's Units, causing Squirtle to lose to Puma's attack, and thus GGing out of the game. Had his Immortal not been trapped by his own units, Squirtle could have potentially survived.
In Game 2, the map is Crevasse and Puma and Squirtle spawn diagonally opposite of one another. Crevasse is a large map, causing most players to opt for a macro game versus aggressive all-ins as in the previous match. Both players open directly with expansions in the safe natural, which actually has less minerals and one geyser versus the more open and vulnerable expos. Puma proceeds to throw down two barracks, which is a standard Terran opening play, while Squirtle again opts for producing early units out of one gateway. As the game progresses, not much occurs except for some back and forth aggression from both players, with Squirtle losing map control, giving Puma a Xel'Naga watchtower for vision. As Squirtle retreats, he warps in six more gateways, while Puma techs towards Medivacs, throwing down a Starport. Puma at this point does not know what is coming from Squirtle, and decides to send in a sacrificial SCV to scout, but was unfortunately destroyed without gleaning any valuable intel. However, Puma seems to sense a huge push about to occur for he immediately starts constructing several defensive bunkers and loading them with units. Humorously, Squirtle decides to hallucinate a Warp Prism hoping to get Puma to take the bait and move his units to]intercept it, but Puma does not bite. Squirtle moves into Puma's main base regardless, with an intent to kill. After sending in his Zealots to tank damage from the Marauders in the bunkers, Squirtle uses his sentries to generate some clutch forcefields, preventing Puma's SCVs from repairing the bunkers. Meanwhile in Squirtles base, Puma decides to do a counterattack with a Marine drop into Squirtle's safe expansion in a last ditch attempt to force a retreat. The drop seems to cause problems until Squirtle surrounds the Marines while Stalkers snipe them down from afar. With the drop being cleaned up and Squirtle main forces destroying his main base, Puma is forced to leave the game, tying up the series 1-1.
Game 3 showcases both players' abilities for crisis management under pressure. With the final game and both player's advancement to the sem-finals on the line, there was no holding back. Puma strikes will muti-pronged assaults, Drops, and harass whilst Squirtle stealthily uses Dark Templar with proxy pylons to disrupts Puma's economy and whittle down Puma's forces. Eventually at the apex of the match, Squirtle amasses an army of Archons, Zealots, Sentries and High Templar, hoping to crush Puma's forces considering Squirtle is slowly falling behind. A few Psionic storms later, mediocre success was had. Puma regroups and engages again, with his forces and overpowers Squirtles army, ending the series in an epic 2-1 victory.
July vs Moon
This series showcased the ZvZ match up capabilites of both players. Everyone knows in high level games, Zerg vs. Zerg is highly fragile, and relies heavily on microing your units and keeping up with you macro, because if you're even one or two works or one or two units behind your opponent, it could cost you the game. July is known to have a slightly stronger ZvZ matchup. In game one we have July and Moon spawning diagonally from each other. July goes for an early ten pool, while Moon goes for a more standard pool, and the game quickly shifts into a Speedling/Baneling war between the two. Things become quite tense as both players try to out micro one another with their units. Eventually the game shifts yet again into roach tech, and we see July execute a great timing pushing with a large squadron of roaches. Moon however does not have enough roaches to counter July; tries to delay his push with Banelings, but there are just too many Roaches from July and is forced to leave the game, giving July the first victory.
In game two, because the map is a large one, both players opt for a early fast expand, and almost identical builds for the first six minutes of the game. With a few Speedlings, Moon decides to move out and poke around in July's expansion, and noting that because he has almost no units, decides to snips the Queen. As a few Banelings trail behind, moon moves into the main base to try to do economic damage. Amazingly, despite losing a few drones to the Banelings, July was able to hold it off because he opted to go for a Tech advantage and had Roaches, though Moon manages to even out the score. Shortly After, Moon strikes July's mineral line again with banelings, and does massive damage, causing July to fall behind. Things started to look bleak for July - however despite being behind in economy, July knows that he has a much more robust army than Moon, and decides to attack. Moon desperately tries to defend by throwing his Zerglings and Banelings into the marching Roach army, but alas, it is not enough. July then walks out of the booth, with a 2-0 victory and a smile on his face. With this series over with the clear victor July, he proves that his ZvZ is much stronger than Moon as he considers this a revenge match against Moon, for Moon had beat July in a previous MLG.
Sen Vs. Darkforce
Because of both of these players' performances in the Round of Eight, everyone was very much hyped for this match. Both are the last remaining foreigners in this competition, but the question is, who will advance into the Semi-finals? As I mentioned before, Sen is considered one of the best players when it comes to ZvZ and a fan favorite because of his well-mannered demeanor, while Darkforce, being a much more unknown player, won the hearts of the crowd in his series against Alive.
In the first game of the series, we see Sen go for a standard 14 hatch, while Darkforce does something that surprises both the crowd and casters: he get's an early Pool. The air is tense as everyone awaits what could potentially be the end of Sen; I myself was flinching as he does not build a Spawning Pool and instead builds an extractor first, then pool. Luckily Sen's Overlord sees the Zerglings, forcing a cancel on Sen's Hatchery. Sen tries to defend with his Drones, but loses a few. Eventually the game shifts once again to the Zergling/Baneling exchange. Darkforce however is thinking ahead, and begins his +1 Missile Attack, prepping for a Roach assault. At this point, there is a lull in the game as both players macro units, and Sen realizing that Darkforce has his +1 M. Attack completed, starts his own. Darkforce begins to mass Roaches and Banelings and begins his attack. Sen barely is able to group together his units and hold off the initial push, and tries to counter attack only to be pushed back by Darkforce. Finally, as the match approaches late mid-game, Sen knows he has the upper hand in terms of army size, places a third expansion, and heads towards Darkforce's base for a final engagement. Darkforce, with the less superior army attempts to stop the attack, but could not hold the line.
The next match actually ends very quickly, before the in game timer even hits the 8 minute mark. Sen miscalculates the amount of Banelings that Darkforce had, and mis-micro's his Zerglings, leading him to immediately GG without a second thought from the game as Darkforce runs his units straight into Sen's main base. Quite a shocking turn of events, as everyone cheered on Darkforce into game three, which starts on Typhon Peaks. Yet again, both players spawn adjacent to one another, and of course nothing much happens in the first four minutes considering almost everything being made is identical: both going for a Speedling, no expansion build. Both players begin sending out scouting lings for light harass and intel gathering. Somewhere in the middle of the scouting we see Darkforce going for Baneling Tech while Sen saving up for a Roach Warren. The Warren is only 75% completed when Darkforces Banelings move in for an attack. For emergency measures, Sen sends his two Queens to block the ramp to prevent the Banelings from entering his base. Unfortunately, Darkforce was able to push his way through with four Banelings! Sen's tries to save his drones, and is only slightly successful as Darkforce kills around six or seven Drones, putting him slightly ahead. On the plus side, Roaches have hatched from their eggs and cleans up Darkforce's remaining Zerglings. Now both players sit back cautiously trying to tech up; we see Sen place down his own Baneling next and going for a fast +1 Missile Attack, while Darkforce tries to get his own Roach Warren up. Once Darkforce amassed around thirteen Roaches and a few Zerglings, he decides to move out and attack Sen. Unfortunately however, Sen actually has a much larger force than Darkforce with Fifteen Roaches to his fourteen, more Zerglings, and even a +1 M. Attack nearing completion. Finally Darkforce's units crumble under the Roaches enhanced attack and Sen moves in for the kill, cutting off Darkforce's path to the next round, while Sen, being the last foreign contender remaining, advances to the semi-finals. As this series wraps up, I look on twitter and all around at the fans screaming Sen's name wildly, I knew that there were only good things in store for him.
SeleCT vs. MC
After watching five games of ZvZ, it was refreshing to finally see some diversity in this segment of the finals. This will be a Protoss vs. Terran matchup between MC vs. SeleCT. In the first game, SeleCT opens with a Two Barracks Reaper build, meanwhile MC goes for fast Twilight Council into potentially High Templar or Dark Templar. Select, trying to get scouting info, tries to send both a Reaper and sacrificial SCV, however MC seemingly psychic, is able to prevent any sort of info from leaking to his opponent. Eventually, when MC moves out with his DTs, SeleCT is able to scan and prevent them from doing any damage, forcing MC to switch tech, especially since SeleCT is beginning to get Ghosts on the field. To counter Ghosts, MC begins to focus more on a standard Gateway army with emphasis on Zealots, and High Templar for Feedback, which instantly kills any unit with full energy (Except Thors). Once SelecT's 3rd and 4th Medivacs arrive and his +1 Ground Armor near completion, he moves out at around twelve minutes to attack MC. MC, with barely completed Templar Archives, has only two Archons, Zealots, and three sentries to hold off SeleCT. SeleCT arrives at MC's expansion and EMP's his units, however that was not enough for MC's unit composition is perfect against SeleCT's. [insert image: Select-MC_Game_01.jpg caption: EMP is the bane of Protoss units] SeleCT is then forced to back away, with MC hot on his tail, chasing down wounded units. As SeleCT returns to his base licking his wounds, MC decides to gear up for an attack of hit own, striking SeleCT as his was trying to establish his 2nd Expansion, and while SeleCT desperately tries to hold off the attack, he could not, allowing MC to take game one.
Game two was seemingly no contest for MC as well, as he goes his signature Stargate Build, but this time surprising many in both the audience and Commentators with his usage of the Phoenix, which not many players use in TvP match-ups. Meanwhile SeleCT goes for a standard Bioball army with Ghost thrown in for EMP, but seeing the Phoenixes constant harass of his units and mineral line seems to be confusing SeleCT as again, not very many Protoss players use Phoenix against Terran. MC also compliments his air units with a large battalion of Gateway units, mostly Zealots. Their first major engagement occurs at SeleCT's 2nd Expansion outside his main. SeleCT tries to engage the Zealort army thinking he could eliminate them, however, the Charge Zealots + Upgrades and Force Fields were just too much. While SeleCT loses most of his units, he was nullify MC's attack, forcing him to retreat. Both sides re macro their army and decide to engage again at the center of the map, and this time, MC's forces come out on top. Things are looking pretty grim for SeleCT as MC is now ahead, and decides to push into SeleCT's 3rd expansion. SeleCT barely holds it off however from there things just snowball downhill and MC is able to win this series with a 2-0.
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