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North American Star League Recap (p.3)

Posted on July 30, 2011

Sunday Highlights and Recaps: Semi-finals and Finals

Finally, the last day was upon us. Everyone had their favorite player to root for. Some were rooting for MC to win yet another Championship, as he has two GSLs under his belt. Others hoped for an epic revenge match between July and MC. Personally, I was rooting for Sen to take it all home. However, we were all in for a great surprise, as all the games on Sunday had to be the most spectacular and phenomenal. Before the matches began, we were treated to a special performance by

July Vs. Puma

Puma telling the audience he's getting the tourney jitters.

The first two that will go head to head are Puma and July. Starting on Tal'darim Altar on Cross positions, Puma shows us his proficiency in a TvZ matchup. In game one Puma opens with a build he is known for: Hellion and Banshee. What's interesting is that as he scouts July's natural expansion, he notes that there is no Roach Warren, so Puma continuously produces hellions, and with a large amount of hellions is able to over power July's units, much to everyone's surprise. For me, this was the first time I had seem so many Hellions produced against Zerg, but of course it made sense, considering how effective they are against biological units. Eventually July does hold it off, and Puma has to retreat. As the match shifts into mid to late game status, July transitions to a Muta-Ling composition while Puma has Marines and Tanks. While July macros a substantially large army, Puma exectutes continuous drop harass on July, however he is able to hold them off, and any subsequent advances by Puma with superior unit positioning and macro. Finally, July is able to storm Puma's main base and take the first game, causing many of July's fans to cheer for him.

Despite losing the first game however, Puma does not falter in his solid play. In game two on Backwater Gulch, Puma opens with his favorite standard one Barracks, one factory, and Starport opening while July decides to go for a spawning pool/ Speedling fast expand instead of an immediate Hatch because of the size of this map, which is considerably smaller from the other NASL maps such as Crevasse and Typhon Peaks.Hoefully he will have learned from his lesson in the previous match and go for Roaches to deal with those pesky Hellions. Unfortunately, July does not Roach tech, instead for some reason, decides to go Banelings, which is a questionable decision due to fact that the Nine Hellions that approach his base from Puma's. The Hellions go directly into July's main and roast all of his Zerglings. With the amount of Drones that the Hellions manage to kill, July has no economy to support himself and has no choice but to throw in the towel.

The next match is on Xal'naga Caverns, a classic and playable on the ladder, with only two spawning positions on the upper right and left. Both players open their with builds that are similar to last match. This time instead of a scouting Hellion, Puma trains a reaper; meanwhile July finally decides to get fast Roaches. Puma tries to scout July's base, misses the Roach Warren, and deems it safe to go forward with the same unit that crushed July in the early game last match: Hellions. Puma sends in four Hellions, and runs right into a small group of Roaches. However, the Hellions are much faster than Roaches and are able to snipe 10 Drones before getting cleaned up. While Puma was harassing with those Hellions, he places down another Factory for a total of three factories, intending to go Marines with Seige Tanks, to counter the mass Roaches from July. This was apparently Puma's plan all along due to the reason that July has invested so much into Roaches and Banelings, he does not have enough for Mutalisks to help with securing map control. Thus as the game continues, we see July falling more and more behind, as Puma has three expansions against July's three (in which a Zerg Player is usually one base ahead of his opponent) plus the fact that one of those expansions is a Gold Expansion, and heavily fortified with Seige Tanks. Eventually, Puma is able to make a final push to victory, bringing the score up to 2 to 1 in Puma's favor.

Puma drops Marines in the back of July's Mineral line.

This next match could potentially be the last and final one for Puma if he wins, however if July ties the series, it could go to a fifth game. We have another large macro map in this round, Terminus, and both players spawn in perpendicular locations. Puma goes with the standard Marine Tank composition against Zerg, and July goes for Mutas and Zergling/Baneling, also a standard composition against Terran. In the first engagement, Puma moves out while his +1 Armor and Attack is almost complete and moves out for a timing attack on July's Base. July is able to hold it off, but loses many of units in what I want to say is an equal trade off. Puma is forced to retreat and macro more units, while July scours the map with Zerglings to look for expansions, scout, and pick off any stranded units. While Puma macros his next, he sends out Medivac Dropships for some light harass, which then gets cleaned up by Banelings. In actuality, the drop was merely a distraction for Puma's main forces which storms July's base, as July scrambles to respond... but it's just not enough. Puma finishes the series with a 3 to 1!

Sen Vs. MC

Sen's fans cheer him on.

This is it... this is the match I was the most excited for. It still amazes me even today when I am re-watching the VODs. MC is a very strong protoss player, and most definitely confident in his skill to win games and even entire tournaments with unfaltering ease. And the most interesting part is he rarely acknowledges anyone being good, apart from his own team members, or even other korean pro gamers. However this series definitely proves that Sen is as good as, if not better than many of the korean pro gamers in the scene.

In the first game, Sen and MC spawn in North and South positions respectively. Sen goes for a fast Hatch and then Pool, while MC goes for a forge fast expansion, both players opting for fast macro. MC opens with his Stargate build, with a Phoenix and Voidray for early scouting and harass. Sen, who is all to familiar with MC's play style, has already prepared for MC's Voids has two Queens to defend, as well as preparing spore crawlers. MC continues with the Stargate pressure with phoenix while Sen, surprising everyone, makes Hydralisks of all things. Hydralisks are incredibly powerful against Phoenix and Void Rays but has very limited mobility off Creep. MC takes note of this and begins constructing a ground army of Zealots to counter the Hydras. Because Hydras have great DPS they are very weak, especially against Melee units such as Zealots. After a bit of bad positioning with Sen's units while MC harasses Sen's third expansion from the high ground, MC is able to sweep and crush Sen's forces, allowing him to take away game one for Sen.

Overlord Baneling drops counter Forcefields.

The second map for game two is on Backwater Gulch, and both players spawn in the North and South Positions. MC sends out an early scouting probe to delay and sort of early Hatchery from Sen, meanwhile Sen expecting this goes Pool first then Lings, and then attempts a Hatchery. MC expands with the standard Forge fast expo, and again going for the early Stargate. Meanwhile, Sen secretly goes for the Gold Expansion in the middle, and throws down defensive Spore Crawlers against air. Eventually after the usual Void Ray/ Phoenix Harass from MC, he does discover the gold, and realizes that he is now extremely behind. MC decides this game to throw in some Colossus into his unit composition, while Sen decides to get Ventral Sacs upgrade for Overlords which will allow Overlords to transport units. The purpose of this strategy is to load up his Banelings for bypassing Force Fields and dropping Banelings directly into the Protoss army. With this strategy, Sen is able to get an edge in the first engagement that occurs near the Gold Expo, holding off MC's advancement and even bringing his Queens into the fight against the Void Rays. MC retreats to licks his wounds while Sen pulls farther and farther ahead in economy and army value. MC realizing that he must attempt to do significant damage or risk losing the match, decides to try for a second assault. Sen's reaction to MC is brilliant, instead of Dropping his Banelings outright during the engagement, Sen uses his Overlords to "scare" MC into maneuvering his Colossi back, and away from the main fight, allowing Sen's ground forces to sweep the floor. Now, with nothing to defend the Colossi, they go down to Sen's Hydras is is forced to give the match to Sen, bringing the series to 1-1.

Game 3 begins on Xel'Naga Caverns, with MC going for Zealots for some light and early harass, meanwhile Sen reacts perfectly by morphing eight Zerglings, and is able to hold off MC's aggression. MC, forced to retreat, transitions into a Fast expansion and Dark Templar tech. In the next few minutes we see Sen take yet another calculated risk by going for the gold expansion, while seemingly able to read MC going for some Air play or otherwise (Dark Templar), constructs Spore Crawlers at his base for defense and detection. Sure enough in the next few seconds we see MC sending out two Dark Templar to harass Sen's mineral line... but amazingly Sen catches this and immediately takes them down, much to everyone's excitement! Now that MC's DT harass has failed, he is behind, and Sen realizes this. Sen starts to macro a large army of Roaches, 'Lings, Banelings, and Overlords with Ventral Sacs and Speed. MC tries to get a third expansion while distracting Sen with a small army. Sen repels MC, but is still ahead. The next few minutes seem very fragile as we have small skirmishes, with Sen and MC whittling each others' armies down. However, Sen eventually gets Infestors, engages MC's Stalker army with Fungal Growth and Baneling Drops and is able to take down MC's 3rd base, and make a final assault right into MC's natural, winning the match.

Phoenix harass is deadly against Zerg.

At this point, I could definitely tell many people were rooting for Sen. Despite the fact that MC's play is brilliant, as I listen to chatter around me that he could potentially enter the Finals. With the series now at 2-1 in Sen's favor, MC will have to be playing cautiously this round, for if he were to make and game ending mistakes he could lose his chance at advancing. Fourth match is on Terminus, another large macro map similar to Tal'darim Alter. Sen easily is able to get three bases right of the bat while MC goes for two base Stargate as usual, and scouts around Sen's base with Phoenix. Of course Sen is prepared with Queens and spore crawlers at the ready for any Air and/or DT harass, killing off MC's Voidray. As MC continues to produce Phoenix, Sen decides to counter with Mutalisk and Corruptors, which are great against most air units, and continues to expand. Meanwhile MC himself tries to keep up with Sen through his own expansions, all the while creating Stalkers and sentries to help round out his army of Phoenixes. Sen uses his Mutas to constantly harass and irritate MC while his Corruptors support, and eventually a major engagement occurs in the center of the map. At first it seems as if MC has the upper hand, with a large amount of fully upgraded Stalkers and some Archons, forcing Sen to pull back into his bases, however, once Sen performs a baneling drop, he is able to even out the army sizes. MC however has a lot of production builds and is able to warp in a large amount of reinforcements including six Colossi and a lot of Stalkers and Zealots. Sen on the other hand goes for Broodlords, Zerg's seige unit to help against the protoss Deathball, now reaching a critical mass, and believing that he has the better unit composition pushes out with this Broodlords taking the lead. This however proves to be a crucial mistake as MC cleverly has hidden a handful of Void rays and unleashes them on Sen... putting an end to his wining streak and taking game four! The camera switches to a shot of MC as he breathes a sigh of relief.

Sen, after his win.

As we begin the next game, we are treated to some amusing banter between MC and Sen. MC says to Sen "You now so strong", acknowledging the skill level of Sen to be on par with his own. It has now come to the game breaking final match, and both players will have to play their finest if they wish to advance. Both players open their standard builds: Sen going for a 2nd expansion after his first relatively quickly, and MC getting Phoenixes. Surprisingly this time instead of committing to much to an early aerial harass, MC secures a relatively fast third base. Taking note of this, Sen decides to go for the Gold base in the center of Metalopolis, but MC spots the expansion and sends a Void ray there to harass. Sen is forced to bring some queens in to deal with them, and barely manages to hold them off, losing a queen in the process. As the game shifts into mid game status, MC switches to Colossi yet again with Stalkers, Zealots, and sentries to support them while Sen has Infestors, Banelings, Zerglings, and Overlords with Ventral Sacs. Sen tries to harass MC with small Baneling drops around the map however MC is so sharp and focused he notices everything, and is able to prevent too much damage from the drops. Sen and MC's armies continuous dance with one another, hoping to catch an opportune moment where one makes a fatal mistake. That moment comes in the form of Sen, mis managing his units and allowing MC to snipe a majority of his Banelings. Following that engagement, MC sweeps around to destroy Sen's newly establish 5th and 6th bases, crippling his economy slightly, and forcing Sen to move his drones back to his 3rd and fourth. However Sen does not seem to have enough units to compete with MC at this point. MC begins to move his units in for an attack as he senses a window where Sen is weak, cleans up the remainder of Sen's Zerg army and forces a surrender from Sen, ending Sen's path to the final match. I was a bit sad that Sen fell to MC, however he did indeed put up a great fight, and definitely proved to MC that he was a skilled player enough to give MC a challenge as a fierce competitor.

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