Well here we are ladies and gentlemen, another season of Code S is nearing its completion, with only two players left standing, ready to duke it out for the highest prize in all of Esports. The GSL Finals has been looked at as the pinnacle of SC2 accomplishment since its inception, and despite the somewhat lackluster finals we have seen in the past, few tournament finals can match the hype behind a set of BOX matches on the biggest stage in SC2. So before I work myself up into more Artosis “nerd chills,” let's take a closer look at the 2012 GSL Season 2 Finals, between LG-IMMVP and ST_Squirtle.
The long road to the GSL Finals:
Let us first talk about the finals newcomer; StarTale's Squirtle. In his interview after the semifinals, ST_Squirtle stated that his only goal this season was to reach the Ro16, which is amazing because Squirtle is on a run that has really not been seen much in the volatile world of competitive SC2. Some sort of monster has awoken inside of Squirtle, and perhaps it is a sign of evolution from the Poké Protoss, as he is currently on a wicked 15 games winning streak. This is quite the tear indeed, considering the mega-nerds he has left fallen by the wayside during this streak. Squirtle has taken down the likes of SlayerS_MMA, MaruPrime, FnaticRCOz, and Liquid`TaeJa on his way to the finals, and after the convincing 3-0 against Liquid`HerO in last week's semifinals, I have sort of forgot what Squirtle looks like when he loses even a single map. His road to the finals has been an amazing thing to watch thus far, and Mvp has his work cut out for him, because I cannot recall a player that has been more on fire going into a final than ST_Squirtle maybe at the exception of Mvp's teammate, NesTea who went undefeated in 2011 GSL Code S July.
This is IMMvp's 5th trip to the GSL Finals. With a 4-1 record overall in GSL Finals, one could look at this finals match-up on paper and say that the advantage definitely lies with the Game Genie Terran. However, IMMvp's journey to this particular GSL Finals has been riddled with doubts and low expectations. Injury, fatigue, and the TvP match-up has created a scenario where the former world #1 can be considered.... an underdog? Unlike his finals opponent, Mvp has actually dropped maps to his opponents in his last few series, and he has even resorted to some rather aggressive tactics to take down Protosses in this GSL run. The 4-time GSL champion has come out of his last two series looking very good still, and his sheer level of experience in these types of matches makes him just as terrifying to play as a guy who has won 15 straight games. If you read the forums, many have pointed out Mvp's “cheesy” games as of late, but this really just speaks to how smart a player Mvp actually is. He exploited NaNiwa's greedy openers, and out-classed PartinG with great decision-making in a series he was supposedly doomed to lose. Mvp lost the last GSL final he was in, and will be very dedicated to change that this time around, and as such, Mvp is still the favorite here in my eyes
One final thing to note before we look at the maps: This is not the first time these two have met on a finals stage. As a matter of fact, IMMvp and ST_Squirtle have met in the GSTL finals before. This meeting actually had Squirtle walking away as the victor during a time when Mvp was considered to be in much stronger shape than he is now. Even though it was only one game, it will come into each player's mind when preparing for the finals.
Maps and predictions:
Mvp and Squirtle have each lost 5 games on this map, but when we think about Daybreak traditionally, the map should favor Protoss. With an easily attainable third base, and some constricting movement paths creating nice choke-points for Protoss AoE, it seems like Mvp will have a tough time on this first map if he wants to have it go late game. Now, we have seen Mvp get dirty and go for a lot more aggressive and all-in styles against Protoss recently, and I would expect him to do something similar on this map. Squirtle will probably expect the same, so he will have to be cautious of Terran trickery. If he handles it well though, I see no reason why Squirtle shouldn't take this game. Squirtle 1, Mvp 0.
I know I have mentioned Mvp's aggressive play throughout this article, but I will mention it again for this match on Entombed Valley. This is a great map for drop ship plays, and Mvp might take advantage of that by getting aggressive with Medivacs off of two bases. He could also abuse the air space on this map with a Banshee opener, into the dreaded 1/1/1. That being said, Mvp stated in a finals interview that he is completely comfortable going late game against Protoss, and this map provides that option well for Terran. This is a tough, tough map to take a 4th base on, especially for Protoss, but I am not sure we will see it get to that point, and I expect Mvp to take this game early on. Squirtle 1, Mvp 1.
Squirtle will be coming into this map as the underdog, as this is yet another map where it is quite difficult for Protoss the whole game. Terrans have a 34-19 record on this map, and Mvp is very good here, as he has shown a mixture of aggressive and macro-oriented play on Antiga. The 4th base on this map is arguably harder to take than on Entombed Valley unless Protoss can control the center of the map, which isn't easy when you're being dropped in two places at once. If I had to guess a map in which Squirtle might be the aggressor, this is the one. I'm not sure what sort of play Squirtle could use to surprise Mvp on this map, hopefully something clever. I see The Game Genie taking this one otherwise. Squirtle 1, Mvp 2.
This was the only map that Mvp dropped to PartinG in their Ro4 match, and there is really no shame in that, as this is the worst map for Terran against Protoss in the GSL. If my predictions remain true and Mvp is up 2-1 at this point, we could see a lot of openings from the former champion. Mvp is a player who says he adjusts his strategy frequently during a BOX match, and I'm really curious as to what Mvp will go for on Cloud Kingdom. Mvp attempted to play a macro game against PartinG in the semi-final, but lost to PartinG's excellent late game army control, so maybe he will come to this map with a different approach. Squirtle is scary late game as well, and really has performed well on this map (though his last loss in 16 games was on this map to MMA here.) If Squirtle plays safe, and transitions out of the mid game with a nice army compisition, I feel there is little Mvp will be able to do but type “gg” here. Squirtle 2, Mvp 2.
I truly believe that this map will be the deciding set in this GSL Finals, and based off of what I've seen so far this season, Mvp should be very happy to have made it to this point. Mvp's game against PartinG on this map might be hard for Squirtle to study, because at that point in the match I feel that Mvp had beaten PartinG mentally, which threw PartinG out of his usual flow. Squirtle should take note of Mvp's aggressive Medivac play on this map from that match, but really Mvp can do a lot of different things on this map. Due to the length of the rush distance I would be surprised to see Mvp bust out a 1/1/1 here, and by this point if we haven't seen a lot of straightforward macro games we could see a long one on this map between these two. The pressure of the finals will be starting to mount here, and I will be looking for Mvp to dig down and use his experience to take the win on Metropolis. Squirtle 2, Mvp 3.
Dual Sight has had quite the GSL run as a map, and I am actually a bit surprised that we will be seeing it return for another GSL finals. This map favors Terran heavily, as it is wide open, pretty small, and has very nice flight paths for Medivacs to reign terror. Squirtle will have to pull off a very clever build if he wants to win here. Cheese will be very risky, but with so many aggressive Terran builds can be used on this map, I would like to see Squirtle perhaps take the gamble. If there is one map where we will see the 1/1/1, Dual Sight could be it, and Mvp is very proficient with that dangerous build. The pressure is on Squirtle here, and he will need some inspired play to win on this Terran playground against the experienced veteran. As much as I'd like to see a game seven, I predict that Mvp will pull from his finals experience and motivation to win his 5th GSL title. Squirtle 2, Mvp 4.
Might as well talk about Atlantis Spaceship while we are here! If we do see a game seven on this map and everything I have just written is complete nonsense, then I predict we actually see Squirtle take it. This is a fantastic Protoss map, and if he gets the match to this point he will have reached deep down to proved that this run he is on is no fluke. I think that confidence coupled with the fatigue of Mvp could give Squirtle a GSL championship, but we will have to see if the match can get to this point.
History can be made in this very exciting GSL Final as LG-IMMvp has the chance to be the only 4-time GSL champion. We could also see Squirtle win his very first GSL on the run of a lifetime (which, if occurs, there is a rumor that he will have a name change and evolve into Blastoise.) Either way it goes, this is the most excited I have been for a GSL finals. With the stage set for an epic conclusion, I cannot wait to see how these two amazing players battle it out for the glory that it is to be the GSL Champion. See you next season everyone, thanks for reading.
Article written by Josh Rokuski