The final games of StarCraft 2‘s Round of 76 qualifier at IEM Katowice 2019 wrapped up today. Some of the world’s foremost StarCraft 2 players faced off in impressive displays of calculated aggression. Notably, the bracket featured almost exclusively Protoss and Zerg players. The lone Terran Mykhailo “Kas” Gaida didn’t make it through today’s hostilities.
Today certainly wasn’t a great day for macro. Early timings and pressure tactics dominated the landscape. Consequently, none of the final eight matches got to the late-game phase.
Kim “Stats” Dae Yeob opened his series against Kim “Impact” Joon Hyuk with sustained pressure. He used Warp Prisms and Archons to maintain map control and keep the Zerg on his own side of the map for the first seven minutes. Impact seemed unsure how to counter the aggression. This allowed Stats to get up to a quick upgrade advantage of +2 ground weapons and moved in to secure a rapid win in his first game.
The Protoss opened game two in a very similar fashion, but this time Impact was prepared. He defended conservatively while using a lone Overlord to hide a Spire across the map. At minute eight, while Stats was amassing his army in front of the Zerg base, Impact hit the Protoss’ mineral line with a flock of Mutalisks. Clearly caught off-guard, Stats pushed in for a base-trade. Having failed to secure economic damage in the early game, he was swiftly overrun by the Zerg defense.
Going into their third game with a victory each, Stats pressured Impact the same way he had in the previous two matches. While his strategy did not seem to change in any way the third time around, his execution was flawless. Following consistent drop-pressure in the early game, Stats forced his way into the Zerg base with a Charge timing attack. The resulting loss knocked Impact into the lower bracket to face off against Julian “Lambo” Brosig.
“I personally think that the balance has shifted a little in favor of Zerg,” Stats said in his post-game interview. According to him, recent balance changes have made his type of aggressive play-style necessary in the match-up.
Kang “Solar” Min Soo and Choi “Trust” Sung opened their series with what looked like standard Protoss versus Zerg gameplay. Trust built toward a timing attack, only to run into battle with a 50 supply disadvantage. Unfortunately for him, what seemed like a macro play by Solar was his own Roach-Ravager timing attack. This is a modern a variation of the 3-base Roach-max build French pro Ilyes “Stephano” Satouri popularized in 2012. The ancient strategy apparently can still work today, and Trust found himself overwhelmed by the Zerg and tapped out. “That’s just a lot of roaches,” quipped commentator Leigh “Maynarde” Mandalov.
Trust opened game two by proxy-building a Gateway next to the Zerg base in order to pressure his expansion with Adepts. He did not over-commit to this strategy, and transitioned smoothly into Phoenix harass afterward. Despite having scouted the Stargates, Solar did not defend his mineral lines well against the Phoenix pressure and fell behind economically. He failed to register that he is at a disadvantage, and proceeded to push across the map and lose the game’s first and only serious engagement.
Trust opted for the same Phoenix strategy in game three, hiding the Stargates deep into his main base. Solar scouted them with a pair of lucky Zerglings halfway into minute four, just before Phoenix pressure could start. Smelling blood in the water, the Zerg immediately used a Nydus Worm to disgorge his army into the Protoss base and grab victory.
“I knew what he was going to do in every game,” Solar explained in his post-game interview.
Zerg mirror match-ups are not known for subtlety, and this series was no exception. Coming from an upset victory against heavy favourite Impact, Lambo went into the first game in the series swinging. He initiated an early back-and-forth Roach war in front of Mikołaj “Elazer” Ogonowski’s base, even walking his Queens across the map to help. It’s tough to say whether it was an upgrade difference or sheer mechanical skill that tipped the scales, but the fight was over soon. Lambo won game one, which lasted just under six minutes.
The second game in the series was even scrappier, with Lambo opening with a 12-Pool. Elazer scouted what was coming his way just in time to wall himself in with buildings. He then proceeded to defend the Speedling aggression coming from Lambo with an impressive display of unit control. His focus had clearly slipped, however, as he failed to use a group of Zerglings sitting idly near his expansion. This proved to be a critical mistake, and Elazer continued to lose more and more units to his opponent’s aggression. He tapped out at minute nine.
Lambo moved on to the next stage of the StarCraft 2 tournament, rounding out the list of today’s winners.
Games player and write-abouter from Ottawa. Doom basically raised me.