This first week of MLG winter showdowns saw KeSPA players facing off to qualify for the MLG winter finals in Dallas on March 15th. There were a lot of interesting unit compositions but aside from the more obvious HoTS units, most seemed to stick to better known WoL style builds. Some obvious differences include the Protoss use of air units. Protoss air has become a more viable direction for Protoss with buffed Void Rays, Tempests, and early game Oracle harass. These Protoss players have proven that Void Rays are critical to winning major engagements in the late game especially versus other Protoss.
Terran players have really taken to their new units, the Hellbat and the Widow Mine. Both units have proven themselves to be very effective along with Medivacs for early mineral line harass. With the nerf to Reapers these units have become the to go to for early game Terran.
So far the Zerg players in this first week have stuck to more or less standard builds with the exception of Mutalisks. With the Muta buff they’ve become a more effective unit for a longer period of time. RorO was even able to use just Muta’s and Spine Crawlers to defeat HerO.
Matchup number one featured a best of 5 between PartinG and FanTaSy. The Protoss player PartinG was able to take the series 3-0 against the Terran player FanTaSy. PartinG was able to take out the Terran player with relative ease by utilizing this very powerful early Skytoss. PartinG has also shown that despite the effectiveness of Skytoss, a standard WoL ground army still seems to be the preferred way to go.
Matchup number two saw Zerg player RorO get taken out 3-2 by the Protoss player HerO (not to be confused with Team Liquid's HerO). RorO utilized the new Muta buff to a great extent. He moved away from building any HoTS units, sticking to standard openings and transitioning into Mutas, which he was able to use to win in a base race by using a stupid amount of Spines to protect his base. Meanwhile, RorO was able to prove that late game Broodlord compositions are still a powerful build.
Matchup number three put the two Terran players INnoVation and TY (also known as BaBy) against each other in the first mirror matchup of the qualification rounds. These two players essentially harassed each other to death with early Widow mine/Hellbat drops on the mineral lines. In the beginning, these matchups were pretty exciting and reminded me a lot of early game ZvZ with its aggressive nature and back and forth trade offs. Unfortunately this build gets old very fast, but once the build has been established by both players, trying to transition out of it usually proves fatal as proved by INnoVation. INnoVation, through his persistence, was able to take the series 3-1.
Matchup number four saw the second Zerg player, Soulkey, eliminated by the Terran player Last 3-1. Widow Mine and Hellbat harass proved to be just as effective against Zerg as it is against Terran and won Last all but the first game. Last attempted to use Reapers but, in my mind, put a nail in the coffin for the viability of early game Reaper harass.
The last matchup of the week was the first PvP which put Flying up against Rain. It was here that we saw “the power of Skytoss” in the new and improved Void Rays. It was Void Rays that proved to be the deciding factor in all of Rain's victories (and since everyone seems to want to point out the irony of Flying not using flying units I will too). This was probably by far the most exciting matchup to me because what seemed like equal armies turned out to be nullified by Void Rays and it was interesting to see.
Overall, Team Liquid called many of these games underwhelming and anticlimactic and I have to agree with them, many of these matchups proved to be boring and familiar. If these initial matchups are to tell us anything its that TvT is going to stay relatively the same, Protoss are looking pretty damn good (just going to say it here: Void Rays op, feel free to disagree), and Zerg either needs work or players need to find ways to utilize other builds and units. As HoTS is still in beta and there are probably many more changes to come, its hard to say whether or not any of these builds will become standard, or be replaced in favor of other strategies. Most players seemed unfamiliar with HoTS units and more importantly, unwilling to play reactively. Although patterns were easily identifiable, players did little to try and counter these established patterns and this ultimately lead to their elimination. With more matches on the way I’m sure many are excited to see more HoTS units and as the tournament and release of HoTS inches closer and more players begin to fool around with different builds I’m sure there will be some great matches to come.
This week will see more familiar names face off for a spot in the MLG Winter Finals in Dallas on March 15th:
Feb.10th: Sase vs Snute
Feb 11th: Nerchio vs BabyKnight
Feb 12th: Stephano vs Titan
Feb 13th: Mana vs Bly
Feb 14th: Socke vs Thorzain
Feb 15th: Ret vs Feast