Zest and Impact Survive the PartinG Gimmicks to Advance in GSL Code S Group E

In one of the more interesting nights of the Code S season, Won “PartinG” Lee Sak came with a cheese build for every map, against any player. Kim “Impact” Joon Hyuk and Joo “Zest” Sung Wook eventually figured out PartinG’s strategy and were the two to advance, but watching PartinG try out every build in his repertoire was quite the show.

Starting against Zest, PartinG was able to get an early game one victory going with early aggression, but later on, in the same set, Zest turned that same aggression on PartinG running dark templars into his main base and PartinG, unfortunately, started building Phoenix’s and an Oracle making it nearly impossible to hold unless PartinG was able to kill all three Dark Templar’s with a single revelation, which was not the case.

Making an Impact

The real story of the day, however, was the sheer impressiveness in which Impact disposed of Byun and last season’s runner-up, Zest, with excellent macro-oriented play. Impact made his moves in smaller, less noticeable ways. Denying any early expansion and keeping it that way with excellent creep spread helped build that lead. Against both Zest and Byun, he didn’t have to worry much about engagements because he always held the supply lead in both worker and army count.

With this in mind, Impact could use many different types of units to move into his bases and do damage to his worker line. In his two wins, he got tons of mileage out of Zergling run-bys and even had a single Ultralisk take out a whole command center. It was incredible to watch the timing of his counter-attacks. At no point did it feel as if Impact was not in control of either match. He had little issues dealing with Byun’s bio-micro and with his massive leads in the economy, it put them constantly on the back foot.

Zest Holds Off PartinG

PartinG certainly didn’t make it easy on Zest, but at the end of the day, he won four of six matches against PartinG in the Protoss vs. Protoss matchup. As Artosis put in the broadcast, by the sixth game against Zest, PartinG essentially ran out of builds to try. Even if he had more builds, Zest seemed prepared to handle any early, cheese builds. It also featured some serious PartinG blunders, including an Artosis pylon, named after the same man commentating this very match.

It wasn’t Zest’s strongest round of Code S, but in the end, he moves on. Seeing Zest back into the round of 16 isn’t a welcomed sight for other competitors as we saw him make a very deep run, but he will have to improve against the likes of macro-intensive Zerg mains like Impact. Both players should be a threat to make the round of eight.

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Philadephia Fusion Eliminate the Boston Uprising Out of the Overwatch League Playoffs

The Philadelphia Fusion is the first team to ever win a playoff series, and the first team to ever win a playoff series as the lower seed. The final team to earn a playoff spot is moving out of the first round and look like a serious threat to win it all.

After an impressive showing in game one, that put the entire Fusion roster on display in the win, it was a question whether or not that Fusion team would show up again today. Losing game two to the one-two punch of Mistakes on Hanzo and Striker’s Widowmaker brought those questions to the surface. Fortunately for Philadelphia, it became the EQO show on the decisive game three, and he limited Mistakes damage against the Fusion supports.

However, the Boston coaching staff made some highly questionable decisions in the loss today. First of which was the decision to go away from Volskaya and Kings Row and fight on Hanamura and Eichenwalde instead.  It not only fed into the Fusion’s playstyle but also took them out of their comfort zone. Sure, the Fusion looked strong on Volskaya in game one, but the Uprising entered the day with a 10-1. It was the Uprising going away from their bread-and-butter and it cost them

Secondly, the moment the struggles started to hit Mistakes, when EQO focused him more heavily on the sniper or when he switched to Genji to dive on top of him, the entire Uprising attack faded. Gamsu was caught often in no man’s land of the battlefield and was susceptible to picks from the dangerous Fusion sniper-line. The moment that matchup switched backed over to EQO’s favor, the entire Fusion team took on a different look. Even despite a slow start in game two, which he admitted in interviews later, he showed his ability to adapt and target the right players on offense.

The other aspect of this entire series that’s interesting to point out is the constant subbing from the Philadelphia Fusion. Subbing out HOTBA for Poko on maps with more linear launch angles for D.Va’s self-destructs and using HOTBA on maps where more defensive-minded D.Va play came in handy. The flex spot wasn’t the only role being swapped in-and-out. BoomBox was subbed in for Dayfly because he can play Bastion and Roadhog on Junkertown or flexing BoomBox over to a damage role. The Fusion tried many different things and most of them worked out great.

By the same token, the entire gameplan from the Fusion answered everything the Uprising attempted in this series. It was the Fusion straight up outcoaching the Uprising coaching staff by forcing matchups and finding ways to make Striker, and more importantly, Mistakes feel uncomfortable enough to switch their focus solely onto Carpe and EQO aggressively coming at them. It was a treat to see a team truly prepared for a match.

Now, the Fusion will have the first shot at the New York Excelsior and the early takeaways are that the Excelsior will struggle against this high-flying DPS-duo of the Fusion. It’s clear that this Widow-meta doesn’t necessarily fit right into the NYXL’s play style, and work similarly to the Boston Uprising. Of all the teams left in the playoffs, the NYXL get their worst draw out of the first round, and a team that matches up unfavorably for New York. Fusion looking to pull a second consecutive upset to play for an Overwatch League title.

Featured photo courtesy of Overwatch League

Tokido Halts Smug’s Losers Bracket run to win ELEAGUE

It took every ounce of focus from Tokido, but he found a way to slow Smug after he rattled off five straight wins over legends of the game. After losing to Smug on set one of the Grand Finals,  beating Smug almost felt out of the question and majority of the time the player winning that first final set to reset the bracket leads to a win. This was not the case for Tokido.

For Tokido, handily beating Punk and Daigo in the quarter and semifinals looked and felt like the first part to Tokido easily taking home the ELEAGUE title. Arguably the scariest player with some momentum is Tokido and early on it looked like he would not be denied. Even against a player like Smug who was on an even hotter streak of wins, beating five of the top-10 including Tokido in the first set.

The fact that Tokido was able to calm his nerves, refocus, and win against Smug’s Balrog which was running feverishly downhill on his opponents is unbelievably impressive. It basically came down to outplaying Smug in those clutch, low-health scenarios and Tokido ended the second set landing all the kill combos. It was a combination of methodical offense and not leaving himself open to counter-attacks.

Tokido continues to revolutionize the game with his incredible Akuma play.  SMug was the only player able to contend with his damage output on every given neutral exchange today, but it still wasn’t enough to beat the monster that is Tokido.

Top 8 Results

1. FOX|Tokido (Akuma)
2. Rise|Smug (Balrog)
3. CYG|Daigo (Guile)
4. Mouz|Problem X (Abigail, M. Bison)
5. FOX|Punk (Cammy, Karin)
5. FOX|Momochi (Cody, Kolin)
7. CO|Dogura (Urien)
7. FD|Fujimura (Ibuki)

Serral gets the comeback win over Scarlett at WCS Valencia

Two of the better players in the entire event faced off early in round one of the playoffs and it went the distance to a game five, with an impressive comeback. Joona ‘Serral’ Sotala, the best European SC2 player, fell down 2-1 off a suffocating aggressive style from Sasha ‘Scarlett’ Hostyn, that ultimately was her downfall on game five

It was a back-and-forth affair from two of the most exciting Zerg players, who approach the game differently. For Serral, it’s all about acquiring enough of the economy to feel safe in moving out. In Scarlett’s case, at least in the loss today, she would constantly try and cripple that economy. Unfortunately for Scarlett, if early aggression was held then it was a complete uphill battle to try and recover compared to Serral’s economy.

Losing in the macro-game forced Scarlett into whole scale changes to her gameplan. It wasn’t a move to cheese or gimmicks, but a notice to win the game before Serral can amass any type of big, macro army. And on a map like Redshift, where the normal second hatch for Zerg is ridiculously close to their opponents allowed for some fantastic early Zergling, Baneling, and even some spine crawler aggression. In these micro-intensive moments is when Scarlett shines and that’s how she worked her way to a 2-1 lead.

On the third map, Scarlett really showed her technical prowess and ability to read the situation. Switching into early muta’s and using them to pick off Serral units moving out of the home base. And once she was able to impact the Serral economy with Muta run-by’s, the zerling and baneling all-in came to finish the job. Killing off all Hydralisk with the baneling’s allowing the muta’s to pick off queens and the rest of the army ended the fight swiftly. Unfortunately, Serral adjusted to Scarlett’s adjustments just in time to save the series.

Scarlett did her job by winning the smaller, two-player maps, but switching to the bigger maps flipped the advantage back over to Serral. He wasn’t able to hold off the early-game unit aggression, but turning away Roach’s and stifling Zergling attacks on hatcheries and the main-base kept pushing Serral farther and farther ahead. Scarlett wasn’t able to gain any sort of advantage, meaning she has to fight a full-supplied Serral army.

Looking at the last map, after a tough loss on Darkness Sanctuary where Scarlett played more standard, she once again tried to catch Serral with an all-in on Catalyst, a medium-sized map. However, the attempt was sniffed out early and by the time the all-in took place, Serral had already acquired more roaches. Scarlett was one map win away from being the first person in forever to beat Serral at consecutive tournaments. Her style is somewhat of a yin-and-yang type feel with Serral, and after a glorious set today, these look two of the best Zerg’s by a long shot.

Featured photo courtesy of StarCraft 2

Breaking Down the 9,000 IQ Play from the Los Angeles Gladiators on Kings Row

So, the Los Angeles Gladiators took care of business in game one of the Overwatch League playoffs over the London Spitfire despite some odd roster decisions and vague explanations of those decisions. It was one of the Gladiators easier sweeps of the season, as Surefour went absolutely off on hitscan, but that’s not the important part of this match.

The important part was on Kings Row when the Gladiators ran an unforgettable set-play to secure the map win. Now, this type of play has been run before on Kings Row for the attacking side: run through the left side apartments to behind the point, then circle all the way around to the back, head up the staircase and then fight near the point on high-ground. Simple enough to understand, but the Gladiators took it even one step further.

Running three tank, two support, and the one damage main in Surefour on Widow allowed for this to happen. First off, the Gladiators had to stay together the entire time through the apartment as to not alert the Spitfire that a member of their team wasn’t in the death ball. The Spitfire didn’t recognize that only five players made the journey to behind the point.

Secondly, using the quickest set of support heroes in Lucio with the speed boost and Moira’s shift and fast walk speed. Using these two, especially BigGoose on Lucio, clumped them up together and allowed for more AOE healing from both supports and easily pushed them through to the back. Once that was secured, it was simply a waiting game for Surefour.

Lastly is the subtleties the Gladiators added to this strategy by deceptively keeping Surefour at spawn. Deception is certainly a strong tactic in Overwatch, but it’s not often an entire set-up is focused around the deception. In a situation where the Gladiators only needed one point, running this seemingly routine strategy with a heavy-tank composition through the apartment, led the Spitfire to believe that all was required was to re-setup off the high-ground and fight on the point. Unfortunately, Surefour standing in spawn got free and easy shots onto Mercy and instantly turned the fight.

The extra month off since stage four ended has to lead to some interesting new set plays and compositions, as we saw today with HOTBA and the Philadelphia Fusion going triple-DPS. It’s allowed teams more experimentation and now we are seeing refined strategies in this current Widowmaker-focused meta. The Gladiators are at the forefront of these types of innovative plays and should inspire other teams to try new things out.

Featured image courtesy of LA Gladiators twitter

Optic Gaming Lose to a Winless team but End CWL Pro League Week Seven in a First Place Tie

Optic Gaming, in one single day of the Call of Duty World League, lost to a Tainted Minds team that entered the day winless and also helped themselves in the standings by sneaking out a win over Complexity and now sit in a first-place tie with Rise Nation.

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In a rather wacky day of Call of Duty, Optic Gaming choking and then redeeming themselves to end this week with a net positive was a perfect cherry on top of a messy sundae. Not only did Optic Gaming lost to Tainted Minds, but Rise Nation fell 3-0 to Complexity and Unilad lost a close one to eUnited. It was a big day of upsets, on top of Optic tying up Rise Nation in win percentage. The three top seeds were upset in some capacity and it helped mix up the current standings.

For Complexity, sweeping Rise Nation and getting edged out by Optic Gaming won’t do them any favors in catching eUnited for that fourth and final spot. With eUnited winning over Unilad, Complexity still sits a game behind a playoff spot, but the fortunate part is players like Dashy and Censor are stepping up with huge kill numbers trying to push this team over the top.

For Optic, it’s not looking like a complete product to end the season. Scump was an absolute monster for Optic in week seven, putting the entirety of the team on his aggressive submachine gunplay, picking up Crimsix and Methodz’s lackluster play. Scump is finally looking adjusted to the type of play in World War II. Optic still has yet to put a full team effort together and with one week to go, it’s unlikely this team reaches that point.

It’s been the Scump show on game types that aren’t Search and Destroy, and been the objective minded slayer that he is on hardpoints and capture the flag. On the two deathmatch modes, Scump is unbelievable at holding down areas. He’s a one-man wrecking crew in those positions, but this team can’t find the right touch for Search.

Optic Gaming even fell down 2-1 to Complexity and almost ended the day in a fight for their playoff lives. Now with the win secured and a matchup with Rise Nation next week, Optic can focus on potentially besting Rise Nation and earning that top overall seed.

Featured image courtesy of Call of Duty’s official Twitch page

Los Angeles Gladiators Win Game One over the London Spitfire with Fissure on the bench

Shortly before the start of the second Overwatch League playoff match, the Los Angeles Gladiators sent out a press release relaying to fans that Fissure would be sitting out the first map against the London Spitfire. A move born out of some inner turmoil and a strong week of practice from iRemix, but nevertheless, the Gladiators didn’t miss a beat with their best player on the bench.

Now, the Fissure benching will take all the headlines, but the biggest story is not only how good the Gladiators looked in the win, but how badly the Spitfire looked in the loss. It was a combination of a cohesive, fundamentally sound Gladiators approach to this match against a discombobulated, miscalculated attempt at slowing down the Gladiators backline. Similarly to a Philadelphia Fusion team that came out firing, the LA Gladiators also made a statement by sweeping the Spitfire.

Starting with Surefour, the MVP of the match, who gave the supports of the Spitfire trouble all game long. On either McCree or Widowmaker, Surefour wasn’t being contested enough to throw him off his positioning or force him into tougher sightlines. It was a struggle in both the Widow-duel and trying to dive onto his spot. It was a huge game for Surefour and helped make up for a real space creator in Fissure on the bench.

Luckily for the Gladiators, the decision to bench Fissure ended up working out. The move from Bischu to Void gave that frontline a bit more firepower, but the Gladiators dominated at every position. It wasn’t just Surefour on hitscan, but Hydration tearing it up on Hanzo or Silkthread in more of an aggressive dive role. It feels as if no team is improving at the rate of the LA Gladiators, and tonight was more proof of that.

London Spitfire Meta Woes

Trying to come to terms with the Spitfire’s recent struggles that have now bled on over into the postseason, in my eyes, boils down to one thing. The drastic gameplay changes with the popularization of sniper compositions, forcing Profit onto a role he’s not entirely comfortable with or necessarily excels in like he does with every other damage role. Bridring can certainly play an effective Widowmaker, but the most aggressive-minded team in the OWL having to play more passive-aggressive sniper strategies is messing with their gameplay.

This run also comes in the midst of a number of roster changes this team has made, as they assemble a core structure to the organization.  All these subtle and big changes hit at once and at the most inopportune time right before the playoffs. This is no excuse for getting badly outplayed and generally outcoached, but it’s a factor into the recent struggles. However, more of this will lead them out of the playoffs.