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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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)

Fujimura Looks to Replicate CEO Performance in the ELEAGUE Playoffs

Fujimura Atsushi went on a losers bracket tear to win one of the most prestigious events of the Capcom Cup circuit in CEO 2018. His Ibuki showed up in key moments against the likes of Zhoujun “XiaoHai” Zang, as he turned a losers bracket deficit into a tournament victory. He was the steamroller at CEO, now he looks to come out firing at the ELEAGUE finals.

And similarly to his run at CEO, Fujimura will be fighting directly out of the losers bracket after finishing second in his group behind Daigo Umehara who had a great group stage. The run begins against Smug and will quickly turn to one of two killers in the next round as Tokido faces Punk in round one winners, Fujimura getting the loser.

It’s clear that Fujimura, playing a momentum base character, will look to build on that losers bracket mentality and gain some momentum heading into losers round two. Obviously beating Smug is no easy ride, and could end his day early, but the current number one globally ranked player coming off a hot CEO week should bring more preparedness into the playoffs.

Daigo Umehara’s Path

Whenever Daigo is in serious contention for a tournament win, it’s the same effect Tiger Woods has on golf. The world of fighting games stops and witnesses what this legend is doing on screen. After taking his group, Daigo’s put himself in a prime position to make some waves. He starts off with a friendly draw against Problem X, and if he wins, will face either Punk or Tokido.

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It’s safe to assume that most eyes will be on Fujimura and Daigo as the tournament wraps up. In terms of the tournament favorites, I’d start there with these two players. Tokido is also a scary threat, but with how these two have looked recently it feels as if one of the two will take it home. However, all eight players are capable of pulling it off and winning it all.

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.

New York Excelsior JJoNak Wins the first Overwatch League MVP as Zenyatta

The best player from end-to-end gets the proper recognition as the Overwatch League’s first most valuable player. Bang ‘JJoNak’ Seong-hyun, a Zenyatta main, who in many ways revolutionized the flex-support meta with his damage hybrid style wins the MVP. JJoNak ended second in total damage among all qualified players as a support player. Nuff’ said

The story of a talented, rather unknown player, to the top of the Overwatch League and the best player on the best team. The rise of the New York Excelsior is certainly a team effort, but it’s an undeniable fact that JJONak brings something to the table that no other player in the league can offer. In terms of actual value, losing JJoNak would likely hamper every aspect of the NYXL roster. He’s that much of an impact player.

JJoNak doesn’t have any glaring deficiencies in his game and even with more modest healing numbers, he uses Zenyatta’s transcendence for maximum value more than every other Zenyatta which makes up for his focus on damage. He’s the most unique player in the league. No other player can offer the type of impact he can on any given match.

He is the heart and soul of the NYXL and that the coaching staff is still finding new uses for his talent. Consider this, the Excelsior popularized pocketing Mercy onto Zenyatta to keep JJoNak alive and let him do maximum damage with the damage-buff. The entire NYXL strategy is centered around this guy finding kills and it hasn’t failed them yet.

As JJoNak takes home the MVP trophy that he rightfully deserved, the NYXL will look to not let his dominating season go to waste. A refocused NYXL team will provide a much different look in these playoffs than what we saw at the end of stage four, and a big reason for that will be JJoNak.

Congrats to New York Excelsior JJoNak!

 

NRG Blows Second Map Lead in Consecutive Days as Rogue Impresses in the Win over Complexity at the America FACEIT Minor

It’s been a rough few days for the prohibitive American favorite to not only take one of the two qualifying spots but to be sitting in Rogue’s spot as the top placing team. Now, after starting off 1-0 against both Complexity and eUnited, ended both days losing two straight and are now the first team sent packing.

The loss to Complexity yesterday was completely unexpected, by winning decisively on the first map, only to drop two games with sloppy play and inconsistent play from their bottom-three. For an NRG team that’s usually solid against their own region, the last two days seem like a total outlier. The odds of losing the match when winning the first map are low for any team, but the top-ranked North American team doing it is somewhat of a mystery.

Even the top players showed up on both days, Cvetelin ‘CerQ’ Dimitrov and Vincent ‘Brehze’ Cayonte played quality Counter-Strike. Both finished with positive kill-death ratios and made plenty of big plays. However, the rest of the teams play dropped off drastically after those two. And even on the losing maps, CerQ struggled to get anything going and ended up with less than .60 kills per round.

Unfortunately for NRG, it was the snowball effect for them today. Falling down early on Dust 2 by losing pistol and the lead slowly growing put the stranglehold on an NRG team that was losing confidence. The final kill count on Dust 2 ended at 91-52 in favor of eUnited. It was over once NRG’s mental game faded. eUnited will now face Complexity in qualifying for the Major. The two teams who beat NRG this week.

Rogue Improvements

Rogue deserves plenty of praise for their noteworthy performance at the Minor. Against a Complexity team that played exceptionally well, Rogue went to an even higher level of play and earned the win. It was nice to see a Rogue team, headed by Spencer ‘Hiko’ Martin, play up to their talent level. They’ve put themselves in a great position to qualify with the 2-0 win against Complexity.

Witnessing Casper ‘cadiaN’ Møller heat up with the AWP on Mirage was quite the sight. He sat apartment side and seemingly didn’t miss a shot for the entirety of the map. Of course, Complexity adjusted to his positioning specifically, but his overall impact on the game didn’t go unnoticed. Outside of cadiaN’s AWP, Hiko was a monster against Complexity. On Dust 2, a map Rogue dominated on, and Hiko finished with 30 kills and a staggering 1.79 rating. He set everything in motion.

The Grand Finals

eUnited vs. Complexity should be a barn burner, in that both teams seem evenly matched in most important areas. Seeing as both teams lost to Rogue, a scenario where one of these teams makes the necessary adjustments to beat Rogue seems unlikely. Especially now with Rogue having the upper bracket advantage, but the important thing to remember here is the winner of Complexity and eUnited qualifies for the FACEIT Major.

Featured image courtesy of FACEIT

lloD Beats Out Southern California to win The Even Bigger Balc

The one MDVA player in attendance comes into one of SoCal’s oldest tournaments and wins the whole thing. Arjun ‘lloD’ Malhotra wins his second regional of the year beating both Zac ‘SFAT’ Cordoni and Johnny ‘S2J’ Kim to take the Even Bigger Balc title. This win comes after lloD’s highest major tournament placing at CEO last week.

For lloD, it’s his best result of the year. 2018 that has shown him greatly improving his average placing and showing more ability to beat players perceived to be better than him. Back at CEO, SFAT eliminated lloD in a five-game set. At the Even Bigger Balc, lloD made the necessary adjustments and frankly demolished SFAT’s Fox.

In the video above, lloD’s displaying the two aspects of his game that carried him to a victory with Peach. We’ll talk neutral game, but first, we admire his edge guarding. Against Falcon, it was a relentless effort in zoning out S2J and pushing him back into the corner. From this position, lloD earned himself a large number of edge guarding opportunities. Every stock S2J was fighting just to make it back on stage.

In neutral, lloD centered his entire gameplan around setting up garbs. Using turnips to approach sparingly as he relied more on stage position and zoning. In every area Peach needs to hit to win, lloD was certainly hitting. lloD used directional input and the aforementioned stage control to stave off each potential knockout attempt. S2J wasn’t landing any finishing blows, mostly settling for up-air to try and kill at high percents.

It was an impressive showing. lloD being one of the lone players to travel cross country enters the event and leaves a champion. As Evo 2018 approaches, it’s important to be playing at a peak performance level and lloD, at the very least, is revving up for a big July run.

Westballz Out in Losers Round One

Weston ‘Westballs’ Dennis fell out as early as losers round one to local California Melee player Cesear. It’s a noteworthy placing for Westballz as a top player falls out of a seemingly easier tournament than the norm. Now, without seeing the actual reason for his exit, Westballz has taken these SoCal regionals lightly in the past (getting DQ’d at The Bigger Balc in 2017). Whatever the case, losing this early after just signing an extension is not the best look.

Featured photo courtesy of SD Melee TV