This may be one of the most competitive ASL in quite some time, at least definitely in the last 5 seasons or so. With the games being as competitive as the are, every win feels earned and loss for each player has been equally heartbreaking, ASL continues to present the finest starcraft out there.

All that remain are BeSt who has not made it this deep in an ASL since the 2nd season, Mind who many thought would never recapture his pre ASL era brilliance from 2015, hero who has quitely managed to hold his seeded spot for another season and JyJ who has gained the confidence to be a top tier terran and perform at the highest level.

We cannot wait for what is to come in their respective games.

Game 1 – Sylphid
The bulk of today’s report will focus on that game, but let us briefly review the context. Action won game 1 quickly with a Ling flood off an in-base third Hatch. No Drones ever mined the Zerg natural. And before Best’s second Cannon finishes warping, Action pounces!

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Go Time!

Lings quckily tear down the Gate. Best doesn’t manage to plug the gap with anothern building and the Probes, slightly out of position, fail to shield the Cannons. With more Lings flooding across the map, the rest is a formality.

Game 2 – Heartbreak Ridge
It’s almost criminal that this game nearly turned into a side show. What an embarrassment of riches!

Action quickly goes up to three gas and proceeds to apply some early pressure. Hydras manage to pick off the Gate and Forge before the Protoss weapon upgrade finishes. Behind the pressure, Action adds two Hatcheries and completes his Lair.

Best opts for a fast Citadel and extra Gates. Speedlots and a Dark Templar roam the map, but find no opening. With Mutas on the way, and no Corsairs, we spot a Dark Archon merging at the Protoss natural. This works as a threat to keep the flappy flyers away. Action tries to draw out the Maelstrom with a single Muta, but Best sets a precedent for the series and refuses to swallow the bait.

Best tries to move out while taking a 3rd, but the Observer gets sniped. To make matters wrose, an unscouted Hydra flank demolishes the warping Nexus, before it can get cancelled. Over the next few minutes, it looks like Best is completely unravelling. A Hydra drop into the main does a fair bit of damage. At the same time at least 37(!) Probes get impaled by Lurkers from the ridge above the natural.

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Heartbreak Ridge alright

Best manages to take out the Zerg mineral only, but then his push stalls. Action still has a solid economy, while Protoss is running on fumes. The game looks all but decided. Everyone senses that the swarm simple needs to regroup and go for the kill. Action is only too happy to oblige.

What happens next is better watched than described. Action keeps throwing multi-angle attacks at Best, over and over. Dropping the main while attacking the third. Faking a drop and going for the natural. Then a big drop into the main, followed by another big attack on the third. But every time Best’s units are split just well enough. And his spell usage is literally incredible. We haven’t seen money storms like that since Jangbi’s back to back OSL wins.

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“Hold it right there!”

Stuck on Lair, no 4th, main mined out and unable to deny the Protoss expansion, Action concedes.

One Templar was credited with 28 kills, which a representative of the DA union described as “greedy individualism.”

Bonus points are awarded to attentive viewers for correctly guessing the number of Maelstroms cast this game. + Show Spoiler +

Too many, I can’t count that far.

We can only speculate about the psychology of the players. But, to me, Action seemed calm and perhaps somewhat bemused afterwards. Best, on the other hand, appeared to wonder if he was having a fever dream.

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Did that just happen?

Game 3 – Nemesis

Nemesis, noun, from νέμειν _némein_, “to give what is due”;
a source of harm or ruin;
retributive justice;
an opponent that cannot be beaten or overcome.

Thus we find ourselves on Nemesis, a completely normal map, for a completely normal occasion. Action is vibrating in his chair. Protoss fans want to elevate Best to Godhood.

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Our own personal Jesus

The openings are pretty normal. Forge, Nexus, Cannon in the top left vs Overpool in the top right. The audience is hyped. When the scouting Probe delays the natural Hatchery slightly, we hear loud cheers. Action tries an aggressive Ling move, but Best deflects it reasonably well.

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Ling Gambit

Action expands to the bottom right natural and makes some more Lings. Like every self-respecting Zerg (and Mini), he knows that the correct follow-up to failed aggression is… more aggression! Best, like every laddering Protoss, knows that a Hydra attack is coming, so he warps in four Cannons, blind. Action tries to be sneaky, by going through the neutral eggs with his Hydras, but gets scouted just barely. So the Hydras slither over to the Protoss natural. Two Cannons and the Forge go down, but +1 Weapons finishes in time.

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“Upgrade complete”

Meanwhile, Best’s first Sair confirms that the Zerg economy is very low: only two Drones at the third and still on three Hatcheries. Action tries to go through the neutral eggs at the top again, but is scouted again. Best adds more Cannons to his main, while flooding Gateways. And, again, Action pulls all his units together for a frontal attack. Do you think there might be a pattern? The 0-0 Hydras are met by 6 Cannons and 3 Templars, with plenty of Zealots in the back, and decide to ease off.

Unlike in game 2, this time Action realises that the time for aggro has passed. Best has +1, speed, storm and seven Gates. Zerg is still on Lair with four Hatches. Zealots try to sneak onto the map, but they don’t have critical mass and get pushed back home by Hydras. A DT tries to go give Action some of his own medicine, by sneaking through the neutral eggs, but is thwarted by an Overlord. After that, Action shuts the door, by destroying the assimilators on Best’s side of the middle base.

There is a bit of a lull in the game, while Best warps in two rounds of Goons and Action spawns some Mutas. For some reason, the Hydras have all pulled back into a defensive position. Perhaps Action is expecting some drop harrass or a Sair attack. The Zerg fliers find no damage, because there are Cannons everywhere. So, quite reasonably, Best expands to left-middle, and also closes the passage to the bottom-left main.

When the action resumes, the roles have become reversed. Best has a massive army and, come what may, he will use it. Action has turtled up with Sunkens and Lurkers.

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Massive Attack

The Goons start chewing through the Sunkens. Action snipes both Observers, but Best has Storms for days. For a moment it looks like the wall is crumbling, but Goons are so damn stupid hard to control in narrow areas. Many are stumbling around aimlessly near the entrance, vulnerable to a Hydra flank.

Best clears out the first row of Sunkens, a Hatchery and pops the Evo chamber. But the fight is so long (over two minutes) that Action has time to build a fresh row of Sunkens behind. When it finally looks like the Protoss army might be moving in for the kill, a bunch of Goons wander off again. And with a big flank, Action cleans up.

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We gotta get outa this place

Phew, that was tense. Let’s take a moment to see where we stand. We are now nearly 17 minutes into the game. The Hydras are finally on +1. The Lings still don’t have speed. Zerg controls the the right side. Drones just started mining the bottom right main and Action is in the process of taking the right middle base. The Zerg army is mainly Hydra/Lurker. Nydas Canals are being connected up. Three Evo Chambers, a Queen’s Nest and a Defiler Mound form an aesthetically pleasing crescent around the main Hive. Another Hatchery is growing.

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Strap in, we’re going long.

Best is on 1-0-2 upgrades. His army is mainly Zealot/Templar. Protoss controls the left side. Probes just started mining the bottom left natural. There are no minerals left in the starting main. The first Shuttle is ready to head out, to deliver some weather.

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Probes practicing a rain dance

The critical conflict for the rest of the game will be over the control of the middle bases. Top middle should favour Action, because he has ground access from the right and the door on the left is locked forever. It seems likely that the left and right middle bases will stay with their current owners. The bottom middle hasn’t been touched yet.

The next passage of the game is fairly calm, as both players are gearin up for late game. A couple of Zealots drop into the still sealed right middle base, but they get taken out a little later. Probes get stuck in a doom loop while transferring, but Best notices before anything bad happens (remember game 2). Goons open up access to the bottom middle base, then destroy the Assimilators on the right side and close the access from the middle as well. Action starts a Hatch at top middle, Best a Nexus at bottom left. Both players continue to add production and tech. There are at least ten Hatcheries. A Reaver Support Bay has also been warped in.

Best tries his hand at some DT harrass, with limited success. The Protoss army keeps patrolling the map, but there are no easy targets. Supplies are almost even, at around 150, so Zerg must have a scary army stashed away somewhere. We notice Ling and Overlord speed are done, as Action scouts the bottom middle. Zerg ground upgrades are now at 2-1, while Protoss just hit 3-1-2. Best prods the original Zerg natural and gets to enjoy the first Plague of the game. More Shuttles come into play, but Action seems to have units everywhere.

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Mission improbable

At full supply, with nearly 3K minerals and 1k gas, Action pulls the trigger. He drops a swarm/[insert appropriate collective noun for lurkers]/pestilence of Ling/Lurker/Defiler into the Protoss main, while also attacking the bottom middle base. Best holds the main with great Storms, but loses control of bottom middle.

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Denied, for now.

Another drop attempt into the main is chased off by Storms. Some jostling in the middle of map allows Best to bleed off some now obsolete plagued Zealots. He knows that late game Zerg is difficult to deal with. His solution is to turtle up with lots and lots and lots of splash damage.

Around this time, 27 minutes in, Best loses map control for the remainder of the game. Out in the open, 50 supply down, Protoss is outmatched. Worryingly for Best, he has a lot less resources banked than Action, and is chronically low on gas. Even more worryingly, Action controls both top and bottom middle. Zerg is starting to put pressure on the Protoss natural, but there are a lot of defences. And Best is adding more. A big cluster of loaded overlords sharks around the bottom left, but a drop there would be suicide.

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This may look like paranoia, but I assure you it isn’t.[/center]

With Best’s army drawn South by the threatened drop, Zerg launches a full-scale attack against the original Protoss natural. Reinforcements cannot get through a big Lurker field without detection and the natural gets abandoned. Production and tech buildings are expensive though, so Best does his, well, best to hold on to his main. There are a lot of Cannons and the Storms are good, but Action has too much. The base gets overrun, like Fenix at Antioch. Remember Fenix?!

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Fenix at Antioch

Action starts cleaning up top left and Best looks down for the count. But the swarm, perhaps feeling too sure of victory, carelessly left the door to the treasury unlocked. In a brilliant move, the remaining Protoss army slips into the bottom middle base, like thieves under cover of darkness. There is almost no resistance and Best starts to add fortifications immediately.

Action doesn’t seem too concerned. His economy is still healthy, so he prepares a Guardian switch. This makes perfect sense. Reavers can’t shoot air, Archons and Cannons can be outranged, and Templars… Well, Templars don’t even have an attack. Surely they will run out of energy.

Weirdly, Action decides to morph his first clutch of Guardians above the ridge of the bottom left base, in view of an Observer. When Templars start hovering over he cancels the transformation. The devolved Mutas petulantly take a few ineffectual potshots at the hovering lightning rods and then flap off.

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Playing with fire

Having come to his senses just in time, Action takes back the initiative. Overlords silently float over the water between the bases, to drop a commando of Lurkers, Lings and Hydras directly onto the ridge. They have one task: Blow up the Assimilators to cut off reinforcements. This scene is basically straight out of every action movie.

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Behind enemy lines

The manoeuvre successfully turns bottom middle into an island. Incidentally, this attack also drew out a lot of storms. And now the real assault begins. Ten Guardians float over and start the siege.

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A different kind of weather: acid rain

Zerg has no air upgrades, but it doesn’t seem to matter. The Cannons implode. A few storms kill a couple of Guardians, but the noose tightens inexorably. The Archons manage another couple of kills, but the terrain is unfavourable to bulky ground units with short range attacks. Action feels himself on the home stretch. He starts pulling his ground units in from all over the map and drops… six Lings and one Hydra?! Best shuttles in two fully charged Templars and holds.

However, Action isn’t finished yet. We get treated to a rare spectacle, as the next wave of drops brings 5-3 Ultras. When was the last time we’ve watched a titanic battle of fully upgraded Ultras vs fully upgraded Archons? (If anyone has the vod of free vs Jaedong on Athena from ClubDay MSL, please link it below!) A Shuttle gets Scourged, the defending units die, the Cannons implode and, finally, the Nexus falls.

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Best is clearly in serious trouble now. He’s 60 supply down, with less resources banked, and is slowly running out of minerals at his last mining bases. He must take back bottom middle, or concede. His immediate challenge is that bottom middle is an island and he has only a single (1, one, uno) Shuttle. Zerg, of course, has access to a whole transport armada. The one thing going for Best is his ridiculous stack of high-tech units.

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Silicon Valley

Shuttling in Reavers, Templars and a few Zealots (who must have been off shift during the first half of the game), Best gains a foothold on the Western ridge. Turns out that Reavers are pretty decent against Ultras. Watching carefully, we also notice that Action has made a small mistake in the frantic rush to send reinforcements. And I think this is what might have ultimately cost him the game.

The reinforcing Hydras are slowly rotating in place chilling just a little too far away, which means it takes just a few seconds longer for the Overlords to ferry them to the battle field. The result is that Best gets there marginally quicker with two Shuttles full of Reavers and Templars to deny the drop. Protoss takes control of the base once more.

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Time waits for no man.

After this twist, we notice that Action is nearly mined out, while Best still has some minerals. Overall Protoss must have been significantly more efficient. Without access to bottom middle, the Swarm will not be able to take down the remaining Protoss fortifications. In hindsight, I wonder if Zerg could’ve pulled back here and tried to eke out a draw, by fortifying one or more of the other islands. But this Zerg is called Action and the idea of a draw never even crosses his mind. He gets a fresh round of Guardians and sets up for another drop, this time with Defiler support. Best is ready. Cannons warp in, Reavers polish scarabs, Archons loom and eleven Templars positively crackle with energy. Action hurls his brood against the Protoss wall. Dark Swarm, Plague, Lurkers, Hydras, Guardians, Cracklings!

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“Day breaks in your head.” – Norah Jones commenting on supreme late-game PvZ.

The swarm evaporates in a high energy tempest the shade of a clear blue sky.

Action assembles one last ditch drop, but it is pitifully small. Many Overlords are mercilessly electrocuted. Supply blocked at 118/107, there are not enough resources for another attempt.

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Not enough


Game 4 – Vermeer
How does Action feel after the previous game? Aggressive. He brings enough Hydra pressure to take down the Gate, Forge and force eight(!) Cannons, without losing much. And unlike last game, the Zerg economy is solid.

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The wall bends, but doesn’t break.

Best scouts with his Sair and spins his Forges. Anticipating a Muta-switch, a Dark Archon is summoned into service. But the Mutas never come. Instead, Action further ramps up his economy, by taking a 4th and adding macro Hatches. He also starts two Evo Chambers and techs to Hive, all while growing a large Hydra/Lurker force. Best responds by expanding and keeping his army together at home.

The upshot is that Action is 10 supply ahead before the first serious engagement. A large Lurker field denies Protoss any chance of a frontal attack. Simultaneously, a huge gob of Hydras swings round for a backstab, but is miraculously spotted by a single Zealot out for a stroll. Best’s Observers get Scourged and he rushes back to try to save his 3rd base. It looks like the Hydras are going to do the job, as the Goons trip over their own legs as usual, but, remember game 2?

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The Hydras get mowed down, but all is not lost for Action. Supplies are still even, his economy is unharmed and Hive is on the way. Lurkers move into the open space between the Protoss natural and 3rd. How many times have we seen a Lurker field like this turn into a Protoss graveyard? With reinforcements seemingly cut off, another big wave of Hydras hits Best’s fresh expansion.

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High tide

Three great Storms allow a small Goon squad to cling on. Before fresh Zerg units can join the fight, Best moves out with a band of Zealots and cleans up the Lurkers surprisingly easily. +2 armor may have played a role.

Action, Hive now finished, decides to stick with aggression. He spawns another two rounds of Hydras and attacks. But, with a little Storm support, Best’s Goons stand strong. Out of units, without defences at home, Action throws in the towel. The crowd goes wild!

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Memories being made

Deep breath.

What have we just witnessed?!
What an absolutely amazing series.
Thank you ASL.
Thank you Action!
And thank you Best.
May this be your stepping stone to greater heights.

Whatever happens next, this series will live on in the collective Protoss memory.