by Steadfast

The changed map pool and balance test patch continued to give the ESL Open Cups some new twists, but the ultimate winners came from a familiar pool of players in Week #157. The Korean server cup was lifted by (Wiki)herO, the European cup (Wiki)Reynor, while the American cup was won by (Wiki)Solar.

Korean Cup

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Week #157 of the ESL cups kicked off on the Korean server with another small, but highly competitive field of players including herO, Classic, Creator, NightMare, Astrea, Cure, Oliveira (who has changed his name from TIME), Dark, and Ragnarok.

The bracket progressed mostly as expected with herO storming his way into the grand finals without dropping a map. Meanwhile, Dark dispatched Cure (2-0) and Oliveira (2-1) in some very long ZvT matches. In the finals, cheese was on the menu with Dark taking a game with a Nydus Queen Ling all-in and herO winning one back with a blink Stalker all-in off 3-bases. The match eventually went to game 5 where Dark attempted a proxy Hatch 12-pool which herO managed to fend off cleanly thanks to astute decision making.

Balance patch notes: One notable experiment in the new balance patch is Classic’s frequent attempts to take advantage of Protoss’s faster upgrades with double-forge play in PvT. He’s tried a lot of different timings and had varied success—if this DOES comes back into the meta (due to Classic or another Protoss player’s optimizations), we may see Protoss players hit very strong 2-2 timings where Stalker-Chargelot compositions are able to dominate in the mid-game. If this becomes safely and regularly attainable, Protoss would have much more control over the match-up, able to expand greedily or go for the throat in the mid-game.

As for this week however, Cure was able to defeat Classic 2-1 in the round of 16. It is also worth noting that the Shield Battery Overcharge nerf did not seem to neutralize the effectiveness of Phoenix-Colossus openings as much as many people thought it might. Also, the quality of life change that causes Colossus to stay at their maximum attack range when disabled by the Raven’s Interference Matrix seemed to simplify the defense for Protoss players substantially.


European Cup (partial bracket shown)

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The EU cup saw many familiar faces with Clem, HeroMarine, MaxPax, ShoWTimE, Reynor and new Liquid recruit SKillous among the top players signing up.

ShoWTimE had himself an outstanding cup as he scored victories over MaxPax (2-1) and Clem (2-0) to reach the finals. Outside of his wins, ShoWTimE’s games were notable due to a funny little bug that seems to have reared up as a result of the Archon’s size change: an Archon bunny hop. As you can see in the clip, the Archon is somewhat compressed and ends up bouncing over some friendly units.

On the other side of the bracket, Reynor dispatched of his opponents on his way to the finals, although HeroMarine took a map off the Italian Stallion in the RO4. As for the finals of the EU cup, Reynor seemed to outmuscle the German Protoss in three straight games with Swarm Host-Roach-Ravager compositions.

Balance patch notes: The slight reversion of the Disruptor radius nerf seems to have had a significant impact on keeping them relevant. It honestly felt like in both PvT and PvZ, the unit still has a lot of the same punch it did at a 1.5 radius. So in general, I think that this slight pulling back of the nerf from 1.35 to 1.375 is a very good one, as in my opinion, the Disruptor should still have teeth—it just shouldn’t be as strong as the current patch version is. As you can see in this clip, if you can blindside your opponent and have a strong vision advantage, the unit is still extremely effective.


American Cup (partial bracket shown)

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The NA cup showcased a slew of strong competitors from many regions with Dark, Solar, HeroMarine, Cure, NightMare, Creator, and Astrea all signing up. The bracket featured many exciting matches, including the game of the week in my opinion which featured MaxPax and Dark in a very long, drawn out match on the new, very green map of Ancient Cistern (watch VOD).

Additionally, PiG was able to beat Astrea 2-1 in a random vs. random matchup where Astrea rolled Terran twice, once vs. PiG’s Protoss and once vs. the Australian’s Terran. PiG even then took a game off of NightMare in the RO8 before ultimately being defeated. All in all, it was a very impressive run from the former pro turned commentator.

For the rest of the bracket, Cure cruised into the grand finals without dropping a map, whereas Solar and Dark met up in the RO4 with Solar winning a hotly contested ZvZ. In the grand finals between Cure and Solar, the first two games were long, bloody macro contests with each player taking a sizable lead in the early game only for their opponent to dig in their heels and draw the game out. Both players ended up taking a map in this fashion, followed by 2 quick cheeses from each player putting the series at 2-2. For game 5, Cure put on some excellent multi-pronged aggression all game long to find good trades throughout. However, he never capitalized on his advantages and was unable to close out the game. All series long, Cure had gone extremely Siege Tank heavy as a part of his composition. Thus, in game 5, Solar elected to switch things up and go for a big Brood Lord push. This completely blindsided the Terran and forced Cure to suddenly tap out, giving Solar the victory.

Balance patch notes: As for the changed gameplay in this cup, the speedier Brood Lords in the finals actually had some game winning potential, as a surprise tier 3 unit should. The first two games of the series featured some incredible back-and-forth action with Solar and Cure trading blows constantly. If nothing else, the match-up still looks incredibly entertaining and definitely passes the eye test. Game 2 showed that the defensive power of the Ghost is still extremely strong in ZvT, with Cure able to hold out on 5 bases against a Solar that had gobbled up the entire map for a very long time, almost turning the game around. Overall, the balance council may elect to make some more small tweaks, but in my opinion, the ones they’ve made have been mostly good.