Week #164 was a celebration of herO, who won the NA-KR double in back-to-back weeks. This is the first time a player has won consecutive cup doubles since Cure back in weeks #77-79, during the peak of “online-Cure” dominance.
Meanwhile, the European Cup featured a not-so-surprising victor in Spirit, who seems to be maintaining his great form IEM Katowice. Beating Clem 3-2 in the cup finals would have been considered an upset just a few weeks ago, but it’s not at all an unexpected result for the current version of Spirit.
Korean Cup (partial bracket shown)
Participation was slightly up in week #164, with players continuing to trickle back after IEM Katowice. GuMiho, Ryung, Dark, soO, Scarlett, and a bevy of Protoss players all competed with herO and Classic leading the charge.
Early round action saw Ryung and soO meet in a rematch of their IEM Katowice play-in bout, with soO emerging victorious once more (2-1). herO would then dismiss soO and GuMiho in quick succession to make his way to the finals. On the bottom side of the bracket, Scarlett looked to be in excellent form as she took down JieShi (2-1) and then Creator (2-0). Game two versus Creator was classic Scarlett, as she overcame an early disadvantage to win in a drawn-out, 47-minute brawl. Overall, I would consider it to be the best game of the week (watch VOD). Despite these excellent performances, Scarlett couldn’t overcome Classic in their IEM Katowice rematch. Classic had already taken down Dark 2-0 earlier in the bracket, continuing to build on his momentum from the world championship. The cunning Protoss scored another 2-0, using strong harass into a big double-Robo Colossus + Blink Stalker timing build in game 1, and a 3-base Gateway all-in (the same he used at Katowice) to take game 2.
That left herO and Classic to fight it out in the finals (watch VOD), meeting at the summit for the second straight week. In the previous week’s finals, Classic managed to out-strategize the DPG Protoss in the first two maps, only for herO to out-micro Classic in the following 3 games and take cup #163. This time, herO made it clear from the getgo that Classic was going to be in for a rough time. The Smiling Assassin went for a 3-gate Robo build that would have made even Arrogfire blush, and broke Classic’s Void Ray expansion with perfect micro. Game 2 saw herO doing what great players sometimes do in these weekly cups with an unconventional Phoenix, Chargelot, Immortal composition against the much more traditional heavy Blink Stalker play out of Classic. Despite solid execution, herO could not channel the great Rotterdam and had to eventually GG out against his opponent’s more orthodox army. Game 3 saw herO returning to standard play, but with a twist. By going for quick DT Blink, herO was able to score some solid damage in the mid-game and secure a victory with a better economy and stronger army. Game 4 on NeoHumanity was a fun game with herO taking a relatively quick hidden 3rd base that seemed to confuse Classic despite being visible to the watchtower. Eventually Classic would go for a desperation attack on this hidden base that herO was able to defend and crush to claim the series 3-1, winning back to back Korean cups.
European Cup (partial bracket shown)
After a few quiet weeks following Katowice, the EU Cup was back with an almost full-strength roster that featured regulars such as Clem, Reynor, Spirit, HeroMarine, uThermal, Kelazhur, MaxPax, SKillous, and Elazer. However, it was hardly business as usual, as there were a number of surprising events and outcomes.
The top half of the bracket saw uThermal score a huge upset, 1-basing his way to victory over the MaxPax in the RO16. However, he couldn’t keep his roll going, losing 1-2 to Elazer in the following round. Clem found himself dropping a map to Ashbringer—not quite the 1-2 upset he suffered in Week #160, but the sooty Protoss is proving to be a thorn in his side. It didn’t seem to faze Clem, however, as he proceeded to take 2-0’s against BabyMarine, BratOK, and Elazer to reach the finals.
In the bottom half of the bracket, Reynor decided to give it a go with his Terran off-race, but bowed out in the RO16 after losing 1-2 to the rising Canadian Protoss DisK. This set up a peculiar all-Canadian RO8 match in the EU cup, with DisK moving on to face his countryman trigger (who had defeated SKillous 2-1 in the previous round). An entertaining BO3 ensued, which went in the favor of the more established trigger. Ultimately, Spirit was the player who emerged from the bottom half, beating HeroMarine (2-0) and trigger (2-1) to earn a spot in the finals for the second straight week.
I had mentioned in the lead up to IEM Katowice that if Spirit could continue the form he showed when he took down HeroMarine to win the ESL Open Cup #159, that Spirit would have a legitimate shot at a top 8 run at IEM Katowice. While he was unable to make it out of groups, his performance at the World Championship was impressive indeed. He showed the best gameplay we have ever seen from him at a premier tournament, getting eliminated as 4th place in his group. He continued to build momentum in the World Team League playoffs, where he took critical 1-1 draws off of Maru and RagnaroK.
Thus, it’s hard to say Spirit beating Clem 3-2 in the week #164 finals was an upset (watch VOD).While Scarlett vs. Creator from the KR cup might have been the best game of the week, Clem vs. Spirit was the best overall series. This is one of those cases where I’m not going to break the games down in this write-up because they deserve to be watched. It felt as though both players raised the other’s level of play as the series progressed, and it ended with Spirit making the case that there’s a third contender for the title of best European Terran. While we need more proof that it’s not just a flash in the pan, I for one am excited to watch Spirit continue to develop. When you consider how he played in IEM, WTL, and the Open Cups, he may just have found another gear when it comes to competitive play.
American Cup (partial bracket shown)
While the EU cup featured an unexpectedly deep run from not one, but two Canadians, the NA cup was heavily dominated by Korean players once again (although, four Canadians made the RO16 compared to just two Americans ). GuMiho, Cure, Jason, Vindicta, Dark, Creator, herO, MaxPax, trigger, and Nice all competed, as well as the commentators PiG and Catz. PiG actually affected the tournament in an unusual way, delaying the rest of the bracket due to his close 1-2 loss to Jason in the RO32 (featuring an especially exciting game three). Still, herO got things back on schedule with his hallmark aggressive style, quickly defeating Jason and trigger in a Canadian tragedy on par with the great maple syrup heist of 2011-2012. Meanwhile, GuMiho took a hotly contested BO3 TvT vs. Cure in the RO8, only to be promptly slaughtered by a relentless herO in the semifinals. On the bottom half of the bracket, Creator fought his way to the finals with a great 2-1 win over the king of PvP MaxPax, and a 2-0 over Dark in a revenge match from Katowice. Unfortunately for Creator, his joy would end here.
The finals between herO and Creator (watch VOD) was less about the individual games, and more about the overall statement made by Dragon Phoenix Gaming’s superstar player. herO came out in game 1 with an absolute ferocity and killer instinct to rival MC in his prime. It felt while watching the games that regardless of anything Creator wanted to do, herO was going to win this series. Creator was great all around, with good positioning, strong macro, and precise micro. None of that mattered as herO ripped him apart with brutal efficiency and unrelenting attacks. This ended up being a preview for the rest of the series, as everything Creator tried fell apart while herO only found success after success.
Sometimes one player just stands above the rest, and this week that was herO. He took a mighty 3-0 and once again, it feels as though words can’t do his dominance justice. He has achieved an incredible back-to-back weekly double, winning four cups in the past two weeks. Shoutout to Classic for being the only one who could take maps off of herO, but herO simply looks terrifying right now. I for one am on the lookout as to whether or not he will play in the EU cup in the coming weeks and try for the elusive triple crown. If he does compete, and his form looks the same as it has, latency may not be enough to stop him.