By Conan “Suppy” Liu of Evil Geniuses
After the announcement of Acer TeamStory Cup 3 and SHOUTcraft Clan Wars, our Starcraft 2 team at Evil Geniuses has returned to participating in team league formats. So far the results have been quite promising, as we qualified for Acer TeamStory Cup 3 with a 5-2 victory over Karnage and a 5-0 victory over ROOT Gaming (A Jaedong all-kill). Additionally, EG is 2-1 in the SHOUTcraft Clan Wars, with two big victories over Incredible Miracle and StarTale and a narrow loss to Millenium.
Our recent successes in team leagues have surprised many people who discounted Evil Geniuses early on, citing poor performances in team leagues in the past and what seemed to be a relatively weak roster compared to the star-studded lineups of some of the Korean teams. I agree that on paper Evil Geniuses would not beat some of the teams of the caliber that we have beaten, however, perhaps there are other factors contributing to our victories.
Firstly, as most people have already speculated, it seems as though other teams have not prepared as much for the clan wars as our team has, particularly the Korean teams. As for us, however, we have spent quite some time in our team chat discussing which maps would be strong for which races, which of our players would fare the strongest on which maps, and also which strategies would be the most effective. Even which server the map is being played on is taken into account. We haven’t always been correct in our decisions, like when we chose Jaedong on Neo Jungle Valley (the semi-island map) twice and having him subsequently lose both games miserably. Although we thought that the isolated nature of the map would allow Jaedong to favorably reach mutalisks and play out the match from there, it was an oversight to forget about Jaedong’s more aggressive style that would be stifled by the map design. However, in general I think our choices for lineups have been solid and have been working out well.
Secondly, my experience in CSL (Collegiate Starcraft League) has given me a lot of resources to work with – particularly in regards to the 2v2. In both seasons that my school won, our 2v2 team played a pivotal role in ensuring victory; in fact they were almost undefeated, suffering only a single loss. A lot of people overlook the importance of 2v2, or find that it is not something you can prepare for as it is “just who can cheese harder”, but that is completely contrary to how 2v2 actually is. The better team will win a majority of the time, just like in 1v1, and I think there is even less variance in 2v2 than in 1v1 because it is certainly much harder to cheese two opponents than it is to cheese one opponent (although you may kill one person, leaving one person untouched means 1v2s are easily winnable). Upon learning about the upcoming clan wars, and hearing about the introduction of 2v2s, which I was ecstatic about because I firmly believe 2v2 produces some of the most exciting matches in Starcraft, I immediately contacted my CSL 2v2 team for help. They enlisted the help of many of their North American practice partners who have been very willing to help us out, and Xeno and I have been super appreciative of their assistance after every match. We would certainly not be performing as well in 2v2 had it not been for them. On top of that, the North American scene is actually (oddly) the strongest 2v2 scene according to most people – which means we have access to essentially the best practice possible.
Thirdly, and I’m not sure what to exactly call this, but there are some people who simply have a tendency to perform well in team situations or in bo1 situations. The two people I am thinking about the most while writing this are JYP and HuK. JYP is seemingly invincible in team leagues, starting back in Proleague when he played for EG-TL and often was the saving grace in terms of getting wins. His strength in team leagues has not disappeared, as he has gone undefeated (3-0) in Shoutcraft so far and 3-1 in the Acer TeamStory Cup Qualifier. Even in games where it seems all is lost, JYP just somehow manages to pull out the win – he traps his first stalker in his base, he loses his third nexus to a huge hydra ling attack, etc. At this point I almost feel like he’s purposely putting us on the edge of our seats after having us sweat nervously for several minutes and finally decides it’s time to just get the win and finish off his opponent. It is always a pleasure to watch JYP play (although very stressful as well). We also have HuK, who I think in best-of-ones is one of the scariest players out there. Of course we all know him for his top three control, but it actually isn’t a joke – he does have some of the best unit control, and often times he can take out a player with a build that generally wouldn’t work, but simply does because HuK keeps his units alive. However, I think the main thing that accounts for HuK’s success in these team leagues is his strategy and decision making in terms of what build he will choose to do against what opponent on the particular map. He always comes up with creative builds that are quite genius and really utilize the map to the fullest potential. So really what makes HuK so strong in team leagues is his ability to take a win against ANYBODY – so far he’s already taken out two Code S players – which like mentioned earlier seems inconceivable on paper but in reality very much possible when you have a scary player like HuK on your side. With essentially a guaranteed 2v2 victory (I know, boastful, but hopefully no one will prove us wrong), an essentially guaranteed JYP victory, and a very high likelihood of HuK and Xeno winning, getting the 4 wins necessary to win is not as far-fetched as it is at first glance. Notice how I didn’t even mention Jaedong in there!
As teams start taking things more seriously and preparing more, we too will need to step our game. It seems like we have been preparing more than other teams. I don’t think that means that other teams will catch up to us in preparation and suddenly we will start losing. We as a team still have a lot of additional preparation that is possible. For example, we have practiced customs together, but not to the extent that I think would be most beneficial. In addition, once Shoutcraft continues on its way a little more, we will have a lot more information on teams and be able to use it to snipe opponents in their weak matchups and weak maps. When I was playing in the CSL, for example, after playoffs we made a dedicated scouting report on the next team we were playing, the maps they liked to play, the maps they vetoed, the matchups they were strong in and weak in, etc. and that was definitely a huge contributor to our success in that league. These are some of the next steps that we will have to take in order to ensure we remain ahead of the curve and continue performing well in these team leagues.
Before I sign off, I want to give a shoutout to Xeno for continuing to improve so much and be so dedicated to the game – at the time of this writing he is the #1 player in Shoutcraft with a 5-1 score and has been performing absolutely excellently in Shoutcraft. For some last words, I’d just like to remind everyone that our heavy hitter Jaedong has still to this point basically just been warming up. He is mad that he hasn’t been performing in Shoutcraft thus far, and once he starts turning up the heat – it’s going to be hell for our opponents!