Week 2 of the WTL 2021 Summer Regular Season presented fans with two ace matches including one huge upset as Team Liquid managed to topple the giants from Dragon Phoenix Gaming, securing an important victory against a highly rated title contender and setting themselves up well for the playoff race. The other ace match occurred at the end of an intense battle between reigning champions KaiZi Gaming and newly formed Shopify Rebellion, showing the newcomers’ great potential. That said, not all matches were so heavily fought over—the second week also featured its share of one-sided series with the favorites emerging victorious almost unscathed, showing the clear divide in weight classes amongst the participating teams.
Week 2 Recap
- 3 points for a normal victory in a series that does not require an ace match
- 2 points for a victory in a series that requires an ace-match
- 1 point for a loss in a series that requires an ace-match
- 0 points for a loss in a series that does not require an ace match
Despite being perennial underdogs, Invictus Gaming have been surprisingly hard to sweep in previous seasons. This trend continued in week two of WTL Summer, though it did look like Good Game Gaming would get away with a clean-sweep murder until the very end. GGG.Dream took the first map against iG.MacSed by baiting the Protoss army into an attack on his natural expansion while sending a strong drop to clean up the opponent’s third and second bases, winning out on all fronts through a precise army split. The second map saw the Chinese player try a brute force attack from proxied infrastructure, but a Hellion-Reaper force struck a heavy blow to his economy before the assault could be on the way, softening the impact of the all-in with Chargelots to be negligible for the Terran.
Bringing out his bread-and-butter-style of TvP, iG.Coffee prepared a strong two-base attack with an SCV-pull against GGG.Cyan in their first clash after the Protoss had taken the reins earlier in the game through his Phoenix based build. Cyan—and anyone who’s ever seen Coffee play TvP before—could see the all-in coming from miles away and prepared accordingly, utterly crushing it with Psi Storm and Force Fields. Mixing it up in the second game, the Terran stepped up his harassment and brought the fight to his opponent with drops and small skirmishes, managing to strain the Protoss economy and even snipe the second Nexus. Having taken plenty of damage to his SCV count in return, however, Coffee could not withstand Cyan’s superior army, the GGG player pushing at the perfect time to close out the series in favor of his team.
Once again it was iG.XY, who delivered salvation unto Invictus Gaming fans by taking the first map of the season for the all-Chinese squad against league veteran GGG.Patience. The Terran caught his Korean opponent with his metaphorical pants around his ankles, with a strong Bio-Tank-SCV push forcing Patience to surrender in the first game. The Protoss got his revenge on the second map, with his characteristic Blink Stalker usage playing a key role in attaining a critical advantage and damaging XY’s economy, which enabled the Korean to overwhelm him with Gateway units and Disruptors.
After the relatively one-sided matches of week one, fans have been looking forward to a close, nail-biting fight that ends in a deciding ace match. TL.net’s preview mentioned that KaiZi Gaming and Shopify Rebellion may just be the right series to fulfil that desire, and thankfully, the players made that prediction come true. That said, the start didn’t look at all promising in this regard, as KZ.INnoVation managed to utterly dominate Shopify.Scarlett in both of their games, overwhelming her with a Bio-Tank push in Game 1 and the classic Bio-Mine parade push in Game 2.
While this put the Rebels in a tight spot without a doubt, Shopify.Lambo rose to the occasion and secured two big victories for himself, his team and the honour of EU ZvZ over KZ.Solar. The German, whose pre-game power hexagon fittingly sported an upgraded rating in ‘Tactics’, pretty much read his opponent like an open book during their clash, choosing a deadly Nydus attack on the first map to punish his tech-oriented opponent. In the second game, the Shopify player saw an early attack by Solar coming and reacted perfectly to not only deflect it, but to force the Korean to defend himself at home with a devastating counter. Riding the advantage to the end, Lambo overwhelmed the KaiZi Zerg with Roaches a bit later in the game, delivering his second clinical ZvZ performance on the WTL stage in a row.
With the series being brought back to even scores by Lambo, Shopify.ByuN had a chance to complete what would definitely have been regarded as the first big upset of the season with a 2-0 victory. KZ.TIME, the match-winner of the previous season’s Grand Final, had something to say about that—at least on the second map. The first game was a three minute affair with ByuN conjuring victory out of Reaper-Hellion micro. TIME responded with a perfect defence of the Korean’s Banshee strategy in the following game, furthering his lead with Raven harassment as well as a victorious skirmish on the battlefield. Correctly identifying his massive advantage, the Chinese player besieged ByuN’s third base, who failed to reclaim the position and break the impetus of TIME’s attack.
ByuN remained in the hot seat for Shopify Rebellion as their ace, while KaiZi Gaming went the classic route with all-conquering INnoVation being sent out to secure victory. Looking to play another short match, the Rebel proxied a second Barracks on the map for a Reaper rush, attaining a huge lead over his opponent by forcing him to cancel construction of his natural expansion—ByuN’s third Command Centre finished almost at the same time as the Machine’s second. Playing from a deficit, the KaiZi Terran remained undeterred from entering a long game, amassing a Viking-Tank army with Marine support to hold out against ByuN’s Marine-Tank army, which turned out to be the key to success: Though he commanded the better economy, ByuN began to trade so inefficiently due to bad engagements that he never built up something like a bank and could not make a switch towards more air power himself. Adding Liberators to his composition, INnoVation began to push ByuN back further and further, dealing heavy blows to his opponent and finally breaking through his lines to shatter his economic powerbase—ByuN had squandered his early advantage by refusing to contest INnoVation’s air superiority and the Rebellion paid dearly for it.
Just like in Week 1, Saturday’s series in the second week of WTL turned out to be brutally one-sided—at least in terms of overall score—leading the viewers of Wardi’s broadcast to quickly dub the day ‘6-0 Saturday’. We’ll have to wait and see if that title will stick throughout the coming weeks, but there’s no denying that it’s a perfect fit for the first two weeks. NV.sOs started the festivities against LP.Wanted with successful Glaive-Adept harassment followed by a deadly Immortal attack on the first map, repeating the same thing in the second game with similar results.
Next up came the debut of LP.Alka, who couldn’t quite make it to the ten minute mark in the first match against NV.Maru, succumbing to a strong Bio-Tank push by the Terran. Trying a different approach on the second map, the Chinese player put his hopes into a Cannon rush with a Void Ray follow-up, but his Korean opponent pulled off a perfect defence, not once reeling in the face of the aggression and securing an easy victory for his team.
LP.JieShi still had a shot at stealing a few map wins away from the Korean juggernaut by defeating rookie player NV.Percival, but like the brave knight he named himself after, the Korean put on a courageous performance in his debut, completing Team NV’s triumph. The Terran overcame tough opposition in the first game with standard Bio-Mine play to take the first map. In the second game, a quick Hellion drop with a proxied Starport let him attain a strong lead, which he ruthlessly exploited with a strong Marine-Cyclone attack to finish the Protoss off.
While the clear result between LP and NV was more or less expected, there might have been some potential for Team eXoN to put up a tougher fight against the mighty Afreeca Freecs, though events turned out very differently. eXoN.MaxPax and AF.Armani delivered a messy series with quite a lot of mistakes from both players, with the young Dane paying a higher price for his errors. Catching the Zerg off his guard with Dark Templars, MaxPax managed to take down his damaged third base and brought himself in a good position, but he matched Armani in terms of his shabby defence, letting a huge swarm of Zerglings rampage through his natural, forcing him to abort a probably game-deciding attack. Mutalisks had now arrived for the Zerg, who immediately forced a base trade when MaxPax finally executed his push and snatched victory for himself this way. On the second map, a Phoenix build let the Protoss establish a good foundation for the later stages of the game, but once again a Zergling attack evened the odds. Neither player looked especially good in the deathball-phase of the game, Armani showing questionable army movement and spell caster control, while MaxPax absolutely butchered the final engagement of the match, eating Fungal Growth after Fungal Growth on his stacked armada, enabling the Korean to mark down the second win.
The PvP between eXoN.Nina and AF.Trap also felt like it could have gone the other way had there not been one or two key moments gone wrong for the American player. In the first game, her strategy seemed slightly superior for a large stretch of the match, but two maneuvers let the Korean take control of the match: while posturing with his army and a very visible Warp Prism in front of her natural, Trap slipped a second Warp Prism into her main, dealing a devastating economic blow to his opponent during their engagement. A bit later, he forced Nina to split her forces by opening up a second front, but then unbeknownst to her shifted his second force back to the original front on her third, surrounding and crushing her valuable Disruptor army to secure the win with a brilliant move. The second map was a bit more straight-forward, Trap hitting a crisp timing as Nina’s first Disruptor came out to end the match with a brute-force push.
Even with ace player eXoN.SpeCial making his WTL, eXoN could not reduce the margin of their loss. SpeCial started off by failing to make an impression on AF.Stats with a 2-Rax Reaper rush and the following two-base all-in in the first game. The Mexican also wanted to start the second map in a cheeky way, but his hidden Barracks was found by a Probe, giving Stats all the information he needed to stay safe. A Phoenix build let the Protoss take control of the map entirely, confining SpeCial in his bases for a long while. Stats used the time well to prepare the macro machinery he later used to steamroll over his opponent in a series of battles, which combined with relentless harassment from the Protoss player, was enough to force SpeCial to surrender, ending another ‘6-0 Saturday’ in the WTL.
GP.NaTuRal gave a respectable performance in the first game against αX.RagnaroK‘s Ling-Bane-Hydra style, but failed to make his harassment count in the long run, eventually being overwhelmed as the Zerg brought Ultralisks onto the field. The Terran got a lot more damage done with his mech style on the second map, with his Battlecruiser opening as well as his relentless Hellion attacks battering the Zerg economy. Having the composure of a veteran, however, RagnaroK fought back with Swam Hosts and a Roach-Ravager army, hitting multiple fronts at once to tear the mechanized defence of the Terran apart and deny him further expansions. Tech switches to Mutalisks and ultimately Ultras put his opponent to rest.
The PvP between GP.Prince and αX.Nice once more showed the Taiwanese player’s quality as he outplayed the Korean heavily in the first game, landing strong blows against his Probes with Oracle and Adept harassment while also critically delaying Prince’s Stalker attack with a hallucinated Immortal, buying time for the real thing to come out. The Blink push still looked promising for a while, but a second Immortal popped out of the Robo at an opportune place and time, routing the attack and giving Nice a huge advantage, which he easily transformed into a win. The second map was a bit more action-packed with Prince trying to make something happen with Stalker-Warp Prism aggression, but the effort turned out to be futile in the face of Nice’s excellent defence. On top of the foiled attack, Prince suffered further by once again losing out in the harassment department to the Taiwanese player’s Oracles and Adepts, leading Nice to secure the series victory for Alpha X.
While the series was now won for the Golden Dragons, αX.Zoun failed to run up the score, surprisingly getting bested by GP.Ryung. The former Axiom player executed a strong timing push with Combat Shields and Stim with SCV support before the five minute-mark, overwhelming the unprepared Protoss in the first game. Getting away with an early third Command Centre, the Terran was able to dampen the damage taken by Zoun’s Blink aggression on the second map and teched into a Ghost-Liberator composition very quickly. Getting a massive drop into the Protoss base and supporting it with Liberators and Vikings, Ryung crippled his opponent’s production capabilities, though he took great losses to his economy in return. The Terran did not leave Zoun any breathing space at this point and engaged into several battles, slowly chipping away at the forces the Protoss could no longer replace, eventually wearing him down and completing an impressive upset.
The final series of the week provided an unexpected result with the potential to have massive influence on the playoff race down the line. It will be harder for Dragon Phoenix Gaming to cinch the #1 seed after dropping points to Team Liquid, while Liquid bolsters its chance at making the playoffs by turning a likely loss into a win. It was Liquid’Clem‘s TvZ prowess against DPG.Rogue in the first series which acted as catalyst for Liquid’s performance. In typical Clem fashion, the Terran looked for victory in all-out aggression, keeping his opponent under intense pressure with Marine forces as soon as Stim and Combat Shields were finished, adding Medicavs, Siege Tanks and Liberators as the attack was already in full swing. Rogue did strike back with Mutalisks, but Clem had done much more damage to the Zerg than vice versa, eventually breaking him entirely. Preferring to be the aggressor himself, Rogue opted for a massive Roach-Ravager attack in the second game, but after some initial success couldn’t quite build up the momentum to shatter Clem’s defence, and accepted another loss.
Knowing of the immense hurdle he had to overcome to take home a point for his team, Liquid’Harstem opened the clash with DPG.Dark up with a Cannon Rush followed by Void Rays, but did not manage to either gain a decisive advantage or finish the Zerg off. Following his chosen tech tree to the end, the Captain brought the Golden Armada onto the field and assailed Dark from the air, who held himself in the game with a combination of static defence, Queens and Infestors, while Roaches counterattacked. This whole affair continued longer and longer, neither side being able to close the game out, but Dark conquered ever larger swathes of the map, until the Dutchman was confined to a single base in the east of Romanticide, above which his armada camped. Harstem did finally manage to break out of this position, but Dark had had time to accumulate a huge bank and eventually overwhelmed the fleet before the game could hit the milestone of a length of one hour. To his credit, the Protoss learnt quickly from this experience and did not miss his window of opportunity in the second game after having defended a Hydra-Bane push from Dark with his Void Ray-Disruptor army. Taking the offensive as soon as he had some Carriers under his control, the Protoss broke the Zerg’s defence, managing to secure at least a point for Liquid with the potential for a much greater upset to come.
Fortunately for the Chinese team, DPG.Cure was able to deny Liquid’Kelazhur the honour of bringing the series to a close, though the Brazilian made a much better attempt than expected, coming close to bringing the victory home for TL in the second match. The first map ended relatively one-sided as Cure gained a strong position at Kelazhur’s third base location on Submarine, baiting the Brazilian into a deadly engagement. On Oxide, the Liquid player gained an advantage with a daring Marine-Tank drop in Cure’s natural base, which he improved further with a follow-up attack on the same position. For this, however, he had sacrificed a lot of his army, which gave the Korean a golden opportunity to turn the tide. Pulling some of Kelazhur’s troops out of position with a drop, Cure pounced on the third base and crushed it, equalizing the situation. The usual army movements from both players led to a lot of subsequent action and ultimately a semi-basetrade, which Cure was able to come out of as the victor, forcing the ace match.
The final showdown would feature Dark and Clem clashing, the Terran once again looking to be the aggressor from the beginning. The DPG ace predictably used his beloved Roach style to survive until a Lurker-Viper composition could be hatched and did at one point catch Clem’s Bio-Tank force out of position to create some breathing space for himself. Overall, however, the Terran succeeded in denying Dark an easy fourth base and took the much more efficient engagements—greatly helped by the typically enigmatic and stubborn decision making from Dark when it comes to taking battles. With Ghosts entering the Terran ranks to counter the Lurkers and Vipers, Dark’s economy not being competitive and limited counter damage having been dealt, the outcome was clear to see even for the DPG player, who had to concede victory to the young Frenchman and Team Liquid and this season’s first huge upset.
Weekly MVP Award: Liquid`Clem
It was clear from the very start of the season that Clem would have to do some TaeJa-esque carrying in order for Team Liquid to make the playoffs. His performance in week two showed he’s perfectly capable of rising up to those high expectations. Beating both DPG.Rogue and DPG.Dark handily is a fantastic accomplishment for any player and was made all the more sweet as the Terran was able to secure a major upset against WTL favourites with those victories, greatly enhancing Liquid’s ability to stake a claim in the playoff race ahead. Securing points against such a top squad as a mid-tier team in this league will pay off dividends later in the season, provided Liquid can continue such strong performances under the leadership of the young Frenchman, who will continue to play a central role in the campaign.
This week’s honourable mentions for the position go out to KZ.INnoVation for his own hard-fought ace win as well as Shopify.Lambo and Liquid’Harstem for their roles in bringing about the ace matches their teams were involved in this week.
Week 3 Preview
Friday, Apr 09 11:00am GMT (GMT+00:00) Matches
After having it comparatively easy in the previous week by facing Good Game Gaming, Invictus Gaming are back in the purgatory in Week 3 as they take on a daunting Team NV squad. However, the Koreans seem to have relaxed their guard a bit, sending out two of their less reliable players to escort their ace, so perhaps the Chinese Terrans can once again land a blow against their opponents and secure a map or two against the favourites.
Coming right off their triumphant ace victory over Dragon Phoenix Gaming, Team Liquid must feel very good going into battle with Alpha X. The Golden Dragons haven’t shown themselves from their best side so far, especially as their ace Protoss player Zoun has lacked severely in reliability up to this point. It’ll be an important match for both squads, since they project to be direct rivals in the race for the fifth and final playoff spot that’s in realistic reach of the mid-tier teams. This should be a battle between two forces of relatively comparable strength levels, though with Liquid’Clem looming threateningly over a struggling αX.Zoun in the final match, the Golden Dragons may need to focus on an early victory, whereas Liquid merely needs to survive until the Terran can take the field.
Saturday, Apr 10 11:00am GMT (GMT+00:00) Matches
Limping away with only a single point from the showdown with Team Liquid, Dragon Phoenix Gaming will have to mend their wounded pride against poor Team LP, which has the dubious honour of acting as a therapeutic punching bag for the tournament favourites. There’s a good chance that ‘6-0 Saturdays’ will continue, looking at how the players on both sides have lined up.
Probably the most highly anticipated match of the week behind the clash between Liquid and Alpha X will feature Shopify Rebellion and Afreeca Freecs clashing with each other in another tough up-hill battle for the Canadian organization. Having forced KaiZi Gaming into an ace match, the Rebels seem well equipped to also surprise the Freecs, but the Koreans luckily dodged the possibility of a ZvZ against Shopify.Lambo, putting the Rebellion in a clear underdog position in all three match-ups.
Sunday, Apr 11 11:00am GMT (GMT+00:00) Matches
Things are starting to get a bit tight for Team eXoN after only two weeks of WTL series, so the international coalition really needs to start showing some results if they are to play a role in the battle for the playoff spots. While Good Game Gaming stand atop the league standings after two match days, they profited from an easy start and will get progressively harder opponents as the season continues, starting with eXoN as their first real test. With the pairings all looking quite evenly matched—though eXoN.MaxPax clearly has the steepest hill to climb—this clash should have close battles and possibly another ace match.
Team GP has shown some signs of life in the previous week, but it’s hard to imagine them truly challenging the juggernaut that is KaiZi Gaming with the players on their roster and the line-ups being drawn. Cheese and surprise may enable their Protoss players to steal away a map, but the Machine should be in a great position to close things out in any case.
- Decision Making