The group stage began today at Intel Extreme Masters Toronto where 12 of the World’s Best Gamers were pitted against each other to claim first place in their respective groups. The final matches of the group stage will be played tomorrow when we will find out the runner-up of each group.
The final games from the open bracket were played out at the beginning of the day, with two rematches from yesterday. Canadian player HuK failed to beat Leenock in their rematch, falling out of the tournament after an impressive run in the open bracket. Snute had more luck when he managed to beat herO once again, in another prolonged Swarm Host laden match, guaranteeing himself at least 125 WCS points.
Group A: It’s still summer
Group A was probably one of the hardest for Bunny to be placed in as TvT is his worst matchup. with only a 54% win rate. However, the Danish player has taken his momentum from his win at Gfinity G3 and has once again defeated another top dog, with a fast 2-0 victory against Polt. Unusually, their first game ended up in a draw, with both players losing their Command Centers by the end of the game. Polt ended up with a measly amount of Vikings, and although Bunny had a good amount of Marines and Medivacs, he had no air units to target Polt’s floating buildings leaving both players at an impasse.
TaeJa and Zest faced each other again, in what could easily be an epic final of any tournament. The two met in the playoffs of Intel Extreme Masters Shenzhen, where Zest suffered a bitter 0-3 defeat, in which he simply seemed to be outclassed by the Terran player. The games today were much closer, with their final match coming down to the wire. After managing to take it to the last match, Zest seemed to have it won with a two base all-in, which TaeJa did not have an answer to. In a split second decision he decided to go for a base trade, and from there both players relocated their bases. However, TaeJa managed to float both his Command Centers away meaning that he took the economic lead.in a huge feat of resilience, TaeJa was able to overwhelm his opponent’s army and win a game which he should have lost at the five minute mark.
TaeJa then went on to face his teammate, Bunny, in a matchup he doesn’t feel entirely comfortable with. After his loss against Polt in the finals of Red Bull Battle Grounds in Detroit, he wasn’t overly eager to go into another TvT, describing it as a ‘rock, paper, scissor’ matchup. In the first game, both players went for the exact same build, both dropping in the other’s base at the exact same time. However TaeJa managed to snipe off most of Bunny’s Tanks before they could siege up. TaeJa’s attack on the other hand did the damage it needed to, and he was able to take an early win in the first game. Bunny managed to get the early lead in the, using a Reaper to do a little bit of early harass. He quickly gave up his lead to an unfortunate doom drop, which TaeJa defended with ease. From here TaeJa took the advantage, and was able to end the game shortly after with a doom drop of his own in Bunny’s base.
Zest managed to keep his tournament dream alive in his match against Polt, to whom he won in a 2-1 victory. Zest and Bunny will play each other for the first time ever tomorrow in the group decider, to see who will make it to the playoffs.
Group B: Seeking rather than vengeance, retribution
Both Leenock and viOLet had a point to prove coming into Group B. Leenock has only recently started becoming relevant again when he took top four at DreamHack Valencia. viOLet has also come out of his hibernation caused by visa issues with a string of top four finishes in Anaheim, Atlanta and Detroit. All three of their games were extremely back and forth with both players trying to win out small skirmishes whenever they could. The match boiled down to the final game, where viOLet defended well against Leenock’s early aggression. The game somewhat stabilized until Leenock managed to decimate viOLet’s economy in a good attack. viOLet had no choice but to attack, which at first seemed to be in his favor, however he did not have enough Roaches to tank for his Hydralisks and his army quickly fell when Leenock regrouped his forces.
YoDa is another player who is looking to restore himself to his extremely short-lived glory days. In fact, his big win at the Intel Extreme Masters World Championship seems like a blip in his barrage of mediocre results. And he certainly found retribution today, winning both his matches against HyuN and Leenock. YoDa did have the slight advantage coming into the group as he only had to prepare for one matchup, however it seems that his preparation coming into the tournament was extremely thoughtful and thorough. Instead of trying to catch his opponent off guard YoDa played extremely methodical and straightforward games. He showed this particularly in his series against Leenock where he was extremely careful to scan ramps for burrowed Banelings. In their third game of the day, YoDa managed to play from behind after a proxy Hatchery was placed in his natural, delaying his economy. He managed to deflect Leenock’s Mutalisk attacks with ease and from there won the game.
Another WCS America title holder was knocked out of the tournament early as Leenock managed to cause a huge upset by winning his match against HyuN 2-1. Leenock will face a rematch against viOLet tomorrow to see who will be knocked out of the tournament and who will advance.
Group C: Snute’s his name, Swarm Hosts are his game
MaSa qualified through the Canadian qualifiers, and was not only representing his country at the tournament, but his hometown. He might not be the best known Canadian player, often being overshadowed by players like HuK and Scarlett, but this did not matter to the crowd who were clearly behind him. Unfortunately for MaSa he would have to face off against Snute in his first match on the big stage, who has been playing an apparently unbeatable build against Terrans at the moment. If you caught Snute’s games yesterday in the open bracket, you’ll know that he loves his Swarm Hosts. He seems to be the pioneer of playing Swarm Hosts against Terran players, saying that he came up with the build after finding a difficult time against Terrans after the patch. It seemed that once MaSa allowed Snute to fall back on his beloved Swarm Hosts he simply could not be stopped. In fact, his teammate Bunny had said that there was a time window in which a Terran had to hit against Snute in the early game before he can build any Swarm Hosts, but once the window has passed it becomes nigh on impossible to beat the Zerg player. Although MaSa played good games against the world’s best foreigner, he allowed his opponent to amass Swarm Hosts in both games, and suffered a decisive 0-2 defeat.
Snute then went on to play sOs, who had just won in a 2-0 victory against First, in an uncharacteristically short series. Instead of prolonging the games long enough to build his usual Swarm Hosts he opted for a Roach and Hydralisk army in the first game. Although sOs had the early advantage after being able to destroy Snute’s third base, Snute managed to stabilize the game. He then went for his own aggression and managed to kill 22 of sOs’s probes, however he did not have the Hydralisk numbers to deal the killing blow. He held onto the economic lead he gained through the attack, and won the final engagement with his Roach and Hydralisk army which was assisted by some Vipers. His army composition in the second game was similar to the first, however he managed to take a huge economic lead by taking the gold base very early on. From there he also gained the army advantage and was able to hit Protoss before any Collosi could be built to deal with his Hydralisks. After not dropping a single game in the group, Snute finds himself in the RO8 alongside his teammate TaeJa.
After knocking out the hometown favorite MaSa, First will once again have to go toe-to-toe with sOs. Tomorrow’s decider matches will certainly be interesting to watch, as all of them will be rematches of sets played out earlier in the group. We will have to wait until tomorrow to see whether First can recover from his crushing defeat against sOs and whether he learnt anything from the match.
Group D: Game of the gods
After HuK and MaSa had been knocked out of the tournament, Scarlett was Canada’s last remaining hope. She has had an impressive run recently and people expected big things from her coming into the tournament. She faced off against Life in her first match of the day, to whom she had defeated in their previous two meetings. However, she was unable to make it a hat-trick today, as Life managed to edge out in an extremely close series. After winning the first game rather decisively, Scarlett decided to stray off the beaten path, and decided against playing Roach vs. Roach - something which would prove to be her downfall. In their third game she opted for Mutalisks, however Life responded with a great Nydus Worm attack, building over 9 Queens to deal with Scarlett’s air units. A fast response from her opponent and possibly a bad build choice meant she would have to face the loser of MC vs. Flash.
Flash’s reign of terror in GSL recently made his match against MC the most highly anticipated of the day. It was a legendary matchup indeed with the titan of Brood War and the boss of StarCraft II facing each other in a momentous occasion. The two did not disappoint with an extremely back and forth series, with both players winning one game apiece by the skin of their teeth. MC tried his luck again in the third game, with another proxy Stargate. In a repeat of their second game, Flash chose to attack MC, knowing that he would be significantly lacking in Gateway units. However, in a bizarre choice from the Protoss, he built four Void Rays and did massive amounts of damage to Flash’s buildings and economy. He quickly reinforced his air army with his ground army, leaving Flash with no choice but to exit the game.
The loser’s match ended up being somewhat of a disappointment. Perhaps taking inspiration from Snute, Scarlett decided to make the eventual transition into Swarm Hosts in both games. However, it seemed that she may not have practiced the build very much, as it seemed poorly executed. In the first game Flash did huge amounts of damage to Scarlett’s economy in the early game, dropping in her natural whilst sneaking Hellions into her base. He killed a total of 21 Drones in the early game, and even though Scarlett managed to hold on, she never really made a full recovery. In the second game Flash decided to abused the immobility of Swarm Hosts by simply constantly destroying her third and fourth bases. Although Flash needlessly attacked into the Swarm Hosts a few times, he had the minerals to rebuild his army in an instant, a position which Scarlett was not as fortunate to have. Eventually Flash just collapsed on top of Scarlett’s Swarm Hosts and won the game in another clear victory.
In what many would consider to be an upset, Life took first in the group, defeating MC 2-0. He is the second open bracket player to make it through to the playoffs, proving just how competitive the tournament was from the get go. This leaves MC to fight against Flash once again, in a repeat clash of the titans.
If you missed out on any of the action you can watch all the VoDs here, which includes all the games from the community streams. Make sure you read our day one recap, and tune into Intel Extreme Masters Toronto tomorrow at 10:00 EDT (16:00 CEST).