I will analyse INnoVation’s games against Zest and Life in the Blizzcon WCS Global Finals 2015. Part 1 focuses on his dominance against Zest.
Before I get to the actual analysis itself, I want to talk about the predictability of INnoVation. Or should I say the perceived predictability.
There are so many times when casters and analysers keep emphasising that INnoVation just keeps playing the same build and he is predictable. Really? They have no idea what they are saying.
Predictability of INnoVation
INnoVation mixes up his builds pretty well, and he plants minor build order mind games in a series that these experts probably didn’t notice. If there is a time that he’s predictable with the same build, that is in 2013 Season 1 and 2. There was no doubt that he was the best player in the world in 2013 Season 1, and he destroyed everyone with the same build for each match up. I can still recall it. He used 15 gas Hellion expand for TvT, 15 gas Widow Mine drop expand for TvP, and 14CC into 3CC 4M bio for TvZ. His predictability in Season 2 became his weakness when other players started to catch up with him, and his defeat against Naniwa was a good example of how predictable INnoVation was.
Coincidence of not, INnoVation did not really have any notable individual achievement (by his high standard) when he was with Team Acer between September 2013 and September 2014, Since he was mainly playing the mainstream builds like everyone else during the difficult period for Terran in early to mid 2014, it is hard to attribute his poor form to his “predictability” during that period of time. He won the third GSL in 2014 after he moved back to South Korea and joined SK Telecom. The games he played in the GSL final against his team mate soO showed how well he mixed in builds tailored for the maps. INnoVation used two-base all-in, which is rare even to this date, on Catallena and King Sejong Station (the map allows good Tank positioning). For someone, who was described by the casters to play three Command Centre close to every game, this was a surprise.
Apart from builds, his tactical choices in the mid and late game were far from “predictable”, and a good example was game 6 in that GSL final. He was dropping only Widow Mines in the mid and late game at the Zerg mineral line, and that was not exactly innovative but definitely very uncommon. You probably won’t be able to find that many vods of such moves.
Now fast forward to 2015, when both INnoVation and Maru are the undisputed best players in executing the metagame Widow Mine drop builds in TvP (or perhaps the best Terran players in general), INnoVation often mixed his builds up because the opponents assume he was doing the mainstream Widow Mine drop builds. The game between INnoVation and Creator in GSL showed INnoVation was not as predictable as people assume he was.
Unlike other races, Terran don’t have a range of unorthodox builds, and INnoVation was still able to pull something interesting against Zest in the last GSL. He destroyed Zest with Drilling Claw upgrade Widow Mine drop. Just when did you see such build in a professional game?
If INnoVation is predictable, then it’s Terran that is predictable.
INnoVation vs. Zest
I prefer to separate “opening” and “build” in a build order discussion, because you can mix and match them based on the building blocks logic. This allows you to analyse the build order better.
Game 1 – Terraform
The current understand of TvP is that Terran will usually open up economically with either Reaper or Command Centre first, then decide to go for more Barracks, tech up, or third Command Centre. Thus, Protoss usually sneak at Probe back into Terran’s base to scout which of the three paths Terran chose.
INnoVation started the series with a three Barracks choice. While three Barracks is one of the most common TvP builds, people often misunderstood the deeper implications in the different variations. The two common variations are the 9:00 minute timing with Stim, Combat Shield and Concussive Shell, and the standard three Barracks with a normal 10:00 move out timing with Medivacs. INnoVation picked the 9:00 timing for the first game.
Zest went for his favourite PvT build. One Gateway expand into Twilight Council (Blink) in phase 2.1 then Robotic Facility in phase 2.2, and he subsequently put down his Robotics Bay and takes his third at around 8:00. Theoretically, 8:00 is a very early third, and it is hard to hold. But Zest and many other top Protoss have used this as one of their key builds, after it has been refined from the prototype used by PartinG. It is one of the variations of the Big Boy build.
Zest did well in delaying the Terran timing by destroying the rock, but he made a misstep with how he got his Stalkers caught by the bio. Perhaps he started to get pull apart when he didn’t notice the drop in his main at 11:30, even though his Observer had vision of the drop coming in. There wasn’t much to talk about, as Zest just made a mistake that he shouldn’t make at that level, and things just snowball down.
Interestingly, INnoVation put down his fourth and fifth Barracks before the third Command Centre, and had Widow Mine production. The way he played it out, it seems to me that he didn’t plan to do a Scv pull, which is something that he’s famous for. This again shows he mixes his builds up.
Game 2 – Moonlight Madness
INnoVation used different opening and build in the second game. Reaper expand and Command Centre first have their own merits, so it is down to map in terms of whether one is better. For the first two maps, I will argue that the two openings are comparable so it is just one’s preference and the necessity to mix things up. I like switching between the standard three Barracks build, and the 9:00 timing build, as it increases the uncertainty on the Protoss’ side. Zest is using the same build.
The casters may have given too much credit to INnoVation for the two-pronged attack with the six Marines and Reaper early on. INnoVation loves to move the Reaper to main, and poke at the natural with six Marines. But this move is usually followed up with another attack as the six Marines will force the Photon Overcharge. This also indirectly made Zest thinks that INnoVation is doing another 9:00 timing, as it cannot be a Widow Mine drop since he scouted the additional Barracks. I will argue that the effectiveness of the six Marines surprised INnoVation too, as it all started with the Mothership Core moving to the Reaper on the high ground. I doubt INnoVation “planned” it in such a way that the Pylon will be placed there, and the Reaper will attack it from the high ground to draw the Mothership Core over. Nevertheless, INnoVation made the best out of it.
Similar to game 1, based on his various midgame decisions, INnoVation seems to favour the Maru-style midgame in this series so far. Again, Zest didn’t bring his A-game, and INnoVation was on point in everything.
Game 3 – Cactus Valley
Command Centre first is arguably better than Reaper expand on this map. The early third Command Centre was a great decision from INnoVation. The first two games focused on the different three Barracks builds, so it seems believable that INnoVation may be doing something similar if Zest did not see any tech units early in the game. The big four player map also allows a hidden third to be used. Zest used the same build again (so who’s predictable now?)
Given that INnoVation got away with the early third Command Centre, his decision to go for Scv pull instead of the Maru-style is the correct choice. This is because Terran just have too much stuff when the timing hits, if Terran can just macro up with an early third without any problem (see how Flash does it below).
INnoVation played a great series against Zest. If there is a player who is predictable in this series, that is not INnoVation. The build variations used in the series were quite well planned, and the execution was INnoVation level. It really gets me thinking that it’s the lack of understanding that some people have, that leads them to criticise INnoVation for being a one-dimensional player or predictable.
I will discuss about INnoVation’s game against Life in the next post.