China Team Championship: Season 2What good fortune! With CTC Season 2 heading into the last week of the regular season, the scheduling had worked out so that we have some must-see, head-to-head deathmatches for playoff spots. Newbee and LP will face off in what's effectively a 'loser-goes-home' match in Group A, while Chivo and PSISTORM will face off in a similarly high-stakes match in Group B (although the situation there is not quite as clear cut). But before we get to our week five previews, we recap last week's matches.
Week 4 Recap & Week 5 Preview
Group A, Week 4 recap: KaiZi retake #1by Ziggy
Watch VODs - Match 1 - Match 2 - Match 3 - Ace Match
Brave Star Gaming was eliminated from playoff contention after a 3-4 defeat at the hands of LaoPaoer. The newcomers to the league picked up their fourth loss in the round-robin, with Impact overcoming an early game disadvantage against Dream in the ace match.
The VSL Champion (remember that?) Impact is virtually single-handedly carrying Team LP through the season and keeping their playoff hopes alive (more on that in our previews), currently sitting at a 7-1 mapscore. On the side of BSG, however, I'm glad Dream finally managed to snatch a 2-0 for himself prior to the ace match. While he's still a shadow of his former self, he's quietly been putting up good online results in other tournaments. While chances are very slim that he makes a FULL recovery as a top-two Terran, it's nice to see his improved form show up in the CTC. I'm certainly looking forward to what he has in store for us in GSL Super Tournament 2 as well as 2020.
Last week, INnoVation suffered a 0-2 defeat to Impact in KaiZi's loss to LP, leading to a rather entertaining rumor from the Chinese community that KaiZi's team owners ordered him to commit to at least 120 games of practice per week. While INnoVation later said the rumor was untrue, he's returned to his winning ways regardless.
INnoVation outperformed TIME in what I'd call a must-watch bout for TvT connoisseurs, helping his team reach the top of the standings. Whilst the TvT series certainly took the cake for best match, one mustn't forget a likewise crucial victory delivered by Super, who continued his post-military recovery with a valuable win over Scarlett.
Oh, yeah, Misaki played again. Of course, the fact his team had already secured a win didn't deter him from pulling out his usual swarm host nydus play and a roach ling all-in (it didn't work this time). Cause Misaki do what Misaki do.
Cure finally got a week off, presumably to visit a chiropractor after carrying Jin Air through one and a half seasons of the CTC. Instead, Jin Air brought out the big guns (at least in terms of name value) as Maru and sOs took center stage. To no one's surprise Invictus Gaming lost, as the all-Chinese roster couldn't hold a candle to the last remaining bastion of nostalgia-laden KeSPA domination.
Speaking of nostalgia, remember that Mvp vs Tefel game from 2013? You know, that game where the Polish Zerg got into the main of the four-time GSL champion, brought him down to 6 (5?) workers, and then went on to lose that very same game after struggling for nearly 35 minutes? Well, in that case, go give Maru vs iAsonu on Triton a watch, as the (oh, how fitting) four-time GSL champion invoked the spirit of MVP, lost 76 SCVs within a single scoring window (you know, the little pop-up on the left side of the screen - keep up!), and still somehow managed to salvage that situation and win.
Group B, Week 3: Pixel 1 and TSG lock in playoff spotsby Ziggy
Watch VODs - Match 1 - Match 2 - Match 3
Defending champions Triumphant Song Gaming secured a spot in the playoffs with their fourth win in a row as Ocean Gaming's fate is now partially out of their hands. This week's opening match of Group B yet again treated us to a chiaroscuro of skill, as both herO and Zest struggled to make it seem like TooDming or Nice even stood a chance. Even the main event of Solar vs SpeCial was rather one-sided, as Solar delivered a masterclass in textbook ling/bane/muta ZvT.
The season one champions seem to be hell-bent on proving that the road to the title goes through them, regardless of newcomer teams or Jin Air actually getting their visas. Either way, next week might prove to be their biggest challenge yet, as they'll face fellow undefeated team Pixel 1 in a match that will decide who gets the enormously advantageous #1 head into the playoffs.
Pixel 1 remain undefeated in the second season of the CTC, and now stand on top of the rankings across both Group and B. Despite their opener Firefly ending up completely outclassed by Katowice champion soO, P1 managed to turn the series back around with both FanTaSy and PartinG picking up relatively straight-forward 2-0's. While the obvious skill disparity in the first two Bo2s made for rather one-sided and uneventful games, the final bout between RagnaroK and PartinG is definitely worth giving a watch. Well, that's IF you're partial to PartinG's usual antics of cannon rush with an immortal + shield battery rush on map #1 followed up by a DT drop into a hidden nexus into a macro-based version of the Margaery Build / Push / Pressure on map #2.
Watch VODs - (Match 1 - Match 2 - Match 3)
PSISTORM picked up an important win in the penultimate round of the group stage as Black Night hit rock bottom. While the Armani vs Sakura and TRUE vs Daydreamer matches went just about as anyone expected, BN's DynaMite came out with an impressive showing against GuMiho, taking the SC2 veteran on in a drawn-out bio + tank TvT on Disco Bloodbath. A few hiccups in the early game and a somewhat failed proxy rax opening put GuMiho on the back foot, and DynaMite quite aptly took advantage of that and took a lead in virtually every facet of the game. In the end, however, experience prevailed, as GuMiho's army movement and a patient approach to taking fights allowed him to claw his way back into the match.
Weekly Spotlightby TheOneAboveU
Weekly MVP: LP.Impact
With a record of 8-2 so far, Impact has contributed over half of Team LP’s map wins this season and ranks among the top five players in the league. He picked up three of those wins in week 4, where he carried his team to an important win over Brave Star Gaming by beating Hurricane 2-0 and closing the series out with a win over a resurgent Dream in the ace match.
LP can clinch a playoff spot with a win over Newbee next week, which is a real possibility if Impact just gets a little help from his teammates.
Chinese Player Spotlight: iG.Coffee
Invictus Gaming may have been eliminated once again this season before reaching the playoffs, but they have shown tenacity in the face of adversity. A glance through the Liquipedia scorelines won't show it, but they've given us surprisingly good and close series as the underdogs.
Coffee has contributed a lot to this effort, being currently ranked as the best Chinese player in the league with a 5-3 record, and he remains the only Chinese player that does not have a losing record against non-Chinese opponents, standing at a 50% win rate. He's averaging at least one map win every week, contributed to iG’s upset of Team LP in Week 1 by splitting maps with LP.Impact, and forced Newbee into the ace match in Week 3 by splitting maps with Newbee.TIME.
Unfortunately, most Western fans probably remember the name Coffee because of his one-and-a-half year ban from competitive play in 2017 on account of match-fixing. It’s truly a shame for such a talented player to throw away so much valuable time in such a foolish enterprise, especially as Coffee back then was already hailed as part of a new, strong generation of players poised to replace the old guard. Like with TSG.Nice, the ban seems to have worked in reforming Coffee and changing his ways—or so we can all hope.
Since his comeback Coffee made it into WCS Winter America, and showed some good placements in Chinese online cups, though he just couldn’t crack the very top positions yet. His consistent performance in CTC could well be an indicator for his steady improvement, though, and it will be exciting to see if the international scene will soon have to deal with another Chinese Terran taking top spots in WCS.