Opening Week—Day 3: History Made in HGC and the Machine Gets Rattled in WCS

The second day of the World Championship Series (WCS) Global Finals Opening Week has concluded, and the 16 best players in the world are steadily being whittled down to the final eight. While there weren’t any major upsets on Day 2, we still had some remarkable games of StarCraft II.

Going into Opening Week, Lee ‘INnoVation’ Shin Hyung was expected to cruise through his matches and qualify for the quarterfinals at BlizzCon with ease. His first match against Bang ‘TRUE’ Tae Soo showed us that it may not be so easy. TRUE has been a consistent presence in the semifinals of nearly all major WCS Circuit events this year, so he’s always been considered a serious contender at this biggest tournament of the year, but INnoVation is on a level of his own. As Dan ‘Artosis’ Stemkoski puts it, “he’s on his way to being known as the best StarCraft II player of all time.” So when TRUE came out swinging in their first game to absolutely dominate INnoVation, it took everyone by surprise.

While INnoVation fought back hard and took the second game handily, their third game was easily the most exciting battle of the day (@0:35:15). While TRUE has only one championship title to INnoVation’s eight, they went toe to toe for a half hour, trading back and forth in engagement after engagement. Every time INnoVation found the right position to attack from, TRUE used his Vipers to abduct Siege Tanks and Liberators right into his Zerg forces. The master of mechanics and micromanagement—so much so that his nickname is the Machine—InnoVation found it nearly impossible to get the better of TRUE. It was only thanks to his slightly better economy that he finally managed to take the game and knock TRUE to the lower bracket.

While TRUE ultimately fell again to Joona ‘Serral’ Sotala and was eliminated from the tournament, his performance against a player considered to be the best in the world will be remembered as one of the best moments of Opening Week 2017. The action continues on Sunday beginning at 9:00 a.m. PDT with winner's matches and decider's matches set to thin the field.

The third day of the HGC Finals, meanwhile, was full of marquee matchups as Group C, the Group of Death, played out at Blizzard Arena. Before it was over, Roll20 Esports would be on the giving and receiving end of history-making performances while still failing to come up with answers against Europe’s best.

The morning started off with Roll20 Esports dropping a Battleground to RED Canids, which marks the first time a team from Latin America has been able to take a map off of a North American, Chinese, Korean or European team in the past year. Roll20 were able to pull the series back in their favor and advanced to play against Team Dignitas, who had earned their spot in the winner’s match after emerging victorious over Korea’s Tempest in an intense 2-1 series.

Team Dignitas dismantled Roll20 in the first game with a fairly standard composition that featured Leoric and Abathur. In the second game, Roll20 pulled out an interesting composition that utilized Lt. Morales and Sgt. Hammer. The pushing power of this cheesy comp was thwarted by a last-minute draft adaptation for Team Dignitas, who took Garrosh for his anti-siege utility. The audible worked, and Team Dignitas clenched their spot in the playoffs at BlizzCon.

Roll20 would have to regroup and pick themselves back up for their decider match against Tempest, who moved past the RED Canids will relative ease.

In the first game on Warhead Junction, Roll20 reached into their back pocket again for Lt. Morales, this time with the safety of Zarya. These two heroes worked together to secure multiple early bosses, putting Roll20 up 1-0. However, on the second Battleground of the series Roll20 found themselves playing into Tempest’s strengths, with Jung Woo ‘H82’ Kim on his signature Artanis. After losing nearly all their keeps to the strong early game of Tempest, Roll20 was able to make the stars align – earning kill after kill and staggering them in such a way to secure a large late game advantage; ultimately it was Tempest who was left without a core to defend.

Roll20 made history – becoming the first roster from North America to beat a Korean team in a full series since Cloud9 defeated Team DK in the group stage of BlizzCon 2015. To add to the unprecedented impact of it all, Roll20 Esports also makes it 3-for-3 for North America, as they join Tempo Storm and Team Freedom in making it out of groups and into the quarterfinals at the HGC Finals.  

We wave goodbye now to the RED Canids and Tempest, and welcome Team Digntias and Roll20 to the BlizzCon Stage. Be sure to tune in tomorrow when Team expert goes up against Ballistix at 12:30 p.m. PDT / 9:30 p.m. CEST.