MLG Spring Championship 2012 Day 1: An embarrassment of riches

MLG Anaheim Crowd

Would it be churlish to ask the MLG never to host a major event on Pacific time ever again? Because the last StarCraft 2 matches just finished an hour ago, and now I'm watching the sun come up outside my window while I try to turn notes like "MC = toast" and "MKP PROX RAX!!!" into something coherent. This seems like a good tie to reconsider some life choices and ask the important questions like, "Could Grubby have taken Game 3 from MarineKing if he'd just scouted more?"

It's hard to complain about the late hours the MLG has me keeping when there was so much great competition to enjoy on Friday. With 10 StarCraft and League of Legends streams to choose from, there was almost always a good match available. European readers and East Coasters who missed Friday's action can catch the rebroadcast on the red StarCraft 2 channel that precedes today's games.

That's not to say it was perfect: I had issues with the League of Legends streams freezing for extended periods all night long, and while the USA Nationals were an interesting end to the evening, they were literally and figuratively in a different league than the MLG players. After an evening of watching matchups like Stephano vs. Ganzi, DRG vs. MC, and MarineKing vs. Grubby, the American-only tournament was a little anticlimactic.

New boss, old boss?

The top StarCraft players at the end of Day 1 were MarineKing (Lee Jung Hoon, Korean Terran) and Stephano (Ilyes Satouri, French Zerg), who have so far gone undefeated in their pools and stand at 3-0 apiece. Close behind them at 2-1 are Leenock, Inori, Alicia, MC, and Socke. Tomorrow they will be joined in their pools by the winners in the open bracket, and tomorrow night championship bracket play begins at 10 P.M. Eastern.

Stephano looked nigh unbeatable last night, continuing the tear he's been on since Spring Arena 2 and scoring a memorable victory over his rival Polt (Choi Sung Hoon, Korean Terran) along the way. His game 2 victory, after Polt appeared to have him dead-to-rights in the wake of a successful Hellion / Marauder timing attack, was one of my favorite moments from day 1. Stephano looked like he was doomed as Polt's siege line crept closer, but then all hell broke loose as Stephano's Infestors hit Polt's Terrans with a wave of fungals just as Ultralisks poured out of his base. I'm not sure I've ever seen a game turn around so fast: Polt's army was shattered in seconds. Compounding matters, Polt made an uncharacteristic error: Polt left a huge crowd of SCV's stuck following a single SCV. While that SCV blithely harvested, a mob of his fellows chased after him in what looked almost like a re-enactment of "Thriller". The lost mining time sealed Polt's fate as Stephano spread across the map and picked off expansions.

Stephano has noticeably stepped up his game, but I'll be very interested to see how he fares in matchups against other Zerg players this weekend. Stephano was having a brilliant weekend at Spring Arena 2 until he ran out of Protoss and Terrans to beat.

MarineKing looked about as sharp as ever, going undefeated in his best-of-threes. Still, I can't help but think his second game against Grubby (Manuel Schenkhuizen, Dutch Protoss) was a sign of things to come. Grubby survived the early stages of the game and answered MKP's Marine / Medivac prowess with tons of High Templars. With perfect Psi Storm placement and timing, he was able to shut down every one of MarineKing's attempts to break into the center of the map. True, a bio-heavy Terran army struggling against Protoss Templars is nothing new, but what struck me was MarineKing's response to losing that game. He built a proxy barracks to strangle Grubby at the start, and quickly brought things to a close thereafter.

It was a smart play, but not really an answer to the problems that Grubby so effectively highlighted. Given the chance, MKP will rely on his Marines and Medivacs to carry the day, and if he thinks that game plan is in jeopardy, he'll get hyper-aggressive very early. It caught Grubby off-guard in game 3, but I also remember that DRG used that aggression against MKP in the finals at Spring Arena 1. Of course, this is also why I like watching MarineKing so much. He works without a net, and won't hesitate to stake everything on a risky proxy strategy or a bunker rush. I just wonder for how much longer he can keep catching people out with early-game aggression.

League of Legends frustration

I didn't catch nearly as much League of Legends as I would have liked. For one thing, the streams kept freezing for me. I saw some comments from MLG staff that there will be some fixes implemented overnight that should improve the streaming experience today, but all I can tell you is that LoL wasn't working brilliantly for me last night.

As luck would have it, one of the few matches I saw all the way through was a massacre: Team SoloMid vs. MRN. It was such a mismatch that there are a number of angry threads over in the LoL forums debating whether MRN was trolling or not. The second game certainly provides ammunition for MRN's critics: after getting behind early, MRN just seemed to quit. They dropped to 0 - 17 before putting two on the board to make it 2-26. Afterwards, Solomid's Dyrus (Marcus Hill) actually apologized to the audience for having to sit through it. All in all, not a stellar moment.

I did see a decent series between Orbit Gaming and CLG NA that featured a nice come-from-behind win by Orbit after 35 minutes of play, although they went on to lose the series. But I hope to catch more LoL than I did yesterday, and maybe a match that doesn't require one of the participants to apologize for it. Hopefully LoL's brackets and the MLG streams will be kind to me when play resumes today at 1 P.M. Eastern.

What'd you enjoy from MLG last night? What match-ups should we make a special effort to see today?

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