The hazards of volatility: NASL 3 W3D1 recap

Posted by Radoslav "Nydra" Kolev at 30 April 2012 11:59

Scrimmage report

TT1 2-1 Cloud
VODs: Game 1 on Daybreak /// Game 2 on Ohana /// Game 3 on Antiga Shipyard

After TT1 learned the hard way that it's never a good idea to fight hellions with probes, he went on to play two very easy to summarize games: Ohana was a short tractate on why is three bases and 3/3 is better than two bases and 2/2; and Antiga taught Cloud that although making 6 vikings for a single colossus is a bit of an overkill, landing them and losing them all to zealots is even worse.


Stephano 2-0 BratOK
VODs: Game 1 on Daybreak /// Game 2 on Antiga Shipyard

This series was just Stephano being Stephano: get lings, follow with infestors, finish with brood lords. To the viewer, BratOK felt like nothing more than a sparring dummy that the Frenchman resorts to at the end of the day to relax after any actual challenges from earlier.

Puma 2-0 Hwangsin
VODs: Game 1 on Daybreak /// Game 2 on Odyssey

We had to sit through one "cat plays with mouse until it goes suicidal" game on Daybreak before being presented with a proper PvT. Even though the skill level discrepancy between Hwangsin and Puma was oh so apparent, the protoss did put up a good fight and managed to live till the late-game but that was all he won that day. Puma is known for dissecting tosses of highest tier and to hammer him down one does need a perfect army composition that survives the EMP rain. Hwangsin did not have the former and did not do the latter.

Zenio 2-1 Haypro
VODs: Game 1 on Daybreak /// Game 2 on Antiga Shipyard /// Game 3 on Ohana

Rarely we see 20+ minute-long ZvZs nowadays so thank god for game 2 on Antiga. Before scoring his second loss in the division, the Swede played on par with Zenio the whole game and the two danced what looked like unending roach/hydra/infestor conflict, which never took even a five second break.


Of volatility and time span

My colleague procyolontor often talks about the advantages of the NASL format: equal exposure for every player regardless of skill and the long nine-week test to sift the worthy from the unworthy. And while those easily hold true, they are also features which can often come in bad light for the audience, especially when combined with the size of each division.

As the wise uncle Ben said after watching the first two seasons of NASL before getting shot on his way out of an illegal barcraft : "With great numbers comes great volatility". Having nine people in a single group is indeed an unique approach to StarCraft 2 tournaments but it inevitably amplifies the impression (or rather the fact) of big gaps in skill levels. This factor has less effect on the entertainment curve when a tournament is compressed into a single weekend, for example, but having 36 matches spread over two months puts this variance on the fore front. It even shoves it violently in your face when you wait for a whole week to watch a certain division only to be treated to a dull night of one-sided matches. Like this one for its better part, or others to come.

Every systems has its flaws and NASL's is having 45 people whose mastery of the game varies from mid-tier North Americans to the Korean elite entangled in marathon of a tournament. Which, ironically, is also NASL's biggest charm. Sadly, there is no avoiding the hazards aside from scrapping half of the players and replacing them with the strong of the day or shortening the time span of the tournament so we spend less time not caring about players like BratOK, Catz or DarkForce who are almost certain division drop-outs before week four. Winners are what matters and winners are what people remember and if one can map out the top three in each division with almost surgical precision, it kind of spoils the intrigue. Doesn't it?

Division overview and standings

Division 1 after week three
Korea Puma
France Stephano2-1+2
Italy Cloud2-1+2
Korea Zenio2-1+1
Canada TT12-10
Romania NightEnd1-10
Sweden Haypro0-2-2
Korea Hwangsin0-2-4
Russia Bratok0-3-5

Puma is already untouchable at +6 points (not without the help of the walkover from Stephano in week 2) but spots 2nd-4th will get really interesting in the next few weeks. Stephano, Cloud, and Zenio are all within a point from each other and TT1 and NightEnd are breathing in their necks.

Sadly, Hwangsin and Bratok are already burried deep in the sand that lies on division's bottom. Haypro is also in this area but the Swede is a match short and only at -2 so there is still a small chance that he flows up towards the middle.

Barely clairvoyant: Week 4 on May 2nd

Division 1 Week 4 matches
Korea HwangsinVSSweden Haypro
Korea ZenioVSRomania NightEnd
Korea PumaVSRussia BratOK
Italy CloudVSFrance Stephano

Zenio, NightEnd, Cloud and Stephano will all play matches for the top half of the division which automatically makes them super interesting, regardless of if any good games will actually come out of them. Having to play ZvT is awesome for the Frenchman but he cannot approach this willy-nilly: Anything short of 2-0 win will put him even further away from Puma (who will almost certainly 2-0 BratOK).

Meanwhile, NightEnd is getting a shot to come out in the positive while at the same time shoving Zenio down. We keep talking about how the Romanian is known for crushing the Korean ladder and this will be his chance to demonstrate what has he learned during his stay in the East while profiting in the process.

Hwangsin vs Haypro is one of those matches that I talked about earlier - one between the 7th and the 8th that won't do much besides maybe help Haypro make it to the neutral zone at the expense of Hwangsin elimination. If it goes the other way round, there will be some redistribution of power which would've been very interesting had it not been outside the scope of relevance.