PuMa Wins StarCraft 2 NASL Grand Finals, $50,000
After months of intense StarCraft 2 action, the North American Star League crowned its first champion this weekend. Lee Ho Joon, aka PuMa, defeated his opponent, Jang Min Chul, aka MC, after going the full seven rounds in this best of 7 match-up, and is going home to Korea with the grand prize of $50,000.
PuMa, who clinched the last seed in the NASL finals mere weeks ago and nearly lost to Squirtle in the quarter finals, defeated the reputed best Protoss player in the world with multi-pronged drop tactics and surgical EMP play. Like the bridesmaid who could never be a bride, PuMa is known for being a practice partner to many top players — including his opponent, MC, a former schoolmate — but today, the spotlight shines on him alone.
The first match saw the grand finalists spawn on close air positions on Metalopolis. MC opened with Phoenix harassment, and PuMa responded with harassment of his own: Medivac drops that managed some economic damage despite being thwarted by the Phoenixes.
In the game‘s first major confrontation, PuMa’s Ghosts neutralized MC’s Sentries with EMPs and forced MC to retreat.
As MC pulled ahead with his upgrades, PuMa continued to keep him on his toes with drop harassment, until the Terran and Protoss armies clashed in a final and decisive confrontation. MC’s army, heavy in Archons, High Templar, and Sentries, was decimated by PuMa’s EMPs.
The players spawned once again in close air position, this time on The Shattered Temple. Nine minutes in, PuMa sent two full Medivacs for some drop harassment, but MC already had Phoenixes out to respond and prevented any economic damage.
Unrelenting, PuMa sent another drop circling in on his opponent’s flank, and MC easily crushed it — only to realize it was a distraction, as two full Medivacs unload units in his main base and set him back technologically, un-powering his Forge and destroying a Twilight Council with mere seconds left on the Zealot Charge upgrade.
In the game-ending engagement, PuMa crushed his opponent’s un-upgraded army.
On Xel’Naga Caverns, MC opened with a Stargate for the third time in a row, despite the fact that this approach lost him the two previous matches. But this time, instead of Phoenixes, MC built Void Rays, and successfully hid this fact until they could deal damage.
MC fended off an early push with some excellent Force Field play and responded by sending his troops and two Void Rays to contain PuMa in his base.
Forced to build Medivacs to escape his base, PuMa was met with a fleet of Pheonixes, and though he continued to use drop harassment to distract his opponent and cause damage where he could, the early damage the contain caused finally caught up with him and his army fell to Psionic Storms.
MC opened with a Robotics Facility on Backwater Gulch, accurately anticipating PuMa’s cloaked Banshee opening. Despite being prepared, PuMa’s Banshees wreaked psychological havoc on MC, and he lost map control.
PuMa built Vikings to counter the inevitable Colossi, and when MC attacked with a two-base push, a Raven laid down a Point Defense Drone that forced MC’s stalker-heavy army to retreat.
Taking advantage of the economic lead his Banshee harassment was able to secure, PuMa brought Ghosts into his army and crushed MC with some decisive EMPs.
As the players spawned on Terminus RE, MC knew that he could not lose this match. PuMa needed only one more win to take the crown.
PuMa opened with Banshees once more, while MC buit four Gateways and an expansion. MC spotted the Banshee as he pushed PuMa’s base and threw up his Robotics Facility in response, but it was too late — the Banshee killed 8 workers before MC could get his Observer out.
Then came the drops. With no Phoenixes to shut them down, two Medivacs dealt damage and left, unfettered.
Both players built their third base as PuMa continued his drop tactics, suffering few losses. MC brought his army to PuMa’s door, but the Terran bunkers forced a withdrawal. With MC’s army out of position, PuMa used the opportunity to send two Medivacs into his opponent’s main and take out three Gateways.
A fourth base came up for both players as PuMa’s army marched to MC’s base, but some well-placed Psionic Storms fended off the attack. In the ensuing retaliatory assault, MC destroyed PuMa’s fourth base, turning the tide of what seemed like an assured loss.
MC took a fifth base as PuMa sent in his army once more, using drops to divide MC’s attention and EMPs to deal terrible damage to the Protoss army. MC just managed to hold off the attack, and with PuMa stuck on three bases and nearly mined out, he knew he had the upper hand.
At the 28 minute mark, PuMa sent in a last-ditch Medivac that was shot out of the sky, and MC moved in with surprise Colossi that his economic advantage allowed him to secure. With no Vikings to take on the Colossi, what was left of PuMa’s economy was crushed.
Leading by one win, PuMa fast expanded on Tal’Darim Altar and built four Barracks before getting a Refinery. In the meanwhile, MC had rushed Blink technology and pushed PuMa’s base, but faced with three bunkers, did not deal any damage, so he expanded.
MC maneuvered his Stalkers and Blinked into PuMa’s base, wreaking havoc on the Terran supply line and destroying the economic lead of the fast expansion.
As both players took their third base, MC was pulling ahead with upgrades. PuMa sent in a drop, but MC’s mobile Stalkers shot it out of the sky.
20 minutes into the game, MC’s army was caught out of position due to drops as it clashed with PuMa’s. MC’s upgrade advantage kept him in the game as both armies suffer devastating losses; High Templars and Ghosts nullified each other, and both players retreated.
PuMa continued his drop play, which was met with increasingly diminishing success as more and more drops were shot out of the air. MC kept expanding as PuMa began to starve.
At the 25 minute mark, a large confrontation saw PuMa’s army come out on top, but his ability to rebuild was nowhere close to MC’s, who had triple his income. MC built a 200/200 army and crushed PuMa’s 118 army.
The battleground for the final match was GSL Crevasse, and the crowd’s cheers thundered across the venue as both players sat on three wins and three losses. After an astounding comeback, MC must have been riding the momentum of his last victory, while PuMa’s rumored difficulty at holding up under pressure could spell his defeat.
PuMa opened with a Command Center, a risky move that MC scouted and replied to with heavy Gateway pressure and in-base proxy Pylons. Pulling a dozen workers from his mineral line, PuMa just managed to take down the proxy Pylons as MC’s Warpgate research completed — a move that probably saved him the game.
MC continued to invest heavily in this push, sending units charging past bunkers and trying to deal damage, but PuMa held it and gained a tremendous lead after MC resigned to building a Nexus in an attempt to catch up with his opponent’s economy.
Two armies met on the battlefield, and MC’s Force Fields allowed him to decimate the Terran forces, but the triple bunkers at PuMa’s base meant MC can do little more than stand outside and look menacing.
MC built a Dark Templar that snuck into PuMa’s base and dealt some economic damage before being killed. But too little, too late, as PuMa pushed out with a 40 supply lead over MC and steamrolled his way to $50,000.