On Monday over 7000 unique viewers witnessed StarTale defeating Cascade 4 games to 2 in the grand finals of the SC2I Team League Season 3. This was the second time the teams would meet in the competition after their group stage match in Week 6 of the league, which also ended in StarTale's favour (4-3).
Going into the match there would be no denying that StarTale were not only the fan favourites but were also massively favoured on paper. Ranked as #10 in Aligulac's team rankings (http://www.aligulac.com/teams/) and being competitors in the SK Telecom Proleague - the most prestigious team league in Starcraft 2, held in Korea - you would expect the entire league to have been a walk in the park for StarTale. Some fans expected a few odd map losses, mostly due to the latency from playing on the European server, which was mostly what we had seen in the Group Stages.
Cascade, ranked at #22 in Aligulac's team ranking, have grown considerably since their last SC2ITL Playoff appearance in Season 1 of which they became runners-up, losing 1-4 to mYinsanity. New additions such as Strelok & Kas have given Cascade a solid standing in team leagues ever since and being backed up by strong players such as Adonminus, Complain and Minato it became apparent at the start of the season that they would be favourites to go the distance.
The match started with a TvZ - Strelok vs Curious - on Overgrowth. As expected Strelok played an aggressive mech style and created a large lead at the start of the game when he killed over 15 workers from running his first hellions into the main base of the StarTale zerg. From this point Curious struggled to hold off the continuously reinforced push of Strelok and though he seemed to have a few opportunities with mutalisks counter attacking he was not able to inflict enough damage and was soon overrun.
1-0 to Cascade and already their were murmurs in the chat about whether we were going to see a disappointing performance from the fan favourites. Pet, another zerg player, soon silenced the non-believers with a very quick roach-zergling all-in on Merry Go Round to even up the series 1-1. He then went up against Complain on Nimbus for the third TvZ of the evening. Opening with a 2-base mutalisk build Pet began pressuring Complain, but our terran player was not deterred and with some great use of the map layout Complain used numerous bold doom drops into his opponents natural to create an advantage. Pet attempted to base-trade but to no avail, and Cascade went ahead once again in the series.
You know StarTale have had enough when they send the reigning world champion out. Life took to the stage and made it look easy as a quick two base baneling bust once again severed Cascades lead in the series and returned the score to even footing. Adonminus went up next on King Sejong Station and went for a very aggressive five gateway all-in off of one gas shortly after he expanded. Things looked troublesome for Life as he had only zerglings to hold on with -- but as the saying goes, Life finds a way. He held off for long enough to get roaches out and after clearing up Adonminus' army in what must have been the defence of the season it was clear that he would be giving StarTale the lead for the first time in the finals.
Game six and it comes down to Kas, the ace player for Cascade, to see whether he can bring it to an ace match. Last time StarTale and Cascade played Kas was victorious in this exact scenario - winning game 6 and taking Cascade to the ace match. This time he was not so fortunate. Life opened with a 2-base mutalisk build and got some early damage in. Kas played a standard three command centre opening but during his first attack towards Life's third base he did not pay attention for the slightest moment and a flurry of banelings crashed into a large clump of marines. This was enough of an advantage for Life to just stream across the map with reinforcements and close out the game, the series and the tournament.
It was a great attempt for Cascade and a thrilling series - probably the best SC2ITL finals we have had out of the three seasons which have now been and gone. The third place match for season 3 is still to be played and will probably take place before the new year. In other good news Season 4 of the SC2ITL has been announced to begin in January with full information being released on January 2nd. Thank you to everyone who made Season 3 a success and see you in 2015!
VODs for Cascade vs StarTale will be up on our Youtube and posted here in the coming days.