Great Games: Zest vs Swarm Hosts

There was a time when four hours wouldn’t be enough to settle a single game of StarCraft 2, it was the era of the Swarm Host.

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was Heart of the Swarm and the Swarm Host ruled supreme.

And they HATED it.

I mean, okay, Stephano and FireCake didn’t, but everyone else did:

Terrans hated it. Protoss hated it. Zergs hated it. Pros hated it. Ladder Heroes hated it. Tournament organizers and venue operators…you get the idea.

What kind of masochist would try and find a good…no a great…Swarm Host game? This guy!

So clear your schedule, have I got a four-hour marathon for you- !

JUST KIDDING! COME BACK!

First off, it’s *only* a 40-minute game. That’s not too bad, right?

Second, it’s starring one of the most controversial StarCraft 2 players AND one of the most handsome ones.

And it’s actually an action-packed, back and forth slug-fest which is probably closer to what David Kim actually wanted the Swarm Host era to be.

Sold yet? Good, let’s get started!

Don’t want to read this chicken scratch? The VOD is below!

Context:

Back in 2014 there was very little doubt: Zest was best.

Zest_BlizzCon_2014
Zest at the 2014 WCS Global Finals via Liquipedia

He started off 2014 with a GSL/WCS Korea Season 1 Championship, beating sOs, Rain, and (of course) soO in the finals.

This gave him legendary status as another Royal Roader, a rookie GSL/OSL competitor who won the championship on his first try.

Zest had been playing in ProLeague prior to his GSL debut, but he wouldn’t be satisfied with winning StarCraft 2’s most prestigious tournament. He was just getting started.

Next up would be his 2014 GSL Global Championship victory, where he’d destroy PartinG,  MMA, soO, and then  PartinG again in the finals.

Zest would make it to the semi-finals in the GSL’s third season in 2014 and would settle for second place with a loss to Flash at IEM Season IX – Toronto.

Eager to cleanse his palate of the taste of defeat, Zest would fight a PvP-only run to win the 2014 KeSPA Cup.

Needless to say, all of that qualified him for the Global Finals in 2014 where he’d go on to face…

300px-No_image_available.svg
It’s a joke, get it?

He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named. You know, Life!

The disgraced Zerg prodigy had been having a relatively quiet 2014: his best GSL finish was the semi-finals in Season 1 (losing to soO in 7 games).

He won his direct seed into the WCS Global Finals with a win at DreamHack Open: Bucharest by defeating Leenock, StarDust, INnoVation, and Impact in the finals.

Life would also run afoul of Zest in Canada at IEM Toronto, where he lost 3-1 to the hottest new Protoss this side of Auir.

And that would bring us to the 2014 Global Finals, where these two would meet in the opening round.

2014_WCS_Global_Finals_logo
From Liquipedia

Zest was heavily favoured going in. To put things into perspective:

Zest had finished third overall in WCS Point Standings with 5800. Life had snuck in at 14th place with 3250.

The Protoss was red hot coming into the Global Finals tournament and had been so all year. Life hadn’t really been able to show much consistency, despite his DreamHack victory.

So it came as a shock to most when Life was suddenly up 2-0 in their best-of-5, and the pre-tournament favourite was facing a 3-game sweep, being eliminated from the tournament without winning a single map.

The Game:

Watch it here, as spoiler free as a game this old can be or keep on reading for some hype (the VOD isn’t going anywhere)!

The pressure was on, and the game kicked off with a ton of tension.

If this game was a movie it would be a thriller early on, with knife-edge aggressive posturing that’ll keep you on the edge of your seat without all that much action actually happening.

Eventually, it evolves into the usual Queen, Swarm Host, Corruptor, Viper vs Mothership, colossus, skytoss bullshit that defined Swarm Host era PvZ.

200/200 is reached by both players, and it becomes a game about 5th, 6th,7th, and 8th bases.

Zest begins leveraging the ultimate Protoss weapon: Zealot harass distractions!

Despite that, Life lands a few big Colo abducts.

Then the culling begins: The sacrificing of unworthy sub-tier 3 units.

Zest takes controls of the top of the map uncontested and tries to press his advantage.

Storms land, mothership dies, and so does Life’s 6th and 7th expansions.

Then Zest pulls off an extra hidden expansion and an offensive recall!? But it doesn’t really seem to work as planned:

Life decimates Zest destroying his entire army, all the Protoss has left is BANK.

Some almost immortal Dark Templar harass is followed by another Mothership snipe. Zest brings in the Archons. They die and storms reign. Then the templars die.

But no matter what, Zest won’t give Life’s 7th base back, while taking his own 8th base. Even when it costs him his army…again.

Zest loses his 8th to the locust swarm, but takes the supply lead with a Third Protoss armada.

He kills Life’s 7th again… and runs out of gas. Life runs out of minerals.

The endgame fight happens.

 

The GG:

Looking at its parts, this game could have been a showcase of the reasons why Swarm Hosts in the HotS era where so…divisive.

Protoss trades out army after army, the entire map is essentially mined out, Zerg just gets to leverage free units to control the game.

Frankly, if Zest was playing someone more suited to the Swarm Host style than Life it probably wouldn’t have been close.

And, if you know how those Global Finals turned out, well let’s just say Zest wouldn’t go on to win it (MMA did…right?).

Still, this game, in particular, was exciting! It was close, even though it looked one-sided at points, and the player with the best tactics ended up winning.

If ever there was a Swarm Host ZvP that deserves classification as a Great Game, in my opinion, this is it.


 

You know what the best part of HotS era Swarm Hosts was? (When they nerfed them! No…well, maybe…)

Proxy Hatch Swarm Host pressure builds! I loved them, so much fun and even more salt. Ahhhh, the good old days.

If you weren’t around back then, the 2-4 hour Swarm Host games where becoming a real problem for everyone in every league across the world. It was funny at first, mind-numbing by the end.

So it was no big surprise when the nerf-bat finally hit near the end of HotS. Swarm Hosts, despite a little bit of a resurgence now and again, have never really been the same.

And all in all, that’s probably a good thing.

But that doesn’t mean we’ve seen the last of HotS Swarm Hosts, because there’s at least one ZvT that is undoubtedly a great game…

Until next time,

GL HF!


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