Since 2011, the Highschool Star League has been home to some of the best amateur StarCraft players in the scene. This year, out of hundreds of StarCraft players and teams from across North America, four teams emerged triumphant from the brawl as the finalists of the HSL 2014 Spring Split. On Saturday, June 28th, Oakton, San Marino, Souhegan, and Redmond High School gathered in the ballroom of the beautiful Grand Del Mar Hotel & Resort, geared and ready to battle it out for a chance at the $3,000 StarCraft II scholarship prize pool.

Teams Highlights:

Oakton High School from Vienna, Virginia impressed us, and the audience, with their super-sleek Oakton Starcraft team jerseys!

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Their excitement, enthusiasm, and awesome sense of humor were visible throughout the event, despite some very heartbreaking games.

San Marino High School from San Marino, California arrived on the scene with a full roster of HSL veterans. At last year’s live finals, San Marino took home 3rd place. Needless to say, these StarCraft veterans were excited to prove themselves once again.

 Souhegan High School from Amherst, New Hampshire slid into the finals from the bottom of the loser’s bracket, but boasted an-allstar event favorite, JonSnow, a top 16 Grandmaster player at the time of the event. Fans and onlookers predicted that Jonsnow and AiuR would be against each other in the final game of the tournament.

 Redmond High School from Redmond, Washington, featured the champions of the winner’s bracket, full of momentum and ready to take the crown. Their roster was staffed with consistently strong players, including AiuR, the ace of Redmond. AiuR had consistently been a high level Grandmasters Protoss player, and had led his team to an undefeated streak in the winner’s bracket.

Game Highlights:

JonSnow (Souhegan High School) vs. GRASScutter (San Marino High School)

 Souhegan High School entered the live finals with only two players, Crealor and the Grandmaster JonSnow, on their starting roster. Despite the obvious disadvantages, JonSnow’s powerful performance battered San Marino High School’s 5-man team down to their last player, GRASScutter. In an epic Zerg vs. Zerg finale, GRASScutter and JonSnow fought for the survival of their team on Overgrowth.

San Marino (WIN)2-4 Souhegan

GRASScutter (San Marino High School) vs. AiuR (Redmond High School)

San Marino High School, featuring ace player GRASScutter, faced off against the powerful all-diamond Redmond High School roster, featuring Protoss grandmaster AiuR. After an intense series of games between the two schools and a powerful performance from all of the players, the fated grand finals match between GRASScutter and AiuR took place on Alterzim Stronghold, pitting the tenacious Zerg versus the confident Protoss for the grand prize.

Redmond (WIN) 5-4 San Marino

Throughout the day, all four of the competing high school teams put on an incredible showing, bringing the matches down to the very last game in every single set, with especially strong showings from Oakton High School’s TyrantJunior, Souhegan High School’s JonSnow,and San Marino High School’s GRASScutter. Despite a heroic attempt by San Marino High School in the grand finals, AiuR and the Redmond team took the 1st place prize to an eruption of cheers from the audience, and the title of High School Starleague 2014 Starcraft II Champions. Congratulations!

Game Recap:

Excitement filled the room as San Marino and Souhegan began to warm up in their respective team areas.

Souhegan High School vs San Marino High School

The first series of the weekend introduced a slow, yet surprising start to the finals. Kicking it off in Loser’s Bracket Round 5, Souhegan High School would face San Marino High School for the chance to play Oakton High School in the Loser’s Bracket Finals (the winner of the Loser’s Bracket Finals advancing to the Grand Finals). Being in the Loser’s Bracket, both teams were fighting for their tournament lives, with San Marino High School finding themselves in a particularly difficult position. Between missing their critical ace in IvD’s Arium and against Souhegan’s top grandmaster JonSnow, San Marino was stuck between a rock and a hard place going into the series – the clear underdog.

Fans and analysts alike were not surprised to see JonSnow ease through the San Marino lineup unfazed. Although San Marino’s Terran starter Genius would pick up an early win against Souhegan’s Crealor in Game 1, JonSnow would handily dispatch the comparatively inferior San Marino roster; Genius, KimchiNuke, and Andromeda all defeated without issue or incident.

Although only needing to win one more game to close out the series (as Souhegan’s roster limited to only two players), victory seemed anything by plausible for San Marino as all hopes fell on the shoulders of junior and last year’s ace GRASScutter.

Ranked nowhere near top grandmasters such as San Marino’s Arium nor Souhegan’s JonSnow, GRASScutter would have big shoes to fill as he would square off against North America’s Rank 11 Grandmaster. On paper, it was too easy to discount San Marino’s substitute ace – ZvZ is JonSnow’s strongest matchup AND the game was still a Rank 11 Grandmaster versus a no-name zerg struggling to maintain top 8 in his division. But when there’s a will, there’s a way..right?

The deciding game would be played on Overgrowth, and as casters VampyWorm and Draven would later reflect, one of the closest and most back-and-forth games ever to grace the HSL. GRASScutter was not afraid to step into the ring against JonSnow – both players immediately establishing passive openings for macro play. JonSnow started with defensive gasless play that would inevitably transition into a roach-based midgame. Upon scouting this, GRASScutter immediately opted for 2 base mutalisk – considered by some to be a bit obsolete, but GRASScutter highlighted the strategy’s persisting strengths. Mutalisks thwarted JonSnow’s attempts on GRASScutter’s third and gained the underdog much needed vision and map control. Behind the veil of mutalisks, GRASScutter would quickly transition into a large, 3 base baneling roach timing attack, using the mutalisks to encourage an excess of hydralisks from JonSnow; the attack in theory winning the game. The nail-biting attack went surprisingly well for GRASScutter, granting him the momentum and map control to quickly take Overgrowth’s golden fourth base. Although JonSnow would stabilize and saturate his own fourth, GRASScutter gained a critical advantage in holding his golden fourth base, allowing him to build a massive bank.

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The chaos that ensued can only be described as roach versus roach madness: there was a slew of roach and zergling counter-attacks as armies danced about the map in a desperate rat race to out-maneuver one another. Trades were exchanged, both players teching up to hive with brood lords, corruptors, 3/3 upgrades, incorporating increasing hydra:roach ratios with JonSnow adding infestors and vipers. But as both maxed out armies were able to deny the other player’s 4th and 5th bases at some point or another, GRASScutter’s bank from taking the earlier and more lucrative gold base began to shine. As JonSnow found himself searching for minerals through the game’s exhausting remaxes, GRASScutter found himself going toe-to-toe with one of North America’s best and brightest (at one point producing 47 roaches at one time).

Eventually, as both players’ economies had collapsed (neither zerg mining off more than a 1.25 base income) GRASScutter found himself with the standing army as the dust fell. In an intensive 37-minute game, San Marino would be moving onto the Loser’s Bracket Finals.

Oakton High School vs San Marino High School

(T) Tieng < Waystation > (T) KimchiNuke

(T) TyrantJunior < Alterzim Stronghold > (T) KimchiNuke

(T) TyrantJunior < Overgrowth > (T) Genius

(T) TyrantJunior < King Sejong Station > (Z) Andromeda

(Z) Scion < Habitation Station > (Z) Andromeda

(Z) Scion < Merry Go Round > (Z) GRASScutter

(P) omgabanana < Frost > (Z) GRASScutter

San Marino 4-3 Oakton!

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Redmond High School vs San Marino High School

            Each of the exciting and explosive Starcraft 2 series had played out every single possible game – and the Grand Finals would be no exception. San Marino came into the series just off of fresh victories over Souhegan and Redmond – their ace in GRASScutter looking better than ever – riding on the backs of momentum and GRASScutter. Redmond, not yet having a chance to play, demonstrated depth in their roster: three diamonds of each race, and their top tier grandmaster Protoss, AiuR, as their ace.

KimchiNuke once again picks up Game 1 for San Marino High School with a convincing win against Equilibrium (TvP on Overgrowth). Not to be deterred, Redmond High School responded with ZeNiTh, a promising zerg player who would go on to secure 3 kills for Redmond (ZvT versus KimchiNuke on King Sejong Station, ZvT versus Genius on Habitation Station, ZvZ versus Andromeda on Waystation). San Marino once again is cornered to their final player and ace, GRASScutter, this time shouldering the burden of 3 games to win the championship (score being 3-1 Redmond).

GRASScutter, in true clutch ace form, defends ZvZ zergling aggression from ZeNiTh on Waystation to secure a macro advantage into a victory. But it is only when GRASScutter got to tie up the score, in his ZvT on Frost against Redmond’s AcGBGT did his patience and proclivity for macro shine. AcGBGT started the game off wonderfully, keeping pace with the San Marino ace for most of the early and midgame. But Frost being the 4 player map that it is enabled GRASScutter to rapidly expand in bases and in creep, holding various marine/marauder/mine/medivac pushes from AcGBGT. What was so beautiful to watch about the game was how patient GRASScutter was, accumulating a slow economic advantage which would materialize itself into 30 mutalisks and plenty of banelings to spare. While AcGBGT successfully reached 4 bases and made strong efforts around the map to keep GRASScutter in check, two critically successful mutalisk raids destroyed AcGBGT’s economy in the later stages of the game. Going up to five bases with plenty of production behind it, GRASScutter eliminates AcGBGT’s army in a hail of glave wurms and acid.

            Tensions could not be higher as the Starcraft 2 tournament entered its last game as grandmaster AiuR rose to defeat GRASScutter. The Redmond Protoss interestingly chose Alterzim Stronghold as the final map – an unusual decision, considering professional Protoss’ aversion to playing long games against Zerg on the same map. Perhaps that was the same mindgame that AiuR was playing, because AiuR had no intention for a long game. Although establishing a nexus-first forge expand, the Redmond Protoss would exploit Alterzim’s excruciating rush distances to his advantage – it would take GRASScutter incredibly long to scout by land or by air. And the same scouting was NOT going to occur by air. AiuR, from his forge expand, opts into phoenix play to deny Zerg vision and gain map control. A clever robotics and sentry transition would establish collosus tech for the Protoss while visible gateway units strikingly resembled the intention to expand to a third base. GRASScutter’s assumptions could not be farther from the truth – AiuR built an excess of gateways, pushing across the map with his phoenixes, collosus, immortals, and upgraded gateway units.

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GRASScutter could only react too late as a much later but much harder to scout and much more powerful all-in arrived at his doorstep. Roach hydra could not withstand the power of Protoss as GRASScutter was forced to “ggwp” to AiuR’s timing, and Redmond claims the 2014 Season Starcraft 2 Championship.

The High School Star League would like to think our incredible sponsors at Twitch, Newegg, MSI, Lootcrate, Jink, HyperX, Razer, and SC2 Replay Stats for their continued support.

Written by Evan Frawley, Richie Grajek, Bailey Wong. Edited by Kevin He.