The ebb and flow of StarCraft 2 is a brutal one, and the first results from Season 2 of the 2019 Global StarCraft League prove that as the tournament favorite has made an incredible early exit. The GSL has been the playground of the player many would argue to be the greatest of all time, Maru. Coming off a record fourth title victory in a row — before Maru, the most back-to-back championships anyone had achieved in the cuthroat Korean competition was two — it seemed like we were destined for more of the same when the Terran player found himself in a relatively easy Round of 32 group.
That's not how things played out, however, and after a shocking 2-0 loss to Patience in the Winner's Final, Maru ate a 2-1 loss to Innovation that sent the GOAT packing in the first round of competition. For Maru, it's a cataclysmic event, having just come off a first round exit in the GSL's weekender Super Tournament. For everyone else in the GSL, though, it's a breath of fresh air — Maru's suffocating grasp of the top tournament in StarCraft 2 has finally weakened.
Maru's elimination might be surprising, but for those who have been paying attention, there was certainly an above average chance that it could occur. Protoss has been completely dominant in recent tournament settings, and the imbalanced PvT matchup has left many Terrans scratching their heads searching for answers. Maru dropped a tight set to Stats at the Super Tournament, and then was shockingly crushed by Patience, who also handed Innovation, arguably the second-or-third best Terran in the world, a loss as well. Innovation has been one of the few players who has had Maru's number in recent months, having eliminated him from title contention at the WESG tournament earlier this year.
Still, though, Maru's elimination has thrown everything fans have understood about Korean StarCraft 2 into turmoil. Maru losing in the GSL just doesn't happen — sometimes he drops a series in the early rounds, but the last time Maru was actually eliminated from a GSL tournament was July 18, 2017 when he was also unceremoniously dumped out of the competition in the Round of 32. He'd gone nearly two years without bowing out of the toughest tournament in the world.
For the rest of the field, it's a chance to establish who the clear number two player in Korea really is. Maru's early exits could be the beginning of a slump, but it will take several more shocking finishes before it's even worth considering whether or not the Jin Air Green Wings Terran is anything but the best in the world. After him, though, it's murky — is Classic, coming off a finals loss to Maru in the last GSL and a Super Tournament victory, the de facto choice to win this season? Innovation could be waking up, as his play against Maru showed why he was considered untouchable at times in the past. Beyond them are even more dark horse contenders like Dark, Stats, Zest, and TY. Even some old favorites managed to qualify this season, with nostalgic former greats like DRG, Creator and PartinG joining the fray.
Regardless of who wins, though, Maru's elimination has weirdly generated the kind of buzz that would usually follow him while he's crushing another hapless GSL victim. Maru is a dynasty, the late 90s New England Patriots of StarCraft 2. He'll be back. In the interim, the GSL has suddenly become the wild west, and whoever rises up to snatch the crown from Maru for the first time in over a year of competition will instantly become a legend — and, for better or worse, the likely new rival of a motivated and in-form Maru come Season 3.