By Galen Andress
Reign Gaming's Slush has been one of the most consistent performers on the Pro Circuit, participating in every Event so far and taking home Top 10 finishes in four of his five appearances. His only finish outside of the Top 10 was back in Raleigh 2010, when he was the highest finishing Zerg at 11th.
In Columbus two months ago, he earned his best finish yet, taking 5th in the most talented tournament to date. Slush became the first player to win a series against Naniwa at an MLG Event (no easy feat), and took down great players like Fenix and Ret on the way to his Top 6 finish. We got a chance to catch up with Slush to look back at his performance in Columbus, get his thoughts on the upcoming Event, and talk about all things inside and outside the game.
MLG: How did you get your start in competitive gaming? Were you a competitive Brood War player?
Slush: I played Brood War for three or four years, from 1998 to 2002. I played a lot when there was no replay feature; it was pretty fun at that time. I was on the French-Canadian team, X'Ds, that had one of the first pro gamers of SC1, Grrrr. After that I played Counter-Strike competitively for five years.
MLG: What part of Canada are you from?
Slush: In Montreal, Quebec.
MLG: Still living there today?
MLG: When did you decide to switch from CS to SC2, and why?
Slush: I retired from CS a few years before SC2 came out and I wasn't playing any game competitively. When I heard SC2 was coming out, I played Brood War a bit on iCCup until the beta came out. I played a few times a week and I managed to get around B+/B.
MLG: You took 5th Place in a stacked Columbus tournament that included several Koreans. You've always been a solid performer on the Pro Circuit, but your finish in Columbus surprised a lot of people. How were you able to perform so well?
Slush: I've always been consistent and I can put up a good fight against everyone. At Columbus I had some clutch wins that gave me 5th Place.
MLG: Heading into the Event, what were your expectations? Columbus was definitely the most talented tournament to date, although now Anaheim is looking pretty scary.
Slush: Well, at every Event I want to be Top 10; that's my goal. Anaheim is going to be the hardest tournament to date for foreigners, I think.
MLG: In Idra's most recent MLG interview, he said that he considered your performance in Columbus an "anomaly." How do you feel about statements like this?
Slush: Hmm. Last year I placed 11th, 7th, and 10th. This year 9th and 5th. So yeah, we could say it's an anomaly, but I think I deserve it. I work hard and I beat some pretty good players at Columbus.
MLG: What do you remember as your most impressive win? Take us through game-by-game if you can.
Slush: It was in Pool Play against Naniwa. I was upset after my loss to Drewbie; it was a close series. After that I went to the hotel thinking I was done for the night. Then one of my teammates knocked at my door telling me I had to play Naniwa. It was past midnight and I ran to the venue. I was really exhausted when we started playing.
I lost the first game. It was a base trade but he had the army advantage and I lost. In the second game, I double-expanded on Metalopolis and he 4Gated me. I managed to put up some emergency Spine Crawlers while he was killing my third. I was in pretty good shape after that; I had a huge economic lead because I kept my Drones alive and defended his 4Gate so I won.
In the third game, I double-expanded again on Xel'Naga. I think he didn't see my third for a very long time and he thought I was going 2-base Muta all-in. I was actually on three bases full of gas and he stayed on two bases for a long time, so I kept harassing with Mutas and eventually I killed both the Nexus at his natural and third. He went all-in on me and I replenished my army with upgraded Roaches.
I felt pretty good after that, becoming the first player to beat Naniwa in a Best-of-3 at MLG. It gave me a confidence boost for my games against Moon after.
MLG: After beating Fenix in an extended series from Pool Play in the Losers Bracket in Columbus, you had to play a pair of ZvZs against two of the best foreign Zergs, Idra and Ret. Do you remember those series well?
Slush: I played Ret first and we were 1-1 in the series when I noticed he likes to play with a lot of Zerglings, skipping early Roaches or Baneling play. So in the third game I did a really risky Burrowed Infestor strategy and he kept going with Zerglings against it, so I was able to win.
Then I played Idra. First game was on Metalopolis. We both made fast expands, but mine was on the gold base. I managed to have an early advantage, and we went into a base trade when he avoided my Ling/Baneling army. He was going into my base with Lings and I was going with Ling and Banes into his. I attacked and tried to morph Banes in my main to defend against his Lings, but when I returned to manage my army in his base four Banelings killed all of my Lings and Banes since they were bunched up. It was a huge mistake by me.
In the second game, I did the Burrowed Infestor play, but Idra is more experienced and made the right decision with early Roach play and busted my expansion. I cut corners that game by not making enough Spines, and it cost me the game. I was still pretty happy after since I placed Top 6.
MLG: You also played one of the craziest games to date on the Pro Circuit in Columbus – a 55-minute slugfest against Gretorp on Typhon Peaks where at one point you weren't mining at all. Take us through the thought process you went through to make it out of such an insane situation.
Slush: That was an insane game [laughs]. I lost my main and I wasn't mining for a while. I managed to defend my faraway expansion with Spines, Zerglings and Banelings until I could get some Infestors out. At that point, he had three or four bases.
He kept making mistakes, and since I'm not the type of player to GG and leave when I feel I'm at a disadvantage, I kept playing and eventually did some economic damage with Infestors and Mutas. He couldn't get a fifth and he ran out of money eventually.
MLG: It was definitely a fun game and a good win. Does a win like that give you a huge confidence boost for the rest of the tournament?
Slush: Not that much. Gretorp wasn't practicing at that time and I thought I would get two easy wins. But it turned out that it was two long games and that made me worried for the rest of my Pool Play.
MLG: Which matchup are you feeling most confident in heading into Anaheim, and which is your least comfortable?
Slush: I've been practicing a lot of ZvT, since I have two Terrans in my Pool. I would say I'm pretty confident. My ZvP is good too. I just need to work on ZvZ in my last few days here before flying out to Anaheim.
MLG: Your Pool in Anaheim features the Columbus champion MMA, Ret, Socke and Drewbie. How confident are you feeling heading into that nest of vipers?
Slush: I won’t lie; it's going to be hard. MMA is going to be really hard to beat. Against all the others I feel I have a chance to win. I just need to perform well and I think I can win a lot of games.
MLG: You've done very well in MLG Events to date, but your name doesn't pop up too much in the tournament scene. What keeps you from participating in lots of tournaments?
Slush: I don't play a lot of tournaments as I'm often really short on time and many tournaments take at least an entire day. Many just aren't worth the time for the prize money. I try to be at as many LAN events as I can and I will be doing more tournaments soon. For MLG, I'm going to be there at every Event.
MLG: Which player are you least looking forward to facing in Anaheim?
Slush: Once again I have Drewbie in my Pool. He's a friend and I don't like facing him in tournaments.
MLG: Have you ever thought about going over to Korea to compete full-time?
Slush: Unless I'm given a Code S spot I'm not going to compete there. The only good tournament in Korea is the GSL. I have family and stuff to do here and I can't really leave freely.
MLG: Your former team, Root recently disbanded, joining up with Complexity. You and Kiwikaki decided to part ways with some of your old Root teammates and join up with Reign instead. What was the main influence behind that decision?
Slush: Reign is giving Kiwikaki and me the huge opportunity to pursue our Pro gaming career with financial help. It was a hard decision, since we've been in Root together for over a year. But we're all still friends, and that's what counts.
MLG: From watching your games, it seems that you favor a higher tech, higher aggression style of Zerg, sometimes sacrificing economy to get there. Would you agree with that assessment?
Slush: One of my all time favorite player is JulyZerg from Brood War, and I tend sometime to mimic his style. I'm really aggressive and if I see an opening or a weakness in my opponent's defense I'll take it.
MLG: Lots of Zerg players feel that Zerg is in a rough spot in SC2. Do you agree or disagree?
Slush: The race as a whole isn't weak. We just don't have as many "tools" as Terran and Protoss. I hope Blizzard adds some micro/position-based units in Heart of the Swarm.
MLG: Asking for a micro/position unit sounds a lot like "give me the Lurker back!" [laughs]
Slush: Not gonna lie, the Lurker was my favorite unit in Brood War. Zergs still don't have a cloaked attacking unit.
MLG: But, you can launch Infested Terran beachballs from underground! That isn't good enough?
Slush: Yes, but the Infested Terrans aren't cloaked. Tactics-wise, we can punish players for not having detection, but we can’t really win the game with that.
MLG: Not quite as devastating as a pair of Dark Templar or Cloaked Banshees showing up, is it?
Slush: Exactly. Zerg isn't a good comeback race in part because of that.
MLG: You seem to be an especially big fan of the Infestor. Do you try and work it in to every matchup?
Slush: I think it's the best spellcaster in the game and the strongest unit in the Zerg arsenal. So why not?
MLG: Why not, indeed? To shift away from SC2: what are you doing with yourself outside of the game?
Slush: On the computer I play Poker as well as SC2. Outside of it I do usual stuff with my girlfriend or my friends.
MLG: Your teammate, Kiwikaki, recently did pretty well in the World Series of Poker Main Event. Do you play in some high-roller tourneys as well?
Slush: No, I really suck in tournaments. I just like to grind cash games on the internet.
MLG: You've been to every MLG so far. What do you enjoy about traveling to big LANs? And what do you enjoy least?
Slush: I enjoy meeting with people that I talk to online, and I don't mind traveling. What I really hate, though, is the diet. I'm someone that eats really well at home, and at LANs like that I'm having a hard time getting good food to eat. There's a lot of fast food available, but after one meal I'm getting tired of it already.
MLG: No argument there. Thanks for your time and good luck in Anaheim! Any shoutouts before you go?
Slush: Thanks to Team Reign and our sponsors, and thanks to all my fans. I know I don't participate in a lot of tournaments but that will change soon, and I got a new computer ready to stream in HD so [you’ll be able to] check that out.
Will Slush be able to overcome the defending Champion and make another deep run in Anaheim? Make sure you’ve got a Membership so you can watch the action in HQ without ads, and tune in on July 29-31 to find out!