Now we know.
WeMade is gone, OZ is game, MBCGame is gone, and the survivors are scattered to the four winds, the other teams – or the super squad overseen currently by KeSPA. The teams have changed and the formats have changed and the probabilities have changed. So instead of a detailed map for this next season, this eventually-completed section will simply be a quick run-down of last year's regular season successes, and the final part will deal with my thoughts on probable successes this season.
Last year broke down nicely into three equal-sized chunks: two double-rounds of Proleague format play bracketed one of Winners League format. We'll look quickly at Winners League first.
KT ran away with Winners League, 16-2.
The real question isn't how KT won the Winners League season, or even how they lost to T1 in the playoff final: the question is where this team was the rest of the season. Not only did Flash do his Flash thing, Stats stepped up like an ace, Action stayed positive, and Violet was a solid presence before he was forced out. Four - even three - solid A class (minimum) players is more than anybody else mustered reliably except STX and CJ: but most of these guys' wins (except of course for Flash) came during the streak-rewarding WL season.
OZ's "pale imitation" produced a 12-6 record
The interesting thing to note here is that OZ, overall, played more evenly than KT across their top line. Of course, "evenly across the top" is not a good sign when it means Jaedong is playing down to Ever)Z(Killer's (ARGH fix TLPD BW names need priority especially over SC2 clowns who changed their IDs) level: OZ simply couldn't finish their kills. They posted two all-kills to KT's five, and with only the same number of 3-kills, 2-and-outs and worse were leaving the other ace(s) with that much more work to do, even when they didn't reduce OZ to playing PerfectMan and Lomo.
CJ and SKT put up 10-win records - which sounds pretty impressive in their own right, but only deserve a short footnote here because really 10-8 is only a game over 0.500. Bisu (28 wins) and Fantasy (19) carried T1 - no one else got more than 4 wins, and only s2 (4-3) even managed a positive record. CJ's record, as usual, speaks mainly to precise management. Even though Hydra and Movie are not quite as good as the other team's 1-2s, CJ's losing players in WL only pulled down a total score of -5, leaving the aces with a lot of room for error.
KT's players with losing records posted a -8, and OZ's went -7: not bad. But SKT's bad players dropped a -19. Other teams were as bad or worse, but only
* Actually this is a lie, I tend to root for him when he's not playing against Woongjin, KHAN, ACE, or another Protoss.
Proleague was a different matter. SKT and CJ dominated, posting the four best super-round records in the format: 16-2 (SKT), 13-5 (SKT), 12-6 (CJ), and 12-6 (CJ). No other team had a winning record on both ends, and only one team - Woongjin - managed 11-7.
Here are the players' records in chart form for each super-round:
Second Part of Proleague: SKT is 16-2
SKT's MVP was Bisu, hands down. I'm not sure which I find more shocking, though: how badly T1's Terrans did, or how well the Zergs did, while BeSt and By.Sun quietly did their bit as well. It's a testament to SKT's depth that despite a poor showing from fantasy they still managed that 16-2 record, which is, quite frankly, absurd in a league where anything above 10-8 is brilliant.
First Part of Proleague: SKT is 14-4
In contrast, SKT's first third of the season was more typical of a good proleague team: solid play from the aces, including Bisu's amazing run; and then near-average play from all the regulars. No surprises here.
If you want surprises, though...
Second Part of Proleague: CJ goes 12-6, posts a +24 games record.
The second half of the regular proleague schedule showed CJ Entus' philosophy on display at something very near perfection. While they didn't touch the heights of SKT's 16-2 run (or KT doing the same thing in Winners League), the team was managed brilliantly again: negative players by themselves only totaled a -4. Despite, again, slightly weaker ace play, there was simply no need for CJ to depend on the ungodly talents of a Flash or Jaedong: more than any other team in proleague, CJ exemplifies team play.
Not that they don't have good players...
First Part of Proleague: CJ was 12-6 here too.
To start the season, CJ's new super-team turned in a superb round, as Leta and Horang2 stepped in beside Hydra and Snow. Sure, the rest of the team wasn't bad either, but this first part of the season belonged to the big names.
Second Part of Proleague: Stars are 11-7
Despite the caption, and despite Soulkey's final emergence as a legitimate ace in his own right (instead of a streaky #2), the hype for this round really belongs to Light. Without the imported Terran ace, Woongjin does here what they did for most of the year: play mediocre, and probably miss the playoffs. I questioned the decision to trade Crazy-Hydra, but he was a net negative for KT during the season, and Light is a huge upgrade. Unfortunately for Woongjin, they didn't really have anything behind their three aces, and when they hit trouble in the playoffs, that was it.
Like me, you are probably looking at those five graphs and trying to determine any sort of a pattern. There are some things which are clear: to win, you need a true ace player, the guys who get called S-class (thus starting interminable arguments) or at least high A. Better yet, have two of them (unless your ace is Bisu or can carry a team similarly by himself).
The next thing we notice: you need other players who can win reliably. Every team – except Woongjin, the worst of our top five – had at least four players who stayed positive and won at least five games (over a spread of 18 matches).
The surprise, in fact, was that Woongjin is the ace-driven team, when we think of SKT, at least, as the home of the champions. Probably Bisu and fantasy are better overall than Woongjin's aces – but that third big name makes up for a lot.
The uncomfortable fact is that there's also a huge element of luck: while CJ posted a +24 round, and SKT's 16-2 run was +27 overall, that's unusual. Even these other three winning rounds, above-average performances from SKT, CJ, and Stars, had game +/- of +8, +9, and +14 - less than an extra win per match. With only barely that kind of edge, the line between 12-6 and even a "horrible" 6-12 is razor thin.
Part Three, an attempt to look at some of this data in terms of predicting next season, will be coming shortly. Apologies for the delays from Part 1!