Does this claim seem ridiculous? Teams such as SKT and KT are renowned for having premier coaching talent, all the way down to racial coaches, with coach Park/oov especially considered the gold standard for coaching excellence. With oov's retirement, Coach Park still stands undisputed as the most successful in the game today. For the most part, other than training and preparing the players, his part involves setting lineups and creating mismatches for the opponent based on racial and map compositions. In this area, he has proven to be among the greatest of all time.
ACE's Coach Song and his team have absolutely blown Coach Park out of the water in regards to strategy, and in fact have morphed ACE from a team playing from behind into one that makes all the rules during a set. Let's take a look at how this works.
First you should watch the end of this vid as FBH finds his dance groove again
The Air Force ACE bandwagon is bigger than ever before. Everyone pulls for the boys in blue, sometimes even rooting against their own "home team" because, come on, it's ACE. An endearing mix of castoffs and old legends, ACE is the perennial underdog, impressing with each victory and providing a dramatic storyline to accompany each game. Whether we are watching a fallen god attempting to reclaim his fire, or a plucky bench-jockey finally receiving A-team exposure, it feels good to root for ACE. And until recently, that was very important, because rooting for ACE meant you were rarely getting the satisfaction of a "W" in the result column.
Last season, this changed dramatically.
ACE went from being the worst team in the league by a wide margin to outperforming "legitimate" teams in several rounds. While the winners-league format still unceremoniously crushed ACE's playoff hopes and handed them the worst overall record, their overall play in other rounds was remarkable compared to prior seasons, winning more games, having more close losses, and winning nearly twice as many team matches as ever before. Furthermore, ACE began to play with a swagger heretofore unseen; while they still celebrated each win individually and as a team, players began to exit the booth after a tough win a look of pride and a knowing nod, instead of the deer-in-the-headlights, how-did-I-do-that astonishment of previous years.
Look at Peace's hands shake when he goes to salute after the match. You think he goes out there expecting to lose now?
Individual players acquired clear identities and roles; ggaemo became known as a legitimate ZvP sniper with a solid ZvT, firebathero established a new reputation as a viable TvP player while returning to form in his other matchups, PianO and Peace showed dangerous prowess as early-game strategic players with excellent small-scale micro (especially Piano's play against lurkers, which might be some of the best in the game today despite his terrible multitask and mediocre vP. Seriously, the guy is so much like Casy that I can't believe people don't talk about it all the time). Other players stepped up and took on roles as snipers, solid backbones, and potential Ace match/map-specific threats.
Many attribute this newfound success to better recruiting and practicing, as well as a trend of taking on younger, less-appreciated players (Piano, Peace, Ggaemo) instead of mostly established, but potentially washed-up, veterans. Certainly the ACE players of today are much more modern and better-equipped to play 2011 Broodwar than the men of BoxeR's ACE were to play in their current metagame. But with ACE, more than any other team, credit must be given not to the players themselves, despite their admirable play of late, but to the real force behind their current success.
Coach Song has done this by completely rethinking the concept of the Starcraft "team"; instead of a group of ragtag players who are trying to accumulate wins for a team individually, ACE now functions as a cohesive unit that cleverly forces an opponent to react to a constantly shifting metagame of unusual strategies, carefully chosen rushes, and corner-cutting macro play to keep every player on the team completely off-guard, make it impossible to predict who or even what race will play on a given map, and to turn standard racial matchup conventions on their heads. While an individual player might successfully do this (both Flash and Nal_rA are excellent examples of players who rigorously utilized cheesy play to craft a reputation of unpredictability, and then respectively pioneered Double Nexus and 14cc play as well as a host of other corner-cutting macro measures), never before has an entire team managed to consistently perplex the way ACE has managed of late. It is always a surprise who they send out on a specific map (or even field on a given day), and there is no "default" strategy the other team can assume REGARDLESS of opponent.
When you let Canata beat you with cheese, you were definitely not ready for your opponent
All this means practicing to beat ACE is absolute Hell on the other team and no better than a crapshoot. But even better, it means ACE has an easier time practicing than ever before; when you are intentionally choosing unconventional strategies and rushes, you are dictating the flow of the game and have much less impetus to practice for a wide variety of circumstances. Liberal early-game shenanigans force the opponent to play perfectly while ACE players concentrate on a very specific and easy-to-practice plan, requiring much less in the way of time or quality practice partners to test and refine. Furthermore, it allows the macro players of that week extra time to tie up practice partners, gives them leeway in their live matches to outmacro opponents in the early game (because the opponents are, rightfully, overly preoccupied with playing safe and not being cheesed), and once again means they are more likely to dictate the flow of the game. This gives ACE an edge over "good" players from other teams, who have almost no incentive to cheese ACE (cheesing is best when you are the underdog and can predict the opponent race, and if ACE is likely to rush as well you are setting up, at best, a 50/50 situation) and visibly rattles many players and teams.
Firebathero decides to beat the hell out of Bogus twice in one day, who cares if he's one of the top Terrans in PL
By utilizing an incredibly scrappy, in-your-face style of team-play that was previously unknown, ACE is effectively fielding an entire lineup of UpMaGiCs, BoxeRs, and Nal_rAs, with the ability to play better macro games than those players were ever really capable of... and it is allowing ACE to establish an identity, with all the confidence that comes from such. This is scary!
With the new proleague format, and the removal of ACE matches, other teams may find that ACE is better-equipped, strategically, to handle proleague than any other team. While they will almost certainly be outperformed, other top teams need to pay attention to this new strategic trend, and hopefully some of the weaker teams (STX in particular) will incorporate this style of play into their everyday lineups, because it is the only way to beat a team like Team8, CJ, or SKT who can roll out 5 very good players each day. Whether or not other coaches understand this call to action, they will feel its effects the next time ACE batters down their doors with players no one has ever heard of before.