Table of Contents
Rating the teams going into round one
For ultimate bragging rights, make sure to play Fantasy Proleague
SK Planet Proleague table and results at Liquipedia
This is the make or break period for Starcraft 2 in Korea. We can all agree, Brood War and SC2 fans alike, that the hybrid Proleague was an abomination and probably should never be mentioned again. Unfortunately for CJ Entus, a team that had a history of futility in the playoffs and finally won the big one last season, their championship victory will be remembered as the season that had 50% of the chairs empty during the finals. The SC2 fans didn't enjoy watching players who were still very much works in progress, and the Brood War fans didn't enjoy watching their game get butchered with most of the players focusing solely on SC2 and neglecting the game they played for the past decade.
Here we are in the first full SC2 season of Proleague, and it may very well tell us if there's any chance for SC2 in Korea. GomTV has made massive strides since 2010, and one can hope they will be able to lead the way alone. However, it would be infinitely helpful for SC2 in Korea if the fans who followed Brood War for over a decade could be won over. Proleague was the final evolution of esports, where enjoying a game turned into passion for a player, and passion for a player turned into loyalty to a team. With some of the oldest and best supported teams in StarCraft history, and an insane $250,000 in total prize money on the line, this Proleague will be the ultimate test.
Round 1 Team Rankings
With eight teams competing for the championship, it's time for a preseason power ranking to see how the teams stack up. There's a lot of uncertainty involved, since you never know what KeSPA player will suddenly 'get it' and start playing SC2 like a beast (hi, Bogus!). By the time we get to the sixth and final round, these rankings might be upside down for all we know. But going off the information we have right now, here are the rankings going into Round One of the new Proleague.
8. KeSPA Eighth Team
Team Eight was going to be last place even before it was announced that Jaedong would be teaming up with Stephano over at the Unholy Alliance club house. Outside of Jaedong and BaBy, they had no depth and almost no hope of really competing in a league that can only be won by having five players you can count on every single night. With Jaedong gone, they are now down to seven players, with only Baby having any sort of impact so far in the SC2 scene. We all love Terminator's ID, but his games in Code A haven't been the most impressive, and when he's your second strongest player, you're in trouble.
Airforce Ace have been the ultimate underdogs since their inception, but with them finally bowing out of Proleague, T8 will be taking their place. Baby could be strong enough to be an ace if he can start being more consistent in SC2, but it will be almost impossible to carry this team on his shoulders alone. For T8 to even make the playoffs this season would be worthy of a Final Edit article on how this team is still standing.
They have no sponsor, just lost the face of their franchise, and half their team retired this off season. Led by their captain Jaehoon, we will have to see if the pesky underdogs can fight off the seven other teams trying to stuff them into a coffin. The one year hourglass is running as KeSPA looks to make StarCraft II work in Korea and find a sponsor for their self-funded team.
7. KT Rolster
Honestly, if it wasn't for Jaedong leaving T8, it would have been a closer race for last place. KT, besides Flash, has been awful since moving to SC2. No one except for Flash has done anything of note in SC2, and he has been pretty much the only player you've seen play Starcraft 2 outside of the hybrid Proleague for his team. Crazy-Hydra has had his own flashes of brilliance in the MvP Invitational, showing that he can be a strong #2 behind Flash if he gets his act together, but then he failed to make Code A by falling to Startale's Brain in the second round of the qualifiers.
Luckily for KT, they have time and a big roster that should get better with time. Stats, Action, Wooki, Mind, Acacia, and Motive should get better as the season goes along. Stats, Action and Wooki should become strong members of KT's core and give them a strong line-up that can contend against anybody. KT, by the end of the season, should be fighting for a playoff spot if everything comes together.
Right now, it's a lot of hope and not a lot of results. Flash will do his part, already looking like one of the best KeSPA players, but the rest of the team will need to catch up to help them get into the playoffs. Out of all their players except for Flash and Crazy-Hydra, watch out for Wooki. Stats might have been the #2 behind Flash in Brood War, but Wooki might overtake him for that spot soon enough.
6. CJ Entus
Yes, CJ won the title last season, but if you look at how well they did in the SC2 portion of the hybrid proleague, it wasn't anything amazing. herO[jOin] carried their Protoss line to a 58% winning percentage, but their Zergs could only a muster a 47% win rate with EffOrt carrying, and their Terrans had an awful 30% in SC2. The Brood War side of the league really helped them out, with the heroic efforts of herO playing a huge part in winning the championship.
Looking at their roster, there is a lot of potential, but not a lot of results so far. herO, their ace for the first season, has failed to qualify for GSL since his impressive Proleague/WCS Korea efforts, and hasn't made a lot of noise since. Effort, the player that everyone expects to carry this team to great heights, failed to qualify for GSL and hasn't been setting the world on fire like a lot of people thought he would. Their Terran line of Leta, sKyHigh, Horang2, Snow and Bbyong haven't done much outside of Bbyong, who is CJ's only player in Code S and in the second round of Code A.
Everything can change in this new season, but right now CJ Entus isn't as scary or consistent as the five teams above them in SC2. They don't have a Bogus, Rain, Soulkey, or Roro who has actually impressed in Code S and proved they can beat the best in the world. Effort should be that player for CJ, but he fell in the Code A qualifiers to Stars' Bravo in the semifinals. herO has shown that he can beat top end talent when he's playing well, but he's also been 2 - 0'ed by TheBest in the most recent Code A qualifiers.
5. STX Soul
Bogus, man. Bogus is the main reason why STX is in the top five, and he has been the best Terran so far in the transition period for KeSPA. Getting to the semifinals of Code S in his debut season, Bogus (now known as Innovation), turned a lot of heads with his timing attacks and insane micro. STX isn't solely about their ace, though. Behind Bogus they have players like Mini, Trap, Modesty and their former ace Calm who have either shown some good play in SC2, or, in Calm's situation, expected to show some good play very soon.
The two players that will need to be at their best for STX to battle for the championship are hyvaa and Last. Hyvaa made the finals of the MvP Invitational and did well in the tournament, but floundered in his first Code A appearance against Genius. Last, who got 4th place in the first SC2 OSL, actually could have won the entire shebang if he didn't get reverse swept by Rain before getting reverse swept again by MC in the third place match. Last and hyvaa are the 2nd and 3rd strongest players currently on STX, but can they be counted on to perform in the clutch?
4. Samsung Khan
Samsung is loaded with a ton of good players already in SC2. JangBi, possibly the most impassioned KeSPA player about SC2, is getting better at the game and should by season's end, be one of the stronger Protosses. Stork, while not having a ton of results, has shown solid play so far in his SC2 career and will be a valuable weapon in their arsenal. RorO, who showed such brilliant play early on in the KeSPA transition, might not be doing the greatest lately, but is still one of the better KeSPA SC2 pros and will be more than likely their ace early on in the season. Reality, the first KeSPA pro to turn heads when they switched over to SC2, has been quiet since making his name in WCS Korea, but is another player who can be counted on to contribute. Even Kop and Shine (not TSL's Shine) have been able to show some strong games in SC2 and will add even more depth to their team.
My pick for breakout player from Khan this season will be TurN. Since his games in Brood War, I thought when he finally switched over to SC2 that he would be one of the biggest winners. His televised record of 2-5 isn't the prettiest, but I see him as a guy who will be one of the better bio-oriented Terrans in the upcoming season. Bogus had an awful 1-8 record before finally breaking out to be the strongest KeSPA so far in the switch, so don't count out Turn. Keep your eyes on this guy throughout the season and watch him become one of the most exciting players in the world. If you are a MarineKing fan, Turn is the bandwagon you want to jump on now.
3. Woongjin Stars
Stars was actually the strongest team in last season's Frankenstein season. They had a staggering +19 map score differential, the best in the league by six wins, but still missed the playoffs with a massive choke in the end part of the season. With a 11-10 overall record, they placed 5th and outside the playoffs, creating a situation where possibly the strongest team wasn't able to compete for the championship.
Heading into the season they bring in line-up with five strong players: Soulkey, ZerO, sOs, Flying and Light. Soulkey was heralded as the strongest KeSPA SC2 player when there were no official matches going on and all the players were practicing on ladder, but it's only been recently when he had his break out in last season's Code S. sOs was statistically one of the best SC2 players in last season's hybrid Proleague, but didn't have the best showing in his first Code S season, going out in the Ro32. Zero is a player that should and more than likely will become one of the better Zergs in the league, and he could even become the ace if he develops as fast as some people think he will. Flying is a very good Protoss that can challenge sOs for the Protoss ace spot.
The biggest wild card for Stars will be their Terrans with Light and Bravo. Ryu Won, the coach that helped MMA win two GSL titles, is on Stars now and that will help the Terrans the most on the Stars lineup. Bravo made it into Code A, but wasn't able to get past MC in the first round. Light, who seemingly didn't even try to qualify for Code A, was 5-1 in the SC2 side of Proleague last season and could be Ryu Won's new project if things go his way. MMA was the best player in the world with Ryu Won behind him, but has fallen to the bottom of the ladder without his coach.
Light (or even Bravo) with Ryu Won? Now that's a combination that could be deadly if it works out. Stars might not jump out at you as a title contender, but they are certainly the hipster pick to take the championship. They have great coaching, strong players, and a whole lot of potential.
2. SK Telecom T1
They not only have the strongest player in the entire league with Rain, but their depth is becoming pretty staggering. Fantasy, who has said that SC2 actually fits him better than Brood War, is rapidly improving every time he sets forth in the booth, and he's already in the second stage of Code A looking for his first appearance in Code S. Behind the two headed monster of Rain and Fantasy, you have the MvP Invitational champion in n.Die_soO, macro monster Best, and the man with the afro, ParalyzE, who hasn't had a big breakout yet, but who should do well just on the strength of his great hair.
The biggest question mark for SKT is none other than Bisu, the former ace of SKT before Rain took over his life six months ago. Since proclaiming that with forcefields in SC2 that it would be impossible for Protoss to lose, he has had no success in SC2 with his massive sentry army composition. He isn't as bad as he was when starting out, but he is still lagging behind most of the KeSPA players who switched.
Anyone who has watched Bisu throughout his career knows that he has the talent to excel in SC2, but he just - for whatever reason - hasn't been able to get there just yet. For SKT to win the title, they will need Bisu to at least become a regular member in their line-up. He doesn't need to be the super ace that he has been for the past few years in Proleague with the emergence of Rain, but he must become some sort of threat. Be a specialist on a single map or strong against a single race, Bisu's role for SKT will be one of the main stories to follow this season.
Oh, also, Boxer is the head coach.
1. The Unholy Alliance -
Wow, now this is going to be fun. Before the announcement of Jaedong to EG, I actually had them 2nd behind SKT for mainly travel reasons, but the incoming of Jaedong on this team pretty much makes it impossible to pick against them. The main factor why they might not be the best, even with the most experienced players of anyone in Proleague, would be due to the traveling that will occur for most of the team throughout the year. We all know EG and Liquid love to try and spread their wings to as many foreign tournaments as possible, so that could be a major problem when most of the Proleague games are on the weekend.
Still, let's look at their roster they can throw out if they're all in the same place: TaeJa, HerO, Stephano, JYP, Jaedong, PuMa, Sea and then one of their strong foreigners like IdrA, HuK, or ThorZaIN if they like. In a league that is all about having a strong core, when this team is all together, they should dominate the other teams. KeSPA is still trying to catch up to the more experienced ESF players, so the Unholy Alliance will have an advantage especially in the early months of the season. By the end everything could be flipped upside down, but the player line-up is too star studded to bet against.
It's scary how good this team could dominate in the first few months of the league if even half of their main roster can stay in Korea. With Hero, Taeja, Sea, Zenio, JYP, Jaedong and Puma more than likely staying in Korea for the duration of the Proleague season except for foreign tournaments, you can expect those players to be the heart of the team with Stephano and Idra making cameo appearances every so often.
There is a lot that can go wrong with this newly formed team, but if things even go somewhat right, they will be in the finals come the end of the year. Prepare yourselves, Proleague, you just unleashed a monster into your tournament.