Special thanks to Existor for the image
A New Hope
Let's put ourselves back somewhere between May-December 2011. TvZ, the flagship matchup of Starcraft 2, was looking like a worthy successor to Broodwar. Over and over we were treated to rich, action-packed games that actually featured tactical depth and displayed a high degree of skill on each side. Furthermore, not every PvZ looked the exact same. The result? Viewer counts were staggering. Prize pools were increasing each tournament. The future looked great.
MMA just razed DRG's 5th and is simultaneously devastating the main and natural while DRG is smashing his tank line. Both players have to micro across the map.
A fight where in-battle micro actually can occur: a concept anathema to today's games. sC has to split his marines continuously and target fire with tanks, while Nestea has to control his banelings and set up proper flanks to limit the micro potential sC has.
Here, Jjakji kills Leenock's 4th base, so Leenock maneuvers to interpose between Jjakji's main army and reinforcements. Then, he can envelop JJakji's isolated main army and win a crushing victory. In order to forestall such a plan, Jjakji drops Leenock's natural and forces him to rescue it, thus disrupting the planned concentration and allowing Jjakji to safely link up forces. Tactical Depth in SC2? What is this!
Fast-forward a year later. Larger prize pools, bigger scale, better players involved. The viewers? Lower than ever. Pros are slowly trickling out to go play other, more enjoyable games. Hell, top Koreans were playing League of Legends in the SC2 player area at MLG after they lost. Virtually every tournament there are incessant complaints about trite games. Imbalance complaints actually occurred within a broadacasted Korean game. Don't take this the wrong way; it's hardly doomsday. SC2 isn't going to die off anytime soon. But the bright future of 2011 has been transformed into the mediocrity of 2012. In contrast to December 2011, 2013 looks somewhat bleak. After all, we can see where the future is heading...
Starcraft 2 at its finest. Why would anyone switch to League of Legends when they can see this?
How could this have happened? If this shift had to be explained by one reason, it would indisputably be the infestor and fungal growth. The spectacles in 2012, especially the latter half of the year, have become far more banal than they ever were in mid-late 2011. The infestor is seen virtually every game and singlehandedly dominates most games it is used, much to the dismay of fans.
When Terran dominated Korea, foreign Terrans still did not win consistently because Terran was hard to play. Furthermore, despite the Terran ascendancy in GSL, viewership still remained strong across the board. Thus it cannot be argued that it is Zerg imbalance itself that causes an enormous decline in viewers. Instead, it is the nature of their games: almost nobody enjoys playing or watching infestor turtle into unstoppable hive armies. Evidenced by how many times you hear the phrases “Money Fungal” or “Great Fungal,” English casters are apparently the only people in existence who appear to relish the casting of fungal growth.
This sad state has not been a sudden change, but a gradual shift brought about by the slow improvement of infestor usage and the inability of other races to fight against it. Thus responsibility firmly lies at Blizzard’s door. Since the beginning of SC2 everyone has always excused Blizzard for all of their mistakes, saying, "Give them more time. Broodwar wasn't made the best overnight." Well, we gave Blizzard more time, and look where it got us: an unequivocally worse product than before.
How glorious would it have been for every player and fan of Starcraft 2, excluding casters, for Blizzard to promptly remove fungal growth from the game and compensate more badass Zerg units like the mutalisk and baneling accordingly. Sure, it would be a drastic change and everyone would have to adapt, but it would almost certainly be better than what we have now. Balance could be just as bad as it is now and it wouldn’t matter: games would be so chaotic, exciting, and deep that they would mesmerize fans and energize players.
No Fungal Allowed! The Rebel Alliance slogan.
Yet what has Blizzard's response been? Do nothing and claim all is well. In one interview after another, Blizzard's dubious statements have created volumes of outrage at how they seem to be living in an Ivory Tower, walled off from reality. In Blizzard's imaginary world, players sit at home devising plans to maximize the usage of destructible rocks and infestors don't dominate almost every high level game, either by threat - go allin and win before hive+infestors - or actual appearance. Games like Scarlett vs Hero on Taldarim (MLG Dallas), where a 7 base Hero who is massively outplaying Scarlett with great harass ends up losing because she marches 1 broodlord/infestor army across the entire map, are just imaginary to Blizzard. So it seems superficially.
However, asking why so many people are leaving SC2 for League/Dota/other games is the wrong question. Instead, we should be pondering another: why haven't more quit? With how utterly boring most SC2 games are to play and watch nowadays, what keeps so many people going?
Alongside this, we must also consider whether Blizzard really as obtuse as they portray themselves? What if they have been carrying out a secret plan for the last year and have had to spout bullshit every time they bother venturing out of their Ivory Tower to talk with the plebians to conceal it? The point of this article is not to join in the doom-and-gloom that is surrounding the community lately. Instead, I offer an alternative interpretation that you have never considered: Blizzard is in fact a cabal of nefarious schemers who have concocted a daring plan to save Starcraft 2 from a problem they themselves created. You might be skeptical of such a notion, but how else can you possibly explain this absurdity?
Since March 22nd 2011 Blizzard has been actively generating a new age of glory for SC2. The goal? Rig the game so that foreigners can win regularly. Now, ain't that just dandy of them? After all, foreigners winning over Koreans is the highlight of any tournament for most fans; Korean fans are now a distinct minority after the death of Broodwar. Of all that changes in SC2, one truth remains constant: the fans love their drama, and foreigners beating Koreans is the best kind of drama that can consistently occur.
The Foreigner Strikes Back
In the first year of SC2 there was much speculation of what the Korean-foreigner divide would be, if it would exist at all. On one hand, the complete supremacy of Koreans in BW forecasted an ominous future. On the other side, Starcraft 2 was clearly an easier game with a lower skill ceiling, and foreigners would be playing full time too. However, once the first foreign/Korean lan clashes occurred in mid-2011, the competitive stratification became clear: the Koreans were going to take our money and there was nothing we could do about it.
Examine closely the subtle change in our thinking: nowadays it's no longer particularly a shock if a foreign Zerg beats a Korean Terran or Protoss. The Starcraft World Championship ro8 was 4 Korean Protosses versus 4 foreign Zergs and a Korean (Hero) actually lost? How...unsurprising. A Foreign Zerg (Scarlett) 2-0s a Code S semifinalist Terran (Ryung) at IPL5 by spamming fungals, infested terrans, and clicking 1a with broodlords? Proceeds to lose 0-2 to a code B Korean (Sleep) in the next round who counters Zerg by playing Zerg? Meh, nothing out of the ordinary. If it's a foreign Terran versus a Korean, they're pretty much counted out before the game starts. Of course, that's how it should be. Better players should beat weaker ones. Unfortunately, SC2 is not a game that linearly rewards skill. The era where Mvp, DRG, and MMA could run circles around inferior opponents and look sexy doing so is long gone; if it ever existed.
In mid-2011, this kind of thinking would have been absurd to contemplate: any foreigner beating even a middle-tier Korean was a huge upset. The first two foreigner-Korean lans ended up with complete Korean domination, despite the overall average level of Koreans competing. Now, when better and better Koreans have been going overseas in 2012, foreign results have become exponentially better. What was the difference back then? First, Terran lategame wasn't so utterly inferior that elite Korean Terrans served as punching bags for mediocre part-timers. Second, it took half a year for Zergs to even use the infestor decently, and a full year and a half to abuse it to the maximum. Just how bad has it gotten now? Let's take a look:
Foreigner Series wins over Koreans since the queen/overlord/observer patch:
In order to maintain the illusion that the game was fair while executing its diabolic plan, Blizzard has incessantly claimed that their illusive statistics show the game is balanced at all levels. Clearly they have to look the other way here. Even if one argues that this is not indicative of imbalance, this long-term trend clearly shows the enormous discrepancy in the difficulty of playing as and against certain races. In short, every race has an easy time playing against Terran, while Zergs enjoy greater forgiveness than Protoss.
Conveniently, Blizzard has never addressed this problem in order to cover up their meddling. Instead, they focus on some mythical “balance” statistics that ignore the practical difficulties of playing a matchup. Yes, Terran might be competitive when players like Bogus play perfect games in the GSL studio against opponents who blunder repeatedly, but when all the cards don’t line up right for Terran they’re toast. On the other hand, the ease and forgiveness of Zerg clearly allows them to practice less rigorously yet repeatedly overcome “cleanness of play” advantage the Korean practice regime grants. To excuse the above graphs, one could simply claim that Terran is such a difficult and well-designed race with a high skill ceiling that it is natural foreigner Terrans would do so badly relative to the easy Protoss and forgiving Zerg. Who knows, they might even be right. Yet foreigner Terrans are not alone.
Interestingly enough, Korean Terrans, the supposedly 'elite race' whose rampant innovations “forced” patch after patch, suffer by far the worst. While there are a few potential reasons for this, it is likely the unforgiving nature of Terran plays a large part. When they are playing in foreign tournaments, due to a number of factors they probably won't be playing their best. Naturally everyone is affected by this, but small errors with Terran count exponentially more than other races. Zergs can make absurd comebacks with ease; on the other hand, Terrans almost never do. They have no margin for error while Zerg has an excessive tolerance for mistakes. Or, Terran just outright sucks. Take your pick. Either way, it’s apparent that Blizzard has successfully created a distinctly unequal racial hierarchy. Top Code S Terrans enter foreign tournaments with trepidation, wondering if each random part-timer or mediocre player they face will be their undoing. Hell, Taeja at his very best dropped a game versus Kekmao, a masters Zerg whom nobody has ever heard of (Dreamhack). More fortunately, Korean Protosses need only worry about foreign Zergs, while Korean Zergs of all levels have almost nothing to fear from foreign Protosses or especially Terrans.
+ Show Spoiler [Indepth list] +
Full list of Foreign wins over Koreans in non-mirrors.
Games are taken from premier lans only.
It's likely not a perfect list as I compiled it by hand. Whatever, it will be close enough.
sortof 2-0 squirtle ESWC
Targa 2-1 Hero Dreamhack valencia
Idra 2-1 First MLG Raleigh
Nerchio 3-0 MC IEM Cologne
Sortof 3-2 Hero Asus Summer
Stephano 3-1 Hero NASL3
Stephano 4-2 MC NASL 3
Stephano 4-0 Alicia NASL3
Ret 3-1 Puzzle NASL3
Scarlett 2-1 Hero MLG Dallas
Moonglade 2-0 MC MLG Dallas
Stephano 2-1 Hero Summer Arena
Sortof 2-0 First Summer Arena
Nerchio 4-1 Younghwa HSC5
Nerchio 3-1 MC HSC5
Stephano 2-0 JYP MLG Anaheim
Stephano 2-0 Alicia MLG Anaheim
Ret 2-0 Killer Spring Arena
stephano 2-0 MC Spring Arena
Ret 2-1 Genius Dreamhack Stockholm
Stephano 2-1 JYP IPL4
Idra 2-1 Tails MLG Anaheim
Suppy 2-1 Killer MLG Anaheim
Suppy 2-0 Tails MLG Anaheim
Nerchio 2-1 Hero HSC4
Stephano 2-1 Inori IPL3
Idra 2-0 Hongun MLG Orlando
Slush 2-0 Inori MLG Orlando
Ret 2-0 Hongun MLg Orlando
Stephano 2-0 Crank LSC2
Idra 2-0 MC MLG Columbus 2011
Stephano 2-0 Hero WCS
Sen 3-2 Hero WCS
Slivko 2-0 Oz IEM Singapore
xigua 2-1 squirtle
Stephano 2-1 TheStC Dreamhack Winter 2012
Snute 2-0 TheStC Dreamhack Winter 2012
Scarlett 2-0 Ryung IPL5
Goswser 2-0 Ganzi IPL5
Stephano 2-0 Ganzi IPL5
Stephano 2-0 Heart IPL5
Lowely 2-0 Marineking WCG2012
Targa 2-0 ForGG Dreamhack Valencia
Stephano 4-2 Heart MLG Raleigh***
Stephano 2-0 Thestc MLG Raleigh
Nerchio 2-0 ForGG IEM Cologne
Vortix 3-2 Supernova IEM Cologne
Scarlett 2-1 Bomber MLG Dallas
Stephano 2-1 Ryung Summer Arena
Ret 2-0 Mvp HSC5
Stephano 2-0 Rain MLG Raleigh
Stephano 2-1 Rain Spring Arena
Slush 2-0 Rain MLG Orlando
Dimaga 2-0 Rain IEM Guangzhou
Stephano 2-1 Keen Dreamhack Summer
Cytoplasm 2-1 Puma Dreamhack Summer
Stephano 2-1 Polt MLG Anaheim
Stephano 2-0 Ganzi MLG Anaheim
Stephano 2-1 Ryung Spring Arena
Stephano 2-1 Heart Spring Arena
Forsen 2-1 Puma Dreamhack Stockholm
Stephano 2-0 Bomber IPL4
Sheth 2-0 Polt MLG Columbus
Ostojiy 2-1 Puma MLG Columbus *1 game by forfeit
Ret 2-1 Mvp Winter Arena
Stephano 3-0 Puma Asus Winter
Goswser 2-1 Polt MLG Orlando
Idra 3-0 Puma IEM Guangzhou
Ret 2-1 Alive IPL3
Stephano 3-1 Thestc
Idra 2-0 Boxer MLG Orlando
Idra 4-3 Boxer MLG Orlando ***
Idra 2-1 Bomber MLG Orlando
Haypro 2-1 Boxer MLG Orlando
Stephano 2-0 Marineking ESWC 2011
Stephano 2-0 Ganzi LSC2
Stephano 2-1 Bomber LSC2
Darkforce 2-1 Alive NASL 1
Kas 2-0 Nestea IEM Cologne
Thorzain 2-1 Monster Dreamhack Stockholm
Illusion 2-0 Zenio IPL4
Demuslim 2-1 Zenio IPL4
Demuslim 2-1 Nestea Winter Arena
Kas 2-0 Zenio IEM Kiev
Illusion 2-1 Oz IPL4
Diestar 2-1 JYP Asus Winter
Select 2-0 Tester MLG Raleigh 2011
Select 2-1 Killer IEM Cologne 2011
Select 2-0 Hero MLG Raleigh 2011
Lucifron 2-0 Oz IEM Singapore
Huk 2-0 Yoda IPL5
Huk 2-1 Ryung IPL5
Naniwa 2-0 Forgg TheStC Dreamhack Winter 2012
Mana 2-0 Forgg ESWC
Fraer 2-1 Thestc Dreamhack Bucharest
Nightend 2-1 Taeja Dreamhack Valencia
Eifer 2-1 Ganzi MLG Raleigh
Huk 3-2 Ganzi NASL3
Naniwa 2-1 Flash MLG Dallas
Welmu 2-0 Puma Summer Arena
Monchi 2-1 Mvp HSC5
Naniwa 2-0 Keen Dreamhack Summer
Sase 2-0 Taeja Dreamhack Summer
Fraer 2-0 Puma Dreamhack Summer
Grubby 2-0 Dream MLG Anaheim
Socke 2-1 Heart MLG Anaheim
Sase 2-1 Heart MLG Anaheim
Sase 2-1 Polt MLG Anaheim
Grubby 2-1 Ryung Spring Arena
Sase 2-1 Puma Dreamhack Stockholm
Feast 2-0 Supernova
Sase 2-1 Ganzi MLG Columbus
Socke 2-1 TheStc MLG Columbus
Socke 2-1 Puma MLG Columbus
Huk 2-0 Ryung IPL4
Sase 2-1 Heart IPL4
Huk 2-0 Virus IPL4
Naniwa 2-0 Thestc GSL Code S 3
Naniwa 2-0 Keen GSL Code S 3
Naniwa 2-0 Ryung GSL Code S 2
Naniwa 2-0 Virus GSL Code S 2
Bling 2-0 Polt Asus Winter
Titan 2-0 Supernova WCG 2011
Gatored 3-0 TOP IEM NY
Sase 2-1 Bomber MLG Orlando
Huk 2-0 Marineking MLG Orlando
Huk 2-1 TheStc MLG Orlando
Gatored 2-0 Ganzi MLG Providence
Grubby 2-1 Rain MLG Raleigh
Sase 2-1 Rain Spring Arena
Babyknight 2-0 TheStc LSC2
Babyknight 2-0 Polt LSC2
Naniwa 2-1 Mvp MLG World Invite
Huk 2-1 Rain MLg Raleigh 2011
Kiwikaki 2-0 Nada MLG Raleigh
Elfi 2-1 Violet Dreamhack Valencia
Grubby 2-1 Golden MLG Anaheim
Socke 2-1 DRG MLG Anaheim
Sase 2-0 Violet MLG Anaheim
Sase 2-0 Leenock MLG Anaheim
Huk 2-1 Sleep Spring Arena
Sase 2-0 Hyun Dreamhack Stockholm
Huk 2-1 Violet MLG Columbus
Socke 2-1 Crazymoving MLG Columbus
Sase 2-0 Golden IPL4
Sase 2-1 Sleep MLG Anaheim
Naniwa 2-1 Nestea Winter Arena
Naniwa 2-1 Leenock Winter Arena
Grubby 2-0 Losira Winter Arena
Gatored 2-1 DRG IEM NY
Elfi 2-1 Fruitdealer IEM NY
Huk 2-0 July MLG Orlando
Naniwa 2-0 DRG MLG Providence
Naniwa 2-0 Nestea MLG Providence
Naniwa 2-0 Moon MLG Columbus 2011
Huk 2-0 July Dreamhack Summer 2011
Huk 3-2 Moon Dreamhack Summer 2011
Huk 2-1 Moon Dreamhack Summer 2011
Naniwa 2-1 Nestea MLG World Invite
Titan 2-1 Curious WCS
Here is the fruit of Blizzard’s meddling: Zerg has clearly emerged as the triumphant foreigner race. Protoss did the best in 2011, but their limited success was not enough for Blizzard’s needs. Once the power of the infestor was realized, the foreign Protoss winrate against Korean Zergs drastically dropped and ZvT figures exceeded the already excessive PvT winrate. On the other hand, Terran performed dismally all around from start to finish. Even when Terran did well in GSL during 2011, foreign Terrans won much less than Zergs or Protosses against Koreans. When Terran was cut down to size, foreign Terrans virtually disappeared. This clearly shows that the only time foreigners have been able to consistency win over Koreans is either from Protosses training in Korea extensively (Sase + Naniwa + Huk), having your opponent pick Terran, or by playing Zerg.
Of course, so far this has been a completely one-sided affair for foreign Zerg and Protoss. But fear not, Terrans are making a hidden resurgence of their own.
Return of the Terrans
Proposed Patch Changes
Raven Seeker Missile no longer requires an upgrade.
Egg health reduced to 80 (was 100).
Raven Seeker Missile no longer requires an upgrade.
Egg health reduced to 80 (was 100).
The Patchzerg Menace
There's a very important question that must be asked now: can you even distinguish which Zerg is which anymore? If before the game, as in the Kespa vs Gom players special matches, there was no player cam and no ID and brackets were hidden, could you honestly tell the difference between someone at the level of Life or Leenock or any foreigner Zerg? Can you even tell foreigner Zergs apart anymore, other than Scarlett/Suppy's creep being better than lazy euros or Stephano being the only player who bothers to flank sometimes? Thus the logical conclusion comes down to: what does it say about the game if a GSL champion or MLG champion looks barely any different than some random part-timer? There is a reason "patchzerg" is the only euphemism that has ever become a meme to describe a certain set of players negatively: it's not even necessarily because Zerg is ultra-imbalanced, it's because above all, Zerg is easy, safe, and forgiving thanks to the infestor. Thus previously mediocre part-timers can look nearly indistinguishable from the best of the best. The skill ceiling with Zerg may be high; there are so many possibilities Zergs do not do right now, but there is little reason to reach the Zerg skill ceiling either. The optimal Zerg strategy, 4 base infestor turtle into hive, is simply too good, too shallow, and too forgiving.
Let's play a game: can you distinguish whether the Zerg player below is a foreigner that can't do anything else, or an elite Korean Zerg who has beaten top Terrans with muta/ling/bling? All Terrans pictured are at least MLG champions or Code S semifinalists .
Foreigner Zerg or Code S staple? Bet you can't tell.
Behind? Fungal + infested terrans. Now ahead. Happens all the time.
Drops? Fungal. Defending incessant Pushes? Fungal and infested terrans. Attack? 1a + fungal. Low-economy game? Make more infestors. Who can do this? Anyone.
Now, if you say, made the infestor off limits, and put Life/Leenock/DRG in a group with any number of foreigner Zergs, could you pick out the former three in a ZvT? Without question: muta/ling/bling play actually lets Zerg players differentiate themselves precisely because it is difficult to execute and contains a lot of tactical depth. Turtle rushing to infestor/broodlord does not.
Note that before this point he killed 46 scvs through harass alone. Wanna wager 100:1 odds its a foreigner? The answer is so obvious I don’t even need to edit out the player cam.
Attack of the Zergs
Once upon a time (pre March 22nd 2011, the true origin of the patchzerg) Zerg was actually a very difficult race to play against Terran, as muta/ling/bling, was at least as demanding as playing as Terran if not harder. PvZ was of course still stupid and ill-conceived, and here Zergs had no way to just auto win once it got to lategame. If it was decided Zerg needed an improvement, Blizzard could have simply made the mutalisk, baneling, or zergling stronger. Another option would be to enhance multitasking tools such as drops or nydus, or weaken their counters (thor/colossus, sensor tower, etc). Then we could have kept the same dynamic and chaotic TvZ, riveting to spectate and play. Who knows, maybe PvZ would have even been watchable and featured something other than turtling lategame, 1a clashes midgame, or 2 base allins; I'm sure this is hard to imagine, but keep trying to picture it: you might see it eventually.
However, Blizzard did not do anything like this. Instead, this change, as well as every other future one, was geared with one goal: buffing the relatively brainless and simple infestor or 1a lategame armies. It's not just that they buffed Zerg, but they buffed Zerg in the most purposeful way to lower the skill needed to play it at a high level by doubling fungal damage. Simultaneously, they raised the skill required to play against Zerg. It should hardly need to be stated how simple it is to auto win battles with fungal and infested terrans, and how hard and utterly unforgiving it is to play against it. As one example of many, Bomber lost to Leenock in MLG Dallas being up 4 bases to 2 and 40 supply with full initiative because he made a single engagement "error."
Bomber tries to divert Leenock's army to the northwest with his hellions and prowls along the bottom to stop expansions. There is exactly one second between Bomber seeing the infestors appear in his vision and effectively losing.
Nearly a perfect spread, great engagement timing, great economy. 4 base to 3, later 6 orbitals to 4 base. Here, Taeja attacks as soon as he maxes in order to prevent Leenock from mining from his 4th base. Had he delayed his attack until he got a number of ravens with energy, Leenock would have been on 5 base economy with the perfect Zerg army despite Taeja’s great lead. Unfortunately, it was already too late. Taeja's only single error this game was to not win before broodlords were morphed.
That error meant the great engagement above, backed with pdds, turned into this. Taeja promptly lost the game, his earlier advantage meaningless.
A fool might blame Byun for being sloppy and "letting" himself getting fungaled. However, look at the margin for error here: sloppy in this case meant looking away for less than a second.
Leenock approached at an oblique angle relative to the scan and within a second Byun would have had to stim his entire army away, siege his tanks, and run his vikings to avoid getting fungaled to death and automatically losing the game. That's barely practical, even if he had been paying perfect attention. If Byun had lost his army to banelings from one direction, then one could call him sloppy as it takes several seconds for banelings to appear in vision and close in for the kill. That is fair. Fungal has much less margin for error. Hence why Terrans use simultaneous drops far less now: unlike the Zerg, they need to micro all their units; however they cannot afford to look away from their main army for even literally one second or they could lose everything to a fungal. Ergo, Terrans focus 100% on their main army when they push and pray they never make a single error to merely have a chance at victory. In such a pitiful state of the game, both fans and players lose. The era of multitasking maestros like MMA vs DRG is long dead: Terrans can’t do it, and Zergs don’t need to.
Bogus, are you trying to multitask and run your scvs away at the third while walking your army around off-creep? Does it matter that you are the cleanest Terran in the world? Fungal growth says: NOT ALLOWED.
The skill disparity of fungal is even more apparent when compared against complex muta/ling/bling army movements, flanks, and multitasking demanding muta harass, which perhaps only a couple foreigner Zergs ever got remotely proficient at. Naturally, after all these Zerg patches, Zergs no longer have to bother with such difficult maneuvers or multitasking anymore; their midgame play has severely regressed overall, because why bother doing all that hard stuff when you can fungal, spam infested terrans, and 1a some broodlords or ultras? Against such a backdrop, foreigner wins using mutas like Ret>Mvp and Idra>Puma mean all the more: unlike their counterparts who relied exclusively on turtle infestor into hive, they actually earned the wins. Sadly, these are pretty much the only ones in the history of SC2.
The fungal buff was, without question, a "white people change." Just as foreigners never got any good at playing the difficult muta/ling/bling and immediately started to abuse the infestor upon buff, Koreans despised the infestor. Even when fungal was made so overpowered it had to be nerfed to keep suspicion in check, Koreans blissfully continued using muta/ling/bling exclusively. For these honorable men, it was shameful to win after getting outplayed horribly. They wanted to use their superior intelligence and skill to dominate their opponents; or maybe they're just stubborn, who knows. These Korean Zergs only began picking up the infestor after it was abundantly clear how much better, safer, and easier, it was over muta/ling/bling. Even now, certain Korean Zergs rigidly fixate on muta/ling/bling, showing that some Zergs still have principles and want to earn their wins. Unfortunately, as they are discovering, it's pretty hard.
Instead of a Zerg army racing in circles around its opponent, picking off units piece by piece and winning with well-timed backstabs or grand envelopments, Zergs now simply have to make some infestors, f-click occasionally from massive range, and later attack with an unstoppable army. Blizzard has made broodlord/infestor/queen/corruptor so utterly powerful that Zergs have now adopted the highly innovative tactic of sacrificing all of their bases just in order to buy enough time to make one broodlord army, which then wins the game on its own; sadly, this is not an exaggeration. Outside of the egregious Scarlett vs Hero game already mentioned, other examples include: Vibe vs San from MLG Dallas on Cloud Kingdom, where Vibe loses every base but his main, Leenock vs Hero on Antiga in GSL where Leenock voluntarily forfeits expansions to harass just to ensure the creation of one army that auto wins the game after casting neural parasite, and Leenock vs Bomber, where Leenock only retains his natural and main. In the end, their loss of bases is was irrelevant because they made 1 broodlord/infestor army, which then can be used to secure many bases for free because it will win every fight very lopsidedly. Of course, if the Zerg is feeling particularly lazy and doesn't want to have to micro at all, he can also choose to 1a an ultra/infestor army:
One might think this would be a bad attack. However, Sniper knows better: why the hell can't he recklessly charge up a tiny choke point while getting pounded by a phalanx of tanks? He has infestors and Ryung doesn't.
Sniper shows the power of Terrible, Terrible Damage. Ryung's formidable defensive position meant nothing in the face of 1a and fungal growth. Sniper took a brief nap during the attack after he prevented Ryung from microing and woke up to see his victory assured.
Not only did Blizzard create this one-sided ascendancy, they rigorously enforced it. Protoss of course, have never had a remote long-term chance of actually beating Zerg lategame. This is because Protoss hopes of winning lategame entirely revolve around the Zerg player making unforced errors, namely clumping broodlords. Thus Blizzard was happy leaving them to their misery. Community members and Zerg pros further reinforced this perception by pretending that it was a micro battle of "neural vs vortex," when it is actually a battle of: Protoss be damned, does the Zerg spread his army or not, make enough broodlords, bring along spines, and cast infestor spells fast enough. Zergs who suggest that all Protoss need to do is to make carrier/templar will naturally ignore the atrocity of Creator versus Curious on Cloud Kingdom, where such a mighty Protoss fleet was stonewalled by the ultimate combo of boredom: spore/infestor. However, Blizzard unintentionally gave Terran too many tools to deal with the prized white man super combo. If Zerg couldn't be both grossly imbalanced with a high margin of error in the lategame, how could foreigners beat Koreans often?
Koreans can use the white man super combo too: 3 mining base to 6 ZvP, less than half a second late on feedbacking an infestor loses the game instantly. Against Zerg lategame, huge leads mean nothing.
When it looked like Terran was winning too many lategames with ghost turtling in a 3 month period, far less than Zergs are now in the past 6 months, the ghost got immediately axed to the point of uselessness. The patch was a great idea, as watching turtle terrans make 30 ghosts and snipe hive blobs or die to fungal +broodlings was hardly the most exciting play to watch; so long as it wasn't done in isolation. Unfortunately it was a straight nerf to Terran, with no other changes. Here, Blizzard had a chance to retool lategame TvZ and make it as enjoyable to watch and play as the midgame. However, that conflicted with letting the white man win. And we all know which took priority here.
+ Show Spoiler [What about Ravens] +
The community, casters especially, have hyped the raven as the savior of TvZ lategame. Pro Terrans have responded by building the raven with only the greatest reluctance and only when their original plans - to win before hive - have failed. Why? Ravens are a mediocre, expensive unit that takes longer than any other unit in the game from starting production to having a ready use. In short, Terrans have to plan many minutes ahead and make very accurate predictions if they want their investment in ravens to ever pay off. Making Ravens forgoes any possibility of a timing attack and gives the Zerg enough time to make any units he wants. Furthermore, ravens rely entirely on the Zerg blundering in order to work properly. Here are two examples:
Alive fires his extremely expensive seeker missiles…and Hyun splits like any good player should. Big investment, no damage. Needless to say, Alive gets crushed.
Dream charges his ravens forward…and gets fungaled out of range. The fungaled ravens are then neuraled for added insult, which still outranges seeker missile or pdd. Seeker missile kills another raven trying to fire. Ghosts are prevented from emping or sniping any infestors by a broodling/baneling wall. Dream’s 5 base to 3 advantage was meaningless.
The Terran hope in the lategame was simply to pray the Zerg violently misplays it. Bomber vs DRG on Metropolis from IPL5 is perhaps the best example: after DRG suicided 2 expensive muta/ling/bling armies for no rational reason off creep, he ends up slightly behind. This lead allowed Bomber to get a number of full energy ravens and sac over 20 scvs before DRG could have 200 energy infestors and the full brood army critical mass. Furthermore, DRG did not make or bring extra queens to battle, did not pre-spread his air army, and finally blundered his infestors by not keeping corruptors in front and fungaling every raven that charged forward to seeker like Golden did. Almost everything went wrong for DRG, and in the end, DRG was still up 30-40 supply after the battle and could have still fought on. Had he stayed in, one fungal later and the game would have turned around again.
Lastly, the much hyped BC/Raven combo is usually just a desert mirage. It was featured after Mvp crushed some patchzergs and Nestea, who just turned 50, at IEM, and is not reliable even on the one single map where it is viable to do (Metropolis). When Mvp played Curious, a real Zerg, the same strategy flopped because Curious snagged reasonable trades thanks to infested terrans and took more bases. Mvp had to turtle for over 10 minutes in order to afford his mighty army, during which time Curious simply expanded and amassed his dream army far quicker. This time discrepancy meant that Mvp had to win multiple one-sided battles to make up his economic deficit: however, Curious responded properly by making more infestors, and pushed him back twice with infested terrans and fungal.
Then when some particularly obnoxious Terrans devised plans keep the initiative all game long and run broodlord armies in circles like Polt vs Lucky, Antiga, Dreamhack and MMA vs Stephano, Cloud, IPL4, such infamy could not be ignored. Blizzard made sure to punish them properly by buffing the queen and overlord. This made it even easier for poor Zergs to spread creep and overlords to prevent harassment. This let them reach the point of stabilizing with a broodlord/infestor army far quicker; once the equilibrium was reached, the Terran can no longer outmaneuver the Zerg blob, but must face it head on and thus die. Then, the prescient Blizzard cabal simply waited. Sooner or later, Zergs would quit suiciding brood armies before reaching critical mass. Eventually, they would follow in the footsteps of Freaky and make hoards of pure infestors. And thus, foreign Zergs would win more and more.
Revenge of the Blizzard
So what is the point of all of this? Yeah, Blizzard purposefully rigged the game to ensure the maximum number of white victories over Koreans. What do they gain from it?
Let me pose another important question: what drives fans at SC2 tournaments more than anything else? The answer should be indisputable: white people beating Koreans. Every major lan where a foreigner takes out top koreans or places really high against Korean players is going to get huge amounts of viewers and attention. For one example of many, just take the recent IPL5. When broadcasting the high level loser’s bracket games on Saturday, it hovered at just under 20k viewers for the embedded ipl twitch stream. When, a few hours later, the Foreigner versus Korean championship was played, viewership jumped up to 40k despite the much weaker stakes and skill level. In contrast, the Code S finals, an hour later, had barely over 20k and an empty LR. The draw is clear.
This is what fans want to see
Furthermore, it doesn’t matter how the foreigners win, so long as they do. Case in point: when Naniwa beat Flash in the first series at this MLG Dallas, people didn't care that he won in the dumbest way imaginable: nexus cancel into 1 base immortal allin that kills 4 bunkers, seriously? It didn't matter how bad the game design was that allowed that win, fans cheered their hardest because white boy, hated as he may be, beat famous korean boy; all else be damned.
It's in Blizzard's interest to keep the SC2 proscene as popular as possible with minimal cost: SC2 is obviously only where it is today because of the popularity and legitimacy of the Broodwar proscene. What better way to do this than rigging it so that the maximum number of foreigners can beat Koreans? If you, a fan, (probably white), can watch tournament A, where white people go 12-5 with code S koreans (NASL 3) and place in the top 3, or tournament B, where white people get mopped up 0-10 by Code A koreans (GESL). The answer is so obvious I don't even need to say it. Which GSL games are the most popular? When Naniwa is dominating. Why did nobody care about IPL4? Because Stephano didn’t win it.
Furthermore, regardless of community hatred at the game, white people will still show up to watch white people beat korean people. Admit it, you watched WCS Finals to see mediocre part-time foreigners that practice on NA or Europe take games off of better Protosses and Terrans who practice all day against the best competition (er wait, nevermind, there were no Terrans there). Do you care that almost all of these games were either from stopping a 2 base allin or attack moving with spread broodlords? No, of course not, you were cheering wildly in blissful ignorance. Stream numbers rose, and Blizzard wins. Starcraft 2 dying? Not a chance, so long as foreigners keep beating Koreans. And you can bet Blizzard will do everything to keep the status quo, just as they have been this past year and a half. That status quo is precisely why the infestor hasn’t been gutted.
Perhaps the smartest part about this alleged plan is that it could never be exposed; until this brilliant analysis that is. However, now the tides are a-changing. The general perception that if the losing side complains, they are always wrong and just bitter, has been shattered by Ryung! Slowly but surely, there now dawns A New Hope for us all. Emperor Rock has isolated himself within the Ivory Tower, while Darth Kim stands alone. Now is the time for the Anti-Infestor Alliance to strike back at the Blizzard Empire and triumph over the dark side.
Starcraft: The Zerg Wars
To summarize, Blizzard has deliberately designed SC2 over the past eighteen months so that foreigners can beat Koreans regularly, despite their general inferiority in skill. This phenomenon has occurred far more times in the past six months than it did in the year before that, due to cementing of Terran unforgiveness, Zerg lategame dominance, and the ossification of the infestor turtle into hive strategy. It ensures that tournaments maintain a solid viewer count due to the hype of foreigner versus Korean matches despite the low quality of games. Whereas a single foreigner win over elite koreans in mid-2011 was a miracle - recall the fervor of Idra 2-0 MC at MLG Columbus - now we have IPL5 where the record of foreigner Zergs against Korean Terrans stands at a far-too close 11-12. It's safe to say that not a single win or close game came from the foreigner making mutas.
The way Blizzard has masterminded such a phenomenon is twofold. First, Terran, is specifically made extremely difficult to play and brutally unforgiving against both other races. Alongside this designation of Terran as the token punching bag, Zerg has been crafted to be the white man race with the buffing of the infestor. The fungal growth/infested terran combo makes it so that Zergs can recover from multiple blunders if their opponent looks away for a second or less and gets fungaled, while their opponents can never make any real “errors” or they almost instantly give away the game. Protoss meanwhile sits in the middle: very easy to play mechanically, but not nearly as forgiving as Zerg.
Second, Blizzard has clearly designed that certain races are strictly superior in the lategame, again in the order of Z>P>T. When this hegemony was interrupted thanks to that rascal Mvp and his ghosts, Blizzard promptly relegated the ghost to the dumpster. It should be also noted that virtually all major foreigner wins over Koreans - sans PvZ, for obvious reasons - came either from winning an early game coinflip or more often, the lategame. The midgame is where you have the greatest opportunity to outplay your opponent in any non-PvZ matchup, and not surprisingly, is the area where foreigners can’t win at.
Is it just a coincidence that Zerg is the race that is both the most forgiving overall and has the best lategame? Is it also a coincidence that Terran is the least forgiving overall and has the worst lategame? I think not. These two features make it so that Terrans can virtually never come back from a disadvantage, a key feature that normally allows better players to consistently win versus lesser ones. The reverse holds true for Zerg naturally, hence why Korean Zergs have lost by far the least against foreigner Terrans and Protoss. Nowadays, the best Terrans and Protoss are those who never make any mistakes, because when they do, there is no coming back despite how godly they may be. MMA made copious amounts of errors in his prime; fortunately, he could make up for it with overall brilliant play. That is no longer possible. But Zergs? They can blunder all day now, so long as they don't die before hive. Sooner or later, they will be able to get a fungal off. Then, they proceed to win the game.
Now, you may ask, what direct proof is there, as if this compelling argument was not ironclad in itself? Why, the most convincing of all: a single isolated statement, translated from Korean to boot.
Any players in particular you are interested in?
Darth Kim, Mastermind, wrote:
I love SKT1 Rain, LG-IM MVP, AcerScarlett and EG Stephano. I hope Stephano wins the WCS.
Hint: 2 white Zergs, 1 Korean Terran, 1 Korean Protoss. He "hopes" the white Zerg wins.
I write this article and expose this unpleasant truth as a plea to Blizzard: I beseech you, leaders of the mighty empire, to strengthen fungal growth even more. Indeed, your wise patches have propelled legions of white Zergs to previously undreamed of results. However, there is an unintended side effect: what happens when almost all the high Korean finishers are Zerg too? Yes, infestors lower the ZvZ skill ceiling so that much that it even lets patchzergs beat GSL champions occasionally; unfortunately, this occurs too infrequently. IPL5 had an all-Korean top 12, and MLG Dallas an all-Korean top 8, and their viewercount suffered greatly as a result. This occurred mostly because top Korean Zergs knocked out all the patchzergs. Thus if we want ESPORTS to succeed, fungal must be improved even more so that white Zergs are all but guaranteed podium places. Otherwise, as we have seen at MLG, IPL, and GSL, once only Korean Zergs remain everyone quits watching.
I profess, from the bottom of my noble heart, that I have no ulterior motive for writing this. I am, after all, simply a humble part-time white Terran; naturally I gain no benefit from such a fungal buff. While obviously I want some easy wins over better players too, I publish this because I am willing to sacrifice future prize money for the greater success of my fellow white brethren, and thus for ESPORTS! as a whole.