This week, CJ.Sora enters into Code S for the first time. For most players, this would be the mark of a blossoming career, their first steps into major competition. But, oddly enough, for Sora, this is perhaps the smallest of his achievements thus far. Instead, this is simply the next logical step in what seems to be a road to domination of the scene, or, at the very least, an incredible run in the top tier of competition. Sora's apparent knack for victory has bled through in every public appearance that he's made. Even his losses allow his brilliance to shine through, serving as demonstrations of his phenomenal play and decision making. With all of this in mind, we have to wonder, is CJ.Sora the player that we've been waiting for for so long?
Sora's ascendance began with the WCG Korean Nationals. Originally seen as a nobody, simply a B-teamer who had had some promising results in Code A quals, most expected Sora to be like the slew of other young hopefuls who found themselves striving for a shot for glory at WCG. Sora would quickly shut down all of those thoughts, however. . A quick set of 2-0s over JKS and Shine were signs of promise, that were soon solidified by a surprising 2-0 over Fantasy. Many were shocked that a player who had just barely managed to qualify for Code A was able to manhandle the SKT Terran. However, those 2-0s would go from being a pleasant surprise from the young B-teamer, to being a constant and deadly trend, from a suddenly frightening contender. At the end of Group 12, he would find himself squared off against Bomber (who, the next week, would take 1st place at the S2 Global Finals), only to have a relatively easy 2-0 walkover against the Startale player.
Entering the bracket phase of the qualifier, audiences were able to see Sora's play for the first time. In his match against GuMiho, we saw that Sora was a player that never gives up. Taking questionable engagements and coming out with just enough to swing for a counterattack was a staple of his play. Despite having his 3rd and 4th denied multiple times in his game on Akilon Wastes, Sora's macro never slowed down. Upgrades rocketed along and he seemed to always have units streaming out toward GuMiho
Sora showed an ability to adapt to whatever situation was at hand, be it map created or a result of his opponent's openings. In game 1 against Soulkey, after significantly delaying his natural with a brilliant pylon block, Sora followed up with phoenix harass, into a quick third and a greedy SkyToss style of play. Other times, he would take on a more reserved playstyle, slowly macroing up before moving out on the map, having already scouted with multiple observers and zealots. No matter his chosen style, Sora showed a pronounced ability to smoothly and seamlessly transition between tech paths, without no difficulty. This was most obvious when Sora predicted Soulkey's muta/corruptor tech switch on Newkirk Redevelopment, preemptively throwing down an additional two Stargates, chronoing out phoenixes and getting Anion Pulse Crystals, leading to fascinating air battles.
Unfortunately, like all good things, Sora's winning streak soon came to an end. Sora would find himself the victim of a role reversal, being 2-0'd by PartinG in an intense set. In both matches, Sora's youth showed itself, as a botched proxy 2 gate and tunnel vision on oracle harass led to his defeat. Despite this, Sora left his booth beaming. He had made his mark. A new contender had entered the world stage, and time would tell if he would continue his domination.
In the time between the qualifiers and the WCG Global Championship, Sora remained present in competition, but in a reduced fashion. He had a decent run in Code A, before being knocked out in the Round of 32. In the third Global Qualifier for RedBull Battlegrounds New York, Sora would find himself amidst another slew of 2-0s, taking down Curious, Heart, Trust, Impact, and Bbyong. Sora would finally fall, however, to HyuN in an exciting 4-2 set. However, while he didn't qualify, we also saw that Sora had made steady improvements in all of his matchups, showing an especially strong prowess in PvT. Despite all this, people still expected Sora to only perform decently at WCG, citing his PvP weakness, and the potential of him getting tossed by PartinG.
Sora would shut down all of his critics as soon as he arrived at WCG. The young Protoss came out of the gates with a powerful start, going 12-3 in groups. Though one of the losses was to MacSed, it was a simple build order loss involving a failed DT rush. In his other two matches, Sora calmly picked apart the Chinese Protoss player with ease, displaying brilliant micro and a willingness to cheese. In the quarters, Sora would find himself matched up the French Terran, Dayshi. Coming off a decent group stage and a solid performance at HSC VIII, Dayshi was looking solid, but not unbeatable. Sora made him look like an amateur. With beautiful play, he slowly broke Dayshi, heavily utilizing Zealot runbys and drops, something which was quickly becoming a staple for the young Protoss. Sora also showed some flirtation with the Chinese PvT style, integrating Phoenixes and Tempests into his play, further showing his growth as a player. Sora had one last wall to break through in order to finish in the money. And that wall was the same one that had put a stop to his winning streak at WCG Korea: SKT1 PartinG.
Within the first game, however, Sora quickly proved that the player who was here on the main stage in China was not the same young B-Teamer who had nervously walked into the OGN studios to play his first televised matches. Facing 2 gate pressure, the CJ Entus player smoothly pulled back, defended his ramp, and hunkered down, before bursting out with a vicious Blink stalker attack. PartinG, in a last ditch effort, sent an Oracle into Sora's main, while being pushed at his front. Sora, in a display of multitasking prowess, shut down the attempted harass while quickly sniping PartinG's natural, and eventually winning the game. The decisive victory set the tone for the rest of the set. Sora would take the next map with a calculated DT rush, the same he had attempted on MacSed, except to brilliant affect this time. In the third game, PartinG would reclaim some momentum with a 3 gate blink all-in, but even that was not enough. With impressive macro and phenomenal engagements, Sora would take the 4th and final map over PartinG, in a spectacular game of Phoenix battles. He had overcome his rival and shown the world that a new challenger had appeared.
Going into the finals, the situation was unclear. Sora had historically been just decent with PvZ, but was starting to look up. Soulkey, usually a master of the matchup, had just uncharacteristically dropped 2 maps to the Chinese Protoss Jim. Initially, things were looking good for Sora. On Derelict Watcher, Sora took an early momentum lead, taking excellent engagements that always left him just that little bit ahead. Soulkey would eventually fall to the constant economic pressure that Sora put him under. With a 1 game lead, Sora looked ecstatic going into the rest of the set. That would soon change. Sora's youth would betray him, as he would fall to a Ling/Roach push in Game 2, allowing Soulkey to breach his natural and then his main. On Yeonsu, Sora would fare better, brilliantly utilizing his now trademark Zealot runbys to temporarily shit down the economy of Soulkey and constantly deny his 4th base. However, even this couldn't stop the GSL champion, as Soulkey slowly pushed his way to victory. Frost was an even worse story. Sora attempted his tried and true DT rush, only to have Soulkey scout the construction of the forward pylon. With the set ending 3-1 in Soulkey's favor, Sora may not have taken the gold, nor the title, but he did find himself walking away with $15K and a newfound admiration and respect from fans around the world.
So where does that leave Sora today? Frankly, it's still up in the air. His performance in Proleague has been lackluster, with a 2-4 record. His win over Flash in the first week was a shine of his incredible play, as he slowly and methodically pushed his advantages, using those oh so familiar Zealot runbys and drops to great affect. His Code A groups were equally interesting. Despite excellent play over Reality and Hack, he found himself manhandled by DRG in the winner's match, losing 0-2 against the MVP Zerg. This Friday, Sora will find himself paired against the man who took the last Starcraft WCG title away from him, SKT1.Soulkey. Only then will we be able to find out if there truly are any brakes on this hype train. Going into the match, Sora will be the crowd favorite. An eternal good sport, Sora is always seen with a giant grin on his face in the booth, win or lose. His exuberance when explaining that he had just told his parents about his progaming venture on the eve of his WCG Korean Ro8 appearance was something that warmed the hearts of every Starcraft fan. Sora's pure joy for the game is a reminder of the best part about Starcraft.
If you work hard enough, great things are going to happen. Let's wait and see how far Sora's hard work will take him.