A God Reborn
by Trasko and lichter
It's been two years since the switch. It's been a year and a half since the release of HoTS. Somewhere along that time line, it seemed destined that God Young Ho, the greatest RTS player of all time, was going to win a title. When MLG Winter Championship came, the first big tournament of Heart of the Swarm, Flash rose to the occasion. He finished second behind the inimitable Life, and everyone was ready for his ascension.
Yet it never came. Three Ro16 disappointments in Code S suggested he was good, but he just needed time. And the clock ticked, and as the months passed, it seemed like all his colleagues had past him. INnoVation became the machine in early 2013. sOs became the 100k man. Dear became a double champion. Zest became the KT's first SC2 champion. Once lesser names, once lesser lights, but not anymore. For seasons 1 and 2, Flash was stuck in Code A. He finished last the first time, and lost to Shine the second. He had a spark during the Global Championships, but fell second to the young prodigy Maru, the apparent heir to his throne. It looked like time had run out for him. It looked like God was dead.
But all it took was the taste of another final to bring him back to life.
You could say he carried his team. You could say he was still their leader. But without the rise of Zest, Stats, and TY, he would never have reached the Proleague Finals. Matched up against his nemesis PartinG, who had repeatedly beaten him before with his play and harsh words, it looked like he would have to rely on his team once again. Yet when the opportunity called for him to answer, he did. He took out his ruler, measured his equipment, and prepared. Then, he crushed PartinG. He kicked a football with SKT T1's names on it into the stands. But we all knew he was kicking a symbol of his demons, of his frustrations.
This August, Flash has been on a tear. He qualified for IEM Toronto Asian Finals with a 10-3 record over Maru, Dear, GuMiho, Reality and hitmaN. He qualified for the main event with wins over Pigbaby, herO, Classic, Sorry and soO. He qualified for KeSPA Cup by defeating Dream, Zoun, EffOrt and Soulkey. Since that fateful day on the Han River, Flash is 28-7.
Yet he has one demon left: Code S. The greatest players win the greatest tournaments, and until Flash wins a GSL, his career in SC2 will have been a failure. For a man considered the Ultimate Weapon, only the ultimate victory will suffice. He is on the back of the hottest streak in his SC2 career and finally looks like the player that everyone once feared. But all it takes to be brought back down to earth is two losses to end 2014. Looking at the month leading to tonight, it's difficult to imagine Flash returning to the darkness.
When you light a candle, you also cast a dark shadow. Being an ex-Slayers member, Dark knows the feeling of victory as he was one of their unsung heroes for a period of time. The sad reality of the situation however is that beyond his team's succession, he was never able to translate that into individual leagues until his switch to SKT T1, where he has become one of their reliable roster players. Dark was sent out as the starting player for SK Telecom three times in a row during the semi-finals against CJ Entus, winning both "Proleague Format" matches and falling in the all-kill format. What's even more interesting is that these games were three out of the nine he played throughout the whole season. This must have meant that SKT T1 now has more faith in him and that he must have had improved immensely. If this improvement were to translate into this group, Dark could once again make it to the round of 16 and perhaps go even further beyond that which he has achieved before.
One surprising fact about Dark is that he's been Code S the entire year, even reaching the Ro16 in Season 2. While all of his teammates have received the accolades, he has slowly put together a good year. Though his ZvP is his weakest matchup, he has still somehow done enough to survive a round each season in a protoss heavy year. Fortunately, he'll be able to call upon his superior ZvT and ZvZ which both stand over 60%. In the mirror matchup, he has been known to throw in early pools and all ins, and he's slowly learned to adapt both Soulkey's more defensive play and soO's more versatile maneuvers. Though that has been enough to defeat weaker players like Billowy, Armani, Sora, and Rogue, he has struggled against higher calibre players like Maru and TRUE in BoX series. He does have excellent swarmhost control, knowing when to time his locust spawns to tank the maximum amount of damage, and it should come in handy against his first opponent. Defeating a reborn Flash will go a long way in establishing himself as a permanent fixture of GSL as he has had little opportunity to travel abroad unlike the other zerg in his group.
Once upon a time, KeSPA was an insular, isolated group. Players played in their tournament, in their country, and on their terms. However, they have slowly opened their arms to the international scene, and we've seen more and more of their players venture into the mysterious land of foreigners. One of the more recently successful travelers has been Samsung's Solar. With silver medals at IEM Shenzhen and RBBG Global, Solar looks one step away from claiming his first major title. Prior to this rich vein of form, people had removed him from contention as one of the best zergs in the world, largely due to his disappointing Proleague record of 9-10. Individual leagues and BoXs are different beasts, however, and his deep runs in the aforementioned tournaments along with his newly gained confidence in traveling to foreign events suggests he is no longer the greenhorn that disappointed us after Proleague Round 1. With a wealth of recent experience, he enters this group a strong contender to ride his favored muta ling bling composition into first place. However, he has shown an inability to finish strong when it matters, failing in tournaments and qualifiers at the last hurdle, but this should still be too soon for the Samsung zerg to fall out.
As for Avenge, there is really not much to say. He escaped from a relatively easy Code A group over ZvP dunce Sleep and the brown dwarf Sora, and he's shown little in the past few months to suggest he has what it takes to upset any of these players. Aside from his current GSL appearance, the last time he showed himself in a big tournament was IEM Singapore way back in December 2013, where he came close to qualifying for the group stages from the open bracket. His records do show a respectable 50% in all three matchups, but it's difficult to draw any conclusions from someone with such a long career in the game but a relatively sparse recent history. He'll likely have to beat two zergs to have a shot tonight, but it's not looking good. With losses to decent to good players like Armani, EffOrt, and DRG in the past 2 months and wins against flounderers like DeParture, hyvaa, and Sleep, it looks like a tall order for someone who was once considered Startale's best protoss. The nail in the coffin has to be the fact that Terminator is considered a better protoss by the Jin Air coaching staff, and we all know how he fared in his group.
It will most likely come down to Flash, Dark and Solar for the top two spots in the final group of the Ro32. It's impossible to look past Flash's recent record, and with terran's performing well this season, it's hard to see him falling this early. However, this is still his first Code S appearance this year despite being one of the best terran players in Korea, so some caution is advised. Dark has also been in good shape, and the recent trust placed on him by his powerhouse team suggests that he has been performing well in practice. But Solar is currently the most successful player in this group, and he has shown he has the ability to wreak havoc on any group or bracket he faces. Unfortunately for Avenge, that means he's probably finishing last.
Solar > Avenge
Flash > Dark
Solar > Flash
Avenge < Dark
Flash > Dark
Solar and Flash advance to the round of 16.
The rebirth continues.