Photo Credit: ESL
San: The Merciful God
San is the kind of player all aspiring protoss players should look up to. He doesn’t regularly cheese or rely on weird timings. He doesn’t need to catch his opponents off guard to eek out a win. He’s a safe and reliable player who can do aggressive pressures and play defensive games when they are called for. His ability to play out macro games and pressure well without going all-in has made him into one of the best PvZ masters we’ve seen in Starcraft 2. His PvT doesn’t stack up to his legendary PvZ, but that’s not because it’s bad by any means, but because his PvZ is such an outrageous standard to match up to.
Rather, his PvT is marked by comfort in playing out long and careful matches to the late game without needing to all-in. He is capable of doing strong aggressive openings, but virtually always transitions out to a long game. He is among the most standard of all Protoss players, and certainly one of, if not the most, standard of Protoss players attending the WCS global finals. In PvT, he still likes to use double forge builds and tends to focus on cautious, defensive strategies centered on the colossus, until he is able to secure his Templar tech. San nearly always seeks to take the game to 4 or more bases unless his opponent makes a major mistake. Here we will showcase a recent PvT of his which demonstrates his standard play style.
WCS Europe Season 3 Premier League: San vs MMA Game 2
San spawns in the upper right and MMA in the lower left on Overgrowth. San carefully places his buildings to limit reaper pathing in his base to be a little extra safe, and opens with a standard 1 gate expand, against MMA’s standard reaper expand. San’s building wall denies the reaper scouting behind his mineral line while he opens with a twilight council. San starts blink research very quickly, and positions his stalkers and mothership core to deny the reaper scout from coming back in. He kills off the reaper, while adding on sentries.
Meanwhile, MMA has gone up to 3 barracks and is building a large group of marines and marauders. San starts a robotics facility when his blink is only around halfway done, then adds on two forges. This build is extremely tech heavy and is reliant on sentries and mothership core for defense, but is still prone to pressure. Despite his blink tech, the build has no real capacity for pressure for quite some time. MMA takes to the map with around 20 marines and marauders to do some damage, his factory delayed a bit to make his pressure stronger. San, knowing the timings, decides to preemptively photon overcharge, knowing how light on units he is and wanting to scare MMA away. MMA decides to commit anyway, and dives in. Some force fields go down to limit the movement options of MMA, and MMA commits harder, forcing a time warp. Another well placed force field goes down, and MMA has no choice but to retreat, having lost a few units, but only killing a pylon and a couple zealots. Despite the heavy use of energy on San’s part, San comes out ahead in this engagement given how fast he rushed out his tech compared to MMA’s pressure build.
San defends MMA's pressure
San’s first colossus comes out shortly after MMA’s units retreat. The supply counts are dead even, a position which favors San slightly. San’s early blink research makes defending the first drop trivial, and he deflects it no problem with well positioned stalkers. MMA begins destroying the rocks on San’s side of the map to open up more aggressive movement patterns, and each player takes their third base. San’s double forge build has netted him a significant upgrade lead, and his early blink frees up time to research charge. MMA adds on three ghosts for a very strong attack, expecting a high templar transition and knowing that they’ll be useful against charge zealots even without templar on the field. San adds on his templar archives, but not until after going up to 4 colossi. San starts his 3/3 very quickly, and adds on his 5th and 6th gasses, planning on playing to the late game. San adds more colossi and adds on a warp prism and some archons.
MMA pushes across the map and positions himself outside of San’s third base while taking a fourth of his own. He is forced to commit to an attack before personal cloaking finishes for his now 5 ghosts, because he knows 3/3 will be finishing quite soon for San, a point at which San’s army will be nearly unstoppable (MMA is only on 2/1 upgrades, and has just started 3/2). The vikings destroy several colossi, but 3 survive and MMA’s army is routed, while the warp prism is used to warp in several zealots at MMA’s fourth base for harass. MMA, knowing he cannot hold a forward attack from San, goes for a double medivac drop to try to buy time for himself, but San commits anyway, using reinforcements to defend the drop. His army’s upgrade lead is too significant, and the drop cannot deal any damage. San backs off from the attack regardless, unsure of his position, and decides to wait for a short time.
San takes a favourable engagement before personal cloaking finishes
San gathers his forces, and begins warping in additional units at the front. He now has a 40 supply lead, and begins the final push. MMA defends valiantly, but his last stand is not enough, and San takes the game convincingly.
San’s PvT is very safe and standard in general, and even when he deviates, it always transitions into a safe and standard midgame. He relies on his execution, positioning, and decision making to take games. While he is not exceptional for a top level progamer at any one of these things, he is more than proficient at all three. While other players might out-perform him on any one of these aspects, San’s play is well balanced. He doesn’t have any particular strengths, but on the flip side of the same coin, neither does he have any glaring weaknesses. He has no particular holes to exploit. Whether San wins the series will come down to simply who performs better overall: the games will not depend on one player’s style being overcome by the other’s. Expect a well-played series of matches between both San and Jjakji.