Welcome back to the third edition of Proleauge MVPs! As with previous editions, we consider all parts of a players performance when issuing the MVP award, that is to say we factor things in like individual skill, record, ace match performance, and so on and so forth. This round we saw resurgence in the Terran force; last round there was only Maru in the top 10 of wins, while this time two Terran players occupy the top two positions, while there are three in total in the top 10 wins. Players you expected to perform well did; Dream and Maru who are widely considered to be the best Terran players are #1 and #2 respectively, soO was the top Zerg player in wins and Classic and Zest are up there as well. Overall, it was a fantastic round of proleague topped off with a great finals, so without further ado here’s our MVP player awards!
Without a doubt, Dream is the Terran MVP of round 3 of Proleague. Tied with Maru with the most wins this round, the two are the only two players to have 6 wins each, with Dream remaining undefeated and Maru losing two. Not only was Dream undefeated, but he also went 1-0 in ace matches compared to Maru’s mediocre 1-1. All things considered, Dream edges out Maru convincingly for the MVP award, while Maru has to settle for the runner-up.
Throughout the whole round, Dream showcased the same playstyle: greed. To further break it down, let’s take a quick look at each opening he did in all 6 games:
- Game 1 vs ByuL: CC first into 3CC on Cactus Valley
- Game 2 vs Reality: reaper expand on Echo
- Game 3 vs Zest: CC first into 1 rax gas on Echo
- Game 4 vs Life: CC first into 3CC on Expedition Lost
- Game 5 vs sOs: CC first into 2 rax on Cactus Valley
- Game 6 vs Creator: CC first into 1 rax gas on Deadwing
Five out of six games, Dream went for a command center first. The only time he did not CC first was against a Terran player, which most of the time isn’t safe. The most interesting cases here are a CC first against sOs on Cactus Valley, and a CC first against Zest on Echo. Going expansion first against sOs is always risky because he can pull out literally any form of aggression, and going CC first on Echo is risky in itself due to the smaller size of the map. Let’s take a closer look at the Dream vs Zest game, and see just how he was able to pull off win after win with a CC first.
As previously mentioned, Dream opened up with a command center first, followed by a single barracks and a gas. The excessive greed lies within the single barracks; with only one barracks, Dream won’t be able to pump out enough marines for any oracle opening, and just straight up dies. He takes it even further, and doesn’t scout what Zest is doing until much later. Essentially, he is taking a huge risk by relying on his opponent not to be aggressive in the early game, while he waits for his production structures to kick into gear. This does play into Dreams hand, as Zest doesn’t really go for early aggression, especially in the form of an early oracle. Zest on the other hand, scouts early enough to drop a nexus after gateway, in response to scouting the CC first.
After making it through the early game, Dream goes the standard widow mine drop. This serves two purposes. First and foremost, it acts as a scout, as Dream sends it straight to the natural base of Zest at just under the eight minute mark. This can scout how many probes are harvesting, exact unit counts, and any potential tech lying in the natural. The second purpose is to deal damage. This is much of a lesser important purpose, but dealing damage nonetheless will of course be useful. The damage is dealt mainly through lost mining time now that Protoss players can easily defend widow mine drops, any probes killed by the widow mines, and a photon overcharge used now can render a Protoss player vulnerable to aggression later on. Through this scouting tool, Dream is able to see the second and third gateway completing, the twilight council researching blink, and the probe count at the natural. From this he can deduce there is no blink timing coming anywhere in the near future, as the gateways aren’t even complete yet; Zest would have next to no stalkers ready for a blink attack, so Dream is safe.
The early greed has paid off; Dream is able to drop his fourth and fifth barracks at around the eight minute mark – a full minute before standard timings. The earlier investment into production facilities results in having more production going into the mid game, and consequently a much larger army, much faster. This will give Dream a large portion of map control throughout the mid game, and allow him the flexibility of either dropping where he wants to, or go for a head on engagement. The first move out from Dream comes at the ten minute mark, when his first two medivacs complete. He initially goes for a drop, but a marine ahead of the pack scouts a group of blink stalkers, so Dream aborts the drop maneuver and pushes on ground instead. With a much larger army than normal, Dream is able to push back the stalker force into Zest’s base, and force Zest into a defensive posture.
Dream spots stalkers mid-map with a scouting marine and aborts the drop
Following the contain, Dream continues on with his economy and establishes his third base, and all of his upgrades. To further put his lead, Dream waits for Zest to make a mistake in his defenses; Dream splits his army into two, and waits for the right time to either push into the third base, or into the natural. With no observer outside of Zest’s base, he can’t see exactly where Dream is positioning his army and aggressively blinks into Dreams army outside of his third base, opening up an attack path directly into Zests natural. Dream takes advantage of the situation, and picks off the nexus for free.
Careful army positiong gives Dream an opportunity to pick off a nexus
From this point on, Dream is so far ahead that he can really do anything to win the game. He has ghosts on the way, a large viking count, multiple upgrades ahead, map control, you name it, he’s got it. Combine all of this with Dreams superior army control, and Zest is a dead man. Zest tries to take the fourth base adjacent to his natural, and while doing this ends up losing his entire army to Dreams. The battle went easy for Dream; a combination of storm dodging and army flanking gave Dream the much better engagement, and all Zest could do was watch as his army melted away. This game summarizes Dreams playstyle throughout this round: Take a risk early on, and rely on his mid-late game mechanics, multitasking and decision making to overwhelm his opponent.
Following up with SKT’s unbeatable record this round comes Classic with his safe and predictable yet deadly playstyle. The chintoss has managed to lead SKT to victory through his impeccable micro, macro and most important of all, decision making. He sports an oxymoron playstyle that plays safe and standard while simultaneously surprising his opponents. How can you possibly play predictably and expect to surprise and even beat world class opponents? Lets take a look.
Playing against the best of the best in Proleague is nerve wracking. The pressure to win combined with the team aspect make for a very stressful environment to play under. Therefore, certain playstyles and risks are taken purely out of the nervousness that comes from the possibility of losing. Decision making, micro and macro are necessary to win a high stakes game such as this but the skill to keep calm and calculated is also important. In this respect, Classic has got it down. Despite facing some of the best that StarCraft and Korea has to offer, he comes out on top and with a cool head nonetheless.
This round is no exception as Classic picks up impressive wins against big name players such as Bbyong, YoDa and DongRaeGu. One big difference between this round and last is the chances that Classic had to shine in this round. During round 3, he came out with an impressive 5-2 record with his only losses to Dear and current WCS champion: Life.
With that out of the way, lets jump into the game. It starts with Classic spawning on the North West and YoDa on the South East of Echo LE. Classic goes for a safe gateway fast expand into oracle first. YoDa also opts for a fast expand but instead goes towards a 2 base timing push. Classic scouts YoDa’s base using his initial oracle and sees the excessive amount of marines with no third underway. This of course signals that YoDa’s plan this game is for an aggressive 2 base timing attack. Seeing this, Classic takes his third and rushes out his colossus tech as fast as he can.
Taking the third at this point is risky considering how fragile Protoss is during the early/mid game and how strong stim timings can be for Terran. However one thing that keeps all of this together is that Classic has invested a significant amount of minerals into early zealots. With proper colossus micro and the zealots to tank, this attack can be deflected and possibly even do close to no damage. This is exactly what happens as Classic deflects the attack with ease and even manages to wipe out most of the army while only losing a few zealots.
Classic with an easy hold
Having failed his attack, YoDa starts up his third base and scrambles to catch up to Classic. However, considering that there are already two colossi out on the map and with YoDa’s economy being far behind at this point, he would need to do significant damage to have any hope of winning this game. With this in mind, he loads up six medivacs for a doom drop in Classic’s main. From Classic’s point of view, he knows that this attack is YoDa’s only choice and so prepares for it by placing his mothership core at his main for defensive photon overcharges while having six stalkers at his third to intercept any drops that might come by.
This planning all works out as the entire drop is deflected with only a few casualties on Classic’s side which enables him to do what he does best; macroing up and killing off his opponent with a massive death ball. Classic’s economic and tech advantage makes the death ball come up much too quickly for YoDa to react to it, forcing YoDa to take unfavorable fights and eventually forcing the game to end in Classic’s favor.
Deciding on the Zerg MVP for Round 3 of the 2015 Proleague has been difficult. So difficult that we're taking the cop out, and writing two, which is either extra lazy or extra work depending on who you ask. The two clear front runners for Zerg players are soO and Byul, who both boasted at least above average scores as well as good wins against solid players.
The case for soO:
soO has an undefeated record in round 3, with wins over Ragnarok, Solar, Rogue, B4, and MyuNgSiK. soO was both a Zerg sniper *and* a map sniper, with 4/5 games being vs Zerg and 4/5 games on Expidition lost (a map boasting *nine* ZvZ mirrors, amounting to an even quarter of all mirrors played. However, the last of soO's games was played on Echo, where he faced MyuNgSiK (and won), which was soO's first win against Protoss during the 2015 Proleague season. This indicates a revival of the coach's trust in soO in non-zvz match ups, and perhaps a revival of soO as a top contender.
While soO's ZvZ games were nothing special in and of themselves, they did show the evolution of soO as a player in proleague, and the benefit of training one map repeatedly. Take a look at soO's opening styles during round three:
- Pool first
- Hatchery first
- Pool first
- 8 pool
Now compare it soO in the last round:
- Pool first
- Pool first
- Hatch first
- Hatch first
In round 2, soO was able to go on a *five* game winning streak, so his choices weren't wrong, but in round 3 you can see a marked difference in the way soO approaches the games against similar caliber players. His first match he opened pool first, which set him up for a hatchery first in the second match, as no one would want to blindly 9pool a player who had showed a willingness to open safely. He covered any potential weakness with a pool first in game 3 to avoid a counter early pool build, and in game 4 opted for the incredibly aggressive 8pool which caught out his opponent after 3 games of safe or greedy openings. This is in part because soO was playing ZvZ on only one map, which makes it much easier to set and subvert his opponents expectations, but also due to soO's evolution as a player; in past tournament runs, soO has struggled with being too predictable, and this round he was able to put a stop to that.
In addition to soO's ZvZ games, he also played one PvZ against MyuNgSiK, which is worth mentioning for two reasons: one, it gave soO his first PvZ win in Proleague 2015, and two, it was the only time in round three that soO wasn't fielded against a Zerg.
The game opened on Echo with soO opting for a proxy hatch build. MyuNgSiK had none of it, and blocked the hatchery on his own natural with a pylon to prevent the early game from getting weird. Rather than being thrown off, soO doubled down on his hatchery play, and went for three hatcheries before pool. Along with delaying MyuNgSiK's nexus, he also was able to use this scenario to his economic advantage.
The game continued on with players teching up without any real aggression, until soO got lair and burrow roach movement before speed. MyuNgSiK dropped soO's fourth base, while soO burrowed 6 roaches under the sentries at MyuNgSiK's natural, splitting three roaches off into the main and natural. This harass bought soO more time as he teched up to hive and maxed out on Roach Hydra Viper by ~13 minutes. From here, soO went for a timing that MyuNgSiK deflected with forcefields to buy enough time for storm, and soO was forced to retreat back home.
Unfortunately, missing this timing window meant that MyuNgSiK's army was far more powerful than soO's for quite some time as soO's broodlord transition was timed for after a timing that traded out roach hydra for powerful tech units like collosus and high templar. To avoid dying in a straight up fight, soO snuck his army around his opponents and went for a base trade. This prolonged the game for quite some time, however MyuNgSiK still had an army that was simply too strong for soO to handle straight up. The game looked hopeless for soO, but while everyone was worried that his coach had put too much faith in him, soO capitalized on a mistake by MyuNgSiK and sniped the last remaining nexus while MyuNgSiK forgot to build another building, ending the game and cementing a 3-0 win for SKT1.
MyuNgSiK can't believe it
Over all, soO wasn't massively impactful for his team; he took out no high profile targets, he never played an ace match, and he never helped the team take it to the ace match. However, using him, his coaches were able to almost guarantee a victory on Expedition Lost every time they needed to, leaving their other players free to practice other match ups and other maps, which helped them secure their undefeated round. soO's growth is also marked in round three, as seen in his game vs MyuNgSiK, where soO's consistency and reliability was also put to the test in a high stress base trade. soO shouldn't have won that game, but due to his practice and reliability, he was not the one to make the first mistake, and took the win for SKT1.
The case for Byul:
On paper, the case for soO over Byul is easy; Byul had an above average 5-3 record, which can't stack up to soO's impressive 5-0 and match up mastery. However, looking deeper into those matches, it is apparent that Byul played far stronger opponents. Check out Byul's history this round:
Wins: Reality, Losira, Maru (x2), Creator
Losses: Dream, Leenock, Zest
Obviously, the caliber of players that Byul was faced with routinely was much higher than soO, explaining the record difference. Dream is an absolute monster of a player, Leenock is a ZvZ master, and Zest the Kingslayer; these are not easy opponents, and even the smallest of mistakes can cost you a game versus players like these.
Even comparing the wins of Byul to the wins of soO, Byul comes out on top. While Reality doesn't boast much these days, his TvZ prowess is formidable, at an insane 70%+ win rate. Losira has become a mainstay in Proleague for his team, and has been around since the days of WoL, which means his repertoire of builds specifically in ZvZ is impressively large. Maru needs no introduction, and even the casters were surprised when Byul beat him not once, but twice in the same day. Even Creator has the ability to take games off of good Zergs, with a series win over Soulkey in code A.
Contrary to soO's case, CJ Entus fielded Byul at every opportunity, playing eight games in a 7 week season, and winning his ace match. CJ relied on Byul *hard*, needing Byul to force acematches, and even play ace matches if the time was right. SKT1 on the other hand fielded soO only when they felt like it, who played only 5 games in the regular season, all of which were 3-0 or 3-1 blow outs. Byul truly had a deck stacked against him, and he rose to the challenge magnificently, giving his team a narrow entrance into the play offs.
Byul's influence is especially obvious when looking at the series vs Jin Air Greenwings. The lineup did not favor CJ, and at best the result could be considered hotly contested, while at worst CJ was looking at a 1-3 blowout with either Bbyong or herO most likely taking a win.
In their darkest hour, all hopes rode on Byul. His initial game vs Maru forced the series to an ace match, and is by far the more interesting of the two games, although it should be noted that with Cactus Valley as the final map, it was only ever going to be Maru vs Byul again; Terran and Zerg have split the map 40-40, while Protoss has an abysmal time on that map in Proleague.
Byul opened with pool first on Vaani Research Station, followed up by gas and the gold base. Maru scouted it right away and bunkered the gold. However, rather than going straight to the bunker Byul snuck 4 lings into Maru's base, forcing Maru's reapers to come back home, giving Byul ample time to deal with the Bunker and continue on his macroing way.
Byul took his 3rd hatchery in the non-pocket base, while Maru went for helions and cloaked banshees. Byul scouted the banshees and immediately started spore crawlers. Maru, playing sneaky, started an armory behind the overlord to let him do an unscouted hellbat/banshee push against Byul.
Byul took a *VERY* well timed fight against the hellbat ball, which did take quite a few lings, but with the gold base Byul's economy was fine despite the losses. He followed this up with lair and a spire as Maru continued to be aggressive with hellbats and banshees.
Both sides macroed up, and while Byul attempted to get something done with his Mutas, stim had already completed which forced Byul out for a time. However, Byul eventually found a hole in Maru's defense and sniped +2 while running lings to Maru's third. Maru pushed out in desperation but Byul had plenty of Banelings on defense and the aggression halted with Byul up on four bases including a gold, up in supply, and even in upgrades after the snipe of Maru's +2.
As time went on, Byul was able to grow his Mutalisk flock to such a point that he could punch through multiple turrets at once, making Maru feel incredibly behind. Maru added on even more turrets to defend against Mutalisks and pushed out. Unfortunately for Maru, Byul was able to make an incredible amount of Banelings which held the initial push. Maru continued the fight but since the initial shove was halted, Byul had enough time to reinforce and shut down the aggression completely.
Behind this attack, Maru took a 4th base, and despite being massively down in supply was able to hold on to the base and stabilize, although still behind. Byul continued sharking around with his Mutalisks, slightly timid, worried about making a mistake to lose him the game, but eventually this harass forced Maru to move out or die in his base. Byul countered yet again, killing 2 bases to ensure Maru committed to aggression, and made Banelings to hold Maru's last death push.
This resulted in a weird half base trade, where Byul's main army was too timid to commit to defending against Maru's army, while 30+ mutalisks destroyed Maru's production. Once Byul brought back his Mutalisks he began to take fights and ultimately overran Maru's army.
Byul's ability to go toe to toe with the top players of multiple races while being fielded every week is an inhuman feat. He was consistently able to trade games with the best of the best, and it was on his back that CJ even entered the play offs. Byul, like herO, is a foundation upon which CJ is built. Without Byul, CJ would be unable to compete at the highest level, and his contributions every week made the difference between middling team to top team. Compared with soO, without whom SKT1 would absolutely still be a contender, Byul has to win the MVP award.