Fly on Green Wings
Autumn rolls in over Korea, and the clash to determine the champions of the 2014-2015 SK Telecom Proleague draws ever closer. On one side, the most familiar face of all Korean teams. SK Telecom T1, possessed of the most star-studded lineup imaginable in Starcraft II for more than two years, trading one star for the next in a seemingly endless cycle of high-key acquisitions. There was never really a question of whether SKT would find immense success in a new game or not, only how long it would take.
Now meet Team 8.
Built from the remnants of three defunct Brood War teams, the team that rose – with KeSPA's aid – from the ashes was a hodgepodge mix of talented but mostly unaccomplished players. Jaedong headlined a haphazard roster, supported by players such as Sea, BaBy (now TY) and Jaehoon (later Argo). On paper, it was a team rife with potential. In theory, the lineup needed only a nudge in the right direction to reach success – success that refused to come.
Weeks became months, and Team 8 struggled with both consistency and player retention. Sea had left for Team Liquid and later retired, Jaedong now headlined EG-TL's Proleague adventure, and Argo – the closest thing to an ace Team 8 could muster, could not reach the heights necessary to bring his team out of the muck. When Argo retired, it seemed the nails were being driven into the coffin. When Check and TY left to pursue oppurtunities elsewhere, the barebones roster that remained was pitiful. Frankly, it was hard to believe that Team 8 would live through the transition and make it all the way to the next season.
But with the (unexpected) help of Jin Air, they did. Rebuilt from the flopping failure of missed potential that was Team 8, Jin Air Green Wings created a new image for the team – led by OSL champion Maru and WCS Global champion, mad genius sOs. News of Jin Air's sponsorship and the acquisition of two superstars breathed new life into the dying team. And what life it was. Team 8 had ended their 2012-13 season with a 16-26 (-28) record over six rounds, far from salvation and farther still from the trophy they coveted.
The next? 17-11 (+18) and two incredible round championships. Unexpected? Not particularly. It would have taken a fool not to see the potential of Jin Air's roster. But here was a team built on high expectation and a foundation of already strong players, with a rank history of underperforming wherever it mattered. Maru and sOs were big names, but would they escape the shortcomings of their new team? The answer was a resounding, confident yes. Not only would they perform better than Jin Air's supporters could have hoped for, they would find that a nearly invisible ex-Hwaesung Zerg had it in him to create the league's most powerful trifecta.
You may scoff and look to KT Rolster, but I am not exaggerating. Since the beginning of the 2013-14 season, there are no three players with better combined records than Jin Air's three core players. Only herO and Zest have comparable records over similar periods, but sOs and Maru ultimately outmatch them both.
There was never any doubt that Jin Air's core trio has been supremely reliable for two entire seasons, but their combined records truly boggle the mind. Maru ended this regular season on a low note, accruing a massively disappointing 0-5 record to cap off an otherwise stellar season. sOs' initial play in Round 1 was of a similarly worrying sort, and a few nasty defeats over the course of the season have made him look almost mortal. But looks are deceiving, and here we are - sOs spearheads the post-season with an absurd 8-0 record (with wins against Zest*2, Flash, TY, Stats, herO and ByuL*2), defeating the aces of both teams Jin Air faced - twice. Long-forgotten is the dubious appearance of his mid-season performance. Long gone are the criticisms that followed an explosive loss against Bunny's widow mines. What remains is one clear message: sOs leads a team that does not easily falter.
Meet your maker
What is perhaps equally striking is that they have always found a player to save them when their rare moments of weakness do appear. Cure, TRUE, Trap and Pigbaby have all, at one time or another, been instrumental to the team's success, through streaks that crush or single wins that slowly topple. Their contributions may not have been regular or consistently important, but when it comes to the very core Jin Air has something other teams do not, an ability to lean on their players, to rely on every link in the chain to great results.
It may sound hilarious when you consider that they have needed to do this least of all teams, but this ability to lean on their players, to trust the strength of their lineup, has nevertheless been paramount to their consistency. Next to teams such as KT Rolster and CJ Entus, who would barely know their weaker players from their shoes if they tried, Jin Air's faith in their players has paid off far more often than not, and left them much better for it.
With the most stacked team in the world before them, an SKT possessed of immense depth and almost entirely lacking weaknesses, this is their greatest advantage. In the finals, where four maps must go their way for the championship to be theirs, they cannot rely on just the three. Fortunately, they don't have to – perhaps they never did. Pigbaby's aptitude for preparation is undeniable, just as Cure's ability to turn it on when it matters. It hasn't always been reliable, but reliable lies beyond what they need. They only need the one map for reasonable safety, one map to complement the expected performances of their three star players, one single, all-important map to not have to endure the immense pressure of the all-or-nothing ace match.
That one map, perhaps, will be the most hard-bought map in the team's history. Team 8 have made no Grand Finals, cruised through no gauntlet of bloodthirsty and widely successful teams to hoist a Proleague trophy. Jin Air have come close, have made more round finals than any other team, have accomplished things in the league that no other team have, lining their results sheet with one achievement after another. Now, at the very end, when all other obstacles lay behind them, they miss only one – the final destination for any team. The ultimate challenge, if you will.
And Jin Air thrive on the challenge, on the overcoming of the obstacle, on the dismantling of threats. Theirs is the only player to reverse all-kill in Starcraft II Proleague, and theirs is the player whose defining characteristic was defying how Terran is conventionally played, and dominating a match-up deemed clearly disfavorable. Theirs is the Zerg whose strength lies in the unpredictable, in adapting to tough situations through quickness of mind, epitomizing the strategic and tactical depth available to a player with a mind to try. Jin Air's roster, for lack of a better word, possesses it. You won't know what I mean unless you've watched them play, unless you've seen the team reverse their fortunes – seen them come from the very brink of the abyss to the forefront of Starcraft II through a combination of wit and will, and a refusal to ever say no.
Who faced INnoVation in his prime, unfazed, and took him apart? Who captured the hearts of thousands by utterly and completely turning all expectations on their heads to win WCS America? Who entered his booth laughing before beating four of the world's best players at match point – in a row? You will find that the deeper you dig into Jin Air's roster, the closer you look at their players, the more clear it will become that they are not just good players – they are madmen, in part or in whole, unaffected by the pressure, willing to do what it takes. Fair play is no byword for Jin Air Green Wings – they live for the challenge, and the challenge gives no preference to the fair and just.
This next match will be Jin Air's greatest challenge, their proving ground, there is no denying that. SK Telecom have the advantage of greater depth, the kind of depth that is not easily overcome. There will be no streaks in this match, no all-kill format to avail the world's best all-kill team. This is to be a match of grit and preparation, of tiny margins – the kind of match that KT Rolster won last year, with great effort. A fall here might as well be permanent in the grand scheme of things, possibly a year and more from the next opportunity. Too many things can change in such a timeframe for things to remain the same, and too much can go wrong for a team with no great legacy of their own. Jin Air's place in history, their permanent place among the champions of Proleague – it hinges on this match. Unus pro omnibus, omnes pro uno.
There was no more fitting savior for Team 8 than Jin Air. When facing a mountain, you can either sprout wings, or crash against the stone wall.
Jin Air have their wings. It is finally time to see if they can fly.
SK Telecom: The Breakdown
Record in SPL 2015: 4-3
Record in TvT: 3-0
Record on Coda: 2-0
Despite Billowy’s success against Stats in the Round 4 Playoffs last month, it’s SKT’s rookie Terran who’s won the battle for the team’s last slot for the Grand Finals. While it hasn’t quite been a breakout year for Sorry, he’s certainly shown his fair share of promising results. He is 4-1 in offline TvT series for the year, with a narrow 1-2 defeat to GuMiho in Code S his only loss of the year so far, but what’s stood out has been the composure he’s displayed in the matchup in the brief glimpses we’ve been given. His 3-2 victory over TaeJa in Code A back in April showed us some of the finest late game TvT we’ve seen all year, while his trio of Proleague victories in the matchup have all showed variations of the same basic style—open safely before transitioning to medivac harass and marine-tank play. He’s been known to throw in the occasional curve ball—a hidden third against BrAvO, for example, or his barracks positioning to catch out Flash's predictable reaper harass. His insistence on bio play in the mirror matchup is interesting, given INnoVation’s current predilection for mech in the mirror matchup, but given his success with the style so far it’s hard to see him changing it up now.
Record in SPL 2015: 11-6
Record in TvT: 2-3
Record on Echo: 2-0
Next up for SKT is Dream in another TvT, and while Sorry’s drawn a pretty favourable opponent, Dream has been generously offered to his worst nightmare. It might have been all the way back in Season 1, but Maru’s domination over Dream in the SSL finals is still relatively fresh in the memory. Maru seriously outclassed him that day, and given what we saw the last time Dream played an offline TvT, the status quo doesn’t look like changing any time soon. Dream’s loss to Hack was an eye opener, botching key engagements before dying to the same medivac harass that we’ll certainly see from Maru; a quick reset of expectations after his win over his nemesis in KeSPA Cup Season 2 barely a week before. After a red hot start to the year, 2015 is in danger of fizzling out for Dream. His early exits in both the GSL and SSL in Season 3 mean that it’s been over a month since his last televised appearance, while his streak of four losses on the trot mean that he’s hardly coming into this crucial match on form. Dream’s been strange like that all year—he passes the eye test well enough, looking downright unplayable at times, while statistically he’s been somewhat mediocre. Anyone who’s seen his games against Life will have seen enough to crown him as the greatest bio vs Z player that we’ve yet seen in Starcraft 2; yet his offline winrate in TvZ is a mere 49% (and similarly 44% for TvT). Of course, it's still difficult to argue with dual Starleague final appearances, but if his current funk drags on much longer, those Korean cries labelling him as a bubble will grow ever louder. For SKT’s sake as much as his own, he’ll look to stop the rot here.
Record in SPL 2015: 18-6
Record in ZvP: 2-3
Record on Iron Fortress: 3-0
Over the past two seasons of Proleague, SKT have been the most stacked team by far. In 2015, their embarrassment of riches is almost obscene; the quality and depth of talent on their roster outclassing every other team in the competition. In such a team of aces, then, who do you reckon is the best performing player? Is it INnoVation—the coveted teamleague monster, brought in to ensure victory after last season’s failure? Is it Dark—the team’s chosen ace player for the first few months of the year? Is it Classic—the first of SKT’s pair of dual Starleague champions? Nope. Somewhat surprisingly, soO has risen from the ashes to become the team’s most consistent player in Proleague this year, claiming both the most wins of the campaign as well as the best win percentage by far. The contrast between 2014, with his famously heartbreaking set of GSL campaigns and mediocre team league results (13-11), and 2015 could not be any sharper.
Now, there are certain qualifiers to bear in mind here. Firstly, that dominance is strongly race dependent (10-1 in the mirror matchup) and linked to certain maps (6-0 on Expedition Lost, for example—all ZvZs), although his ZvT has hardly been terrible either at 6-2. However, it’s also difficult to suggest that his 2-3 record in ZvP is representative of his current strength due to the comparatively small sample size. Two of those losses came right at the start of the year, in the middle of his patch of poor form due to his post-Blizzcon break from SC2, while the third came to Zest in the defeat to KT in the Round 4 Playoffs. soO should be wary, but by pretty much any conceivable metric, he should beat Pigbaby here tonight. Last year, this is exactly the kind of tricky fixture that he might have slipped up in; this year, his continued excellence and stunning consistency should see him home safely.
Record in SPL 2015: 17-7
Record in TvP: 7-3
Record on Vaani Research Station: 2-1
Much like last year, INnoVation has hit peak form right at the end of the WCS Calendar year. In the past three months, he is 71-23 in sets, and a ridiculous 30-5 in series played; a period which takes in his IEM Gamescom qualifier campaign and championship run, his untimely exit in the SSL quarterfinals, and of course his ultimate GSL triumph. It has therefore been natural that it’s been the rare failures which have surprised in the face of such overwhelming success —the brain melt against ByuL on Terraform; the swift beatdown at MSI MGA from sOs’s dizzying array of DT strategies; the curiously underwhelming loss to Zest in Proleague. The first of those was a one-off error, fixed by the time the GSL Finals came by. The third was again a curious outlier; perhaps evidence of INnoVation concealing strategies a mere week before reaching into his bag of tricks in the revenge match in GSL. It’s the second of those that will worry him. Even at the height of his success, he’s been vulnerable to cheese, and as strong as he has been recently, sOs’s postseason form has been equally magical. You get the sense that SKT may have been expecting Maru to come out here (6-1 on Vaani) rather than sOs (4-1), as the Protoss ace is probably the one player on Jin Air that INnoVation fears right now. Still, there are plenty of options open to him—quick widow mine drops for one; a strategy he executed to perfection against Zest (not to mention sOs’s collapse to Bunny when he went for the same), and if he can survive the early game without any silly errors, he should be confident of taking the tie.
Record in SPL 2015: 17-11
Record in ZvZ: 2-2
Record on Terraform: N/A
Like INnoVation, you get the sense that Dark might not be entirely satisfied with his opponent tonight. He may not have quite the world beater he briefly threatened to be at the start of the year, but one thing he has retained is his strength in ZvT—he’d have loved a go at Maru, even on the terran-favoured Terraform. Instead, he’s going to have to rely on his mirror matchup. He’s been here before—a loss to Action last year giving KT Rolster an ultimately decisive 3-1 advantage in the Grand Final—and he’ll be going up against a similarly dangerous ZvZer here. Dark’s ZvZ has been inconsistent all year long; equally capable of blowing away Life in a 20 minute 3-0 as losing to HyuN by the same margin in the SSL Challenge. His recent form in the matchup has hardly been encouraging either—he is 6-14 in the past three months to Korean zergs; a 6 match losing streak only broken up by a 3-0 sweep of ByuL in KeSPA Cup. Still, his enforced absence from the game should have offered him plenty of time for prep work with soO, and SKT will be hoping that he can deliver the goods this time round.
Record in SPL 2015: 14-8
Record in PvP: 4-3
Record on Cactus Valley: 0-2
The curious similarities with last year’s lineup continue. Once again, SKT have turned to Classic to be their closer. Last year, his defeat to TY’s 2rax gave us one of the more indelible images of the year; the moment that confirmed KT superiority for another twelve months. This year, he’s got a PvP on his hands. His versatility in the matchup is his greatest strength, just as capable of ending things early as aiming for the extreme late game. At times, he’s looked simply unstoppable in the matchup—a two month stretch from July to September encompassing a 7-0 streak of series victories over YongHwa, Rain, herO, PartinG, Trust, sOs, and herO again, for example. Recently, there have been a couple of missteps—Zest outplayed him in the Round 4 Playoffs, alongside his baffling defeat to Dear in GSL—but still, if Classic can drag it out to the late game, there should be little he ought to truly fear from Trap.
If we get to the ace match, then it all hinges on how SKT perceives the Jin Air squad. For starters, it’s pretty much guaranteed that the ace player for Jin Air will be one of sOs, Maru, or Rogue. Anything else would be a baffling gamble considering the consistency and brilliance that all three players have brought over the past two years. If SKT think Rogue is coming out, soO is an option for his ZvZ, but INnoVation is likely the obvious pick to make. Likewise, Maru has shown weakness in TvZ and TvT, so soO / Dark / INnoVation are all options once more. sOs is the danger though—Classic should be ruled out instantly, for starters, given sOs’s tremendous success in that match up when the pressure is truly on. Dark’s weakness is ZvP, so he’s out too. soO has a good chance of emulating the moves Solar pulled off to beat sOs at Dreamhack, but with all due respect, would you truly trust him in the ace match of the grand finals given his hard earned reputation? Dream’s TvP is his best matchup, but we don’t have any real idea of his true strength at this time.
So chances are, INnoVation will have to carry yet another team to the championship. He’s the in-form player for SKT, and the most rounded threat against the options Jin Air have to throw at him. Likewise, given INnoVation’s strengths in TvZ and TvT, sOs is the likely pick on their end. Of course, this could all go up in smoke pending his match against sOs in Set 4, but given their recent form, it would give us a fitting finale to what’s been a fascinating year.
Jin Air: The Breakdown
Record in SPL 2015: 12-14
Record in TvT: 2-8
Record on Coda: 0-1
A lot has changed for Cure since last year. Just over a year ago, Cure was one map away from beating INnoVation in the GSL semifinals; one map away from taking a shot at the title against soO [E/N: and, as we all know - one map away from therefore being a champion]. This year though, results have tailed off rather sharply, and he’s had dreadful results in Proleague TvT this year in particular. His two victories came early in the year over sKyHigh and Dream, and since then it’s only been misery in the mirror matchup for the Jin Air Terran. His defeat to Bbyong a fortnight ago was emblematic of his struggles in the matchup all year. He’s gone from style all year long, switching from Bio to Mech play recently, and he seems to be somewhat of a jack of all trades, yet chiefly a master of none. He’s perfectly competent in carrying out the basics, yet doesn’t have the spark to elevate his play. Given Ryu Won and the Jin Air brain trust’s past records, it’s likely that he’ll opt for aggression here—Sorry has simply looked stronger in the late game in the brief glimpses that we’ve been given. It’s something he opted for against CJ Entus, when his 2rax gifted him an easy victory against Trust, and he’ll probably be looking for a similar move here.
Record in SPL 2015: 27-15
Record in TvT: 7-3
Record on Echo: 2-2
Echo is a very interesting pick from Jin Air for Maru here. The eternal question nowadays is whether Terrans will mech, so Maru’s decision to go for the best mech map of the lot is puzzling. His mech play against Zerg has been pretty uninspiring in the past few months, while bio has always been his composition of choice in the Terran mirror. Recent months have shown the limitations of bio against mech, and Maru’s personal struggle against the latter has been well documented by this point. Twin defeats to Flash in Proleague recently; a loss to BrAvO prior to that, and of course his recent 1-4 loss to INnoVation in the GSL have all combined to represent Maru’s worst set of results in the matchup all year long. On that back of those results, and of course with INnoVation’s world class mech on offer for in-house practice, it’ll be interesting to see if Dream opts to emulate his big Terran brother in this match. We’ve heard claims all year long that Starcraft is a game built on momentum, but if there’s one match where that’s true, it’s this one. Maru has carried Jin Air through thick and thin for the past two years, dragging them to triumphs as the undoubted leader of the squad. Much like Flash’s match turning victory over PartinG last year, sometimes victories mean more than a simple point on the scoreboard.
Record in SPL 2015: 1-1
Record in PvZ: 0-1
Record on Iron Fortress: 1-0
There’s very little to say about Pigbaby. We know what he’s going to do; soO knows what he’s going to do. Aggression is coming; the only question remaining is whether soO can look beyond the smoke and mirrors to pick out what’s truly coming his way. Iron Fortress in that regard is a great map pick; the size of the map means that hidden tech is always a danger. We’ve seen the masterful way that Pigbaby somehow convinced TY that an all-in wasn’t coming his way, and soO will need to be wary of falling into a similar trap. All evidence favours soO here, but with the instability of the BO1 format, Pigbaby has a very real chance of taking an upset.
Record in SPL 2015: 27-16
Record in PvT: 11-5
Record on Vaani Research Station: 4-1
sOs has truly come alive in the past couple of months. Since MSI MGA, he is 34-9 in sets, and 18-3 in series played. It’s fitting then that Proleague 2015 hinges on a match between the two most in-form players at this time - the man behind Jin Air's blazing race to the finals, and the GSL champion. It’s difficult to truly grasp the way that sOs has calmly dragged Jin Air to the Finals in the postseason—the clinical ease with which he eliminated CJ Entus by beating their two aces, or the chilling predictability of success once his reverse all-kill got rolling against KT Rolster. Once more, he seems in the mood for a big title; once more, his flair and invention is driving him to dominance in all three matchups. INnoVation and sOs, then, is a matchup between two players who couldn’t be more different. The ladder machine—the player who executes his plans to perfection and the mercurial freestyler—the player who invents bespoke responses to everything he sees seemingly on a whim. INnoVation may have had the advantage during the year—four consecutive victories since the end of December 2014—but sOs’s dissection of the SKT Terran is the clash that’s freshest in the memory. Of all the matches on offer tonight, this is the one which is most finely balanced, and likely to be a tipping point.
Record in SPL 2015: 25-14
Record in ZvZ: 7-6
Record on Terraform: 1-1
Rogue has been such a curious player to watch this year. Time and again he’s come through in the clutch for Jin Air in Proleague, but give him a best of five to play and suddenly all the nerves start spilling out. The same player who’s capable of reeling off build after build tailored to his opponent in Proleague is suddenly laid low by the demands of planning multiple sets. Fortunately for Jin Air, tonight is a best of one for Rogue, and there are few players who’ve demonstrated as keen an ability to tailor a plan for the single match. He may have fewer wins than Maru and sOs, but it’s the nature of his victories that’s come to impress. His proxy hatch build against Classic on Deadwing, for example—clearly a planned counter to cannon rushes—or his swarm host powered nexus snipe build against herO that ByuL himself adapted for effective use in the SSL Finals. Dark’s shown a tendency to mirror soO in ZvZ—understandable, given soO’s status as the king of ZvZ in Korea—but Rogue has already shown the ability to perfectly counter that muta style. When he smashed soO in GSL, it seemed no trouble at all. Rogue’s always been the hidden player on Jin Air, obscured by the baneling hilarity of TRUE and Maru and sOs’s championship successes. Both of those latter players got their own planes; Rogue, by comparison has languished in the shadows. But a 42-27 record in Proleague over the past two years tells its own tale, and no one should be underestimating him now.
Record in SPL 2015: 9-11
Record in PvP: 2-3
Record on Cactus Valley: N/A
We haven’t learned much about Trap since the post-season began, and there was little to say about him even before then. He began by taking a messy victory over Flash, with both players making mistakes galore in a nervy opening match. The rematch went more to form—Flash simply overpowering in the late game. Finally came the first PvP he’s played in Proleague since a rough defeat to Zest way back in March. Sora’s build was absolutely gorgeous, and perfect execution meant that Trap had no real chance once scouting was denied. It’s difficult, with this in mind, to truly know what to expect here. I lean in the direction of Classic simply being the better player, especially in PvP, and Trap has given no elsewise indications. We’ve seen time and again from Trap’s successes that like much of Jin Air’s squad, he truly shines in messy situations, where calm play and improvisation can perhaps buy him an undeserved victory (see again the Flash game mentioned above). Classic’s got history of cracking under heavy aggression, and it’ll be interesting to see how greedy he dares to open against a player he probably regards as a lesser threat. If Trap fails to dent Classic before the midgame, it’s likely to end poorly for the Jin Air Protoss.
by TeamLiquid Staff
No Grand Finals is complete without at least a little trashtalk and a lot of prestige. Here, alongside the SPL Finals Prediction Thread, the finest minds of Starcraft II journalism share their predictions for the upcoming finals. Last year, only a single writer got the final result right. How will we perform this year?
Zealously: It's last year all over again, because SKT have the more stacked lineup and will still lose the finals. Having Sorry face Cure is SKT's greatest advantage, since it will most likely give them the first win to get the ball rolling. But unless they take out at least one of Maru, sOs and Rogue -- I find any of them losing to their respective opponents unlikely -- then SKT will either fall short of the ace match entirely, or find that they are ill-equipped to deal with sOs once the match gets there.
Jin Air 4-3 SKT
TheOneAboveU: This is probably the best constellation of matches possible for the so far triumphant Jin Air Green Wings against the might of SK telecom T1. But will even that be enough to take on this powerhouse? SKT have been so dominant over the course of this season, that it almost seems impossible, that they won't go out of this Grand Finals as the victors. Their line-up is incredibly deep and most of their players are very accomplished; however we haven't seen yet, how strong their preperation game is, whereas Jin Air have already shown themselves as masters of this craft. It should be very close, but SKT being on second place after a season such as this one just doesn't feel right: they are going to play in best form, and then even sOs can't help Jin Air. The Green Wings finishing second just fits right.
SKT 4-3 Jin Air
DarkLordOlli: Jin Air got the better end of the lineup gamble I think. They're probably favored in the first two matches (although the first one can easily go either way and for all we know Dream could have been nonstop practicing since his GSL defeat). Pigbaby plays on Iron Fortress again and only the devil himself knows what sort of crazy build he's got planned this time - last time it was amazing. Speaking of the devil himself, sOs vs Innovation could already be do-or-die for SKT. sOs showed up big for Jin Air against KT and CJ and looks to be in amazing shape. Him facing SKT's most recent champion might well be in their best interest. The only match in which I would clearly favor SKT on paper happens to be the very last one. Although a bit cooled down, Classic is still one of the absolute best players in the world. SKT's lineup is overall stronger but Jin Air got the right matchups. If SKT are to win this, chances are it will be through an ace match. If that happens I do favor whoever they send out.
SKT 4 - 3 Jin Air
Destructicon: Through a combination of great preparation and enough of their B team showing up at the right time, Jin Air have managed to reach the grand finals, at times even making it look easy. This is when things get really hard, for while both CJ and to a lesser extent KT, have had issue in finding consistency outside their main players, on SKT1 even their bench-warmers look scary. With that being said, Jin Air have drawn some of the more favorable lineups they could have asked for, since almost none of their players feels like he'd be a auto-loss.
Sorry vs Cure could go either way, Dream vs Maru could be a lot closer then people thing given that Maru has been struggling in the MU lately, it isn't beyond the realm of possibility for Pigbaby to cheese soO out, and sOs could definitely pull out something funny against INnoVation, the ZvZ favors Rogue given both their recent form and Classic vs Trap is though but at least its a PvP.
If just a few things go Jin Air's way they could either win outright or send it to the ace, where they have some very strong options.
SKT1 though just need to play it safe and reactive and its far more likely that things will fall into place for them.
Jin Air 4-3 SKT
The_Templar: If this was a normal match in Proleague, this would probably be a relatively straightforward win for SKT and their stronger players. However, Jin Air has proven themselves to be a team of extremes that thrives on preparation; the match-ups they've been given here should allow their more well known players to have an edge. Maru and Rogue should pull their weight in the two critical mirror matches, and we've seen that most of Jin Air's players are capable of over-performing if needed. Even so, their weaker players Cure, Pigbaby, and Trap are in less inspiring match-ups, and it's not very likely that more than one of them will take a map. This suggests an ace match, where INnoVation's record in team league finals should shine through. I also suspect that sOs won't be sent to challenge him, especially not if things go wrong in their first encounter.
SKT 4-3 Jin Air
stuchiu: Given how the lineups worked there isn't any obvious advantage in the matchups. Sorry/Cure, Dream/Maru and Dark/Rogue should all be close to 50/50 tossups. The ones that are more lopsided are soO/Pigbaby, Inno/sOs and Classic/Trap. I favor soO over Pigbaby (though Pigbaby has already proven he can upset). Innovation and sOs is interesting since Inno has improved his plethora of builds he's willing to use in a match, but I still favor sOs both because of his current form in PL and because he's better at mind games and recently beat Inno at MSI. Finally, I'm leaning towards Classic in the last match as Trap's form hasn't been strong recently, but it's PvP.
Given all of this data, I predict two possibilities. Either SKT win 4-2 off their two favorable matchups. However if they don't and get to ace, the ace match will likely be likely be Innovation vs sOs. If that's the case I'm going with sOs, he's been too good in Proleague and matches well against Innovation stylistically.
SKT 4-2 - if it gets to the ace, Jin Air 4-3
Seeker: With this being the Proleague grand finals and all, I seriously doubt there will be a 4-0 or 4-1 finish. Both teams have everything to lose if they slack off even a little bit, so I am expecting all the players to give it everything they've got. Although SKT is the #1 seeded team, no one should ignore or devalue what Jin Air has been able to accomplish so far in the playoffs. I am expecting a ridiculously amazing series that could potentially go all the way to the ace match. However, after seeing the lineup, I feel that SKT has a slight advantage over Jin Air. If SKT can pick up momentum early, then finishing it off before even getting to the ace match seems entirely plausible.
SKT 4 - 2 Jin Air
Shtanjel: On paper, the results of the Saturday's match between SKT and Jin Air are fairly simple to predict, the scales leaning in favour of the telecom team. Yes, SKT has a large roster of all-star players. Yes, they have several crucial members on whom they can count in case of an eventual Ace match. Yes, they had a dominant performance in round 4 with a near perfect 6 — 1 score while Jin Air failed to qualify for the round playoffs besting only Prime in the round robin stage. The finals lineup still looks comfortable for them though. Maru definitely has an edge over Dream who has shown time and again his volatility in TvT. Though matched against INnoVation, the current GSL champion, sOs proved that he definitely is the man on whom his team can count in dire situations, while the ZvZ between Dark and Rogue is as close a match as it can get. Even Sorry is not guaranteed to beat Cure and the only SKT players with a clear advantage seem to be soO and Classic. Jin Air can definitely bring it to an ace match, but it is there that SKT's versatile roster will finally prevail.
SKT 4 — 3 Jin Air
Soularion: It's time for the sky to shine red with the blood of SKT.
Jin Air 4-1 with Sorry winning.
[For non-Jin Air fanboy stuff, pretty much every matchup here is close. I think the reasonable call is either 4-2 SKT or an ace match, which can go any number of ways depending on insanity, but pretty much every matchup seems feasible to be won by either side!]
Jer99: This looks very good for SKT. They’ve had multiple weeks off to prepare strategies, and have had the chance to obseve JAGW in four different playoffs matches over the past two weeks. Most of Jin Air’s tricks should be out the door already, so SKT can abuse the fact that Jin Air has almost nothing to work with. SKT has already prepared a sniper in the form of Sorry, while their five other players are full of depth and talent. Jin Air will probably secure wins through Maru and Rogue, but otherwise look outclassed, especially in Proleague format.
SKT 4-2 Jin Air