Legacy of the Void Competitive Record
Hush: 13-12 in maps, 5-6 in series; vZ, 5-10 in maps, 1-5 in series; vKR Z, 5-10 in maps, 1-5 in series
DongRaeGu: 28-26 in maps, 10-10 in series; vP, 8-7 in maps, 3-3 in series; vKR P, 6-7 in maps, 2-3 in series
Amidst the noise over Life's difficulties and the unfortunate elimination of prominent players from the two Korean individual leagues in this half of the year, DongRaeGu's personal tragedy has gone completely unnoticed. Desiring a place in the WCS system, he left SBENU at the very end of 2015, publicising his intent on Twitter. Of course, what happened next is obvious. Securing the required visa is hardly the easiest of tasks even with outside support—see TRUE’s similarly unsuccessful efforts so far, fully funded and aided by his new team PSISTORM Gaming. Teamless, and stranded in Korea, DRG’s intentions were ill fated from the start.
This kind of poor decision-making is not characteristic of what was the best Zerg in the world. Even though his heyday in early 2012 is long over, DongRaeGu showed in 2015 a hint of his potential, in an unexpected form—Proleague. Obtaining a remarkable 9-3 record that went mostly unnoticed, including victories over Maru, Rogue, soO, Stats, and Rogue, DongRaeGu partially made up for his nonexistence in every Korean starleague. However, the emphasis here is on 'partially'—an examination of his records will produce a largely empty resumé in 2015, with only a single Code A showing in GSL Season 2. This has not changed in the new expansion. Amongst his 10 series victories, only 3 of them are against notable opponents: Choya, Impact, and Trust, none of whom may be described as particularly competent or lucky in tournaments.
With poor recent performances and in an unpleasant situation, at least he can count facing Hush amongst one of his blessings. The CJ Protoss, true to his name, has remained largely anonymous throughout the entirety of his career. He has earned less than $2000 in more than 3 years of professional competition, and has a sub-55% winrate in all matchups and a sub-45% winrate in PvZ. However, he appears to be on an upswing in his career—he beat Maru 2-0 and Classic 2-1 in the GSL in LotV, which, amongst his meagre achievements, must surely stand out as a departure from the norm.
DongRaeGu has vastly more experience than his opponent, and has displayed a vastly higher level of skill both in the past and in recent memory. A complete annihilation should be expected.
Hush 0 - 3 DongRaeGu
Legacy of the Void Competitive Record
TaeJa: 17-17 in maps, 5-5 in series; vP, 7-6 in maps, 2-2 in series; vKR P, 7-6 in maps, 2-2 in series
Blaze: 6-10 in maps, 2-6 in series; vT, 0-4 in maps, 0-3 in series; vKR T, 0-4 min maps, 0-3 in series
It has been one and a half years since TaeJa won his last premier tournament at IEM Shenzhen. In the time since, he has achieved semifinals finishes at BlizzCon, Homestory Cup X, and Dreamhack Winter. As remarkable as these may be, they all occurred in 2014; TaeJa has not achieved anything of note since then, besides a top 8 finish at Dreamhack Valencia. Still, this is generally the way Korean players retire: Play in fewer and fewer tournaments, until the terminal phase of this trend manifests in a poorly-translated tweet announcing the end. At any rate, we should be thankful that TaeJa is still around to show televised matches in the greatest tournament in the world, potentially giving us, at any time, his last bow, rather than wasting away in the shadows waiting for military service.
TaeJa's style is very unique amongst Terran players. Playing a highly cautious, NOT passive, macro style, he has been described as 'defensive'. This term does not do sufficient justice to his style, because it is one that, even while appearing to be conservative, is actually highly active in completely blocking any movement which may bring his opponents an advantage.
This particularly stands out in his TvP, which does not rely on either defeating the Protoss player early on, or performing a very powerful all-in, like an SCV pull. Instead, TaeJa is completely at ease with allowing the Protoss player into the late game. The word 'allowing' is used, because while the Protoss player must always crave for his strong late game army, and always gets it against TaeJa, the Liquid terran retains a systemic advantage in all aspects. He never takes the risk of losing any engagement, instead content to wait until he is absolutely sure a battle will end in his favour. This effectively means that TaeJa keeps the Protoss player at his whim—he can drop, he can posture, he can poke; he can do anything, while Protoss has to fight tooth and nail to try to secure any form of economic and positional advantage he can grasp onto, even while he appears to have a monstrous army. Thus, TaeJa keeps Protoss in a permanent state of check. Try to take a fourth base, and he will strike at multiple angles; try to confront his army head-on, and he will attack elsewhere and prevent expansion; try to split your forces, and TaeJa will simply wait and chip away until your will collapses and you lose. This is exactly what happened to Rain on Whirlwind in 2013—to this day one of the most outstanding displays of TvP ever seen on a high level.
However, whether TaeJa can continue to play such a style with his reduced skill level and lack of recent tournament experience is another question—one that will be answered by Blaze. Let us be frank about the nature of that answer: Blaze has done little of significance in his entire career. Although he is a very brave man, as evinced by his successful proxy-2Gate against Life on Cactus Valley in Proleague, bravery will not avail him much if he has neither the skill nor strategic insight to play at a high level consistently. And this is exactly what he has failed to do—while appearing in two out of the three GSLs in 2015 is certainly laudable, that’s the sum total of all his efforts last year. Merely surviving in the rat race that is the Korean Starcraft scene is definitely a tough challenge, but at some point, it’s natural for players to have loftier ambitions.
While, in any other year or era, TaeJa can be said to be easily capable of rolling Blaze, consider that Blaze's 2 Code S Round of 32 finishes are better than TaeJa's achievements in the same year! This will certainly be an interesting to match to watch. Amidst the dominance of adepts, liberators, and warp prisms, will he discard his old style, or will he follow in the footsteps of TY to produce the same defensive style of yore? At any rate, this match is difficult to predict - however, judging by past trends, I believe Blaze will either cheese TaeJa hard or TaeJa will beat Blaze in a macro-oriented series.
TaeJa 3 - 2 Blaze
Legacy of the Void Competitive Record
Hurricane: 59-34 in maps, 27-12 in series; vZ, 32-17 in maps, 15-5 in series; vKR Z, 19-14 in maps, 9-4 in series
Soulkey: 137-79 in maps, 61-21 in series; vP, 41-13 in maps, 20-2 in series; vKR P, 30-12 in maps, 13-2 in series
It must be crushing to know beforehand that one's opponents are vastly superior, and that the punishment for defeat is to be paralyzed for half a year, watching in impotence as others (perhaps even your opponent) taste glory and are showered with adulation. This is what has happened in Korea for the past five years; relatively famous Koreans smashing unknown and unappreciated Koreans to stand on the grand stage and play against other famous or soon-to-be famous Koreans. Will Hurricane be another name to add to that very long list, or will he rise to the occasion and take down the formidable Soulkey?
Hurricane himself will probably say no. Hidden in the shadow of Dear, and never attaining the venerability of his mentor Stork in SC2, the Samsung Protoss is the very definition of a 'faceless Korean'. Unlike Classic, Zest, herO, sOs - he doesn't have a unique trait that would mark him as a protoss player to notice. He lacks herO's sharp mechanics, Zest's patience and strategic thinking, Classic's flexibility, sOs' creativity. All he has is standard, macro-oriented play that deviates from the straight path to cheese sometimes; a comment which can be made about any mediocre protoss. At any rate, this is a critical trial for him—if he loses, he disappears for 6 months, while if he wins, he not only advances, but his reputation and stature will take a great leap forward. However, given our zerg player's current strength, this seems unlikely.
Soulkey plays the Goliath in this constantly recurring theme. And truly, the gulf between the 2 players cannot be described as anything less than massive. Soulkey won almost all the prize money Hurricane won in his entire career in a single GSL, defeating the best Terran player in the world to do so. He has excellent mechanics and good micro-management, and his willingness to do anything to win—from cheese to greed to standard play—has carried him far. Doubtless he must feel that Hurricane is just another stepping stone on his way to the coveted Code S - and in what appears to be a zerg-favoured metagame, he is completely justified in doing so.
Theoretically speaking, Soulkey should sweep Hurricane easily, but upsets have happened before. The thing is, Hurricane has given us little cause to believe he can upset a vastly superior player, while Soulkey has the advantage of experience and a statistically Zerg-favoured matchup on his side.
Hurricane 0 - 3 Soulkey
Legacy of the Void Competitive Record
INnoVation: 20-13 in maps, 15-7 in series; vP, 4-3 in maps, 3-1 in series; vKR P, 2-3 in maps, 1-1 in series
Stork: 10-15 in maps, 3-7 in series; vT, 2-6 in maps, 0-3 in series; vKR T, 2-6 in maps, 0-3 in series
Stork is probably the most resilient player in the history of StarCraft. Playing Brood War ever since 2003, he has not stopped playing since. In StarCraft II, he has not tasted the same success as he did in the first game, his game; but that did not deter him. Despite losing the bulk of his fans in the transition, he has not retired, unlike Bisu; despite not having legions of fans around the globe to cheer him on in every event, like Jaedong, he has not sunk into despair; despite simply lacking the skill and veneration Flash had in both games, he outlasted him, and, to this day, continues not only to play, but to coach the next generation of StarCraft players. In this manner Stork has transcended any StarCraft player that came before and probably any that will come after; sheer will and immortal determination are not traits that are common in professional gaming.
In SC2, we simply do not know enough about Stork. That is undeniable. The few instances we saw of him in HotS saw him playing an aggressive style of PvZ involving massed Blink Stalkers and Sentries, but his PvT and PvP are nondescript; erase his name from the top of the screen in televised games, and you would be left guessing whether it was Stork, Trust, Terminator, Hurricane, or any other second-tier Protoss. Unfortunately, his opponent cannot be called second-tier, and it is undeniable that a Stork victory would be both unexpected and a momentous boost to his SC2 career.
On the other hand, INnoVation, while undoubtedly a powerful player and one of the best terrans to ever play the game, has had a complete disaster in his start to LotV. Funnily enough, a long time ago, on a Reddit AMA, no less, he stated that he was extremely good at adapting to new environments. which explained his dominance at the start of HotS. However, in hindsight, this statement proved to be absolutely untrue. Consider that, in the Blink Era of early 2014, INnoVation was nowhere in sight; he dropped into Code B from Code A in Season 1, adding a mediocre Round of 16 finish in Season 2 of that year. Consider also that his 2 GSL victories came after terran buffs; but beyond that, consider the opponents he faced in those Grand Finals: ByuL and soO, 2 of the greatest Zerg Kongs to ever touch SC2.
In LotV, he had a good start running over foreigners in NationWars 3, but then proceeded to be crushed in standard macro games by MarineLorD. While I do not wish to disparage the Frenchman's prowess, I think it can be said that INnoVation was not playing at his usual level that day. In fact, his 'usual level' is questionable - after defeating an opponent in an easy standard macro game, would one, as a heavily mechanically and macro-oriented player, ever select a Thor drop as a viable build against one's eternal rival in the biggest tournament of the year?
But INnoVation's train was not completely derailed that day. What completely threw it off its tracks were dual losses in the SSL. Once again displaying his vulnerability to early aggression and unorthodox strategy, he was completely crushed by two consecutive nydus cheeses by RagnaroK. Still, he had a second chance in the loser's bracket; a chance that quickly vanished in no time at all when his teammate soO finished the job. If he loses to Stork, he would join Maru, Bomber, and sOs in the Korean void for 6 months, not playing in any individual tournaments. This match is thus as much a trial for him as it is for Stork.
Frankly, INnoVation has vastly superior mechanics, and rather than being good at adapting to new environments faster than others, as he claims, he is better at refining builds to the point of razor-sharpness. After Maru's and TY's games against Protoss, he should have a very good idea of what to do in TvP. On the other hand, Stork has never shaken off the aura of mediocrity surrounding him in SC2. Thus, I expect INnoVation to demolish him entirely.
INnoVation 3 - 0 Stork