A SpeeDy Starfall

One month on, the final Round of 32 of the Korean year is drawing to a close. It’s been a somewhat predictable opening set of groups in the GSL, compared to the carnage that’s happening in the SSL. Of the players who have fallen out, Stats was the only massive surprise; all the other dropouts are somewhat understandable. Time to see if the Group H will play to form…

Let’s start off with the question that’s had zerg players crying out for acknowledgement all season long—how many zergs will we see in the Round of 16? Rogue and Dark are currently under huge pressure to carry the banner for the race, but make it three out of sixteen and suddenly the ratio looks (slightly) better. It’s still not ideal, but as mentioned on Wednesday—how many of the zerg dropouts do you genuinely think were bankers to go through?

Unfortunately for zerg fans, that’s not a status we can give (Z)ByuL right now. He has looked awful for the whole of 2016; a mere spectre of the man who rose to dominate his race in the last days of HotS. No one watching his play right now would have guessed that this is a player with three consecutive silvers in the final three starleagues of 2015. The statistics are pretty damning—sub-50% winrates in both non-mirrors over the past four months offline (6-7 in ZvP, 4-8 in ZvT), but what’s more worrying is how he’s grabbing those few wins. Aggression is the name of his game now, and while that’s a tactic that’s worked wonders for some (a certain ex-ST zerg, for example), it’s not what we saw from him last year. The basis of his game was unimpeachable macro prowess, particularly in anti-bio ZvT. His muta-ling-bane play in 2015 was arguably the finest we’ve ever seen, and the dominance he showed must have been at least a factor behind terran’s switch to mech. Shorn of the late-game control that powered him to the top last year, he’s become ‘just another zerg’ again. His fans must hope that he’ll bring something new to the table tonight.

ByuL’s the last zerg to play in this round, and (T)SpeeD will be the final terran. It’s been a strange year for the ex-KT rookie, going from genuine unknown to hot prospect to retirement within the past seven months. SpeeD is taking an unknown amount of time off to return to his studies, and it’s possible that his matches tonight will be the last we ever see of him. If that’s the case, it’ll be a big loss to the scene. While his play is undeniably raw and error-strewn, there was undeniable promise shown in his GSL games last season, particularly in his 3-2 Code A win over Classic. It would’ve been intriguing to see if an extended stay in the KT house could’ve honed him further, but that’s a future that’s likely never to occur. In a world where there is practically no up and coming talent emerging in the Korean scene, to the point where Patience is likely to win the Proleague Rookie of the Year award, that’s a real shame. SpeeD has openly admitted to being rusty coming into this match, but hopefully he can give us one last showing of the player he could have been.

Onto the protosses then. In each group containing a protoss so far, at least one has progressed to the next round (Zest, MyuNgSiK, Classic, sOs, herO). That’s a pattern that looks to be continuing here—Patience and Dear are undoubtedly the favourites. In both cases though, that’s more of an indication of the weakness of the opponents they’re up against rather than vindication of their own skills.

(P)Patience has been a weird case this year. He’s been repeatedly praised by Artosis for his cerebral play, but he’s still short of firepower to consistently take on the best in the world. Take his Proleague wins over Classic and Dark in early July for instance—excellent displays that underline the analytical prowess for which he’s known. But then you get games like his last match against herO in Proleague, where the CJ player’s superior mechanical skills more than made up for the difference. He’s much like MyuNgSiK—both clever, scheming protosses who make up for their weak control (relative to the rest of the Korean pro scene) with the subtlety of their strategies. However, as we’ve seen with both, there’s only so far you can go if their opponents crank their micro up to 11. In a year of steady improvement for Patience though, this should be an easy step forwards.

(P)Dear is in much the same position, if for entirely different reasons. For the first half of the year, Dear was a solely execution-based protoss. Watch his early PvPs against sOs and Zest, for example, and you’ll see a player with a much rougher grasp of the strategic subtleties of the meta back then, but also a player with top tier control. In the unknown world of early Legacy, Dear leapt to the top off sheer micro alone. However, slowly the pieces have begun to tumble. Zest’s landmark 4-0 win in the GSL semifinals was a changing of the guard; no longer was it possible to simply muscle your way past top tier opposition with pure brawn. On the terran front, you only have to look at how the disruptor build that defined Dear’s PvT style has fallen by the wayside to see his regression. That’s not to say he’s not a great player still; it’s more that the rest of the pack has surged past him. Watching his games, there’s little of the sense of control that Zest displays against terran, for example, or Stats against zerg. Still, this is a player with consecutive top four finishes in the GSL; still not one to take lightly. In this group, he’ll still probably have more than enough.


There’s no doubt in my mind that Patience and Dear should emerge from this group in some order, while ByuL and SpeeD drop out of Korean competition for the rest of the year. The only question is the player order. With SpeeD’s lack of practice, ByuL should really be able to beat him despite his issues in ZvT. On the protoss side, I’ll go for Patience taking the win.

Dear < Patience
ByuL > SpeeD
Patience > ByuL
Dear > SpeeD
ByuL < Dear

(P)Patience and (P)Dear to advance to the Round of 16.