It’s time for the final Korean starleague group of the year. In terms of achievements in Legacy so far, there’s no doubt that TY stands head and shoulders above the rest of the field here. It’s difficult to tell if the shakeup that LotV brought was the catalyst behind his rise in 2016, or merely the continuation of his breakthrough SSL semifinal run in late 2015, but one thing is beyond argument—this year has been TY’s finest in his decade of professional gaming. That said though, for all the acclaim and high placements, the lack of a trophy on the mantlepiece is still telling. Beaten in the GSL Finals by Zest; beaten in the Cross Finals by Dark; eliminated by the SKT zerg once more in the SSL, this is now his last chance for Korean success this year.
The issues that may be troubling TY though will have been crystallised by Zest’s dual high profile failures in the GSL and SSL recently. Within Starcraft 2, there’s always a ticking clock following every star player. There hasn’t been a single player capable of keeping stellar, championship calibre form ticking over day in, day out for years on end. Sometimes, players manage to unleash top form in a single tournament weekend (hello Sora); sometimes, they’ll manage to keep things together for months on end. Unquestionably though, everyone falls. What that means is that while players sit in that magical bubble where everything’s going perfectly for them, they have to maximise their potential. Zest may have dropped off in Season 2, but he’ll always have that GSL title to show for his dominance in early 2016. What will TY have to show for his success? The next couple of months will decide how we remember his year.
While TY’s risen to sit in the top tier of Starcraft pros in 2016, he’s not the only one in this group who’s managed to reach those exalted heights. Classic stands currently as one of the most decorated players in the game. He is the only player to have won both the GSL and the SSL; an IEM title and dual BlizzCon Ro.4s took care of the weekender side, while winning Proleague twice on two different teams is the cherry on top. At the end of HotS, there was arguably no more dangerous player, capable of playing any game style, in any tournament.
While Legacy’s been kind to TY though, it’s been a little less so to Classic. Classic’s greatest tool in HotS was the variety of tactics and playstyles available to him, as well as his fluidity in flowing from one to another mid-game. He’s had much greater trouble replicating the same success this year though, partly due to the aggressive options opened up in all three matchups that Legacy has brought, which make it much less to play the same reactionary scout-based style. That’s not to mention the fact that cannon rushes are no longer viable (for the most part—Has excepted); a significant loss to one of the best cannon rushers in the scene. That said, Classic’s started to pull it together. With Dear’s loss to Solar in the SSL last night, Classic’s now the sole player left fighting in both starleagues. His winrates are picking up (a 39-18 map record since the start of April), and while he’s still not truly in top form, he’s doing just enough to keep his winstreaks going. BlizzCon is still very much a possibility—Classic currently sits in 8th place, 600 points ahead of ByuN—and with progress here, he might be able to start booking his flights.
While TY and Classic are the two coming into this group as traditional championship contenders, the really interesting part of this group are the two dark horses entering in peak form. Both Rogue and GuMiho failed in Season 1. Both Rogue and GuMiho have dropped out of the SSL. This is their last chance (save for the Proleague Finals for Jin Air), and neither will want their years to end now. Despite his weak individual results compared to last year’s five top 8 finishes out of six, this really has felt like another year of growth for Rogue. He’s taken over soO’s mantle as the king of Korean ZvZ (still unbeaten offline in 2016), while it’s his implementation of mass-queen strategies recently that’s fuelled the KR transition to the strategy. His ZvP hasn’t looked too bad either of late—see his wins over Zest, and the wide variety of strategies he’s deployed in Proleague.
For his part, GuMiho’s been the standout player in Proleague over the last couple of rounds. He dragged MVP almost single-handedly to the brink of the season playoffs. His 9-3 record in the past four months would be impressive on any team. On a team which is as dependent on him as MVP though, with the pressure that entails, it’s a truly remarkable set of wins. GuMiho’s forever been one of the players sitting on the outskirts of the Korean scene. No one would have guessed during his rise in 2012—a top 4 finish in GSL Season 1, and his two GSTL triumphs—but that was as good as it would ever get for the stylish FXO terran. Since 2012, he’s made the top 8 just once. He keeps returning though, playing his own distinctive style, and this season represents his best chance in years to upset the apple cart. In a year of shock results, that would be a welcome surprise.
This is probably the most finely balanced and toughest group of the round of 16. Frankly, all four players sit at roughly the same level at the moment, and there are unanswered questions surrounding all four. Can Rogue replicate the same late game ZvT that Dark deployed to such success against TY in the SSL? Has Classic found a way past his PvZ difficulties? Can GuMiho deliver in individual leagues as he does for MVP? Has TY found a fix to his TvP issues in the past few matches against sOs and Patience? Time for some guesswork then; let’s take TY and Rogue to make it out.
TY > Rogue
GuMiho < Classic
TY > Classic
Rogue > GuMiho
Classic < Rogue
TY and Rogue to advance to the Round of 8.