herO vs sOs

What have we here? Everyone’s favourite IEM finals gets another rematch in the GSL two years on, as we kick off the pure terran/protoss GSL bracket with a PvP. There’s been no other series, before or since, where a player’s got into his opponent’s head to quite the same effect. It’s hard to remember the context surrounding the match, given the sheer scale of destruction we saw, but (P)herO was viewed as a pretty adept PvPer at the time. Wins over PartinG, MC, Rain and Zest (to name but four) earlier in the year, with a map winrate of 71%, pretty much solidify you as an outstanding talent in the field. With winrates above 70% in all three matches heading into the final, there was no doubt he was the favourite.

Then, three sets proxy gates forever changed our perception of him. Twin successful salvoes from (P)sOs to kick off the series at a blistering pace; a single failed rush from herO in return that truly must have been the final nail in his mental coffin. Never before have we seen that class of player mentally disintegrate in the course of a single series to the same degree. So while herO’s faced sOs plenty of times in Proleague since (current count: 3-3) and even once in the GSL group stages (2-1 win for herO), it’s a completely different task to take him on in an extended series. After all, the only other Bo5+ series that the two have played came earlier this year—sOs’ sole win in their past five meetings.

But then again, this is now a refined version of LotV that the two are playing. It’s no longer HotS, or indeed the unknown quantity that was the new expansion at launch. And in this new landscape, it’s undoubtable that herO has been the better performer. A herculean effort to carry CJ to the playoffs single handedly may have ended in bitter disappointment, but herO can at least be proud of his individual efforts, registering a 20-9 record over the year, including five ace match wins. It’s a record particularly noteworthy given the high proportion of mirror matches played (11-2 for the year), including wins over sOs, Patience, Dear (x4!) and Stats, with two losses coming against Classic and Stats. Bar Zest, that’s pretty much the cream of the crop of Korean PvPers right now.

In contrast, sOs’ Proleague performance has been way off the excellence that we’ve seen in the past. 13-11 isn’t a bad score, just one that shows his scaled back role in a Jin Air lineup that’s been more Maru-centric than ever during the regular season. It’s also a record that shows his potential weakness in a matchup he dominated in HotS. He’s had plenty of holes poked in his PvP (6-8), losing to all manner of challengers (herO, Stats, Zest, Classic, Dear), a record possibly even inflated by wins over Seed and Zoun. Sure, he’s had a couple big wins—most recently over Zest in the Proleague R3 Finals—but they’ve been the exception, rather than the rule.

There’s no doubt that individually, sOs will be disappointed with his year so far. Three plays and misses at the starleague cherry have left this GSL campaign as his final shot at glory for the year. Way down on WCS points, he needs to win GSL to make BlizzCon and defend his crown—not even a runners up medal and victory in the Cross Finals would give him enough. He’s not the only one ruing his form earlier in the year though—after the consistency of 2015, with arguably the best set of starleague results ever registed in a calendar year (SSL champion, two top 4s, three top 16s), this year’s been a bit of a letdown for herO as well. That’s not to say that they’ve been awful, just to say that we’ve been conditioned to expect more than a top 8 and a top 16 finish. Time is rapidly running out for herO this year too, still 1000 points adrift of Patience and 8th place in the KR WCS rankings. He’s one of the few players active in Korea right now with a hope of maintaining his annual tournament winning streak, going back to his debut IEM title in 2013, and he’d be joining Classic as the second dual SSL/GSL winner, but of far greater importance to herO this final season will be the automatic BlizzCon qualifying spot that victory in the GSL would bring.

So then. Two world class players, two former champions, and one potential spot in the semifinals that means everything to their remaining ambitions for 2016. It’s going to be nervy; it probably won’t be pretty; but it’ll be essential viewing.


There’s no doubt in my mind that herO heads into this match in superior form, both in general and in relation to the mirror matchup. There’s also no doubt in my mind that there’s some edge that sOs holds over herO mentally—the same twisted mindgames that we’ve seen so many times from him, whether he’s proxying gates, or hiding tech or a hidden base. If herO can exorcise the ghosts of Katowice, he should take this with ease. Should sOs get a foothold though—perhaps again with aggression or extreme greed in G1—this could spiral quickly out of control.

herO 3 - 1 sOs

(P)herO to advance to the Round of 4.

MyuNgSiK vs GuMiho

This set of GSL quarterfinals is certainly a bracket of two halves. That doesn’t purely extend to the racial symmetry on display—one TvT, one PvP, two PvTs—but also to the general makeup of the matchups we’ve been presented with. herO vs sOs, and TY vs Dear are two heavyweight clashes that no one looking forward into the future from 2015 would be surprised to see here right now. On the other hand, anyone predicting that ByuN would somehow emerge from his exile to make a return to the GSL would have been branded insane, or that Ryung could shake off the indifferent form he’s had since the death of Wings of Liberty.

And then, we’ve got (P)MyuNgSiK and (T)GuMiho. MyuNgSiK, arguably one of the most disliked players in Starcraft 2. The same player that Life hated so much that he purposely picked him out on GSL group selections day (backfiring to spectacularly hilarious effect), that apparently spends much of his time BMing on ladder, that’s been shunted around from team to team. GuMiho, the beloved darling of many of the long time viewers of the game. The same player that’s hardly had a sniff of success in the GSL since his heartbreaking 2-3 reverse sweep by DRG in the GSL 2012 S1 semifinals, that’s somehow become loved for sweeping the most popular team in early Starcraft 2 in the GSTL finals, that’s ground out the days, weeks and months of hard work in the game with barely a spot on the podium, let alone a championship.

But then what greater symbol do we have of the new expansion than two players thriving who represent the chaos of Legacy as much as anyone? GuMiho is arguably the most complete terran in the game right now. While certain terrans might look more destructive when allowed to flex their muscles—Maru and TY, or INnoVation perhaps—their skill is all there to see on the surface level. Their opponents know in general what to expect, such as Maru’s marauder drop TvP in the past, or the surgical precision of INnoVation’s 4M play against zerg in HotS. With GuMiho, the threat is the possibility of anything and everything. He can go bio; he can go mech; he even came up with the hybrid bio-mech style we saw deployed by Polt at BlizzCon 2014. He plays out of the meta, whether meching against zerg way before anyone else in HotS, or using tanks in TvP right from the start.

Meanwhile, MyuNgSiK is rather more predictably unpredictable. Just like Has, you just know that he’s going to opt for early aggression, whether it’s DTs, adepts, or simply a good old mass gateway rush. It’s just that he allies it to the ability to play for the long game (however infrequently he does it). There’s no other protoss besides Patience who owes so much to his pure strategical skill, rather than mechanical prowess as does MyuNgSiK. We’ve seen him fail to micro his units to embarassing degrees, and yet come out on top because he keeps making the right decisions.

Their contrasting schedules this year make predicting this series rather hard though. GuMiho’s ploughed his usual furrow, going full time on online cups as well as contributing heavily to MVP’s Proleague run this year, while we’ve barely seen any of MyuNgSiK this year as he’s been relegated to benchwarming duty. We know that GuMiho is in sparkling form (43-19 offline map record since April), while we can only guess that MyuNgSiK might be too.

The SKT protoss’ Season 1 GSL campain was hardly the most instructive of results. Wins over SoulKey and Bunny got him into the Round of 16 in S1, where two losses to TY sent him packing. Knowing that he was worse than the eventual runner up, and better than two players in terrible form was hardly the most precise information we could have go. He has looked pretty great though so far this season, cruising past Dear in the previous round, while dumping fan favourites HerO, Maru and Stats out of the competition. His win over Maru was particularly noteworthy given the circumstances, and there’s no doubt that it’s a match GuMiho would have studied with great interest. It displayed all the traditional aspects of MyuNgSiK’s play—out-thinking the Jin Air terran twice with some dirty, dirty protoss aggression, while throwing the third with a blunderous engagement when he had the game all but won. For his part, there’s plenty of recent GuMiho footage to watch as well, from his dual wins over Classic to qualify for the quarterfinals, to his dual losses to Dear in the SSL.

While this might be a clash that’s overshadowed in name power by the rest of the games we’ve got to come, that’s not to say that it should be undervalued. Both of these players love to inflict their style of play onto their opponent; to dominate and shape the game right from the start. They’re two of the most idiosyncratic players in the game, and in a world where Koreans are depicted as reliant more on mechanical might than strategic insight, here are two players that wonderfully defy the claim.


With MyuNgSiK’s lack of games recently, it’s very hard to see exactly how this match is going to pan out. To make things worse, the only PvT he’s played recently came against Maru, who himself has been very much up and down in recent times. Meanwhile, we’ve got a pretty solid handle on how GuMiho plays, and in particular the changes he made to his play in between his losses to Dear in the SSL, and wins against Classic in the GSL, were impressive.

MyuNgSiK 2 - 3 GuMiho

(T)GuMiho to advance to the Round of 4.