Ryung vs ByuN
It's funny to think that at the beginning of 2016, Ryung was on the verge of fading into obscurity. There were no blatant signs that hanging up his mouse was on his mind. He still participated in team leagues and other events without much fanfare (which wasn't a staple of his career to begin with); despite constant rumblings about Axiom's inability to make a profit, Ryung still maintained a stable salary and living conditions. As for his results, well...winning tournaments wasn't his strong suit. For all the years he has been a bulwark of the scene, Ryung was never the favorite to win a tournament; save for a 6 month stretch from the end of WoL to the beginning of HotS, he has never shown the mettle to reach a final. No matter what Boxer might have believed about his potential, the former SlayerS terran never matured into a powerhouse like his former teammates TaeJa and MMA. He never shored up his TvZ to the point where he could contend during periods of zerg dominance and the less said about his TvP, the better. Instead, he settled into the role of reliable backup. His excellent TvT proved invaluable in team leagues and at odd points, he could be unstoppable in the all-kill format. For years he used these gifts to have a stable career.
Until recently, Ryung's future looked quite grim. After his brief, unmemorable stint on True eSport he immediately transferred to MVP, but he was left without an identifiable place in the roster. He was no longer a reliable sniper in TvT: many of the HotS changes failed to reward his keen eye for positioning, and the pace of the game was no longer suitable for drawn-out siege tank wars. It was 3 years since he made his Round of 4 run in GSL, and the WCS restrictions ensured he wouldn't be flying out to foreign tournaments anything soon. Ryung didn't have the benefit of naive optimism either. After playing for 5 years, it would be hard to fool himself into thinking there was more out there for him. He was simply a good Terran in the land of good Terrans. Yet like his pseudo-doppelganger aLive, somehow Ryung has found his groove again. He's not quite back to what he was at the end of WoL, but he is undoubtedly good instead of mediocre again. Perhaps it was the benefit of returning to a Korean team. Maybe the destabilization of the Korean scene accentuated his tendency to play for a solid midgame. Nevertheless, for the first time in years Ryung feels like a threat to top players.
He will need to resurrect his old TvT prowess if he hopes to survive the human tsunami known as ByuN. Formerly met with justified skepticism (could we really trust a guy whose resume consisted of Chinese semipros and players who couldn't make a Proleague roster on a good day?), everyone in Korea now understands he can't be stopped in the mirror matchup: unless you're GuMiho or possess a magician's hat, you will lose. ByuN has won his last 11 TvTs with a 24-3 record; this year he is 82-4 in matches with an 189-30 record. Even if he's not facing the cream of the crop on a regular basis, this is impressive from a player who basically disappeared from the Korean scene for years. Not to mention ByuN needs to win if he wants any hope of attending Blizzcon. Currently he sits at ninth place on the Korean rankings, right behind the oddity known as Patience and chased by a disconcertingly sharp MyuNgSiK. Without SSL to fall back on, ByuN must reach the GSL final if he wants to contend for a spot.
Technically, victory isn't out of reach for Ryung. Conceptually he's rock-solid, prone to making minor mistakes in execution instead of fundamental errors in strategy. He's great at bouncing back from bad situations; somehow, he correctly anticipates how his opponent will consolidate the advantages and strikes at the appropriate times. Against the likes of TaeJa and aLive, Ryung made up for somewhat shoddy army engagements with a better sense of the big picture. If ByuN doesn't get an insurmountable early-game lead...if ByuN's bloated ego leads him to arrogantly charge into a death zone...if ByuN sharks aimlessly in the middle of the map for 5 minutes and misses his moment, then Ryung stands as good a chance as any.
As you no doubt noticed, that's a lot of concessions to make. ByuN is such a dominant force in TvT precisely because he doesn't give those openings. Obviously he's not invincible, but his dedication to grinding through online tournaments has resulted in a clean, efficient playstyle. Taking down a player of ByuN's caliber, especially when said player has gone full General Sherman against all resistance, would require clean execution throughout the game; this isn't something Ryung is known for. More importantly, ByuN hasn't shown the mental frailty one expects from an online warrior. He has looked as consistent in GSL and SSL as he has in innumerable Leifeng Cup and Olimoleague appearances. Then there are the facts: overall ByuN has a 13-1 record (27-9 in games) against Ryung. Unless he majestically screws the pooch, everything should come up ByuN tonight.
Ryung 1-3 ByuN
ByuN to advance to the Round of 4.
Dear vs TY
Last week, Dear ended Group C in familiar fashion. He may have been considered the favorite by experienced viewers, but few expected him to take apart Maru in such clinical fashion. Game 1 ended 5 minutes in when 2 oracles skirted past a lone cyclone to rack up 14 SCV kills; they proved to be Maru's bane once again in Game 2, as they were key in defending a 3-cyclone push with turret support. Both games dragged on as mere formalities. Despite Maru's best efforts, Dear played in such a way that he could go on autopilot and still secure victory. He expanded quickly, covered his weak spots with DTs and cannons, countered his opponent's composition with the proper units, and attacked. It was instructive if not exciting.
It was a stark reminder that Dear is a good player, and has been ever since his championship runs back in 2013. This fact is often obscured by his non-stylistic approach and the constant presence of more exciting players. Like Classic, Dear is not a memorable player in the vein of sOs or PartinG. Thanks to their unpredictability and daring, those two could make you shiver in anticipation even when they were losing. In contrast Dear made his bones by avoiding risks. Like the now-retired Rain, he approaches the game as if he is the superior player; if you want to beat him, you must do something unorthodox. Judging from his two semifinal appearances in GSL, it has paid off.
But does stability alone make his a favorite over TY though? At this point, it can feel like a question of fairness over skill. Dear has his time in the limelight and to his credit, he took full advantage of it. His double triumphs in WCS Korea and the WCS Season 3 Finals were a marvel of stable strategy married with virtuoso execution; certain writers I know still believe his glory days represented the pinnacle of Protoss gameplay. Meanwhile, few players have proven their mettle in so many situations and earned so little as TY. Yes, he's been shaky in his recent Proleague matches but every player goes through moments of weakness. TY's entire SC2 career has been punctuated by fallow periods, usually following an incredible run/series that keeps the flame of hope alive. Such moments, like his 4-0 thrashing of Cure last season, showed his promise was no illusion. He was merely on the edge of the precipice; soon a strong wind would blow and carry him off to his destiny. To many frustrated fans, that day should have been May 1st of this year when he faced off against Zest for the GSL championship. Sadly nothing, short of spilling goat's blood in Sniper's name, could've saved TY from the insanity that was Zest's PvT. Tonight he gets another chance at taking what is rightfully his. Barring a meeting with ByuN at his peak, no one left in the Ro8 is head-and-shoulders above TY. A win tonight is one step closer to the championship, the win that will finally secure his legacy.
Against other Protoss players I would give greater weight to the cyclone buffs, especially since TY loves to experiment with mech by default. He has never been uncomfortable with timing attacks either, which is how cyclones are currently been used. But judging from his series against Maru, Dear will be devising solutions ahead of time. If he sticks to his stargate openings, he ought to be have answers if TY tries to be clever.
Both are equally matched in skill; both are fairly good at preparation; both can play the lategame without a hitch. So what will be the deciding factor?
Dear 3-2 TY
Dear to advance to the Round of 4.