sOs vs ByuN

With BlizzCon scarcely two months away, the 2016 season of Legacy of the Void is rapidly coming to an end. Tonight's results and the upcoming Copa International will determine who gets spots to the WCS Finals, and a shot at the $500,000 prize pool. The WCS circuit has proven to be exciting and unpredictable in equal measure. Long-standing fixtures of the foreign scene like Polt and Snute continued to deliver in the new expansion. We saw gestating talents like Showtime and Nerchio finally fulfill their potential and join the ranks of the elite. And of course, there were the crazy upsets. Who could have anticipated the rise of uThermal, who joined IEM Shanghai after another competitor abdicated his spot and ended up winning the entire event?

Meanwhile, the nexus of the SC2 scene lies in disarray. The general skill level is so high, the margins of victory so small, that no one truly dominates the Korean scene. Right now it is as lawless and chaotic as the Wild West of yore. No one knows who the best Terran or Protoss player is and even if names are brought up, there is no unanimous agreement. At the beginning of the year Zest was undoubtedly the best player of his race. Now that he is merely a good player, who will take his place? TY was supposedly to cement his current dominance by winning this GSL. Will we talking about a certain someone in the same manner on Saturday morning? Tonight we may finally get some answers.

No one is more eager to fill the void than the prodigal son (T)ByuN. One of the most feared players in Korea at the moment, he is also one of the oddest finalists to make it here. His run is astonishing enough when you consider he is teamless. Such a thing may have happened in the early days of Wings of Liberty, but it is practically unheard of in these times. In an era where every Korean player is either a product of a stringent team environment or needs it just to maintain their skill level, ByuN stands out like a candle in the dark. Ever since his brief stint on X-Team, he has operated as a lone wolf. Through sheer discipline and inventiveness, he has maintained the highest caliber of play. Then consider the fact that ByuN shot into the stratosphere after completely disappearing from the professional scene. Prior to the release of Legacy, he didn't enter a single tournament or make a single appearance in team leagues for 16 months. Not a peep was uttered from him or his former team Prime. No one knew why he vanished and when he would return. Longtime fans worried that he was sick or suffering from a lack of motivation; more lighthearted ones joked he was on the run from the KeSPA police.

Yet no matter ByuN's motivations, longtime viewers assumed he would struggle when he returned (if he returned). It was common sense: any extended period away from competitive play was bound to be detrimental. Time and time again, players have left for military service or taken a break to figure out their priorities. Many of them came back but they lost the original spark that made so good in the first place. Strategy and mechanics evolved too quickly, younger and hungrier phenoms took their place, and the desire to win was blunted by the tedious demands of life. Few became serviceable players after coming back; even less could boast of matching their original peak.

Almost none have surpassed their accomplishments in such a grandiose fashion. ByuN is arguably the best TvP player in the world, undoubtedly top 3 in TvT, and his TvZ is no slouch either. Every successful step up the ladder has ended preemptive criticism. Winning the group stages proved he was more than an online warrior; his close series versus Ryung showed he could handle himself in high-pressure situations; his commanding victory over Dear in the Round of 4 put to rest any doubts about his ability to prepare for a series.

(P)sOs has made a career out of being the wild card. No matter how good they are against Protoss or the level of preparation, opponents are reluctant to face him. When it comes to a BoX series one always prefers to face predictability, and sOs is anything but predictable. He stands out from the pack due to his willingness to win by any means unnecessary. Proxy gates in your base, bizzare DT timings, cannon rushes, stargate-based armies—he has experimented with virtually every possible Protoss strategy. Such audacity goes hand in hand with his uncanny ability to win big tournaments. sOs is not the most reliable in serialized tournaments, and his Proleague record can be very sketchy, but no one else ups their game so predictably in correspondence with the payout. The $100,000 man has conquered almost every imaginable end-of-season tournament, ranging from IEM World Championship to Hot6ix Cup.

The defending BlizzCon champion (and two-time winner) is gathering steam at an opportune moment. His GSL run has mostly been smooth and demonstrative of what he can do at his best. With the exception of a 0-2 loss to ByuN in the Round of 32 group stage, sOs has crushed everyone standing in his way. herO stood no chance in the quarterfinals. He demolished Myungsik in the semifinals. Yet a dark cloud looms over this series. sOs has demonstrated his finesse and ingenuity around the world and won almost every type of event...except this specific tournament. When it comes to the GSL, he has never been a perennial contender like his fellow Protoss Zest. Most of the time he wavers between a generally respected opponent and a Round of 16 dropout. He's only flirted with the finals twice: a heartbreaking 3-4 loss to Soulkey in the inaugural WCS Korea season and a disappointing implosion versus Byul in Season 2 last year.

That inability to retain the same form at home has left him in a precarious position. Usually an sOs-dominated final is characterized by an exhilarating sense of freedom: it feels like sOs can choose any build with absolute impunity while his opponent fumbles in the dark, constantly second-guessing his own choices. How will he respond now that the stakes are reversed? Right now it is all or nothing for sOs. He has had middling results throughout the year, leaving him in thirteenth place on the WCS Rankings. At least ByuN has some breathing room. Considering he's going to BlizzCon regardless of result, he can play looser and take greater risks. If sOs doesn't grab the title of GSL champion, he won't be defending his title in November.


I don't expect sOs to change his style at all, if only because he understands that move would be an admission of defeat. Both players come into this game. We've seen both of our finalists shred opponents in the matchup recently, from sOs' wins over TY in GSL and Proleague to ByuN's destruction of Dear in their semifinal. The one mechanical factor which may well decide the whole series is whether ByuN is allowed to bring the same transcendent micro he showed in that match, particularly against adept-heavy compositions. Of course, GSL Finals have seen mechanical monsters crash and burn before, and sOs' mental fortitude may well prove to be his greatest weapon.

sOs 2 - 4 ByuN