soO vs sOs
You can’t lose the battle you never fight
When a season of GSL begins, every competitor has the same thing on their mind – the bright lights of the finals and glorious victory on that stage. That goes doubly for soO, who has surely been craving a return to the site of four consecutive follies with the chance to write a new tale.
In the early stages soO was seen as one of the favorites, only to have that image quickly melt away as this period of Terran dominance began. As things progressed he found himself disadvantaged against a number of foes. Resiliency won out, however, as soO refused to give in despite the odds. An improbable win against TY means sOs is the final enemy barring the entrance to the promised land.
And it is the promised land, isn’t it? soO is human so it’s safe to assume he’s played what comes next time and again in his head. As everyone knows things never quite go as planned. Since his victory in the quarterfinals, soO has struggled. A flawless run in the Wardi Season Finals should give him some confidence, but it's just one victory amid a sea of defeats. In one week he failed to qualify for SSL and VSL while also dropping out of TING season 3 and being eliminated early in Olimoleague. That would be enough to shake anyone’s confidence and for someone like soO, who has been threading the eye of the needle for weeks, it threatens to undermine everything he’s done thus far.
Once doubt creeps in, it’s a slippery slope. soO has rarely lost prior to the finals in GSL, but given some of his tweets after his losses one might think he might have preferred to. He’d receive less prize money, but his psyche wouldn’t take the same hits. At this point losing in the finals is a substantially bigger blow than his failure to qualify for SSL and the chance for riches and a Starleague title.
soO obviously yearns to win, but with his frailties becoming more and more apparent maybe he would prefer to be spared the humiliation of a finals defeat. It would be easier to pick himself up after a loss to sOs and begin the next season anew.
The bottom line is that soO has done what no other Zerg could do this season. He has made it this far through overwhelming will as much as in-game skill. With this last obstacle hurdling towards him, he’ll have to remember what brought him here. Sure, it might be preferable to lose now rather than on March 25th, but you can’t win the battles you never fight. And this is one battle soO needs to win.
Winning quietly for a change
If there was one word that has never been used to describe sOs, it would have to be unassuming. And yet after a euphoric end to HotS that’s the way things have been for one of the most decorated players of all time. An underwhelming start to 2016 seamlessly blended into a GSL campaign in season 2 in which he really didn’t get much fanfare. Lo and behold, sOs found himself in the finals, albeit against a much more hyped player. The world was on ByuN’s side and sOs’ defeat was the expected result rather than the upset as it might have been in years past.
Flash forward a few months and Proleague, sOs’ former stomping ground is gone, talk of sOs has fizzled. At the same time Jin Air kept him out of online cups, further reducing his visibility. To top it all off, a shaky start to GSL certainly didn’t inspire his fans. sOs endured, however, somehow finding himself in the Round of 8 against herO. Finally, after months of anonymity, people started to notice. A victory over herO was viewed as a mere formality by many, but the hard fought series was the first example of how good sOs might be right now. He’s better than back to back second places in the group stages would indicate. He is every bit the championship contender he used to be.
Winning GSL would be a first for sOs, but beating soO would mark his second consecutive final, a feat only accomplished a hand full of times before. sOs has reached this precipice flying under the radar while players like Dark, ByuN, INnoVation and TY have commanded the spotlight.
Despite the lack of attention, sOs is doing the same things he’s always done. Moments of strategic genius and crisp execution are paired alongside head-scratching mistakes and calamitous errors. soO is a player that has been at his best when amid structure and no one can deface the norm like sOs. He is the antithesis of standard and will surely approach this match with that in mind.
sOs is probably the least talked about semifinalist leading up to the Round of 4, but that’s a position he’s grown increasingly comfortable with. He doesn’t seem to care if people notice. A win is a win and he’s only two away from a title no one will be able to ignore.
What is Greatness?
Greatness is one of those nebulous terms that gets thrown around in the sporting world ad nauseum. StarCraft II is no exception. The community loves to debate who’s better than who, using all manner of criteria as a basis to vault their personal champion to the top of the list.
sOs and soO are two players who are fortunate to be a part of that conversation. Both were included in TeamLiquid’s power ranking for greatest StarCraft II player ever in 2015 and not much has changed since then. sOs won another BlizzCon and soO added 2 more final appearances (including a victory at KeSPA Cup). Even though they find themselves in the same rarified air, it’s impossible not to remember that they reached it in very different ways.
sOs is the definition of a winner. soO, on the other hand, has an unfortunate knack for falling just short of glory. They have reached a similar number of finals, but have converted on those opportunities at remarkably different rates. That is only the first of many ways in which these two titans diverge. soO reached the majority of his finals during a period of remarkable prosperity. sOs prefers to pop his head out of the ground just long enough to win 100,000$. soO has struggled to duplicate his 2014 form, with the positive results since feeling more like anomalies than the norm. sOs seems to have discovered how to capture the limits of his play like lightning in a bottle, to be deployed whenever the need arises. It is for this reason that he has seen so much success in weekend events while typically stumbling to a halt in Starleagues. sOs possesses the most recent GSL finals appearance among the two of them, but he will almost assuredly never equal soO’s mark in that regard. sOs has begun to hone his skill in Starleagues over the past year, but this format of play is what made soO a legend and he has displayed deadly proficiency in it throughout this competition as well.
soO and sOs are different sides of the same coin. Their long and exceptional careers are highlighted by well-defined peaks and valleys, maybe more so than other players of their pedigree. Their charge to the semifinal has been characterized by perseverance, but part of that is because they have often looked vulnerable. While soO must see this semifinal as another step towards validation, sOs has little to prove. He’s already one of StarCraft II’s greatest champions. If he were to win nothing else for the rest of his career that would not change. Their goal may be the same, but their perspective is as different as can be.
soO 4-3 sOs