2020 GSL Code S Season 2by Orlok
Semifinal #2: TY vs Stats
Despite earlier hopes that pros returning from retirement might shake things up in the Code S title picture, this season has come down to a three way battle between three very familiar faces in Legacy of the Void. The grizzled, non-military veterans still reign supreme—Rogue has planted his flag in the finals first, while TY and Stats will face off for the right to face him in the championship match.
It’s in the nature of fans to always want and expect more from players. We expect players to stay on the grind, to maintain their form, and keep showing us great StarCraft II. We get emotionally tied up with our favorites, becoming upset if they fail to play up to 100% of their potential, or if they go through an extended slump. Sometimes, we get too caught up in players' form in the present, and forget to appreciate the journeys that brought them here in the first place.
Take TY and Stats. When the KT Rolster StarCraft II squad was abruptly disbanded at the end of 2016, the two players were left with an important choice. Should they continue along the path of StarCraft II, which faced an unsure future in Korea? Or should they go back to Brood War, which had established a stable, post-KeSPA ecosystem in meanwhile. The right decision seems obvious now, but you have to look at it from the point of view of TY and Stats in 2016. They had enjoyed a good amount of success in Starcraft II—both had been core contributors to KT Rolster's Proleague campaigns, and both had made deep runs in major individual competitions. But neither of them had won a championship, which meant they were overshadowed by teammates like BW legend Flash or multiple-time GSL champion Zest. They'd go down in the history books as members of the "very good," but failed to broach the ranks of the truly great. The glass of their StarCraft II careers was both half-full and half-empty at the same time.
In an recent double-interview with their old Brood War colleague Snow, TY explained how Stats convinced him to stay the course with StarCraft II, saying they should "try a little bit longer”.
That's a rather simple explanation, but there's more meaning behind it than you might think. Both TY and Stats had their share of doubts about the sustainability of the scene and insecurity about their increasing age. Brood War had always been more popular than SC2 in South Korea, which meant there were plenty of Brood War fans who would welcome them back. They admitted to giving Brood War serious consideration, with TY even picking up the game again briefly. Far bigger names like names like Flash, Rain and SoulKey had already returned to BW and thrived, so no one would have blamed TY or Stats if they returned to their roots.
But despite that, they chose to stay. They chose to stay, brave the wilderness on their own, and adapt to a wholly new environment under the dogged belief they were capable of far greater things than they had achieved up to that point. Faith is not often rewarded in StarCraft II, so it's important to appreciate the times when it is. Stats went from being a solid player to the impenetrable shield of Aiur, becoming a dual GSL-SSL champion in 2017. TY finally cashed in on a decade's worth of potential, winning a double-jackpot at IEM Katowice and WESG 2017. They became stars in their own right, and not just supporting crew-members on the KT Rolster ship. And while it hasn't been entirely smooth-sailing ever since, no one can doubt their choice to stay was the right one.
While returnees made a valiant and visible effort this season, it seems fitting they couldn’t overcome their respective final hurdles against those who chose to grind it out. DRG and Dream both fell to Rogue, another one of the players who forged ahead into the uncertain future of StarCraft II. Rogue, TY, and Stats have let their focus lapse at times, but they've always find a way to come back to this stage and prove that their choice to stick around was right in the end.
There are plenty of career-related details which make this match interesting. TY looks to become one of the few players to ever reach back-to-back GSL finals. Stats looks to reach his thirteenth major tournament finals in StarCraft II. All of that is good and fine, and might be worth half a rank when the historians of StarCraft II compile their greatest of all time lists.
But, this time around, I'm finding myself more interested in the things that don't get displayed on a Liquipedia page. In 2016, these two players lost their jobs, the place they lived, and any plans they might have had for the future. Three and a half years later, they've proved they're more than just resilient—they were made by the pressure. What's another best-of-seven in the GSL to these two? While we might not be able to relate to them in terms of StarCraft II skill, they might make us want to try for a little bit longer.
Prediction: Stats 4 - 3 TY