ASL Season 3: Round of 16 Preview

The second round of ASL is just days away. While my bae Stork may have made an early exit, the lineup is packed with legends and shows you absolutely don’t want to miss. Here’s your guide to the Round of 16.

 

Group A

Lee “Flash” Young Ho

Ko “HyuN” Seok Hyun

Lee “Shine” Young Han

Kim “ggaemo” Kyung Mo

 

Welcome to the battle for second place. Flash straight up got a free pass to the Quarters here. The second slot is a bit more tricky. Neither Hyun nor Shine have particularly stood out, both advancing second from relatively unremarkable groups.

Ggaemo is another story, but has yet to be tested in any matchup other than ZvP. To advance, he’ll have to prove himself against the best Terran to ever touch StarCraft, and at least one ZvZ.

 

Predictions: Flash, HyuN.

Airs: April 30th, 3am PST/6am EST

 

Group B

Yum “Sea” Bo Sung

Kim “EffOrt” Jung Woo

Kim “Bisu” Taek Yong

Kim “Soulkey” Min Chul

 

Despite sSak’s efforts, Group B somehow became the Group of Death. Without question, this is the group to watch. It says everything that not even Bisu can be considered safe here. Quite the contrary when you consider Bisu and Sea’s recent history. In the ASL Season 2 Quarterfinals, it was Sea that knocked Bisu out in a 3-0 shutout. With Protoss in general struggling under the current ASL map pool, we’re looking at a real possibility of Bisu making an early exit.

EffOrt looks like a genuine contender at the moment, steamrolling his way through Group B and Soulkey. He proved himself after knocking out the Season 1 ASL Champion on his way out of the Round of 24.

Literally every player in this group has a case to make for the Quarterfinals, and competition for the two available slots will be like nothing we’ve seen yet.

 

Predictions: None. But I’d put the odds ever so slightly on Sea.

Airs: May 2nd, 3am PST/6am EST

 

Group C

Doh “BeSt” Jae Wook

Yoon “Mong” Chan

Kim “IamMang” Seung Hyun

Kim “Jaehoon” Jae Hoon

 

With Protoss’ struggles in the current Season of ASL, it seems harsh that three of the four remaining ended up in one group. In reality, this actually ended up being the best case scenario for Protoss, guaranteeing at least one Protoss in the Quarterfinals, and a strong probability for a second.

Group C is another interesting one. BeSt got seeded in from his semifinal run in the last ASL where he took Sea to a Game 5 series. With this in mind, he’s a player that cannot be ruled out. Mong got into the Round of 16 at the top of his group, defeating Shuttle on the route out. We know he can hold his own in high level PvT, and in this group that makes him a genuine threat.

Meanwhile, IamMang advanced to the Round of 16 through two PvP wins, dropping Stork on his way out. His PvP is in proven form. In a group with three Protoss, he absolutely cannot be underestimated.

As for Jaehoon. He made it out of his group by 2-0’ing Light. If he can somehow make it past IamMang, and ends up against Mong in the Winner’s Match, I can see him possibly advancing. Of course, making it past IamMang’s PvP is no easy feat. Jaehoon does have a route out, but it’s undeniably a long shot.

 

Predictions: IamMang, BeSt

Airs: May 9th, 3am PST/6am EST

 

Group D

Lee “Jaedong” Jae Dong

Choi “sSak” Ho Seon

Kim “Last” Sung Hyun

Jo “hero” Il Jang

 

With Zerg dominating Season 3 so far, Jaedong would be a given. But a wrist injury in February does put his current form into question. He did participate in the I love StarCraft showmatch in March, so it’s likely not still an issue.

Last made it into the Round of 16 at the top of Group F. However, the level of competition he faces here is a steep climb from Group F. Despite an impressive performance, he’s yet to be truly tested which makes him a bit of an unknown.

This brings me sSak. For those of you lucky enough to read Naruto before it went downhill to its comically slow and painful death, you’ll remember Jiraiya. Jiraiya’s character carries a lesson: don’t judge someone’s capability based on their interests. The comparison to Jiraiya becomes even more relevant when you consider sSak’s apparent love for female Broadcast Jockeys and drinking streams. Unlike Jaedong, don’t let this distract you from the fact that sSak advanced from the Round of 24 at the top of a stacked group. sSak is more of a threat than he lets on.

 

Predictions: sSak makes a surprise advancement in first place, Jaedong advances in final match.

Airs: May 9th, 3am PST/6am EST

 

 

Featured images courtesy AfreecaTV and Blizzard Entertainment.

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Brood War

Brood War Adventures – Preparing for the Journey Home

 

A few weeks ago I wrote an article talking about the possibility of a Brood War Renaissance. It’s 2017, and Brood War is once again completely relevant to current events. This is not a wishful, “what if” piece. This is it, we’re actually on the trail. I have to wonder how many esports writers over the years have thought of this moment as a wild dream.

For so many esport writers and athletes, their passion for craft started with Brood War. Most went on to other games and other projects: League of Legends, Hearthstone, Overwatch. Yet Brood War was the starting point of that passion, and it’s for that reason it holds a sentimental place in the esport world. With that in mind, it’s a powerful experience to be here, writing about a game that meant so much to so many.

It is no secret that Brood War has a steep learning curve, even by StarCraft 2’s harsh standards. You’ve likely heard so much about it. What I’d like to talk about are the things they don’t tell you. The walls you run into that catch you off-guard.

 

Map Vision

You’ve heard so much about Brood War’s pathing issues that affect your ability to get around the map. But what you didn’t expect is the almost completely black screen you’re met with once you get into a game. Unlike StarCraft 2, which features a greyed out map from the start of the game, the maps in the original are completely black until you explore them for the first time in that game. This means that before you get into a game, it will be worthwhile to spend some time studying the map layouts.

A good starting point is just picking a single map, study it and play an AI game or two to get a feel for the terrain. Lost Temple and/or Luna are good options for their popularity. There’s a useful page worth looking at containing a list of the most popular maps in Brood War, courtesy Team Liquid.

Once you’re comfortable enough with a map that the black screen isn’t as much of an issue, try hosting a few games on it. If someone refuses to play you on a map you’re familiar with, just call them an LotV scrub and block them.

Brood War

Luna: an infamously straightforward, macro-focused map. Good for learning the basics of the game.

 

Builds

If you’ve done your research on Brood War, you’ve likely heard and perhaps even studied a few of the more famous builds. As commendable as that is, just forget them. At least for your first month. Macro in Brood War is an exceptionally complicated affair. Your first goal is to be able to start producing units. Rather than following a strict build order, just keep a priority list in mind and a general idea of what your end game strategy will be.

Of course, this is not to say Builds should never be used. Build Orders are especially important later down the line as you’re looking to refine your technique with pinpoint accuracy. But you’re better off avoiding them until you’re at least comfortable enough that you’re producing units at a steady pace.

 

Basic Defensive Tactics

 

Positioning in Brood War is everything. Even more than in StarCraft 2. In your early studies on maps, it’s important to identify choke points and open areas you’ll either want to hold or avoid depending on what race you’re playing. If you’re playing Protoss vs Zerg, for example, you’ll want to avoid straying in open areas or risk being surrounded. Furthermore, you’ll want to focus on positioning your units on choke-holds. With Zealots positioned at the bottom of the ramp and Dragoons holding the top. Zerg players will want to focus on baiting Protoss into open territory, usually by threatening map control.

It’s worth noting that in Brood War, attacking into high-ground from the low ground is suicide. This is due to units having a percentage chance of missing when attacking units at an elevated advantage. A final point, specifically for Protoss players, don’t be afraid to split your units. In StarCraft 2, Protoss can’t split units in the early game, but this couldn’t be more different in Brood War. Creating lines of defense is an important tactic for all races. Especially when making an attack into an enemy position, it’s good to have a defensive position held for your assault team to fall back to in case the attack goes badly.

Brood War

Priority zones: Green – A Ramp Protoss can favorably hold with Zealots and Dragoons, Blue – A funnel Terran can exploit using Siege Tanks and Spider Mines, Red – An open area Zerg can use to flank from multiple angles

 

 

Featured images courtesy Team LiquidAfreecaTV and Blizzard Entertainment.

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Eo “Soo” Yoon Su has Mental Breakdown

After Kim “Stats” Dae Yeob’s 4-2 victory in the year’s first GSL, runner-up Eo “Soo” Yoon Su was noticeably upset. Who could blame him? He had battled his way to the finals of the most prestigious Starcraft tournament in the world FIVE times – and without a trophy to show for it. All sympathy was on the 2nd place Zerg – until he snapped.

In the middle of Stats’ award ceremony, Soo ripped the trophy and flower bouquet from his hands and began screaming and running around the studio. Pursued by security guards, Soo ran up and down the aisles, shoving fans and shouting, “We are poised for victory,” in a high pitched screech. He then put the trophy on his head briefly before running into a wall, breaking one of the trophy’s handles.

A shocked audience watched on in silence as Soo poured can after can of Hot6 on himself while singing Roar by Treat. Before long the once-respected Zerg was sobbing and rolling around on the stage, eating flower petals and confetti.

He was eventually dragged off-stage by security personnel while shouting obscene threats towards David Kim.

Nicolas “Tastless” Plott pointed out: “Now to anyone new to Starcraft, he doesn’t normally do this.”

Daniel “Artosis” Stemkoski: “I can’t believe what I’m seeing Tasteless”

Soo is currently in police custody and will be stripped of all GSL career earnings.

 

PHOTO COURTESY OF AFREECATV
(Oh and April Fools. Don’t give up Soo!)
StarCraft Remastered

StarCraft Weekly Recall

Welcome to my 6th ever Weekly Recall. A recap of the major events in the StarCraft Week. And this has been as an exciting week as we can expect in StarCraft featuring not just the GSL Finals but the 2017 premiere of SSL. All leading up to the much hyped, long speculated announcement of StarCraft Remastered.

StarCraft Remastered

This announcement was accompanied by the (arguably even more impactful) revelation that the original StarCraft Anthology will also be patched for the first time in over 8 years. On the 30th of March StarCraft will be upgraded to Patch v1.18a.

 

StarCraft Patch v1.18 Highlights

StarCraft and StarCraft: Brood War will both be completely free to play

Custom Keybindings

Native Fish Support

Observer Mode

 

StarCraft Remastered is coming in Summer as a purchaseable upgrade to StarCraft and StarCraft: Brood War

Players of both the original StarCraft Anthology and StarCraft: Remastered will be able to play together, seamlessly.

 

Global StarCraft League – Grand Finals

Highlight Games

Kim “Stats” Dae Yeob vs Eo “soO” Yoon Su (Proxima Station)

In case anyone had forgotten Stat’s airtight defensive play from Katowice, Game 1 on Whirlwind was the refresher course. soO opened with a hyper aggressive zergling rush. Stats wasn’t phased, shutting it down and making it look easy. For those following this season of GSL from the early rounds, this game would be reminiscent of Stats’ early defensive play against ByuL’s zergling aggression.

The Long Con

StarCraft Remastered

Stats: Knock, Knock soO: Who’s there? Stats: Not Carriers soO: Fuuuuuuuuuuuu

Game 2 on Proxima Station couldn’t be more different however. Stats took the full initiative and controlled the pace of the game from his first expansion to the last drop. Proxima Station is a highly defensive map with a pocket expansion. Especially in Protoss vs Zerg, it’s a very popular map for Skytoss turtles. Stats went for an early expand into his third, ignoring his safe pocket expansion. Doing this, he feigned taking three early bases. Baiting soO into thinking he was playing a hyper defensive game, likely going for a mass Carrier push.

Stats committed to selling this act even further by rushing out a pair of Void Rays. Satisfied with his ruse and that the bait was taken, Stats followed up with a massive Warp Gate explosion. At this point soO was in the middle of preparing an anti-air Hydralisk army to hit the defensive Protoss with a timing-attack before he could reach critical mass. Instead he was having his door kicked in by massive ground army built to hard counter Hydras.

Having taken a massive advantage in the initial attack, Stats didn’t let up on the mind games. He opened his final attack with a warp into soO’s main. Having lured soO’s army back to his main to defend, Stats pushed into soO’s 3rd with the bulk of his Adept, Sentry army. The Grand Finale to Stats’ master plan was to lock soO into his own base with Forcefields on his ramp leaving soO completely unable to respond, ending the game.

 

The Stasis Saga

As tends to happen on Abyssal Reef, things got weird, in a good way. soO initiated first with a Zergling drop into Stats’ main. Stats would reciprocate by repeatedly placing Stasis Wards into soO’s mineral lines to slow down his mining. Both players traded harassment before the final engagement.

StarCraft Remastered

soO would eventually land a solid baneling drop into Stats’ third but at that point it was already too late. Stats was already in the process of ending the game. His economy was already slowed down too much by stasis and Stats struck with perfect timing. Hitting soO with waves of Adepts while soO was stuck on Hydras in an attempt to deter the Protoss’ Void Ray and Oracle harassment. Just as before on Proxima, Stats’ dictated the pace of the game and struck with intention.

Stats would take this Oracle Strategy into Echo again. soO intially held Stats’ 4 Oracle Rush beautifully. But Stats would follow up by getting huge Stasis hits into each of soO’s mining bases.

This time however, Stats’ would be the one too late on the return. Capitalizing on Stats’ heavy Vespene investment, soO struck decisively. Just as previously Stats’ was able to counter soO’s Hydralisks with Adepts, soO’s Hydras this time would secure the advantage over Stats’ Void Ray, Zealot army to end the game.

 

Daybreak

Stats: Fuuuuuuuu

After dealing absolutely massive economic damage in the early game through repeated Adept harassment, Cactus Valley seemed to be all but won for Stats. Stats attempted to close the game with an Adept, Immortal push into soO’s base. The fight traded evenly for a while but the critical moment came when soO sniped Stats’ Warp Prism, completely shutting down Stats’ ability to continue aggression. Unable to provide further reinforcements, Stats’ Immortals were forfeit, and with them his game.

This took us to Game 6 on Daybreak. For the most part, this was a series defined by mind games and pinpoint timing attacks. But it was a good change of pace to see the Daybreak go the distance. Daybreak, brought everything you could expect. Aggression on both sides, back and forth, territory wars.

And in the end, the series was brought full circle.

Where we started with Stats’ unrivaled defense, this game would be decided by it. Near the end of the game, soO seemed to have caught Stats completely out of position. Stats responded by recalling, exactly the number of units he needed to clear the attack out of his main while cutting off the rest to defend his other mining bases. A multi-pronged attack that would have been a crippling disaster for any other Protoss, Stats’ handled with calm, clear decision making to retain his advantage in the game and eventually closing out in the followup attack.

Stats ended the series 4-2 and the player, long considered the best Protoss in the world, was finally able to claim his first premiere tournament title.

 

StarCraft StarLeague (SSL)

After strong indications of the league being dropped, the SSL has finally made its surprising return in 2017 with a new sponsor in Jin Air Greewings. And a refreshing new format to show for it. Finally stepping out of the shadows as GSL’s adopted sibling, to become a distinct event in its own right.

SSL differentiates itself from GSL by being played in a Round Robin format with the top four players advancing to the post-season knockout round. A welcome change as the round robins from the early portions of the previous league were typically the most distinct rounds of the event.

Highlight Games

Kim “sOs” Yoo Jin vs Cho “Maru” Seong Ju (SSL Premiere)

TY vs Classic (SSL Challenge)

 

Map Pool Update

Updated Map List

Ascension to Aiur
Sequencer
Blood Boil
Defender’s Landing
Odyssey (previously known as Windwaker) replaces Paladino Terminal
Abyssal Reef
Proxima Station

 

Featured images courtesy SpoTVAfreecaTV and Blizzard Entertainment.

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Brood War HD

The Brood War Renaissance

The Brood War HD rumors are back again. And if you’re anything like me, your first reaction would have been to roll your eyes and move on without a second thought. For those that have been keeping up for the last year, this would seem all too familiar. We’ve been down this road before, and we know from experience it leads to a dead end.

The rumors originally started prior to Blizzcon in 2016, and at the time, why wouldn’t we believe it? The Afreeca Starleague (ASL),  had just completed her maiden season. Brood War was back in the spotlight for the first time in six years and the audience was there. And the legends that built, not just StarCraft, but all of esports, were slowly but surely returning to the frontline. The news from Seoul said the announcement would be made at Blizzcon.

Why wouldn’t we believe it?

Yet Blizzcon came and you could almost hear the grasshoppers chirping as the StarCraft community stared on in utmost confusion. We had assumed far too much and we were asses for it.

Brood War HD

Now four months later, here we are once again. You’d be a fool not to be skeptical. I sure as hell was.

Then a Reddit user by the name of Voltz found something. The Battle.net Store, ie. Blizzard’s official store, ceased sales of the original StarCraft Anthology. As of this posting, downloads of StarCraft and Brood War are still listed as “sold out”.

This came just as Blizzard announced a special event to take place at the season 1 GSL Finals in Seoul, the StarCraft capital of the World. An event that would be attended by the CEO of Blizzard, Mike Morhaime. And would feature a special showmatch between the “TaekBangLeeSsang”. Kim “Bisu” Taek Yong, Song “Stork” Byung Goo, two most feared of the 6 Protoss Dragons. Lee “Jaedong” the Tyrant and Lee “Flash” Young Ho, simply called God. Four of Brood War’s legends known as the most dominant of their respective races.

Very quickly, the burns of the past went out of mind and the realization of what was happening came crashing down.

 

The Second Coming

As exciting as the prospect of a Brood War renaissance seems, it’s important to remember this can still go badly. The second coming isn’t a given, it’s a work in progress that must be polished to perfection.

Balance

One of the more entertaining misconceptions among those that know of Brood War’s role as the progenitor of modern esports but have not actually watched or played it is that it was a well-balanced masterpiece of a game that StarCraft 2 never matched. The reality, however, couldn’t be further from the truth.

Brood War was and still is an imbalanced mess of a game. Cracklings are overpowered, Mass Recall is overpowered, Siege Tanks are overpowered. Every race in Brood War is horribly overpowered in some way or another. And this is something that should absolutely not be touched.

If Brood War’s balance is such a mess, why leave it alone? Because that’s exactly what made Brood War amazing. The game was like the world’s hardest equation that programmers were constantly trying solve. For this reason, Brood War went through several eras where on race or player would dominate for months.

One of the most famous moments in Brood War was the legendary “Bisu build” that solved Protoss vs Zerg. Protoss vs Zerg was a matchup that was previously heavily Zerg dominated. The Bisu build shifted balance back into the favor of Protoss eventually leading to the Era of the Protoss Dragons.

Brood War always has been a game of using your races’ overpowered crap to deter or counter your opponents overpowered crap. And Mapmakers played a crucial role in this by crafting areas of the map that each race could use to their maximum advantage. This is how Brood War was truly balanced, not by crunching numbers but by putting the onus on the players themselves to use what resources they had available in the smartest way possible.

 

Mapmaking Resources

With this in mind, it should be clear fostering Brood War’s mapmaking scene is critical to building a healthy second generation. Remastered models and textures are a given. But extending new textures and resources for mapmakers to build beautiful new worlds is important to drawing creators back. Brood War has very different art style to StarCraft 2 so the canvas is there to work with. They just need to be given the tools too.

 

Brood War HD

Abyssal Reef by SidianTheBard is a recent and beautiful example of what mapmakers can do if you indulge their creativity. Naturally, I’m not saying this should be the standard but just give them a fighting chance, their imagination is our greatest asset.

Mistakes of the Past

There are a lot of features that took a frustrating amount of time to reach StarCraft 2. This is something that absolutely must not happen again. Automated tournaments and micro-transactions immediately come to mind. But some issues require us to take a hard look at Blizzard’s design and structure choices. And why a lot of it may not still be up to date.

Prioritizing Accessibility

One of the most obvious grievances that has plagued StarCraft 2 is the first thing you see before you even start a game. I’m of course referring to the game client. StarCraft 2 features a client that is so completely overloaded with bells and whistles, that there have been reported incidents of the game menu putting as much as 3 times more strain the GPU than the game itself. Just to put that into context there have undoubtedly been incidents where there are players able to run the game itself but find the menu unworkable.

StarCraft 2’s beautiful but less than practical game menu. Featuring an animated background taking up the vast majority of available space.

And I can say this with certainty because I was one of these people. The laptop I used at the time could run the game but would suffer heating issues and fps drops attempting to navigate the menu. It’s for this reason that I actually switched to League of Legends as my esport of choice for several years before I eventually upgraded. And as grateful as I am to be back with StarCraft, it seems a bit ridiculous to say that I was driven away from a game because of the menu you have to navigate to play the game.

Now, this is of course my personal opinion but I genuinely don’t care about that massive animated background that is taking up 90% of the menu. What I care about is being able to run my Hello Venus playlist in the background without my game client having a seizure.

Brood War HD may be a re-mastery of a 1998 game but this is 2017. And a lot of the standards from then have gone out the window. Perhaps back then we would have stared at our menu screens and admired the visuals but now a menu is just a lobby that we tab back to just to queue for another game.

Brood War HD

League of Legends game client. Simple, un-intrusive design that prioritizes information and accessibility.

 

Featured images courtesy AfreecaTV and Blizzard Entertainment. Abyssal Reef designed by SidianTheBard.

Follow me on Twitter: @Stefan_SC2

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SHOUTcraft Kings: March

StarCraft Weekly Recall

Welcome to my fifth Weekly Recall, a recap of the major events in StarCraft over the past week.

 

Highlight Games

 

GSL Semifinals – Eo “soO” Yoon vs Kim “sOs” Yoo Jin (Abyssal Reef)

GSL Semifinals – Kim “Stats” Dae Yeob vs Kim “Ryung” Dong (Daybreak)

SHOUTcraft Kings – Joo “Zest” Sung Wook vs Tobias “ShoWTimE” Sieber

SHOUTcraft Kings – Stats vs Artur “Nerchio” Bloch

GSL Semifinals – Stats vs Ryung (Daybreak)

 

 

GSL Semifinals

 

 

soO vs sOs

 

Echo

Game 1 on Echo was an interesting idea from sOs. Here he attempted to keep soO on the defensive through repeated multiprong Adept harassment while teching up back at home. Instead he continually traded out waves of Adepts for very little return. By the time sOs had completed PsiStorm it was just too late. soO army easily overwhelming sOs in the end to take an easy lead to the series.

Whirlwind and Proxima Station

This game would set the theme of the series. Where sOs maintained the role of aggressor while soO’s defensive ability would be put to the test. sOs would break soO’s defense on Whirlwind, getting himself into a favorable mid game to tie up the series. Again on Proxima however soO’s defense would hold out against sOs’ series of aggression letting him take 2-1 lead.

Abyssal Reef

As they always do, things eventually did get interesting on Abyssal Reef. sOs took a massive economic lead early into Game 4. Taking out soO’s 3rd Hatchery with an Immortal drop reinforced by Adept Warp-Ins. From there soO maintained an airtight defense that allowed him to get back into the game. sOs would again take a massive lead after soO attempted to engage sOs’ from a choke point. soO would lose most of his Lurker based army in the engagement forcing him to retreat. A tech shift into Brood Lords would catch sOs off-guard letting soO again bring himself back into the game. Unable to fight soO in a head-on engagement sOs instead used his superior mobility to his advantage. While sOs played a strong tactical game for a while he was eventually cornered and without a base to retreat to. Putting soO at a 3-1 lead.

Cactus Valley and Newkirk Precinct

sOs went into Cactus Valley with a standard Dark Templar-Prism build. Following up with a second Prism and a second wave of Dark Templars sOs dismantled soO through multi-prong harassment. soO wasn’t able to recover from sOs’ early lead taking us to Game 6 on Newkirk Precinct.

It’s possible this match could have gone to a Game 7 had sOs’ play been up to standard. Or at least the same level we saw in Cactus Valley. Instead he went for a Pylon rush into soO’s third failing to kill the hatchery after a lackluster engagement. He would later attempt to followup with a massive Adept push but seemingly forgot to research Resonating Glaives. soO took a huge early advantage just by holding off sOs’ attempts at aggression which sOs would never recover from. Running over sOs in the inevitable counterattack, soO closed the series advancing to the finals 4-2.

SHOUTcraft Kings: March

Hatchery bleeding almost as heavily as sOs’ supply

 

 

Stats vs Ryung

 

Abyssal Reef

Stats had a rough start to Abyssal Reef losing his first Oracle to a Widow Mine. Shortly after his third was to cancel by an early push by Ryung denying any chance of early aggression. Stats and Ryung fell back into a defensive game for a short time to build up their tech. As both players entered their mid-game tech the game became a street fight.

Stats made the first engagement with an army of Colossi, Adept and Phoenixes. After trading out his Adepts for worker kills Stats was forced back and Ryung made his counterattack. Stats’ main was brought to its knees by Ryung’s bio-drop, having most of his expensive tech taken out. But Stats would retaliate with Adept harassment sending Ryung’s worker count plummeting.SHOUTcraft Kings: March

Behind the frantic attacks at eachothers bases Ryung teched into Ghosts while Stats built up his High Templar count. The final stage of the game was decided by EMPs and PsiStorms. While Ryung landed several solid EMPs Stats’ superior positioning let him deal crippling damage with PsiStorms deciding the game.

Act II

Echo was decided in just over 30 seconds where Stats found a gap in Ryung’s defense to land a Prism right behind the mineral line of Ryung’s main then cutting off Ryung’s army as he attempted to fall back. One game later on Cactus Valley, Ryung crippled Stats’ economy in the same way, exploiting a gap in Stats’ defense to make a massive drop into Stats’ 3rd base.

This put the series at 2-1 heading into Newkirk Precinct. Apparently not wanting a repeat of Cactus Valley, Stats’ defensive game was completely on point in game 4. Defensive play made all the difference in this game as both players made attempts at harassment. While Ryung had some relative success with a single Reaper, overall Stats’ was able to clear Ryung’s aggression taking very little economic damage in the process while dealing economic damage on the other side of the map. This created a huge economic gap that Ryung wouldn’t recover from.

The deciding moment of Proxima Station actually took place in the first few minutes of the game. Stats attempted a proxy StarGate but failed to do anything with it. After losing both his Void Rays while failing to secure any real economic damage, Ryung was given a massive advantage he never let go off taking the series to Game 6.

Daybreak
SHOUTcraft Kings: March

Well, you don’t see that everyday

Stats went for another proxy StarGate again on Daybreak. And if possible, this went just as bad as the last. While he did get some damage in, he would lose his Oracle for it. A widow mine drop into Stats’ base would level the game for Ryung and propel him into an advantage. From there the game entered a deadlock with both players seemingly determined to take the game as late as possible. Stats kept up his attempts at aggression while teching up in the background. Each took there own turns attempting to cripple the others economy. Stats focusing on small economic attacks. Ryung on the other hand went big, pinning Stats’ 6th base with a Tactical Nuke. At one point Ryung had as many as three silos available.

For all their tactics however, it eventually it came down to a final engagement. Stats having repeatedly picked off Ryung’s Ghost with Feedbacks and had the advantage with free use of PsiStorm. And after several Storms weathered down his army, Ryung was forced to tap out advancing Stats to the finals after a 4-2 victory.

SHOUTcraft Kings: March

 

 

 

SHOUTcraft Kings: March

 

SHOUTcraft King: Han “aLive” Lee Seok

 

Streaks

aLive: 4

Kim “herO” Joon Ho: 4

Stats: 3

ByuN” Hyun Woo: 2

 

 

Map Pool Updates

 

New Maps

• Ascension to Aiur by SidianTheBard
• Blood Boil by Avex
• Sequencer by NegativeZero
• Defender’s Landing by YoungRustler

 

Dropped Maps

• Newkirk Precinct TE
• Bel’Shir Vestige LE
• Cactus Valley LE
• Honorgrounds LE (Please for the love of Tassadar NO)

 

Mapmaking Community Discussion

 

 

 

 

Featured images courtesy AfreecaTV and Blizzard Entertainment.

Follow me on Twitter: @Stefan_SC2

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Diva Cup

Diva Cup Insight With Allaryce

 

Just over two weeks ago, AfreecaTV, organizers of StarCraft II’s flagship event, GSL (Global StarCraft II League), announced their first ever female tournament, the Diva Cup.

With the Diva Cup just days away, I got a chance to talk to the event organizer, Allaryce, for some insight into the tournament and the female StarCraft scene.

Note: This interview has been edited and revised for clarity.

 

The Diva Cup

 

The Game Haus: How did you first become attached to this project?

Allaryce: “Someone from Afreeca Global reached out to me and asked if I would be interested in running a female only tournament, so of course, I said yes! I started participating in tournaments only 3 weeks after I first started playing so running a tournament is something I’ve always wanted to try.”

 

To your knowledge, how long has the Diva Cup been in planning?

About a month

 

What can you tell us about the behind the scenes planning involved in this project?

“When it comes to running a tournament, it’s pretty simple. You figure out the format (this one is double elimination), the players, and the prize pool. Since Afreeca was providing the prize pool and I got other additional sponsors, the rest was easy!

The only tricky part of the planning comes from finding a time and date that works for all the players considering they’re all in different time zones. It’s all about staying on top of communication between everyone, even while I was away for IEM Katowice in Poland. With my work schedule and other obligations I have, it’s also great to have the team at Afreeca work on the promo/PR stuff for the tournament.”

 

At risk of asking the obvious, is there a story behind the name “Diva Cup” or is it just because of the Overwatch character?

“Yes, it’s inspired by the Overwatch character. D.VA‘s lore, for anyone who doesn’t know, is that she’s a pro StarCraft II player who became the GSL Code S champion at 16 and went undefeated for 3 years. I would love to see that story step out of fiction and into reality. Someday, I hope we can see a female lift up that trophy in a moment of glory on the big stage!

Many people seem to think that I, as a female, have ignorantly chosen this name for my tournament. To me, that’s very laughable. It’s meant to be a double entendre. It’s meant to be a provocative and funny play on words. I hope that people can appreciate my sense of humor and laugh with me! Even if they can’t, I would encourage them to look past the name and focus on the players instead!”

 

 

“I’ve asked many of my guy friends how many girls they think play Starcraft II and many of them estimate around five and are surprised to learn there’s about 20+ that I know of. It’s not sexism… It’s just unawareness.”

 

TGH: One of the key criticisms that has been brought up regarding female-only tournaments has been: why is there a need for a male/female division? How would you respond to this question?

 

Allaryce: “There’s no defined male division, it’s just that they’re more likely to sign up more often for online and offline cups. Girls are more than welcome to join and there’s nothing stopping them but themselves. I can only speculate that a few of them don’t feel like their skill levels are up to par and therefore don’t enter. I refuse to speak for the other girls and make assumptions about this matter since it’s not a question I’ve asked them about. Everyone has their own individual feelings about it and deserves their own voices.

For me, the Diva Cup is a way to highlight the many female players in the scene that people may not know about. It’s not meant to be a gender divided issue.  Many of these girls don’t promote their social media as much or may stream every once in a while. Others participate in the FSL (Female StarCraft League) or they just play on their own. This is a way to bring awareness to them as players and promote their play.

I’ve asked many of my guy friends how many girls they think play StarCraft II and many of them estimate around five and are surprised to learn there’s about 20+ that I know of. It’s not sexism… It’s just unawareness.

There was a really great article published by Polygon that explains the need for female tournaments and uses Chess as an example. In summary, the female demographic is under represented and it’s a good way to foster growth in the community and encourage other girls to try the game and compete!

I also hope that these girls will join more online and offline tournaments, regardless of results. There are many that cater to all skill levels no matter the player. Regardless of the reason why girls play in female tournaments or gender neutral tournaments, what’s important is that they’re putting themselves out there to compete and enjoy the game we all love to watch: StarCraft II!”

 

 

“I, personally, don’t think it’s demoralizing to see SCII being a male dominated scene. Anyone who plays StarCraft II enjoys the competitiveness to a certain degree.”

TGH: I’d imagine it’s also potentially demoralizing on many levels to see a competitive scene so male dominated. There’s a psychological aspect there that isn’t often explored.

I’ll use a contrasting example, if my first competitive experience were to be against 100 women, I think it would make an already intimidating situation exponentially more so. And if I were to get crushed, it would psychologically reinforce the idea that I didn’t belong there.

Regardless of the reason, I think it’s important to have events like these to let the female StarCraft world know there are competitive outlets available for them.

 

Allaryce: “I, personally, don’t know anyone who’s cocky enough to enter a tournament and expect to win. I’ve spoken to a few of my friends who are pro gamers and almost all of them are very humble about their skills. They mostly just want to perform well enough to their own standards. When it comes to competition, failure is inevitable but it’s how we cope with our losses and come out stronger that matters. It’s a character building tool, if anything, which is why I think tournaments are important. This is one of the reasons I enter tournaments no matter what skill level I’m at.

This is why it’s called ‘tournament experience.’ You’re forced to face your opponents head on, in real life, in defeat or victory. How you choose to handle your sportsmanship says a lot about yourself.

Again, I cannot speak for the other girls, nor would I want to generalize their experiences. I, personally, don’t think it’s demoralizing to see StarCraft II being a male dominated scene. Anyone who plays StarCraft II enjoys the competitiveness to a certain degree. Many people have different reasons that drive them to play the game. That being said, seeing it be male dominated encourages players like me to do better and raise myself up. I can still find role models in the men because I see them for the player they are and not their gender.

Speaking from a personal perspective, I have never once felt like I didn’t belong in the scene. Quite the opposite, in fact. People have been nothing less than generous with their time when it comes to teaching me how to play and my understanding of the game. They encourage and inspire me to improve every day. Some even go as far as to ask me ‘so… when are you getting GM?’ I love the Starcraft II community!”

 

Follow up question; do you think growth of the female StarCraft scene is possible and what do you think is necessary to foster further growth?

“Yes I think it’s just about having a community they can be a part of. This game can be quite intimidating to get into, regardless of the gender, so having friends to talk to is important!”

 

Players

 

TGH: So now let’s move on to the participants. Who would you say are the players to look out for?

Allaryce: “Based on her track record, I think Koshkii has a really good shot. Miyako also seems to be a favorite among some of the girls so I’m looking forward to casting their games! We also have a few newcomers that I haven’t seen play before so I think it’s still anyone’s game.”

 

Any personal predictions?

None

 

Fair enough, any players you would like to see participating in (potential) future Diva Cups?

“Most of the girls, on average, are diamond and above so I encourage any of the other girls to get to diamond and come to compete!”

 

If you were competing yourself, where would you rank yourself among the competition?

“I’m a bit out of practice because of my work and travel so I don’t think I’d make it past the second bracket. I only get maybe two to three hours of practice these days. Some of the girls are better practiced and have a better shot!”

 

Allaryce

 

TGH: Finally, let’s talk about StarCraft a bit. What are your thoughts on the current state of the game?

Allaryce: “I think we’ve seen some of the most exciting gameplay lately in premier tournaments and even online ones. I’m excited for the new changes to Zerg (which is what I main) and to see how that translates amongst the top players. I’m also excited to play on a new map pool! Who isn’t hyped for that?”

 

It really has been a great year of StarCraft gameplay so far. IEM produced so many amazing games and the GSL Quarters was just one mic drop moment after the next. It helps as well that we have a really exciting map pool at the moment. I would be surprised if there’s ever been a map that has delivered as many amazing games as Abyssal Reef has in the short time its been live.

 

If there is one change you can make to StarCraft what would it be?

“I think if they made it free to play, it would be really great for people who are hesitant to pick up the game. We’ve seen that kind of success with LoL and DOTA so I think Starcraft II could benefit from it as well. They’re starting to finally move towards DLC, which I think is a good direction but there needs to be a good balance for people who can’t afford some of it.

I think for everyone who’s purchased the game up until now, they can release some kind of exclusive skins or content to ease the transition. I’m no expert about what this would mean for Blizzard internally, so I’m not sure how feasible the strategy is.”

 

I share this sentiment. Though I think it’s still a bit early to go free to play, currently. Of course I’m no expert on this either but I think there needs to be more micro-transactions available than what we currently have to make it a feasible model. I expect there will be a huge spike in traffic and interest if StarCraft II does go free to play, the game should be well stocked with cosmetic options to capitalize on that. Blizzard is on a good track at the moment.

 

 

TGH: Finally, any last words to close?

 

Allaryce: “Regardless of viewership, I’m really happy to be working on this tournament with Afreeca and give these players a platform and a little extra cash! I’m also excited to cast with my friend Temp0 since we see each other at events often but have never done a cast together before.”

 

 

Tune into the Diva Cup on Saturday March 18th at 12PM PST on Afreeca.tv/Allaryce

 

For more from Allaryce follow her on Twitter, AfreecaTV Global and Twitch.

Follow me on Twitter: @Stefan_SC2

You can like The Game Haus on Facebook and follow us on Twitter for more sports and esports articles from other great TGH writers along with Stefan!

PvZ

Protoss Insight – Holding the Fort

Protoss vs Zerg (PvZ) is currently a bit of an oddity in terms of balance. On the one hand, Skytoss generally has the advantage in the late-game. Conversely, the ability to handle early Zerg all-ins as Protoss is a skill that favors the informed.

One of the first rites of passage for Protoss is learning to handle early Zergling aggression. For new players still struggling with this concept, the repeat series between Han “Byul” Ji Won and Kim “Stats” Dae Yob in Group A of the GSL Round of 16 was a treasure-filled gold mine of study material.

There’s a lot to get into, so let’s dive in.

 

Newkirk Precinct

 

Before we get into what we should do, let’s start with what not to do. And conveniently enough, that’s exactly how this series started.

Stats opted for a greedy opening, not even bothering to scout. All things considered, it wasn’t that bad of a gamble. By the time the “baneling bust” hit his wall he already had a Zealot and a Stalker out. Against light zergling harassment this build could have held out and Stats would have been in a favorable position due to his heavy tech investment.

Stats was essentially gambling on Byul going for literally anything other than an all-in. This really speaks to the biggest difference between playing in a tournament rather than playing on ladder. In a tournament, sometimes you’ll want to opt to play the odds rather than the other player. Particularly if you have games to spare. This is also something to keep in mind when studying builds from pros.

Usually hard greed builds don’t translate well into ladder, always remember to scout. If Zerg has made no attempt at taking a second base, cancel whatever tech you don’t need and start chronoing units out of your Gateway/Warpgates immediately.

PvZ

I’ll be honest, I veto Newkirk Precinct exactly because I can never hold this ramp.

 

Abyssal Reef

 

If you would indulge me, I can’t help but give credit to SidianTheBard. The guy designed two of the most beautiful maps I’ve ever seen in StarCraft and both are in the current map pool. Honorgrounds in particular has to be the single most beautiful map I’d ever played on. Sadly, it didn’t make the cut for GSL, but Abyssal Reef is already proving interesting.

Onto the game, this was the first real gemstone of the night. Another Baneling Bust, Protoss was a bit better prepared this time. Although his Mothership Core still came up late, he was able to get out Warpgates around the same time the Banelings hit. Once his base was breached, Stats immediately rebuilt his wall, cutting off potential reinforcements and giving him space to deal with the immediate threat. This would prove invaluable as the wall would delay the second Zerg push; just long enough to get enough energy for a second Photon Overcharge.

The Zerglings within the base were dealt with for minimal damage just by kiting his workers around enough for a couple warp-ins of Adepts to start getting damage done while his Oracle cleared the pack. It’s worth noting most early game gas investments can deal with Baneling, Zergling rushes fairly well: Sentries, Immortals, Oracles, Void Rays. Assuming you aren’t building full greed, holding a baneling rush really comes down to how you use the more complex units you have available at that point.

If you do go for a greedy build however, there’s nothing that will really help you and similar to Stats’ loss on Newkirk, you’ll have no one to blame but yourself. Respecting what your opponent can do in the early game is the first step in making it to the late-game.

 

PvZ

This sight can either make you lose it or grin smugly knowing you just got gifted a quick win. Respect and preparation decides which.

 

Cactus Valley

 

Another game, more zerglings. Nothing surprising here. This is the first push Stats was actually able to scout and what followed was intriguing to say the least.

Massive credit to Dan “Artosis” Stemkoski and Nicolas “Tasteless” Plott, the StarCraft communty’s own real-life Archon, for pointing this out. Stats opened up the gap to let the first small wave of Zerglings in and attempted to hold them with a small handful of Probes for the Zealot to get work down. He then followed up by closing off the gap with a pylon, cancelling it only when he got the second Zealot out of the Gateway. By letting the first wave through he was able to cut the Zerglings away from each other.

The thing about Zerglings is that they depend heavily on strength of numbers. Eight Zerglings can easily get a full surround on two Zealots and that’s a problem. But four by four Zerglings cut off from each other can be taken out by a pair of Zealots with some micro control and much more easily with a bit of Probe support.

From here, Stats’ position in the game was pretty sturdy. Commenting quickly on the third Nexus, at this point once you’ve held a strong push for little to no economic loss, you usually just want to go for the kill. Stats already had his Robotics Facility out at this point. Instead of investing into another Nexus, he could have gone for a smaller Warp Gate explosion of 2-3 with a Prism and just proceeded to drop the guillotine on zerg with a steady stream of units.

Even with this mistake, however, the game was still ended fairly quickly from this point.

 

PvZ

The initial excitement of breaching the wall serves as the perfect distraction for the the serial killer with psi-blades for arms eagerly waiting on the other side.

 

Newkirk Precinct Revisited

 

Back on Newkirk again. No all-in this time, but there was one last gemstone Stats had left to show off.

Stats didn’t even bother to complete his wall-off here. Instead, he pulled a small handful of Probes to provide a makeshift wall that would prevent Zerglings from getting a full surround on his Zealot. It’s a cute but surprisingly simple little trick that greatly simplifies the micro control and positional chess game that goes into dealing with Zerglings with a Zealot.

PvZ

Get your mobile probe wall today, the perfect companion for every Zealot that doesn’t want to get beaten down from four angles. Complete with Zergling tickle action.

 

 

For a more insight on holding Zerg all-ins as Protoss, Jared “PiG” Krensel recently did an in-depth video on the subject.

Featured images courtesy AfreecaTV

Follow me on Twitter: @Stefan_SC2

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PvZ

Protoss Insight: Trap-style PvZ

If the first round of GSL Code S was any indication, we’re in for one a hell of a year of StarCraft in 2017. Yet, even among a sea of amazing games, the final game between Cho “Trap” Sung Ho and Kang “Solar” Min Soo stood out as one of the unforgettable moments from the Round of 32. Trap vs. Solar on Daybreak brought everything you could want from a game of StarCraft. But what thoroughly intrigued me was Trap’s system of harass in PvZ.

Trap’s economic harassment brought him back from a crippling position against Armani. Against Solar he was able to trade economic damage even after taking repeated loses to baneling busts. And in the long run of things, it was this harassment that saw him into the Round of 16.

 

The Book of Oracle

 

If you ever wanted to learn how to harass with Oracles, well Trap does it by the book. His initial wave of harass started off strong, but a bit of reckless over-extension saw his Oracles taking more damage than was necessary. He opened his attack by moving into the right side of Solar’s mineral line while his Queen was rallied to the left. Before losing his shields to the Queen he moved into the mineral line of Solar’s natural. While the natural was protected by a Spore Crawler and his shields already low, Trap was still able to get one more drone kill for minimal damage before doubling back to the main.

PvZ

Image courtesy AfreecaTV

This is where Trap over-extended just slightly, pursuing another drone kill with an already bruised Oracle. In the end, it was a net result of five drones for no losses. But could have easily lost an Oracle for the pursuit of the fifth.

Even with the over-extension, this was still among the most elegant displays of Oracle control you’ll find anywhere. Trap, however, as he showed repeatedly throughout the day, isn’t one to settle for good or even great harassment.

His followup attack was nothing but pristine micro-control. Shuffling in and out of a spore protected mineral line with a pair of heavily bruised Oracles. This is what Oracle harassment is supposed to look like. You want to stick around for only as long as your shields let you and not a second longer. As with powerful but fragile units, it’s always better to risk pulling out too early rather than too late.

 

Tag-In

 

Image courtesy AfreecaTV

As breathtaking as Trap’s micro was to watch, it was the next wave of harassment where things actually got interesting. After the last Oracle attack, Trap followed up almost immediately with a mass warp in of Zealots into Solar’s main. While he did do some amount of economic damage, with a bit more focus fire, this attack could have been far more devastating. Solar managing to clear the attack with just about 20% of the health left on his Spawning Pool.

Another round of Zealot Warp-Ins would force a Hatchery cancel. A third round would again do light damage but be cleared quickly. The next real damage would come from another Oracle fly-by over Solar’s fifth. Solar would respond almost immediately to this attack with a second baneling bust into Trap’s fourth. This would be the second time this game Trap would have a sizable economic advantage equalized by a baneling bust. If there’s anything to learn from this, it is that Photon Cannons can only do so much in PvZ. Trap would later correct this by moving a couple Archons to his fifth.

PvZ

Image courtesy AfreecaTV

High Templar are another option as well. A mix of course, always recommended.

The next warp-in of Zealots would prove to be the most critical. Dropped in with an Archon, this attack would succeed in taking out Solar’s Spire. At this point, Trap was already building towards his Carrier army. With his Spire taken out, Solar would be unable to respond with Corruptors, meaning this could have been the moment that decided the game.

 

 

 

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Protoss Insight – Byun vs Stats

 

By far the most heated discussion within the StarCraft community recently has been the state of Protoss versus Terran. With Protoss winrate in the matchup at times falling below 40% and the very recent announcement this week by Blizzard’s balancing team that they were looking into nerfs to Terran’s Liberator unit. It should come as no surprise, that Kim “Stats” Dae Yeob’s advancement in first place would prove to be a highlight moment of the day, having to best two Terran players back-to-back to do so, including the reigning World and GSL Champion and ESPN’s Esport Player of 2016, “Byun” Hyun Woo of Team Expert.

Stats is one of the very few Korean players to find a new team, Splyce, following the end of Proleague. Having shown consistent strength at the highest level in 2016, he is considered by many to be the current best Protoss player in the world. A showdown between Stats and 2016’s crown king of Terran could well have been a match you could have expected to see in the finals and it sure as hell played out like one.

The Opening Act

Game 1 was something you would expect from a high level game of Brood War, an intense back and forth where both players traded turns pushing into the other’s side of the map attempting to break their fortified choke points. Game 2 was a beautiful, if scrappy, non-stop skirmish between ground infantry. While both players repeatedly traded out their armies, Stats was pushed back harder, wave after wave as Byun continued to tech up behind his constant pushes and Stats failed to do the same.

Leeeeeeeroy!!!

This was but the opening show for what was to come. Game 3 was the climatic ending this game deserved. It left you guessing who would emerge the winner until the very last, absolutely beautiful, engagement.

There’s a lot to get into, so let’s dive in.

Showing Respect

One of the best signs that you’re in for one hell of a game is seeing two players of the highest caliber opening in the safest manner possible. Byun started this game by immediately scouting for proxies while Stats rushed out two observers almost immediately. A major note about Echo is that the base layouts leave you very open to drop strategies, Widow Mine harassment in particular is a very strong strategy on this map.

One of the best examples of how easily Protoss can play prey to Widow Mines on Echo came from Stats’ former teammate on KT Rolster, Joo “Zest” Sung Wook in the very first game of GSL this year against Hwang “KeeN” Kyu Seok. In that game Zest’s forward positioning of his observers left him constantly vulnerable to Widow Mine harassment and unable to respond for extended periods. Stats here was far better prepared with his observer placement and Byun’s early Widow Mine drop was dealt with for minimal damage.

Freedom isn’t Free at all

There was a point in this game where every Protoss player had their heads between their hands while suffering flashbacks and internal screaming. Byun rushed to Advanced Ballistics and Stats had no Stargate out. More confusingly, Byun actually parked a Liberator outside of Stats’ base and he didn’t seem to have a care in the world.

This is fine.

The reality of the situation was that if you knew what Stats knew, you probably wouldn’t be that bothered either. In what was one of the most brilliant but perhaps most overlooked moments of the day, Stats made an amazing attempt to outplay a massive liberator blockade. Making amazing use of the map, Stats forced Byun to siege up an open area with multiple entrances then attempted to flank one entrance before making a beeline to the other.

Because each Liberator needs to be sieged individually there is a significant delay in the time it takes a mobile Protoss army to flank one position compared to the time it takes a Liberator army to siege, un-siege, relocate and re-siege.

Red means Go.

The idea was to use the open terrain to exploit the time it takes the Liberator to set Liberation Zones to get in some amount of safe damage. Ultimately the base he attempted to attack into was empty anyway but the idea behind it was nevertheless ingenious.

Tooth and Nail

Among equals, sometimes for all your planning and tactical maneuvering, it all comes down to one final engagement. All that can be said here is to try to keep a count of what resources you have immediately available before making a major engagement and don’t be conservative in the late game. Always remember that you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take. You have energy available? Empty it.

And in the case of High Templars, make a mental note to fuse them once they’re spent because those PsiStorms and Archons are exactly what won Stats this game in the end.